Scanning the past – sixth update

Having spent 2011 scanning slides, negatives, and photographs, last month I discovered I hadn’t completed scanning all my slides after we returned to E2E in New Year 2012! I still had about 1100 Fujifilm transparencies from our 1986 India trip and other miscellaneous boxes of slides making a total of about 1500 still needing to be scanned.

I started scanning again using my Epson V700 Pro flat-bed scanner. With a twelve-slide carrier, it was taking about 45 minutes to complete so I could just leave the scanner to run. One day having already scanned 108 slides I left the scanner processing the next batch and went shopping. When I returned after about 90 minutes I discovered the scanner was making juddering noises and the carriage had stuck. It would not reset using the scanner program and, after finally turning it off to stop it, the scanner failed to reset/restart.

I searched online for possible causes or fault-tracing and contacted local PC repair services without any obvious solutions. The V700 had cost about 400€ in 2011 and second-hand machines are still about that price. There were several broken V700 for sale for spares at 100€ and a “new” motherboard would be about 250€. The current equivalent is the Epson Perfection V850 Pro which costs about 1100€! So I wondered whether there were other options?

I have a Canoscan 8400F in Letchworth. I needed a document scanner in the summer 2023 and the Canonscan appeared on Freecycle! It was in the original packaging and had various film holders which I did not examine as they weren’t of interest at the time. According to the specifications, the 8400F 35mm slide carrier holds four 35mm mounts and probably scans them at a similar speed to the Epson.

Given the resolution of digital cameras has improved significantly in the last 20+years, using a DSLR with a macro lens to photograph slides has now become a common alternative. I already had a Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60 mm f/2.8 Macro for my camera so I did some quick tests, just with the camera on a tripod.

JJC film copier

Those results were good so I bought a JJC film digitiser set for less than 100€ to allow me to continue using my camera with more suitable equipment. The kit has metal spacing adapters for various DSLR brands and macro lenses, a slide/film strip adapter/carrier and a diffused LED light source. I added a rail, for additional rigidity, and the foam damping.

I used the kit to copy the remaining slides using the Olympus high resolution mode and the results (a 67MB ORF + 21MB JPG) are better than those I’d was getting from the scanner (I’ve now yet to decide whether to redigitise some of my older slides!) I developed a routine (checking for dust, putting in slide carrier, taking the photo after a 4 second timer delay to eliminate any slide carrier shaking movement) which allowed me to average 25 mins for a tray of 50 slides – so much quicker than the 4+min per slide scanning time using the Epson, although requiring constant attention.

The only significant differences I’ve found compared to the scanner is the JJC slide carrier does not hold the “fatter” old Agfa, etc. plastic slide holders (which were one of the reasons the prongs on the Epson slide carrier broke (see fifth update), the slides did not “pop” due to the heat from the scanner as the LED light is cool, and there is no software to do automatic scratch correction (the scanner software uses an IR light). All the slides I had were in thinner paper mounts and all had been kept in slide projector trays in boxes so were in very good condition without any scratches. I didn’t need to do any colour corrections for the Fujifilm slides except to adjust for a LED 6500K light source.

As an aside, I have also discovered some 127 film negatives from a junior school trip in 1957(?). I don’t have any prints of those. I will need to make a card carrier to digitise those and make adjustments to the camera to film distance. I assume that was the only film I used in that Agilux Agiflash camera? I only really remember using the Gratispool “free film” service, which had paper negatives, but I think they must all have been discarded?

New kestrels web site

I’ve now created a new web site 2023 – Kestrels in Entre-deux-Eaux which includes photographs, videos, links to three live webcams on YouTube, as well as links to the 2021 and 2022 web sites.

This is from one webcam. The male kestrel flies in and out of the nest three times trying to attract the female

The return of the kestrels to Entre-deux-Eaux – April 2022

The kestrels returned on 13 April and have visited the nest every day since. It could be several weeks before any eggs are laid. The eggs are usually laid at 3-4 day intervals. It is only after 3-5 eggs are laid the birds will start sitting.

11 May update – four eggs have now been laid – on 3 May, 5 May8 May, and 10 May

I made some changes to the window sill nest to enclose it but now regret not having had time to review the layout and new camera positions properly before we went to Letchworth at the end of March. I was doubtful the kestrels would return and did not put a camera outside the nest as I had originally intended (it is still in the box). The cameras are connected to network server in E2E and I can access them remotely.

I now have one camera live streaming feed on YouTube The feed occasionally fails and I have to restart it.

Both the female (falcon) and the male (tercel) (easy to identify differences) are visiting the nest more frequently now, especially in the early morning. The camera times are French time (GMT+2)

There is a 2022 kestrels web site with regular updates of daily photographs and videos


The 2021 kestrel web site pages and 

Our unexpected kestrel visitors – first update

A change of plan – Christmas in Entre-deux-Eaux

This morning we have very regretfully decided not to travel over to the UK for Christmas and the New Year.

We were very much looking forward to spending time seeing family and friends.

However with increasing travel restrictions, testing requirements and the possibility of up to three-month delays in returning to France if we caught Covid and there was then a positive test result while we were in the UK, as Covid spreads in both countries, it seems wiser to stay at home. And although precautions are being re-introduced in the UK, the general public confidence in and compliance with government pronouncements seems limited (which makes it all so hard for everyone who complies with the health experts despite all political cynicism).

So we wish you all a very safe and happy Christmas and continuing health and happiness in 2022, and look forward to seeing you again in less difficult times.


Our unexpected kestrel visitors – first update

UPDATE: The 2023 web site is  2023 – Kestrels in Entre-deux-Eaux

This is an update to the earlier post here describing the discovery Our unexpected kestrel visitors

The first two eggs hatched on 9 July. Unfortunately one of the first two chicks died.

The third and fourth eggs hatched on 10 July.

There are now two live video feeds and daily videos and photographs on this unexpected kestrel visitors web site

I have added two cameras, a TP-Link Tapo C100 in a box on the window sill and a motorised pan-and-tilt Tapo C200 above the nest. The original Logitech C270 is also above the nest pointing out of the window.

The kestrel seemed very suspicious of the constant red LEDs on the cameras so they have been turned off. I am not using the IR night mode either. The noise of the motors pan-and-tilt control of the Tapo C200 also seriously disturbed the kestrel.

I am feeding the Tapo camera feeds to Agent DVR software to control the timelapse photographs and videos and OBS Studio to control the live video Tapo feeds to YouTube. The YouTube which are then embedded in the website. The software is all running on my Win10 PC. I originally used a Raspberry Pi 4 for Agent DVR (after a lot of problems installing the software) but there were problems with the required graphics processing capabilities causing dropped frames.

Our unexpected kestrel visitors

The photographs and videos web site

Helen noticed little bits of polystyrene floating down one day when she was outside watering plants at the front of the house. I just thought a bird had found a bit of insulation.

In the meantime I’d seen a kestrel flying around, having not remembered seeing any here in the past.

Attic window viewed from the end of the potager

Then I remembered the polystyrene sheet I’d put behind the attic window to stop the crepi from being sprayed in when we had the outside walls redone. I went up to the attic, removed the wood which was holding the polystyrene sheet to the wall and saw a hole in the sheet and, through it, four eggs. A day or so later and Helen said she’d seen a bird with a white underside and fawn colouring flying out early one morning when she was gardening in the potager and then I saw the same a bit later when mowing. I’d not previously identified the eggs but on further internet checking I could now confirm that they probably were kestel eggs. I’d originally put a tripod near the compost heap in the hope of photographing the bird later in the day when it was cooler. I’d already told my sister I probably needed a tennis umpire’s chair to get high enough to see in to all of it properly.

Then, with no Euro football yesterday afternoon and too hot to do anything else outside, I wondered about setting up a camera to see if there was more than just the eggs. I didn’t think it was going to be possible to use my Neos webcam. But I wondered whether I could do something with my my old Samsung NC10 netbook? That originally had WinXP and we used it mainly for e-mails and web searching when travelling. But the hard disk died and when I replaced the disk I no longer had a copy of WinXP so installed Linux Mint. Again, that meant the NC10 was OK for use when travelling. But setting up a camera system was going to be a challenge as I’d no knowledge of what was available. I had a spare Logitech C270 webcam which I hoped I could use despite there not being any Linux drivers. So I spent an hour or more experimenting with download Linux camera programs just to see what might be possible. I’d originally thought of just trying to put up single image or possibly a video feed but then they would also need archive copies otherwise any activity might be missed. Then I though it might be better just to capture multiple images and either put them on a web site or combine them into a video. One of the camera programs I looked at had the ability to write files with different names which could be timestamps. I opted for one image per minute. So then it was a matter of automating the process. Not something I’d done before in Linux and it was a bit of a struggle as the process stopped running when the screensaver started. I didn’t manage to find the correct power setting and eventually just turned off the screensaver!

I ran a power cable to the far end of the attic so I could put the NC10 near to the window. I also decided to put the webcam in a box but didn’t have anything to hand except for one litre ice cream tubs. So  I made a hole in one side, just big enough for the camera lens and fixed the C270 in the box, and then made another hole for the lead out. I’d not looked through to see if there was more than eggs on the other side for a couple of days (and hoped they’d not been found by the stone marten which had played havoc with a neighbour’s chickens). The polystyrene was partially fixed by the crepi but I managed to put the box through a slight gap on the far side from the eggs, hoping I’d positioned it reasonably. I’d not checked before doing all the set-up, but the Wi-Fi signal was good enough to be able to connect the NC10 to our network and to be able to copy and process the image files on my computer.

Kestrel hen

Kestrel hen

About 30 mins later a bird appeared. So it confirmed we have kestrel guests, even though there is only one at a time visiting.

The programs all ran until midnight. Then, I’m not sure why, but there was a file-naming problem and the files were no longer in the expected directory. I eventually found them (and later renamed them and put them in the correct directory). I also simplified the filenames to the minimum, so hopefully that problem is solved? Converting the one-per-minute images into an AVI video wasn’t too much of a problem but I had to experiment with various settings to get reasonable file sizes.

I’ve now put some still images and the first video on a web site

kestrel chicks 17 July

Frosty fritillaries

We still have frosts most mornings and expect that to continue until the days of ice saints have passed in May. I was out this morning before the sun had completely melted the ice.

These fritillaries are from a few bulbs we planted many years ago. Most didn’t survive (possibly burrowing rodents eating the bulbs). But these are well established, making and spreading across the rough patch of field.

Click on the image below or here to go to the full web site

The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, 21 December 2020

Click here to see larger versions of the photographs in a separate tab


I had planned to take a series of photographs of Saturn and Jupiter in the days before and after 21 December as the planets appeared to move closer together and then as they moved apart.

However, despite the sky being reasonably clear for several evenings before 21 December, there was always a layer of low clouds over the Vosges themselves. By dusk the elevation of the planets was only 10 degrees about the horizon and getting lower. The planets often appeared and the disappeared in that cloud but were often still covered in a light haze. On the day of the conjunction, 21 December, and for the following days, there was thick obscuring cloud. The next time I saw them (and last, because of clouds for the following week) was briefly on 26 December.

I took several hundred photos in total. Above is one from each of the nights Thursday-Sunday before the actual conjunction on the Monday and one on the following Friday. The second was taken at 1725, so in the dusk light. The third was taken just before 1800 and shows clouds. The fourth shows the closest I captured the planets with some moons of both Saturn and Jupiter and I’ve added a screenshot from the free Stellarium planetarium software which helps identify the moons. Saturn and the rings weren’t separately identifiable and just appeared as an oval (the 26 December photo is the best).

I was using my 75-300mm lens at 250-300mm. I tried different exposures as the planets seemed over-exposed, but that made no significant difference so I must be at the limit of resolution of the sensor/lens image for that length telephoto. I had to focus manually as autofocus does not work on many cameras for small objects at a distant near infinity (for autofocus the camera needed to be able to focus either side of the correct focus point). When turned on my camera was set to go to an “infinity” point (the setting is 999.9m) which gives a good depth of field but the primary focus is not at infinity (the latest top-of-the-range Olympus DSLR do have a new special Starry Sky autofocus, which reportedly works). The other problem was either the low haze or fine high cloud making the images fuzzy. I’ve since seen photos on an Olympus web site where someone used a 400mm lens and the rings and planet were separately identified.

Geminid meteor shower – 14 December 2020

A Geminid meteor

The one Geminid meteor

The sky was cloudy when I tried to photograph some of the Geminid meteor shower on 14 Dec. After midnight I set up my  camera with a 7.5mm fisheye lens in one of the nearby fields. I adjusted it to take 120 30s exposures automatically with a one second gap between each exposure to allow the file to be saved.

I’d expected to see perhaps a dozen shooting star images in the resulting photographs over that hour, especially as I’d seen one while I was setting up the tripod. I was wrong. And attached is the only other one in that hour-long set I captured where the clouds cleared enough to see the sky (and I wonder how many I missed in those one second gaps!) It just got gloomier and gloomier. But at least I could just wait indoors in the warm as it was near zero Centigrade outside.

I also made a time-lapse video of the photos. The meteor shows at about 3 seconds.