Oxton Loop, Scottish Borders

28 January 2017

Back in January I had the opportunity to combine a work trip to Edinburgh with a weekend visit with our good friends who live in the Borders. M & K had confidently organised a nice coastal walk, a confidence that came from the fact that, as seasoned walkers and hikers, they had checked the weather forecast. And we checked again on our devices after dinner that Friday evening. OK, it was going to be a bit windy and maybe it would rain for a bit, and we’d be lucky to see the sun through the think grey cloud. But nothing to sidetrack our plans.

Woke up the next morning and the landscape had turned white.

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Give the weather forecasters a break – two out of three isn’t bad. It was (kind of) wet, and we certainly couldn’t see the Sun through the grey cloud (and fog). Wear an extra layer, a thermos for tea and, of course, cake. Ready and prepared – off we went.

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One town, One mile, One camera – Edinburgh

A good friend of mine recently challenged me on Facebook to a 7-day B&W challenge. Take a single black & white image each day, for seven consecutive days, and post it on Facebook, and at the end pass on the challenge by nominating someone else. There are lots of these challenges around and I’m not normally a fan of them, but I felt different about this one.

I was spending the week in Edinburgh for a conference, so I wouldn’t have much time to explore the streets or spend sight-seeing. Opportunities for photography would be few and far between. Instead, the bulk of each day would be spent within the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, listening to people talk and talking to other people.

So there was a double challenge – the challenge itself and the challenge of fitting it into the time I had walking between the venue and my hotel, and the hotel to wherever we may be having dinner that evening.

But I did have a card up my sleeve – this is Edinburgh. Anything is possible from a creative standpoint.

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Kintyre Way – Deer Hill

6th May 2016

 

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On the second day of our visit to Saddell Bay, we ventured out to follow a trail that Mike had picked out for us (out of the many he had stashed away). The trail would take us to the summit of Deer Hill and is a part of the Kintyre Way.

The GPS track of our route can be found here.

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The summit of Deer Hill (or Cnoc nan Gabhar, if you’re feeling up to it) promised us glorious views to eat our sandwiches by, in what was a beautiful day. So off we started.

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I’ve noticed that I always seem to be taking pictures of the backs of people when we’re on hikes and walks. Normally because I’ve fallen behind taking a picture of something else. As if to prove a point, here are some more pictures of people walking away from me, to go with the ones above.

I must have made a subconscious decision to try and get ahead to take some photos of people’s faces.

Maybe I’ll stick to backs ….

As I hope you can see from this selection of images, the views around this part of Argyll & Bute are truly beautiful, especially on a day like we had with the Isle of Arran providing the backdrop.

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We got to the summit after about 2hrs 20mins and just soaked in the views, accompanied by some sandwiches (thanks Mike!) and some tea (thanks Karen!) and some cake (thanks Mila!).

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Saddell Bay

5th May 2016

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We woke up early that morning. On the road by 5am heading to Scotland, to meet and spend a few days with some very good friends of ours. The road to Argyll & Bute passes through some lovely scenery and I regret not stopping to take pictures and absorb the landscape along the way, but we had almost 400 km to cover. We made mental notes along the way of all the places we need to come back to – I’m sure we won’t remember them all, but if we can return to half of them, I’ll be happy.

We got to Saddell Bay just after lunch time. Our friends were still out exploring, so we took a walk along the Bay, recalling memories from 21 years ago when these friends got married, in the cottages at the end of the bay.

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There was a plastic bucket-cum-basket on the beach.

It was orange (…the bucket… not the beach…).

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Stone collecting. The pile of stones shown below now adorns the windowshelf in our conservatory at home.

Walking up and down the beach you can appreciate different views of Saddell House and the cottages on Saddell Bay.

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Looking sinister, and then pleased with herself.

We weren’t the only ones walking on the beach that day.Saddell_011At the southeastern end of the bay, stands the famous east-facing Land sculpture by Anthony Gormley.

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It was a long drive from Cheshire, but certainly worth it.

kelvingrove art gallery and museum

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is located very near the University of Glasgow buildings, where I was in April for the UK National Astronomy Meeting. I found it to be a very good gallery with lots of nice works. For me the best piece in there is the original Christ of Saint John of the Cross, by Salvador Dali. A truly stunning piece of artwork.

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Astronomy with Lasers, Part II – or Canadians in Scotland

When I did the first part of this post, I said that if Keck were shooting lasers into the sky again I would try to get another night time image, but using the tripod. I did try again the following night but we were quite busy so I didn’t get the chance to get out until late. But good news, the laser was still firing, so I set up the camera on the tripod and went outside. I set the camera up and pointed roughly in the right direction (it was dark out there, you can see anything through the camera’s eyepiece!). I set the camera to its bulb setting and f/8 aperture, manual focus set to infinity and I was ready. I looked up and… no laser! WHAT? They’d switched it off! It was bloody freezing as well.

[I’m sorry, I have to tell this because as I write that phrase – “bloody freezing!” – it reminds me of a story. I studied for my PhD in Edinburgh and one of my fellow students was a Canadian named Steve Torchinsky. For obvious reasons I called him “The Torch”. He told me a story that has stuck with me, about when he was in an Edinburgh pub and a happy but drunken Scotsman started talking to him for no other reason than he was there (it happens). Then he found out The Torch was from Canada and exclaimed the following. Now you must understand, this is only very funny if you say the following in a drunken Scottish accent, otherwise it’s just merely amusing. The drunken Scotsman said, “Don’t talk to me aboot Kanada, Eye’ve bin to Kanada. It’s bloody freeezin‘ in Kanada. It’s so kold in Kanada, the snot FRO-OZE up me NO-OZE!” I love Scotland, and I love the Scottish people… especially the drunken ones. And yes, it is cold in Kanada.]

I got luckier the next day, but I kept one eye on the Keck while I set up the camera and tripod. The following was the result after a 3 minute bulb exposure at f/8.

Keck Laser

As I turned around to go back into the building I noticed that rising over in the East was the Southern Cross. So I set the camera up and exposed it for a minute. I was quite happy with the result, composed with the entrance to the JCMT.

Southern Cross