2020 February

February on Flickr
February still seemed quite normal…. though we were becoming concerned!

At the beginning of February I was angry about the vulnerable position of Scotland.

We had been lied to by the UK government during the Independence referendum of 2014. The government strategy became known as “Project Fear” – deliberate lies intended to scare Scottish voters into voting to remain within the UK. Two of the strongest fear tactics were that we would have to leave the EU, and also would not be able to use Sterling as our currency.
How ironic that 2 years later there was the UK referendum about leaving the EU. Over 60% of Scots voted to remain in the EU, which gives a hint of how many Scots probably voted to remain in the UK in order to remain in the EU! Now, 2 years later England is dragging Scotland out of the EU! What irony!!

So my focus was on discovering how damaging this is going to be for Scotland. The first thing that struck me was that the plans for problems importing and exporting goods would hit the food supply chain. A lot of fresh fruit and vegetables come from Spain and other EU countries. And hold-ups of any kind could make us especially vulnerable. Most imports come through ports in the south of England – and in the north of Scotland we are 600+ miles away, and close to the end of the supply chain. We are likely to be relegated to the bottom of the heap!
Interesting times lie ahead!

Then my attention was drawn to events in China. There had been the occasional story coming out about a new virus strain hitting the city of Wuhan (capital of Central China’s Hubei province). I’d never heard of it before! Soon it was to become a focus for us all!

There had been rumours of a new SARS-like virus at the start of the year, and in early January there were mentions by the WHO of a mysterious strain of pneumonia. Blips on my personal radar!
By mid January China imposed aggressive containment measures in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus. But international travel had already started spreading it.
Jan 30th the World Health Organisation declares a “public health emergency of international concern” a designation reserved for extraordinary health issues that threaten to spread internationally.
I started to follow events with a little more awareness and concern ….. but China is a long way away!
Stories moved to quarantined cruise ships, stranded off shore and refused docking. And the name we are so familiar with now (COVID-19) was given to the virus – which was proving to be quite deadly to some infected people.

But life continued as normal here in northern Scotland. And the highlights of my month were mainly centred round my photographic work, and illustrated by my monthly Flickr collage …….

sparrowhawk in the garden
A sparrowhawk rested on our back rockery for almost half an hour!

We have had rare visits by a sparrowhawk in the past – usually sheltering from a storm, and once to eat a catch in peace. But this winter we’ve seen it more often, though just pausing in its hunt. We guessed that it was attracted by the large numbers of small birds that we feed through the winter. But it never stayed long enough for me to get a lens trained on it.
This day it landed on the back rockery, and stayed for a long time. It was sunny, but blowing a gale too, so at first we expected it to fly away quickly. But no – it stayed very still, just looking around. Needless to say the small birds vanished!
I managed to take quite a few shots, and have put two together in this image. It finally flew off, and we are back to seeing just a fleeting visit as it settles on a trellis where we hang the bird feeders.

Still life with shell
Testing my ‘new’ Helios lens. A Helios 44-M to add to my 44-2

This month I added a new lens to my collection! I collect old Russian Helios lenses from the 1960s and 70s. I have 2 Helios 44-2 and this is very close, being a 44-M. It was sent very kindly by a Flickr friend Jesse1dog and this is my first test shoot!
The still life is part of my study of Formalism in Photography, and the photographic work of Jan Groover. More of this coming later!

experiment with a marigold

Recently I’ve been experimenting with Photoshop to find a way to add reflections to an existing image. I’ve seen some lovely flower images on Flickr where the image has been enhanced beautifully by the appearance of floating in/on water.
The online tutorial I’ve used is on Photoshop Essentials
It is quite complex and uses a Displacement PSD file.

I found I had to use a very small (for me) image in order to get the ripples to show up at all. I am still working on finding a way I really like!

On to March – and the world becomes surreal!
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