2021 August

the garden in August
The garden in August is alive with colour!

After the deluge that closed July, the whole garden has sprung into life with renewed vigour! The months of little or no rain saw the blossoms fall early, and growth severely limited. Now there is a sense of catching up with our chaotic year of 2021 – an overlong winter, cold and frosty Spring, and dry summer. Not too promising! But we even have hopes that the Victoria plums will revive and fatten – fingers are crossed!
There is sense of optimism as we approach August, Covid numbers are down to quite low levels – we might finally see some summer weather – and there is the promise of some return to ‘normal’ pre-pandemic life!

Barn swallow nests
A good year for our resident barn swallows!

High under the eaves, above my bedroom, we have the ‘homes’ of our summer visitors – barn swallows. This year they have been very busy! We suspect that their first brood didn’t survive the late and long winter, as there were no signs of new life apart from the eggshells. But since then there have been at least 2 more broods, with copious bird droppings adorning the honeysuckle that grows below them 😊
I can see the shadows of the swallows against my bedroom curtains, as they swoop up and into the nests, feeding the young. Some mornings there seem to be dozens of them circling and zooming in to the nests. I watch them with amazement!
And through August we have seen a new nest, and a first brood appear under the eaves at the side of the house! They are spreading their wings – quite literally!

A Yuta Segawa miniature vase
My turquoise Yuta Segawa miniature vase with a cocktail parasol

I was given a miniature vase years ago – a blue one I use often use, with a few small flowers, in my still life photography. I’ve never found another so small and so photogenic …. until now! They are hand-thrown and beautifuuly glazed. There’s a link here to a video of how they are made. I am having fun shooting them!

Fiesta steering wheel
Driving again! Brushing up my solo driving skills!

And by the middle of August I have started driving again! I need to keep my driving skills up-to-date. The very long and hard winter meant I avoided driving in such difficult conditions. Since then we have had our two Covid vaccination shots, each of them takes away energy, and has left me more tired – not good for the low energy levels from my long-term PVS/ME. But with Mike’s back problems I figure it is wise to make time and find the energy to polish up my driving. So a few early morning sessions at weekends have got me feeling safe and confident – though the energy has only taken me to Turriff a few times!

Japanese snacks
More delicious Japanese snacks to taste and enjoy!

Since Laurie introduced me to the delights of Japanese snacks, cakes and pancakes I have been enjoying adding to my range of eating experiences. And I confess to being well and truly hooked! Just like here, it is the small, traditional artisan makers who produce the best flavours. This lovely delicate momoyama snack is just one example.

bees on the lavender
Our wild bees finally feasting on the lavender

August has been a poor month weatherwise, with little rain to help the crops or our garden! And there has been even less sunshine – the skies have been a leaden grey most days. So we are relieved, as the month draws to a close, to finally see the small wild bees returning and swinging in the breeze on the lavender. Usually the garden is buzzing with activity, but everything is late this year – and insects, especially bees and butterflies are here in much smaller numbers.

And finally, as the month ends, I have to include a Covid reality check at the end of August.

Covid-Delta numbers quadrupled during August! Yes! We started the month feeling optimistic about the progress we had made against the Covid-Delta variant. But as August ends things are running madly out of control here!!
Our schools have been back 2-3 weeks now, and colleges are ready to return. And this is all on top of a summer of football, sporting and music festivals, and now the Edinburgh festival.

Previously Aberdeenshire had seen low infection rates – but in the past month infection numbers have more than quadrupled!!
August 1st – 230 cases reported a rate of 88.2 per 100,000
August 31st – 1,159 cases reported a rate of 444.4 per 100,000
VERY locally we have usually had weekly numbers too small to count (0-2) with a max of 3 and an occasional 4. As the month draws to a close we have 25 reported cases.

It seems that most hospitalizations are of younger age-groups, mostly unvaccinated or with a single vaccine. But the authorities won’t give the go-ahead for school-age children to be vaccinated yet.
And about 1/3 of hospital admissions are among the older and double-vaccinated groups.
ICU figures are slowly creeping up, but so far deaths remain low. But there is no idea of what long-term damage there could be from Covid-Delta itself.
The Scottish Govt. is holding its breath and hoping that we can ride out the current wave. But already the demands on hospitals are forcing them to cancel non-urgent surgery etc. as the wards are filling up again with Covid cases.

On which happy note we end August! September means we are moving into autumn and winter weather (with more indoor activity). So it looks like we will remain essentially self-isolating and relying on masks and keeping away from any crowded places.
But before we move on to September, a look at my Flickr activity for August. I post regularly to Flickr, with a mix of macro, still life, landscape and experimental images. And as the month ends I create a collage for each month. They act as dividers in the flow of images, and also as a reminder to myself of what I have been up to over the previous weeks!

August collage of Flickr postings
My August collage of all the shots I’ve uploaded to Flickr this month

So – on to September, and the approach of autumn.
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© 2021 Elisa Liddell

2021 April

plum blossom
The Japanese plum tree is usually a mass of pink by now – but winter is still with us!

April is the cruellest month! How right T S Eliot was!
Winter continues unabated – sub zero nights and cold days have dominated April 2021. The plum blossom is almost completely killed on the Japanese flowering plum tree by the gate. Usually the tree turns into a pink delight in April, but this year there are just a few random pink dabs among the bare branches! The new green buds on the hydrangeas and azaleas are blackened and blighted too. It is indeed cruel! There is more hail than snow, and the high winds sweeping down from the Arctic are driving the hail off the large field behind the house, and into our garden, building up against the house, and into our faces when we open the back door!

winter in April
The garden is full of the snow and hailstones blown off the field behind the house!

By the middle of the month the snow has been replaced by overnight frosts and bright sunny days. Better than the constant snow and hail, but the weather pattern is still so very cold, even at midday. The blue skies are very welcome, and the sun is hot through the window glass – but it is deceptive! And there is now no rainfall at all – so the land that has been soaked all autumn and frozen solid all winter is now too dry for the Spring planting to germinate properly.

winter sunset in Spring
It looks more like midwinter than April!

On the personal front we have managed to continue to do some of our own grocery shopping. The lockdown together with the vaccine roll-out has seen a welcome and reassuring fall in infection rates, hospitalisations and deaths. There is now a Covid Dashboard provided by PH Scotland that shows cases by Local Government areas, and within each area too. So we can check to see how safe the places we wish to visit are.
It is a strange world when the freedom to enter a shop and choose my own fruit and vegetables is a real treat! What used to be a regular chore has become a mark of returning normality, and real delight to look forward to!

April 14th – and another milestone. We both get our second vaccination jag!
That is only 8 weeks since the first, and we were expecting to wait another month. So now we only need to wait another 3 weeks to ensure the antibodies have built up fully. Early May will be so good!
No ill effects from the 2nd AZ shot – a mild ‘flu’ feeling for a day, but not even a sore arm!

April 26th – and there is a lot of easing of restrictions, both for travel, meeting others, and for opening up of shops, cafes and pubs. The emphasis is on outdoor meetings and venues as these first tentative steps test how effective the lock-down and vaccine roll-out have been.

But most of these changes are not affecting us two, as cold winter weather continues to make indoors most appealing! So I have been enjoying shooting anything and everything that I can find lying around in my studio! Catching the fleeting moments of sunshine, and celebrating the feeling that the year of constant stress might be loosening its grip…

feather and hydrangea
Feather and hydrangea, one of my many ‘odds and sods’ shots.

I call this slightly frivolous excursion into random still-life shots my Flickr Odds and Sods album, and am happily adding to it as often as I can!

tiny medicine bottles
Some of my tiny antique medicine bottles – as a monochrome
feather and stone
Feather and stone, one of my many ‘odds and sods’ shots.

And before April ended we managed another trip to Fyvie Castle and grounds, to see if the new green of Spring had finally managed to emerge. This time I took a Sony NEX-7 with the magical Zeiss Makro E 50mm F2.8 lens. Usually used for close macro photography, I have discovered it is a wonderful landscape lens too!

Spring at Fyvie loch
Spring is finally showing the first signs of new fresh green!

To round off April with the photography I’ve posted on Flickr, here is the collage of my online month.

collage of shots for April 2021
The collage of shots taken and uploaded for April 2021

April ends the way it began, with driving hail and freezing temperatures.

And on to May, and has Spring arrived .. at long last?
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© 2021 Elisa Liddell

As far as I get!

Japanese plum
a sprig of the ornamental plum tree by the gate

Self-isolating now for most of March, with only about 4 trips out to exercise or shop! So photographing the plum blossom in the garden is as far as I go most days!
Today it was blowing a gale – it often is this year. So I brought a spring indoors to capture its delicate beauty!

Let’s sit among the flowers….

Twist-60 Lensbaby at Fyvie Castle
First outing for the Lensbaby Twist 60, shooting the loch-side walk at Fyvie Castle

The kind of place you just want to sit and watch the world go by!
The rhododendrons are still blooming at Fyvie Castle. Too good to miss the chance to enjoy them! And a chance to try out my latest Lensbaby optic, the Twist 60.

Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2019 Elisa Liddell

Don’t fence me in!

The new fence and rhododendrons
The new ranch fence adorned with rhododendrons

We’ve had a small wooden ranch-style fence in the garden for years – and this year we have replaced it.
Work completed yesterday, and the smell of new wood, and wood shavings, fills the garden! I’ve planted clematis to grow up and over the fence, but at the moment it is bare, pale wood. I wanted to celebrate the new fence, so I took some rhododendrons from the front garden to adorn it.
Shot with the Sony A77ii and the Sony 100mm F2.8 Macro.

Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2019 Elisa Liddell

Such a simple pleasure!

A white rose with raindrops.
A white rose with raindrops. Shot with the Lensbaby Edge 80 optic on the Sony NEX-6

A simple single white rose, shot against a black velvet cloth. I used the Lensbaby Edge 80 optic, which means shooting in Manual Mode. This optic is a favourite of mine, as it can produce amazing clarity and detail. I’ve written more about it here
And ‘Flying Solo is all about using full Manual Mode on your camera.

Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2019 Elisa Liddell


Apple blossom time!

The apple blossom
The apple blossom sways in the gentle Spring breeze. Shot with the Helios 44-2 lens

May starts, and the apple blossom is in full swing. We have a large crab apple tree – no use for apples in the autumn (even the bird and insects avoid the fruit)
But in the Spring the garden is full of the almond scent of the flowers, and the tree is a mass of pink buds and white flowers. A true joy!
My album of apple blossom shots is on Flickr
Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2019 Elisa Liddell

Sweet and pink!

Pink geranium flowers.
Pink geranium flowers. Sweet 50 with 16mm macro converter

Thinking of summer as the flowers start to bloom. A pink geranium that we grew in a pot, close to the porch so it could get the sun and be sheltered from the winds. It rewarded us with beautiful flowers.
Shot here with the Lensbaby, which is one of my favourite range of optics. The Sweet 50 optic gives a sharp focus point called the “sweet spot” and a gentle blur surrounding that spot.
There’s a whole series of articles here on the Lensbaby optic system
On Flickr you can find my Album of Sweet 50 photos

Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2019 Elisa Liddell