Still Raining – 28 July 2015

Another rainy day. Went to the gym and found that Windows was trying to shut down the computer at the gym. It looked remarkably like the shut down screen on Windows 95! Only 20 years out of date. Anyway, when Scamp went to the gym later in the morning, someone was trying to breathe some life into the old system and was hoping to get outside help to do so. Maybe the system will be running by the end of the year.

I felt like I was getting cabin fever today, so hitched the bike on to the carrier and drove to Auchinstarry for a wet, but warm run along the railway line past Dumbreck Marshes and on to the canal tow path. While I was there I watched some bees buzzing around the flowers. I thought it would be a good test of the high speed ‘motor drive’ on the E-PL5. I remember a few years ago I was in a group of photogs where there was a challenge among us to see who who would be the first to catch an insect on the wing. Lots of heavy duty technology was being used, but nobody got that shot. Today with a second hand Oly E-PL5 and a second hand Panasonic lens, I got the shot. I don’t suppose the wager still stands.


Cycling away from home – 20 July 2015


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWell, today was the big test day for the bike carrier and it passed with flying colours.  More below. Not a long drive today, but enough to make sure the carrier carried! Drove to Auchinstarry and parked there and cycled along the Forth and Clyde canal to Kirkintilloch then back again via Dumbreck Marshes. On the way there, for the first time ever, I think, I saw the bascule bridge at Twechar working. It was raised to allow a longboat to pass through heading east.  Three or four motorists were standing looking a bit bemused as I was.  However, it was a good morning and a pleasant way to pass some time.  The canal towpath was quite quietOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA this morning, with only a few dog walkers and the occasional cyclist to block my way.  On the way back, I took the detour through Dumbreck Marshes and managed a shot of a soldier beetle.  I know it’s not really sharp, but it’s the expression on it’s face I like.  It’s like “Are you looking at me?”, but it’s hard to second guess a beetle as Christopher Robin will tell you.

Back to the carrier.  It’s a Saris Solo and as you can imagine from the name, it’s for only one bike.  Suits me fine as Scamp doesn’t cycle.  The other novel feature of the Solo is that it’s made from plastic. Surprisingly, it’s really quite strong with lots of reinforcing fins inside the structure.  Another innovation is that there are only four nylon bands that hold the rack on the car – two at the top and two at the bottom.  They seem to hold it securely to the boot but it will need a little more testing to give it a longer test on a longer drive.  So far, I’m impressed and willing to take it on that longer drive.  I’ll keep you posted.

Sitting in the sun (without a raincoat) – 14 July 2015

The day started like any other Scottish summer day with drizzle then heavier rain. It didn’t matter to me because I was waiting in for Yodel to deliver a parcel for Scamp. I used the time wisely by starting another sketch from the Italy cruise. One day I will be confident enough to sketch or paint from life rather than from photos, but not today. Watercolour in the rain? I don’t think so. I wasn’t very confident about Yodel, having had a parcel just before Christmas, simply disappear and have to her replaced. However, the parcel did arrive just after midday.

DSC_2903- blog--195.jpgSince the rain had stopped and the sun had come out, Scamp decided to cut the grass. After that she wanted the gladioli to be tied up to prevent them being blown down and broken. This was my task. While doing it and getting cut to pieces on the roses that border the gladioli, I found a stray damselfly on the grass. I don’t think Scamp had mowed it with the grass, but the beastie wasn’t looking at its best. I carefully lifted it up and put it on a rosebud, hoping that it would find some aphids for lunch, but all the aphids on the roses were dead. The damselfly clung on to the rosebud and as far as I know, it’s still there.

DSC_2908- blog--195.jpgAfter the gardening, we got out the lounger (for Scamp) and the camp chair (for me) and we both decided it was Pimms O’ Clock, and had a little refreshment reading and sitting in the sun. I sat for a very pleasant hour or so before I got itchy feet and went for a safari in St Mo’s. I got a few shots of Mr Grey, my favourite is here. I also was lucky enough to get some shots of a dragonfly in the classic dragonflyDSC_2922- blog--195.jpg pose with wings out. There were a few damselflies out, but not as many as in the past few weeks. As July wears on, it’s usual to have a decrease in the numbers of damsels and an increase in the population of dragons. I don’t know if it will be the same this year with our cold summer. We can only hope that today is the start of some warmer weather.

Ants – 13 July 2015

I was putting some old fruit in the compost bin today. When I opened the lid I was shocked to see a load of white eggs and hundreds of ants. I fed the fruit to the composter and put the lid back on then went in DSC_2893- blog--194.jpg search of Mr Google to see if he had any thoughts on the problem of ants in the compost, and possibly a solution to get rid of the beasties. I was surprised to find site after site extolling the virtues of ants in the compost. Apparently they help with the decomposition of the vegetable matter. They also help aerate the compost and save gardeners the trouble of turning over the compost as they do that themselves. WIth that information, I returned to the composter with my Nikon and a Sigma 105mm macro lens and took the Shot of the Day, then put the lid back on. Welcome ants, friends not foes.

I got a watercolour sketch done today. Not entirely satisfied with it, but that’s the point of a sketch. I’ll try it again tomorrow. I’m not sure now if I will proceed on to a full size watercolour. I may change it to an acrylic using a technique I’ve read about in a book. If I try this technique and it works, I’ll write more about it later in the blog.

Lunch today was the pulled remainder of the meat from yesterday’s dinner. I’ll share a secret with you. It wasn’t really a dinosaur bone, it was an Aberdeen Angus Rib steak. It was delicious again today on a roll with brown sauce. I tried it with mustard too, but it wasn’t as good. Thanks JIC for introducing me to this.

A Morning Walk – 9 July 2015

DSC_2852- blog--190.jpgI had intended to do the Gym/Swim thing this morning, but I’d had a fair deal of pain in my hip during the night and it (the pain, that is – the hip was there too!) was still DSC_2835- blog--190.jpg there in the morning, so I decided to give it a more gentle exercise with a walk over St Mo’s. An early walk too. I had hoped for some pics of the deer, but they were nowhere to be seen again. I did, however get a couple of shots of damselflies in their mating embrace. By contrast I took a contré jour shot of a jaggy thistle. Other than that, it was a warm(ish) day with no rain for a change. Typically, as I write this, it’s raining. However it did have the good grace to keep away during the day.

Larky, plants and some beasties – 2 July 2015

It was a noisy night, with thunder and lightning in the wee small hours. Torrential rain too. Got up early and out to the optician in Larky (honestly, I think I’m up and out earlier than I was when I was working).

DSC_2761- blog--183.jpg

After the tests were done and the new reading glasses ordered, I waited until my eyes had returned to normal after the drops the optician had put in to dilate the pupils, then drove home. I intended to go in to Glasgow on the way, but couldn’t be bothered and also my eyes weren’t really ready yet, so came directly home. Scamp decided she wanted some plants for the garden, so we took ourselves off to Dobbies near Bearsden. Laden with horticultural species, we returned an hour or two later. Scamp was eager to plant out her plants – if you get my meaning. I felt that it was a bit late to get the bike out and took thelazier option of a walk around St Mo’s.

I took the Tamron for further testing, but on the off chance that there would be dragonflies around, packed the 105mm macro lens too. Found a couple of butterflies, some damsels and a spider, but noDSC_2769- blog--183.jpg dragonflies. Packing the macro lens was a good idea, it beat the Tamron hands down, but then it is a DSC_2771- blog--183.jpg prime and a really sharp one at that. On the way home the rain started. It didn’t last long, but at least it would help to set the new plantings for Scamp.

Damselflies and Dobbers – 8 June 2015

Went out cycling today and managed another shot of damselflies. This time the damselflies were mating and were large reds. It was a lovely sunny day and warm too. I was using the E-PL5 again with the P6085554- blog-159.jpg Panasonic zoom and an extension tube to reduce the camera to subject distance and of course to enlarge the image of the damselflies. Really difficult to get enough DOF with this setup, but this was one of the good shots. At first I wasn’t happy with the IQ, but now that I’ve looked again, done some pixel peeping and settled myself down, it’s producing some decent shots. Much better with the EVF on to make sure focus is in the right place.

! found a helium balloon tangled in a tree when I was out and set if free. I was amazed at the vertical acceleration as it rose into the sky. Soon it was just a little speck in the clouds. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time for cycling as we were going out later, so it was swift home to make dinner (just for me as Scamp had been stuffing her face earlier at a friend’s house).

Went dancing at night and enjoyed the class, however, fat bob crashed the 8.00pm class, which meant there were too many guys, so I went for a walk instead. IMG_2587- blog-159.jpg Wandered round Kelvinbridge and found evidence of an old railway line which is detailed here. Lovely sunset and great lighting on the old Lansdowne church. I even managed to get a bit of a rainbow in the left of the picture. Enjoyed the walk and the discovery that I wouldn’t have made without the intervention of fat bob. I’d thank him but he really is a vacuous dobber!

A Sunny Saturday – 30 May 2015

It’s Saturday and I’d decided I wanted to go to Stirling for a curry at the Indian Cottage. It used to be good and I had become addicted to the Chicken Tikka Chilli Boona, but they recently changed the menu. Gone is the CTCB also gone is Scamp’s Vegetable Dhansak. We had lunch there a few weeks ago and weren’t all that impressed, but decided to give it another go. Bad move. The lunch was much worse than before. This time we may be gone for good. This used to be one of the busiest curry shops in Stirling. If you weren’t there by 1.30pm you would have to queue for a seat. Now it’s half empty. Maybe that’s an indictment of the maxim “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Hey get me with ‘indictment’ and ‘maxim’, and this from the boy that didn’t get his O Grade English!

Got back early, and dissatisfied but at least it gave me time to go out cycling for a while. A chance to see if all that gym work was worth while. Headwind going out, as per normal and it was a struggle. So disappointed. For God’s sake, I’ve been going to the gym for two whole weeks now! That’s forty minutes not the cycling machine thing. Surely I would be fit by now? What did I pay my gym fees for if it doesn’t make me fit? Total waste of my time and money. I’m not a happy ‘gym bunny’. Anyway, the cycling is becoming a means to an end, not an end in itself. It’s a device for getting me to places to take photos, but the Kona is still a lovely bike. Much better than the heavy mountain bike with front suspension. It never ceases to amaze me how well it accelerates,even in a headwind.

On to the photos, and a warning to JIC and Hazy – There will be technospeak :

[Group 0]-P5302389_P5302397-9 images- blog-150.jpgI like these three trees and I’ve photographed them many times. Today I didn’t have a lens that covered them adequately, so I did the next best thing and shot nine frames with the Panasonic 45-200mm with the intention of stitching them later. This time I took the long route and used Autopano. It’s a bit more circuitous than just plain “merge to panorama in Photoshop” from Lightroom, but it does have the advantage of giving more control. I was impressed with the basic output, but tweaked the exposure in Lightroom to give a more interesting result. I’m pleased with it. That’s why it’s my photo of the day. 365/150

The next ones were just luckies. I saw them while tramping through the grass, thinking that I had to be very careful as I’d listened to a program on the radio yesterday about sheep ticks infecting people with Lyme disease. I’d got a tick bite about a year ago when we were in Skye and became ultra cautious, checking every day for the telltale ‘target mark’. Thankfully it never appeared, so it looks like I’m clear this time. Having said that, it pays to be cautious, and take these things seriously. With all my antics chasing deer with my camera, I forget that these wee beasties are attracted to deer as well as sheep and can make your life a misery. Anyway, no ticks were found today, but I almost missed the ladybird making its way down a grass stem and next to it a couple of Bonking Beetles, bonking. Yes, I know they are also called Soldier Beetles, but that’s not half as much fun. I liked the luminosity of the grass and the colour contrast with the insects. Both shots taken with the 45-200mm Panasonic lens with extension tubes to get the close up shot I wanted.

P5302410- blog-150.jpg

P5302406- blog-150.jpg

A good day’s cycling and a tailwind to look forward to on the way home. Hooray!

Edited with Ecto.