Ramblings

Simple Asset Management

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SIMP - Simple Asset Management

Simple Asset Management

When embarking a new ‘Asset Management’ software project, some key areas were looked at from the very start to ensure the end result adhered to three main points.

 

Ease of Use

All too often, the complexity of systems meant the software designed to solve a problem, became the problem itself. User interfaces became a minefield, the initial data per asset was too in-depth and often not even available.

The time taken to collate and input the initial key data had to be kept to a minimum, too complex and the same old result of missing and unreliable data meant unreliable output.

Much of the data per asset is common data, with each asset type having a set of common parameters that could be applied to many assets.  Ensuring as much of the common data is populated for each different asset type ensured the keystrokes required when adding assets were kept to a minimum.

By collating and entering data from the very start of an assets creation or purchase key dates, costs and other data could also be recorded. Ensuring these are correct in the purchase systems meant the share data could also be used for assets. It does not matter what the asset is, it could be a car, an image or a piece of machinery.

 

Tracking

It should be remembered we are looking at physical assets, a single item. The single item may be made of many parts, and these parts themselves may need to be recorded. The important part is that we should not lose track of the asset itself. A single entity that is uniquely recorded. It does not matter what location this unique asset is placed, what the asset is used for or who the asset is used by, as all of these are secondary and recorded as such.

If an asset moves, or is resold the asset itself still remains, the unique entity must not change because it is in location B instead of A.

Recording changeable information against an asset is the next important area. The information recorded could be anything from where it is located, a sale or rental price and period, or just that it has been maintained and checked. When developing new systems it should be considered where all key data is going to be recorded and utilise the sharing of common data where possible.

Again ease of use must be considered, the easier and clearer it is made to record data the cleaner and clearer the end result is.

 

Presenting the data

Ensuring clean and easy presentation of our data is crucial to the system being both accepted and used.

We have our assets and we have our recorded data against these assets. We have to make sure that the data can be found easily, and the results are clear.

Again there are many systems that present user interfaces and data in such a way, that the time it takes to actually find what you want becomes the downfall of the system. The majority of the time most of the data is irrelevant to the person enquiring about an asset, all they want is some small or basic information but instead are present with charts, data, and numbers cluttered onto a screen. Some of this data may be useful, but most will not.

By structuring the output and displaying only key information on initial result screens, it makes it easier for the user to identify the asset they want. Separating further data into key areas ensures that each page displayed is relevant to the users’ request.

It is also important to be able to extract the required data, whether this is required electronically or in printed format, the same applies, key relevant data that the user has requested, if this is the date due for the next MOT, then they do not need the last five years of repair data and similarly if a stock image of a red pepper is required, then those green peppers can be left where they are.

The user is key, they need to get the asset information they want from the system, quickly and easily, they only need relevant information and the need to be able to share, send, record and act on the information, ensuring this will also ensure the system is accepted and used to its full potential.

Pasta Food Photography

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Pasta - Andy Sears Pasta, on its own, is not the most inspiring of subjects for food photography. Whether dried or fresh, pasta tends not to have a great amount of detail or texture. Getting in close with a macro lens does open the subject up, you start to see micro detail, a dusting of flour livens uncooked pasta up and provides more detail.

With cooked pasta, photographing while steaming hot can again liven up the scene, a small amount of parsley or black pepper can again add to the detail.

The thin slightly translucent nature of pasta also lends itself to backlighting, where the tones of the pasta and the glow of the backlighting show themselves. It is also a cheap subject, dried pasta, dark background and boiling water on a tabletop studio. Pasta comes in all shapes and sizes so most stores have a good selection of varieties to choose from.

For these images, the lighting consisted of one softbox with daylight fluorescent lamp to the right and backlighting provided by a single Speedlight set on low power.

 

Pasta - Food Photography - Andy SearsThe fresh tagliatelle image looked quite flat on the first images, a light dust of flour provided extra detail and texture which was picked up with the lighting well. Concentrating on the uncooked pasta first allowed me to play around with the lighting without worrying about pans of boiling water.

In manual mode, I used the lowest ISO I could with the images, to minimise noise, varying apertures were used depending how much of the scene I wanted to focus on.

After the uncooked pasta, I turned to capturing some cooked, steaming pasta. I set up a fork suspended in the air by taping it to the top of canned veg!.

 

 

Cokked tagliatelle - food photography - Andy SearsI boiled the pasta in water but removed from the water before it was fully cooked. Now here is the tricky bit, getting the pasta twirled around a fork is not as easy as it seems, it slides off easily and has a mind of its own.

With the intention of capturing steam, my first few attempts failed as by the time I managed to get the pasta on a fork, it had cooled and the steaming stopped. Keeping the fork straight and tilting the pan was the answer. Once securely on the fork, the pasta was dipped briefly back into the boiling water then quickly set up and captured while still steaming.

The steam does not last long and several images were fired off in succession to capture the variations.Some dried parsley was also used on the pasta t give it a little more detail.

 

 

WordPress Starter Websites

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Responsive Websites  from visart, Hitchin, HertfordshireGetting an online presence can be a daunting, timely and expensive process.  For a lot of new start-ups and sole traders, getting online becomes one of those tasks that get put to the bottom of the pile, with so much time actually running your business and doing the work the ‘online presence’ get left behind.

Visart’s ‘WordPress Starter Websites‘ offer a basic online package giving you your own domain name, e-mail addresses and a WordPress website that looks good on both mobile and desktop devices. For sole traders, new start-ups, creatives, in fact, anyone that needs an online presence, visart’s basic package cost just £99.

With your own domain, you can increase your brand awareness and improve your identity, no more non-descriptive outlook.com or gmail. visart will help you find a domain name that says more about you and your business.

For many years visart has been providing websites for local businesses in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, covering everything from Estate agents to Playgroups and Architects to  Holiday Lets. Simple, effective websites that help get you and your business found.

Our WordPress starter websites are fully expandable and you have full control to add as many pages, posts, plugins, themes as you need with no restrictions, allowing the website to grow with your business.

Click Here – For more on our WordPress Starter Websites

Capture One Pro – Getting the look you want

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Capture One Pro - Start Image - Andy Sears
Start Image – Unprocessed

Getting the look that you want for your images can be time-consuming with large image files and required processing power often dragging software down to a crawl. This was the main reason for the switch to Capture One Pro.

Processing multiple files and exporting images is fast with Capture One Pro, there appears to be no drag on the system and very little in the way of freezes and crashes. Cataloguing is fast and relatively simple (after the initial learning curve which actually isn’t that bad).

With you images captured you set about tweaking, getting the best out of your image. The first step after importing is getting rid of any junk, a quick flick through the images and I can easily see what to keep and what to get rid of, again this is quick with no lag.

For the adjustments, you can manually adjust exposure, clarity, shadows, brightness etc as well as a mass of other delicate settings. Cropping is easy and can be to a set constrained ratios or free. Adjusting colours, the temperature etc again is with a phenomenal amount of settings, some self-explanatory and some take a bit of working out. From the colour adjustment panel, you can also switch to black and white.

You can also add layers, to process local areas of an image using selection brushes and gradients to create masks.

You also have pre-defined styles which with a single click can create the entire look of your image including black and white, retro looks, portraiture and selective colours amongst the offerings. Other style packs are also available to suit various needs, some free and other to purchase.

Once you have your start image, you can process your basic settings and then clone as a variant so not having to start all over again for different looks. The variants can also be viewed side by side

 

Capture One Pro - Multiple image selection

 

As can be seen above multiple image variants can be viewed side by side to see the differences between your processes, with all your available imported files and variants on the right-hand side. The final images can be seen below.

So whether you want to give an image some punch, convert it to black and white or just do some subtle colour correction, it is worth giving Capture One Pro a try with the 30 day free trial.

Download Capture One Pro 10 here

Cosmos in vase - Andy Sears Garden Photography

Capture One Pro - Image Variants

Telephoto Flowers

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Dahlia - Andy Sears
Dahlia – ISO320 – 1/250sec f5.6 – 200mm

While most of the time I use my Sigma 105mm macro lens for garden photography, one of my lesser used telephoto lenses is the Nikon 55-200mm f4-5.6 Non-VR Bought second-hand this lens rarely sees the light of day, but on the occasions I have used it, I have been pleased with the results.

Using this lens at the 200mm end actually makes flower photography that much easier, giving me more room to manoeuvre. The depth of field is more forgiving than the macro lens allowing me to capture the full bloom while still separating it from the background. It is also lightweight and gives me the benefit of other focal lengths if needed.

The lens itself does have one major drawback on the autofocus front. It is slow, very slow. Although slow to focus, it does seem to do a good job (given time).

The different viewpoint offered by the telephoto lens is completely different from that of the macro lens. While detail matters I find myself looking at the framing much more closely with the better depth of field using the background flora proved beneficial to the end result.

The Nikon 55-200mm non-vr lens is available second-hand for under £70 and proves to be a real bargain, and offers more flexibility in not just flower photography but in general usage as well.

Pick up the Nikon 55-200mm from MPB

 

 

Dahlia Raindrops - Andy Sears
Dahlia Raindrops ISO500 – 1/200sec – f6.3 – 200mm

 

Rudbeckia - Andy Sears
Rudbeckia – ISO320 1/400sec f5.6 200mm

 

Cosmos - Andy Sears
Rudbeckia ISO 320 – 1/250sec – f8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turn your images into Wall Art

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Like many photographers, a lot of the images I take never see the light of day, archived onto hard disks they stay there. Occasionally browsed on a monitor, but not really appreciated.

Some of the images do get printed at home but again most of these get filed away, with the odd one here and there making it to a frame and on the wall. An A4 framed printed does look good mounted and framed, but not really impressive. That A4 photo print looks oh so small once viewed from any sort of distance.

To give an image the wow factor, finishing needs to be just right, and size becomes important. When looking around for a company to turn my image into wall art I came across ZOR.com, an online company supply your image as wall art in various formats and sizes.

Your images as Wall Art from ZOR.com

 

ZORs offerings include direct print on aluminium with their Aluminium – Dibond (Zor-Alu), photo on acrylic glass (Zor-Glass) and forex photo prints on lightweight Forex PVC (Zor-Ex).  They offer a wealth of standard sizes and also custom printing right up to 100cm x 100cm. Now believe me a 1m square Forex panel

Pricing from ZOR is competitive for example a 60 x 40cm Aluminium/Dibond at €15.99 or 90 x 60cm Forex/PVC at just €25.99. Going larger with a 100cm x 100cm Forex/PVC works out at just €60.00

Regardless of whether you choose the Zor-Alu, Zor-Glass or Zor-Ex, you can be sure of rich colours and perfect photo prints, and by using the downloadable Zor ICC colour profile you can be sure of accurate colour matching. The end result is a piece of wall art that will impress for years to come with its modern look.

Multiple formats can create stunning visual art.

 

Hanging multiple pieces together in different sizes and orientation can change a large blank wall into a feature and you images are seen rather than hidden away.

My own preference is for the forex photo prints, both lightweight, durable, modern and a cost effective way to display large prints with no need for mounts and frames.

Large prints from ZOR.com, give a large wall that special feature.

 

The online ordering is quick and easy, select your preferred product, upload your image, select your size (and visually crop if needed), check preview and add to basket. You can even order Command™ Picture Hanging Strips at the same time for easy picture hanging that does not involve picture hooks and nails.

ZOR.com offers high-quality prints, quick delivery, but the major plus is the price which compared to others offering similar products is extremely competitive.

The only problem I have now is which photos to select for printing.

 

Click here to print your photos with ZOR.com

2017 British F1 Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton - Winner 2017 British F1 Grand PrixIt was 25 years ago since I last visited the Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire for a British F1 Grand Prix. On deciding to return this year to capture some images, I remembered from way back then that the Friday practice day was quieter and with the general roaming access gave plenty of freedom to move around the circuit.

In 1992 I used an Olympus OM4Ti film camera and took around 60 images. This time with the Nikon D7200 I amassed a total on 649 images (Pre-editing).

Choosing the Friday appeared to be a good choice, with the Saturday practice and qualifying a wet and dull day, and of course, the main race day packed to the hilt. The other benefit was that I could watch the Grand Prix at home, in full. Was good to see Lewis Hamilton from Stevenage win the day and take P1.

 

A selection of the images can be seen here.  Silverstone 2017

 

Eggs on Toast

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So today I tried something a little different. Using the Nikon D7200 to record the still images I decided to give its video capabilities a try.  This was no big setup, using daylight as the light source and a quick edit in Apples iMovie.

The food photography ‘eggs’ stills were ok, but the slow motion of the burst yolk added a little something to the final output.

Capture One Pro 10

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Capture One Pro 10 by PhaseOne After many years using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom the Capture One Pro software from PhaseOne caught my eye. I had used programs on both mac and pc for tethered capturing and most programs were at best ‘flakey’ with lost connections, or connections to my Nikon cameras just not happening at all.

I downloaded the trial of Capture One Pro 10 and on first looks, it appeared daunting, confusing and with a steep learning curve that could easily scare users off.  The options and menus in this program are enormous, the file management features different but it does have a look of professionalism that made me persist.

On a test tethered shoot, this program came into its own, fast, reliable connection to my Nikon D7200, total control of my camera from the user interface and a stable usable live view.

I next spent some time setting up the image catalogue, export folders and general where to put my images. This was not the easiest of tasks, but again once done was good to work with. Importing images from cards is quick, I can get rid of any junk during the workflow, leaving me with my ‘clean’ images.

Processing images is again quick with everything you need to process raw files and more. The colour options alone are just huge. You also have the option of layers and selection brushes to work on smaller defined areas with the ability to ckeck back and re-adjust as required. I found a lot of the processing changes delicate and soft allowing the smallest of tweaks to an annoying element of images. You can also copy adjustments and apply to many images which again is a massive time saver.

Exporting images allows you to export both the original RAW file or a processed file ‘Variant’ in various formats, again I found this very easy to use with a great option for saving filenames and image sizes, particularly useful for creating images for social media.  Where I have cropped heaving and wanted a bigger output file, the upscaling also produces decent images.

Capture One Pro - User Interface

There is much more to Capture One Pro 10 to explore including preset styles, black and white conversions and those colour tools to name but a few.

Overall I would not look back to Lightroom, I now find Capture One Pro easier to work with, my images are catalogued and organised and ‘in my view’ my images are that much cleaner. I still use Adobe Photoshop especially for spotting and clone tools and it is quite noticeable the speed and sluggishness of Photoshop compared to Capture One Pro when switching between the two.

St Pauls Walden Bury

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St. Paul's Walden Bury, situated in the village of St Pauls Walden in North Hertfordshire, this stately home and garden is the said birthplace and childhood home of the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Dating back to the 18th century, St Pauls Walden Bury has been the home of the Bowes-Lyon family dating back to 1720.

The Grade 1 listed garden covers around 50 acres and was recently open as part of the  National Open Garden Scheme. Visits to the garden are generally by appointment with more information available on the St Pauls Walden Bury website.

 

St Pauls Walden Bury - Hertfordshire Statue and Garden