Sunday, January 28, 2007

Quick Trip to London

Jacqui and I had a jaunt to London this week. It was ostensibly a trip to attend a wine tasting but it was also a chance for Mam & dad to get some quality time.
The wine tasting had over 750 wines with a number of winemakers representing most of the major the wine regions including unbelievably China! We made a valiant effort and worked hard at trying the wines we would most likely sell in our deli. The number was too much however and our plan to visit the Fine Wine Room at the end of the day had to be put off - our palletes were shot! No clear favourites however a Brazilian wine will become a must stock and it was also good to meet the people who make the wine. I rarely envy anybody else's life but they have a job that only takes place in sunny climes and the pace of life seems a million miles from the job of selling the stuff!

After a quick shower at the hotel we were out in the city and relaxed over a fine seafood dinner followed by a trip to the cinema - we were too tired for much more.

The next day we visited the Royal Observatory at Greenwich which we would recommend to any visitor to the city not just for the history but also the views of the city from the top of Greenwich Park. We also made a quick visit to the Tate Modern before having to dash back to Gatwick for the tin tube home. I have posted some of my pictures from the trip on my flickr pages and look forward to our next visit to the capital.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Winter in the Cairngorms

After a slow start this morning I set off to the Cairngorms with Greg my oldest who was going snowboarding while Lucy and I went to see the Sled dog racing at Glenmore at the foot of the mountain. Once there it really was a case of once you've seen one set of dogs pulling a sled you've seen them all so Lucy persuaded me to take her Sledging instead.

Despite two great photo opportunities there I was not inclined to taking the camera out given the weather and light so when we got back to the van Lucy wanted to play next to stream where we had parked. The light was overcast and the scene was quite mellow despite the stream having a fairly fast flow.

So after yesterday's departure into a surreal world of electronic surveillance I returned to that highland kingdom that gives me most pleasure; of streams and mountains.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

After listening to all the news reports about Big Brother (The reality TV show) it got me thinking how much I enjoyed, and feared, 1984 the movie based on George Orwell's book. The haunting image of Big Brother staring from monitors as Winston and Julia avoid the thought police, etc is one that as a baby of the sixties I found disturbing.

I came home from work tonight with the idea in my head and set up my camera with a snooted flash aimed at myself and took the Big Brother shot. Then I uploaded that shot into an electronic picture frame which had a video out and plugged it into the plasma screen.

The next bit was the difficult bit; to persuade my five year old daughter to turn off the Channel 5 movie (The Goonies) whilst I set up the shot. I tried without flash first but could not balance the light without setting too high an ISO so instead used a remote snooted flash with wireless trigger. Using my remote control for the camera I stood on a chair and held the flash above her head and fired. A couple of "chimps" later and the aperature and exposure were sorted but Lucy was getting annoyed. I had to plead for "just three more shots". She held me to that and it was the last shot that I used (and a bit of the second last which I used to clone out the flash reflection on the screen).

It has not turned out exactly as I had hoped but is pretty close given the dimensions of the room and the props I had to hand. If Lucy will let me there may be another brighter version where I am a more friendly Big Brother.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A fateful breakdown

Today we had a break in the rotten weather that has plagued us for the past month. It was forecast well so I took the day out and planned, once again, to try to get high above the cairngorms which I have wanted to do all winter. I failed again.

The wind from the South was slightly stronger than forecast so I climbed out from take off into wind and decided to get a bit of height to see if I could climb above it. About 20 minutes into the flight and still making south I felt a couple of shudders from my motor. The thought, "That's odd" had hardly been completed when the engine failed completely. Bugger. I tried a restart to no avail. I immediately turned around and started heading back to where I took off from and after just squeezing over a forest I made it.

After landing aquick inspection revealed my magneto had come completely loose and the bolts were missing. Bugger again.

I was only just packing up when a van arrived containing a certain Duncan Cameron whom I had never met. Over coffee he explained that he too was an aviation photographer (fancy that!) but took pictures from his model aircraft. At 70 years old this man looked like he had no intention of slowing down and his enthusiasm soon had me back at his house where I revelled in the many model boats, houses and planes which he built all with his own hands.

Duncan took pictures for fun and for money and had a number of pictures which I could only admire. We discussed our platforms (mine a paramotor and his various model aircraft) and found that we suffered much the same issues - which were mostly highland weather!

I eventually pulled myself away from Duncan but his parting shot, "We must fly together, and you take a picture of my models as I fly them past!" was ringing in my ears. I might just take him up on that!

Fireworks over Castle 2

Fireworks over Castle 2
Originally uploaded by upnorthme.
I attended the launch of Highland 2007 in Inverness on Friday night. As we failed to win City of Culture we decided to do this instead. It started with Inverness Choir, then local band Blazing Fiddles (top ceilidh band and great guys), obligitary pipe band but with a difference as they were spread out on balconies facing the river. Oh and Jack MacConnel said something.

The highlight was to be the Firework show however it started raining just as it started so keeping the lens clear was a nightmare, especially as the wind was howling and I was right in the middle of the bridge (In the VIP section . I blagged my way next to Ken Mackenzie, the boss of the Scottish Co-op and his wife. They were sponsors of Highland 2007 and a very nice couple).

Anyway these are about the best of the bunch. I never stayed later for the street stuff which probably would have been a good idea but went home instead.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sunday Herald

It is always nice to have your work recognised and to see it in a magazine or newspaper is a thrill which I hope will continue to enjoy. Well a photo that appears on page 3 and page 27 of today's Sunday Herald Magazine is making me happy.

The Herald Picture Editor picked up on the Blog Scotland Group on Flickr where members nominate their favourite photos from the Scotland group. A few of mine have appeared on the blog but I was still surprised when approached to see if I would be prepared to have one of my photos used in this feature. It is especially nice to appear twice as it is a paying gig (albeit at fairly low rates).

The full feature appears here (without photos) and the story behind how it got to this stage along with all the photos that were used are here.

Take the time to have a look at the Scotland blog also. There is some great work here and if you are a fan of or a visitor to Scotland there is no shortage of inspiring pics to get your creative juices flowing.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Groucho Greg

My son Greg had braces fitted yesterday. He is a fairly confident lad but was not looking forward to getting them fitted
- I suppose from the point of view as to what the fairer sex might think. Imagine my surprise when asked by the Orthodontist what colour he wanted for the plastic fillers he replied "Pink!".
Joking with him afterwards I was telling him he'll need a disguise. He referred to the Groucho glasses that he pulled from a cracker over the festive period and so the seed was sown.
I had just received my "upgraded" wireless flash triggers from a certain Hong Kong retailer and was pleased to see they actually worked so decided to press them into action. I usually use a ST-E2 controller for off camera flash and an optical slave for the second strobe (my old 540EZ). On this occassion I set up my 550EX on a stand at half power into a silver brolly on camera right (you can see where in Greg's eyes) and the 540EZ set to 1/4 power on a tripod camera left with a sheet of A4 over it to soften slightly.

Exposure was set to 1/200th to darken background (which is just our living room) and aperature at F6.3 which was about half a stop under in the end. ISO at 100.

The end result was that Greg was happy with the shot (although not so happy that I had put it on tinternet!) and it marks a point in time in a young persons life that they will probably always remember - next to having them taken out!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Family Fortunes

This is a picture of my father-in-law John taken on Hogmanay 2006 (New Years eve for you sassenachs :)). I have become a fan of off-camera flash and bought an infra-red controller earlier in the year to take pictures at the mountain bike events I attend with my son Greg. A family get together seemed a good time to bring it along and with the use of a brolley and stand I had some cheap and cheerful lighting.

I set the camera at 1/200th f8 and iso 160. Quite how I arrived at 160 I cannot remember but anyway I was trying to keep to max flash sync speed for all shots to remove backgrounds as I did not have any - more cheapskate tendancies!

The result is studio like although I should have used a reflector (magazine or such like) to soften the shadows slightly. In any case it was a reminder that with the addition of a brolley and stand (could use tripod in some circumstances) I have a studio wherever I go.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Ghost Falls

Water has a funny fascination for photographers and the way we treat the subject is odd. We try to change it from how it looked so we can convey how it felt to look at it. I think this is what I did here but you will just have to believe me when I say how wet it was. After each of the three shots I had to retreat to dry the camera in order to get this one and each time I had to remember where I stood and recompose the shot.

I have visited Golspie for many years and never knew this was there. It pays to go exploring sometimes.

Last Time Clean

Went to Edinburgh for a quick road trip with the family. We went to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which is highly recommended! Rab C Nesbitt is in it - but his accent is really funny!

On Saturday morning we grabbed some croissants and called in to see some old friends who duly supplied the coffee then on to eldest son Greg's favourite place, a bike shop. He got a new waterproof top but Kerry was the real winner who gained a new Giant Terrago and giro helmet. Then on to Guiliiano's in Leith for some Italian culinary treatment. Pizza for the kids, pasta for mum & dad. Happy all round!

Finally we squeezed in some more retail therapy at Tiso's store in Leith which has more outdoor goodies and tecno gear than any wallet can bear. They will soon be opening their superstore in Inverness so I will at least save the fuel whilst being cleared out.
Made home late last night and the camera never saw the light of day (or night come to that) as like all the best Highlanders our excursions into the lowlands have to be fast, furious and leaving the local populace with no time to counter our advances. Safely at home we tried on all our plunder and made silly jokes about how we all look in our new outfits.
Off now to get Kerry's bike muddy for the first time. Hence the photos this morning.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Boat of Gold...

Boat of Gold...
Originally uploaded by upnorthme.
or alternatively, "That boat is a crock of ...."

Following my usual New Year flu bout - why do you only get sick when not at work? - I took my son up to the cycle trails at Golspie where he went off biking with a pal.
Rather than take of up the trails I went in hunt of a photo for the day, my pot of gold if you like. Although other shots were taken today this one amused me enough to decide to kickstart my blog which I am going to make an effort to contribute to during 2007.
It will be mostly photos, but be warned, I can ramble....

Happy New Year!