A few days ago I took a black and white photograph of a swan on the Union Canal, close to my home in Edinburgh. I’ve taken plenty of shots along the canal, including many of the swans, ducks and other wildlife that enjoy the waters, but this one, for some reason, has proved to be incredibly popular on Flickr. A simple shot, last hour of daylight (sun setting so early this time of year) giving some great reflections, and a swan which instead of paddling along was drifting, slowly, as if gently dozing, or perhaps lost in admiring its own reflection. I lined up to fit in both swan and reflection and took a pic, posted it up one evening last week, to discover by the next evening, less than twenty hours later, it had received over six thousand views. It’s now sitting just a shade under nine thousand. It had, like my recent Edinburgh in Blue Hour shot, made it onto Flickr’s Explore front page, so a lot more people saw it than usual, but even so I’m blown away with how many views, I’ve never had any shot gather to many views in such a short time (and so many favourites too). I’m also slightly puzzled – don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely picture, but I think I’ve taken many that are far better and they never got that sort of reception. Guess you can never truly predict what people will really like, and I never take a photo with number of views in mind anyway, I take them because I see something interesting, or unusual, or beautiful, and I want to capture a little of it and share it. And if people really like it even more than usual, then I’m quite happy, if slightly puzzled, but certainly happy and satisfied too…
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
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.
Chap sitting by the sea wall looking out, while the harbour mouth awaits the salty kiss of the returning tide…
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:
I was out in town to take a photo of the Easter mural at Saint John’s church on Princes Street last week (they often put up great art works commenting on current social, ethical and political events and concerns) and, having bagged my picture, I was about to head off to the Filmhouse. On a whim I decided not to go back out the gate and along the pavement and round the corner, instead opting to go down the stairs and cut through the church’s cemetery and past the fair trade shop and cafe that are underneath the church in the crypt area (the cafe has seats outside for the better weather, you can sit and have your coffee and cake but the Victorian tombs!). And I am glad I suddenly decided to cut through the kirkyard, because look at this splendid little fellow who I found poised by an old Celtic cross headstone as I walked through. I still had the camera around my neck and so very slowly picked it up so as not to frighten him off, and managed to get this shot:
To my surprise he didn’t dart off in that rapid way squirrels usually do, he stayed in his spot, little look around and then often looking right at me, as if we were having a quiet little chat, so I moved over a few feet (slowly again so as not to alarm him) and zoomed in for some more shots:
Even got him calmly looking right at me – how cute is he? And what a magnificent tail! I thought my Pandora puss had a big, bushy tail, but this is something else…
After a few moments he scarpered away over the wall and the tops of the gravestones, leapt onto a low branch and scuttled up into his tree, but before I left I noticed he had again paused and was looking right at me, so I took one last picture:
Although the kirkyard is sunken below the level of the nearby roads and streets and a nice quiet, peaceful spot, only twenty feet from where this happened are two very busy city centre bus stops and a main road, hundreds of people and vehicles passing by every few minutes in the middle of the day. No-one else came down the steps while I was there, all those people busily walking by up above on the street just feet away totally oblivious to the wonderful little scene I alone was witnessing. I love when little moments like this happen – especially when I can catch them on camera (another reason I keep my camera in my bag most of the time). With most others walking by unaware it feels like my city is giving me a little present, sharing a little moment of magic with me as a reward for being able to see such things. Little magical moments like this just make a day…
This short film by Rutger Hauer and Sil van der Woerd is as hauntingly beautiful as the lifeforms it celebrates – the last blue whale, the largest creature ever known on our life-rich world, comes eye to eye with the only predator it ever really had – a human:
Out walking in Edinburgh with my friend and his dog, at Cramond where the River Almond empties into the mighty Firth of Forth, past the wee harbour in Cramond, spotted this Heron sitting motionless on the far banking in the shadow of hanging foliage, almost didn’t notice it at first as it was in shadow and not moving, good job I had the new camera with the much more powerful zoom to snap it.
Walking along the Water of Leith, once a river full of industry, now a beautiful country walk in the middle of the city (and with some incredibly expensive properties dotted along it) we stopped to watch a heron wading for fish, its long legs moving in that slow, deliberate manner of wading birds. Right in the middle of Edinburgh. This is one of the reasons I love living here. The water of Leith passes fairly close to me and you can walk along its shady trees and use it as a quiet, off-road route to the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art and the Dean Gallery. Apparently some otters have moved back into it a bit further upstream from me, near the Water of Leith Visitor Centre (by the Union Canal aquaduct and rail viaduct), but I haven’t been lucky enough to see them yet.
If you should let sleeping dogs lie then I’d imagine you should certainly not disturb snoozing swans, given how grumpy and bad tempered they can be even when fully awake, let alone being roused from a pleasant nap. This was as close as I dared get to a couple of slumbering swans basking in the last golden rays of the setting sun by the Union Canal not far from my home, contentedly snoozing just a couple of feet from all the walkers, joggers, cyclists and canoeists. Lovely to have this so close by in the middle of a heavily populated part of a major city. If you click on the pic you can go to my Flickr stream and click the ‘all sizes’ buttons to see the much larger version; it was worth edging slowly closer to the animal as I managed to get some details of the feathers into the bigger version.
Up by the dam behind the Colzium in Kilsyth, again very icy. And walking along the path was also full of ice-choked puddles (which made very satisfying cracking sounds when you stood upon them). Then dad and I tried throwing some broken sheets of ice from the path onto the much larger frozen surface of the loch – shatter like glass then explode in a tremendously satisying explosion, fragments scattering and sliding across the ice with a great noise. Yes, I am easily amused, so what?
Damned cold at the weekend – dad and I walked along a bit of the Forth & Clyde Canal between Kilsyth and Dullatur; large chunks were slushy with chunks of ice floating in it, while other sections were frozen totally solid, even stones we threw in just skidded across the icy surface rather than breaking through to the water below. Some swans were having fun – a couple had come out of the few open water channels left and onto the ice. One seemed to be managing okay, walking slowly and carefully, the other was taking a step and those big webbed feet would just suddenly slip back and he’d land on his belly, get up, try again, another step, feet slip back, land on belly… After a few minutes of this he decided to turn and get back into the water. The sounds you can hear are from the vibrations resonating across the ice; sounds a bit like the sound sometimes heard in overhead wires or in railway lines before a train comes; the same sound could be heard when we skidded stones over bits of ice as when the swan’s feet hit the surface, just a strange vibration sound which we really liked. There are some pics from the scene here on the Woolamaloo Flickr.
Walking along the Union Canal this weekend, ducks and other birds (sadly I do not know everything and bird types is one area I am weak in – anyone know what these black waterfowl with the white bills are?) swimming around. The ducks go past, the black birds swim past, their little red-orange webbed feet just visible through the greenish water, working away like the paddles on an old Mississippi steamboat. Then suddenly they start diving. Ploop! One minute they are there, next moment only concentric ripples spreading outwards on the surface of the water to show where they had been, then suddenly they pop up again elsewhere, like a WWII German U-Boat doing an emergency surface. I had a sudden urge to do my Jack Hawkins impression and call for the depth charges…
It was very hard to capture these sudden movements on the camera, so I switched to video mode instead. You can hear a voice at the start which is a tiny little girl with her dad shouting “quack quacks!” in delight. Nearby some narrowboats which are lived on the whole year long, the restored old Leamington Lift Bridge (I don’t know why but it gives me such pleasure to see it raised and for holidaying folks to sail under it), the floating restaurant barge which cruises at the weekend, new waterfront cafes, offices and homes, the remains of the old Scottish and Newcastle brewery slowly being taken apart as the area is remade (Sean Connery lived just right round the corner from this spot as a boy and delivered milk in the area – now he comes back to the nearby cinema on a red carpet for the Film Festival every year). And this is all a short walk to my home in one direction and to Edinburgh Castle the other way. The little marvels we can see even in the middle of the city if we only stop and look for a moment and share that simple, childlike delight in these little surprises and presents the world offers us.
(apologies for the poor quality – my camera does very good video but that means big files so I need to reduce it so much to fit on YouTube it never looks right – oh well, it’s free!)