Moonrise Kingdom

I was out taking some night shots in Edinburgh this evening – I say night, but actually I started around half past four in the afternoon as the sun has set by then at this time of year! Looking over from Princes Street Gardens to the Old Town on its volcanic ridge I could see a half moon rising in the winter night over the Bank of Scotland headquarters on top of the Mound, where the road snakes up from the New Town to the Old Town. Magical scenes like this are one of the reasons why I love living in Edinburgh, it has the most beautiful cityscape in the world (click to see larger version on my Flickr).

winter moon rising over Old Town

First snow

First snow pics I’ve taken this winter, just a very light fall in Edinburgh on Sunday – nothing like this time last year when we were knee deep and basically dealing with very heavy snow and ice for weeks on end. Just a little bit scattered across the town, like these patches on Arthur’s Seat today at dusk:

Arthur's Seat, December day, first snow

And as we drove around a slushy, icy road in Holyrood Royal Park past Arthur’s Seat I saw this pale moon rising at dusk over the ancient rocks; shot out of window of friend’s car, amazed it came out…

midwinter moonrise

Happy Saint Andrew’s Day

It’s Saint Andrew’s Day again in Scotland, here’s a night shot I managed to improvise of Edinburgh Castle lit up in blue like our Saltire especially for the occassion. I was on my way home from my book group so didn’t have a tripod, but when I saw this I improvised, jammed the camera as best I could between some railings above Princes Street Gardens and tried to brace it to hold it steady enough for a night shot, helped by it being lighter than usual with all the snow we had at the time reflecting a lot more ambient light and after a few shots one finally came out reasonably well (click for larger image on my Flickr):

Edinburgh Castle, Saint Andrew's Night

Winter poem

A friend at LittleBrown publishers asked to use one of my photographs to go on a newsletter from Scots author Alexander McCall Smith, to accompany the Winter Poem:

That there should be winter, that this hard light
Should fall over a December Scotland,
Should make the sea gray, like steel, and the land itself
A rock rising from metalled water;
That there should be empty skies,
Free of protecting cloud, too cold
Even for that; that there should be
A vapour trail of some great jet heading west
To the colder shores of Greenland, Labrador,
Northern neighbours to us, distant cousins
In our marginality and our pursuit of fish;
That all this should be in a land that in summer
Is so soft and wet with drifting veils of rain
And filled with deer and clouds of midges
And the rich fecundity of ploughed fields
That will yield gold barley and whisky
Beyond the barley –

Scotland is a country of the north,
Everything here cries north; north the natural
Orientation of all our signs, our habits;
I sometimes wish, I confess, for a life spent
In the scent of wild thyme and olive trees,
For evenings when one might stroll
Slowly about a square and watch pigeons
Launch themselves into Italian air
From some tower dreamed up
By some High Renaissance imagination;
That, though, is not where we are from
Or where we are destined to be;
Our place is north, our natural gravity
That of a land that is an afterthought
To Europe, a land that comes late
To so many of the parties it’s been invited to,
But which we love with all our heart,
With all our heart.

Winter doesn’t make us better, then, or worse,
But enables us to find ourselves again,
Because it forces us to be quiet, obliges us
To listen to the coursing of our own blood;
Winter reminds us that warmth
Is not something we find naturally,
Some gift of munificent nature, but must be made;
That we should make in Scotland
A small place of warmth, a small country
Of kindness to others, of brotherhood,
Is what our poets have been striving to say
Since they first gave voice to song.
That we might find this, in winter,
In the ice and the cold is a local miracle,
Is a particular joy.

Iron road to the Highlands 20

The photo, by the way, was shot by me just under 3 years ago on my way to Inverness as the train moved up through the Cairngorms national park, past snow covered mountains, white-dusted trees and the occassional deer walking by the edge of the railway line. I shot some photos through the window glass, not sure if they would work or not. This particular on was taken as the train crossed a bridge and as I did a flock of birds soared into the frame for good measure. I got lucky and the shot worked, despite shooting through a window.

Christmas market at night

The traditional Winter Wonderland in Princes Street Gardens is up and running, the small fair and the German Market on the Mound. I felt very sorry for them during the heavy snow, all set up but with hardly anyone going round them due to the weather. Even the other night when I took some of these it was much quieter than it usually is, despite there being no snow for a few days. Bitterly cold, sure, but it always is in December when this is here and it doesn’t stop people, but a week to Christmas and even on late night opening there were people around but nowhere near as busy as I normally see it at this time of year. Still pretty to walk around though, the light and warmth and the smell of hot, spiced drinks and food against the cold, dark, winter night.

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Just as I pressed the shutter the lady leaned forward with something from the stall and kids all smiled at just the right time. Sometimes you get lucky in street photograpy (and also lucky it came out considering it was night and it was all freehand and no use of flash)

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Chocolates and sweeties!

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Hot, spiced drinks warm the bones in the cold night

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Toys!

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Sausages!

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Looking across Princes Street Gardens, the ice rink down below in the valley, the National Gallery of Scotland behind it and above it all Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh in the snow

Crikey, the improvised night shot I did of Edinburgh Castle covered in snow and lit a special blue for Saint Andrew’s Day on the 30th (see here) has now had over 800 views on my Flickr page in just 4 days. To put that in perspective my normal views average for my whole Flickr stream is around 750 – 900 a day, depending on if I have just posted something that gets a lot of interest, or if it is something tied to events people are following (like during the Edinburgh Festival, my Fringe pics viewings were mental). But 800 odd views in 4 days? Pretty please with that, especially for a picture I improvised by jamming the camera between railings to get a decent night shot when I didn’t have a tripod. And talking of improvised night shots, here are some more I shot around town in the snow on the way home. This pair are from North Bridge, which spans the valley between the Old and New Town, the first looking along Market Street and the edge of the Waverley Station, past the City Art Centre on the left and towards the Mound with the Bank of Scotland’s impressive headquarters and the Castle in the background:

snowy Edinburgh from North Bridge 02

And this one towards Princes Street Gardens and the Scott Monument, over the roof of Waverley Station’s west side; you can see the lights of the Winter Wonderland (very appropriate given the snow) and the lights of the German Christmas Market:

snowy Edinburgh from North Bridge 01

And this one is taken a couple of minutes from my work, it’s the Royal Mile in the snow, again improvised (being sans tripod) by simply setting the camera up on timer and sitting it on one of the bollards that stops vehicles using the Mile most of the time and letting it go. Quite pleased with this one, actually, given it was so improvised, like the red of the traditional (and now rare) British telephone box against the snow. Hard to believe just 12 weeks or so back I was shooting incredibly busy Fringe scenes here with wall to wall tourists and performers doing their bit to attract folks to their shows:

Royal Mile, winter night

And away from the night scenes here’s some from a snow walk around the Water of Leith then along the Union Canal; this is where the train viaduct and the canal aquaduct cross the Water of Leith, near the visitor centre:

Water of Leith, winter 08

There were plenty of snowmen around but someone had created a whole snow family here, sitting on a fallen tree trunk by the Union Canal in Harrison Park, as if they were watching the ducks and swans using the small part of the canal that wasn’t yet frozen. It had been a bright day but then suddenly faded and this snowy mist rose in the background, giving everything this eerie blue light quality which I thought was like the sort of light quality they use in movies when they want to hint it’s spooky or it’s night, or it’s night and spooky, but it’s the way it was, I don’t use Photoshop to fiddle my pics. The Guardian’s Edinburgh blog picked up on this one and featured it on Monday, which was rather pleasing:

three snowmen by the canal

Saint Andrew’s Day

It’s Saint Andrew’s Day in a very snowy Scotland and Edinburgh Castle has been specially lit with a pale, blue light, reminiscent of our Saltire. I managed to get a shot this evening on the way home from the book group tonight, no tripod with me as I had gone right from work to the group meeting, so improvised (as I do for most of my night shots!), jammed camera as best I could between the railings of Princes Street Gardens just above the Ross Bandstand. Seems to have worked, although it meant I couldn’t angle the camera as I’d like to get the whole thing in – did try that but camera wasn’t steady enough, came out blurred, so have to settle for this one – I do like the light in conjunction with all the heavy snow we’ve had, makes an eerie effect, almost like something from a fantasy film:

Edinburgh Castle, Saint Andrew's Night

First snow

Coming round the south side of Arthur’s Seat this afternoon I could see out towards the Pentland Hills on the edge of southern, suburban Edinburgh and oh look, the first snow I have seen this winter (although I know there’s been some up in the Cairngorms already). Ironically the snow stopped before the part of the hills over a little to the right of this pic where the dry ski slope centre is :-) Actually although a little cool it was actually not a bad day either, mostly sunny, no wind, but the previous two days and nights were cold and very wet, so I assume the cold rain must have turned wintery over the hills. Sure there will be more of this in the next few months!

first snow on the Pentlands

Update: the Guardian’s Edinburgh blog has linked to this pic on my Flickr in a post.

Spring time in Scotland

It’s, Scotland, it’s Easter, it’s spring time… So, plenty of snow then… Walking in the Pentlands today, snow left from the dreadful weather earlier this week which dumped snow over a lot of Scotland and storms that have made a mess of a lot of bits of the coastline. Some of it has melted away but in the Pentlands on the edge of Edinburgh it’s still lying there, from light dusting on some spots to seriously deep snow in other spots, coming up our shins almost to our knees.

snowy Pentlands 01

Walking up the hill the skyline gave a great effect, making it look like the clouds were rising up from below the horizon:

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Walking through snow is tiring, time for a breather; this also means time for Bruce the dog to scrounge a biccie from his master:

Gordon and Bruce on snowy Pentlands 02

You can see Edinburgh spread out in the background here (click for the larger version on Flickr):

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Brrrsville!

Walking along the gorge of the River Almond by the weir and ruined old mill by Cramond, big chunks of ice floating in the river, large, flat sheets which the ducks were using to sit on, and huge rows of icicles hanging down from the overhanging rocks like enormous fangs. Couldn’t resist taking some pics and shooting a brief video 360; the roar of water over the weir and the current in the river below it were both very strong, presumably with some of the snow and ice melting into it (going to be a lot more of that over the UK when the cold snap actually lifts properly). The temperature was actually slightly better during the daylight hours today than it’s been recently, but on the banks of the nearby Forth the ferocious wind felt like it was straight from the Arctic. Still, at least it was good for the kite surfers who were having fun when we passed along the windswept and still icy prom.

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icicles 01

The mysterious White Isles…


Somewhere, legend tells us, off the western end of the dark sea by the very edge of the known world lie the mysterious White Isles, a strange land blanketed in snow and ice where few may travel… How cool is this NASA satellite image of frozen Britain (via the BBC)? There’s barely a scrap of colour to be seen, the entire British Isles appears to be white (must be a BNP dream!). Check the larger version on the Beeb site, its beautifully detailed and clear, you can easily see Loch Ness and the Great Glen in the north of Scotland while the western coast of Scotland looks astonishing

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 :-) 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.
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