An Edinburgh View…

It was the annual Doors Open Day at the weekend and as I usually do I went out exploring. Walked from the lower east end of the New Town back up through the Old Town and to Tollcross before going for a break, several hours of walking, exploring and of course taking photos as I went. I shot a gig of pics, still culling out the duff ones, but one set I processed quickly and uploaded to my Flickr, a set shot from a vantage point I didn’t even know existed. One of the places taking part in Doors Open was the old India Buildings, which used to be offices, including the civic registry office (so there was often a lot of confetti outside the doors). At the moment it is mostly empty, plans in hand to redevelop it into something cultural hopefully, so there wasn’t a huge amount to see inside (apart from a lovely central atrium). However once through a suite of empty, dilapidated rooms on the topmost floor there was a narrow spiral staircase in a corner, only wide enough (just) for one person), which lead up to a small attic room. And as I was thinking, is that it?

I noticed outside the open window a very, very small stone balcony, invisible from the streets way below, so narrow it was only wide enough for one person, so I clambered out the window and along it, and oh, what a hidden and wonderful surprise… Views across half the Old Town of Edinburgh… Including this view of Edinburgh Castle:

An Edinburgh View 01And down into the old Grassmarket area, which contains inns that were old even when Robert Burns came to stay in them, and beyond to the large bulk of the Edinburgh College of Art An Edinburgh View 04

And historic Greyfrairs church and kirkyard, witness to some pivotal moments in Scottish and British history

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Nearby across the roofs was the lantern top of the enormous Central Library – I’ve been to several literary events in that space (multiple level library room with all those windows so high up flooding it with natural light), but I’ve never seen it from this perspective before

An Edinburgh View 07Herriot’s School, looking very much like what you would expect to see if Hogwart’s had an Edinburgh branch An Edinburgh View 012

North over curving Victoria Street to the Royal Mile and the distinctively coloured historic structure of Riddles Court, which I’ve visited on previous Doors Open (amazing interiors)

An Edinburgh View 015And a view down into Victoria Street, which curves downwards from George IV Bridge down into the Grassmarket, and which is a splendid spot for observing the multiple levels Edinburgh’s Old Town architecture exists on as it straddles the steep slopes of the great volcanic ridge which runs down from Castle Rock to the palace. Normally I am looking up at this scene of multiple levels curving around and above me, but this time I got to look down into it all – quite wonderful experience to see it all from the perspective of the eagle’s eyrie An Edinburgh View 016

An Edinburgh View 018Ah, Edinburgh, you can still surprise me after all these years living here and give me such lovely presents to point my camera at (coincidentally I noticed I just passed the 12,000 images mark on my Flickr photo stream over the weekend). There’s history and geology and literature and more embedded into this hilly, volcanic terrain and towering, ancient structures which rise from the rocks (and often cut deeps into them too, to a world below…), such a remarkable city, no wonder I love living here. Edinburgh Old Town panorama vid

Edinburgh – ‘blue hour’

It’s dark well before I leave for work at this time of year, but while some complain about the increasingly long, dark nights I see it as a chance to enjoy the city’s nocturnal face, and to take some more night shots. I was lucky enough to be walking home from work at just the right time this week to capture a ‘blue hour’ shot – a phrase used by some photographers to refer to catching an early night shot, when most of the sky has gone dark but there is still just a tiny glimmer of pale, blue light in the western horizon. Walking up the Royal Mile which runs east to west and slopes upwards along the spine of the volcanic ridge the Old Town sits on, the sky above and behind me was already dark, but just a little light still to the west, and of course on a long exposure on the camera is seems much brighter as it spent a couple of minutes drinking in the scant light. I love capturing these moments even mroe than a full night shot, you get the illuminated street scenes of a busy night-time city but also that little blue light to silhouette some of the buildings too. This image must have been shared somewhere, because my views for it went crazy on my Flickr stream – over 2600 views in less than 20 hours of posting, which is pretty satisfying. Click the pic to see the larger versions on my Flickr:

Extreme street acupuncture!

Walking home from work earlier this week on a very fine, sunny spring evening, spotted a crowd of tourists on the Royal Mile watching this street performer, Sideshow Stevie, paused on route home, had missed most of the act but did see little of his final part…

Which involved this small bed of nails, laid across his tummy

Then this fairly hefty chap climbed up and stood on the board!


Now that is a pretty extreme form of acupuncture!

Edinburgh moonrise

Moonrise over Edinburgh – spotted on walk home from work, sun almost vanished in the west, glanced over shoulder to see moon rising in a pale eastern sky. I stood to one side on the Royal Mile, right by the Mercat Cross. Stand a few feet to the left or right and this scene wouldn’t exist, but stand in just the right spot and there is is, an early spring moon rising right above the royal unicorn and saltire atop the Mercat Cross. Most folks walked past on their way home from work without even noticing. For those of us who do know to look for these things though, sometimes, just sometimes in the mundane, workaday world, you can find a moment of magic…

More photos from the Fringe

Well, that’s the world’s biggest art festival been and gone for another year, and as usual I snapped a lot of photos around the Fringe, mostly on the Royal Mile where there’s a section put aside especially for performers to gather to promote their shows (with hundreds of events you have to fight to be noticed and get an audience – not unknown for some Fringe shows to end up with just a few people in the audience in some shows, it’s a hard festival on performers and companies). I’ve actually still got a batch more to go up that I’ve not had time to process and upload to my Flickr yet (been busy with the final weekend of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, see my report the other day).

My average views on my Flickr usually go up a lot during the festival season as folks from all over look for pics from this year’s Edinburgh festivals and some of my older ones. Often I get double my normal average views. This year quite a number of times I got triple, taking me to an all time personal best, well over 6000 views in one day. Then the following day that record was smashed again with 7000-plus… Few days later 8000-plus. Topped out at just a smidgen under 10,000 at the high-water mark. Quite why it went so far beyond even the normal higher figures I usually see during the Festival I have no idea, but I’m certainly not arguing and will take ’em! Anyway, here’s a second selection of photos (click for the larger versions on my Flickr)

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(the happiest party on Earth!)

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(Performer from Fringe production of The Tempest – wonder if he is Caliban?)

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(how could you say no to a face like this?! “Dott Cotton, International Idiot”, spotted her several times miming and clowning on the Mile, very good)
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(performers from a production of The Canterbury Tales)
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(some very energetic and enthusiastic dancers)
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(Yes, it is a man dressed as a giant banana, with a mouthful of bananas, lying in a cobbled street in the historic Royal Mile. Must be the Fringe…)

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(Performers from A Note of Dischord, a steampunk tale based on Sydney Padua’s 2D Goggles webcomic)

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(performers from Music Show Wedding, a Fringe production from Korea)
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(actors from a production of Peter Pan)
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(Titus Andronicus, always a rather bloody affair…)

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(more Steampunk fun from A Note of Dischord, kindly posing with their blunderbuss)

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(dancer on the Royal Mile, gazing into her crystal ball)

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(actress from a Fringe production of Macbeth)

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(these young performers from a school in Oklahoma had a show called Shakespearience)
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(young violinist on the Mile, with a practically glowing complexion)

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(performers from A Romance)
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(‘living statue’ lady in front of Saint Giles)

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(rather fit and flexible young ballet dancer performing on one of the small stages on the Mile)

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(tell me the kid at the far left of this row doesn’t look like a young Woody Allen in this pic?)

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(performers from Hungry Bitches)

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(a nearly naked, hairy man in a tutu? Not an unusual sight in Edinburgh during the Festival…)

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(lady and her very friendly puppet friend)

Spring skyline

Walking home from work, for once the sun had come out, end of the day in very early spring, sun already low in the sky now dipping towards the western horizon, casting copper light and long shadows over Edinburgh’s spectacular skyline:

Edinburgh skyline, spring sunset 02

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A zoom in on some details of the crowded roofs of the tall buildings of the Old Town, with the spire of the Tron Kirk visible on the Royal Mile, rising above them, the peak of Arthur’s Seat prominent in the background:

Edinburgh skyline, spring sunset 09

I thought this one worked as a sort of cross-section of the Old Town, showing off the old structures which descend the steep sides of the volcanic ridge which the Old Town lies on – it’s a city of many levels, Edinburgh, and that’s before you consider what’s below ground too…

The beautiful, almost wedding cake architecture of Ramsay Gardens, surely one of the most unique set of dwelling places in the British Isles, sat literally right by the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle at the top of the Old town’s volcanic ridge, commanding views out across the 18th century New Town towards the mighty Firth of Forth, seen here catching the last rays of a spring day sun…

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Edinburgh at night

It’s that time of year where it is now dark before I leave from work to walk home, but I don’t mind that – even when darkness falls Edinburgh looks wonderful and I enjoy walking night-time streets and taking in views like this, looking down from Granny Black’s steps to the Grassmarket behind the Castle, the blander new building on the far side of the square of the Grassmarket is a modern hotel, behind and above it you can see the wonderful old structure of Herriots school; these are all improvised shots, no tripod as was coming home from work so balanced camera on timer on walls and railings:

new building and the old

Another shot from Granny Black’s Steps, looking down into Kings Stables Road which leads off from the Grassmarket – the building in the background above with the very large, brightly lit windows is the back of Edinburgh College of Art:

King's Stables Road at night

Another one looking down into the Grassmarket – the steep steps you see lead up and come out at part of the old, historic Flodden Wall by Herriots School near the University; they also feature in the wonderful animated film by Sylvain Chomet, The Illusionist:

Grassmarket at night

And this shot I have taken several times at different times of year with different cameras over the years, but when I see it like this I simply can’t resist taking another one. The Royal Mile runs east (from the bottom of the ridge at the Palace of Holyrood and now also the Parliament) west up to the Castle. And because I walk home westward at this time of year there is that marvellous quality of evening where it is fully dark but there is a lingering touch of pale light left in the western horizon, so as well as a night shot (another improv one – set timer in night mode, left shutter open, camera balanced on top of traffic bollard; I think about 2/3 of my night shots are improvised like this when I see a scene walking about town) you also get some light in the sky silhouetting the buildings. And with people walking about the busy street you also get that ‘ghosting’ effect, which I must admit I rather like. This is my walk home – isn’t it wonderful?

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View from a roof

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(dome of Old College Building at Edinburgh University on Southbridge)

The roof terrace of the modern section of the National Museum of Scotland is one of Edinburgh’s best ‘secret’ spots to take in views across the roofs of the city’s Old Town. I say secret, it isn’t really a secret, it is free and open to the public like the rest of the museum, but I mean secret as in so many people – visitors and natives – simply don’t seem to know it is there and the remarkable panorama across the city it offers. Highly recommended for a visit.

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(above: looking down on historic Greyfriars Kirk, below: top of Edinburgh’s splendid Central Library)

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(view right across the Old Town to the clock tower of the Balmoral Hotel on Princes Street, visible even over the tall buildings of the Old Town), below: fluttering flags on the roofs of the City Chambers and other buildings, bottom: dome of the Bank of Scotland HQ on the Mound)

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Riddles Court, sunny day 02

Bright, sunny, warm autumn day, really bringing out the colours in the historic Riddles Court, even in the small confines of the wee square of the court between the towering tenements of the Old Town, right off the Royal Mile, the sun still managed to creep in to light up the wonderful colour on this building and nature even kindly provided me with a lovely blue sky to contrast it against it and a few shadows from a neighbouring tenement.

Riddles Court, sunny day 01

Al Fresco album browsing

Ambling through Edinburgh’s Old Town on a Saturday afternoon recently with a friend we noticed a stall set up on Middle Meadow Walk with second hand albums, CDs and DVDs. I used to go to second hand record shops regularly when I first moved here years ago, but prices for CDs and DVDs in places like Fopp or online have dropped so much over the years that the second hand places are often not worth it, although I do find myself still going for wanders through second hand and charity bookstores (and I certainly don’t really need more books, but it doesn’t stop me!).

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al fresco album browsing 02

It’s funny though, as soon as my fingertips started flicking through the racks, especially the plastic-wrapped albums, it was like the fingers remembered this exercise from many years of browsing and I felt a curious satisfaction, half memories of browsing through old albums with pals in Glasgow or Edinburgh of a weekend in our late teens and 20s. An enjoyable way to spend some time; raking through boxes of second hand comics has a similarly satisfying feeling. And I think the fact you can come away with some purchases but only spend a small amount is kind of nice, especially with things so tight – the feeling of having bought something cool but not having made a hole in the wallet to do it. I think I came away with second hand White Stripes album and a jazz one by Courtney Pine, plus a DVD of The Goonies for the princely sum of about 7 quid. Then we wandered over the road to Sandy Bell’s for a few pints and listen to some live folk music.

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folk music in Sandy Bells 01

Like a puppet on a string

I wonder if one day that, you’ll say that, you care
If you say you love me madly, I’ll gladly, be there
Like a puppet on a string

Love is just like a merry-go-round
With all the fun in the air
One day I’m feeling down on the ground
Then I’m up in the air
Are you leading me on?
Tomorrow will you be gone?

I wonder if one day that, you’ll say that, you care
If you love me madly, I’ll gladly, be there
Like a puppet on a string

I may win on the roundabout
Then I’ll lose on the swings
In or out, there is never a doubt
Just who’s pulling the strings
I’m all tied up to you
But where’s it leading me to?

I wonder if one day that, you’ll say that, you care
If you say you love me madly, I’ll gladly, be there
Like a puppet on a string

I wonder if one day that, you’ll say that, you care
If you say you love me madly, I’ll gladly, be there
Like a puppet on a string

Like a puppet on a….. string

I loved these Fringe performers on the Royal Mile, snapped on the way home from work:

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The woman playing the puppet pulled some fabulous expressions:

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Fringe 2010 - like a puppet on a string 06

Preparing for the Tattoo

preparing for the Tattoo
Some of the grandstand seating and control tower erected on the Castle Esplanade for the annual Royal Military Tattoo which takes place during the Festival in August and these days also gets used for some concerts before and after the Tattoo. Duran Duran and Florence and the Machine were on there on Thursday night – amazing spot for a gig, the Castle gates and battlements to one side, Edinburgh at night to the other sides below your view from the top of the vast volcanic Castle Rock. Alas, also very exposed to the elements and that evening we had thunder, lightning and torrential rain, which is the drawback to that sort of venue… I have been just once to the Tattoo, not really my cup of tea, although it is quite dramatic to see a massed pipe band at night come marching out the Castle gates, which are flanked by statues of the Bruce and Wallace, fire blazing in metal braziers on the battlements above. And at the end all the lights out, even the ones which floodlight the Castle, save for one spotlight and the haunting image and sound of a single, lone piper on the wall of this ancient fortress high above the city.