The Summer Preview

A certain time of winter comes, and the body simply cranks down into Survival Mode. It’s post-holiday, after the New Year celebrations, and once the glitter is gone, and the thrill of the first snowfall, your psyche is just OVER IT. Skin is constantly dry, and one drinks tons of tea, slathers on lotion, and has a rather grim set to the mouth. Add to it wild weather, various illnesses and relapses, bedraggled hems and soaked shoes, and people just get snippy. Extraneous communication ceases, people do what they have to and sleep in the rest of the time.

(… unless they’re in the Bay Area of California, or San Diego. Then, they revel in the sunshine, and plot where they’re going to plant their tomatoes, the fortunate miscreants.) While our friends in the Midwest and the East Coast are still losing the last vestiges of Snopocalypse II, 2011, and Seattle braces for more snow this weekend (!); while many are reeling from the news that three of the next five winters will be just this severe, *thanks to climate change (and if you don’t believe in it, we don’t want to discuss it); while many hack and cough and hunch over their inhalers (looking at you, Mom and Van), we thought it might be time to play a round of Summer Preview. Feast your eyes on D’s photography from years past, and allow the images to jumpstart your brain into seeing a future of beach scenes, seed catalogs, sharpened mower blades, short sleeves, and giving yourself that much-needed leg deforestation (well, not everyone. Just you swimmers.) and pedicure…

Glasgow Botanic Gardens 044Glasgow Botanic Gardens 034Glasgow Botanic Gardens 038

Are you feeling inspired? Perhaps craving grilled vegetables and food on sticks? Salad??? That’s right, drag that ratty fleece blanket a little closer, have another sip of tea, and let your mind go… to somewhere in the world there is a whole color palette that doesn’t begin and end with gray, white, and black. It exists! You will see it again! Honest!

Glasgow Botanic Gardens 030 Glasgow Botanic Gardens 055Glasgow Botanic Gardens 057Glasgow Botanic Gardens 059

*You hadn’t heard about this Winter Hinterland thing being the new normal? Meteorologist’s long-term predictions seem to point that direction. If that fills you with horror, you’re not alone. Instead of panicking, there should be something (other than buying a lot of thermals, flannel and Thinsulate™) to do to plan ahead, to enjoy winter more (or at all) and to not let months of your life pass you by as you sleepwalk/whine/sniffle the days away. “Teh Interwebs” offer this advice (well, they actually offer a whole lot more – this is what’s useful and doesn’t reiterate too much what you already know):

  1. Get Healthy. In warmer, drier weather, getting into the habit of drinking plenty of water, getting at minimum eight hours of sleep, and those minimum thirty minutes a day of sustained exercise will really help you, because you’ll have those same habits come wintertime. Some of you are groaning quietly, but consider that exercise doesn’t have to be something boring. You CAN put on music and dance with your cats for a half hour. (Yes, that will make you the Crazy Cat Person, but who can they tell?) In the winter, good health habits will come back to help you, by giving you more energy and helping keep illness at bay. Eat citrus! Drink tea! Consider taking Vitamin D supplements, along with those Five A Day veg/fruit servings you’ll be eating – this will give you some health insurance that you don’t have to buy — and doesn’t everyone want that?
  2. Get Out. When we moved to Glasgow, our friend India said for us to go outside every single day it wasn’t absolutely pouring, if we could. We didn’t understand what she meant, and tended to stay in when it was foggy or freezing. No more. Getting outside can mean the different between sanity and …well, that other thing. Remember what you knew as a child: walking in the rain – and in the puddles – can be fun. Wind can be bracing (in small doses, with a reasonable windchill). Beach walks — where the sand clings to your shoes and doesn’t involve your legs in a losing battle against mud — are great, too. Snow hikes — wherein you don’t have the whole Little House on the Prairie vibe of Pa getting lost in a blizzard — can be beautiful, as you revel in the silence and the animal tracks. Get outside, even if it’s just a twenty minute walk on your lunch break every day. You don’t appreciate a warm, dry house, a fuzzy blankie, or a cup of tea as much as you do when you’ve been cold and a bit wet.
  3. Stay in the light. Whether this means burning a brightly scented pillar candle in a dark kitchen at oh-dark-early before you go to school or work (avoid those metal wicks; apparently they contain lead), or sitting beneath full-spectrum bulbs (Verilux or Blues Busters are great), which mimic sunlight, give yourself as much light as you can, during regular daylight hours. (Be aware that they can make you stay up too long, and you’ll need to adjust your light input – by turning them off an hour before you want to go to bed) Strings of lights around the floorboards of a house are marvelous – and make it look like you’ll Never Get Over Christmas. (Never mind, we KNOW you actually packed your decorations away on time this year. Sure you did.) We’re bewildered at how many people are fine with sitting in rooms with 40 watt bulbs in this country. Especially as it’s Prime Reading Season in the winter, splurge on a 120 watt and SEE for a change!
Glasgow Botanic Gardens 013Glasgow Botanic Gardens 023Glasgow Botanic Gardens 035

Winter is only a part of the cycle of life and death of the natural world, and fierce and heavy winters will only mean that we’ll enjoy the temperate autumn and summer days that much more. We hope you’ve enjoyed this round of Summer Preview, and that it’s bringing you some anticipation of good things to come. Spring will come again — and so will winter. Next time, hopefully, we’ll be better physically AND mentally prepared!

“May you live ALL the days of your life.” ~ Jonathan Swift

All of these photographs are of flowers at the Glasgow Botanical Garden. It’s a great place to go when the temperatures are down into the low numbers, because it is ALWAYS balmy inside those glass greenhouses. We spend an entire morning there our first February in Scotland, and before the month is out, we hope to do it again!

Charity? Really?

A friend of mine pointed me to The G.E. ecomagination photo project, which purports to be donating money to charity (at the rate of $1.67 per photo) should a Flickr user contribute a photo under the themes of “wind,” “water,” or “light.” “Wow,” I thought, “this sounds too good to be true!” Imagine my surprise when it turns out that the Flickr Group Rules state, among other things, that:

…you hereby irrevocably grant to GE the unlimited, non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide, irrevocable, sublicensable, assignable, royalty free right to use, redact, republish, modify, crop, adapt, edit, copy, create derivative works of, perform, distribute or otherwise modify your Photograph including any intellectual property contained therein, together with your name, Flickr user name (if applicable), image, likeness and identity of your hometown, in advertising and/or promotional materials for GE, in any medium now known or hereinafter developed (collectively, “GE Advertising”) in perpetuity, without payment or compensation to you, and without seeking any further approval from you.

Not only too good to be true: we’ll pay you less than a stock photo company would! Way to go, General Electric!

To Largs 16

Perhaps I should bust out my credit card and donate to a charity – say, $33.40? Now I’ve done 20 times what you would have done, and I haven’t bilked anybody in the process!

P.S.: the image I’ve posted here? Let’s call it “light.” I believe that it’s shining down upon G.E. and asking that you let some enter the souls of your marketing and legal departments now. If they still have any souls left.


On the Level

Tripod base is level? Check. Pan-tilt head on tripod is level? Check. Artificial horizon provided by the camera says we’re level? Check. Centered on the fountain, from directly in the center of the pathway? Check.

Kelvingrove Park 269

Kelvingrove Park 273 HDR

Fountain itself is level? Um … No. Not at all. And it’s just undergone some renovation. Apparently that renovation did not entail actually … propping the thing up. Just … adding new figures to it and painting a few of the existing ones. For this, it’s taken two years or so, and the fountain … is still crooked. How do I know? I overlaid a grid on this, just to check whether I was experiencing an optical illusion. Nope. Crooked.

Welcome to Glasgow, where things gently sink into the earth, and are renovated on the way down.

With new-cut sandstone, which will no doubt weather into looking like it fits in sometime in the next 50 years or so, and with with gold-ish paint applied to the … fat baby-things on the edges, how can they not call this renovation?

Oh. You mean, you expected something like, “make new,” which is, after all, what the word actually means? Nah – here in Glasgow, you replace the bits which are excessively worn, and keep on coming back, year after year, replacing things piecemeal. It provides steady work, and it only looks awkward all of the time.


August 24, In Retrospect

2000 Alaska 151 2000 Alaska 153
2000 Alaska 155 2000 Alaska 114

Funny: the only pictures we’ve taken (apparently) on August 24 were way back in 2,000, on our cruise to Alaska. I doubt that’s the truth, really – I think that that’s the day the film was developed, because these pictures are from Juneau, yet some pictures which are from the 25th are from Skagway, which we visited prior to Juneau, as I recall.

Wish we’d been shooting high-resolution digital, way back then. Alas, we were shooting “APS” format film, and have since lost the camera somewhere.


Popular Photos

It’s always interesting to us just what people find interesting, in our photos. Below are the photos which have received the most views, from left to right. The first has become popular because it’s been discussed on Sociological Images, the second because it’s mentioned at The Fresh Loaf, but the next two? We can’t figure out why the Kohlrabi picture would be popular whatsoever. The Masala one is the only one to which we return, again and again, because it lists out the ingredients for making our own version of Garam Masala.

Virgin Active Loaves2m Kohlrabi 1.2 Masala 1.1

We’ve long since topped 20,000 photos, up on Flickr. We sincerely hope that you’re enjoying them.


Experimental Photography

This past weekend was an opportunity for much experimentation with photography, both in HDR imagery and in playing with the zoom lens. On the left-hand side is the “plain” picture, on the right is a composite of three images. Which do you prefer?

Dundee 238 Dundee 238 HDR

I think that, in this case, I prefer the HDR version, because it shows the raindrops. And in the case blow, I also prefer the HDR version, because it shows the clouds so well, and also shows the reflection of the clouds upon the side of the ship (which, as it happens, still has a chunk of ice from its journeys, preserved on-board). The “plain” image is first, the HDR image is next.

Dundee 196
Dundee 196 HDR

Dundee 245

Dundee 249

I’ve seen a few pictures where people had snapped while zooming, and thought I’d see if I could get a few which were decent. I actually had to put a polarizing filter on the camera, to cut out half of the light and let me zoom, it was such a bright day. Crazy, really, since it was raining, but that’s Scotland for you: it may be raining, but it’s also a bit sunny outside, particularly during the Summer. We’ll pay for it during the Winter, though.

So. Thoughts? Opinions? We’ve heard that the zoom photos look like anything from angels to frizzy hair. What do you think? Fun stuff?


Tha’s Some Evil Wee Beasties

Ah, swans.

We have the fairytale — the birds of great strength, elegance, grace, and beauty, with twenty-three neck vertebrae arching into that classic curve. We have the ballet. The mythology. And then, we have The Truth:

Their wings can break a grown man’s arm, they hiss, chase, and bite, crushing fingers, and drawing blood. Beautiful as they are, these things are a nasty piece of work.

Perthshire 11

We discussed it, and concluded: we’d both rather take on a goose, and D. has had experience with a goose attack. But here, since all swans belong to the Crown, we couldn’t even really kick one if we had to — the rowers at Cambridge who were assaulted last summer by “Mr. Asbo” and are continuing to be pecked, smacked, and bloodied have no recourse but to paddle really fast, and beg the queen for help. Which is just — wow. Quite something. (Who knew the Brits could be such good, obedient subjects? Guess no one wants to risk the public flogging handed down as sentence for anyone who messes with HRH’s birds.)

This is a Mama Pen, Papa Cob, and all ten of their cygnets. It’s hard to believe, but this photo was shot from a train, as we went over a small bridge on the River Tay. And just look at them — all fuzzy and dark, not a one of them a misplaced duckling… from this distance, don’t they look cute?

But YOU know better.

Here are some swan facts for those of a turn of mind to know their enemies. ::cough:: Um, we mean, find out more about the stories, history, and lore of this gorgeous bird. Yeah, that’s what we meant.

Early Morning Moonset

Lynedoch Crescent - July 27 Ephemeris

The Photographer’s Ephemeris (available at is a tool I’ve mentioned before. It’s useful because it tells you things like where and when the sun and moon will rise and set. It tells me that tomorrow morning’s going to be an early one (say, 5 a.m.) in the hopes of catching the full moon, on its way down, setting behind the towers. I really hope to awake early enough to catch it! Of course, it won’t be dark, still, as the sun will be rising 20 minutes before the moon sets. I’m going to try to get the shot before the sunrise, though, if only because the moon needs to be still in the sky if I’m going to see it from the flat.

We’ll see if a tripod-mounted series demonstrates that the camera alone was the problem, or whether there’s some lens involvement as well. It’s so difficult to tell. If tomorrow’s shots come out (and if I get any, what with clouds and fog), I’ll know whether I have to send the lens in for an adjustment.

Enjoy the moonset, if you’re up early enough!