Gateway to Infinity

Enter the Gateway to Infinity! Okay, actually this is me standing directly under the Tay Road Bridge in Dundee, zooming the lens through the large piers supporting this very long structure, which I thought gave a very cool effect, especially in black and white:

Gateway To Infinity

The Night Tram

Walking home from my book group recently, darkness had just fallen. I didn’t have my main tripod with me, but did have my wee Gorilla mini-tripod, with its bendy legs, and thought some scenes of people waiting for the evening trams in Saint Andrew Square would look good in monochrome, so I sat the mini-tripod on a handy post to raise it up, set the timer and crossed my fingers…

Night Tram 01

As I was zooming in more on the people waiting on the platform, I heard the rumbling of an approaching tram, so I left the camera on a long exposure, so you get that nice contrast between the stationary platform and people standing still, and the blurred motion of the tram passing them, which I quite liked:

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A second tram arrived while I was still shooting, so I got a twin-tram snap for the last pic. Not the greatest, but not bad for semi-improvised night shots. As ever, for the larger versions, click on the pics to see them on the Woolamaloo Flickr stream.

Night Tram 04

I switched back to shooting in colour for this pic, just a couple of moments walk from the previous ones, looking towards the buildings on the south side of Saint Andrew Square, but also managed to get one of the cherry blossom trees into frame, the branches loaded with sakura, hanging over the railings of the now-closed gardens:

Nocturnal Scene With Added Blossoms

Signs of Spring

As April trundles on, we’ve had the usual mix of weather in Scotland, from beautiful, warm (ish), sunny spring days to howling wind, grey skies, rain and temeperatures suddenly dropping back to feel like February. We do get a variety here… Regardless, nature carries on to her own timetable, and there have been welcome signs that, despite bursts of colder weather, spring is settling in, and bringing with it a rebirth of colour.

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I loved these white Daffies with the yellow centre, catching the evening light in the old boneyard of Dalry Cemetery

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Sakura Time 02
The cherry blossoms are coming out too – although it varies all over the city. Some have had petals blooming for a couple of weeks or more, others are barely starting to bud, others again are in almost full bloom. It’s remarkable how much it varies across the town.

Sakura Time 01

Spring Petals 02

Fallen Bloom

I found this fallen bloom on the pavement, fallen from a vine running along a garden wall, covered in raindrops, the soft, silken petals in stark contrast to the hard, dark of the asphalt paving.

Floral Sunburst

The Daffies, as ever, provide a wonderful burst of colour after the long, dark, winter months, like miniature, floral sunbursts

The Planets Shone on Edinburgh

Walking home from a friend’s theatre event earlier this week, turned the corner on the Mound, to find this fabulous visa: the Church of Scotland Assembly Buildings, Edinburgh Castle, and above them, mighty Jupiter, king of planets, and below it, Venus, shining incredibly brightly over these historic landmarks.

The Planets Shine On Edinburgh

Sadly coming from the theatre, I wasn’t carrying my tripod – I braced the camera against a post to try and steady it for this rough and ready night shot, just to try and capture that incredible moment. You can also see Jupiter and Venus in this quick shot taken a few moments earlier on the Royal Mile (again bracing camera against a post, so not as good as if I had the tripod with me, but needs must…) – on the far left of the picture, you can see them clearly, shining above the ancient buildings of the Royal Mile.

Royal Mile After Dark

I do love living here, I love the incredible sights the city often offers up, by light of day or by the night, winter or summer, but even after all these years living in Edinburgh, this grand, old dame can still surprise me with a sudden, magical sight that just makes you stop, takes the breath away, leaving you forgetting about the world and worries for a moment to just drink in a wonderful visual feast.

Rowing Day

Rowing Day At Porty 02

Enjoying promenading on the Promenade at Portobello (it’s what it is for, after all!) with chum and the Old Hound last weekend. We often see the skiffs being rowed off the shore, along with small yachts from the yachting club on the Prom, but this weekend there were no less than four rowing back and forth, while a large group, gathered around some tables on the beach, were watching. Not sure what it was, a race or meet up or whatever, but it caught my eye, and again I was glad of the decent zoom lens on my old but very serviceable camera.

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At one point they all came together rather nicely from my perspective, ideal for a few more photos!

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Vid - Rowing Day At Porty 02

Falkirk Wheel

Vid - Falkirk Wheel

Dad and I had a wee trip to the rather splendid Falkirk Wheel at the weekend. Originally the Forth and Clyde and the Union Canals met here, linked by a series of eleven locks descending the slope. As the canals declined in the late 19th and early 20th century, the locks were finally demolished in the 1930s. As the canals were regenerated in the late 90s and early 2000s (both the waterways and the adjacent towpaths turned into walking and cycling networks), the Falkirk Wheel was created to reconnect these coast-to-coast canals once more. An elegant and practical piece of engineering, this rotating boat lift uses about as much energy as it takes to boil a kettle to lift and lower all that structure, water and boats. Beautiful piece of engineering, which I think can stand proudly with those magnificent 19th century engineering icons. I can imagine the ghost of Brunel looking at this and nodding in approval.

Falkirk Wheel 08

Falkirk Wheel 07

Falkirk Wheel 06

The low winter sun was good for light and for shadows:

Falkirk Wheel 04

Falkirk Wheel 02

Falkirk Wheel 01

Doctor Who: Worlds of Wonder Exhibition

Doctor Who: Worlds of Wonder
Location: National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh
Duration: runs until 1st May 2023

Doctor Who Worlds Of Wonder Exhibition 01

Having grown up in an era where childhood summer holidays on the Lancashire coastline always included a visit to the famous Doctor Who Exhibition on Blackpool’s Golden Mile, I was delighted to learn that the National Museum of Scotland would be hosting a Doctor Who exhibition right on my doorstep in the heart of Edinburgh. It opened just before Christmas, and I took myself along for a visit just before going back to work after the New Year break, as a little treat to myself. No jelly babies were harmed in the making of this report…

You can buy tickets at the desk on the day, but you can also book in advance, with a time slot (this is also slightly cheaper, and given how popular the museum is with locals and tourists – of which Edinburgh has a great many! – I’d advise booking so you know you are sorted). I had booked a mid-afternoon slot, midweek, which was still actually pretty busy (although to be fair the schools hadn’t gone back after the festive break at this point), and all I had to do was show my e-ticket on my phone, wrap my long scarf around my neck securely, and stroll in through a familiar set of beckoning blue doors.

One of the first sights to greet you on entering is the original 1960s style TARDIS console, although from the look of it, I suspect this is the one which was recreated for use in some of the more recent episodes of the show. It’s still a lovely, retro piece though – all sliding levers, knobs and big, analogue dials, no monitor screen with BBC Model B graphics here! And yes, I do like later iterations of the console, but I really do have a soft spot for this older design. Ah, the good, old Type 40… The sight of this also brought back memories of those summer childhoods getting to explore the long-running Blackpool exhibition, which had the console room at the heart of it – you can imagine to an eight year old how magical that was, the sound effects playing, the lights, the Time Rotor moving; it was very easy to lose your young self in it and imagine for a wonderful moment that it was all real.

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Mark Gatiss, another life-long fan of the show, not to mention one who has appeared and contributed to it over the years, introduces the exhibition on a screen near the console, and there are many screens throughout the various rooms of the exhibition. Many are like that one, pre-recorded “talking heads”, such as scientists discussing physics and the possibility or otherwise of time travel and other elements of the series. There’s a strong educational theme woven into this, looking at the science fiction and trying to relate real-world science to some of it, which seems most appropriate, given that Who, like Star Trek, while fantastical science fiction, has encouraged more than a few young fans to grow up and take on the mantle of real-world scientific research and development.

Other screens, including some designed like coffee tables to stand around, are also educational, but far more interactive, allowing the visitors to examine lifeforms from our own world’s ecosphere, then relate them to imaginary species seen in the show over the years, showing that, although those aliens and others are works of imagination, that imagination is often inspired by real, terrestrial lifeforms, or to see how they would approach attempting to terraform Mars, among other activities to try. While most of this I only looked briefly at as it was clearly aimed at the younger visitors, I strongly approved of them – apart from hands-on activities for youngsters, it’s also no bad thing to be using SF to implant an interest in real science in their young minds. On a related note, if you’ve never been before, the hall between the original Victorian part of the NMS and the modern extension is filled with hands-on items from technology and history that actively encourages young minds to explore, making it a terrific place for family outings (and that part is free!).

Of course it is the items from the show that I imagine many of us will be most interested in, and these range from the large – such as the console or a life-size TARDIS (perfect for taking selfies in front of!) – to the small, such as an array of different Sonic Screwdrivers, arranged chronologically by incarnation, or Captain Jack’s Vortex Manipulator wrist device, from models (including one re-created from original designs from the famously unfinished “Shada” story in the Tom Baker era) to costumes, to full-sized Daleks. One space is the Monster Room because, as Gatiss notes in his introductory video at the very beginning of the exhibition, what is Doctor Who without the monsters? And he’s right, we love them, even when they scared us into hiding behind the sofa and watching with one eye closed, we loved them.

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The Monster Room boasted some wonderful creations from the show, including a full-sized Dalek and the Dalek’s twisted creator, Davros (one nearby video, I noticed showed a clip from that first story appearance of Davros, Genesis of the Daleks, with Tom Baker’s Doctor holding up two ignition wires for an explosive and asking if he had the right to wipe out a whole species, even one so evil, a moral dilemma that impressed itself into my young brain back on the original screening in the mid 70s, where it still remains). We also had Silurians and Sea Devils, Cybermats, Weeping Angels, Ice Warriors, Sontarans, Cybermen, and a nice array of Cyber Heads from the different designs of those iconic villains from across the six decades of the show’s existence.

There were even some other Time Lords in the mix, although of the more villainous stripe, including Omega, the engineer who basically allowed Time Lord culture to exist, and good, old “chop suey” himself, The Brain of Morbius. Also included was a “half Dalek” – those of you of a certain vintage (including myself and our redoubtable editor, John Freeman), will doubtless recall that often tucked away in old amusement arcades in the 1960s and 70s were half-Daleks, essentially a replica but with much of the back of the casing missing, to allow you to get in and sit inside, working the exterminator and sucker arms while screeching “EXTERMINATE!”, which when you are a young child is simply fabulous. Well yes, they had a version of one of those too (oh, the nostalgia!). No, I didn’t have a go, as there were too many younger visitors eager to try being a Dalek, and I got to do that when I was their age so I wasn’t going to hold them up from their shot at it now.

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I must also tip my hat to whoever penned the text accompanying many of the exhibits, which, while doing what they are meant to do, be informative about the item before you, also had a delightful playfulness to them, which I appreciated. The text on the Weeping Angel, for example, explains what they are, how they work, and then concludes with “I hope you didn’t blink while reading this description”. A nearby Cybermat simply has “please do not feed the Cybermat” attached to it, which made me giggle.

I would have liked to see more items from the original era of the series, but I can also understand that many of those items are lost, or too rare and fragile for a travelling exhibition now, and items from the resurrected show are simply more accessible (and also probably more familiar to many visiting, who aren’t even old enough to have gone through their first regeneration yet, unlike us oldies!). The exhibition has its own gift shop stuffed with merchandise from the series, and also some pertaining particularly to the exhibition itself, separate from the regular museum shop. Photography is allowed, as long as you take care not to have any flash activated, understandably, as it can damage delicate exhibits (one a related note, I apologise for some pics not being super-sharp here, but shooting inside an exhibition space with no flash means some pics just don’t come out!).

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The Doctor Who: Worlds of Wonder exhibition runs until the 1st of May, 2023, at the National Museum of Scotland; details and booking information are all on the website here. If making your first visit to the museum, in addition to some of their other excellent exhibits (including a floor by floor tour through Scottish history that takes you from Pictish standing stones to full-sized steam engines), may I also suggest taking the elevator to the Roof Terrace Garden. This is free and offers quite remarkable views across the heart of Edinburgh, to nearby historic Greyfriars kirkyard to the Castle and the roofscape of the Old Town and the mighty Firth of Forth, the volcanic peaks of Arthur’s Seat and the Pentland Hills – it’s one of the finest vantage points to take in the city.

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This piece was originally penned for Down The Tubes.

(Nearly) White Christmas

Well, it wasn’t a White Christmas, but it was very nearly – this was the view from the parental mansion on December 26th:

Winter Hills 01

We have a great view of the vast, ancient geological vastness of the Campsie Fells, a volcanic formation (some of the dried lava flows on it are dated to around 300 million years ago, give or take a few millennia).

Winter Hills 02

First snows of the winter

We had our first snows of the winter a few days ago, fairly light as I left work, then became progressively heavier as I was walking, enough that the front of my coat was almost white by the time I got there. Snapped a couple of quick photos and videos on the walk.

First Snow Of The Winter 02

First Snow Of The Winter 01

The days following have seen little more snow, but bitterly cold conditions as the weather was blowing over from Scandinavia. Forecast is for more brutally cold weather and possibly more snow this weekend. Frankly I prefer the snow over the bloody iced-up pavements to walk on!

Vid - Holy Corner In The Snow

Above video and photos, Holy Corner, Bruntsfield, in the snow. Below: the Union Canal at Polwarth.

Vid - Snow Over The Union Canal

Night Life

Now that is is dark before 4pm, I have more opportunities to take some shots of the city’s nocturnal face, something I always like exploring.

Haymarket After Dark 01

Haymarket After Dark 02

Haymarket tram stop at night (above), and looking towards the main junction of Haymarket (below).

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Red And Green

Bank of Scotland building on the Mound, lit up in alternating red and green lights.

Festive Market At Night 01

Festive Market At Night 02

The annual festive market has returned – not my favourite place (vastly over-priced, too busy, and causes a huge amount of damage to Princes Street Gardens, which is often not fully repaired and open to citizens again until months after the market goes), but it is good for taking pics.

Festive Market At Night 04

Festive Market At Night 05

Festive Market At Night 07

Festive Market At Night 08

New Town Nights 02

This town house, especially the basment flat, was well-lit up, snapped a couple of quick pics with the phone on the walk home, amazed they came out.

New Town Nights 02

Porty Scenes

A few photographs from a couple of recent jaunts down to Portobello, Edinburgh’s seafront. It has been remarkably mild for mid November, and the Promenade, the cafes on it, and the beach, were all busy, people making the most of the fact that it’s not bitterly freezing (yet!), while paddleboarders, yachters and rowers (and even some brave swimmers) were enjoying the waters. Late afternoon, and the low winter sun was already too far down, so the Prom and much of the beach was in shadow already, but out on the Firth of Forth, Inchkeith was caught in the golden rays of the last hour of light of a winter’s day, while the Fife coast behind was wreathed in haar (click the pic for the larger versions on my Flickr).

Magical Island Floating In The Light Of The Setting Sun

Looking at the sea

Life's A Beach 03

A sea view is lovely, but it is nicer when shared

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Some folks were happily playing beach volleyball – not something you see a lot of on a Scottish beach in November, normally!

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Cooking on the beach!

Porty Life 01

Busy, busy, busy: Porty Prom!

Porty Life 02

The Little Green Van is a fixture on Porty Prom at the weekend, usually close to the swimming pool. As well as serving up coastal coffees and other treats, they have padded cushions in case you want to sit on the sea wall with your drink!

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Couple sharing a moment on Porty Beach

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Nocturnal City

As the sun sets a little earlier every evening now, and the night lasts longer as we move through autumn, with winter waiting in the shadows, some people find themselves feeling sad or depressed. As a Gothic Fiend, I actually like the long, dark nights though! Ideal for sitting in a pub having a chat with chums, or by the fire with a book and some records playing.

Of course, it is also good for taking night-time photos of my city. I’ve loved night photography for as long as I remember – my late Uncle Jim, a keen photographer, gave me my first cameras as a kid (starting with a wee Kodak 110 – remember those?) before a compact 35mm camera to learn on (how to use F-stops and other settings), and of course his brother, my dad, also a keen photographer, taught me. I think seeing the illuminations at Morecambe as a kid really made me want to take night photos, to capture that other world where the camera drinks in more light on a long exposure than our naked eyes can see, revealing a different facet to the city than what we see by day.

Bus Station At Night 01

Bus Station At Night 03

Edinburgh bus station – you would never tell from this dismal, cold architecture that this is slap in the middle of the historic, UNESCO World Heritage site of the New Town. Fortunately it is screened on three sides by adjacent buildings, so the only real view of it is from this entrance. Still, makes for a half-decent night shot, though!

Bruntsfield At Dusk 05

Bruntsfield At Dusk 06

Seeds for the Soul (excellent veggie/vegan restaurant) and the Saltwater chip shop (used to be the Globetrotter for many years) in Bruntsfield, early evening, on the second pic you can see people waiting inside the chippy for their takeaways.

Haymarket After Dark 02

Improvised night shot on the way home from Haymarket train station, sitting camera on a flat-topped railing to steady it (had been travelling, didn’t have the tripod – quite often improvise night shots in this kind of manner), bus just crossing the junction at Haymarket as I left the apeture open for a moment to drink in the light.

Driech Dusk At Haymarket 01

Driech Dusk At Haymarket 02

Haymarket again, coming from the station, although on a very dreich night – but the rain gives the streets a particular look at night, so I tried a couple of quick shots, handheld, but they came out not too bad, in and around Ryrie’s pub (serving ales since the 1860s).

Waiting On The Evening Bus 02

Waiting for the night bus, Fountainbridge.

Fountainpark At Night 01

Fountainpark At Night 03

Cineworld cinema and the Fountain Park complex at night, again improvised shots – coming from the cinema, so didn’t have the tripod with me, sat camera on the railings on timer mode to steady it. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s digitial, so not like I am wasting valuable film if it doesn’t work, so I usually try it, and sometimes I get lucky.

Lanes

Stay in lane! Looking down on the West Approach Road at night – this used to be a railway line, which terminated in the old Princes Street Station, which is now the very posh Caledonian Hotel (hence why the hotel has an unusual, triple door entrance – it was for getting large numbers of passengers in and out, originally). The rail line is long gone, but the route is taken by this carriageway, and if you look around near this spot, there are little remnants of that previous history, such as an old railway platform, half hidden by foliage, next to the carrriageway, and just behind this spot, an old, steel railway footbridge over one of the exit ramps for the Approach Road, still in use today, but now taking you safely over lanes of cars instead of train tracks.

Polwarth After Dark 02

Tenements, shops and diners at Polwarth, not long after sunset, another improvised shot walking home from work, bracing camera against some railings by the junction and hoping.

A Brace Of Bollards 02

A brace of bollards! Entrance to Fountain Park, by the McCowan’s Brewhouse pub. I don’t know why, I just felt like zeroing in on the bollards, I think it was the black of them against the paving stone, and that “ghost” effect the long exposure creates as people were walking through it while I was taking it.