The wrong lens – 19 October 2018

Today started off a bit dull and deteriorated.

<Technospeak>
The bonus of having two camera systems is that you can carry the light one without breaking your back on longer walks and the heavier one when you know where you’re going and you want really good quality. The problem occurs when you mix up the lenses. You carry the heavy camera complete with long lens and you *think* you’ve lifted a macro lens as well. You’ve been out for half an hour or so and you see an opportunity to get a macro shot, but the macro lens in your bag won’t fit. When you examine it more carefully, you find that it’s a 200mm lens for the other camera system. Bummer. No macros today then. That was this afternoon and I settled for the wide angle shot across St Mo’s pond as PoD instead of the macro of the rose hips I was considering. It took a fair bit of post processing to get what I wanted. I used Lightroom to develop two shots and then used ON1 to merge the sky from one into the foreground of the other. It works … kind of. It’s a case of taking the best parts of each and creating a new photo. Ansel Adams said we don’t take photos, we make them. So true.
</Technospeak>

That was the end of the day and the beginning of the good light which only lasted for about half an hour. The day started dull and got progressively worse until the rain started then it really went downhill. Couldn’t settle to do anything, that’s why I finally put on my rain coat and went out to see what the world could offer me, my Nikon and my 10-20mm lens, the 200mm being a passenger. After I got the photos for the paste up, I walked over behind St Mo’s school and down to the tarmac path. Caught a flicker from the bushes in the corner of my eye that turned out to be a young deer, not 3m away from me. I looked at it, it looked at me and we both decided to ignore each other. I stopped to take my camera out and it was off through the trees. I mean it was off THROUGH the trees. It just seemed to plough through them as if they weren’t there. Such a strange surreal experience. Saw nothing else worth photographing, but stopped for a while to inspect the new retail park that’s being thrown up across from St Mo’s school. Steelwork is up and I’d imagine the roof will be on in a week or two, then the sheeting on the walls the next week. That will make it wind and water tight enough for the sparks, plumbers and bricklayers to get in and work through the winter. Should be ready for opening by early summer I expect.

I couldn’t settle on a subject for a sketch tonight and I finally grabbed the two chicken salt and peppers and put them in front of me. They became Inktober No 19.

Tomorrow looks even worse than today, so we may just go in to Stirling for lunch and messages.

Ticking Tuesday – 3 July 2018

Same start as yesterday. Still trying to get used to the sounds of the city back home I think.

More catchup on blog posts. Then spoke to Hazy on Skype which is now flying the Mickysoft flag and becoming an absolute bastard to use. No surprise for a Mickysoft product. If you want a good app broken, give it to Mickysoft.  After we’d signed off, I found that I’d picked up a tick yesterday. First one for ages. Must remember to be more careful.

Another trip to Tesco for more supplies and then I went for a run in the car hoping for more dragonflies up behind Fannyside Loch. Didn’t find any, but usually they are later than they are here. Ended up walking along the Luggie. Saw a deer but it was too far away and too deep in the long grass. Settled on a Red Admiral as PoD.

Later in the afternoon did more blog and Flickr posts.  Flickr now up to date.

Watered the garden in the evening and the thirsty wee plants soaked it all up.  Still hot.  G&Ts all round tonight and an early bed. Scamp’s cold seems to be improving, thankfully.

Tomorrow we’re intending to go dancing! And me wi’ a bad leg tae!

May leaves us – 31 May 2018

The last day of May and it left us in sunshine.

Up early for the blood-letter to do her worst, then back for breakfast before Scamp left to see the new ‘wean’. With some time to myself I set the A2 drawing pad on the easel and drew the ‘man in the mirror’ again. This time I was more pleased with the result. I got the nose right and the proportions which is what the Andrew Loomis method is supposed to help with, but I adapted rather than adopted the method to make it work for me. I suppose that’s what the tutor was talking about really when she said last night that it’s a generic method that produces a generic head. The trick is to know how to move away from that to the realistic head.

Went off to meet the Auld Guys with a lighter step, knowing that I’d got a foothold on this portrait thing, only to find that the coffee machine in the coffee shop wasn’t working. If the coffee machine stops working, does that just make it a shop then? Maybe, but it wasn’t selling anything I wanted to buy, so I met val and we went to the other Costa at the opposite end of the mall. It was not as mobbed as I thought it would be and we grabbed three seats and I phoned Fred to tell him about the change of venue.  The usual topics for discussion:

  • How we got in this mess (politics)
  • Life was so much simpler and more fun in the ’70s (nostalgia)
  • The cost of living (economics)

I also got some tips on what to see in Rome, Marseilles, Barcelona and Naples.  Not visiting some of these places, but I now know what to see and where.  Finally had to break up after a couple of coffees because of the overbearing rules on parking by Tesco.  That should really have been added to the agenda.

Came home and had just enough  time to grab a camera and get some photos of St Mo’s wildlife before dinner.  It was really muggy with a heavy feel to the air, but the sun was still shining.  Got some photos of a little deer with its nice colourful summer coat.  Loads of dragonflies, but also loads of biting beasties about, so I was quite pleased to come home to make dinner.  Dinner was mushroom burgers with potatoes and broccoli.  The potatoes and broccoli were good!

Tomorrow we are due thunder storms almost all day.  I think we’re going for the messages.

What a difference a day makes – 22 April 2018

When we woke this morning it was dry and with a touch of sun. It didn’t last.

The rain started just before we got up and remained for most of the morning. It was indeed going to be a stay at home day.

<Technospeak>
Last night was another technological nightmare. While I was writing the blog I was restoring a backup from just over a week ago on to the Linx 12. I’d unfortunately decided to have it verified before I installed it. It was only after it was started, and the ‘cancel’ button had become greyed out, that I realised that it was going to take a long time to check the backup. In fact, it took as long as the actual restore to check it. Rather than go to bed and leave the ‘puter churning through this process, I sat and read another few pages of my book. Eventually it did complete around 1am and just as I was shutting it down, up came the inevitable message “Configuring updates. Don’t switch the computer off”. Too late mate, It’s switching itself off. I went to bed. Well, it was worth the loss of sleep, because when I started the Linx this morning, everything was there. Not only that, the bluetooth mouse that started off this drudgery worked perfectly after I made the change noted in yesterday’s blog. I spent an hour or so adding some stuff and subtracting others until I was happy that what I had was serviceable system. I then made a backup of the up to date system. This time I made sure that I set it to check the backup after it made it. That process, conducted under Windows and utilising a USB 3 connection to the backup drive took just under 20 minutes to backup and check. A far cry from last night’s three hour marathon.
Note to self: When you use Macrium to backup a 64Gig drive, do it uncompressed! It takes a fraction of the time the compressed backup takes!
</Technospeak>

Ok, now that Scamp and JIC at least have returned, here’s the rest of the day. By the way, I made a resolution to get to bed the same day I got up, so this blog and probably others in the next week or so will be written in blocks during the day when I’ve nothing better to do and they blocks will be seamlessly welded into a complete page.

It was a dreich day but I did manage to get out for a walk in the afternoon and it stayed dry all the time. Just a walk through St Mo’s and with the ‘Big Dog’ to look for something that wanted its photo taken. Mr Grey was the first customer. I did see a couple of deer, but they fled too quickly. The rest was all macros. My first hoverfly photo of the year and some neat closeups of catkins. Sometimes you’re lucky if you get one decent subject, sometimes you’re overwhelmed and struggling to refine it down to one photo. I also dragged back some bracken fronds to paint on. Not paint as a subject, but to stick on the canvas and paint over for added texture! Hopefully!

Had a quick practise of the waltz for Wednesday and am much more satisfied with it. Jive? Now that’s another kettle of fish.

Dinner was Sea Bass with Potatoes and Broccoli. Scamp made it of course. She’s the fish master. Much nicer than last night’s fish supper.

Tomorrow is Gems day and hopefully a better day all round than today.

Somewhere Nice – 19 April 2018

We said yesterday that today we’d go somewhere nice. We did.

I’d half intended that we’d get up fairly early and go somewhere for a walk today. It was the other half that won in the end. The half that said “Well, it’s pretty dull, but it might get better if I finish this chapter.” I finished the chapter. In fact we both finished a few chapters, but it was still dull outside. Finally, when Scamp asked me if I wanted the coffee maker switched on, I made the decision that we should go and chase the sun. East seemed the best bet, so we pointed the Juke at Fife and then Kinross and drove to Loch Leven.

Managed to find a parking space under some Scots Pines where rooks were busy building nests. We were just about ready to go for our walk when Scamp found out the truth in the expression about not shitting in the nest. The rooks were being very careful not to mess up the nest and dumping their ‘doings’ over the side and some of it splattered on her hair. Thankfully I just caught some on my jeans. While I was wiping her hair with a tissue, I did think about telling her that it’s meant to be lucky. I decided to bite my tongue on this occasion!

We settled on a clockwise walk round the loch and found that it was just as boring as the anti-clockwise walk we’d done many times before. We walked until we caught sight of Loch Leven’s Larder, the cafe we were going to have lunch in. We both considered walking on, but finally decided to leave that for another day, because the promised sunshine still hadn’t arrived. We could see it in the distance across the loch and also away to the west – the direction we’d come from. We walked back to the car and the scenery was better in that direction. Saw some deer down by the loch side and then spotted a pheasant in the woods. Other than that and some yellow flowers there wasn’t much to recommend the walk. We walked along this path one day a few winters ago and it looked beautiful all frosted under a blue sky. It was nothing like that today. Having said that, it was on the return journey I got the PoD of a farm. The light on the far field was a lucky. Usually I have to fake these things, but today the light lit it up for me.

Went to Loch Leven’s Larder for lunch.  It wasn’t as busy as I’ve seen it, but still doing a fair trade. Years ago it was just a rough and ready farm cafe that served good food. Now it’s a cafe bolted on to a deli a kitchen shop, an ice cream parlour and a shop selling overpriced tat. Ok, maybe that’s being a bit harsh, and it is catering to a certain demographic. I’m not in that group.  While we were having lunch the sun was just coming out and the view across the loch was beautiful.  Just our luck.  We were inside when the sun was out!

Drove home using the satnav after I took a wrong turning. Stopped for a while at Torryburn in Fife and there’s a couple of shots of it on Flickr if you’re interested.

Highlights for us:

  • Walking in warm weather
  • Watching swans taking off and landing
  • Light reflecting on glider’s wings

Lowlights:

  • Don’t walk under rooks nest building!
  • Wee black flies!

Tomorrow I think Scamp wants to do some gardening. I may cycle if the weather’s as warm as today.

Zombies and three Halyzia 16-guttata – 11 March 2018

Up early and out to get milk and bread, the staples.

It was Mothers Day today and it just didn’t seem right for Scamp to make the breakfast. She’s not my mother, but she looks after me as if she is. That’s why I got up and drove to Tesco to get the milk and bread, and also a bunch of bananas, not flowers, bananas. You can’t put flowers on your breakfast Bran Flakes, don’t be silly. Tesco looked like a scene from a zombie apocalypse movie. Empty shelves everywhere. There was milk and bananas, but almost no other fruit.  [Thinks: Do zombies not eat bananas? ]  Now I know we’ve been away for a week and the snow has been bad here, but surely the Tesco lorries were getting through? I know Nicola Sturgeon was condemning the lorry drivers for clogging up the motorways with furniture lorries, but essentials like fruit and veg, that’s different. The apples and oranges should get through. Likewise the bread. My God, there was no plain loaves in the rack!! There were the thick cut loaves, but nobody eats them even if they’re were starving. Heavens, even zombies don’t eat them.

Came home made breakfast then sat down and typed up the last two days blog entries. Now we’re all up to date, I can relax. My reading public will not be on tenterhooks wondering if we got home, safely from our Week In A Warm Place.

That took me to about lunchtime and, as the sun was shining from a blue sky, after lunch I went to see if St Mo’s was still there and not under about three feet of snow still. I needn’t have worried, the swans were swimming, the birds were singing and the deer were out grazing, so I took the opportunity and snapped a few shots of them before they ran off. I also found my ladybird, the little orange one with the sixteen white spots (Halyzia 16-guttata), that I’ve been keeping an eye on since the beginning of the year. Except that it was no longer a solo ladybird, but a member of a trio. Three little vegetarian ladybirds clinging to the same tree. Two shots in the bag. Next shot was just of a pine cone with little tufts of moss growing from it. I liked it best, and it became PoD.

Dinner was a roast chicken from Tesco. At least there were plenty of them. Apparently zombies don’t like chickens, maybe chicken’s brains are too small to be worth eating. They (the zombies) do, however, like ice cream, because the freezers that are usually full of it were empty. There seemed to be no logic in the empty shelves. The ones you’d expect to be empty like the dairy aisle were full and the one’s that are more luxury items like ice cream had been pillaged. There’s just no accounting for folk.

That was about it apart from running the washing machine almost all day. Tomorrow I’ll probably put the cases away until the summer and, as it’s a Gems day, I’ll maybe go to the gym.

Snow begone (again) – 12 February 2018

By the time we got up today the snow was well on the way to disappearing. Good riddance.

Wasn’t feeling myself today. Just felt tired and listless. Pains in my stomach too. Don’t know what caused it. I’d say last night’s tapas, but they tasted good and the chilli had so little ‘carne’ in it, it was almost vegetarian. Yes, I know veg can upset your stomach too. Basically I just need to wait it out. Brought the car down from its abandonment last night, and parked it properly outside the house.

After lunch I went for a snooze while Scamp went for the messages. I just wasn’t up to it and she was happy to drive because the snow had disappeared completely. The snooze helped and I decided to get out and see if some fresh air would help. That’s where I got today’s shot. Saw two deer. Haven’t seen any for ages and on the way back I saw two herons! Scamp reckons they are Mr & Mrs Grey. I suppose that could be true. Either that or it’s an infiltrator looking for a face-off with Mr Grey. They squawked a bit at each other and then flew off in opposite directions. The walk and the fresh air did help a bit, but dinner was a plate of Scamp’s magic lentil soup and it did more than anything else to make me feel better.

In the evening I didn’t feel like going to salsa and Scamp agreed that we should stay at home.  I stuck a bit of corrugated cardboard on the easel and painted a still life. It’s pretty basic, but halfway through I realised that the pain in my stomach had gone. The painting might be poor, but it forced me to stop thinking about myself for a while.

Fruit

Tomorrow? Don’t know. It depends on how I’m feeling and on the weather. There’s more snow forecast for tonight into tomorrow. Maybe the gym for a light bit of stretching.

Hardly past the door – 20 January 2018

After yesterday’s problems with the River City stalker and his friends, we decided that a day at home was the safest way to deal with it.

Nobody else was moving much either. The roads in the estate (you can’t call them ’scheme roads’ any longer. “It’s not a ’scheme’ darling. That’s where common people live. Call it an ’estate’ that creates a much more civilised ethos, don’t you think?”). Anyway the road into the houses hadn’t been touched by the Cooncil. The unwritten law seems to be that if you live in a cup-de-sac, or any road that doesn’t have an entrance and an exit, or any road in Cumbernauld, you don’t get it gritted. We don’t get it gritted. That’s why nobody was moving today. I’m sure the Red Juke wouldn’t have bothered about the hill up to the house. The big wheels and the four wheel drive would have sorted it. It’s not actually got four wheel drive, but it looks big and it looks like it’s a 4WD, so that would probably mean it would get up the hill no probs. Still, we didn’t go out. There was tidying to do. There was an opportunity to rearrange stuff in the kitchen. There was also a bit of blue sky out there, so in the afternoon I left Scamp happy to be rearranging and took the big dog out for a walk to see what progress had been made at the new Aldi store.

The answer to that question was “Not Much”. I’m not sure if the flurry of interest that started in August ’17 actually was anything to do with the building of this mini retail park, but although an access road has been reclaimed from the dirt, mud and illegal fly tipping, it’s now been left to the elements and is covered in a thick coat of ice. Some breather pipes have sprung up around the site, so that probably means that it was originally landfill. I don’t know if that will make a difference positively or negatively to the outcome. I’m guessing we will just have to wait and see. The ice made an interesting couple of photos. From there I walked over to the M&S Food outlet to get Scamp some chocolate raisins to replace the energy she was expending tidying the kitchen. Up into St Mo’s and grabbed a couple of shots of two deer in the snow. Unfortunately it was on the Teazer, so the quality wasn’t the best. That’s because I’d been using the 105mm lens on the Nikon to photograph the PoD which is top right above. A little water droplet with a neat starburst pattern.

Came home with dry jeans for a change because I’d worn my snow gaiters. They only get worn a couple of days a year, but when I do wear them, they are real life (and jeans) savers. Cost me a fiver about ten years ago and it was the best fiver I’ve spent. When you’re wading through knee high snow as I was today, they are hard to beat for keeping you warm and dry.

My turn for dinner and tonight it was Chicken Curry, using the leftovers from yesterday’s chicken. It was one of those ‘chuck it in and see what happens’ kind of meal. It’s either going to taste brilliant or bog awful. Either way, you’ll never be able to make it exactly that way again. This one was just a tad off brilliant. I can remember the method, but the measurements were just by trial and error and taste, taste, taste. Flat bread was just excellent too. Maybe a bit salty, but neither of us complained.

Tomorrow, I think we may be dancing, although there’s even more snow forecast. We’ll wait and see.

A better day than yesterday – 7 December 2017

Yes, it was a better day than yesterday, but that wouldn’t be difficult.

We were driving to Wishaw General hospital for Scamp’s checkup today. Nothing to report, everything normal. It’s hard to believe that a year ago just now, the whole thing was just starting. Now, a year later we’re so grateful for that short conversation at salsa class.

I’d half intended driving in to Glasgow afterwards, but it was so cold and dismal, we decided to go straight home. Scamp had still a lot of prep to complete too before the Witches Christmas banquet tomorrow and I was hoping against hope that there would be a short break in the clouds to allow me to get out to take some photos. As it happened, we both achieved our stated goals.

While Scamp was out emptying the shelves at ASDA, I got ready to go out because the sun was shining. I’d just got changed and putting my boots on when the rain came on. I waited until it went off and grabbed my camera. Pity I didn’t look in the camera bag first, then I might have noticed the absence of the Tamron lens. I got today’s PoD outside the park. A rook sitting on the school railings. The pigeon above its head was a ‘lucky’. In the park I noticed a deer wandering around aimlessly just on the tree line. Carefully took out the Nikon and noticed that it had a short lens on. No long lens in the bag. Not to worry, I had my trusty Teazer in my pocket. Grabbed two shots and realised immediately that something was wrong. The camera was set to full automatic, which means its zoom is a combination of optical and digital. Never a good thing. By the time I got the settings changed, the deer, two of them were off and running into the trees. The images were useless. Basically, they were just cropped JPEG files.

Walked home with the rook photos in the bag so all was not lost and made pizza for lunch. It was good, but not great. Need more practise with oven baked pizza.

Spent the evening beginning the tidy-up for Jackie arriving next week. I’ve now found a sofa in the back room under discarded jeans, tee shirts, a couple of bags and a couple of drawing boards, so at least she’ll have somewhere to sleep! May have to continue the exercise over the weekend because I’m sure there’s a carpet under all the magazines. Looks like there’s a cold couple of days ahead with ice and snow forecast for tomorrow and into the beginning of next week.

I’d dropped Scamp off at the entrance to the hospital this morning and gone to park the car. At least, for once the architects had considered the parking requirements of this new hospital, but it was when I was walking back to the hospital building that I noticed an almost total lack of sensible footpaths. Yes, there were some twisty turny pretty looking pathways, but they simply aren’t practical. Once you’ve parked at a hospital, you just want to get into the building as quickly and as safely as possible. I was mulling this over as I was walking out of St Mo’s too, when I realised that the path I was following was made by the deer. Now, here’s an idea for the architects. Instead of creating meandering paths that look pretty, but are impractical, try this. Just grass the whole area. Keep the grass cut for about a year. After that people will have made up their own minds where the paths should go. You may not like it, but they will have taken the shortest and safest routes from A to B. Now all you need to do is turn those muddy paths into real walking routes with tarmac or paving slabs. I’ll even allow you to put curves in to satisfy your artistic desires. Now everyone is happy. If you later find that a new ‘people route’ had been created, firm that up too and there you have a democratic set of walking routes. If you want you can mention that you saw the idea here!

Tomorrow it’s my turn to cook.

  1. Bread is out of the freezer tonight and thawing as I write. It should be good to prove (rise) and be baked tomorrow morning. If not I will have time to make a new batch.

  2. Veg to chop and filo pastry to form into nests for the starters. May have time to bake it before I go out, if not I’ll leave it in Scamp’s capable hands.

  3. Time to make myself scarce. I think a trip in to Glasgow is on the cards.

Recovery – 4 December 2017

After an exhausting night’s dancing, today was a day to recover … for a short while before more torture dancing tonight.

The day started fairly late for me. Nearly 10.30am before I surfaced properly. After that, the first item on the agenda was to get moving and wash the car. Poor Juke was looking a bit down in the mouth and needed a swift shampoo. After that, it was nearly lunchtime. Then a short respite before Gems arrived. I just had to get out, because today the wee souls were singing Christmas Carols, my least favourite musical interlude.

I took myself off to look for photos down the Luggie. I’d only walked a few yards along the river when I disturbed a deer on the far bank. Now it’s stretching it to call the Luggie a river. It’s really a burn, or if you’re not Scottish, a stream, so the deer wasn’t far away. Perfect shot for the Oly … except:

  1. The white balance was still set for indoor lighting, so consequently everything in the finder was blue. Soon fixed that, but the deer was gone, but magically another, smaller one took its place.

  2. Tried the shot with the white balance set to auto, but when I pressed the shutter nothing happened. More correctly, something happened. The self timer was still set to 12 seconds. You’d be surprised how far a deer can run in 12 seconds. No chance.

Moral of the story is make sure your camera is on the correct settings for the conditions. Preferably before you lose the shot. I was just walking away from my lost deer when I turned and saw a third deer haring (or should that be deering) up the hill. One adult and two young deer and I missed every one of them. That left some weeds in the failing light, so that’s the reason for the esoteric and ethereal PoD.

Salsa tonight was poorly attended as salseros nursed aching legs, aching feet and a multitude of bruises inflicted by over-excited and under-experienced beginners. Ok, some of older ones should have known better and didn’t, but some of the beginners had been hitting the ‘happy water’ quite heavily before they arrived and were seriously out of control (and probably out of their box too). We went over four recent moves tonight, only one of which was entitled ‘hasn’t got a name yet’.

Off to Falkirk tomorrow to speak to the FA.