With it being dark not long after four in the afternoon now it’s a lot easier to take night shots, without having to wait till much later at night and then stand around with camera and tripod as drunks come out the pubs! I was taking a few photos in Saint Andrew Square, one of two large, grand squares (along with Charlotte Square, home to the Book Festival each August) at either end of the Georgian-era New Town part of Edinburgh. In recent years the gardens in the centre of the square have been opened up to the public again and it’s a busy spot with folks coming and going, or using the garden paths as a shortcut to the other side of the square. I had been taking pics of the column and the new, small glass coffee store all lit up in the dark of a corner of the gardens when I looked behind me and realised that the wet, glistening path lined up perfectly with the vista of broad and rather posh George Street leading west, last glimpse of twilight still in the western sky. And I thought why have I never stood here and lined up this shot before? Especially at just the right time of evening where it is dark but with that last little light of dusk still in the west:
(as ever click to see the larger versions on my Flickr)
This is a zoom in on the statues that line the top of one the large, old bank headquarters on Saint Andrew Square – shot them before bathed in sunlight but not at night, the long exposure had the side effect of giving the fluttering flag this cool sense of movement which I was quite pleased with:
And here’s Sir Walter Scott, seated between the enormous pillars of the soaring Scott Monument – again I have taken various shots and angles of Watty’s statue over the years but for some reason had never thought to zoom in and line it up so the illuminated clock of the Balmoral Hotel’s tower in the background would show over it like this at night, just noticed it while taking other pics nearby and realised it would make a nice picture. Funny how I have taken night shots around there so many times before but that perspective never occurred to me. One of the nice things about taking a lot of photos is sometimes you just see something you know very well in a different way because of the time of day (or night in this case), weather, season, just looking at it slightly differently…
In recent years pavement cafes and bars have become much more common even in Scotland, partly being a bit more Continental but also, I suspect, fuelled by the smoking ban inside bars and restaurants (and what a difference that made, nice to be able to enjoy a pint without leaving smelling like an old ashtray from second hand smoke). For the most part its rather nice sitting outside to enjoy a beer or coffee though so its a change I like, except when some establishments put out chairs and tables in very innapropriate places (like fairly narrow pavements, there are some places they just shouldn’t be) or when you get ignorant folks who keep dragging the chairs out further until they’re blocking too much pavement and forget folks actually need to talk past them. But on the whole its quite nice we’ve got a lot more of this now. This was a quickly fired off snap in Edinburgh’s New Town; I especially like the young guy sitting on the steps nearby looking over at the tables.
Last weekend was the annual Doors Open Day, when buildings not normally open to the public let people into visit. I’m still sorting a stack of photographs I shot as we tramped all round town, from designer make-overs by local architectural practises in old mews buildings to places like the observatory on Calton Hill and the Royal College of Physicians in the New Town. I’ll post a few more when I get time to sort them out, but I thought I’d kick off with these few shots taken in their two libraries; these are rare 17th century medical volumes, which the College Fellow on duty in the library was kind enough to let me photograph as long as I obviously refrained from using the flash (in stark contrast to the folks at Scottish Heritage who didn’t allow any photography even of the Georgian rooms, which seems extremely backward to me if you are inviting in visitors, especially if you are a public body – bad marks to SH, big thumbs up to the RCP who really made an effort to make visitors welcome and encouraged photo-taking).
Apologies for the reflections here, but as the books were under glass there wasn’t really anyway round them – it was either reflections of the lights or stand right over it and get my camera in the reflections, but the quality of the draughtmanship here was far too good not to try taking a pic. These books pre-date the Act of Union between Scotland and England.
Just look at the detail in this anatomical study of the human skeleton and musculature; the cross hatching and shading is amazing. More so when you consider this is around three centuries old and an artist created this by hand and another artist would then have laboriously created a negative inscribed into a copper plate for printing. Books like this, being disseminated all over Europe by groups like the Royal College, are physical artefacts of the birth of the modern era, the move from superstition to reason and science, exploring the natural world and our own physiques to find new wonder even the greatest minds of Classical Antiquity could never have dreamed of. They are also gorgeous works of craftsmanship and art. A modern Gray’s Anatomy (a standard text for most doing medical degrees) may be more informative and accurate, but it lacks the elegance and beauty of this work.