Postscript

I’m looking back with pleasure to a challenge completed. The eagles have been shot and are none the worse for the experience. I met lots of interesting people, saw and experienced some fantastic places and shot hundreds of pictures. The only disappointment was that so few people followed my website. This, I now discover, was partly due to a technical hitch which has now been sorted, so if you would like to keep in touch, please try again with the subscribe button on the home page http://phototwynog.co.uk/ . In the coming months I will be keeping records of interesting wildlife, landscapes and people and working on a selection of goods and services for sale at really attractive prices.

Posted in Shooting Eagles with a Canon | 5 Comments

Justified Image Grid – an astonishing correspondence

This is the story of what can happen when an Oldie like me – fairly internet savvy, but no tech wizard – meets one of the true back-room-boys online. It’s a bizarre unfolding of what seemed to be a simple matter – buying a piece of software to make my website look better and load faster. The software is a Plugin for WordPress called “Justified Image Grid”. “NextGen” is a gallery plugin. 

If WordPress and Plugin have lost you already then jump ship quickly – this is not for the technically faint hearted! to make things easier to follow, my comments are in bold, my emails in normal type and the replies are in italics.

I’ve put a lot of time in lately to getting my website to look right and load quickly, all the time struggling with the mysteries of WordPress. This JIG (not the kind we woodworkers are familiar with) seemed just right for the job. It meant shelling out $27 but that didn’t seem too bad if it did what it claims, and the reviews were excellent. So I clicked the “buy now” but got a nasty surprise. This is what I wrote to the developers:

I intended to buy Justified Image Grid, but decided not to for these reasons: 1 You ask for too much information about me. 2 Your password request is the most complicated I have ever come across. 3 You express the price in dollars. 4 You ask for VAT in dollars.

Surprisingly I had a reply. Before I’d even got past the pre-amble there were the names of no less than 3 companies or groups I had never heard of. Apparently I have an “Envato Market Profile”. News to me.

From: Belcovio support

Sent: 09 August 2018 08:56

To: twynog [at] gmail [dot] com

Subject: Re: [CodeCanyon] Message sent via your Envato Market profile fromtwynog 

It’s not us that ask you for that, it’s the whole marketplace, it’ll be same for anything purchased here. We have nothing to do with these rules. If you want you can pay via bitcoin directly so you can remain anonymous.

BITCOIN? Me? I wrote back:

On Thu, Aug 9, 2018, 11:20 Richard Turner <twynog [at] gmail [dot] com> wrote:

Thanks for the reply 

I’m not sure what you mean by the “whole marketplace”. Who will use the data you demand? Are you saying that once I have an account with you, you will never send me an email? I have frequently bought stuff online on a “guest customer” basis. You don’t need my postal address to sell me a piece of software, and I don’t see why “the marketplace” needs a password, let alone the longest and most complicated I have ever been asked for. Why make  your customer angry before the point of sale? All I want is to be able to show a grid of pictures on my WordPress home page. Your JIG does this with NextGen galleries which I have already set up. I’m ready to pay $27 which is the price you quote. This is a retail price so should have any taxes included. It is dishonest to quote one price and then ask for more at the checkout, and especially a figure in US dollars which would not apply in the US.  

To repeat, I would very much like the opportunity to buy your software for the price you quote, but and not willing to set up an account which I do not need. 

Richard Turner

Wales, UK

The next reply was even more surprising:

From: Belcovio support

Sent: 10 August 2018 17:03

To: Richard Turner

Subject: Re: [CodeCanyon] Message sent via your Envato Market profilefromtwynog 

Hi, 

When you buy JIG or any similar product that is sold on CodeCanyon, you buy like this. It’s not our system, we don’t control it or set the rules. Think of it as you were buying an app on Google Play or Apple Play store. It’s just that they are way smarter and include the VAT in a reverse-way in all their prices. We don’t like how Envato (the owner of CodeCanyon) handles this and there is generally an uproar about this in the author forums. They don’t wish to earn less in case of an EU buyer (the VAT itself is added due to regulatory requirements). There is no rule that states we/they couldn’t just absorb the loss in the net sale due to reverse applying the VAT to EU buyers. What’s more concerning is that they don’t do this with other countries, we have no way of invoicing properly to Canada for example where there is GST/HST similarly to VAT in EU. If you go to any store in the US, every price is without tax, and they only apply it to your basket at the counter, as every state has different %. So this is customary to US buyers. Same is true if you order from non-UK Amazon, at the end of the checkout you’ll see a price difference that reflects the tax % difference in the Amazon locality vs UK tax %. We guess you could open an Envato account in a relative’s name that is not from the EU, so no VAT will be added to the invoice.

On Fri, Aug 10, 2018 at 6:40 PM Richard Turner <twynog [at] gmail [dot] com> wrote:

Hello again 

Thanks very much for a considered reply. I seem to have hit a sore place! Perhaps one day you will change your marketplace. It’s hard sometimes to accept that we have to follow whatever is the custom in the US when using the web. It’s a form of cultural imperialism which they seem completely oblivious to. WordPress for example greets me with “howdy”, and shops are always stores. How about a rebellious gesture: cut out the middle man. Send me your bank details and I will send you £20 for the software! 

Good luck anyway.

RT

I really didn’t expect to hear from them again, but they don’t give up easily this lot. The next message was from PayPal asking for £20 from “Bálványos Péter” . This could only be the software. It seemed a bit risky sending £20 to someone I knew nothing about, but I paid and then got a message from Dropbox:

Hi Richard,

Firsh (firshee [at] gmail [dot] com) invited you to view the file “justified-image-grid-premium-wordpress-gallery.zip” on Dropbox.

View file

Enjoy!

The Dropbox team

Success! I’d bought the fabulous Justified Image Grid for a good price. Now all I had to do was install it and get editing. Little knowing what I was letting myself in for I wrote back:

On Fri, Aug 10, 2018 at 8:06 PM Richard Turner <twynog [at] gmail [dot] com> wrote:

Excellent!  

I’ve not loaded a preset from a file before, but I see there is a pdf with instructions so I should be OK.  

Ironically I had found a way to get a grid of sorts on my home page, but this will be better, and it feels good to bypass the system! 

Not sure what you say in NZ, but we say 

Cheers 

RT

Ominously my next 2 mails were downbeat:

Hello Firsh 

I’ve spent hours trying to upload the zip file but, even after installing the dropbox app I can’t get it to work. This is what I get when I unzip the original folder: (screenshot) 

Can you help?

Hello 

I have the zip file for JIG online, but can’t figure out how to upload it. When I try to download the file to the dropbox app it won’t open as a zip file. How do I get the file from dropbox online to a place where I can upload it to WordPress? 

Richard Turner

I had this reply:

You just need the zip next to the documentation and upload that. If you try to upload the whole thing along with the documentation to WP it won’t work.

Cordially,

Belcovio support

Clear as mud; I was still stuck, and wrote this: 

Using MS Edge browser, this is what I see when I open the file you sent to dropbox. I simply can’t access the zip file. I’ve also tried Internet Explorer with the same result.

RT

OK – I’ve finally got it, but not from any of your suggestions. I managed to transfer  just the .zip file from dropbox online to my dropbox account. Previously I had saved the  folder and got nowhere. From my dropbox account I was able to download it in a form which could, at last, be uploaded to wordpress.  

Despite all the hassle I wish you well – perhaps a simpler method might be better?  

RT

On Sun, Aug 12, 2018 at 9:45 AM Richard Turner <twynog [at] gmail [dot] com> wrote:

Hello again Belcovio 

“Not that man again!” Well, the good news is I’ve achieved most of what I wanted to achieve e with JIG: all my galleries now look great. There is one more thing I need, a JIG gallery or album on my home page with each picture linked to one of the galleries in the galleries page. Easy? 

Thanks for you patience 

Richard Turner

 

From: Belcovio support

Sent: 12 August 2018 11:13

To: Richard Turner

Subject: Re: home page

Yes there are numerous ways, but it depends on the content source and your setup.

Approach 1 is:

You have a featured image on each gallery page/post.

Use index JIG in recent posts mode to capture those pages/posts by featured image and JIG automatically links to them.

Approach 2:

You already have an index gallery of various images that correspond to some galleries.

You can manually add links to such gallery pages/posts on the shown images using custom links feature.

Disregard custom links everywhere, except on the index JIG. General settings > Custom link’s target.

This is so that once you see the linker image among its related pics in the gallery, that linker image doesn’t link to the page it’s on again.

Cordially,

Belcovio support

On Mon, Aug 13, 2018 at 8:35 AM Richard Turner <twynog [at] gmail [dot] com> wrote:

It’s no good – I’ve tried for hours yesterday and this morning to understand what your email refers to but I can’t figure it out. Have you any idea what this stuff is like to a non-specialist? It’s like trying to decode some ancient manuscript written in an unknown language.

This is what I have:

Various NextGen galleries of different categories of wildlife, each with a featured image.

This is what I want:

A home page displaying the featured image  for each of the galleries, which when clicked takes you to the gallery. That, for now, is all I want.  

How complicated is that?  

RT

From: Belcovio support

Sent: 13 August 2018 12:47

To: Richard Turner

Subject: Re: home page 

Hi, 

Now that you mention you are using the NextGEN source, that uses different approaches. My previous email was for normal WP media library. 

Here is a video. I don’t show approach #3 as it has a prerequisite and is too advanced. One of the 2 approaches in the video should work for you. 

https://www.screencast.com/t/xalYVAZ5 

Cordially,

Belcovio support

On Tue, Aug 14, 2018, 11:16 Richard Turner <twynog [at] gmail [dot] com> wrote:

Are you Firsh?

I’m grateful to you for sticking with this, but brace yourself – it’s getting worse!

I have a severe hearing loss, which makes videos difficult. Normally there are subtitles of a sort, and your previous videos had the usual computer generated subtitles, but not this one. Sometimes I can understand what is being said from the audio, but in your case it is very quiet, even with all the sound parameters at maximum. Trying to follow the video with no sound, I’m getting even more confused. Is there no way you could write instructions that I can follow? OS is Windows 10, browser is Edge, website as below. 

RT

From: Belcovio support

Sent: 14 August 2018 11:18

To: Richard Turner

Subject: Re: home page 

Hi, 

Oh no 🙂 Yes I’m Firsh the developer. Belcovio is the publisher. 

The old videos were created over a span of days. I wrote the captioning by hand. That quality level is unsustainable on the long run if I were to create a video series without this being my main job. 

I even installed OBS the software game steamers use, as that accepts microphone volume at maximum, in comparison to the old software I was using. 

Just send or create me a temporary WordPress admin user to your site and I’ll set it up.

 

From: Belcovio support

Sent: 14 August 2018 13:09

To: Richard Turner

Subject: Re: home page

I have not received the admin account yet.

I was quite proud that I had managed to send him a user account, but I wasn’t surprised it had not worked. I tried something simpler: 

User Name Firsh

Password    z)0mr4gg5rch!DMLomgsyLz^ 

Hope that works

 

From: Belcovio support

Sent: 15 August 2018 11:02

To: Richard Turner

Subject: Re: home page PS

The login works, I’m getting there but it’s not finished yet.

Cordially,

Belcovio support

 

A day went past; then another day. I was getting impatient:

On Thu, Aug 16, 2018 at 6:53 PM Richard Turner <twynog [at] gmail [dot] com> wrote:

I’ll wait until tomorrow, but I’m not comfortable with this situation so will remove you as admin tomorrow (UK time) if I haven’t heard back from you. If you can still help I can always put you back again.  

RT

Was he too busy? He’d managed to put my home page into a nice grid but the links weren’t working. He must have hit a snag and given up.

Hi,

The site has some problems I haven’t been able to find and resolve. Tried disabling all plugins, and there is no conflict that would explain this. For some reason, the gallery links don’t work the standard way. Could be something related to NextGEN since JIG relies on it handling these links. The same NG+JIG version combo works fine on my server.

So I solved it with JIG Recent Posts mode that links to Pages, in the manually specified order, using their IDs. Each page linked has a featured image now. This is not the most automatic way but it will do until you have dozens of galleries.

While I did some of it I again recorded a video, but no sound this time. Decided might as well just record it, maybe you can learn something from it.

http://www.screencast.com/users/firshee/folders/Snagit/media/788d198c-aad2-4d44-8d03-0e6477e3c6ed

I set some good slugs on the pages as they had something like years as their URL /2017-1/ or similar.

A big problem is that some of the images are the original resolution, which prevents them from working with many things. They are too large to be inserted as featured image, you can see it struggles in the video while a normal size image works well. When switching the lightbox the 28MP image is jagged to zoom and loads slowly, compared to the rest of the site which is fast. I recommend uploading images (after batch processing) in JPG 65% quality and no larger than 1920 px on the longer side (like I do on the JIG site)…

My timezone is GMT+2. Sorry it took so long, I thought it was a JIG issue, but it seems more like a NextGEN weirdness.

Cordially,

Belcovio support

It is just so heartening to know that these anonymous tech geeks really do care. It must have taken Firsh hours of working time, first to enable me to buy on my terms,  and then to use the software. I can’t help wondering though if more women were software developers would things be less complicated? People like Firsh (and they all seem to be male) seem to thrive on arcane jargon and massively convoluted methods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in This Wild Life | 4 Comments

Earth Overshoot Day – an uncomfortable prediction

Five years ago I wrote this in my book “The Vandervelde Documents” and I am posting it here as my contribution to “Earth Overshoot Day.” https://www.footprintnetwork.org/our-work/earth-overshoot-day/

“Let’s go back to the Autumn of 2020. It was bad enough in 2018 with the terrible winter: half of northern Europe froze for 6 weeks. Things eased off in April and it seemed at last Spring was coming but then the frost returned in May and the birds were dying in their nests. When it finally came in June the summer was warm, but it was too late by then for many of the crops. To everyone’s relief the following winter was quite mild and spring came early. Out came all the barbecues and summer dresses and we all relaxed. June was hot right across Europe, and there were ominous signals from America of what was to come. The heatwave in the Rockies broke all records and killed millions of birds and animals, but that was over there. Here, in Berlin hot summers were quite normal, but then July came and still the temperatures were rising. By the end of the month all records had been broken in every European country except the far north where they were below average. The emergency wards were full of heatstroke victims. August was slightly cooler but by then the water had run out. Every hotel in northern Caledonia, Scandinavia, arctic Russia, Alaska, and Canada was full and we even saw refugee camps being set up.”

The book was a crazy project – using fiction to work out ideas about the future which I had been brewing for many years. There is a lot in it I would now cut, but some of the ideas are still sound, and some of it reads well. I looked at what the future would be like if we really had the political will to de-carbonise. Democracy has failed us so I imagined a different system – a world in which elected governments handed the real power to a benevolent quango led by a sort of Time Lord: Vandervelde.  This idealised “Green” future nearly works, but there just aren’t enough sustainable resources and the entire world economy tanks, leading to a dramatic cut in the human population. The survivors then have another chance.

I’m now less optimistic. I completely failed to see the rebirth of the populist right, and catastrophic global warming now looks closer than ever. 

I still have a few copies of the paperback for sale here: http://phototwynog.co.uk/product-category/books Who knows they might become collectors’ items!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Fanfare! Super quality prints for sale

I can now offer A3 and A4 size prints at attractive prices – A3 £12, A4 £8. Please have a browse through the galleries and see if there is a picture which you would like. Each picture has a stock number beginning with SKU. If you are using a desktop computer you will see the number when you hover over the picture. For the home page slider, the number is shown at the bottom of each picture. If you are using a tablet or phone, tap the picture to open it and note the number at the bottom. Now go to SHOP/ Prints and follow the instructions for each product. 

In the next few days I will be able to offer prints mounted on a black 12mm thick board – picture to follow. 

Posted in This Wild Life, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Heaven? – try Ramsey Island

In front of me is the Irish sea; deep, deep blue and so still you can see the tide flowing, making V shapes to the south of each of the small rocky island.  Eleven miles away, and clearly visible is the island of Grassholm, uninhabited by humans, but half of it dirty yellow with guano from the 35 thousand gannets who nest there.  Barely visible 8 miles further out is the 40 metre high Smalls Lighthouse, but the long lens picks it up.

With scarcely a hint of cloud it would be seriously hot but for the gentle cool breeze from the sea. The only sound is the croaking of the raven family soaring over Carn Ysgubor, and the gentle creaking of my sandals on the rabbit-shaved micro turf.  Out to sea a gannet passes, barely moving, sliding along the sea as if on rails until it makes a few lazy movements of its wings. Here, on Ramsey Island, Pembrokeshire, Wales, on this summer morning I am almost alone. Up ahead somewhere is another man on his own, and behind me somewhere is a couple with binoculars. I feel the urge to re-write my definition of “at peace with the world.” This is it. 

Peace for me doesn’t mean sitting down though. I may take my time, but I’m carrying a fairly heavy pack and wearing my usual harness with binoculars on one side and camera on the other. At present the camera – Canon EOS 80D –  is weighed down with my 400 lens, but I don’t mind the mild discomfort. That combination has just secured some cracking shots of one of Britain’s rarest birds – the chough, and some nice images of linnets eating thistledown.

 

 

I’m now searching for peregrines. I saw one. It flew out from a behind high rocky outcrop and flew back again. It  took me ten minutes of fairly hard climbing and very careful slow movement into the open and I was in the exact place it flew from. I waited. I slowly moved round to see the cliff face. Then the next cliff face. I looked out to sea and inland, but not a flicker of a wing. That’s birds for you.

Reaching some heathland I decided to give the big lens a rest and try my Sigma 105 f2.8 macro lens. Looking into this is like seeing the world made fresh. Every detail sparkles, and with the much wider view it’s easier to catch butterflies. Still not easy though, at least if you want to catch them with wings open. Wings folded is easy as long as you can see them.  I’m chasing a pair of common grayling, and their underwing gives them perfect camouflage against the rough, dried, coastal heath plants. 

The big challenge though is catching them in flight. Over the three days of my Pembrokeshire trip I spent several hours in rapid-fire shutter clicks chasing the three of four common species here. I then spent several more hours deleting 95% of them. Here are a few of the survivors, Grayling in flight, Wall and Gatekeeper:

 

On the way back in the afternoon I came across these two stags in velvet. They looked hungry, and like the sheep here they are being fed.

As I was scanning the walled pasture area for little owls, but finding only sheep perched there, I met Lisa and Greg, the resident wardens with Dewi the sheep dog.

They were checking on the pump house and I asked what the water situation was: not good. There had been no rain since May and they would soon have to start importing drinking water from the mainland. There was still just enough ground water to keep the sheep going. There was lots more I would have liked to ask them, but they were clearly busy and worried about the stock so I continued slowly walking along the old stone walls. There were plenty of wheatears and a few rabbits but no Little Owls.

Never mind, I watched a family party of Choughs affectionately grooming each other.

Down at the house the little café was open and a very chatty volunteer lady called Gwyneth served me some juice and a healthy snack. Her accent reminded me a little of our Tredegar friends and it turned out that her first job was there, but she’d lived most of her life in Pembrokeshire. You can take the girl out of Tredegar but . . . . Here she is seeing us off: still joking and chatting with the fashionably hirsute boat crew:

 

 

Posted in This Wild Life | 2 Comments

Party in the Park 2018

In perfect weather a good cross section of Cilycwm residents and visitors enjoyed a very relaxed and friendly afternoon. The Church marquee offered fabulous cakes, tea, coffee and soft drinks on one side – quite a challenge with no power supply. On the other side there was bric-a-brac plus “guess the name of the fluffy toy”. Next door was the barbecue serving up excellent hamburgers through the afternoon. The new skittle alley was popular as were the two ball throwing and kicking stalls – which offered classes in doing the goose-step as a side-line! The children enjoyed learning to hoola-hoop and acting as “ball boys” for the skittles. 

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