The subway that runs under the road connecting the Potterrow student union to the back of the Old College and the National Museum of Scotland has often caught my eye because of its shape and the perspective it creates. Walking past it at night, though, it made me think of something from an old sci-fi movie – the concrete underpass where the Droogs beat up a man in Clockwork Orange, perhaps.
Or, on a lighter note than that, it reminds my geek brain of the fighter launch tubes from the 1970s Buck Rogers, or Battlestar Galactica (albeit a much more monochromatic one!).
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…
A couple of evenings ago I was drinking in the city’s Grassmarket, an area I rarely drink in these days – its mostly tourists and first year students who go there – but I was meeting some friends who have been working abroad and arranged to meet several folks there. The whole square has been done up recently to make it more open; if you don’t know the city its a square behind and below the imposing bulk of Edinburgh Castle in the Old Town, one side lined with pubs and inns, some of which are very old (going back to the 1500s), some of which, when they were actual coaching inns, played host to Robert Burns on visits to Edinburgh. And as we sat outside on a warm evening we heard music. Not unusual in a public square, especially during the Edinburgh Festival. And we all turn to see where it is coming from and we see a man in evening dress and top hat cycling his piano through the Grassmarket as he plays. When I told other people of this the next day I got the ‘oh, Joe’s off on one of his magical fantasy land tales again’ looks, but I have documentary evidence:
I must apologise for the low quality of the pics, but shooting freehand (not that a tripod would have helped if I had it since he was moving most of the time) in a dark square at night is never going to give crisp, clear pics and the flash wasn’t much use in that situation either. But I had to try and grab some pics because even in Festival time Edinburgh you just don’t see a man cycling a piano through the city streets at night all that often. It was all wonderfully eccentric and delightful and magical and I loved it. Little bizarre delights like this that the city sometimes just throws up to you are part of what makes life fun. And here’s a very short video clip – its brief and even darker than the still pics, very murky night-time streets (and far away from the street lamps) but it was the best I could do on the spot to give you a tiny taste of this piano moving through the streets as he played:
This time last year I was getting all excited about going to Paris and feeling the beat and rhythm of the City of Lights, the air, the language, the buzz on the busy, historic streets. And I was happy; I don’t think I’ve felt truly happy since that month :