April 2014

Website Updates

This is a major new version of Kin Corning Photography. At first glance the site may not look much different, but a lot has changed.

In terms of content, I have reduced the main image galleries to a few simple categories. Weaker images are gone from the site, and there is a lot of new material.

The major changes, however, are in the underlying technical infrastructure and the adaptation of the site for mobile touchscreen devices. The growing array of Internet-enabled phones and tablets has added significantly to the challenges of web programming. Screens designed for a computer may fit poorly on a small display, alternatives must be found for Flash which is unsupported on Apple iPhones and iPads, dealing with touchscreen gestures requires a different kind of software programming, and the challenges continue along these lines.

The biggest such challenge arises from the new generation of high-resolution devices such as Apple’s Retina iPads and MacBook Pro laptops. The clarity of these displays is remarkable, but they unfortunately are not friendly to traditional websites. Text or anything else rendered by the web browser is exceptionally clear, without the slightly-soft or jagged edges of web text on a traditional computer screen. The problem is that web images and graphics are rendered in the same physical space on the web page, but over 4x the number of pixels (dots) as on a traditional computer screen. If a web image targeted for a traditional display is sent to a Retina device, it will effectively get upsized by the browser, causing it to appear blurry.

As of this writing at least, this is a problem you will see on many if not most of the websites you visit with your Retina device, because relatively few sites have taken the time and effort necessary to address it. Programming is required to detect a high-resolution display and to tell the web programs how to respond, and then every image needs to be prepared in multiple versions, once for traditional screens and again for different types of high-resolution device. It is these changes that constitute the biggest update in this version of Kin Corning Photography: In addition to the web programming, every image on the site has been re-prepared in multiple versions—nearly 1000 individual image files in total.

Having committed the time to these changes, at least I can say I am pleased with the result. If you have a Retina iPad or other such device please do use it to browse the site. The images and other content really do look noticeably better than they do on a regular computer.

Supporting these changes, I have added some related touchscreen functionality. On the gallery and individual image pages, you can swipe from one page to the next if you prefer that to using the arrows. Many websites revert to alternative mobile versions, but I am not a fan of that solution. Instead, I dynamically change page layout where required, so that things fit cleanly on at least the iPad and iPhone screens (these being the devices I most often see hitting the site). On the iPhone things are a little fiddly due to the small screen size, but it does all work if you pinch-zoom so you can more easily select the links. Once you are in individual image display mode it is easy to swipe backward and forward among the photographs.

I have also been doing the web programming for my son Patrick’s website, which is now released in a new completely-refreshed version. Like this site, it is enhanced for Retina screens and touchscreen gestures. Have a look at his work at www.patrickcorning.com.

The final challenge for web development in today’s world is testing. In the pre-mobile era, a fairly comprehensive job of testing could be done with a selection of web browsers on each of Mac and PC computers. Now, there are countless individual devices that are web-enabled, and it is quite impossible to test on all of them, particularly for an amateur developer like myself. I have tested the site on several generations of iPads, iPhones and iPods, but I have been unable to do much testing at all on Android devices. I would not be surprised if there are problems on certain devices, and I am therefore very appreciative of any reports of issues you may encounter—please make reference to the device/model you are using, the browser, and if possible software version numbers.

October 2013

Nature Soundmap

Earlier in the year I was invited by Australian sound recordist Marc Anderson to contribute some of my nature recordings to a new project he was organizing called Nature Soundmap. I am excited to say that the site is now live at www.naturesoundmap.com.

Marc has gathered together a group of nature recordists from around the world to contribute material. I am delighted to be in their company, because the contributors include many of the top practitioners in this specialized field (of which I am certainly not one—I am very much a novice).

The focus of the site is on the natural soundscape, and not primarily on the calls of individual species. As the name of the project implies, the site is organized as a map, so you can explore your way around the world immersing yourself in the sounds of nature.

It is worth highlighting that the natural soundscapes of our planet are under great threat. Habitat destruction and the intrusion of noise from human activities are destroying the complex fabric of natural sounds at a frighteningly rapid pace. It is incredibly difficult to find a location where a recording of even a few minutes can be made without the intrusion of noise from a nearby road, an airplane overhead, or whatever other form of noise pollution. Countless recordings made even a decade or two ago document soundscapes which no longer exist and which probably never can be restored.

It is surprising how little conservation attention is paid to the natural soundscape. I am equally surprised how few people practice the field of nature sound recording, particularly given the proliferation of people who pursue nature and landscape photography. In this context, Marc’s project is not only an enjoyable way to relax and spend some time, but also a way to draw much-needed attention to the natural sounds that are at great risk of being lost.