2023 May

misty start to the day
misty start to the day

May started with the Spring booster shot for Covid. It seems we are on the list for Insch for the Covid shots now. It’s not the easiest place to get to, being very rural roads – but the little cottage hospital is quite the nicest and most friendly vaccination centre we’ve been sent to.
But the vaccination shots are always a struggle for my PVS/ME. A couple of days in bed with mainly liquids and sleeping – that’s the ‘knock-out’ – followed by a week or two to get back to some level of energy, sleeping, and eating. The big challenge is to take it slowly. I feel OK for an hour or two, and then try NOT to do too much!

It has been a very slow start this year … winter has dragged on and on. It started early in the autumn, and hasn’t released it’s grip fully yet.

back rockery

As May progresses the season does seem to be changing to the ‘summer’ pattern. The back rockery has really taken off, and is spilling over with colour! The temperatures are rising!

In the front garden we have our fragrant yellow hedge of Azalea Luteum spilling over with bright colour! It has taken years of careful work to reach this state, and we are quite proud with the results!

yellow azalea luteum

The temperature is improving, but there’s no rainfall. It looks like we will be repeating last year, when we had to get out the hosepipes and start to water round the most vulnerable plants. It was tiring, but essential to keep the garden alive!
With the return of some warmth and sunshine, we also have a chance to discover just how bad the damage is in the garden after the 8+ months of ‘winter’. There’s a lot of freezer burn on all the bushes, and quite a few of the smaller plants have perished. Not a pretty sight! And the drought that is shaping up will not make recovery easy.

white rhododendrons

But as the month progresses the rhodies and smaller azaleas bring wonderful colour back into our garden and lives! I have a yellow azalea luteum under my bedroom window. Its fragrance is so welcome.

The top layer of the front garden is full of the red, white and yellow of the azaleas and rhododendrons. The colours are so bright and cheerful.
But soon they will be past their best and the potentillas will take over!

The front garden in May

It is time to move the geraniums and other plants that we have over-wintered in the hallway back out into the shelter of the porch, where they can catch the morning sunshine.

As the warmth, sunshine and dry conditions persist we can finally think about taking a look at the world around us, and collecting some photos along with the fresh air and exercise!

Goldie filter infrared Fyvie path

I took one of my Infrared cameras with me when we finally managed to spend a morning in Fyvie Castle gardens. The harsh winter has taken a toll, with so much of the pathways overgrown with weeds.

There are still so many signs of Storm Arwen! It devastated so many trees. But there are still some standing proud! The other sad thing is the Avian Flu which means we cannot feed to ducks!

infrared Fyvie trees
Daphne in a miniature vase

The indoor shooting is never laid aside! Here I was determined to capture the Daphne bush with its delicate star-like pink flowers. And a Yuta Segawa Japanese miniature vase is the ideal companion!

And there is always the fascination with light and glass prisms and spheres! Here with a backdrop of a blue patterned winter scarf. The play of light, and a bit of post-processing too!

Blue lensball

And so on to June, and the drought deepens
Back to the 2023 Cover Page
Back to Notebooks cover

Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2023 Elisa Liddell

2020 March

Collage for March 2020
A collection of images posted on Flickr this March

And this is where the narrative of our lives really began to change.

I am old enough to remember the shivers of fear that the AIDS advertising campaign had in the 1980s. The falling tombstone, and the sense that there was a hidden ‘enemy’ out there! But nothing really touched me and my life. And after that there was SARS, and again life went on as before. No reason to panic when the next unwelcome visitor put in an appearance … surely not!
Originally known as known as “2019 novel coronavirus” the virus is officially named “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2” (SARS-CoV-2) and in non-specialist use as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) it has come to dominate our lives in so many ways!
The first frisson of fear came on March 4th when our hairdresser told us there were rumours that a case of COVID-19 (and death) had been reported in Turriff. Now that is really close! Maybe rural Aberdeenshire is not going to left in peace this time!
By mid March we were planning for possible restrictons, realising that things could get difficult. We don’t have a shop in our village, and we are dependent on being able to drive to local towns for our groceries and other supplies from their shops and small supermarkets. Online deliveries are possible too. So we might be OK!
Looking at the news, especially online, we followed the progress of the virus as it spread from Italy across Europe. In a few weeks it would be in the UK in a big way. We expected the UK government to close down air travel, and monitor closely international travel of all kinds. But nothing happened!
There was a strange kind of limbo. The country seemed to collectively hold its breath! I stopped sleeping properly, felt tired on waking, couldn’t concentrate or do anything much. I tried to act as normal, photoshooting for Flickr and writing for the ‘Zen Camera’ section of Inedita – but I found myself watching ‘easy’ TV and playing cards or word games on my iPhone and doing jigsaws on my iPad!

iPad jigsaw
A partially completed jigsaw on my iPad!
Word Jong
playing word games on my iPhone!

Sunday March 15th
We woke to a Kafkaesque world. I wrote in my diary: “All people aged 70+ are to be locked down for up to 4 months. I guess we are being encouraged to die quietly behind closed doors – by starvation if not the virus.”
We started to make emergency trips to the supermarkets, to stock up with food. Self-isolating was not a massive problem as we are mainly just the two of us. We have a house and garden, and neighbours are not very close by. Maybe we can make it through 4 months, if we can make essential trips to shops and some exercise at our local beauty spots and at the coast. Fingers were crossed!

Wednesday March 18th
We walked around the small loch at Fyvie Castle. It was cold enough to freeze my fingers as I shot. This is the time when I get out my landscape lenses and metaphorically dust them off for a summer of shooting the countryside and seaside all around us. The winter is the time for indoor photo shoots, as the cold really takes my energy away. So I took an Infrared converted camera with me, to familiarise myself with it again. A new (to me) Sony A5000 with a 850nm filter, that I needed to get used to. It didn’t matter if all the shots I took were duds, and thrown away – the main aim was to ‘limber up’ my outdoor shooting.

March bare trees in infrared
shooting the still bare trees in infrared

Little did we know, but it was the last time we got to walk round the grounds of Fyvie Castle until lock-down was officially lifted in July! Somehow it seemed appropriate that I was shooting with the darkest IR 850nm filter, as there were dark days ahead. The mood of those shots was sombre, and (looking back) full of foreboding.

After that the ‘shock of the new’ began to take shape. Schools closed, supermarkets were overwhelmed and shelves stripped as panic buying gripped the nation. We found our local supermarkets were beginning to organise for ‘social distancing’ and arranging time slots for NHS workers, and for the 70+ (locked down). The postie started putting parcels on the front step, ringing the bell and stepping back. No more signing for a parcel – COVID changed that rule!
We decided to start our own ‘mini-greenhouse’ in a large plastic tub – to grow salad leaves and herbs. It worked out well over the summer, giving us some tasty additions to our salads. But eventually the plants went to seed and we dismantled it in September. All is ready to start again next year!

salad greens and sprouting seeds
Growing our own! salad greens and sprouting seeds

We also started with sprouting seeds, alfalfa and mung beans to start with. Again it went well, except we misjudged the quantities, and became overhwelmed with alfalfa that kept on growing! Again we have the seeds and the jars, and will try growing more over the winter!

This is the time of year when I have the cameras out to shoot the Japanese ornamental plum tree by the gate. It was a welcome escape from the encroaching gloom and impending threats that lay, invisible, beyond our gate!

Japanese plum blossom
set against black velvet, the delight of plum blossom in the garden

As so often happens it was cold and windy enough to bring sprigs of plum blossom indoors to shoot!

Wednesday March 25th
One of the days that Tesco organises a one hour slot for the 70+ age group. We didn’t have face masks, but did have some disposable gloves, and plastic pouches for credit cards etc. I tried using a knitted scarf as an improvised mask (months later I learned knitted masks are positively dangerous, and worse than using no face covering!)

As things began to sink in we realised that we wouldn’t have the possibility of help from neighbours, or to call a taxi if needed. Age-related lock-down has implications! I really felt the need to get my driving skills back … to help with the practical situation, and also to feel less helpless!

The month ended with the clocks moving into Summer time – and overnight snow to complete the irony of upcoming summer 2020!

On to April – and the word ‘pandemic’ enters our world
Back to Journal Page
Back to Notebooks cover

Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2020 Elisa Liddell

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!
Back to Journal Page
Back to Notebooks cover

Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2020 Elisa Liddell