Cameras, Vlogging and that Personal Image

Travelling to the Loire Valley region of France this summer I brought four cameras with me. My trusty Nikon D100 SLR was left behind in favour of my Action cam, my GoPro Hero+, my Canon G7X and my always reliable Panasonic HM pocket camcorder. The Canon comes highly recommended as the top vlogging camera of its kind. If you want to look good on YouTube, this is the camera to have, and when I bought it after many moons of trying on eBay I was looking forward to branching out from merely writing about stuff to actually talking and showing you stuff too. My action cam I’ve had for a while but it’s really just a cheap copy of a GoPro camera and the thing is when you have a cheap copy, you tend to want the original. The only thing is, working with GoPro cameras isn’t that easy.

The first thing I noticed about my GoPro Hero+ is that there is no viewing screen so it’s not so easy to set up a shot. However, you can link the camera to your mobile and get a visual confirmation of your shot. Okay, skim back to the manual and I see I have to enable wi-fi. Nothing happened so back to the instructions and then I see I need the wi-fi app. Okay, download that and am I getting anywhere? No. Have I set up a password? No, okay, I sort the password out and finally, we are getting somewhere, can I shoot some video? Yes! Have I brought my mini memory card adapter to transfer video to my laptop? Er, actually, no. Can I do it by wi-fi? Yes, to my phone but I don’t want the stuff there I want it on my laptop. So, I have to download the GoPro pc application. Does it finally work? Yes. Am I bothered? No, cos I’m hot and stressed and I’m off to the pool!

Since then I’ve had a radical rethink and perhaps the age-old written word is more my style after all.

Why the change of heart you may ask. Well, there is not only the hassle of dealing with modern technology as I’ve mentioned above, there is also this. I am getting on a little, in fact not so very long ago I hit the big six O which was quite a turning point for me. The big four O didn’t make much of an impression. The big five O, well there was something, some feeling of me getting on a little but nothing too bad but then along came the six O and there was a feeling of, six O, really? Am I actually that old? The thing is, aging only really happens on the outside. On the inside a guy is pretty much the same guy he has always been. Inside, I don’t think I’ve really changed since I was, well, eighteen, nineteen or maybe twenty. My thinking has always been the same, I’ve matured a little, become a little more sensible (a little) but generally speaking I’m just the same, so how has this sixty thing just crept up on me?

The answer is I don’t really know. I’ve just been chugging along, getting on with my life and suddenly I’m sixty. I have to say I’m not too happy about it and perhaps I should look into making a complaint. The council comes to mind or the government. Perhaps they should have sent me a letter or something. Perhaps they should have picked up the phone and said hello, Steve, do you know what year it is? Maybe it’s time to take it easy, chill out a little or something of that nature.

Come to think of it, I did get a letter -from the civil service offering me semi-retirement- which is why I now only work three days a week. To think, they knew I was getting older but I never twigged!

Anyway, getting back to my cameras, I started off by shooting some background stuff here at our rented gite in the Loire; you know our villa, the pool and so on. While I was messing about and getting used to my New GoPro camera I shot some stuff of me checking out the villa, the pool and the grounds. Then I tried some shots of me typing away on my laptop, knocking out my latest post. I figured I could put a good narration together from some of my old ‘Sun Lounger Thoughts’ blogs or perhaps talk about being a blogger or a self-published author at work, that sort of thing.

One evening after the usual day of swimming, sunbathing, reading and drinking wine, you know, the average sort of holiday day, I thought I might as well review some of that stuff, that video that I’ve been shooting. The big shock was really, who is that old guy in the video who resembles my old Dad? Do we have a serious problem with lenses or filters or can that old overweight guy really be me?

Taking a serious look at myself even my hands look big. Did I say my hands? Just taking another look at those hands and I realised they were my old Dad’s hands, only bigger and chubbier than his ever were. No wonder I’m always pressing the wrong key on my mobile phone with those big chubby mitts!

We find only one tool, neither created nor invented, but perfect: the hand of man.” ― Julio Ramón Ribeyro

The other day in a cafe in the village of Parçay Le Pins, Liz took this picture of me sitting at our table having just eaten fish and chips and supping a pint of lager.

The picture isn’t a bad one. Ok I’m not as young as I used to be but I look reasonably well, I suppose, although I’m clearly not the cool dude in that graphic at the top of the page!

The thing is in a still picture you can put on your winning smile, (not exactly winning in this picture but you know what I mean) turn your best side to the camera, hold in your tummy and all will be ok but with video, things can be a little more revealing.

So, I think I might just put my vlogging plans on hold for a while, just a little while, well perhaps indefinitely. My next video will probably feature me but probably on the narration rather than the visuals . .

 


Steve Higgins is the author of Floating in Space, a novel set in Manchester, 1977. Click the links at the top of the page to buy or for more information.

Unboxing the Mobile Phone

One of the great pleasures of the 21st century digital age has to be unboxing your mobile phone. Even that word, unboxing is new and Microsoft Word wasn’t happy at all about me using it!

Yes, enough of that old mobile that cost me £20 on eBay, time to move into the 21st century with a new smart phone! Well, not a brand new one, a used one, again courtesy of eBay.

I did fancy an iPhone but did I really want to pay over £250 for a mobile phone? What if I lost it? What if I dropped it in the sea on holiday? That’s a big enough deal with my old phone but if my expensive phone was lost or ruined I’d be in shock. Of course, I could get it insured but that would mean more expense.

Anyway, after some research I decided on a Motorola G4, a nice looking phone that brought me into the modern smartphone era with a cash outlay considerably less than that of an iPhone.

The phone duly arrived and excited as I was, I managed to stay calm, relax and have a brew before opening the box. That turned out to be something of a struggle as the box was shipped in a sort of insulated plastic wrap which defied my initial attempts to unwrap it but I persevered and armed with a sharp knife and a pair of scissors, my new phone was eventually revealed.

First thing was to open the back of the phone and insert my SIM card. Now that presented a small problem because no matter how I tried, I couldn’t get the back off that phone. OK I said to myself, calm down. Have another brew and read the instructions again. When I say instructions, what I actually mean is the little slip of paper with a couple of diagrams on it. Technology today just doesn’t come with instructions; you’re lucky if you get a link to some online help site. Anyway after glancing through the instruction slip again, I had another go at removing the back of the phone, once again without success.

I had another bash using a knife and although the phone remained in one piece I was lucky not to cut myself to pieces. Well, next step, the brief instruction slip mentioned a link to a YouTube video showing me how easy it was to get the back off. So, iPad at the ready, I typed in the link and there we had the official Motorola video.

In the video the guy unboxes his phone, turns it over and easily pops the back off. Arghhh! Why couldn’t I do that? I tried a number of other videos and in every one the presenter easily popped off the back. I wasn’t happy! Wait a minute, the back of those phones wasn’t quite the same as mine; did I have the wrong model? No, mine was definitely the G4 and the pictures in my instructions matched the pictures in the video so what was wrong?

Anther hour went by, breakfast came and went. Liz had a go and the back still wouldn’t budge. There was an area round the side that seemed pliable and there I could get my fingernail in and push the back off. Wait a minute! What was this? The phone had a sort of gel surround on! I  struggled to get that off but eventually it peeled away and the actual back of the phone was finally revealed. Next, I popped off the back off the phone just like in the video! Happy days.

Right! Next step. The phone was well charged up so it was time to slot in the SIM card. It took quite a while to find the SIM card slot but eventually I discovered it. The thing is, the slot looked too small for a SIM card. What’s all this guff about a micro SIM card? What the heck is a micro SIM card?

It turns out that these days some phones use a micro or even a nano SIM card. OK, time to call up my service provider, in this case Virgin Media, and ask for a micro SIM. Anyway, three days later my micro SIM card appeared in the post and I slotted it successfully into the mobile. A quick chat with Virgin and I was up and running, or so I thought. The new SIM will be ‘live’ in the next hour the nice lady at Virgin told me, or it could even be 24 hours. Funny how they never mentioned 72 hours but yes, 72 hours and several phone calls later to Virgin Media and my new phone and micro SIM were finally up and running.

Since then, a whole new world of digital communications has appeared before me on my new smartphone. I can now sit down in my favourite restaurants and bars and ‘check in’ as they say on Facebook and other social media sites.

On my first day at work with my new phone I slipped it out of my pocket and took a sneaky glance – not to show off of course – just to check everything was OK, and was surprised to find an update from Google to advise me where my car was parked and for how long! OK, I knew where it was and roughly how long it had been there but there it was in black and white on Google. Technology, wow . .


If you enjoyed this post, why not try my book Floating in Space? Click the links at the top of the page or watch the video below for more information!

Growing up with the Motor Car

Ever look back at those old cars you used to own? I sometimes do and looking back, cars are pretty synonymous with growing up, certainly from a male point of view anyway.

9o698i3bgeI’m probably pushed to tell you the registration number of my current car but PDB 71M, the VRM (Vehicle Registration Mark) of my very first car is still firmly anchored in my old memory bank. My first car was a Bond Bug. You may not remember the name but they were sporty little three wheeler cars and I bought one because I failed my driving test twice and I could drive the Bug on my motorbike licence.

It was actually a pretty eye catching car for a three wheeler. No doors but the roof lifted up to gain access and the side windows were plastic held on by Velcro. I always remember bringing it home and showing it off to my family with a certain amount of pride and my Dad looking at it and saying “How are we all going to get into that?” Perhaps he thought I was going to take us all away for a holiday!

Still, we had some nice times, me and the Bond Bug but then one cold and snowy Christmas I decided to chance going out to a Christmas party in the car even though it was losing coolant. I topped it up with water and went off for a night of Christmas cheer. I walked home sensibly, I might add, but when I returned the next day I found that the car had frozen overnight and it ended up having to have an engine rebuild. That was a pretty expensive night out! Later when I passed my driving test I got myself a proper car.

I’m pretty happy with my current car generally, it’s a Renault Megane convertible and I kind of like being just a bit of a poser, driving round when its sunny with the roof down and looking generally pretty cool what with my leather seats and my shades but you do get those days when things go wrong.

I spent a lot of time the other day burning a few new cds to play in my car and just as I joined the motorway on the way to work I pressed the eject button on my CD player but the old cd wouldn’t eject. I could hardly pull over on the motorway so already my journey had not started well.

The other thing is that one of my electric windows, the rear off side one to be exact, has jammed. OK, at least it jammed in the up position but the car automatically drops the windows when raising or lowering the roof, so that means I can’t open my roof.  Add to that the recent lovely weather – perfect for open top driving – and as you can imagine, I’m not happy!

Anyway, I have to look on the bright side. When I pulled up at work and switched off the radio, my CD ejected! At least I was OK for music on the return journey!

Here’s my car when it was new . .

 

 

Arrested Development and the advent of the Internet

As a child growing up in the 1960’s one of my favourite television programmes was Tomorrows World, a BBC show about technology and the future. I was acutely interested in science, science fiction and all things related to the future. The future was hi-technology, gleaming metal and plastic cities, hover cars, and space travel. The movie 2001 A Space Odyssey predicted manned missions to Mars, powerful computers, and lunar space stations. But, 2001 is now  thirteen years ago, so what happened? Why is 2014 not really that much different from 1968?

Movies like 2001, produced in 1968, were made in the sure knowledge that the incredible leaps in manned space flight made since 1960, and the technology that made it all possible, would continue. How wrong they were. When Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the surface of the Moon in 1969 the space race was over. It was a case of mission accomplished and the Apollo programme was cut short when Apollo 17 made the last manned trip to the Moon. To a great extent, space exploration, or at least manned space exploration stopped there. Space travel had become too expensive even for the Americans. The NASA space programme continued with Skylab and the development of the space shuttle, but none of those projects went further than orbiting the Earth, and that feat had been accomplished easily on the Mercury and Gemini programs.

Take a look at your kitchen and think to yourself how different is it from the kitchen of thirty years ago? Apart from advancements in electronics, probably in the form of your microwave and your freezer, the answer is not much. Step back further and look at your home. Are your living in a gleaming metal and plastic ‘future home’ or is it a modernised terraced house. Terraced houses are over a hundred years old but many people live in them happily today. Differently from our counterparts of a hundred years ago of course. Bathrooms have been added, and extensions with kitchens and indoor toilets, but terraced houses all the same.

Many writers and film makers have chosen to look at the future as a separate place altogether from the present and this has been their mistake. The future is the continuation of the past. Cities, homes, society itself is all an evolution of what has gone before.

Heathrow Airport was recently in the news because of protests about a possible new runway. New Runway? Why is a runway even necessary when the Harrier Jump jet has been taking off and landing vertically since the 1960’s? The answer is two words, arrested development. Perhaps VTOL has suffered, like Concorde, in not being American. There is no doubt in my mind that had Concorde been an American aircraft instead of an Anglo-French craft the skies above us would have been substantially populated with supersonic passenger aircraft. The United States is the land of opportunity, especially commercial opportunity. The space programme of course was also American but perhaps commercial exploitation in visiting the moon was limited. The great technological advances in the last thirty years have come in computer orientated technology that is full of commercial applications like, pc’s, laptops, tablet computers, mobile phones, and of course the internet.

Having a book published has been the dream of many people, including me but today, with the advent of internet technology, that dream is easy to realise. My Book, ‘Floating In Space’ is one that I have been working on, off and on, for thirty years. I found it, uncompleted on an old disc, reacquainted myself with it, finished it off and now you can read it as a kindle e-book available on amazon. There were no meetings with publishers, no discussions, no chats with an editor, no re-writes. It was just a case of upload the files, proof read then press a button and it’s live on-line.

That of course has its drawbacks. As a writer I have discovered a sort of word blindness when it comes to my own work. I’ve proof read my book a multitude of times but how many times have I come to put an extract on this blog only to find missed words and other errors. When the paperback proof version came (in the wrong size: I’d made it far too big!) more errors jumped out at me and my girlfriend Liz, a fully paid up member of the Grammar Police has pointed out so many punctuation issues I sometimes feel like taking it off the market. Anyway, the good thing is that in the digital world, errors can quickly be resolved. A quick update, press the save button and we are all sorted.

Lets see, where’s my ‘Writers and Artists yearbook’? Maybe its time to check out that list of publishers again!