First impressions of the Blackrapid Sport camera sling strap

There is a list of accessories that, when used properly, can easily lift your photography to a next level: tripods, flashes, reflectors and so on.

Having shot a 24-hours sports event twice and noticing how my wrists would hurt afterwards, I figured a sling strap might also be such an accessory. The regular straps that you get when you buy a DSLR work more like a necklace: they are too short to sling around your shoulder. Other roller derby photographers recommended the Blackrapid family of sling straps almost unanimously, so with two games coming up on Sunday, I bought one last Saturday.

Note that I hardly ever use the regular strap the way it was intended. Instead, I wrap it around the wrist and just carry my camera in the hand. Hence the wrist ache instead of a possible neck ache. The sling strap makes it so that you don’t have to hold the camera all of the time. You can just let it hang when you’re not using it.

The model I got was the Blackrapid Sports, but I can imagine my findings apply to most other brands and models of sling straps.

So here’s what I discovered in one day of shooting:

  • When you’re running, you still need to steady the camera with your hand to stop it from swinging about.
  • I’ve never heard the IS mechanism in my sports zoom make such a racket before when running with my camera.
  • The Blackrapid attaches to the tripod mount. This has a couple of disadvantages:
    • You can no longer set the camera down on its (flat) bottom plate (unless you detach the strap, which is admittedly easy enough, but … but … if you just want to change lenses or it just feels awkward even to have to think about this – OK, I admit, this isn’t really a huge issue).
    • The mount is unavailable for tripod use (see above for the seriousness of this issue).
    • The camera hangs upside down, which means that you lose fractions of seconds bringing it to up your face. This can be problematic when shooting events.
  • You need to be extra careful with your expensive lenses dangling out of sight.
  • Unlike regular straps, a sling strap with its padded shoulder band and its plastic bits is a comparatively unwieldy thing that takes some getting used to just being there, knocking over cups of coffee and what have you.

The best I can say about a sling strap so far is that most of the time, I did not notice it was there.

I guess what all this whining is supposed to say is that a) I still need to get used to the thing and b) I had no clear idea of what a sling strap was supposed to achieve. The latter is still an important point to make. Holding your camera in your hand may not be ideal, neither do the alternatives seem to be.

I can say this though: the day after, my wrists feel just fine. On the other hand, this is the first time every I had muscle pain in my upper legs after a shoot. Go figure.

Facebook pages for amateur event photographers

As you may know I regularly visit roller derby bouts to take photos of the action and of the events and the people surrounding that action.

I used to post the results to my personal Facebook account but have recently switched to using a separate Facebook page for my photos.

If you are in a similar situation, you may like to hear the reasons behind my switch, so here goes.

Advantages of using a page instead of an account

  • People don’t have to friend you or follow you in order to see your photos.
  • You can take breaks from Facebook, especially if you have empowered others to maintain your page in your absence.
  • Pages are (or can be) visibile to the public, whereas personal albums set to Public still require visitors to log in on Facebook.
  • Easy reference; people don’t have to ‘wade’ through pics from your personal life to get to the ‘good stuff’.


  • Pages are public even if you’re not on Facebook. (Lower expectation of privacy.)
  • Facebook thinks page administrators are cash cows. Prepare for a barrage of little annoying ads on your timeline enticing you to buy more page views.
  • That’s right, Facebook artificially limits the amount of views that postings to a page get. The number of people that will get to see your photos just by following (‘liking’) your page will decrease drastically. Facebook lets you ‘buy’ more views from followers although the usefulness of buying such views is still very much a topic of discussion.


All of the above is still subject to Facebook’s many whims.

Facebook compresses the hell out of photos, making them look worse. This goes for both pages and accounts, and I only mention it because if you are considering switching to a page, why not consider switching to a Flickr or 500px account? In other words, how important are likes and shares to you?

If tagging is important, note that 1) tagging is disabled by default for Facebook pages, and 2) users may disallow pages to tag them.

Facebook pages require maintenance to counter Facebook’s ongoing War on Pages (as I call the commercialization of pages). There are a couple of things that might help:

  • Share your albums on your timeline.
  • Share the relevant albums or photos to the event pages.
  • Tag people you believe would like to be tagged.

It helps that you are shooting events, because events have visitors, and visitors like to talk to their friends about the events. If you’re shooting flowers or landscapes, posting your photos to your Facebook account may still be the better option.


When? When not use a page?

  • When: if you post a lot besides photos and would like to spare your followers from this extra guff.
  • When: if you want to keep different types of photography separate.
  • When not: if all you ever post are photos.
  • When not: if your photos don’t naturally lend themselves to people seeking them out.

There are other reasons why you might be using Facebook as an (amateur) (event) photographer that I haven’t explored here. For example, you could use Facebook to draw the attention of your followers to photos you posted elsewhere.


I have had my page for a week now and posted albums of two events since then. The number of likes and comments I get seems to have stayed approximately the same, possibly helped by the fact that people see my posts about my albums on the event pages. Tags are down by an order of magnitude if not more. I am getting lots more attention from Facebook which wants me to start paying for views.

I am also still getting friend requests from within the community. The good thing is that now I know people friend me because I am part of the community and not just because they want to see my photos.

Where is my flying car? A couple of quick observations

The phrase ‘flying car’ used to be (and perhaps still is) shorthand for ‘the future’. As long as we don’t have the flying car that a nebulous ‘they’ promised us, the future is not now. Never mind that in this day and age even people fleeing a war-torn Syria carry around more computing power then it took to get people to the moon, the idea of having enough technology seems forever outside our grasp.

These days flying cars are also a go-to topic for the average lazy journalist—there’s nothing like an article that you can write as you type.

Articles about flying cars in the MSM (main stream media) tend to follow a certain pattern. They look at current efforts of building flying cars—which remarkably all look a lot like regular, non-flying cars. If you’re lucky these articles also discuss past efforts, so that you get some historical perspective—for instance, the perspective that people have been designing, prototyping and dismissing flying cars for almost a century. And these articles often close with some made-up theory about how flying cars would lead to mayhem in the sky, followed by conjecture that this may be why we don’t have flying cars yet.

One of my larger objections to this trope is teleological in nature. I contend that we already have flying cars. They were invented in 1903 by two American brothers called Wright and have since taken the world by storm.

It turns out that if you put it like that, a whole lot of people will say: “but that’s not a flying car, that’s an airplane!” So what makes something a flying car? The image we have of flying cars is something straight out of the Jetsons or Back to the Future. It needs to be a vehicle. It needs to land and take off pretty much anywhere you like. It needs to be compact enough to park it near your house and comfortable enough to use for commuting or shopping. And it needs to have two more things, which I will discuss in a second. What it doesn’t need is to look like a car or to have wheels.

Even if you bring these extra limitations into the definition of flying cars, you still have the problem that this vehicle already exists. It’s called a helicopter. You have also introduced a problem for the lazy journalists, because this stricter definition of ‘flying car’ no longer includes any of the flying cars currently under development. The Pal-V’s and Terrafugias require dedicated airstrips to land and take off, so unless you live on an airport, they are not flying cars.

These modern flying cars are basically roadworthy aircraft. They look like cars (at least the bottom half) because when they are on the road, they are cars. What they are designed to solve is the problem that you aren’t allowed to land a helicopter just anywhere. They are 10% technological innovation and 90% legal work-around.

The way land-bound cars are advertised it would seem that their main purpose is personal freedom, especially freedom from roads full of other cars. Obviously if you own a car you realize that this is just a fantasy. If you use your car for commuting, you get used to being stuck in traffic for a considerable chunk of your life. But maybe flying cars could provide a solution? So that’s the final limitation that separates conventional aircraft from flying cars.

So what makes a flying car again?

  • It is a vehicle.
  • That is capable of taking off and landing where and when its operator desires.
  • Compact.
  • Comfortable.
  • That is allowed to take off and land where and when its operator desires.
  • Freedom?

Interestingly the very idea of what a flying car is also contributes to make it so that we don’t have them. The final two defining features are after all legal and psychological/sociological in nature, and such problems can be tricky to solve. (I wrote something other than ‘tricky to solve’, but I’ll leave the anti-technocratic rant for some other time.)

BKR-registratie laten verwijderen? Nergens goedkoper! (Dutch)

Ook als al uw schulden zijn afgelost, kunt u een negatieve BKR-notatie blijven houden. Hier kunt u zelf iets aan doen.

Download nu het GRATIS e-book “Oneens met uw registratie bij BKR?”

Hierin wordt stap voor stap uitgelegd hoe u uw onterechte BKR-noteringen ongedaan maakt.

Andere aanbieders, zoals en, rekenen vele euro’s voor hun e-brochures. Hoe kan het dat ik deze handleiding gratis kan aanbieden? Omdat u hem rechtstreeks van de site van het BKR downloadt.

Jawel, het Bureau Krediet Registratie biedt gratis de dienst aan waar u elders veel geld aan kwijt bent. Dynamiet Nederland wil zelfs niet zeggen wat hun dienst kost. Op hun pagina Kosten melden ze: “De prijs is afhankelijk van de situatie en opdracht. Naast een betaalbare oplossing hanteren wij flexibele betaalmogelijkheden. U heeft de keuze om in één keer of in termijnen te betalen.” En zoals u weet, als u moet vragen naar de prijs, kunt u hem waarschijnlijk niet veroorloven.

BKR zegt zelf over internetaanbieders: “Op internet zijn diverse partijen actief die aanbieden uw registratie in CKI te verwijderen. Wees voorzichtig met dergelijke aanbiedingen. Het kost u vaak veel geld en het resultaat is zeker niet altijd verwijdering van uw registratie. Als u van mening bent dat u een onterechte registratie heeft, dan vindt u op deze website kosteloos meer informatie om deze, zo mogelijk, te laten corrigeren.”

Met andere woorden, ga met de juiste partij in zee – het BKR! Als u uw onterechte BKR-registraties teniet wil laten doen, laat u dan door BKR informeren hoe dit moet. Net als u heeft het BKR weinig aan onterecht negatieve registraties.

Let op!

BKR zegt dat u een klacht bij hun geschillencommissie vergezeld moet doen gaan van een recent overzicht van uw BKR-gegevens. Het aanvragen van zo’n overzicht of van toegang tot mijnBKR kan enige tijd duren. Zorg dus eerst dat u alle overige bijlagen voor uw klacht in huis hebt, dan het BKR-overzicht en dat u dan pas uw klacht indient.

Als u er niet uitkomt, schakel dan een vriend of familielid in om u te helpen. Wilt u of kunt u dit niet? Neem dan contact op met bijvoorbeeld de wetswinkel van uw gemeente, de sociaal raadslieden van uw gemeente of het maatschappelijk of juridisch spreekuur van uw wijkcentrum.

Zie ook:

Mister Money: BKR-code: hoe kom je ervan af?

(Engels / English: this is a public service announcement. During one of the most expensive TV advertising slots I saw an ad for a company called Dynamiet Nederland that claims it will cancel negative registration with the Dutch office for debt registration, BKR. I immediately smelled a rat—nobody pays for expensive TV ads only so that they can ‘help’ people. But what was the catch? At first I thought that this service would offer expensive loans to people with debts so that they can replace the debts with even more expensive debts. Then I found out that the service these companies are offering, is something a debtor can do themselves. In the above I outline how to do this.)

I started something

I started another blog. Why, Branko, you say (sarcastically), how nice of you considering the many, many (*cough*) things you post here.

You would not be wrong about that. I do blog too little.

The new blog, called Beezels, because I needed a name and any silly thing would do, has a single purpose: to write about cool stuff I found on clickbait sites so that I can share them on Facebook without actually having to force my Facebook friends to go onto these clickbait sites. Cutting out the middle man, so to speak.

As it happens, most of the really cool stuf on clickbait sites (of course I mean cats) is stolen from elsewhere anyway, so this blog will allow me to do something that clickbait sites seem to be hesitant to do, which is to acknowledge and link to the originals.

I am still hammering out the details. What is online now is little more than a test version. Feedback is welcome (here).

A few of my goals:

  • Stuff I and my Facebook friends find cool and that is shareworthy.
  • In others words (though it may not look like it), this is supposed to be a personal site.
  • Leaner than lean, content is king.
  • Corollary: no ads that require interactive technology like JavaScript (which probably means: no ads—I am fine with that).
  • Facebook-ready.
  • Acknowledging sources.
  • No comments; the goal is that these links get shared in your networks, not in mine.

The content, of course, is clickbait, but my goal is not so much to draw you in but to send you on your way with something nice that you can share. No idea if and how this will work, we’ll just have to see.

An unlikely ad blocker

I’ve started using the Firefox plugin YesScript as an ad blocker even though being an ad blocker may not be that plugin’s main purpose.

YesScript will let you mark specific websites. YesScript will then tell the browser that the next time it loads something from those sites, it must skip the JavaScript programs belonging to that page.

What happened was that certain websites would make my PC wheeze like an old man with a life long history of smoking. Apparently my PC’s fan was getting old and had stopped running smoothly. Although I noticed this with all kinds of software, the main culprit was Firefox, and the wheezing would always be the worst when I visited a click-baity website.

If you look at a small selection of the files a site like Mashable pushes to my computer every time I read one of their stories (see the screenshot below), you can easily see why my PC would have trouble coping. Most of the files you see listed are for the benefit of ad networks. Look at the scroll bar to the right; this is just a fraction of the files that are loaded. Most of the files that you don’t see here are also loaded for the benefit of ad networks.

[Screenshot displaying a list of files from Mashable]

I measured it: without YesScript, a single Mashable page sends 294 files to my browser. Those files take up 2.9 megabytes of bandwidth and take 49 seconds to load and render. With YesScript running, those numbers dwindle to 14 files, 0.1 megabyte and 7 seconds. I can actually finish looking at a cat photo while you are still loading the page.

Why don’t I use a real ad blocker? It’s simply because I initially identified my problem as a technical one—too much JavaScript—and so the solution I chose was also a technical one—block all JavaScript. Ad blockers work by banning all files coming from known ad networks and should be just as effective.

YesScript has a minor advantage in this respect, in that it leaves ads alone that play nice (read: that are strictly text or image based). It also blocks all those annoying “6 misogynist articles you might also like to read” banners.

But the plug-in’s disadvantages compared to ad blockers are probably greater. Obviously whatever useful JavaScript a page is running—for instance, scripts necessary to let you comment—are also blocked. I can live with that, but I imagine others cannot.

If you are wondering if YesScript is for you, let me ask you first: is the reason you want to run it because you want to block ads? If yes, go for an ad blocker. If you do end up using YesScript, you will find it is incredibly simple to use. The plug-in adds a button to one of your toolbars. If a page is playing havoc with your browser, click the button and reload the page. That’s it. If you want to run scripts on that domain again, click the button a second time and reload the page.

(Why don’t mobile phones seem to be afflicted as much by bad Javascript? After all, they tend to be a lot less powerful than your PC but will display clickbait just fine … ish. This I honestly don’t know. It may be because a lot of websites send adapted pages to mobile devices that are easier to load.)

Sourceforge has crossed the threshold from bad to criminally bad

A bunch of years back I wrote that was “a very useful website for computer programmers (or developers, as we like to call ourselves), because it provides an aggregation point for people, code and knowledge, and it does so for free.”

The reason I blogged about Sourceforge was because the site had started to make mistakes. Next to its small and inconspicuous download links it placed large advertisements that looked exactly like download buttons and that would lead you to all kinds of nasty and unwanted software. I naively assumed that this was a mistake; something Sourceforge would fix as soon as it was pointed out to them. Somebody from Sourceforge even kindly commented to explain what was going on — although the explanation itself was rather disappointing.

These days, Sourceforge not only places problematic ads, it also bundles the software it hosts with extra downloads. And what is worse, it has hijacked high profile projects to do so.

Apparently the GIMP project (a photo editor) had already left Sourceforge in 2013, but had kept an account active to act as a mirror, an extra download site in case the primary site is down. The maintainer of the GIMP’s Windows distribution discovered on 26 May of this year that he had no longer access to his own account.

Earlier that day, the GIMP developers had received word that the GIMP download from Sourceforge was being wrapped in an installer. According to Ars Technica, that installer would try and lure you into installing extra software.

I don’t know much about criminal law, but this seems to be something that should have landed Sourceforge’s owners, Slashdot Media (once a geek-loved brand), firmly into gaol.

Anyway, the lesson is clear: stop downloading from Sourceforge. The company has since promised that it would stop hijacking accounts, but I don’t trust serial abusers.

What is the alternative? Well, for one thing there is a tool called Ninite that promises to help you manage a great number of freeware and FOSS installations, including GIMP, and that promises to do so without installing any kind of spyware or other malware. I am not sure if and how far they can be trusted, but it seems to me that if “no malware” is one of their defining features, they may not wish to throw away their reputation by breaking that promise. Here’s hoping that this is not me being naive again.

Google’s former diversity chief opens misogyny temple

This is rich. A museum in London that was said to become a much needed and desired women’s history museum turned out to be a museum glorifying famed killer of women Jack the Ripper.

When confronted with this strange change from celebrating the things women achieved despite adversity to becoming part of that adversity, the museum’s founder Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe engaged in a bit of victim blaming: “It is absolutely not celebrating the crime of Jack the Ripper but looking at why and how the women got in that situation in the first place,” Palmer-Edgecumbe told the Evening Standard.

Palmer-Edgecumbe, former diversity chief of both Google and Barclays, lied to the Tower Hamlets council when applying for a permit to build “the first women’s museum in the UK”. Critics of the museum have pointed out that the museum:

  • Glorifies Jack the Ripper by showing a figure of him as a gentleman in the museum’s logo.
  • Insults the Ripper’s victims by reducing them to smears of blood on coffee mugs.
  • Is on Cable Street, but is not about the rich history of Cable Street women – whereas Jack the Ripper exhibits and tours are a dime a dozen.

The Tower Hamlets council is reviewing the situation, but has already announced that it is unlikely to revoke any permits: “Ultimately, however, the council has no control in planning terms of the nature of the museum.” The council will instead look into other irregularities, such as the opening hours and the design of the front of the building (the Jack the Ripper imagery), which may both go beyond what the permits allow.

(Via PZ Myers.)

Quick comparison: Canon EF-S 24mm v. Sigma 17-70mm mk 2


Last week I bought the new Canon EF-S 24mm F2.8 STM lens from Canon. This is a lens that only works on crop sensor cameras. STM is short for stepper motor and provides a relatively fast and quiet means of focussing. What the name doesn’t convey is that this is also a very flat lens (a so-called ‘pancake’) and at 125 grams a very light lens.

For comparison my Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4.0 zoom lens (second edition) weighs four times as much, which may not sound like much, but when you want to travel light every little bit helps.

I bought the 24 so that I don’t always have to bring the 17-70 with me (I already have a solution for 50mm and higher).

Reviews of the 24 are glowing without fail, but when I started shooting with it, I did not notice much difference with my Sigma zoom, which is generally known as a rather pedestrian lens. So I wanted to know what’s up and took a couple of test shots on my Canon EOS 600D camera.

Note that the following is definitely not even close to what in pixel peeping circles is termed ‘scientific’. I don’t need to know what a lens does at pixel level as long as it holds up well for photos that get scaled down a couple of times, because when I publish photos it is generally at a web resolution of 1 or 2 mega-pixels.

The following photos are available at 1200 pixels wide. Click them for the full size. In every comparison the Canon photo is shown first, followed by the Sigma.

Wide shot

I expect to be using the lens a lot for this type of shot and for medium shots.

I shot using (cover your children’s eyes) the automatic setting (P). The camera chose F9, 1/320s, ISO 100 for the Canon and the same settings except 1/250s for the Sigma. The DXO Labs comparison of the two lenses suggests that the Canon lets in more light for the same F value, so that might explain the differences in shutter speed. The photos were taken hand-held and focus was acquired using CDAF on the top left white window of the nearest building.

These photos already tell me most of what I wanted to know, namely that the two lenses are similar enough that scaled down to a resolution close to what I typically use, there is no significant difference along any vector you care to choose: sharpness, colour rendition and so on.



Checking that window at 100%, you can see that the Canon seems slightly sharper, but the difference is too small to worry me. The difference may be caused by a number of variables that have nothing to do with the lens. I certainly wouldn’t leave the Sigma home over this bit of evidence.


When I look at the 100% view (not shown here) of the nearest red roof in the picture, the vertical lines separating some of the roof tiles disappear in the Sigma picture where they remain visible in the Canon picture. As you can see that sort of detail makes up a tiny proportion of the final picture. That type of detail is not something I am interested in retaining for the sort of photos I generally take. Still, it is good to see the Canon pancake do well in this respect.

Macro and close-up

Both the Canon and the Sigma have an interesting feature in that you can get very close to a subject and still get it in focus. They both advertise this as macro capability. Since 24mm is equivalent to 38mm on Canon’s APS-C cameras, you can get really close and still get a nice bit of blurry background in the photo.



What’s interesting here is the change in perspective. I shot these close-ups on a tripod and took care not to move the tripod in between photos. Note that the camera doesn’t tell you which focal length you are shooting at. I had to shoot a test scene first using measurements I got from the dimensional field of view calculator I found at one Max Lyons’ site. In English, I placed an object that was 93 centimetres wide at a distance of 100 centimetres from the sensor, zoomed the Sigma in to the point where the entire width of the object filled the screen, and kept that zoom setting for all the test photos I took with that lens.

When I looked at the EXIF data of the photos, the Sigma results said 23mm instead of 24mm. It could be that such a small difference in focal length already results in such a great difference in the photos. Or maybe the way zoom lenses are constructed cause this difference, I really don’t know.

What you cannot see here is that you can get even closer with the Canon, because it is such a small lens. The Sigma will at one point cast its own shadow in your photos.

Both photos where shot in P mode resulting in F4.0 (F4.5 for the Sigma), 1/60s and ISO 100.

The following are 100% crops (after the click).



I focused on “EOS” in “only in EOS digital cameras” for the Canon test, whereas I accidentally changed to “EOS” in “für digitale EOS Spiegelreflexkameras bestimmt” for the Sigma photo.

When you peep pixel you may notice that both lenses are nice and sharp, that the Canon has slightly more chromatic aberration (both seem well controlled though), but that the Sigma has a fairly nasty rendition of high contrast out-of-focus areas. Your may well disagree, the differences seem small. I had noticed the busy high-contrast out-of-focus areas in Sigma photos before – I’ve been shooting this lens for a while now. If the Canon does better in this area I am going to be a happy camper.

Finally I will show you two 100% crops of out-of-focus areas. I find both renditions fairly pleasant.



So here’s my conclusion.

For the type of photography I do, my copy of the Canon may be slightly better than my copy of the Sigma. I would have been happy even if the results were reversed, so this is good news. The one thing I haven’t tested is shooting the Canon wide open (F2.8) in dark environments. The shutter speeds I will be using it at are 1/60s – 1/160s, depending on the subjects. The Canon, unlike the Sigma, does not have image stabilisation, but since I will be mostly photographing people (who will move without notice), I will probably have to keep the shutter speeds relatively high anyway.

In the end it seems I have achieved my goal of getting a lighter lens for my wide-angle needs.

On a more general note, the Canon EF-S 24mm F2.8 STM seems to be a nice pancake. If your needs are similar to mine, but you need to change focal lengths a lot, you may prefer the zoom lens. Note that a new version of the Sigma tests significantly better than my version at DXO and is also smaller and (slightly) lighter.

Pity, John Oliver, I thought you might be one of the good guys…

British comedian John Oliver is the front man of a popular American rage vlog (and TV show) called Last Week Tonight, in which he tries to work viewers into an angry fit by spinning a mock cathartic narrative around injustices that are both major and very real.

The segment of 21 June was titled “Online Harassment“. It dealt largely with the harassment women undergo when they dare to do as much as open their mouths on-line. Two of the victims Oliver named and interviewed were Brianna Wu and Anita Sarkeesian, but shamefully he omitted mentioning their attackers, the Gamergate movement.

By not naming and shaming the attackers he wilfully let them off the hook. The Gamergate movement’s only goal is to harass women both on- and off-line. Surely, naming a movement that is a sort of modern day Ku Klux Klan (except aimed against women instead of people of colour) is exactly what you need to do when you’re trying to pretend that you are putting on-line harassment in the spotlight?

It’s not like the people in the know don’t realise what’s going on. Gamergate was very quick to acknowledge that John Oliver was talking about them. If not to keep the Gamergate hounds at bay, why did Oliver refrain from calling the attention of the public to one of the worst hate campaigns currently laying waste to the internet?

The major reason I can think of is that as long as on-line harassment is alive and well, he can produce shows around it. Oliver doesn’t really want to tackle injustice, he only wants to use injustice as the emotional hook with which to reel in his audience.

Shame on you, John Oliver!