Saturday, 22 December 2012

Christmas Cheer

Well I must admit, my Christmas has already started and I am well through my first tin of chocolates! It may be a few days early but all the shopping's done, the presents are wrapped and there really isn't anything else left to do.  I know at some point between Christmas and New Year that I will dread the sound, not to mention the smell, of another chocolate tin being rattled under my nose, but for now I cannot resist having chocolate in the house and not eating it. 

This year I'm off to see family so decided not to put up a Christmas tree.  Having a tree is one of my favourite bits, although decorating is not one of my strong points, with me usually ending up with a bit of a haphazard of tinsel, lights and baubles.  Fortunately my family are much better at this bit than me and will have a lovely tree ready and waiting - not so with the dinner as I am expected to cook that, so at least it will be edible!

For now though, I am enjoying a last evening of peace and quiet before hitting the mainland (weather and ferries willing).  A large G & T, some more chocolates and a roaring fire.

 So here's wishing you all a merry Christmas and a wonderful 2013

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Resorting to nepholography on Arran

Getting inspiration for photography can be a challenge for anyone doing it on a regular basis, and never more so on those dull dreary days when it never quite gets light and the wildlife goes to ground.  But I was taught that there is always a photo opportunity, so despite the dullness of the day my camera accompanied me on the daily dog walk. Not being very optimistic I decided to travel light with just one lens (attached to the camera) tucked under my coat and no tripod. 

Now I should probably let you know at this point that I decided when I started a blog that I would not let it run me and that any photo’s would have to be taken in the usual course of my week.  So if nothing exciting has been happening, or I've been doing work for clients, the daily dog walk is the best opportunity. Now it would be easy to resort to presenting doggy photographs and I'm sure at some point I will, but not today.

Travelling light also makes me really work the camera settings – I hate spending time on the computer making adjustments – trying to capture the atmosphere of the day.  Luckily for me the clouds occasionally broke and glimmers of light burst through.

And a seat that would normally be walked past suddenly looked worthy of a stop.

A touch of monochrome can also work well for clouds making them the subject of the photograph.
Did you know that someone who studies clouds is called a nepholologist and someone who photographs them a nepholographer!

Friday, 7 December 2012

A frosty welcome on Arran

There is nothing wrong with talking about the weather, actually I think women talk more about it than men (who often ramble on about football instead).  It's a great way to start a conversation, and with the exception of someone who lives in a cave underground, everyone has some knowledge of it.  This week Arran has been blessed with a few beautiful sunny mornings.

Sunny mornings often follow a clear night sky, and it being winter a crisp frost. Time to root out the de-icer and scrap off the feathery patterns on my window screen.  Seems a shame to destroy Jack Frost's artwork.

The frost doesn't last long in the sunshine but makes small dead flowers and leaves appear sugar coated. A light frost can be very photogenic, especially close up.

Foliage that is really well past its best, gets another lease of life with a dusting of ice crystals.

Even in the most boring surroundings (something that cannot be said on Arran), frozen puddles can provide a source of inspiration.  No special kit needed just a standard 55mm lens (or any compact camera), and a bit of imagination.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Go on, indulge yourself in a little misery

Well it’s been one of those weeks, you know the sort where you want to curl up under the duvet with a large bar of chocolate and a bottle of wine.  Not that I've had a crisis, I could deal with one of those, it was just lots of little irritations… the tumble dryer broke, someone said something, I broke the lens on one of my camera’s, the dog misbehaved, someone let me down, the computer hid my work in one of those never to be found again temporary files, my expensive hairdo didn't turn out quite as expected, oh the list goes on but I won’t bore you. 

So I could indulge in a little self-pity but my mother’s words ring in clearly in my head – stop feeling sorry for yourself, there’s a lot of people worse off than you!  Well yes I know that, so along with my trivial list of woes I now have a guilt trip going on!

But interspersed with the doom were little glimmers of joy and some amusement.  There was the fabulous Santa’s Sparkle event in Lamlash with a light and firework display.  The sun shone most of the week, so my outside jobs were made much more pleasurable.  Calm seas allowed for some night time eavesdropping as crew from a moored boat came ashore, not realising how their voiced travelled, I managed to do most of my Christmas shopping this weekend. Oh and I won on the lottery - no not the jackpot – do you think I would be writing a blog if I had!

Like the lows of the week the highs were nothing to write home about, but I probably wouldn't have appreciated them quite so much without those niggles.  So go on indulge yourself with a little misery, it makes the simple things in life shine so much brighter.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Waxwings invade Arran

A large number of Waxwings have invaded the Isle of Arran in search of food.  These large flocks sometimes arrive after a good breeding season followed by a poor crop of berries in their native Scandinavia. 

Amazingly they appear to swallow the berries whole!
Normally their diet consists mainly of mosquitoes caught on the wing.  Apparently the marking on the face have some relevance to this but I have no idea what.

Although very distinctive the large flocks on the move can easily be confused with starlings as they are about the same size.  However, once seen sat in the trees or feeding the differences are obvious.
The birds won't stay all winter but will move on, once our trees are emptied, most likely further south where they will spend the winter in the north of England. Amazing how my mind jumps, and thinking of the North of England and a place called Liverpool I was reminded of Cilla Black (and the red quiff she used to don), so I did have a laugh when I found out the Waxwing species is Bombycilla Garrulus!
These birds are not shy and it is easy to get fairly close with a bit of care and make great photographic subjects.
On my trip out to photo these birds I met up with the local bird ringer and was able to get some close ups of the feathers - this one being a mature male.
For some reason they seemed to like to hold on to their own toes when being handled, and were not always eager to fly away.  One literally lay in my hand until I pushed it off - I'm not sure if it was just playing dead - while sucking its toe - most peculiar. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Wet and windy on Arran

Well it was a bit wild out there this afternoon but there's nothing better than a craggy seashore on a stormy day for capturing the feel of the day.  The rocks were treacherously slippery and the sea spray viciously stung my eyes - maybe that was a clue I was a little too close to the breaking waves!

The challenge was to keep the camera dry (ish) and anyone who's done a course with me either on a wet day to capture water knows my secret for that one!

I very quickly gave up keeping myself dry when a wave crashed down my back and totally dunked the dog! Thank goodness for waterproofs.

The camera didn't stay out for long as the rain lashed down and the dog whimpered at my side - not to mention coffee and cake calling...

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The pros and cons of window feeders.

I have no idea why its frowned on to photograph birds on feeders - oh I know it can look nicer if a bird is on a tree / bush / rock etc., but that often requires time to set up a hide or feeding station, telephoto lenses and usually quite a bit of patience. The enjoyment I get from watching the birds in my garden has little to do with photography and more to do with the entertaining antics that go on around the feeders - of which there are many scattered around.

Earlier in the year I bought a window feeder - a bit expensive for a couple of pieces of plastic and 2 suction cups, but I hadn't fathomed a way of making a DIY one! I duly placed it on the window right next to my kitchen table not really expecting it to get much use.  I put a small amount of wild bird seed in the tray and went out.  Three hours later the tray was nearly empty!  Since that first day I have had a steady stream - actually I think it's been more of a stampede - visiting my window. I even get a wood pigeon, balancing on the windowsill and craning its neck round to peck at the seeds - frequently falling off the sill in a flurry of feathers.
The blue tits spend a little longer on the tray often cracking the seeds and trying to stuff as many as possible in their mouths.

It's amazing to be so close, without binoculars, to be able to watch them skilfully hold the seeds and manipulate them around.

 The blue tits seem to push off the coal tits, but are willing to share with the chaffinches.  The coal tits are very fast, flitting in and out of the tray, usually taking the largest peanut they can find. Apparently they hide them away for when food supplies are less abundant! There are frequent skirmishes between the coal tits with aggressive posturing to each other.

I was initially concerned that the birds may fly into my window and hurt themselves, but this doesn't seem to happen, although I do have a vase of flowers on the inside windowsill. However a number of birds spend time under the feeder trying to peck at the seeds above them!

So what's the down side of a window feeder?

  1. It can be very distracting to the point of making you late for work.  
  2. More feeders = more food to buy. 
  3. They are messy eaters so the path underneath the window now needs weeding.
  4. They are quite expensive.
And the up side?
  1. The birds are really close and easy to watch.
  2. The feeder is easy to fit.
  3. The tray is easy to clean.
  4. It's great fun to watch.


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Lamlash lights up the sky

Last year was the first time I experienced bonfire night in Lamlash and I have to say I was delighted to find an event way beyond my expectations.  This year the day started well, dry but cold and I set about tidying my outbuilding. 

This took a little longer than anticipated - how do these places get in such a mess, but I managed to extract a reasonably sized pile of wood to contribute to the bonfire.  This was delivered, and with lots of helpers on the beach, very quickly transported down to the already large bonfire pyre.  

The late afternoon saw a little drizzle but fortunately that cleared and clear bright skies brought temperatures falling, everything was set for a great evening. The crowds gathered and the bonfire was lit at 7pm followed by a fantastic display of fireworks. 

What I love about it all – apart from it’s free - is the fact our local fire fighters are the ones who manage the bonfire and light all the fireworks – everything is as safe as it can be.  I have no idea what would happen if they got a ‘shout’ during the event, but a least they’re already kitted up and ready to go. 

Soup and hotdogs were available on the green and for those wanting something stronger the Lamlash bay hotel bar seemed to be doing a roaring trade.