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In June I visited sunny Stockholm for the Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB) conference, a scientific meeting on the subjects of bioinformatics and computational biology that has been held annually since 1993, and has grown to the largest and most prestigious meetings in these fields. The conference and special interest groups went on for a week so I had quite a bit of free time to shoot some little planets. About 10 minutes walk from my hotel was this church which I think is called the Church of Riddarholmen – seems to be a pretty good match with this model that someone has created – which would make it one of the oldest buildings in Stockholm. I was a bit optimistic shooting this as stitching a nadir composed of cobblestones is usually a bit of a nightmare. I got lucky this time though and Hugin stitched it perfectly first time.


Close by is an area know as Gamla stan which means ‘Old City’. Gamla stan consists primarily of the island Stadsholmen and is home to Stockholm Cathedral, the Nobel Museum and Sweden’s baroque Royal Palace. Here are two of my partners in crime for the trip, Daniel and Tracey, who assisted me in conducting a thorough analysis of Stockholm’s nightlife.


One of the conference receptions was held in Stockholm City Hall. It stands on the eastern tip of Kungsholmen island, next to Riddarfjärden’s northern shore and facing the islands of Riddarholmen and Södermalm. It houses offices and conference rooms as well as ceremonial blue and golden halls. It is the venue of the Nobel Prize banquet and one of Stockholm’s major tourist attractions.


One of the strangest things about Stockholm in summer is that night seems to last only a few hours. It was dark by about midnight, but then light again by about 2.30am. If you’re out drinking until this sort of time then you face an inevitable walk of shame home without the cover of darkness. Not particulaly fair, but in winter I imagine the situation is reversed so things probably even out. This was taken using ISO 1600 at just before 3am.


I didn’t have my tripod with me for this trip so all these planets were handheld, so no bracketing, enfusing or HDR. I’ve recently reinstalled Windows XP and am having lots of fun with CS4 and a plugin called Topaz Adjust, which produces HDR/enfuse-like effects via adaptive exposure adjustments – perfect for handheld panoramas. There’s a free trial but it’s quite cheap anyway.

The weather in London over the last few days has been pretty awful, and it made me realise that some parts of our recently departed summer were actually pretty nice. June for example was fantastic – living in Wimbledon, where the All England Club host the annual tennis grand slam, we had two weeks of glorious weather, almost certainly a jinx due to the construction of the new sliding roof on centre court. As much as I like to complain about the traffic restrictions they impose during the tournament and the influx of slow moving tourists, I love watching the tennis and you feel quite privileged getting your local weather forecast on the national news.

On the Wednesday of the first week I got in line and queued for a good three hours to get it. Armed to the teeth with booze, crisps and some roasting sunshine, that wasn’t as tough as it sounds so seemed to pass quite quickly. But when we got in the afternoon drinking had gone to my head a little so we went and had a sit down on the hill adjacent to court number one.


A couple of year back it was Henman hill, now I think they call it Murray mountain. Either way, it’s a great place to sit back, have a drink and soak up the atmosphere. There’s also a big TV screen where you can watch what’s going on in centre or court number one. I wasn’t the only one who was feeling the effects of afternoon drinkies as there were more than a few casualties having a siesta, surrounded by a plethora of empty beer cans and wine bottles.


At the top of the hill they have a white picket fence which encloses a little water feature complete with lilies and a fountain. Here my friend Sarah gazes out (eyes closed obviously) over the 19 tournament courts that make up the club.


In the heart of the complex they have some pretty fancy architecture like this spiral staircase that leads up to what I think is the press area. Lots of glass and steel, obviously very high budget.


And a very heavy media presence too. This is Wimbledon park golf club, just across the road. When else are you going to be allowed to park a van like this on the 18th hole? There was no one inside so I was very tempted to jump in and start pressing some buttons.


And more to the point, when else am I going to be able to take a load of photos from inside a sand bunker, without getting chased off by some angry guy wielding a golf club?

Wimbledon park golf club

I’ve just returned from a fantastic two week trip to Thailand. The highlight was eight days diving from a liveaboard around the Similan Island (I’ll write a separate post about this later), but I spent some time before and afterwards relaxing in Phuket and Bangkok. The day after I arrived we headed to Pantip Plaza, a huge 5-storey IT shopping mall in the Ratchathewi district of Bangkok. I spent a few hours checking out prices and tapping on all the different netbooks. I was considering buying a new lens for my D90 but prices were much higher than I expected; I think you could get better deal from UK suppliers over the internet. The same could be said for netbooks, though to be honest I’m going to wait until specs are a little higher before buying one. So I came away with a 100 baht (£2) torch containing 16 super bright LEDs, and this planet.

Pantip Plaza

A few days later we caught an Air Asia flight down to Phuket and headed out for the dive trip. This was great fun, but exhausting, so on our return we spent a few days exploring Phuket’s beaches. I’m not sure what this one’s called, but it was just south of Kata Noi on the west coast, and there’s a wind turbine on the hill at the south end. The sun was hot and the sand was nice, but for snorkelling give this one a miss.


The next day we headed to Patong beach. Patong is the main tourist beach in Phuket and has everything that you probably want to avoid when you’re on holiday – 24 hour McDonalds, Subway, Starbucks etc.. you get the picture. Just as we parked up it started raining so we didn’t stay long, which was no bad thing. If you visit Phuket I’d recommend giving this one a miss. The planet came out pretty well though, I do like a nice thick atmosphere.


Later that evening I flew back to Bangkok for a night of partying in the RCA district. I got to the airport pretty bleary eyed the following morning and managed to take a few more shots before I caught my flight home. The new Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok is impressive; a mixture of glass, steel and and lots of curves make it well suited to a fisheye lens. I grabbed one more planet before getting on my plane; this one probably took longest to stitch and it’s not quite perfect but I’m glad I put the effort in as I think it came out pretty well. The abstract swirls do however bring memories of my hangover flooding back!


About 10 minutes drive from my house is Richmond Park, London’s largest royal park and home to about 650 free roaming deer (watch out though, the annual cull is about now..). At 2500 acres it really is pretty big; if you’re standing by Pen ponds as in this planet below, it’s easy to imagine you’ve escaped the big city and are somewhere in the English countryside.

pen ponds planet

Like the countryside, there are dangers here: while I was taking this shot, Darwin was lucky not to get a good pecking from a couple swans that were hissing at him very loudly. I’ve told him before, if you try and steal the bread that’s been thrown to them then you’re asking for trouble.. While trying to haul your dog away from angry swans with a camera and tripod in one arm is difficult, a more serious challenge is trying to catch him when he decides to have a go at deer herding. Unfortunately I wasn’t up to it, but as he’s a beagle and only has short legs, neither was he.

oak tree planet

Deeper into the park is my favourite tree. It’s an Oak tree that looks like it’s been struck by lightning. There’s a huge crack in it through which you can actually get inside the trunk, and then climb right to the top emerging amongst the branches. Despite his best efforts Darwin couldn’t manage the ascent, though he was more than happy to roll around in the leaves and have a chew on some of the fallen branches.

autumn planet

As we were on our way out, we encountered this golden sunset which turned everything in sight a fantastic red-brown. Sensing I was in no hurry to leave, Darwin just sat and watched it for a minute or two, so I took the opportunity to snap a quick autumnal planet. Given the weather today and the forecast, it could be the last of the season.

A few hundred metres south of St. Paul’s Cathedral is the Millennium footbridge, a pedestrian-only steel suspension bridge spanning the river Thames. Disaster struck a few days after it opened when it was found to wobble dangerously when too many people crossing at once. The introduction of some dampers solved this problem, and you can now cross it without fear of it self-destructing.


From the middle of the bridge you get a great view of London: to the north there’s the huge dome of St. Paul’s, and to the south you have the chimney of the Tate Modern gallery. East you can see the Tower 42 and the Gherkin, and west you can just about make out Westminster.

millenium bridge planet

I had a load of problems stitching the second shot. Firstly I had a duplicate of one of the images which caused issues (I still don’t think it should have done); next the control point generator did a really bad job,  the nadir didn’t stitch very well, I forgot to set lens type to fisheye, and there were lots of people crossing when I took it. After setting the control points manually, getting rid of the duplicate and setting it to fisheye, things went ok. And when I HDR-ified it with Dynamic Photo, the anti-ghosting tools worked really well. I left the blurry jogger in though, I think it looks cool.

London is an expensive place to live. As a tourist though, there are a few perks, one of which is free entry into London’s museums. If you’re visiting I’d suggest checking out the British museum, and in particular the Great Court. It’s a quadrangle covered by a vast tessellated glass roof, surrounding the circular reading room, and is supposedly the largest covered square in Europe. It’s a very impressive space so don’t miss it. Luckily for me the British museum is about two minutes from where I work so I often short cut through when I’m grabbing my lunch. The other day I took my camera with me and ended up with one of the most bizarre planets so far.

great hall

Things get even stranger when you pitch it 180 degrees.

great hall inverted

Another place well worth a visit is the Natural History Museum. I’ve been there every year for the past couple of years for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year and intend to go pretty soon for this year’s exhibition. There’s another impressive central hall here too; this one contains a large Diplodocus cast which I think would look pretty cool in a little planet.

The week after I got my new camera and Nodal Ninja tripod head, it rained. A lot. By thursday the clouds were still threatening, but I decided taking any more photos of my dog or fishtank wasn’t really justifying the rather large outlay I’d just made. So I took my gear and headed to a few places where I thought I could make some good panos. Being slightly unfamiliar with my camera, I accidentaly set it to shoot RAW only, so after about 5 planets, bracketed x 3, I’d filled up my SD card. As it turned out, the ‘memory card full’ message coincided with the heavens opening up, so I jumped on a train home to fired up Rawstudio, RawTherapee, Dynamic Photo HDR, and of course Hugin. Here’s some of what I came up with.

Hungerford Bridge planet

This is Hungerford bridge which spans the river Thames. After the footbridge was built in 2002, it was lit with fantastic, futuristic, blue lights on top of the pylons. I’ve got a real thing about blue lighting – I even took a soldering iron to my beloved Technics turntables to swap the red LEDs for blue ones. Anyway, I think this shot looks good with the warmth of orange lights, especially against the cold sky. I hope they put the blue ones back on sometime though.

St. Paul's planet

Next stop was St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was a little before rush hour so there weren’t too many people about, handy when you’re shooting HDR. Because I was pretty close up to it, you can’t see the huge dome which it’s famous for. I’ll have to get that another time from a different angle. I also missed out on visiting the Golden Gallery; only when I checked out the Wikipedia entry for Hugin did I realised what I’d missed. So two pretty good reasons to go back.