Another wet day – 1 August 2018

We shouldn’t complain, should we.

Another day that dawned fairly bright and fairly dry, but deteriorated gradually all through the morning and then in the afternoon started a steep decline.

In spite of the weather, or maybe because of it, I decided that today wasn’t going to be a macro day or a flower day. Every month I make a screensaver of the last month’s PoDs and when I previewed the July screensaver it appeared to be totally composed of those beastie and flowery photos. No mono. No landscapes, few cityscapes and no faces. That, I’m sure is what made me want to shoot a landscape (or two) today.

With that in mind, I drove up to Fannyside, intending to get some landscape shots in the dull weather, then the rain came on, but that might just add a bit of moodiness to the images, I thought. That’s when I saw the burned out van. Hmm. I’d fitted a wide angle lens to the Nikon and that van just screamed out for wide angle, moody sky and monochrome. Unfortunately, the sky was anything but moody. It was milk bottle white behind the van. Turn through 90º and the sky was a bit more interesting, so concentrate on getting a good shot of the van and then composite the sky in later. Not PS this time, but ON1. I’d seen it done the other night on a YouTube video. It wasn’t quite as easy as it appeared (is it ever?), but I managed it without the aid of Photoshop. Quite liked the finished effect.

By the time I was coming home the rain was ramping up, or thumping down if you prefer it. I don’t think that would have added anything to the photo. I liked it as it was. Nice to see some mono and landscape squirting out of Lightroom for a change.

I danced salsa for two hours tonight and enjoyed most of it. Especially because my knee wasn’t hurting as bad as last week. I think it may be on the mend, but the big test will be tomorrow. Horrendous traffic going in 24 minutes allegedly between Junction 13 and Charing Cross (normally 6 minutes). Although there was an accident after Junction 16, most of the holdup seemed to be folk travelling in to Glasgow to see the opening of the European Championships. I hope they weren’t expecting something like the Olympic Games. This is Glasgow. Two bottles of fizzy water and half a dozen sparklers, that’s all you’ll get. Anyway, we managed to slip into the moving part of the queue on the motorway without causing any problems and made Charing Cross in record time.

Tomorrow we’re dancing ballroom and jive or jive and ballroom, who knows at 1pm. Unless we get a text before then to ask if he can change it to 5.30am on Saturday. Don’t laugh, it’s well within the bounds of possibility.

Goodbye July – 31 July 2018

Not Flaming June, but Toasty July.

It’s certainly been a July to remember with temperatures into and above the mid twenties here in relatively cool Scotland. Hints of hosepipe bans and serious warnings of the dangers of the “Taps Aff” culture. When will we see your likes again?

After scanning Facebook and the InterWeb, we decided that the fish shop in Linlithgow was indeed still in business and had been closed the last time we went because they were on holiday. We were wrong. The shop was closed as we drove past unless they have changed their window display to soft furnishings to dissuade some customers and so avoid crowding out the shop. Disappointed, we drove as far as the Coop carpark, squeezed our way past the abandoned cars and went to Aldi instead. Came home and checked again on FB and on the InterWeb and although it does say that the shop is still there, it makes no mention of soft furnishings. Maybe it’s just a front.

After lunch Scamp started ‘sorting out’ another cupboard while I just mooched around. The weather had taken a down turn since the morning and it now looked like rain. My weather app said rain was likely at 2.15 and when Scamp took a break from her reorganisation at 2.25 she reported that it was indeed raining. Amazingly accurate, but ultimately disappointing. No cycling today.

Today’s PoD nearly never appeared. Sometimes I think I’m only taking photos to complete the 365 for that day. Sometimes that IS the case. That’s not the way photography should be. Maybe I need a break from it. Anyway, today’s PoD was one I’d been considering for a week or so. The ‘Spiny Alien’ is actually an early chestnut I found near the People’s Palace in Glasgow.
<Technospeak>
The photo was taken with my new macro lens and this lens doesn’t have enough depth of field (DOF) to cover both the chestnut and the minifig, so the best way to achieve the full depth is to take two photos. One focusing on the chestnut and the other focusing on the minifig. Then combine the two in Photoshop. Unfortunately it’s really difficult to get them both into the old version of PS I have. I was watching an ON1 video of a similar problem last week and used that method to fix this one. It worked perfectly mainly because the camera was firmly fixed on a tripod for both shots, so alignment wasn’t an issue. That pleased me.
</Technospeak>

Tomorrow we have no dancing in the afternoon, but we are still dancing at night. Unless Michael changes it again tomorrow morning. He’s already changed it from Friday to Thursday. Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow.

Coffee, Sycophants and Nits – 24 July 2018

Coffee with Fred to start the day off.

Actually coffee wasn’t until midday and the day was well and truly started by then. Topics for discussion today were shed building, the dangers of dodgy wiring and laying paving slabs. All mixed in with our usual critiques of each other’s paintings.

After lunch Scamp and I started working on her garden videos which are a great way of recording what was where in the garden in July 2018. Finally got them converted to a reasonable size and a usable format then put them on the website. They will stay there for a week or so.  Here’s the link

Dinner was home grown potatoes with cabbage (and bacon for me). Then it was time to go meet an author.

Got in early to Glasgow because I wanted to have a look for a PoD. I found it up at the Art School. I went there to see if I could get some moody shots of the shell of the Mackintosh building which is being partly demolished amid great weeping and wailing from the vociferous luvvies who attended it. Glasgow council has finally made a courageous decision not to throw any more cash than is necessary at this money pit. One fire is a real shame. Two fires is a message. Let it go. Others will disagree, let them. My blog, my opinion. Anyway, I couldn’t get a decent shot past or over the safety cordon, so I chose instead to shoot some shots of the new building. I hadn’t noticed the stylised bird shape etched on to the surface of the building. I liked the way it shone in the sun and doesn’t it look a bit like a phoenix? Not exactly rising from the ashes, but it is a bit of a coincidence. It was an easy PoD. Not so easy to process. That took Lightroom 6 for levels correction of perspective, Photoshop CS3 for adjustments to the sky. (The cloud just wasn’t quite in the correct place) and finally ON1 for extra colour tweaking. Ansel Adams was right, you don’t take a photo, you make it.

Finally got to the book signing which was on the top floor of Waterstones where there is a bar! Who knew?! Got a seat then became fidgety and started writing … in pencil … on a notebook – old style. This is what I wrote:

I’m sitting at the top floor of Waterstones in Glasgow waiting for Becky Chambers to appear to talk about her new book. I already have the book and also a birthday prezzy for Murdo which I got half price! Two rows in front of me is a girl with nits. She must be because she has a classic ‘bowl cut’ about an inch clear of her ears. Her hair is shaved into the wood below that line. Its awful looking, It’s the same cut as all the boys with nits had in Larky when I was wee, back in the ’50s. It probably cost her a fortune.
All around is the twittering noise of the twittering masses of the twenty-something, excitedly discussing what they’ve just read and how much they are going to enjoy this reading tonight. I must be the oldest here. The old bloke who’s stumbled in here thinking it was a political meeting or something. I feel so out of place. I’m not tweeting, I’m not twittering, I’m not excited. I don’t even have my phone out. Most folk in the room are on their phones, no doubt tweeting their excitement while verbally twittering. I must be the only one here who’s writing with a pencil on a notebook. The Nits Girl is making me itchy.
UPDATE – We’ve now had our safety talk and know where the nearest exit is. We haven’t yet had the life vest demo but the fasten seatbelt light comes on. Then I hear the captain call “Cabin crew, doors to automatic and cross check”. We’re off. She’s here!!!

After all that, the talk was just ok. A few dull questions from the Waterstones bloke and then the usual fanboys (and fangirls) with their hands up, shouting “Me miss!”, “Me miss!” Then it was over. Time to go home. Interesting to see Ms Chambers, but not something I’d write home about. Oh! I just did!

Watched “Rip It Up” tonight. A quite forgettable Haun’ Knitted Scottish production about how we started the rock scene for the whole world. EXCEPT, when Lulu was the subject, Scamp remembered being in the crowd that was there to watch her in Easterhouse. I’d downloaded the program at the weekend and when I watched it on the computer frame by frame, look what appeared. A star is born, and it isn’t Lulu!

Dancin’ early tomorrow then maybe manage another run on the bike.

The Web – 11 June 2018

I had an appointment with the nurse today to review my blood results. Never much fun.

Before that I was booked to drive Scamp to the hospital for what turned out to be her last appointment. She’s now officially signed off.

After I dropped her back at the house, I grabbed my new shoes and took them for a run to Glasgow Fort to return them or exchange them for a half size bigger. Got there to find it wasn’t a Clarks outlet store, so they couldn’t process them. If you Google “Clarks outlet stores Glasgow” the map shows three pins. One of which is The Fort. If I’d read the text I’d have discovered it wasn’t an outlet. Why is the pin there on a map showing Outlet stores? Don’t know. The manager wasn’t that helpful, he just kept telling he “I don’t do the web”. Almost like “I don’t do drugs”. Maybe he should “Do the web”. (Maybe he should do drugs too.) What he should do is work on his customer skills. He just wanted to wash his hands of me and told me I should write to The Web and complain that they were showing the wrong information. Does anyone know the address for The Web? Maybe I just write my complaint on vellum, put it in an envelope, seal it with sealing wax and address it to:

The Web
Internet Land
The World

I should write to Clarks and suggest they give this man a computer and a modem then get someone to sit down with him and explain what Tim Berners-Lee invented. I bet he doesn’t even have electricity in his house. You should go to Clarks in The Fort, ask for the manager and say “Hi. You don’t know me, I’m The Web.”

Drove home blazing, but not quite incandescent. I didn’t know then that I was on the wrong. That’s when the incandescence started. Calmed down when Scamp left to go to Marjie’s Afternoon Tea. Sat and drew a face or two from Croquis Cafe. Just to show that I’d done some homework for Wednesday.

Saw the nurse and she reassured me that my stats were ok. Nothing to worry about, and she was very impressed JIC, that you’d convinced me I had to take paracetamol for about a week before I’d see any improvement. The problem with my knee is most likely a torn ligament. Painful, but not serious.

Drove to Salsa but didn’t want to dance in case I made my knee any worse. What I did do was help out with Irene’s class who are Level 1 week 6 so, fairly simple stuff that doesn’t involve dangerous twisting. Certainly couldn’t face the Advanced class so I took my leave and went for a walk around Kelvinbridge. Got the PoD there which started out as a boring, dull shot of the actual Kelvin Bridge, then dunked it in a bucket of ON1 (my newest photo-processor) and out came a faded, sepia toned aged print.

Going to meet the Auld Guys for beers and lunch tomorrow, hopefully.

Barking Mad – 7 June 2018

It started out a bit cloudy today, but the sun soon burned that away.

We had nothing particular to do today and nowhere significant to go. Some days are like that, you can just relax. However, with a garden there’s little time to relax and soon we were shifting flower pots around and then we went to buy more. It seems that flower pots are like shoes, you can never have enough of them. I also suggested to Scamp that it might be a good idea to put a layer of chipped bark on the earth, especially in the pots. It acts as a deterrent to snails, discourages weed growth and helps retain moisture. So we came back with another pot and a bag of chipped bark. While Scamp did the re-potting, I helped out with the layer of bark. It certainly gives a good universal appearance to the pots and looks as if it will fulfil the other tasks too. Only time will tell.

After lunch I was encouraged to start the frame for the pea netting, so off I went to B&Q to get some wood. I used to have a regular supply of it, but alas and alack, I am no longer employed in that side of things 😉 so I had to buy some. I asked if I could borrow a saw to cut the timber to more manageable lengths but was told that service was no longer available because of H&S regulations. I suppose that’s true. Pity the trolley that kept giving me shocks in B&M this morning hadn’t been GS23’d or run past H&S. Scamp says it’s me that’s generating my own electricity and that it’s me that’s creating the sparks. Some folk say I’m a bright spark, but they’re lying.

Anyway, the 2.4m of timber fitted easily into the Juke and I dropped it off at home before going for a walk along the canal under a hot sun. Saw today’s PoD there and couldn’t resist it. It took a bit of processing in Lightroom then ON1 to get it the way I wanted it, after the camera overexposed it, but I liked the result.

Came home via Lidl to try out their supposedly excellent gin. It is excellent and to our taste test, better than the watery Aldi alternative. Maybe it’s just the different tonic.

Halfway through dinner (Paella) the rain came on, so we had to rush out to save the washing from drowning, or at least getting wet. It didn’t last long, it was really just a shower, but it did mean we didn’t have to water the garden tonight!

Tomorrow looks not as hot as today. I think it’s all going to get a bit tricky from here on in. I think I’m constructing a pea frame, so a bit cooler day will be good.

Dancing, portraiture and faces – 23 May 2018

Dull day that started to smile in the afternoon.

Dancing the waltz is difficult, but we thought we had it fairly well under control until Michael showed us the next set of moves today. I’m sure in a couple of weeks they too will seem like child’s play. Now they are just the next hurdle to be waltzed over. Jive was just as difficult as jive usually is. Now we’re on spin number 4 of 7. It gets more complicated, even the men have a turn to do now. I’ve pretty much sorted out spins 1 and 2, 3 is a bit tricky and 4 is just a shambles. Instead of leading, I’m following, but that’s not new. It’s what I do most of the time. Still, it was enjoyable.

Walking back to the car in the sun provided today’s PoD which is a sandstone carving of a lion at the corner of the old fruit market in Glasgow. I also took photos of the ‘green men’ above the doors of the building. I remember drawing one of them in ink wash many years ago. Lovely bits of stone mason’s craft.

Back home I struggled with what was really a simple task of importing the photos into ON1. It’s simple now that I know how to do it. It most certainly wasn’t easy at the time, with hidden bits of menu that really should be more easily accessible.

Dinner was chicken breast wrapped in bacon and pan fried with boiled Jersey Royals and corn on the cob. Really tasty, Scamp. Also on the food front, I chopped up some strawberries and soaked them in vodka. They’ll stay in the fridge for a few days to flavour our Strawberry Vodka and hopefully be drunk outside in the garden under the sun.

Portrait class tonight was a bit of a disaster. A bit like Spin 4 is just now, except we’re more or less left to our own devices. I floundered a lot, trying to work out how to adapt the Loomis method to the head of the young boy we were drawing. It seemed, always, to make his head too fat. I think I’m missing something here. Must watch the videos again. On the way to pick up Fred for the class, I had to do some Genghis Pathfinder stuff to avoid the closed off road at St Mo’s School where a lorry had shed its load of wood. Not the simplest of diversions and it occurred, of course, when the factories along the road were coming out, so everywhere was chok-a-block. Managed it though.

Tomorrow we’re out early(ish). Hopefully before 11am, but I’ll have to go out even earlier to get some (very expensive £1.26 /litre) petrol.

An afternoon among the beasties – 18 May 2018

After I drove Scamp over to meet the other ‘Witches’, the day was my own.

I chose to follow orders for a while because it suited me. I watered the garden just before 11am because the sun hadn’t forced its way through the clouds yet and it’s a sacrosanct rule that you never water flowers or veg when the sun is shining. All those little beads of water become magnifying lenses and burn the living daylights out of the plants. This was the first time the hose has been used this year. I really enjoy watering the garden with the hose. So much easier than humphing full watering cans around. Not as efficient though. There’s a fair bit of wastage with a hose as my sodden trainers were witness to. I even managed to get it wrestled through the toilet window to water the front garden too.

While I waited for the sun to burst through the clouds, I read a bit, drank a cup of weak tasteless coffee, then another cup of really good strong brew to make up for it. I doodled some sketches and I played around with some of the more esoteric aspects of this new photography program ON1. It’s absolutely enormous and like some program designed by a committee there seems to about ten ways to do exactly the same thing with the same results, but using totally different procedures. I assume they are slightly different and that’s why they are there, but to my naked eye they look the same. Finally, after having achieved absolutely nothing and learned even less, I shut up shop and went to have lunch which was another cup of coffee and a ‘piece’ (that’s a ‘sandwich’ if you’re not Scottish).

After lunch I’d had enough of the Hide and Seek game the sun was playing and went to get my dinner and some petrol for the car from Tesco. Then I pointed the Red Juke at Auchinstarry and said “Go There!”. It did. Walked along the canal hoping for a sighting of the elusive kingfisher, but it wasn’t showing itself today. What I did find was my PoD, the first Scottish damselfly this year. I thought it was dead, but on careful examination, the opposite was the case. It had just released itself from its nymphal shuck and was drying its wings in the sun. Also pumping blood into those wings to stiffen them. Good luck wee red damselfly and make good use of these warm days. Rain is on its way after, or maybe including Sunday. After that I found a plethora of ‘beasties’. Spiders, beetles and flies. You’ll have to look on Flickr to find them.

Drove home and set the new, fancy, complicated combination microwave to cook my pizza dinner. It did it, perfectly. Beautifully baked, not quite Peasano quality, but good enough for me and so much better than a microwaved one with that yucky squidgy base. No, this was a firm base with a crispy topping. Superb. I hope you’re listening JIC. Fiddly to set up, but very adaptable. Tried to watch the news, but apparently there is a wedding in London tomorrow and the rest of the world had to stop turning just to watch it. I didn’t. The pizza was too good to wait for.

All too soon I got the text to say that the witches were leaving Ayr, then the inevitable “on the bus” text. Agreed to pick Scamp up at the bus stop and, of course, by that time the sun was shining from a clear blue sky. What was wrong with having that three or four hours ago? You know how photogs love directional light. So that was it. Slipping the leash for a day is a great thing. I recommend it to you all.

Tomorrow looks like the last good day for a while. I suggest we make the most of it.

May The Fourth Be With You – 4 May 2018

In the morning, just to make sure I wasn’t wasting my time I installed ON1 on the new Linx laptop. I also did a bit of gardening, planting peas in pots in the greenhouse. I checked the kale and it’s looking good too. Hopefully it will need thinned out in a week or so. A few straggling rocket shoots showing. Can’t exactly say they are rocketing up though.

Went up to the Costa in the already dilapidated Antonine Centre and spent a couple of hours with Fred and Val. As usual it was left to us to make some sense of the present crises in the world. We solved all the problems, the only difficulty now is getting the ’dunderheids’ in both the Labour and Tory parties to agree to our solutions. We can dismiss the Lib Dems as they are just a catch-all for all the politicos who have no interest in actual politics. We broke up the meeting with the promise to meet up again in another week or so.

Before I went out, Scamp had offered me the opportunity to make dinner tonight, which was kind of her. She went further and asked that dinner should be Paella. With that in mind, I visited Tesco to buy the makings for the paella and then headed for home. Put my DIY skills to good use screwing another boot hanger to the wall in the boiler cupboard. Hung up one set of boots and got another pair down, put them on and took the Olys and the new lens out to St Mo’s to see what wanted photographing. Nothing and nobody was playing today, so I took some photos of wild flowers instead. When I looked at them later, they were less than excellent. I’d fallen into the trap that even if you’ve got a ‘good camera’ and a ‘good lens’, it’s still the photographer who takes the picture. One day I may learn.

Made a reasonable attempt at paella and after that, installed ON1 on the MBP. I’m just after testing it and it works well.

Took PoD after dinner. It took a while for me to find a good font for the Star Wars banner, but after that was done the rest was easy. I used the well tested combination of Lightroom and Photoshop. Photoshop to blend two photos together and Lightroom to perform the levels adjustment and crops. Quite pleased with it because it had been in my head all day and now it was open to the world in Flickr.

Maybe going to Embra tomorrow where the weather might be better than the overcast grey we’ve had all day today.

Dancing, Dancing, but not all the day – 2 May 2018

Today we’d agreed to go to ballroom and jive, but not salsa, just in case it was a Shannon Show, all ‘Oo La La’ and ‘Happy Chests’ (Don’t ask). As it happened, we needn’t have worried as Will took both classes. So, here’s how the day unfolded.

Sat and worked through some of the tutorial videos for the new RAW processing software in the morning and am much better pleased with it now. It’s a real pity they didn’t get some of the YouTube tutors to produce their advertising videos. Then I’d have decided much quicker to give this software a try. It’s only when you get down to the nuts and bolts of a program explained by somebody who knows what they are talking about that you see its full potential. No need for tacky music and faked up special effects. It seems like a much better program now.

Drove in to Glasgow to go to the Ballroom Duet. Waltz was good and I think we passed with flying colours. Now we’re on to the small details. Big Steps and Rise and Fall. Using the Frame and Using the Core. Enjoyed it and also starting to get to grips with the Jive routines. Things are looking up at last. Next week will be a desert of dancing. No Salsa on Monday as the STUC is closed for the May holiday and no ballroom on Wednesday because both teachers are on holiday. We’ll just have to move the couch back and dance round the living room.

After we left Blackfriars we went for a coffee in Nero in Queen Street and noticed a degree of activity around the GOMA. On further investigation, it turned out that it was a film company doing a little bit of location shooting. I’ve no idea who the ’star’ was, but she most definitely thought she was a ’STAR’! Took a few photos and walked back to the car, but not before we stood and watched the giant demolition machine that was biting lumps out of the old hotel in front of Queen Street Station like a gigantic prehistoric monster. Scary looking thing.

When we came home the sun was shining so I grabbed the Nikon bag and took a walk around St Mo’s. Got the PoD which is of a tree climbing snail that only seem to climb the ash trees. After a bit of processing in ON1 and a bit of detailed work in Lightroom it began to look very pretty. It’s not what I saw, it’s what I wanted to see.  Came home through a rain shower to fish ‘n’ chips which were delicious, Scamp!

Hoping my latest lens will arrive by DPD tomorrow. Not new of course, but as good as. I’m looking forward to having a macro lens for my Olys. Up until now I’ve had to rely on a cheap pair of extension tubes. They are made of plastic with metal mounts and are getting worn and as a result letting light in which means I need to do more post-processing.

Other than lens-waiting, we have no plans for tomorrow. Some light gardening perhaps?

Burnt Water – 17 April 2018

Coffee with Fred today. Lots of stuff to discuss.

This was a change of day for us. Usually we’re there on Thursday or occasionally Friday. This week it was Tuesday. We’d books to exchange and TV programs to criticise and building control department to castigate for messing up Fred’s daughter’s extension. Basically we just complained about stuff for a couple of hours, then agreed that we’d had a good natter.

Came out of that dive with the sour taste of the last cup of something described as ‘coffee’, but was really burnt water, or so it felt to me. Went to get some gardening and painting stuff:

  • Seed potatoes. Charlotte, one of Scamp’s favourite varieties.
  • Twine to make a climbing frame for Scamp’s broad beans.
  • Tester paint pots to use as cheap gesso for painting boards

Came home to a slightly rearranged garden again and had it explained to me. I’m sure I’ll forget the finer details, but I have the basic idea of what was achieved while I was out drinking burnt water.

Since Scamp was making dinner I had some time to go and get a photo or two in St Mo’s. Like yesterday, today was a mixture of sunshine and showers. What we used to expect in April a few years ago before the jet stream started messing around with our weather. With that thought in my mind I grabbed my jacket and camera bag and went to see what I could see. What I saw was somebody sitting on a seat looking out over the BMX track and thought it would make a decent shot, especially if I reduced it to mono and darkened the sky, cropped it and … So I took a few shots from different positions and exposure setting. Walked round the pond after that, but saw nothing else interesting.

After dinner (Chicken with a mushroom and shallot sauce since you’re asking), I started to process the pics. About two hours later, after a fair bit of swearing, I finally exported the finished result into Flickr. Takes about two or three minutes to take the shots and two hours to make the picture. The new software I’m using on trial is ON1 2018 and it is very flash, a bit heavy on special effects and unable to export without crashing (twice). I may not shell out the $69 for the pleasure of beta testing their dodgy software for them.

We did manage a bit of dance practise tonight again. Just the waltz, but I’m happier with it after yesterday and today. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.

Tomorrow is dancing day!