Row, row, row your boat

Arriving early for work I had a few minutes to go grab a coffee and have a walk along theĀ Promenade at Portobello. Gorgeous autumn morning, cool but beautiful autumnal light on the Firth of Forth, when I spotted the sailing and rowing club folks out in the lovely old skiff Jenny Skylark, having an early morning row, so I snapped off a few shots before I had to head into work:

The Jenny Skylark on a Morning Row 01

The Jenny Skylark on a Morning Row 02

The Jenny Skylark on a Morning Row 03

The Jenny Skylark on a Morning Row 04

A vry different scene to a month or so back when the haar had settled on the Forth – I saw the rowers out in the skiff, but only dimly, moving through the sea mist just off the shore at Porty, and managed to get these pics, very different weather from the other pics!

Rowing in the Haar 02

Rowing in the Haar 01

Rolling Waves

Tried a wee experiment this afternoon – I rarely use the video mode on my camera, but it has a facility to shoot in a smaller format than the usual widescreen version, but in a high 120 frames per second rate. It was high tide at North Berwick, and with a cold wind blowing down the coast from the Arctic, the swell was high and the waves topped with whitecaps, so I thought I would try the 120 fps mode looking out to the sea and the Bass Rock, and found it slowed the motion down in a rather nice way. Not sure what else I may try using that mode for, but quite liked the effect here:

Video - Bass Rock and Waves 120fps

And here’s a still of the Bass Rock today with the same camera:

Bass Rock and Rolling Waves

Meanwhile in Portobello this morning, after I had been in for a job interview I walked round to the promenade and had lunch by the beach, where I noticed this chap taking advantage of the coastal winds to enjoy some kite surfing:

Riding the Wind 01

Riding the Wind 03

Riding the Wind 02

Time for launch

Down on a pretty overcast, cloudy Portobello this afternoon, and saw the handsome wooden skiff Jenny Skylark being prepped for launch:

Time to Launch 01

Time to Launch 02

And there she goes, slipping into the waters:

Time to Launch 04

Time to Launch 06

Time to Launch 07

And off she goes, rowing out into a pretty misty Firth of Forth (you can just see one of the larger islands vaguely through the haar in the background):

Time to Launch 09

Time to Launch 010

As they rowed further out I took one more shot – the sea and the mist were blending into one another so much that they started to look the same, as if the boat were rowing out into a blank, white dimension…

Time to Launch 011

Meanwhile I found some of their compatriots pulling their skiff along the Promenade on wheels to get it ready for launch (either that or this is some bizarre new boat-car hybrid):

Boat Car

And on a non-related note, I spotted this bizarre sculpture on the beach – quite creepy looking thing, isn’t it? Blair Witch Beach Project, anyone??

Blair Witch Beach

Three Wise Men?

Down at Portobello with friend and his hounds for a stroll on a windy but sunny (and very mild for February) afternoon. On the way back to the car we noticed these three chaps in white robes, carrying staffs – we had seen a similar sight a year or two ago around this spot on the beach, although last time it was a larger group of men and women, all similarly attired.

Three Wise Men and the Sea 01

As with the previous time we’d seen this, they walked down towards the shoreline, then stood facing out to sea, singing to the waters beyond. I have no idea what the ceremony was about, I’m presuming it is religious. When I posted some photos of the previous group I had witnessed on my Flickr a couple of years back a friend on there commented he didn’t know what the purpose was exactly, but he had seen this ceremony carried out when he was on the coast of western Africa.

Three Wise Men and the Sea 02

Whatever it was, it was certainly different from the normal groups of joggers and do-walkers! Another good reason to always have the trusty camera with me in my satchel…

Three Wise Men and the Sea 03

Three Wise Men and the Sea 04

A day at the beach…

Look, an actual day when it wasn’t howling a gale with the rain coming down horizontally!

a sea view 01

And it was also very mild, temperature-wise, in fact too mild for me to wear my winter coat, had to slip to something lighter. Such a weird winter, we’ve had endless storms of high winds and driving rains then spells where the temperature has risen so much we’ve seen daffodils starting to poke out of the soil (even in December!) and petals appearing on the cherry blossom trees, then back to winter chills and gales again.

coming and going

But this day was dry (it even brightened up a little later too) and fairly warm for a January day, and since that coincided with a weekend lots of folks hit Portobello beach and Promenade (lots of kids wobbling around on new skates or bikes they obviously got at Christmas but have had little chance to play on because of the lousy weather). Also gave me a chance to play with the new camera (lousy weather means I’ve had little chance since I got it, especially during the sort daylight hours), still getting used to it.

beachwalking the dog

there's treasure everywhere

I wasn’t the only one taking photos of course!

the photographer on the prowl 03

While others were lost in thought

lost in thought 02

And some just happy to sit down by the sea and relax…

relaxed

a sea view 04

And there’s always coffee and snacks from the Little Green Van to perk you up on your Promenade strolling

coffee from the Little Green Van 02

(as ever click the pics for the larger versions on my Flickr)

From the other side of the Forth

Last weekend went off with chum for drive over the Forth, ended up at Loch Leven (where, among others things, the castle on an island in the loch was once prison to that unfortunate lady, Mary Queen of Scots), then over to the Fife coastal route back home, paused for the traditional bag of chips on the seafront at Burntisland, then head for home. When you follow the coastal road out of Burntisland it goes up quite high and gives spectacular views across the mighty Firth of Forth, not least towards the wonderful Forth Rail Bridge, which rises from the waters like some Victorian steel sea beast:

Forth Brig, spring evening 01

Forth Brig, spring evening 02

That same vantage point also offers views of my home, Edinburgh, from a different perspective, viewed from the opposite side of this vast river which cuts its way right into the geology and coast of the land. In this one (if you click to go to the larger versions you can see on my Flickr pic) you can just make out Edinburgh Castle on the centre right of the photo, glimsped from the Fife side of the river looking over to the capital:

Edinburgh from the other side of the Forth 03

And in this view of the harbour, docks and new buildings around the port of Leith you can also see the Royal Yacht Britannia on the far left. Images are not as clear as I’d like but on max zoom shooting through a lot of atmosphere and over water so they were never going to be as sharp as I would like. Still a wonderful view to see parts of my city from that angle.

Edinburgh from the other side of the Forth 02

And here’s the distinctive shape of Arthur’s Seat, the summit and the outline of the Salisbury Crags, the vast extinct volcano which sits at the heart of Edinburgh and is visible for miles around, it and the the volcanic ridge it caused (on which the Old Town perches and the Castle sits at the highest point) and the other hills help give Edinburgh its spectacular background, like few other cities in the world. Also keeps you fit walking and cycling up and down all those slopes! That’s why we need so many pubs to take a little rest in… You can see from this why this area has been settled for thousands of years – Edinburgh Castle is an ancient and imposing fortress, but millennia before it was built our Iron Age ancestors – and probably even earlier peoples – had fortifications on the side of Arthur’s Seat, offering them security, natural fortifications and views across the land and river to Fife, and even down the coast to North Berwick. You can see from this why an early people would choose to settle there.

Edinburgh from the other side of the Forth 01

Low tide

Musselburgh harbour at very low tide – looks almost like you could walk out off the beach and right into the harbour mouth – I don’t recommend it, tried that once at low tide, but the sand near the entrance becomes increasingly ‘sinky’ and unwilling to tolerate the weight of any creature heavier than a mudlarking bird

Musselburgh Harbour, low tide 01

I’ve understood how the tides work since I was a boy reading my astronomy books, but even now as an adult I still find it a little bit magical that somewhere like a harbour can become absolutely empty of water, the boats left on the mud, high and dry, tilted over on their keels, awaiting the return of the water to float them again and make them useful.

Musselburgh Harbour, low tide 06

Chap sitting by the sea wall looking out, while the harbour mouth awaits the salty kiss of the returning tide…

Musselburgh Harbour, low tide 07

Meanwhile nature makes good use of the changing conditions tidal spaces bring each day (twice), with birds probing at the wet sand in the harbour floor with their specially adapted long beaks, looking for supper. Odd to see them walking pass the bottom of the hulls of boats knowing that in just a few hours this will all again be submerged, the floor hidden and the boats bobbing up and down on the water. The birds had colouring on their feathers that made them blend in very well with their surroundings, had to wait for them to walk near a small muddy pool to try and get some contrast to make them stand out even this little amount:

Musselburgh Harbour, low tide 09

Looking at the sea

Sometimes you just come across the simplest scene – a woman sitting with her back to you, looking at the sea, a couple walking in the background on the beach, low winter sun casting long shadows – and somehow you think hey, this would make a decent photo. I have no idea why but in colour I just knew it wouldn’t look like much, but shot in black and white it suddenly had something…

looking at the sea

sunset

This afternoon, down where the River Esk flows out into the mighty Firth of Forth in Musselburgh, looking back across a very swollen high tide towards Edinburgh and the hills as the sun set behind the city and turned the world copper.
setting sun, the Forth, Edinburgh
Funny, but although I’ve been on the beach on the opposite bank many times I hadn’t been to this spot – just near the race course, behind the some houses, where there’s a bit of a peninsula made from the clinker and ash from the nearby power station. And for some reason right next to the junction of the two rivers there’s this giant blue arrow in a small park. Why? Turns out that it was originally put there right next to the river to let RAF bomber crews line up for their bombing run on a floating target out on the Forth. I had no idea this was here.
this way

Stormy weather

Down to Portobello this afternoon with my mate and his dog to let him have a run around off the leash on the beach (the dog, not my friend), only to find what was a cold wind in the city centre of Edinburgh was a howling gale coming right off the North Sea at Porty, whipping the waves up into big foaming gray peaks and slamming right into the sea wall so hard they splashed right up the side, across the Esplanade and hit the wall of the structure on the other side. That was when we decided to walk around the block at the worst bit šŸ™‚ Pictures are a bit fuzzy, the wind was so high my camera lens, glasses and my face were all getting whipped by flying sand granules and salt spray, had to clean them repeatedly but within minutes they just got covered with a film of it again.
stormy weather 07
stormy weather 05
stormy weather 10
stormy weather 12

Achtung! Destroyer!

Cramond 3
Many of the islands – or inches as they are known – in the Firth of Forth sport structures to fortify them from throughout our long history, most notably additions for the two World Wars to protect the vast, strategic river opening into the North Sea and the important Rosyth Naval Dockyard a little further upriver. You can see structures from 12th century abbeys to 1940s blockhouses on the various islands. Legend has it that this particular one just off Cramond had its buildings specifically arranged to create the illusion of the silhouette of a Royal Navy destroyer. On a murky, overcast, misty day like this one it has to be said it does look remarkably like a destroyer in profile and its hard to believe that’s coincidence. I’d imagine a U-Boat captain peering through a periscope, probably at night or under cover of fog, seeing this would probably reversing engines schell! Which was probably the idea.