Trees, a dog and a Pixel 3

Do you remember the time before mobile phones? Do you remember the time before smartphones had decent cameras? Me neither. The cameras on high end (and stupidly expensive) smartphones have become so good, so efficient that it’s difficult to take a “bad” photo. The software powering the camera leaves nothing to chance. Auto-focus, motion enabled, HDR and low light enhancement… They are all great leaps in photography. However, they have largely removed the requirement of craft or skill in the person taking the picture. I understand why many serious photographers sniff at smartphone images and disregard them as “proper” photography. Fair enough. But the smartphone does enable the enthusiastic amateur (me) to concentrate on the subject and composition. Which is a good thing, right? I simply wouldn’t be quite so much into photography without a smartphone. It’s been a major revelation for me in the last few years.

And so this is why I chose to buy yet another expensive smartphone instead of a “proper” camera, such as a Canon or Pentax DSLR (Don’t bother me with actual film, I’m digital all the way). For me, a smartphone is primarily a camera, with nifty sharing and online banking. It’s interesting (to me, and maybe to you if you’ve read this far) that I chose to get this Pixel 3 smartphone instead of a Canon for photographic reasons. But of course, it’s obvious. A smartphone is always in your pocket and you can whip it out and take photos on the fly, or the dog walk or whatever. And share them instantly ad nauseum.

Why the Pixel 3 and not, say a top of the range iPhone or Samsung? There are a few reasons. I really am not a fan of iPhones in general. I had one once and it took nice pictures but I disliked almost everything else about it. I think Apple charge crazy prices for average kit. I’ve been an Android user for a long time and prefer it over other platforms in almost every other way. Also, it’s familiar. I chose the Pixel 3 over other Android devices with great cameras (and there are quite a few to choose from) simply because of the reviews. It’s consistently described as the best smartphone for taking photos. So, simple really. Once I justified the cost of one to myself it turned up the next day. So far, so good. It takes really nice photoand does it with minimal lag. There are several very nice features and gizmos that it provides, and once I get a handle on them I may have more to say about them. I’m not going to give a full blown review. I just want you to look at the pictures I take of trees and my dog.


Here’s my dog doing what he likes 2nd best*: chasing and being chased. I’ve just treated myself to a Pixel 3 phone and of course, the first thing I did was to start checking out its camera. It’s… Marvelous!

* His best is a tie between sleeping and chewing stuff.

Daily Dog

Here’s my dih Tomass appearing in today’s Pixelgrams daily puzzle. Ain’t he handsome? Not pictured: him chewing everything in the house, including me.

Remembering a Fox in a Hat



Every now and again I go through my Google Photos and work folders to remind myself of stuff I’ve made in the past. Here’s something I’ve blogged elsewhere, but want to put here because I’m still very proud of it: a pixel-perfect-platform game called ‘Foxtrot! that I, Owen Bennett and Tom Gisby made a few years ago. The iOS version was removed from Apple’s App Store for being too old but the  Android version of the game still lives here on Google Play (although it may be too old for your new fangled device), I’ve set it to ‘Free’ so you shouldn’t be charged to play it. I hope you enjoy it at least half as much as I enjoyed making it.

Here’s the game trailer:

The truth about ‘Foxtrot!’ is that it’s rather challenging, and we never really solved the ‘old touch screen buttons’ issue. Actually, we did solve it, with a rather nifty split-screen solution. Those who got this new control scheme loved it. Every one else hated it. I naively hoped gamers would embrace innovation, but it was a mistake I shall never repeat. Never mind, ‘Foxtrot!’ was my first published game and a labour of love. And here it lies, always remembered.



If I ever

If I ever make another game it will probably have a whole mess of trees in it. It will probably be made with Blender and Unity3D. My open-source heart would choose Godot as my next game engine, but seeing that Unity3D gives you all sorts of useful stuff like tutorials, cloud build and app store integration for free… It really is a no brainer (for now). Especially if you’re a solo developer with limited resources and time.

I’ve delivered the final Pixelgrams update to the developer, and so after almost 3 years (3 years!? Game development takes time) I can start to think about implementing some of the ideas I’ve been storing in numerous doodles.

This picture is of a very quick and dirty test I did over my lunch hour when I should have been clipped into my stationary bike trainer (I’ll get on it tomorrow). I made a tree with Blender’s Sapling tree generator (that’s a birch), a v simple landscape and imported it into a Unity project. After setting up a bit repository on bitbucket, I managed to build an Android APK with Unity’s rather nifty Cloud Build service. When I have the time and energy, I’ll set the service up to also build iOS versions of the project. That stuff always takes time, and for now Android is a good testing platform.

Onwards, into the trees!