Tuesday, 28 May 2013

A Carbon Suspension

As I've mentioned in previous blogs I like a photographic challenge and this one fired my imagination after I’d seen a couple of interesting pictures in an article and I couldn't work out how they’d been taken.  So despite the article repeatedly mentioning ‘patience’ as being a key element for the task, I had an hour to spare (actually I was distracted away from what I should have been doing) and my carbon suspension was burning merrily in the corner of the room.

Who's watching over you?
Now it is fair to say that my suspension probably contained a lot of other particulate material as it was a fairly obnoxious incense stick, but it burned slowly and with a consistent stream of pale grey smoke.
Rose Garden
Smoke is a fairly complex substance and even Leonardo Da Vinci (c1480) made comment and compared black smoke (carbon based), with white smoke (water based).  I can only presume my grey smoke was a combination of the two.
And so the challenge began with choice of background, lighting methods and the best camera settings to use.  It was a surprise as to just how fast the smoke moved and there were several obstacles to overcome, not least getting the pattern of smoke where I wanted it, to achieve anything like a good result.

Ventilating the room (a total must) created drafts and eddies and allowed excess light in through the doorway; focus points moved and I abandoned the tripod quite quickly; and then there was the need to light the smoke trails. 
The proposal
But a quick hour resulted in a couple of nice piccies – but maybe this is one challenge I will only task my more advanced students with!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Bluebells in the Bronze Age!

 These little blue gems which appear around April and May, carpeting woodland floors, have an amazing history in the UK, where it is though around 50% of the world’s bluebells grow.

The flowers tend to lie on one side of the stem and droop once they are open.  As the name describes they are bell shaped and range from blue to violet.  Occasional white flowers can be found and may be genetic mutations. Most striking is the fabulous scent that they produce which adds to the delight of wandering though bluebell carpets.

Bluebells are native to the UK, although there are some Spanish ones around and these have mixed with the native variety.  The Spanish ones can be white or pink, but the most obvious difference is that they have very little or no scent.

Arran is steeped in history from the Bronze Age and it is likely that glue made from bluebells was used to attach feather to hunting arrows.  In more recent times Bluebell glue was also used to bind books.

Bluebell roots were also used to make starch to stiffen clothing, particularly collars and ruffs in the Victorian era.

Like many native wild flowers, bluebells are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, and it is illegal to dig up the bulbs for sale or profit.  In all cases removing the plant, even for preservation reasons requires permission from the landowner (as most bluebells are found in woodlands there is always a