Thursday 28 January 2010

Mid winter mapping

This time of year really feels like mid winter. The days are still short, sunset is about 4:30, and every bit of colour seems to have been stripped from the countryside. Even the grass seems dull and gray. There are no hints of new growth, flowers or blossom yet.

After a long break from mapping we set off to take a look at Beverley, a pleasant market town in East Yorkshire. We were looking for detail to add to OSM really - most of the roads and other significant stuff was added some time ago. After a little wander around we went home so I could add what we had found.

On the way home, in fact just a few hundred metres from home, we came across a flock of fieldfares. They have flown here from Scandinavia to escape their winter.  

After I'd finished updating OSM I took a look at Google maps, which I rarely do. I was quite surprised how it has changed, especially adding lots of POIs and businesses. As usual their quality control is poor, with the impressive building of St Mary's Church shown in completely the wrong place. It has been there since the 14th century, so they've had plenty of time to find it. St Mary's is not the biggest church in the town, that has to be Beverley Minster and that's not even named on Google's map.

During my enforced stay at home I've been teaching myself  Java. I looked at it years ago and quickly turned away from it, but now it seems more mature and useful. The Netbeans IDE seems useful too. I've written some OSM stuff as a set of tasks and I'm going to look at some more too. My main gripe is the lack of properties in objects. The fields can be exposed as public, with no control over their use, or hidden as private and then only accessed with set or get methods. I want to see fields encapsulated as properties with setter and getter routines used transparently to validate updates and manage related properties. Always calling obj.getprop() and obj.setprop(x) seems very crude. I could be missing something of course, so add a comment if I am, but no consultancy or training fees are avaiable I'm afraid. I still have to get to grips with the huge library of available classes, but that's what long, dark evenings are for.

Monday 11 January 2010

Snow, what snow.

All sorts of stuff seemed to get in the way of getting out and gathering some map data.  Most recently the unusual amount of snow has kept us close to home.  Overnight the thaw set in and the roads were largely passable.  I decided not to set off deep into the rural parts of East Yorkshire so we took a look at the bus stops in Bilton, which is on the edge of Hull. 

The drive through Hull was a surprise - there was almost no snow, even in places that would not have been cleared.  On Friday the local news reported that traffic in the city had been badly delayed - a short journey took a few hours.  Today that was hard to believe.

When we got to Bilton the bus stops were quite straight-forward to find. Only one (pictured) had the NaPTAN code on the sign, but that is not unusual.  There was a stretch of road works on the road towards Preston and three stops were wrapped up in that.  They looked as though they had been removed some time ago.  If they were in use there would have been temporary stops beyond the road works, which we did not see. 

The short days restrict photography at the moment so the forays are short and fairly local.

Thursday 7 January 2010

Experimental photograph

My mapping has been almost at a halt for a few weeks now, what with Christmas, snow and other stuff.  A few other distractions have crept in; I tried to take a photo of a bird in the garden using a mobile phone camera through the optics of binoculars, with some success.  Well actually I didn't photograph the bird, a redwing, but the branches of the tree came out well. 

I have tried this sort of thing before using a compact digital camera to take pictures through a telescope, indeed amongst bird watchers it has been popular for some years and a new portmanteau word sprang up: digiscoping. I thought I'd try through a scope to see how easy it is. 

With the telescope on a tripod it leaves your hands free to hold the phone. The position of the camera in relation to the eye piece is the critical thing. It needs to be just the right distance away to maximise the extent of the image used, too close and the image is a small circle surronded by a huge black border, too far away and the image is impossible to keep still.  I'm talking a millimetre or two either way. It's also important to hold the phone perpendicular to the line of sight through the telescope to avoid unbalanced focus.

It worked but not that well.  I snapped a couple of shots of a tree about 50m away, not the most inspiring subject, but its twigs show a good spread to check the focus, which is far from perfect.  The horizontal lines are telephone cables.

My findings: buy a good telephoto lens for your SLR.