Tuesday, 27 March 2012

A Quiet Day at Blackness

                           Gosh, that must have come from some size of a plug-hole !

Another glorious day and it is still March. Taking advantage of this little bounty of sunniness, my wife and I drove to one of our nearby favourite places, the ancient port of Blackness. Unlike most of our  visit to Blackness, there was only a mild gentle breeze that was most welcome for it's cooling qualities. I can't believe I have written that. Usually the wind, in this little corner of Scotland, has to be endured and at best can be described as fresh and breezy. A sailing boat club is based in this once busy little port. Such a club would not have any purpose if there was a complete lack of wind in this little outpost. It would have to move to Westminster or Holyrood, where there is plenty of wind. 

The top photo is some form of mooring that is completely out of place. It could have come from the nearby castle or possibly from further down the coast. Within the last couple of years, there have been some fierce storms that had the power to move large concrete blocks, so this giant plug would be no problem.

We had a lovely quiet picnic lunch in this children's play ground, which was completely devoid of children, no doubt in school, learning to become good and useful citizens of the future (see last post).  We both felt that the local children were very lucky to have such a safe and healthy place to play. The middle photo shows a play horse, in the park, against the background of the two bridges, silhouetted in the misty distance. We both managed to resist it's charms although the lady I married did have a go on a swing, over which we shall draw a discrete veil.

The lower picture is my feeble attempt to illustrate the obvious echoing of elements of both bridges in the background, with the diamond shaped climbing frame. I just could not find the picture that best showed this link between the two structures in the distance and the structure in the foreground. Only this heavily cropped image rescues the picture. A return visit will be necessary.

It has been a lovely day and because I take photographs, I have a visual reminder of a sunny day, in March, spent with the woman I love, at Blackness. Thank you for your visit and sharing a little of my day. 

Until the next time....    

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Spring Thoughts

As I sit here, writing these few words, I look out onto a glorious sunny summer day. Well, it is only the 22nd. of March and therefore just the beginning of spring but it has been a wonderful day during which my wife and I have occupied ourselves with a spot of gardening. The above photograph was taken yesterday, in equally beautiful weather, in the grounds of Laurieston Castle, a short distance away from our home. Content with the the efforts of our labours, the few squares of 72% cocoa dark chocolate and the view of a blue cloudless sky, I am at peace with the world.

Local children are at play outside, content that their own labours, at the nearby school, are also completed for the day. While working outside in the garden, we heard the excited cries of the children, as they competed in some form of sports day on the school field. It is always uplifting to hear such youthful joy, particularity when it is at a little distance and the volume is not to loud! My brothers and I had a loving and secure upbringing and this should be the right of every child. It is with regret and sadness that in our society, not all children may enjoy this surely most basic right of childhood. When I come into contact with young children, I think of my own largely happy time when I was that age and ponder on what the world will be like when they reach adulthood. Indeed, what sort of world will they have to live in when they reach my antique years. Will flying cars finally exist and how will future generations cope with them constantly falling out of the sky or shall the joys of teleportation save them the daily commute to work or the dubious pleasures of the airport on their way to sunny climes or Mars or the moon.

I hope dear reader, that you will see from the above that I am not a hater of children and will bear this in mind when reading the following rant.

Earlier this week, I was on my travels around my city when the opportunity to ease my aching legs arrived by the appearance of a number 45 bus. The 45 is one of Edinburgh's less frequent services which I seldom seem to see when on my travels. I was beginning to believe that the timetable was a work of fantasy and fiction but here it was, a number 45 bus arriving at the bus stop just as I took up my position in the queue. I started to run through all of the possible destination that this single decker bus would pass on it's route and the variety of walks that I could undertake from any of them. My joy however was short lived. The bus was packed and virtually all of the seats were taken by pupils from a primary school, which for the moment, will be nameless. When I was that age, it was drummed into you, that you should give up your seat if there was an old, disabled or pregnant person standing. Fortunately I only fall into the first category but I was still denied a seat and a little rest before embarking on the next stage of my trek, while the youngsters, no doubt bursting with energy, rested until the demands of playtime. I can still remember the often quite formidable conductors and conductresses (Ah remember them!!!) who would have enforced, with no argument, that surely reasonable acknowledgement of helping those in need of a little assistance.

I do not blame the children. However, there were five teachers/carers present and it does not seem unreasonable that one or more of them could have shown a good example and given up their seat to a crusty old geezer such as myself or indeed, the other oldtimers who were left to stand. However, that would probably spoilt a good natter as they all sat close together. The real cause of this attitude and where I place all blame is with the Parents. They are now the most powerful section of our society and seem to think that the world and everyone in it should revolve around them. They claim that their demands are for the children but I am not having it. It is they who think that the result of a few moment passion should make them special and give them an honoured position in our world. Parenting has never been easy and most of us just make it up as we go along, trying our best to give our offspring the greatest start in life. While in a decent society, we should all do our best to help parents, that should not mean that we should be bombarded with parents constant and deafening demands when they should accept the responsibilities that they brought on themselves.

Well sorry about that, it just came out. Lets hope that when the children of today become parents, they will taken on more of the responsibility, rather than expect the rest of us to do. Although I am not hopeful.

We're ready for our close-up Mr. DeMille !

Three young stars of the Spring garden.  

Thank you for your patience, until the next time..... 


Monday, 19 March 2012

A Trip West

A few days ago, I headed west to Glasgow, the excuse, if one was needed, was to journey there by the recently re-opened Airdrie/Bathgate railway line. A casualty of the passion for closing railway lines, at its height in the 1960s, the line was kept alive at both ends until more enlightened times saw the sense of re-connecting the east and west extremities of this once busy railway. The railway, once again gives the good folk of West Lothian and Lanarkshire an alternative means of visiting the two great cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, which glower at each other over the forty plus miles that separates them. My Father had a great fondness for Glasgow, which I have inherited. In years past, I used to visit the city often but in recent times, my visits have been less frequent. This I am determined to change. Although I have lived most of my life in Edinburgh, I was born in the land that lies between the two cities. I can therefore take a more neutral position in the somewhat silly Edinburgh/Glasgow rivalry. It has always been my opinion that anyone living in the central belt of Scotland and beyond, who does not take advantage of the delights of these very different but equally interesting and absorbing cities, really are losing out on the great experiences that both offer. 

The trip, was for me, quite nostalgic. When I last travelled over the this railway line, I was a mere boy and a puffing steam locomotive would have been at the front of the train.  The two photographs at the top would have shown many ships, some double parked but instead show a river completely devoid of any craft, with two new bridges crossing the empty river. At the top is the pedestrian bridge connecting the area of Tradeston on the south of the river to Glasgow city centre. The second photo is of the famous 'Squinty Bridge', it's formal name {The Clyde Arc}, I have forgotten, as  I am sure have most Glaswegians. The two lower photos are of the South Portland Street pedestrian suspension bridge.

I am determined to visit the great city of the west again soon and hopefully, take many more photographs. I have been asked to make the photos larger and this I shall do. However, until I find  watermark software that I am happy with, I shall limit the quality level of the pics.

I hope to return soon, until then, enjoy your life.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Castles in the Air

Today, I found myself walking along Braid Hills Drive, which is to the south of central Edinburgh. This road affords some magnificent views to the east, north and west. As the sun was sharing it's grace on us mere mortals and the cold air was giving a crisp sharp edge to the day, I abandoned my original plans and headed for this viewpoint. However, as soon as I had arrived, a gang of adolescent clouds, just for a laugh, covered the sun, plunging this view into a dull and grey landscape.  I made a note to return yet again when there are no clouds and took the photo any way.

I have always found it easy to go back, in my mind, to earlier times, with the two castles in this scene, looking at each other across a landscape quite different from today. If you apply your imagination and let the buildings and homes disappear to be replaced by woodlands and fields, you should be able to recreate the medieval scene, with only the two castles forming any evidence of human presence.

You may be having a problem locating one of the castles but if you look to the left of the panorama, just above the woods, you will see Craigmillar Castle. This is better seen in the shot on the right, with the castle in the centre of the picture. This castle is probably best known because of it's connection with Mary Queen of Scots. She stayed there to convalescence after the birth of her son, who was destined to become King James VI of Scotland and then also as James I of England and Ireland.  The castle was built in the 14th. century and if you are the least interested in history and/or castles, then it is well worth a visit. It is looked after by Historic Scotland and the views that can be seen from it's ramparts are fantastic. There is an area to the south of the castle that is to this day, known as Little France. This was because the entourage of Mary Queen of Scots took up residence there and it is now the location of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.  I have not been to the castle for some time but must make a return visit soon. The right hand picture is interesting for other reasons. To the left of the castle, in the distance, is North Berwick Law. This is a hill formed by a volcanic plug of hard rock that even the glaciers of the ice age could not remove. I have never been to the top of this hill but must do so soon. It seems that the older I get, the more hills I fined that I want to climb. While we might be tempted to marvel at the age and history of the castle, it is only a baby when compared to the hill. To complete this age comparison, to the right of the castle, can be seen the coal fired power station of Cockenzie. This also has a history, it started producing power in the late 1960's and is on the site of a former colliery. Coal originally came from mines in the Lothians and then from mines in Fife, Ayrshire and beyond. Now a low sulphur coal from Russia feeds the boilers which drives the generators to supply us with the essential power which our modern lives need. Some of that electricity is being used by myself to type this blog. Lets hope some of the electrons racing from Cockenzie are being put to worthy use.

Before I go, you will be wanting to know about the other castle in the panorama. It is to the right and is known as Liberton Tower. Built in the 15th. century, it has passed through many hands and is privately owned and not open to the public.

Look at the panorama again and let your imagination and creative skills take you back through the centuries and the millenniums to times past. Isn't history fantastic? Be sure that you have a good warm coat and your vest on when you get back to the ice age and watch the Law being polished.

Until the next time.....


Friday, 2 March 2012

Lomography - into Room 101 ?

I have reached that certain age were I have become a SOS (Silly Old Sod) and all of the ills of our society are my fault as I am a member of the 'Ageing Population Problem'. This is a subject that I could go on at length but fear not dear reader, that is for another time. As the years roll (speed) by, you pick up and nurture many ideas, prejudices and downright bigoted opinions. These are matured by decades of life experiences and right or wrong, it is these prejudices and opinions that form the character and often cause the actions of an individual.

Where, you might ask, are these ramblings taking us. To the cult of Lomography, that's where. Cult is the only term that seems appropriate. In 1991, two student 'discovered' the Lomo camera, which had been around for some time. It was a crude Russian copy of a Japanese camera and they found that it's equally crude results had a certain 'charm'. I have nothing against the cheap Russian cameras. Good usable cameras are by their very nature, expensive. Many photographers started on their photographic journeys with a solid if basic Zenit or Zorki which gave them access to this wonderful hobby and interest. These cheap but solid cameras gave many, who would otherwise not have been able to afford more exotic German, Japanese and at one time, British equipment, an opportunity to record their world in a creative and effective way.

I myself started on my photo quest, when at a young age, I was given, by my Father, a Brownie 127. This was little more than a box camera, made from Bakelite, with a simple single element lens and a shutter that had only one setting. Still, although limited by small contact size black and white prints, I headed off into the world with what was to develop (sorry) into a life long interest in  preserving  images of the world around me. It still, to this day, fascinates me and as I started with the most basic of equipment, I in no way which to pass judgement on others and the modest equipment that their limited finances allow.

However, the cult of Lomography, see for yourself at lomography. com, is a bit like The Emperor's New Clothes. I'll give you a few minutes to go and have a look at the web site and see what you think....

Great, you have come back. What did you think of the blurred, out of focus pictures, that make little attempt at composition? Perhaps I am being to critical. However I have spent my life trying to improve on the photographs that I have taken. From the Brownie 127 through Pentax, Mamiya, Rolleiflex, Canon and Olympus cameras and lenses, I have striven to produce photographs that have a balanced composition, are focussed on the subject and correctly exposed. In short, I have, using the skills that I have learnt and with what little talent that I may possess, tried to record the world around me in a clear and informative way. Photography is first and foremost about communication. It is about one persons attempts to transmit to an other, the tones of light, the colour and texture, the people and the situation or place that they are in. This means that decisions have to be made by the photographer, which if done correctly, will make that communication successful and worthwhile. The two photograph shown here, while not my best, involved various decisions being made at the scenes and then further thought had to be made when I processed them in my photo editor software to produce the ultra coloured versions you see here. As to whether they communicate anything is for you to say. While the scenes exist, the record that I have produced is all mine, made by my decisions. No camera, how unique it's abilities, could produce the above images.  There is thought behind those images, the thoughts of one human being hopefully transmitted to an other.  

Having written the above ramblings, I now have to answer the question posed in my title to this piece. Should Lomography and Lomographers be consigned to Room 101 forever?

In truth I cannot do that because on reflection, photography is about fun and lomography would seem to have a high quota of fun. Plus, an even greater reason to accept the lomographers of this world is the important fact that lomography uses film. As long as they use film, it will be available for me when I get the urge to take one of my old film cameras for a walk.

However, having taken my Room 101 sword from it's jewel encrusted scabbard, it must taste blood.  Therefore I present for permanent incarceration in that room, the rude and inconsiderate scum that on approaching me on a narrow pavement, fail to balance my movements in making it easier to pass each other. It seems that I must either be invisible or having seen me make a compromise, they don't feel the need to make such a move. I feel that it reflects on the lack of respect for our fellow human beings and a general selfishness that now seems to invade all levels of our society.

Good, the sword can go back. Thanks for sharing my little literary scribblings.

Until the next time.....