Thursday, December 29, 2011

No Bounce

As my arse was sinking deeper into the mattress and my knees were becoming level with my shoulders, I began to wonder whether memory-foam had been the best route to go.

After 9 days of waiting, and no less than 3 of them being damaged in delivery (and so having to be returned) our new memory-foam mattress finally arrived last week.

7 nights later and I’m still getting used to it.

We pondered for a long time about what kind of mattress to get, once we’d decided our lumpy, bumpy existing one was probably contributing to our poor sleeping patterns.

After extensive research (lots of Googling), and a recommendation from a friend, we decided we would go for a memory-foam one.

It’s quite different to a traditional sprung mattress. For one thing, it doesn’t bounce when you climb on it. Instead, it slowly moulds itself around you as you sink into it. And when you move position, it gently remoulds itself.

However, while it is certainly comfortable, my body has not yet got used to the lack of springs and for the first few nights I woke up every single time I turned over. Still, the last couple of nights haven’t been quite so bad, so I’m feeling a bit more hopeful.

Which is just as well, because once we’d unpacked it and were happy it wasn’t damaged, we took the old one straight to the dump. So if we change our minds, we’ll be sleeping on wooden slats for as long as it takes to get a new one...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Season's Greetings

I don’t know quite what’s happened to my blog writing skills. There was a time when I could turn even the most insignificant event into something worth reading, but these days I’m finding it harder and harder to do.

Even since my post early last week, I’ve started several that just fizzled out – I was unable to lift things out of the mundane.

I’ve wanted to write about the debacle of ordering a new mattress online, where 3 times it was damaged in the delivery, so it wasn’t until the 4th time the company sent it out were we finally able to accept it.

The Solstice should have been a good one to write about, especially as last year it was –10 degrees C and this year it was +10 degrees C.

Christmas decorations, dental appointments, the “Men in sheds” Xmas lunch for the terminally self-employed.

I even had a whole thing about Christmas seeming to be locked in 4 distinct eras – Roman, Victorian, the 1950s and the 1970s.

But for some reason I can’t seem to get the words to flow.

Maybe it will return in the New Year, or perhaps it’s just that my creativity is channelled into photography rather than writing these days. Who knows?

However, one thing I can do at this time of year, as I have for the past 6 years here on this blog, is wish you all the very best for the Festive Season.

I searched through my photo folders looking for suitable seasonal images of snow, tinsel or holly, but in the end the best image I could find was one my daughter Meg made as a Christmas card for us.

If you would like a larger version of it to print off and pin to your mantelpiece, then click on this link and follow the instructions

Hope you have a good time whatever your social, religious or cultural beliefs.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Photographing the Photographers...

In one of my biggest challenges yet, a couple of weeks ago I not only had to photograph a group of pro and semi-pro photographers, but I had to be in the shot too.

I recently teamed up with half a dozen other photographers in the area, with the idea to pool resources, expertise and marketing power. The theory is we could help make this area an attractive place for those interested in photography (buying prints or taking workshops) to visit.

It’s early days yet, and the aim is to officially launch next Spring, but things are slowly taking shape. The constitution is written, executive posts filled, bank account opened and the website is under construction.

It was decided it would be useful to have a group photo to go on the website, and to use for publicity purposes once we launch. As portrait photography is my speciality, the responsibility for the photo fell on my shoulders. Inevitably this presented several challenges.

An initial idea of an outside shot of us all against a backdrop of a beautiful Galloway landscape was quickly dismissed. It’s hard enough to negotiate a time and date to suit 7 self-employed people, let alone rely on the weather in Scotland, in winter, to be pleasant. We needed an indoor space large enough to fit everyone plus lighting rigs, and while my wee studio is fine for one or two people – three at a push – it’s not designed for groups.

Fortunately Allan Wright leapt to the rescue and we were able to use his gallery – a large white painted room – after he’d removed his framed prints from one of the walls.

But while composition and lighting are tricky enough, in order to be in the photograph myself, I couldn’t just click when everything was perfect. I had to keep setting the timer then run round to get into position and hope no one was blinking, or looking in the wrong direction, or leaning in front of anyone else, or pulling a silly face.

And when photographing more than about 4 people, crowd control becomes an extra necessary skill...

Even then, it’s one thing to photograph the general public – group shots are usually family gatherings where they expect to follow the instructions of the professional with the camera. But to photograph a bunch of people who make money from their ability to use a camera means the sense of scrutiny is cranked up to the nth degree.

Still, somehow I survived and below are the final images. One where we look very serious and professional, and one where we, er, don't...

As usual, feel free to click on the images for larger versions.

Left to right-ish (click on names for links to their websites):
Morag Paterson and Ted Leeming
Roger Lever
Phil McMenemy
Allan Wright
Kim Ayres
Ian Biggar

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A wonderful photo

A couple of years ago, I stumbled across an amazing photography site -

I submitted a couple of my best photos, but they were not accepted. I submitted a couple more, and they too were rejected. It turned out they only accept, on average, about 5% of all submissions - and this is from people who are all sending in their best work.

In March 2009, I gained my first publication on the site, but any thought that I was now one of the in-crowd was quickly dispelled, as it was nearly a year before I had my 2nd image accepted there. And even now, I have only managed to get 7 of my photos up on the site.

However, the site is not only an inspiration visually, there are many people willing to share their knowledge and skills. And if you are prepared to put your ego to one side, you can gain a great deal. In fact, I would credit a fair amount of the improvements I've made in my photography over the past 3 years to what I have learned from and several of the members.

It's also been a place where I have made several good online friendships - people from around the world who one day I would love to meet up in person - much like many of the fine bloggers who visit these pages.

One such person, is Argentinian-born architect, Nicolas Marino, who likes to go off adventuring on his bicycle in various parts of the world. And one of his favourite places seems to be Tibet.

The photographs he takes are just stunning. They wouldn't look out of place in National Geographic, and I'm constantly nagging him to make a book of them, just so I can buy a copy. has been running a competition over the past few months, and the results were just announced on Monday evening, and to my delight, not only did Nico win, but he won it with this photo, which is one of my all time favourites:

Awakening by Nicolas Marino - worth clicking on for a larger version

It was taken early in the morning after he'd spent the night with a nomadic Tibetan family in their tent. In an earlier forum post, he'd written of the encounter:

"One day during the last trip in Tibet, I camped at the end of the day right before a storm, i had camped quite close to a tent where Tibetan nomads, who take care of their yak herds, live. A few minutes after I had got in my tent and started to snow, the man came to look for me and there was no way he would let me stay there alone. He took me in with his lovely family, they all live inside the tent where the floor is wet grass, the mattresses are arranged around the stove, a few boxes with belongings, a lovely poster of the Dalai Lama, and that's about it. Husband, wife, three kids and the dogs, once I got in, it was like being part of the family, we had a very big dinner they cooked for me. They treated me like one of them and when we went to sleep, the man pointed me to my mattress and put a huge pile of warm blankets and arranged them around my face like my dad used to do when I was a kid, just to make sure I'd sleep comfortable. In the morning, other friends from tents around the area would come to visit and to drink tea with us. The saw me leave, they wouldn't stop giving me things to eat."

Congratulations on winning the competition, Nico, and I hope that one day you will find yourself in Scotland where you can share some of your tales in front of a log fire with a dram of single malt.

For more of Nico's images on, visit his portfolio here:

And for more stunning images to keep you occupied for hours, visit his Flickr site here:

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Who’s watching who?

I much prefer taking photos where the subject is staring straight into the camera. It means the viewer of the photo gets the feeling they are being watched while they look.

In this case, however, a TV cameraman was filming me while I was taking a photo of the director. So the viewer is not only being stared at, but is being filmed too (I’ll explain why they were there in a couple of months – but before you get excited, it’s only a small role in a documentary being made for BBC Alba).

For a bit of extra fun, I overlaid an image of a piece of glass that's been sitting in the garden for several months. Finally, giving it a sepia tint makes the photo look a few decades old rather than the few weeks it actually is.

As usual, feel free to click on the image for a larger version