Saturday, 10 December 2011

Yellow Lily

This is only the second time anyone has ever given me flowers and I was so taken with them.  Yellow lilies and beautiful red and yellow roses.  I didn't manage to get a good shot of the roses but I did like this one of a lily, not least because it is so warm and sunny seeming.  I also liked the angle.  It always strikes me as odd how much of a difference the angle you shoot something at makes.  It shouldn't because I've been at this for long enough to know even a few millimetres makes all the difference, however it is still striking to flick between two shots of the same thing and see the effect.  I say this because I had two photos which, to all intents and purposes, looked the same.  And yet this one was vastly better than the other.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Falkirk Wheel

The Falkirk Wheel is a really rather clever bit of engineering based on a very simple concept.  It was built to connect two different canals where a series of something like 11 locks were required to join them previously.  It is, very simply put, a boat lift.  The canal is open to the gondolas at the top and the bottom, with the far end sealed off by hydraulic doors.  Once the boat is in place and secured, the hydraulic doors onto the canal are closed and the wheel is free to turn using its electric motor.  The gondolas are balanced, so that there is no strain on the mechanics, purely using the displacement of water.  And the gondolas sit level in the turning arms of the wheel because it sits on wheels in the circular cut outs and the weight of the gondola keeps it sitting level.  It is so clever, and it looks very impressive.  The only way it could be improved?  A bit more speed ;-)

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Panda Express

This is FedEx's Panda Express taxiing at Edinburgh Airport earlier today.  It flew in from China carrying the two Giant Pandas who will call Edinburgh Zoo their home for the next 10 years.  The plane itself is not one that would usually land at Edinburgh (a Boeing 777F) and that in itself drew people in to see it.  Its unusual livery and rather exceptional cargo drew crowds of people and hoards of press in to catch the first glimpse of an animal that has created more excitement than any other in the UK in years.  I didn't for a minute think that I would see the Pandas.  I wanted to see the plane in its cool livery and, well I like planes, so the thought of seeing something that was a rare sight in Edinburgh was a little exciting too.  As it turned out, we found a spot where we could actually see the plane sat on the tarmac, and from not too far away either.  They spent a lot of time hanging about - probably doing press conferences and checks and all sorts - during which time the majority of us were trying to make sure our fingers didn't freeze to camera lenses, chain link fences, etc.  Eventually a door opened in the side of the plane,
near the tail and the first crate was brought out.  I could, through my zoom lens, make out that there was something in the crate, but not much more.  However, Yang Guang in the second crate was much more active and I could see him moving around and watching through the perspex walls (yes, I promise that is a Panda face!).  This is hardly the best picture ever - from a great distance and with heat haze from a generator causing a disturbance - but I got to see Yang Guang in the flesh before the vast majority of people in the country!  Maybe not the most awesome claim to fame ever, but I'm very pleased about it.  Some time later they were finally all loaded up and ready to go.  Once the press and dignitaries were shipped off to the zoo to see their arrival there, Tian Tian and Yang Guang were off again, this time in Panda branded lorries!  It's safe to say that they don't travel discreetly.  And I can't wait to see them properly.  There will be a few member preview days at the zoo from the 13th to the 15th of December and I have my ticket booked to go visit on the Tuesday the 13th.  If it's not too busy I might try and get back on the Thursday too!  Working part time definitely has it's advantages ;-)

Monday, 24 October 2011


I think light is probably the best thing in the universe.  Natural light, occasionally man made light, but light nonetheless.  The right light can transform things.  A fern in the woods is suddenly a fantastic array of patterns, as are the trees beyond.  The ferns all crisp and sharp and the trees turning into a kaleidoscope behind.  And I love the little bit of spider's web up the top between fern leaves, glowing a golden colour in the sunlight.  I'm not sure if I have always seen things differently to everyone else, but I suspect I have a little.  Having taken up photography I think the way I look at things has developed.  It might well be one of the best things about it for me, as I now have an excuse to look at everything the way I want to.  All the amazing things people walk past, I look at and photograph and not only do I get to see the beauty but I get to show people what they are missing, the beautiful things I see that they don't even know are there.  The way something is lit makes all the difference in the world, to the eye and to photographing it, and I love the sunshine.  Stars are fantastic things.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Six Days Old

I met baby Owen on the 27th of September when he was just six days old.  And he was pretty much what you would expect for such a small person!  Quiet, sleepy, stretchy, pulling a wonderful array of faces, and generally being tiny.  He didn't cry at me, which I take as being a good sign, and he very much liked my purple stripey hoody, so it seems he will be a boy of good taste!  I guess this is a rather clich├ęd shot, but there is something rather fantastic about tiny little hands.  And they won't be that small forever!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Romance Relinquished

What is it about roses that signify romance?  Why have they become the floral embodiment of love and lust, admiration, flattery, courtship and marriage.  Is it because there is a myriad of layers which unfurl as the rose opens up, in the same way that love unfolds as a relationship progresses?  Is it the soft, blousy, gently fragranced petals in which you feel you could be enveloped when you have fallen in love?  Cushioned and caressed by feelings emulated by the rose petals.  And why is it that a discarded rose is such a poignant sight?  Cast aside and left, forgotten, abandoned to wither and die, shrivelling up until it bears no resemblance to the beauty it once was.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Home Made Strawberries

Can't get much better than strawberries grown in your own garden.  They taste so much better than the ones from the supermarket.  Beautifully sweet and juicy and they make your mouth water the minute you bite into them.  And the smell.  Fresh strawberries smell amazing.

What could be better is the photo.  It is not exactly as I imagined and that is even after having adjusted the levels a little to make it look more the colour it should, rather than the grey hue my wee camera was giving it on even the best colour balance.  I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this.  I would much rather get the shot with the camera, but when it is impossible to get the camera to capture what you are seeing, what do you do then?

Friday, 10 June 2011

What's Down There?

Weeding the flowerbeds shows up just how many snails there are hiding in the deep dark depths of the foliage.  I haven't spent a great deal of time watching them before but I did this evening and it is quite amazing how fast they can move and how they get from leaf to leaf and onto flowers.  I would not have expected that flower to hold the weight of the snail either.  I did move it on, but while I was watching it it had the decency not to eat the flowers.  It seemed to be searching for something lower to the ground... are snails afraid of heights?

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Good Things Come From Fallen Fruit

We grow tomatoes in the greenhouse each year.  I have never eaten a more beautifully flavoured tomato than those picked off the plant in the greenhouse, still warm and with the smell of the broken stem on your fingers.  Last year we tried a new variety of cherry tomato - a yellow one - that I have forgotten the name of.  It was sweet and juicy and lovely and we didn't see any this year when we were buying the baby plants.  However, my mum was clearing out some old pots and found what I have in my hand in the picture.

No matter how hard you try, you never harvest every single tomato.  There will always be a few fall off the plant, and it's no great loss because there are plenty still growing.  The best thing about it is that, this time, the fallen tomato went unnoticed and stayed at the bottom of a tray all winter.  The yellowy orangey part is the skin of the tomato and, growing inside it are a multitude of little tomato plants, leaves coming out the top of the tomato skin, roots out the bottom.  It's not often you get to see properly how these things work but isn't it lovely to see that that one little tomato from last year has gone on to produce all those lovely little plants.  We can but hope they grow up strong and healthy and give us some fruit this year!

Monday, 30 May 2011

Jungle Warfare

The garden is a tough place for a plastic army soldier.  Stranded in enemy territory when his base was demolished, he is surviving on his wits and green camouflage.  Living from one moment to the next, never sure of what is round the next iris leaf.  His bravery knows no limits, but his survival ultimately depends on his unit coming back for him.  He knows they will come though, because good soldiers never leave a man behind!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Casualty of the Weather

This poor bird was probably a victim of the very strong winds we've been having recently.  It was on the path next to the house and I suspect it lost control and hit the wall.  I'm pretty sure it was a baby blackbird.  I sometimes wonder what it is that gives me the urge to take photos.  There are so many cases where I'm pretty sure no one else would be itching to take a photo the way I am, and cases where it's downright weird.  Why would anyone want to photograph a dead bird?  Somehow it felt like the right thing to do.  Marking its passing, mourning it, creating a memorial.

Saturday, 21 May 2011


I love the colour of this iris and the veining on the petals.  It might have been a teeny bit better had it not been an overcast day but I love this photo.
(Click on the photo - it looks better bigger!)

Friday, 13 May 2011

Iridium 7 on the 13th of May

Not perfect, but not bad!  This is Iridium 7 flaring to magnitude -6 at 23:16 on Friday the 13th (ARGH!) of May.  The two brightest stars are Castor and Pollux of Gemini and the moon was about 80% illuminated.  The exposure was 13 seconds at f5.6 and 400 ISO and the white balance was shoved all the way to the bluest end to try and combat sodium street lights.  I'm not actually sure what I should do about white balance - should look into that I guess!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Fidra At Sunset

It had been a pretty stormy day - lots of wind and dark clouds and heavy showers of rain.  But at least the consistent wind made it seem like a good evening for kite flying.  Wrong.  As soon as we got my kite up the wind started dropping.  I got maybe 10 minutes or so before the wind completely died and my poor kite floated to the ground.  My dad never really got his in the air.  On the upside, the sunset was beautiful.  I was winding up my lines and I would get about 5 steps at a time before stopping for a photo, and then eventually ended up right down at the water's edge kneeling in wet sand.  Soggy knee?  Totally worth it :-D
(Psssst!  As with most of my photos, it looks better bigger than blog size - click on it to see the light in the lighthouse!)

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Pretty Pills

But are they helping?

The Only Reason...

... I know what day of the week it is.

(and yes, this photo was taken on a Thursday!)

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter Egg 2011

I've been so busy this week that I haven't had time to get working on my Easter egg - my idea would probably have taken a couple of days like Feathers McGraw did.  I did manage to get one done though and in only a couple of hours!  I'm really quite pleased with the result and also with my first foray into animating stills.  I could do with a lot more photos next time as I kept getting focused on what I was doing and forgetting to take pictures.  A tripod might be handy too so that I could get more action shots of what I'm up to with my hands, but it was simply a case of not having time today.  Maybe next project I'll do a better job :-)  So how long did it take you to guess what it was?

Saturday, 26 March 2011

A Stork In Scotland

Imagine this: you're on the bus coming home, and you pass three people standing with spotting scopes at the edge of a field.  Of course you wonder what they're looking at and look out over the field, but you don't really expect to see it because of the hedge, and the fact that it is most likely an LBJ (Little Brown Job - one of those many little birds that all look alike to those of us without twitcher sixth senses).  As you get further along the field, you think you're not going to see anything and start to settle back into your seat.  But then, then you spot something.  Something big.  Big, and white, and definitely not a swan...  Too big to be a Little Egret, the only other white bird you can think of that stands up like that, like a heron.  It looks like a Stork.  HOW can it be a Stork?  This is Scotland!  But it is, and you know it is.  You've just seen a Stork, on the big puddle, in the fields near your house.  The bus carries on while you stare back until you can't see it anymore, a mixture of disbelief and elation fighting for control.

That is what happened to me last Friday.  The best part was that my dad was in when I got home.  We went out to get a better look at it, and I got photos.  The photos are not great because the stork was too far away, even using the zoom lens, and these are cropped quite a lot.  But it's a STORK!!!  And the bird is a presumed escapee - there are apparently a few around Britain who wander around, especially when they feel like they should be migrating but aren't really sure where to go (this might explain the appearance on a puddle, in a field, next to a road, in Scotland - it pretty much sounds like a really bad package deal to a holiday resort under construction).  BUT IT'S A STORK!!!  I don't really care if it is an escapee - the reality is that the bird has been living wild for a while now and it must be doing a pretty good job because it seemed quite happy.  Not only that, but he/she made me fantastically happy.  It's not every day you see an exotic bird hanging out near your house, and I will be examining every puddle in every field from now on, just in case it turns up again!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Old Observatory

This is one of my favourite places in the whole world and I got to visit it earlier tonight.  I have so many memories of standing in this dome with the telescope.  The lights would be off so we were all dark adjusted, someone would be up the ladder looking at whatever we had the telescope trained on, the rest of us would be talking a bit, but usually quietly, and eagerly, waiting for our turn to look.

Occasionally, discussion would break out as to how much detail we could all see - how many bands on Jupiter?  Was that a shadow transit of one of the moons?  Can you see the Cassini Division in Saturn's rings?  Is that a star or Titan?  A face would glow in the cold blue-white light of a phone screen as they consulted a star map or transit times.  Many, many times a sigh of "woooooww" would be heard as someone looked through the eyepiece, some for the first time, some having looked through it dozens of times before.

I remember the smell of the room, the feeling of the curved wood panelling at your back, the smooth wood of the steps up to the telescope, the feeling of the old smooth rope used to turn the dome and the rough scrape of the new, replacement rope.  The squeak and quiet rumble of the ladder as it was wheeled round to a new position under the eyepiece of the telescope, the slap of one of the steps as someone caught and lifted it with their foot and it fell back into place, the creak of the floorboards as we moved around the room, the whir of the electric motor, the clank of the metal rods adjusting the telescope.

It was always cold, sometimes you could see your breath, feel the cool night air coming in the aperture of the dome and lightly brushing your face, the only light coming from the moon and stars outside that you could just see through the aperture.  Sounds from the astronomers downstairs would quietly float up the stairs and the only other noises were the distant noise of the city floating into the dome on the breeze - voices, laughter, traffic and sirens - all quiet, as if coming from very far away.

The loud rumble and vibration you could feel as the dome was moved never failed to impress me.  The click of the light switch, groan of pain as light hit eyes used to the dark, and the metallic clank of the aperture closing was always sad as it signalled the end of a night's observing.

Always, there was a great sense of history, a link with the past.  The knowledge that people had been gazing through that same telescope for a hundred years, admiring the same beautiful objects we admire today, and that astronomy had been going on in that place for many, many more years before that.  With any luck, it won't be too far in the future that astronomy is regularly undertaken again in that wonderful setting, and new people can appreciate this place that I love so much.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Drilling Things!

Our new shed is almost fully functional now - it has electricity, insulation and plasterboard around the walls, and a workbench.  Finally there is the feeling that projects can commence.  There is plenty still to do in terms of organising all the tools and materials and all the shed stuff like bikes and lawnmowers that we apparently have to keep in the shed (because that's where they're supposed to live, and sheds are for lawnmowers and not for building rockets *sighs*.  Who needs a short lawn anyway!?  And bikes just hurt your bum!).  However, this is a good start - I have the drill set up, we have figured out what drill bit best cuts through shell and glass, I haven't drilled a hole in my fingers yet - it's looking good!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

In the end... was all rather different from the beginning.  The only time I really shared old photos was when I was ill in February and couldn't do anything much at all.  Aside from that I was pretty hard on myself and made sure I had a photo every day and posted one for every day even though I thought an awful lot of them were rubbish.  I didn't do very well at keeping up with posting a photo every day at times, particularly latterly.  I found that not only was taking pictures hard work, so was picking the best picture each day, and writing a post to go with it.  The project became more than just getting me taking more pictures, it was taking new and interesting pictures, looking at everything as a potential picture, making decisions and writing well enough for people to understand what I had to say about the picture.  I think I knew I was going to be challenging my decision making skills.  They have always been ropey.  But I don't think it ever occurred to me that I would be challenging my ability to write.

I feel a little lost now the project is over.  I grew to hate it in so many ways.  The constant pressure was very unpleasant.  The feeling that you were posting horrible pictures purely because you needed something for that day.  Always having to remember to have at least one camera, if not two, charged and with space on their SD cards.  The decision making involved in picking a photo from the day and cropping it appropriately if it needed it.  Most days it was hard enough to get a photo, let alone find something to write about it.  And yet I felt that I had to write something, and it was better if I looked at the photo and analysed it, or at least talked about the day I had getting it so there was some depth and interest to the photo.  It might not seem much to a lot of people but this was pretty epic to me and the mess I got myself in towards the end was horrifying - I'm not sure I will ever know how I managed to pick myself up and finish the blog on time.

In a strange way I miss the project too.  I think it might mostly be the achievement I miss.  There is no way I miss the pressure and I won't put that upon myself again.  But I do miss taking new and exciting photos.  I'm glad that everywhere I look I see cool things that I think would make interesting or exciting photos.  I think I have had that for a long time but it's there even more so now.  It does mean I ache slightly inside when I don't have a camera with me and/or can't capture what I see, but I think it's worth it.  I think my technical competence might be improving slightly.  And finishing a blog post to my standards and being happy with it was very satisfying.

For the past month I have done very little photography and it doesn't feel particularly good.  Certainly, I think I needed a break and I haven't been that many places with stunning photo opportunities or excellent conditions.  There has been a visit to the zoo which I should really choose a photo from and post.  But there is now the notion that I want to do more than just photography.  The project pushed everything aside and became all encompassing.  I have other projects I have been meaning to work on so, perhaps now, the blog can become a project of projects.  I enjoyed documenting the building of the scale model of RR-1 and with any luck there will be more to document.  So I intend to keep the blog and to reinvent it slightly.  Whether it works will be another matter.  But lets see how it goes.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Day 365: Diana Monkey

I wanted to end on a totally awesome photo.  It's pretty hard to plan these things though.  Luckily, it was a lovely sunny day and I decided a trip to the zoo was in order.  Unfortunately, I didn't get out as quickly as I would have liked and so there was limited daylight.  And I don't think this is the most perfect photo ever.  But do I like it and it symbolises getting out the house, going to the zoo, having a great time watching the rhinos playing, watching this monkey clinging onto the ends of very bouncy branches and managing to not fall, very nearly landing on my bum after doing a cartoon slide on ice next to the red river hog enclosure, watching the sun bears trying to get into coconuts and, best of all, finding out that the two new Bali Starlings are offspring of the existing pair.  So aside from it being a nicely posed photo, the sunlight being in pretty much the right place and the background being nice and natural, this photo is awesome because of the day I had.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Day 364: Tasty!

I cooked dinner tonight!  It was fajitas and nachos and it seemed to take me an awfully long time.  Before you say anything, no, that wasn't because I spent ages taking photos.  I just took a few quickly at points where I didn't need to do anything other than make sure I wasn't burning it!  I'm quite impressed by how well the photo turned out.  Makes me hungry all over again, but maybe that's just because I know how good it tasted :-)

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Day 363: African Sunset In Scotland

I am seriously running out of names for sunset photos!  They are fantastically photographable though and can make any bad photo day or lack of inspiration day better.  My dad thought this sunset looked like it should have had a giraffe walking through it and I think I agree!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Day 362: Memorial

We didn't have that much time but we went to the beach this afternoon.  The sun set pretty quickly and it got very cold once it did but it was enough to get us along Skateraw beach and out the rocks a bit and back.  This memorial is on the grass on the point and
 I know I have read the inscription before, but I didn't think to this time and consequently can't tell you what it is for - oops.  Certainly it makes a striking silhouette in the sunset.  We also came across the most awesome rock ever.  It's a brick and, I suspect, would have had the name of the place it was made stamped into it but it is so much more awesome to think it's a stone that says URGH!  Maybe we would say the same after we had been in the sea for years.  I very much wanted to bring it home but I left it.  This time.  If I ever see it again I will have it!

Friday, 7 January 2011

Day 361: After Eights

I love After Eight mints.  I had no inspiration today and somehow found it whilst eating chocolate.  I like this kind of inspiration.  I like it a lot.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Day 360: Ness Bunnies

Awwwwww!  I was in charge of acquiring these two for my cousin and I wish that didn't mean I had to send them away!  They are so sweet.  I do wish I'd thought to move that purple blanket in the background - oh well, too late now!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Day 359: Hairspray

Guess where I was tonight?!  I was at the Playhouse with friends to see Hairspray.  It seems I'm one of the few people who has never really heard anything about Hairspray before and I didn't do any research beforehand.  I wasn't sure if I should have but when we got there one of my friends said he thought it was better not to know what it was about.  I mostly went because I think I have only been to the theatre once and hey, it should be fun!  Certainly it would be an experience.  I'm not really into musicals as such but I did really enjoy it and I'm influenceable enough that I wish I could sing and dance ;-)  Now I want to get the film and see what it's like...

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Day 358: Avenue

I went for a walk with my friend today through the forest.  It was a nice walk but a very dull day so the photo opportunities were few and far between.  This is ok but it's not what it could have been on a nice sunny day.  In fact the sun completely let us down today.  There was a partial solar eclipse in progress at sunrise.  Me and my dad went off in search of a good horizon to watch it from but with no real hope of seeing it since we were looking at a blanket of grey cloud.
There were breaks in it but few and far between and more overhead than near the horizon.  We did actually manage to get a glimpse of it but only once the moon had pretty much left the disk of the sun (the notch on the left hand side is the moon).  I managed to get a photo, which sucks, but is a minor miracle considering the conditions and how few people around us saw anything at all.  What's even cooler is that the smudge on the disk is not, in fact, muck on my sensor as I had feared when I first looked at the photo, but a sunspot.  The photo was taken through cloud and Baader film - I don't think I really need to tell you it's not safe to look directly at the sun since it should have been hammered into you since you were a kid, and if you got as far as this without knowing then I'm not sure how you're reading this.  The saying amongst astronomers is you can only look at the sun through a telescope twice - once with the right eye and once with the left.  Or if you're using binoculars, only once!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Day 357: Under The Floor

My dad was under the floor today - I thought he looked like he was playing at being a miner!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Day 356: Ham

We had ham for dinner!  It was really good and I realised that it looked good too when I passed the oven and had a look at it cooking.  I've never really tried photographing food before.  It always struck me as the sort of thing you would usually need better lighting for and rather a lot of self restraint!  I took photos of the meat quickly while it was sat waiting for my dad to carve it.  Normally everyone is either out the kitchen because they are in the way or if they are in the kitchen they are doing something to get the dinner ready.  I certainly wouldn't be the type of person to ruin a meal by setting up lighting and taking photos of it until it was cold!  But it is kind of pleasing to be able to take a photo of something and make it look as yummy as it was.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Day 355: New Year's Resolutions

As you can see, Aaron's New Year's resolution was to eat more rawhide and he let us know as much the minute he got in the house.  He is far from subtle when he wants something!  And he doesn't half pull some funny faces :-)