Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 10 without coffee

I exist in a netherworld of headaches and perpetual tiredness

Wednesday, June 23, 2010



As you can see, I’m delighted with my new mug from Debra Bures, of the blog From Skilled Hands.

Several weeks ago she asked for mug shots to go into her prize draw to win one of her wonderful creations. Despite my “Who’s the Daddy” entry, my name was not randomly drawn from the hat.

However, she had another draw shortly afterwards so I thought I’d attempt the sympathy vote after one of our favourite mugs failed to support one last coffee

This time I was lucky enough to win and my beautifully made, fantastically glazed mug recently arrived in the post this week.

Included with the mug was this wonderful tile, based on the local river as seen from above, looking down through the clouds. If you’ve ever seen my wife’s artwork [see the videos on this page] with her loves of blues and greens and organic shapes, you’ll know this mug and tile fit perfectly into our house.

Rattling around on the inside of the mug, which gave us a fright initially, thinking something had broken, I also discovered one of Debra’s touchstones

Although she is based in the village of Peninsula (pop.601), Ohio, she does do mail order. So if you are one of those who loves to have a favourite mug to drink your morning tea or coffee from as you slowly re-enter the world of the living, then I can’t recommend Debra’s mugs highly enough.

I’m completely thrilled with mine.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all dads who love receiving cards from their kids.

And I have found one advantage to a house full of extra children (see previous post). It does mean I have some unselfconscious models available to practice on. This is Cormac, my youngest grandson.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Twice the number of people, but the house is the same size

My stepdaughter and 3 grandchildren (aged 1½, 5 and 6½) have come to live with us for the immediate future.

Finding a new home for them will take a minimum of a few weeks; possibly several months.

Events like this are never planned, and certainly not lightly chosen. Such responses are only made when no other options seem available.

At the moment, life is one day at a time.

I don’t really believe fate or the universe has a built in Force of Irony, but I should have been more careful last week when I said to Maggie, “My Exhibition and your Spring Fling event are now over, and it’s still a few weeks until the kids break up for the summer holidays. The weather is good and life is quite peaceful just now. We should make the most of this...”


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rogan is 15

My wee bouncing baby boy is now as tall as me, shaving and midway through his teens.

Anyone who's been following this blog for a while will know family tradition has it that I have to create cards for the kids on their birthdays using my Photoshop skills.

In previous years Rogan has variously been Dr Who, Neo in The Matrix, a Pirate of the Caribbean, and Wolverine.

There have been major family upheavals over the past couple of days and this morning I suddenly realised I'd not thought about his card. "Do you have any ideas what you might like?" I asked him.

"No. Surprise me," he said. Then went on, "and make it really good!"

Nuts. Wrong answer.

Fortunately I had a sudden burst of inspiration when looking at a photo I took of him the other day when he had one raised eyebrow, looking at me with a sceptical suspicion.

So this is the birthday card he'll receive when he gets in from school later...

Click on image for a larger version


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Waiting for Charlie

My long term blogging pal, Charlie, sits there firmly in my top list of bloggers I would so love to meet in person. His humour is rich, his writing is wonderful and his heart is huge.

Unfortunately Charlie is not a well man and his illness is degenerative. Periodically he gets rushed off to hospital, but so long as the sirens are wailing he feels he's getting his money's worth.

Sometimes he's gone silent for a while and I've had to prod him with an email saying, "Are you dead yet?" which usually provokes some kind of muttered response.

However, this time his friend, Wandering Coyote, has posted a message on Charlie's blog to say not only is he in Hospital, but he didn't even get the wailing siren treatment.

I'm hoping that means it's not too serious, but the fact another blogger has been asked to post on his behalf, quite simply scares the shit out of me.

Now I'm not a religious man, and neither is Charlie. And neither of us would say, "I'm not religious but I am spiritual" either. We wouldn't expect prayers to make the slightest bit of difference.

But another thing we both share is a sense of the humanity in people - the need to connect, feel and care.

And I do so care about Charlie.

So if you've not come across Charlie and his blog of depth, passion and sublime humour, then do visit now, take a look around and leave a message.

Charlie's wife is Martha. And she's the one who really needs the support at the moment.

And if you do know Charlie, but didn't know he's in hospital, then hopefully you won't have read this far as you'll already have gone over to his site before you got halfway through this post.

Sunday, June 13, 2010



World Cup 2010!


What could be more uniting than a nation coming together to support its lads out on the pitch against Johnny Foreigner?


Why, patriotism rarely gets this fervent if we’re not actually at war, out there killing Johnny Foreigner!


We can all wear matching tops and accessories made by 3rd World Johnny Foreigners and sold back to us at exorbitant prices by other International Corporation Johnny Foreigners!


We can eat lots of unhealthy food and drink beer that has our flag plastered all over it, because it’s the patriotic thing to do!


We can remind the world that we won in 1966, over and over and over again!


And if we play Germany, then we can yell sickening taunts about WWII – all good naturedly of course


Doesn’t it make us proud?


Makes me want to puke.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Aperture, Bokeh and Pretty Pictures

For those of you who have cameras that allow you to go beyond the standard point and shoot settings, “Aperture Priority” is a wonderful area to play in.

For those of you who are freaked out by the idea of technical stuff, even with explanations, just skip to the pictures below.

For those of you still reading, the aperture is basically how wide the shutter in front of the lens will go and thus, how much light will enter the camera at the point you click the button. Think of it like the pupil in your eye. When it’s darker (or if you fancy someone – see Windows of the Soul), the pupil gets bigger, and in strong light, it gets smaller.

However, when you have a wide aperture on your camera the trade off is the depth of field (sometimes known as the depth of focus or DOF for short) is much narrower.

What this means is the amount of area in focus is much less.

Supposing, for example, you wanted to take a group photo where people were in rows. You would want the people in the front to be in focus AND the people at the back too. So for this you need a bigger depth of field – and for that you need a smaller aperture.

Are you keeping up?

Along with my new camera (see It's here, it's big and it's just a bit intimidating...), I bought a EF 50 mm f/1.8 II Lens, which allows me a maximum aperture setting of f/1.8, which is wider than most lenses. And what this means is, I can get a very narrow DOF indeed.

Basically, the upshot of this is I’ve been able to get some quite beautiful effects taking photos of flowers in the garden where only part of the flower is in focus and the further you move from that point, the increasingly blurred everything becomes, creating something rather wonderful.

Click on any of them for larger versions

Cytisus scoparius (Andreanus) - Broom






And for anyone who's interested, in photography there is a word, "Bokeh" (pronounced Bo as in bone and Ke as in Kenneth), which is used to describe the blurry out of focus area deliberately used to create a specific effect in the photo.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Noises in the log-burner

"Dad! There are some funny noises coming from the logburner!"

"Don't you mean funny smells? Has someone put something plastic in it again?"

"No, it's not lit. I think there might be some kind of creature inside..."

I don't know where in the Family Handbook it says Husbands/Dads are responsible for investigating any unknown noises, but I'm assured there's an entire chapter devoted to it.

Quite uncertain as to what I might find in there, I very carefully opened the door.

Initial suggestions it might be a dove that had coated itself in soot from the chimney on the way down, were neither accurate nor helpful. It turned out to be a full-grown jackdaw. And as jackdaws are considerably larger than starlings, I didn’t feel we could rely on the previously discovered method for removing birds from the house - see Bird in the Living Room

It took quite a long time to figure out a solution that wouldn’t involve getting pecked, shat on or a broken window. Eventually I carefully re-opened the door and put a large plastic bowl over the front, not really convinced this was going to work. But after stabbing it a couple of times with its beak, the jackdaw actually climbed into it and Rogan quickly slid a large sheet of card between the bowl and the log-burner. I was then able to take the whole thing out into the garden and the bird flew away as soon as I removed the card, apparently none the worse for its ordeal.

Someone else can clean the crap out of the fireplace though...

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Catching up...

Today I was out at the Mill on the Fleet taking down the "Staring Back" exhibition.

Comments left in the visitor's book included, "a strong argument against plastic surgery!", "powerful work with fascinating text to accompany!", and "I think you are so fantastic".

Admitedly the last one of those was from my daughter, Meg, but I think her viewpoint has a certain validity...

How successful it was in promoting my portrait photography will be discovered over the coming months, but it was a superb experience and I gained a huge amount out of it. Not least the realisation that despite the CFS, if I’m really focused and organised I can still make things happen – something to try and remember during the times when the extreme tiredness overwhelms and makes me feel it’s impossible to accomplish anything.

Almost as much as the exhibition itself, I have to say I am really pleased with the book. There is something so deeply psychologically satisfying having a book in my hands that I created myself. And it is, of course, a great memento for me in a way that a ring-binder with poly-pockets can never match.

Quite what I do with all the mounted images now is uncertain. I guess I have a ready-made exhibition available should anyone want one. Will need to think about that at some point

The talk I gave on Faces, Portraits and Photoshop last week was very well received. As well as talking about how we can change the mood of a portrait purely by how we move the light and shadows, I had the laptop rigged up to a projector to show how easily faces are manipulated in Photoshop. At one point, as I was removing some bags under the eyes, I heard a gasp of amazement, and I knew I had the audience captured.

Spring Fling
The annual open studio event across SW Scotland over the bank-holiday weekend was hectic as always, although numbers were slightly down this year compared to last. With the build up to the event taking over all thoughts for several weeks, the sudden stop inevitably feels weird, and the subsequent comedown will leave us all feeling a little emotionally wobbly for the rest of the week.

A nice surprise bonus, however, was our friend Kerry sold a couple of framed prints of mine when she opened her house as a gallery and café over the weekend (Balmaghie Church and Rascarrel Bay – see 2009 in photographs)