Saturday, September 29, 2018

Visiting the International Maritime Organisation at 70

Many times, while heading up and down the Thames, I've passed the building above, headquarters of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), but never had a chance to visit - until last weekend.

The IMO is the United Nations specialised agency responsible for shipping which was founded 70 years ago. It covers everything from safety at sea, to communications and AIS to environmental standards, as described in this useful overview video:

Last weekend was London Open House, that annual event when buildings all over the city open their doors to members of the public, and this year was the first that the IMO building was added to the list.

I arrived early on Sunday, which was, as previously mentioned, very, very wet. We had to bring IDs, sign in and had our photos taken for a security check. After that we had a tour which took about an hour of the main parts of the building.

In particular we got to see the main meeting rooms, where representatives of 174 Member States and three Associate Members meet to discuss and agree documents including conventions. As a UN body, these documents can have treaty status, as described here.

I've spent quite a bit time in meetings of another of the UN specialised agencies so was very interested in how their working methods compared. I'm not sure how often the guides had been asked how to raise procedural points of order in meetings! Anyhow, I soon found the UK's card:

As well as the main meeting room there were a couple of smaller ones for technical committees and we got to see behind the scenes views from the translator's booths:

All over the walls there was art work gifted by some of the member states: I was particularly struck by this stick chart from Oceania:

We also got a quick look at their cafeteria with a large roof garden (which you can actually see in the photo at top) which on a fine day would have a fantastic view:

A fascinating visit to an organisation that has an impact on all sailors of crafts whether small or large (or indeed huge).

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Putney Foreshore Festival 2/2: Blue Light Demo

After the presentation of the SUP (stand-up paddleboard) Cup there was another lull but there was rather a lot of emergency service boats (like the one above) lurking with intent and as promised we soon got a "Blue light demonstration".

Also lurking around had been this rower who all of a sudden had a heart attack!!

Fortunately he'd learnt rule #1 to safety on the river which is have an RNLI lifeboat within 100 m at all times and soon they and a rather crowded fire services inflatable were on hand:

Quickly he was assisted ashore and had this miraculous recovery:


Then this motor boat that also been hanging around in a suspicious way (above, background) had an engine failure directly in front of Putney Embankment!!

Fortunately they too knew rule #1 so got a tow from the RNLI before you could say "staged". They also seemed to know a rule #2 which is to have an RNLI crew member on-board from the start to help with the lines:

Well planned, guys!

Alas, what should happen next but a fire broke out!!

What are the odds on that: it never rains but it pours (like it did in the morning).

Luckily they also followed rule #3 so the fire boat was immediately to hand for just such an emergency. 

Unfortunately they seem to have their water gun thing (ok pump + nozzle) set to stun and with the wind in their face only made themselves rather wet:

Finally they got upwind of the "fire" and managed to create an artistic arc over the motor yacht: unsurprisingly all the crew seemed to have gone into hiding:

Finally the "fire" was out and the canon switched off, leaving a brief rainbow:


Then the RNLI, motor cruiser and fire boat went safely on their way:

Emergencies sorted! Good job Thames Blue Light services!!

I see these guys going up and down the river all times of day and night and they do a fantastic job. 

While I've never needed them its really good to see them in action and know they would be to hand if things went wrong.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Putney Foreshore Festival 1/2: SUP Cup Presentation

I'd been at the Putney Foreshore Festival before, as posted here and here. It's part of the Totally Thames, that "annual celebration of the River Thames". In particular it seems to be sponsored by the Thames Tideway Tunnel, the team digging the famous Super Sewer.

Alas the weather was cruel, and in the morning it absolutely tipped down. All those fine words about come down and try out stand-up paddle boards were washed away and a tweet announced it would open in the afternoon.

When I went down it looked a bit forlorn, with empty marquees, as in Active360s in the photo above. But there was a decent crowd with that something's-about-to-happen air about them. So I ambled between the stalls of Thames 21 (the litter pick-up people, must do that again), RNLI, ZSL and of course the Thames Tidway Tunnel, the biggest marquee with a model of a boring machine in it.

Then something did happen, as these two started giving out these awards:

It turned out that though the weather had been grim some brave souls had raced 15.5 km on their paddleboards up to Putney. The winners were given those brown trophies (above) made from mud dug out of the Thames Tideway Tunnel construction.

The one on the left is Andrew Hodge, a TTT programme manager and triple Olympic Gold Medallist in rowing (according to Wikipedia, TBH didn't recognise him at the time) and the one on the right is the Thames Tideway Tunnel's top engineer Phil Stride

So they handed out the cylindrical things (which seemed a bit fragile. Andrew was definitely worried when I picked one up to have a look) and the Thames Tideway PR team recorded every moment:

I think there were four or five bods with cameras out there. A Sony A7Sii, a phone on gimbal, a Canon with what looked like a 70-200mm lens and someone out on a rib (more on that later).

Then the top engineer Phil Stride went off to catch-up with our local MP, Justine Greening who I totally failed to take a photo of (doh!).

It was a shame about the weather as everyone had clearly been working for some time on this (look at this long list of events). There were other events - a mass paddle board trip upriver (which I missed) and a rowing race along with the stand up paddle board race (which I also missed). The try to paddle or kayak were cancelled due to the weather and water conditions.

But strangely the weather actually proved their point better than any number of fancy marquees. For when the heavens opens it dumps so much water that the sewage system just can't cope, so rainwater and sewage overflow into the Thames. It is just such a pollution event the Tideway Tunnel is designed to stop: the largest private run and financed infrastructure in Europe.

There was one boat that seemed a little shy, lurking below Putney Railway Bridge, just visible from Putney Embankment:

This is the Bubbler (as blogged here) and it pumps oxygen into the river to compensate for that lost by the flood of sewage which otherwise would kill of the wildlife.

They say that prevention is be better than cure, and this is why the Thames Tideway Tunnel is a Good Thing.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Timisoara at night

More than a little behind on the blogging but will hold off from saying what did over the weekend (when it bucketed down and then the sun popped out) to post a few pics of Timisoara so you can get a feel for the place and judge whether it really is a "Little Vienna":

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Boats! Boats! Boats! .... in Timisoara

Recently I was in the Romanian city of Timisoara. It was a work trip so only had a limited time to see the sights but was pleasantly surprised by the "mini Vienna" squares and buildings. It has an interesting - dramatic even - history, being the birthplace of the 1989 Revolution, and you can still see bullet holes from where secret police fired on a huge public demonstration.

The surrounding landscape is very flat and used to be marshlands feeding into the Danube. Now drained with this remaining river flowing through the centre of the city:

It looked very pleasant with rowers, canoers and kayakers on the water and bikes riding along the well organised cycle paths on either side.

There were even pedelos, but alas no time to try out this VW Beetle looking one:

It was surprisingly hot, which made going out on the water look very welcome:

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Thames River Routes Revisited: RB4 Docklands Ferry

Earlier this summer I posted about travelling on all the Thames River Routes up and down the river, excluding those ferries did last year, the RB4 Docklands and Woolwich.

But then I felt it was worth going one more time on the Woolwich Ferry (anyone like to guess why?) which would leave just the RB4 Docklands not done this year, which would have been a shame, plus it was possible to do the both in the same afternoon, so off I went.

Only it wasn't, as the day I chose to do both, the Woolwich Ferry was closed, making the Woolwich Foot Tunnel a lot busier than normal:

Ok, not exactly tube level heaving.

Anyhow, I did manage that day to tick off the RB4 route as it was running. This time I did it the other direction, i.e. from south of the river to north, towards those towers of steel and glass at Canary Wharf:

It was very quick and easy to cross, and, it being a Sunday, not at all busy:

The hardest bit actually was getting to the pier on the south side which was a bit of a walk from Canada Water, which I did via the Brunel Museum and the Thames Path.

The Woolwich Ferry would have to wait... but too long, as there was a deadline coming up...

Sunday, September 16, 2018

No t-shirts at the Classic Boat Festival 2018

Last weekend was the Classic Boat Festival 2018 at St. Katharine Docks, London.

I'd been there before not just once but a couple of times - as blogged from 2014, 2015 and 2017 (not sure what happened in 2016). So there was a certain sense of deja-vu when went round, ticking off the things had seen in previous years, almost a been-there-got-the-t-shirt attitude.

However one thing I couldn't see were any t-shirts for sale - surely a gap in the market. "Mine's a Classic" must be a logo that would sell.

For some reason was taking video not stills - maybe in an effort to do something different this time round - and the results are above: 20 things spotted at the Classic Boat Festival 2018.

Spoiler alert: none of them are a t-shirt.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Drone video of the Bosham Classic Boat Revival 2018

In Svalbard my drone went a bit wonky. The gimbal, which controls the camera, started leaning to one side, as if it was a bit hung-over and wanted to rest its head on its shoulder, and then the footage got this weird jello effect.

If it had been Buff I would have suspect an excess of Delos moonshine but in this case the culprit (according to Google) could have been lack of ND filters, cold, wind, wrong firmware, broken gimbal.... or a whole host of other problems.

A broken drone would have to be dispatched to DJI repair shop asap so it was important to find out if this was high latitude sickness or mechanical fault. I therefore decided it was necessary to take it for a trial flight... but where?

I studied Google Earth, crossing referencing potential locations against the No Fly Drones web site (that says where its safe to fly) and plumped for Bosham. I'd never visited but it looked like there'd be boats and not many trees to fly into (as have done in the past).

It was a lovely day when headed out of London down to the coast and - oh boy - Bosham is so pretty!! Even better, there were lots of nice dinghies sailing around, just right for a bit of drone practice.

It turned out to be the Bosham Classic Boat Revival 2018 as described on their web site here and in Yachts and Yachting here.

So I flew the drone and took some video, hoping the organisers didn't mind too much.

And it looked fantastic.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

When the Great River Race and Marmalade Day collide

You might be aware of The Great River Race - I've blogged it a few times before, including last year when it clashed with Classic Yachts at St Katharine Dock and a friend's baby's birthday party.

This year it again clashed with the Classic Yachts at St Katharine Dock but also with Marmalade Day!

What is Marmalade Day, you might be asking? Is it something to do with Paddington (the bear)? Well, this event, which is firmly in my calendar, is the first Saturday of each month when there is a stand in the historic St. Mary's Church, Putney, that sells home made marmalade which is great. The keen eyed will have spotted that this isn't the first Saturday of September and it must be admitted that this arrangement is a bit ad-hoc.

Anyhow, this double-booking was easily handled as the church is right by Putney Bridge so by watching the race from that spot could see the hundreds of boats go by and stock up with my breakfast toast favourite.

It was also where there was someone from Radio Jackie ("The sound of SW London!") was shouting out encouraging words, plus friends and family were standing on what Radio Jackie insisted on calling "the world famous Putney Bridge" waving on rowers, so it was a good place to watch:

Of course some were taking it seriously and going for the finish line:

Go Team 326!!!

But others were a bit more laid back, and some had got the message about costume:

That wasn't the only Go Pro on display:

Go Team Go Pro!

A great sight, well done to all involved:

This is a great sight too:

Go Team Marmalade!!

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Camera Tech Update

Nikon new full frame mirrorless! Canon new full frame mirrorless! Fujifilm new APSC mirrorless! Expected Panasonic new full frame mirrorless!!

Oh gosh, must be time for another photo tech blog (will get back to Svalbard shortly).

The photographic world has changed since the last photography tech blog post, going from when:
  • the key battle was between DSLRs (Canon vs Nikon)
  • to the key battle was between DSLR (Canon & Nikon) vs mirrorless (Sony)
  • to now, where its between mirrorless systems (Canon vs Nikon vs Sony vs ...)
As someone who has been mirrorless since the 2013 trip to Greenland I certainly welcome these new developments and greater competition.

I sometimes see YouTube videos on the lines of "what's in my camera bag?" Well I don't have a bag or single setup as it depends what I'm doing but these are some typical configurations. That's the thing about interchangeable lens cameras, you can pick the configuration you want for a given situation. So here are a couple of configurations...

First up there's the basic walkaround setup which is Sony A6500 + the 16-70 F4 zoom:

This covers the main zoom range, reasonable aperture and weight. For the Oxford vs Cambridge Boat Race I switched to the slightly longer zoom range of the 18 - 135 lens together with external microphone (and dead cat) as in:

This is pretty flexible setup for both stills and video, able to record 4K with audio and wide range of focal lengths in a relatively small package weighing around 900 grams. However the aperture range isn't not great, particularly at the long end of the zoom.

The A6500 has pretty good sensor able to produce images and video in most conditions but in low light I tend to switch to primes. For wandering the old town of city like Geneva at night, a favourite pair of mine is the 16mm/f2.8 and 30mm/f1.8 as they fit in two coat pockets so there's no need of a rucksack:

If I was taking just the one prime lens it would be neither of these but the lovely 24mm f1/8. The A6500 + 24F18 won't be as good as (say) the A7SII but then few cameras are. For Morocco took the 24mm for night time video and the 18-135mm for everything else.

While these configs are pretty lightweight compared to others (e.g. Canon/Nikon DSLRs or Fuji APSC mirrorless) there are times when something even smaller is required. For example gigs where interchangeable lens cameras are "professional" and hence banned, I use the pocket sized Sony RX100mIV:

It's pretty good 4K for something so small though of course the sensor size means that it won't be as good in low light as the larger A6500 (and note the sensor stabilisation is a lot better in HD mode than 4K).

For Morocco I took the RX100 and the A6500 as part of a two cameras / two lenses approach. The RX100 was good for street photography where the A6500 can be more intrusive. As noted, for the A6500 had the 18-135 zoom and 24mm prime lens pair.

The two camera / two lens approach was also used in Svalbard, where the two cameras were the A6500 and DJI Mavic Pro drone and the two lenses were again the general purpose 18-135 mm and a 70-300 mm zoom for wildlife.

All cameras are compromises: mine is driven by wish to keep size and weight down while maintaining quality and features. As noted in an earlier post there are also things I'd like to see improved in the Sony APSC camera range.

Fingers crossed for something new also coming from Sony...