September 2015 – Kat Folan

Simon and I decided that we would travel North for a change.

A casting was produced, and from the respondents, the wonderful Kat Folan was chosen.
This was primarily a research and testing mission, and as Simon and I have very little knowledge of “The North”, Kat was our guide.

Our favourite spot was the fantastic Slains Castle, somewhere north of Aberdeen.

2015 – July

Summer holidays … gotta love them.

I thought I’d take the kids wild-camping (or as us of a certain age know it – camping) and things were looking bleak.

The night was chosen, and the bags packed.
And it rained. In fact, it didn’t just rain … it rained. I thought I was going to have to buy a boat, not a tent.

So we cancelled that night and picked another. These weather apps are bloody amazing. Never has it been possible to have so much incorrect information to hand about the weather at any one time.

Anyway, night chosen and it had to be stuck to, rather than face the looks of trembling disappointment again.

So off we went, to the deepest darkest depths of rural Dumfries and Galloway, with the fine Scottish sunlight falling from the sky in an almost horizontal direction. Yep, it was bloody raining again.

Pride before a Fall and all that

I had mentioned to Jen, my wife that I was considering buying a bag of dry firelogs to take with us. These are bricks of compressed wood chippings that have a burn life of about 4 to 6 hours. We were going overnight, so a bag of 6 was going to be more than enough.

After a stern talking to, where my male pride was dented with taunts along the lines  of “Bear Grylls can light a fire with a dishrag and a damp boy scout” I caved and decided that we would use the resources that nature provided; camping in a wood the bounty should be plentiful.

And it was.

To say the branches laying around was water-logged would not do it justice. You could wring the water out of it, and what wasn’t wet, was still growing.

Cheat? Or Get Eaten Alive by Indigenous Wildlife 

BBQ lighting gel may be suitable for lighting BBQ’s, but it’s chuffing useless at lighting wood that’s been underwater more times than HMS Astute.

After a couple of hours of giving the midges a free meal, I’d had enough … and the kids weren’t fairing too well  either.
Out came the special pot … chaffing gel. You know, the stuff they use in restaurants to keep your food warm.
As a fire lighter, it is bloody superb, it really is. Built the fire around the tin, lit the gel and off it went.
And because the wood was soaking wet – possibly deck planks from HMS Astute – we had a great little smoky fire, and the midges had to feast on what ever it is they eat when there isn’t a human about.

 

2015 – July – Thornton Fever Hospital

 

And no one called us to the land
And no one knows the where’s or why’s.
Something stirs and something tries
Starts to climb toward the light.

Echoes
Echoes

Simon came round last night and on the spur of the moment, we went up to the old Fever Hospital at Thornton. We’d previously visited the site in May and while there discussed the shoot potential of the site.
It’s popularity as a location seems to be growing amongst photographers in this neck of the woods, even with people bringing their own props – and leaving them there – as well as models.
Last nights visit was a spur of the moment thing, and after wading through soaking wet nettles, grass and thistles (rain seems to be a predominant feature of us visiting this site as it was tipping it down last time too) we went for a wander around in the fast fading light

Simon did his bit, go his shot, and then I did my thing. We always try to do different things when out together, with varying degrees of success, and sometimes we do use bits of each others setups. In this case, the prop was already there (it wasn’t there in May).

 

 

 

2015 – May – Street Photography

Simon and I went to Glasgow for a bit of urban street photography.
(We also bumped in to and assisted a friend who was having a shoot in the park that we were in … and none of us knew that the other party was going to be there, in that city, on that day, at that time. Spooky)

Being us, we don’t really do traditional street stuff, so here’s my take …

2015 – April: night time

I thought that I would take the Canon out for a spin; I also wanted to see how the Sony to Canon adapter worked in the darkness.

Neither of us we particularly healthy, so we just stayed local – Abercorn.

Abercorn is a beautiful little hamlet, boarding the grounds of Hopetoun House, and has access to the Firth of Forth.

It’s also a great place, with a long enough lens, to shoot the bridge construction

North Bridge Pier
North Bridge Pier

We then went back to the church and did some more traditional night stuff …

 

Abercorn Church
Abercorn Church

There was a really bright full moon, and this was the only light source for the above image

2015 – March – Alternative Lighting

There was some major sun-spot activity, and increased sun-spots means an increase in the Northern Lights activity.

There had been solar-storm warnings, and this was expected to make the Lights visible as far south as Estonia.
So, armed with camera and tripod, off I went.

I didn’t go far, as the fog had come in, and the sky was 100% cloud.
So I shot this instead …

Misty night
Misty night

 

Staying local, there is a large old Scots Pine (if it wasn’t for the fog you could see it in the image above) near me that I’ve been wanting to shoot for a while … but make it different.

No cloud, no moon … hmm why not.

Off I trundled, camera, tripod and timer in hand and shot some star trails over the top of the tree.

This is 60 x 30 second images that have been layered together to show the motion of the Earth. I could have done this as one exposure, however the amount of light pollution would have meant a really rubbish image.

Dedrige Monarch
Dedrige Monarch

The Milky Way over the top of this tree would be a great shot, but unless there is a power cut that affects the entire central Scotland belt, I don’t think it’s going to realistically happen.

 

2015 – Feb – Eyemouth – 644 seconds to show for 10 hours

1st February saw William, Kenny and I on a trip out.
We met at midnight at mine, with a view to driving to a loch near Eyemouth for some star trails and lightpainting.

When we got there at a little after 0100, things were a bit wild – the loch was throwing up white horses, and it was a tad windy.

So, we went for a stroll around the loch, looking at the wind and the very heavy amount of moisture in the air – well, sleet, actually and decided we would head off in to Eyemouth it’s self.

The wind was throwing the breakers over the storm wall of the harbour, and over the promenade – which would have been great for a daylight shot, but totally useless for long exposure – all the drama would have been lost in the long exposure as the sea would have been left somewhat milky looking – so again the camera stayed in the bag.

We went back to the loch, and it was just as bad as when we left it, so we then went to a cliff top … probably not the best idea given the wind, but determined to make the best of a bad lot, we sat there for a while having a brew and hoping for a break.

The break didn’t happen, so we went out there anyway and set up for some long exposure and light painting work.

It was dark – really dark
It was cold – 3 degrees C
It was windy – gusts of up to 35 mph … wind chill factor of minus 6
The cloud didn’t break, and even a couple of hundred foot back, and about 70 foot up, the kit was covered in spray.

Still, it was good fun

644 seconds, ISO 200, f3.6
644 seconds, ISO 200, f3.6
Weather graph from Eyemouth for the time we were there.
Weather graph from Eyemouth for the time we were there.

2015 – January – The Dragonfly and the Coot

January has been a bit of a mixed bag so far.

It’s been cold, wet, windy and snowy. In fact, the weather has been against me as every time the skies been clear, I’ve gone out to try to re-take star trails over Dedridge Pond, and within 10 mins of setting up, the clouds have came and hidden every thing, so I’ve given up and gone home.

I set out to take some long exposures of the weir at the pond and I’d just shot this image

20140110_mucking-12-Edit
Dedridge Pond – 1/40th Second, f18

and out came the snow
Snow’s a bit of an understatement.
Blizzard, really.

So I retreated under the bridge to keep the kit dry … and to carry on shooting

Dedridge Pond
Dedridge Pond – 121 Seconds at f13

and from a slightly different angle

Dedridge Pond
Dedridge Pond – 76 seconds @f13

So I went out one night around the pond in the snow. It was clear – and bloody cold – and after I set up, out came the clouds and the clear skies vanished, along with the stars, leaving a flat, boring orange sky.

Swans
Swans – 52 seconds at f10
The Walkway
The Walkway – 61 seconds at f10
The Dragonfly and the Coot - 70 seconds at f10
The Dragonfly and the Coot – 70 seconds at f10

 

2014 – December – on the hunt of the Meteor Storm

The Germalid Meteors were coming and I wanted some of that.

Unfortunately … they didn’t want any of me. Even at 2am on a very cold and desolate Saturday morning …

This is the only Meteor I was able to capture ... in 4 hours!
This is the only Meteor I was able to capture … in 4 hours!
The moon really screws up star trails ... as does a frozen lens!
The moon really screws up star trails … as does a frozen lens!

 

2014 – November – Bangour Hospital Village

Bangour Hospital Village is a massive sprawling site just outside of Livingston and has been disused as a hospital for many years.
In it’s life it has been a Veterans Hospital, a hospital for patients with psychiatric disorders and a satellite day centre for St Johns.

The grounds are open to the public and is a great dog walking (not dogging) area, with it’s mixture of empty roads, open spaces and trees. The buildings are in severe disrepair,  and all except the church have been bricked up to prevent entry (risk of collapse and asbestos).

Further information on the site can be found here.

Bangour Site
Over view (some) of the site, showing the boiler house (chimney to the centre) and the church (top right).

The general Public have to leave the site by sun down, and if any linger, the on-site security team have no problem in kicking them off …

Except for two nights only, Simon and I were granted unprecedented night-time access to the site, to lightpaint some of the buildings.

Bangour Night

The weather was absolutely horrendous; it threw it down with good old Scottish liquid sunshine – even when it got dark.
The result – unfortunately was the majority of images shot were ruined by water on the lens. Due to the size of the buildings, the average exposure time was around the 5 minutes mark, and that’s more that enough time for the lens to be totally covered in rain and the image damaged beyond my Photoshop skills.

Night Wing
Before the rain really came down, I was able to shoot this
Bangour Church
After thoroughly drying our kit, we moved across the site to the church. The rain stopped just long enough to shoot this, however the low-lying rain clouds mean that the sky is just a mass of orange glow from the reflected street lights of Livingston and Edinburgh

Shortly after we shot the church, the rain re-started with vengeance, and there was little point in continuing.

I would like to thank the people  that granted permission to Simon and I to gain access at night, and to the security team who thought we were made, but understood what we were doing.

It would be fantastic if we got the chance to go back one night – however that’s in the lap of the gods.

The site is in the process of being sold off, with a view to convert it in to a housing estate. The Grade A listed buildings will stay – the church, community hall and the nurses block – however the rest will be demolished if the sale goes ahead. It will be a shame, as the area is well loved among the local community, however seeing the site how it is, is also a shame.