The average camera bag is built like a sack of spuds and weighs about as much. This is not your average camera bag.

The F-Stop Loka is a 37 litre daypack designed for outdoor photographers who need to carry other items, such as extra layers and some food, along with their camera gear when they head out on the hills for a day’s photography.

Most normal camera bags are pretty poor for this kind of usage. They hold a lot of gear, but they have no room for other essentials like a fleece, waterproofs and lunch. They tend to just be boxes with straps and not very good straps either. They are mighty uncomfortable to carry for any distance and their lack of space for other gear encourages you to either take risks, or not go very far.

The F-Stop Loka is different. Sitting somewhere in the middle of the F-Stop Mountain Series range, this is a proper rucksack with suspension straps and an internal frame. It’s also incredibly light, much lighter than an ordinary padded camera bag. There’s also room for a water bladder and quick access to camera gear is provided through the rear panel. Straps on the outside are provided for attaching accessories, a tripod, walking poles, etc.

The camera gear is stored in a removable insert called an ICU (Internal Camera Unit). ICUs are available in multiple sizes and can be swapped in and out depending on how much gear you want to take for a particular trip. The ICU is padded and has the usual configurable dividers you’d expect from a normal camera bag. I opted for the Medium Pro ICU for a good balance between camera and other gear.

In it I’ve got a Canon 5D MkII, 35mm f2, 85mm f1.8, 17-40mm f4 L, 24-105 f4 L and 70-200mm f4 L IS, as well as some accessories. The two primes could easily be swapped for an extender and another big lens, such as a macro. I’ve arranged everything such that I can put the camera in the ICU with any of the lenses attached. If I was prepared to store the camera with no lens attached I could fit even more in, as this trades a little bit of space for convenience.

I’m also thinking about getting a small ICU for when I need more space for other items. Storing the lenses not attached to the camera would allow me to fit the camera plus the three L zooms into a small ICU. That’s all I tend to take when I’m landscaping, but it’s good to have the flexibility. I also find the lens spaces in camera bags are the perfect size for storing little oranges for snacking on ;)

I do intend to use the bag for walking the city too, which is why I got the medium. In that environment the ability to quickly access and stow away whatever I have on the camera is more important. But on a proper walk or landscape trip, it’s not such a big deal. In fact, it might even be a good thing. Slowing down and taking the time to understand and feel a location before even getting the camera out of your bag is a very good thing.

As well as the camera gear above, I’ve also filled it with some of the other things I might bring on a day trip. In the front pocket I’ve got my waterproof trousers, while in the main compartment there’s a gilet, a fleece and a large jacket. There’s still room for lunch and some gloves.

If I was to swap the jacket for a Paclite or similar shell, I’d be able to put in a water bladder or fill half the top of the bag with something else. I’ve also got the option to move to a small ICU or strap my jacket to the outside if I need even more space. I’ve also strapped a tripod, a walking pole (I only have one, there’s room for at least three more) and a water bottle to the outside.

That’s quite a lot of gear and it’s all in something that’ll fit in the overhead bins of a regional jet, another important consideration for me as I fly home quite a bit and this can sometimes be on a small plane such as a Dash 8 or ERJ145. When I’m flying I’ll use the top section to hold all the things you need when flying, like a laptop, a book, some headphones and a coat.

It’s clear this bag is in a totally different league to something like a Lowepro. Carrying a Lowepro (it’s been a Flipside 400 AW recently) I’m too tempted to make compromises in the other gear I carry, as there’s not really any storage for other items. Not so with the Loka. This means I’m much more prepared for a day on the hill, much safer and able to stay out for longer. The harness system is also much better than a normal camera bag. The suspension straps and internal frame, combined with it being a lighter bag to start with, means carrying it is considerably more comfortable.

The F-Stop Loka is a fantastic camera bag. It feels good to use, it’s high quality and it holds everything I need to carry for a safe, comfortable day on the hills for landscape photography.

If you’re a outdoor photographer, action or landscape, you should seriously consider an F-Stop bag. I’ve spent a long, long time looking for something like this and there really is nothing else available that’s comparable. Yes it’s expensive, but the increased safety and convenience from being better prepared means it’s worth it. That plus the better harness, which may save signifiant discomfort and cost due to back pain in the long run, mean for me it’s a no-brainer.

There is one problem though. Constant shock shortages due to a small company unable to keep up with ever-increasing demand mean that these bags are quite hard to get hold of. Up until recently the only option was to order direct from F-Stop, however they are now sold in the UK by the outdoor clothing manufacturer Paramo. So if you’re in London, you can pop into their Covent Garden store to take a look. That’s where I bought mine. That’s also where I bought my boots. They are by far the best fitting boots I’ve ever owned.

I think it’s obvious that I’m very happy with what’s an excellent and incredibly well made bag. I can’t wait to start using it over Christmas, but I’m really looking forward to taking it to Glencoe for a week at the end of January :)


Hello, MetaBroadcast

I started my new job last Monday at MetaBroadcast and I’ve certainly been busy. By the end of my first day I’d set up my laptop, been briefed on my first three projects and had my first client meeting. And some of that (in)famous MetaBroadcast cake ;)

The good news is everyone is really lovely and the atmosphere in the office is great. It’s productive, it’s friendly, there’s a lot of food and, above all, it’s fun.

The biggest news of the week was that I was fortunate enough to win Foodie Friday, where once a week the person in the office who gets the most votes gets to choose where lunch comes from. Those who know me will not be surprised to hear that we had pie!

I’m working on some great projects too. A nice mix of stuff that combines some things I’ve done before with some things that bring new and unfamiliar challenges. Nothing I can share yet, but I’ve no doubt it won’t be long.

So a big thumbs up from me so far and the knowledge that I made a good choice. Productive, interesting, friendly, fun and full of food: if this sounds like the sort of place you’d like to work we’re hiring.


After much consideration, and with a little sadness and some regret, I’ve decided to leave the BBC.

In the four and a half years I’ve been here I’ve had the opportunity to work on some fantastic projects. From those crazy early days on PIPs as a software engineer (hi guys!), to the later days on PIPs as product owner. The days working for Tony Ageh as we tried to make sense of the archive. Building the system that enables the publication of archive programmes to BBC Online. And, in the final chapter for now, the first steps towards a telling of history and the world around us through events, programmes, interlinked stories and time.

For me the BBC has always been about two things: its archive and its presence in the nations and regions. The choice to join the BBC was very much with my heart. Growing up in Northern Ireland, where I still think the best bit of the BBC is, I remember just how much the BBC influenced my childhood. Its strong, local presence combined with the best of network programming made a lasting impression. Passing Broadcasting House in Belfast every time I was in town. Dreaming of one day visiting Shepherds Bush, imagining what it must be like. I’ve now worked in Belfast BH and not only worked, but lived, in Shepherds Bush.

I was lucky to be heavily involved in local projects twice, first with the integration of local radio into iPlayer and then with the Northern Ireland Troubles Archive, previously known as A State Apart. I’ll say no more, but I have much to thank the first project for ;) The second has been really something else. To the guys in Belfast: you are all wonderful. I’m so proud to have worked on the early development of what will one day be a real jewel not just on bbc.co.uk, but also something that is so important to all of us in Northern Ireland.

Thank you to everyone who has made my time here so wonderful, who I’ve learned so much from and respect greatly. There is no doubt that at the BBC I have worked with the best and smartest people I have ever worked with. People who’ve had a profound effect on how I act and think. There are far too many to mention everyone, but I’d like to give a special thank you to Richard Jolly, Adam Smyth, Tony Ageh, Nicole Clement-Reynier (née Walker), Mary McCarthy, Sophie Walpole, Simon Delafond, Michael Smethurst, Tom Scott, Chris Sizemore, Matt Wood, Silver Oliver, Paul Rissen, Richard Northover, Brendan Quinn, Yves Raimond, Matthew Cashmore and Ian Forrester. The list goes on and on.

Yes it’s been a hard couple of years, but things are getting better. It’s just time for me to move on. I know and hope that the early work we have done on web-native storytelling, event-based history and time-based discovery will not only live on, but become a key and defining part of BBC Online.

It’s been an honour and a privilege to have worked at the BBC. My last day is Thursday 5th May. I’m very lucky to have somewhere equally special to go to. More details soon.

Update 28/04/2011:
The new job has now been confirmed. I’m excited to be starting at MetaBroadcast on Monday 16th May.


Back to the Future

When I was a kid, not much more than about 10 years old, I saved up my pennies and bought myself a camera. The Fuji fixed lens compact camera on the left. I used that camera for many years, eventually replacing it with a little Casio digital.

Since then I’ve rediscovered my childhood interest in photography and for the last few years have been using stupidly big Canon DSLRs with their stupidly big lenses. Last weekend I made my inner 10 year old very happy and added a Fuji fixed lens compact. The Fujifilm X100 on the right.

This has been a hotly anticipated camera since it’s pre-announcement back in September. As well as looking gorgeous, it’s also rather special. It’s got the same size sensor as most digital SLRs (APS-C) and a 35mm equivalent f2 lens, so it’s great in low light.

It’s got an in-lens leaf shutter, so it’s almost silent in use. It’s got a hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder, so you can have framelines overlayed with shooting information or a through-the-lens SLR-style view. It’s small. It’s tactile. It’s very lovely indeed.

Taking it out for a first spin yesterday afternoon, I had a massive grin permanently attached to my face. This camera is wonderful. This camera is fun.

Daffodils

Early X100 – A set on Flickr


With the launch today of the iPlayer iPad app (poor @geofftech) I thought it was a good time to write an update on using iPlayer in the wider iOS ecosystem. I promise that this is the last time I will write about iPlayer on the Apple TV…

A couple of months back Damon Rose left a detailed and touching comment on the previous post about popular search terms for this blog.

Please go and read it in it’s entirety. Go on, I’ll wait.

For those that didn’t go back and read it, I’ll pull out a couple of bits here. Speaking on the new Apple TV and it’s inbuilt screenreader, Voiceover: “I’m blind and it’s totally fantastic. It’s the first ever accessible set-top box I’ve had”, adding that Freeview “has taken 12 years to become accessible”.

Damon works at the BBC (he runs the BBC’s disability site, Ouch!), so he knows this area well. His concern is that it will take as long to see widespread adoption of an accessible video on demand set top box as it has for Freeview:

It would, of course, be excellent if BBC iPlayer were able to move onto this platform because, in theory, immediately up to 2 million blind and visually impaired licence fee payers could then acccess BBC on demand video if they bought the relatively inexpensive Apple TV box.

I guess the fear is that we won’t get the newly fashionable VOD services for another 12 years as with accessible DTT. Ther’es still no accessible PVR access incidentally … not any worth mentioning anyway.

Apple should be commended for their commitment to accessibility. The RNIB has gone as far as saying that Apple has “has set the standard” for device accessibility in recent years, changing the expectations of blind and partially sighted users as to what’s possible. And looking at the accessibility features on the iPhone it’s not hard to see why.

Anything the BBC can do to bring support for iPlayer to the Apple TV is not only a good thing for all licence fee payers, it’s a lifeline for those who rely on assistive technologies to watch BBC content.

Accessibility is an important subject to me. Those who know me might know that I’m blind in one eye. It’s not something that affects me on a day to day basis, but it does make me appreciate that sight is precious and it does occasionally make some things harder. It’s easy to forget that seven billion people means seven billion different experiences. We’re all unique. We all experience the same thing in a different way. It’s our responsibility as product managers, designers, developers, testers, content producers and business people to build things that are usable, accessible and magical for everyone. There is no one experience. We must be moldable to all of them.

And as for iPlayer on the Apple TV? Well, there’s potentially an answer for those who also own an iPad or an iPhone. The BBC could implement the AirPlay video APIs when they become available in iOS 4.3, which would let users stream video from an iPhone or iPad to their Apple TV. I really do hope the BBC does this, to not do would make no sense. I really do trust them to do the right thing.

And the iPad app released today? Well, apart from the lack of Nations and Local radio, it’s good. Really good. Though the BBC really does need to start treating national, nations and local content as equivalent. Thankfully this is a key part of the forthcoming changes to BBC Online. That’ll be a big step forward.


So, BBC Backstage is sadly no more. Today the BBC released a beautifully compiled ebook retrospective of the last five years. There’s also a great article by Jemima Kiss over at the Guardian. I’m humbled to have been both interviewed in the book and mentioned by Jemima in her article.

But I just wanted to write a little bit here too. Backstage always meant a lot to me. It was one of the first things I got involved with when I moved to London just over four years ago. I’ve always strongly identified with the ideas behind the project. They’re just as important now as they were then.

It’s helped me in work too. I won’t say it encouraged me to be mischievous, but it certainly let me get away with it a bit more often.

But Backstage wasn’t really about the BBC. It was about the community of developers, designers, thinkers and tinkerers that built up around it. Always there, always challenging us to acknowledge the public interest in what we do. Always holding us to account and making sure we did the right thing.

Backstage made it a lot easier to build for the people building things with our stuff and I hope we can keep that conversation going.

So my thanks to Ian, Matt, Adrian, Tom, Rain, Ant, Brendan, Sarah, Ben and everyone else far too numerous to mention that helped make Backstage happen or got involved.

Thanks to you all and long may it live on. To Backstage.

Some relevant posts from the archive:


Search Views
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iplayer on apple tv 226
apple tv bbc iplayer 216
iplayer apple tv 190
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bbc iplayer on apple tv 109
appletv iplayer 43
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Just saying.


Telling Stories

13Apr10

I spent some time this afternoon in an edit suite in Belfast Broadcasting House.

Some of what I watched, all of it in fact, was pretty powerful stuff. Footage of British soldiers on the streets, saluting the coffin at a republican funeral. A Panorama filmed in a local hall with an audience of political moderates, ordinary well to do people, vehemently giving what for to the English presenter for his misrepresentation of their situation. The young Viscount MP from Fermanagh, who lived in a huge country estate, the moderniser, telling us of his family’s connections to the incumbents.

The footage itself was beautiful. Transferred from 16mm film, it had a wonderful quality to it. It was grainy, but the colour had a grading that made it look like a Hollywood movie. No doubt there will be many more of those with similar scenes. But this was real.

Twenty years later the MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone was Bobby Sands, the hunger striker. But what happened to the Establishment? What happened to each of the people who wanted peace and fairness for all, when things started to really get out of hand? At what point did things turn between the Army and those who originally welcomed them?

The answers to all these questions and many, many more are tied up in the BBC’s archive. A million hours of social history, most of it only seen once when it was recorded.

An edit suite is an incredibly creative environment. It encourages you to ask questions. To wonder what happened to someone in the crowd. It compels you to tell stories. But the realities of television and the commissioning process means most of those stories are never told.

But the web allows us to tell those stories. What we must concentrate on is building the tools that allow traditional programme makers to sit in an edit suite, be inspired, assemble their content and tell their story on the web. For that way, the stories get told.

Thank you to Frank, the editor I sat with this afternoon. These are his ideas and inspiration.


Last week I blogged about how I’d been working on a way to use BBC iPlayer on my Apple TV. At the request of the BBC, my employer, the plugin is no longer available.

The BBC raised concerns around deep linking to iPlayer content and the use of the iPlayer trademark. The plugin was also playing content rights cleared for PC, but not set top box, usage. By making that content available on set top boxes, the plugin potentially exposed the BBC to issues with rights holders.

I understand the reasons I’ve been given and so have complied with this request.




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