Learning about Tiny Houses

Learning about Tiny Houses is interesting. There are a number of features/documentaries online where people build their own tinyhouses either from shipping containers, trailers or other structures. The aim of these tinyhouses is to maximise space and reduce costs. Some of these homes are entirely off the grid. They collect rain water and solar panels provide power. The bedroom is often built above the kitchen and climbing wall holds are used instead of ladders or conventional stairs.

One home folds out from a truck to become a castle. One tower serves as a toilet and the second one serves as a shower. The space above even features a bath.

Another Tiny home is designed as a tree house providing a beautiful 360° panoramic view of the landscape around.


This tiny home is interesting because it’s built out of half a shipping container. For a change the bed is below and the living room is above. The kitchen and office are next to it and there is a shower from which to watch birds.

I have seen a lot of people speak about minimalist living, living off the grid and living out of cars, campers and other vehicles. By watching videos about tiny houses you begin to understand that there are certain basics that you need to have and that these basics fit in to small spaces. If you have a van, a caravan or other vehicle then you can live as comfortably as these people.

This last video would make for a perfect summer home for recent university graduates or high school graduates. It’s small, light and mobile. You’re self sufficient to a great extent and as long as it’s warm you have your own space. It’s amusing that in at least three videos we hear about people learning to be neater through living in such small spaces.

As a scuba diver, rock climber, cyclist and geek the biggest challenge for someone like me would be to find a place where I could store my diving gear and especially the scuba tanks. They’re bulky. Diving gear also needs to dry properly to avoid the smell of the lake (as I used to dive weekly in the lake).

My view of living in a tinyhouse has changed through the watching of these documentaries. It shows you that what you want is functionality rather than size. You want “gadgets” as these maximise how you use available space.

A Rock Crawler and Wildlife Film Making

When Gordon Buchanan was following bears in the United States we watched the resulting documentaries on television. We have seen him a number of times in episodes of countryfile as well. Now he is working on getting footage of wolves in the wild. For this project he is staying out in the wild and following a pack of wolves day after day for weeks. As part of this project he is filming with a broadcast camera and gopro cameras which he fixed on to a “rock crawler”. The Rock crawler is a remote control car with the body removed.

The BBC were working on a documentary about polar bears and for certain shots they created a den for filming purposes. It helped to tell the story but people felt that the purity of that documentary had been tainted. This genre of documentary aims to tell a genuine story with no reconstruction or trickery. Everything has to be genuine.

As we see from the footage above Gordon Buchanan was able to get the camera right up to the den and film the wolf cubs from the mouth of the den. This technology is great for story telling because it provides the camera operator with greater flexibility. He is able to get the camera to where he wants it to be without going there in person. In theory animal behaviour is genuine.

Sensory: BBC Wildlife Director John Downer & the technology of 'spy-cam' filmmaking from Getty Images on Vimeo.

With this technology a greater variety of shots can be achieved, from flying with specific birds to traveling under water with penguins and lounging in a pool with tigers. In essence spy creature cameras allow wildlife filmmakers to get genuine animal interactions without relying on luck. They can make their own luck and the natural history documentary genre benefits.

Flowing water – a visual experiment

Flowing Water – A visual experiment is a simple one minute video. The first images were filmed at the Arboretum in the Jura and the timelapses show clouds playing above the Jura near La Dôle. La Dôle is where the doppler radar is located. That radar shows rainfall and precipitation so that air traffic controllers can advise pilots of weather conditions.

With the amount of rain that has fallen over the last six or more weeks every river is full of water. As a result of this they are flowing fast and debris can be seen. When rivers flow fast they are fun to watch. The next step would be to capture waterfalls over a period of minutes or hours. If we stopped recording just as the rain stopped we might get interesting results. The peak wouldn’t appear until soon after the rain stopped.

I was lucky with these clouds because they moved quickly from one side of the screen to the other. They also formed and dispersed quickly. As a result I could set the interval to take images every few seconds. I could quickly see the result and adjust. When I filmed the clouds I filmed the ground and the trees as they came in and out of the shadow of clouds, I filmed a tighter shot where you could see the transmission mast and then I pointed to the sky and tried to capture the movement of clouds with blue sky as a backdrop. Some moments are fun to watch.

Watching clouds form as a 360 timelapse

Time-lapse videos are fun because we can see something happen faster or slower than real time. By watching this content we gain a better understanding of the world and how it works. For years I have been filming time-lapses and the results can be fun. In some cases we record time-lapses with video cameras and at other times we set an interval timer to take pictures every so many seconds. In this post you will be watching clouds form as a 360 timelapse.

I have chosen to share both the flat image and the spherical image. The reason for sharing both versions is to give you an overview of how objects move in both.

Spherical Version

With this version look to your right and you will be able to watch the clouds move through space. As they move you will see them grow thicker and then cover the sun. At this point everything gets darker. If you watch this video a few times you can watch the landscape change.

The next step would be to get a 360 camera somewhere high during a total eclipse of the sun by the moon. During such events you will see a grey mask cross over the landscape, you will see birds fly away and then everything will be dark. You can then turn around and watch totality, the corona and then the reverse process. The time is right for eclipse chasers to be at the right place to capture such an event as a 360 video.

Flat Version

With the flat version you can imagine where you would aim a standard camera. Would you try to get the clouds that are forming over the mast or would you prefer to look out towards La Dôle and watch as the large clouds form and float to block off the sun? In this image you can see from Villeneuve and Lausanne to Geneva and the Salève.

Having such a wide angle of view allows you to see everything that is going on in front of and behind the camera. The timelapse is a sequence of pictures rather than video so in future I hope to export the video in a higher resolution.

Sharkwater – a documentary worth watching

Sharkwater – A documentary worth watching.

If you have one and a half hours of free time I recommend watching this documentary. It discusses the anti-whaling work by the Sea Shepherd, the work it did to combat long lining around the Galapagos and it touches on the shark finning mafia and corruption.

The documentary also looks at the public perception of sharks. It shows that they are not the dangerous animal that they were thought to be until recent history. The film ends with a shot of the narrator free-diving with sharks and being perfectly relaxed. At one point he says “sharks are so sensitive that they can feel your heart beat, if you are calm they will stay but if you panic they will flee”. I paraphrased his exact words.

Another theme that is explored in this documentary is the food chain. He mentions that plankton absorb a lot of Carbon dioxide and that with the overfishing of sharks the ecological balance will be ruined as the apex predators are lost. He pushes strongly for the conservation of shark numbers. We are familiar with the current Save our Sharks movement.

This is an interesting investigative documentary about the economy surrounding shark finning and why it has a negative impact on the food chain. If the documentary was updated it could look at the economic viability of shark tourism that has grown in recent years. Sharks, in some places are more valuable alive than dead. If you don’t have time to watch the entire documentary then I recommend that you watch the last thirty to fourty minutes.

Childhood and environmental conscience in Switzerland

I attended the Green Cross International event in Geneva and took pages and pages of notes. There was a lot of information and a focus to provide COP21 in Paris with a message from Geneva, Humanitarian city to Paris and the leaders present for that conference.

Dr. Somthai Wongcharoen – Founder, Wongpanit Group of Companies (Thailand) made a speech about the company he started in 1976. He saw waste not as a problem but as a resource. Through encouraging people to bring their rubbish and paying for it, by establishing recycling centres around the world he helped turn waste in to commodities. During his presentation the topics he covered were familiar.

That’s because in Switzerland PET plastic has been recycled for 25 years, a quarter of a century. It is an inherent part of my character that I will recycle plastic bottles whenever I can. Recycling culture in my village is strong. For several years now we have had a recycling centre rather than a dump. Aluminium, PET plastic, other plastics, paper, and cardboard are all recycled. So is garden rubbish. The amount of rubbish that heads to an incinerator is now a third of a bag every three weeks. In other words I drive to the recycling centre and drop off recycling in the appropriate places and the waste that heads to an incinerator is minimal.

This is such an ordinary part of my life, as a person living in the Canton de Vaud that I feel bad about throwing away rubbish in garbage bags rather than sorting it. Recycling is easy. I started as a child and continued as an adult. It is nice that it has become such an important part of village life.

It seems funny that just 20 minutes from where I live recycling culture is so much weaker. I’m thinking of Geneva. In Geneva people still treat rubbish the old fashioned way. They don’t sort it. This is an abberation and I hope and want Geneva to follow suit. I want to see more places like we see in Geneva train station. In the train station you can sort your rubbish by PET, Paper, Aluminium or other. This is a fantastic initiative by the CFF and needs to spread to conference centres, places of employment and more. If you sell aluminium cans or plastic bottles you should offer a place to recycle these resources.

I will leave you this video to show how waste management can be seen as resource management.