Friday, 17 January 2014


I've talked before about the scale models of the kelpies that were outside the Science Centre in Glasgow.

Yesterday a friend was taking a trip to photograph the recently-completed real sculptures near Falkirk at sunrise and I went along.

The forecast was not great - grey and rainy, possibly very rainy. Sunrise was due at 8:30 so the plan was to meet at 7, 40 minutes to drive to Falkirk, 20 minutes to figure out just where we should be (neither of us having been to the site before), and 20 minutes to figure out good angles.

I got up at 6. Dry out, if overcast. I'd take overcast! 6:40 and the rain started. Hard!

I met Neil just before 7 and we exchanged coffees - I'd roasted and brewed some Nicaraguan beans for iced coffee and Neil had picked up some hot coffees on the way over.

It was fortunate that we'd given plenty of time for travel, because the traffic was already bad and the rain lashed down all the way to Cumbernauld. And there we had the first hint of better things to come. Andy Scott created the Kelpies. He's created various other public artworks around Scotland, one of which is the Arria statue at Cumbernauld. As we passed her, I pointed out a hint of broken cloud over to the east. I confess I was mostly just trying to sound positive, but any hope is worth hanging on to.

We drove by Falkirk and the rain stopped!

When we got to where we believed the Kelpies would be, it was clearly still a construction site and the car park was fenced off with temporary security fencing. Oops! So we abandoned the car in a nearby industrial estate and set out on foot. The sky was still mostly grey, but there was no rain and ... could that be a hint of colour glowing through from the east?

Down the canal towpath, round the corner, and ... wow! They're huge!

Even with all the construction for the Helix park going on around them, we were massively impressed with them.

 At least, we thought we were impressed. But then the sun rose.

OK. Now we're impressed.

Something this big in the landscape could've been horrible. I thought they were gorgeous.

Strangely they started to seem smaller the longer we looked at them from across the canal. And yet from a distance they seemed to be an even larger presence in the landscape.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014


Celaeno, one of the harpies. Sculpted by Mary Pownall, and another of my favourites of the artwork at Kelvingrove Museum.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Wives of Fishermen

Sculpted by Pierre Braecke, 1914. Kelvingrove Museum.

Probably my favourite piece of sculpture in the gallery. It's a rare day that I'm in there and I don't go for yet another look.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

River Debris

River Clyde Debris, 7th Jan 2014
A solid-seeming covering of the Clyde in the city centre after the late December and early January storms.

Friday, 10 January 2014

How D'Ya Like Them Apples?

Apple Tree by the M8 Motorway through Ibrox, blue filter, 9th Jan 2014

Thursday, 9 January 2014


Hillhead Subway Station, Byres Road. 9th Jan 2014

Castlerigg Stone Circle, Cumbria

A trip down to Northumberland was a big part of my plans for the week of New Year. I think I've been into Northumberland thrice in my life - each time visiting sites along Hadrian's Wall in the west part of the county. This time I'd intended to camp (in a tent if possible, in the car if the weather insisted) and spend a lot of time making photos at dusk and dawn. Then with the storms I just abandoned the idea altogether. That's an adventure for another time.

But I still was in the mood for a trip down to northern England. I had a vague plan to do a circuit of a few stone circles through the day. I've previously had a couple of photo trips to Long Meg and Her Daughters, and a group of stone circles up on Eskdale Moor. This time I was going to start at Castlerigg, near Keswick, and...well...the rain came down hard and that's as far as I got.

I visited Castlerigg once before - Christmas Eve 2000, a brief call on my drive back to Glasgow from Manchester. I shot a roll of colour film and a roll of FP4, and came home with a bunch of terrible pictures.

Castlerigg, Christmas Eve 2000
Even if I didn't get any good pictures this time - and the weather was looking pretty grim! - I hoped to at least do better than that.

Both times I've been to Castlerigg, it's been busy. The stones are in a field off a narrow twisty road, but there's lots of parking and it's a 2-minute flat walk from the car. So doesn't need a whole lot of commitment to get there. It's also set in a fantastic location! A flattened slope in a huge natural amphitheatre surrounded by the Cumbrian mountains.

Lots of visitors, the second day of 2014
Whilst I was standing around, waiting for a squally shower to pass, I overheard a grumpy man with a camera complaining to his companion about the weather, about the light, about there being so many people, and how "they're all taking pictures!" (Remember, he had a camera too). He shot a few snaps then trudged back to their car. Possibly not inspired and uplifted by the experience.

Thirty minutes later, there was a spell of nice-ish light. And I had the place to myself!

I guess the lesson for the day was: don't be in a hurry.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Carman Muir, New Year's Eve 2013

I had use of a car over New Year and had vague plans to work on a long-term photo project which would've meant long drives north and lots of hiking and camping. As we got later into December and as the wind and rain didn't show much sign of letting up, this seemed like less and less of a good idea.
In the end, I didn't go far from Glasgow. But I did get a few outings to local places that are new to me (like the Campsie Glen falls) and revisited some old haunts.
New Year's Eve had the chance of some breaks in the weather. I'd a mind to head up Beinn Dubh near Luss to continue a series of pictures I've been doing there for the last few years, but as I was between Dumbarton and Helensburgh I got the urge to try to find the Carman Muir long cairn that I'd  shot in 2000. That time I'd been using medium format infrared film and really enjoyed the character of the place.
Carman Muir in infrared, Late Summer 2000.
A few years ago I'd tried to go back, but couldn't remember just where it was. This time I found it easily. The ground was a lot boggier, the wonderfully characterful dead tree had been blown down in the storms, but the weather cleared for 60 minutes or so, almost until sunset, and the views over the Clyde were even better than I remembered.
Nearly the same view, but one tree short. Last evening of 2013.
 I could just imagine some local tribal chief, 5000 years ago in the neolithic period, saying: Yeah - this'll do - bury me here!

There are plenty of other stony mounds and lumps and bumps around there. I need to look into whether they're the remains of old buildings, or whether they're just field clearance cairns, or whether there are a series of prehistoric burials here. There's also an iron age hill fort just a mile from there. More things to explore another time!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Campsie Glen

The Campsie Fells are a range of low hills just north of Glasgow. I've spent a lot of time walking in them since I moved here, but for some reason I've never walked up to the lower waterfalls in Campsie Glen.

I've almost been there, having photographed the old burial ground of St Machan's Church. But never wandered further up the trail.
There's a car park and a good track and it's a trivially easy walk - good for even the laziest of walkers; and it's a wee hidden gem with a string of small and larger waterfalls where the Alvain Burn and Aldessan Burn flow into the Kirk Burn.


Ancient Scotland Revisited

Twenty years ago, a year or two after I moved to Glasgow, I started a personal photo project recording some of the ancient sites, particularly standing stones and some circles, around Scotland. And in 1996 I started publishing them on my first shaky web site which eventually evolved into Ancient Scotland. It was beyond ugly, but it got a bit of notice for all the pictures and the very regular updates. Folk would license photos for use in books from time to time, and I was fairly proud of it.

1996 version. Nice colour scheme!
Eventually I realised it was starting to hurt my eyes. And I was still building most of the pages by hand. So twelve years ago I did a complete rewrite.
2001 version. At least it's not so red.

For the last nine years or so, Ancient Scotland has been languishing somewhat without many updates. I've still been shooting plenty of pictures but, since I gave up my programming work to be a full time photographer, I've been concentrating on other outlets. I've always meant to return to updating Ancient Scotland, but every year that passes makes me a little more out of the habit, and a little more frustrated with the mess that is the software behind the site.

So this year's Christmas project was to knock it back into shape and make it a little cleaner and a little less painful to update. We'll see whether I actually get back into the swing of updating, but there's less excuse now. I've added six new Arran sites, and one from Mull, and I'm feeling fairly positive about it.

2014 version. I guess this will look dated soon enough, too.

One thing that really jumps out at me is the quality of my old pictures. And not in a good way. I used to be really proud of my pictures. Some of them still seem OK, but I think the majority of them make me cringe just a bit. Well, the old ones will stay, at least until I get opportunity to shoot new versions. Everyone needs an exercise in humility!

If I keep going with it, great. I'm motivated just now. If that fades, maybe I should scrap it rather than attempt version 4.