2023 January

new specs
I can see clearly now …….

And so the new year begins …. and I have some new things to celebrate.
I have finally found the lightest spectacles I have ever seen. So light I hardly know I’m wearing them. Rimless and with thin titanium arms they have revolutionised the seeing experience for this reluctant late-comer to the world of varifocal specs. I just had to photograph them in celebration!

Small world chair and bear

I have added a new ‘small world’ to my photo prop collection. Inspired by a fellow Flickr-ite I discovered Minimum World where they make miniature furniture and more. All hand-made and beautiful.

So I am beginning to explore the ways in which I can combine my love of macro photography with all the possibilities of story telling that these new finds can offer.

Small world bench

In the dark days of winter I have been shooting indoors, and I love to play with prisms, glass and light ….

glass and light

Add a brightly coloured scarf as a backdrop, and there are so many surprises for the camera lens – and for me too! Not quite an abstract, but it is difficult to discern the elements.

Take the same elements of prisms and glass surfaces and shine LED lights of several colours at them, and more mysterious abstracts appear. Move the lights or the prisms a little and the image changes…

LED bokeh

Another way to use the photographic potential of the winter months, is the low winter sun. The sun is late to rise, and never reaches the heights of the Spring or summer months. So catching the moments when the sun does shine, there are long shadows to be captured.

light play with forks

Catching that low winter sun shining through the window. The shadows are not deeply strong and dark … but they can seem to stretch on forever!

Position the subject just right, and at ‘high noon’ the sun has enough intensity to give multiple shadows. There is so much fun to be had with just 2 forks!

light play with forks 2

But January wouldn’t be complete without recording the latest venture into the world of technology. Yes … time to upgrade the technology we all depend on more and more as so much of daily life moves online. So, a new iPhone was added to our tech. store.
I was fortunate enough (if that is the right word) to fall down the rabbit hole into the world of Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome when the first developments of what would become today’s smartphones were happening. And I got into the cutting edge tech of the time back in the 1990s, while running a website called FoxPop. On the website I could follow and review the latest gadgets from Psion and Geofox in the UK.
“The Geofox One was a sub-notebook styled PDA that used Psion’s EPOC32 OS in 1997.”
And later we added the Blackberry, and other handheld organisers. Developments in miniaturisation led to handheld organisers and small laptops coming closer and closer in size and power… until we have a smartphone today that is many times more sophisticated and powerful than a large laptop of 2000!
The years I spent running the FoxPop website gave me a head start in understanding the technological revolution that has swept the 21st century world into the online, connected, digital world it is today.
So – despite being in the age-range of those who struggle with modern smartphones – I enjoy the ever changing and ever challenging world of personal technology.

On to February …… and re-awakening some dormant cameras!
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2023 Vision

Looking at 2023
Looking at 2023

And so 2023 begins.
This it the third year of my online Journal, and each year has confounded my thoughts as I sat and looked into the possible shape of the coming months. Maybe weaving plans and expectations for the year ahead is not really a wise move!
But it’s a natural, human thing to do … to make shapes of the future, and to make stories of our past. Maybe all journals should be written only in retrospect.
I confess that I have fewer ideas about what lies ahead in 2023 – fewer than I expected I’d have. The last 3 years have completely shaken up all our plans and expectations. I guess that is the nature of a pandemic – a global event that reshapes the world. All I can do is describe where I am now, where the UK is now, and where the wider world is now … as seen from this small corner of the Scottish highlands.

Personally we (Mike and I) still treat the pandemic as active, along with ‘flu and several other winter infections. So we live a quiet life of ‘shielding’ and wear masks when shopping etc. This is unusual now, as most people try to act as if the pandemic is over. But cases are still fluctuating, and the advice in Scotland has changed to mask wearing in crowded public places – ventilation and social distancing.
There is no functioning NHS. Under-funded and overstretched for 13 years it is collapsing around us. Indeed all public services are collapsing: teachers, local government workers, train drivers, social care workers … so many are striking after 13 years of ‘austerity’ which meant pay freezes all round.
The tipping point came in the final months of last year, as rocketing inflation has driven more workers to need Food Banks to even eat minimally. The UK government is doing nothing, waiting for ‘public opinion’ to turn against the strikers, and the strikers to be starved back to work.
It sounds Dickensian, doesn’t it …. and it feels Dickensian too, living through it!

January …and the journey begins with some new delights.
February …… and re-awakening some dormant cameras!
March ….. and the indoor winter experience
April …. and a look at how Covid had changed our tech. lives
May … and it is shaping up to be another drought and heatwave

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2022 July

July 2022 cover
July 2022 calendar

Emerging from the 3 months of extra energy demands … in July we hoped for an energy rebound and to emerge refreshed and ready to enjoy the summer with our usual annual visits to our favourite spots both inland and along the coast. But I had forgotten just how long it can take for ‘recovery’ with ME/PVS.
So July was a struggle to recover any energy at all.

The biggest impact on my health and energy levels is always STRESS and this year stress has been all around me.
For as long as I have had ME/PVS I have tried to ignore external stresses, as they can be the most damaging, as chances are that I can’t do anything about them. So a somewhat selfish, blinkered approach to the wider world has proved therapeutic for me! Not what I want … as I studied politics, economics, sociology and social philosophy at university back in the day! But I live as carefully and patiently as I can with ‘Post Viral Syndrome’. Stress is the most difficult problem to control – I can stop myself from overexertion, work to improve my sleep pattern, make sure I eat wisely and take my essential NADH. But external stresses can be like trying to catch the mist in your hand!
Incidentally I see Long Covid as just the latest Post Viral Syndrome, and maybe the one that will wake people up to the wider picture!

This entire year has seen a steady increase in stressors – levels of Covid infection with Omicron running unchecked – the war in Ukraine – Spring and summer droughts that are getting worse each year – spiralling inflation with food, petrol, and energy costs increasing. And as the summer continues we are promised heatwaves, wildfires and water shortages.

So my focus has been on the smallest of things! The world of home and garden, and of course, expressed through photography.

yellow potentilla

Bringing in flowers from the garden to shoot together with my collection of miniature Japanese vases is a way to celebrate the joys of having a good size garden.

The potentillas are all colours, and form colourful hedges throughout the whole garden. These are mainly hardy Abbotswood, and seem to thrive even in our cold northern climate.
And the miniature vases I have collected are beautiful hand-thrown, glazed gems by Yuta Segawa . I have an album of photos using these vases on my Flickr site here

More potentilla, this time edging a path, and also softening the lines of the small walls that divide the front garden into 3 layers. They flower well into autumn.

white and pink potentilla
white fuchsia in a vase

A great delights this year is the addition of a white fuchsia bush. I’ve tried for years to grow fuchsias and failed, but this hardy Hawkshead variety has withstood frost, heat and drought! Here with a Yuta Segawa vase.

It may seem silly, but you really start to appreciate simple grass when the drought begins to bite! Luckily we have had enough nights with mist and morning dew to keep most of our grass green!

daisies and grass

The entire summer in the garden has been dominated by the drought. Not as severe as in parts of England, but our local river, the Ythan, has been flagged as in danger. Farmers have been warned about taking water from it for irrigation. No hosepipe ban, but we have a routine for collecting any useable water from indoors into buckets and using it to water plants and planters. As long as it doesn’t have detergents, soap etc. we can use it! Yes, it takes time and patience, but it has helped the garden to survive thus far!
And indoors, with my cameras?

cherries

Well, anything and everything that catches my eye.
I use Flickr challenges to keep me looking for interesting ways to shoot the daily events and things around me.

I frequently shoot with macro lenses, and they can give an interesting perspective on even the most mundane of items! Add a little sunshine and a reflective surface …

push-pins
gladioli

And yes, I do still sometimes buy flowers from the supermarket. But as the inflationary spiral continues, it is an occasional indulgence. I admit that gladioli are one of my weaknesses! They are so amazing …

But a dried hydrangea flower found under a bush can make a wonderful macro subject! Again with added sunshine and cast shadows … just as beautiful as when it was ‘alive’.

dried hydrangea petals

And of course I never stop shooting the landscape. We have wonderful skies, and I can capture both sunrise and sunsets even though we are in the howe (valley) of the Ythan.

the colourful sky
playing with the colourful evening sky

Here I played with a sunset shot, using Photoshop (yes – post-processing is a vital part of digital photography!) Transforming the sky with imaginary colours of the aurora borealis. Great fun!

But to end on a more serious note. I was thinking about the stresses of not just this month of July. A very personal stressor for me has been the supply of my essential ME. ‘medication’. In recent months supplies of the NADH dried up, and I could not find supplies anywhere.
It is an enzyme that affects every cell in the body, enabling the ‘food’ to cross the cell wall from the blood stream, so the cells can work as normal. Without this enzyme my body can’t operate, and my energy vanishes, and I return to the early ‘hell’ of barely being able to lift my head off the pillow, and not being able to think, or digest my food. It is quite simply my lifeline!

NADH or ENADA

Years ago I found out about NADH and have supplies of the one product that works for me. There are others on the market, but after trying one, and coming dangerously close to a relapse I have stuck with my trusty MoJo ….

This sudden drying up of MoJo supplies left me in a panic – I had to try and find an alternative! The only way to discover if a brand will work for me is to stop using my MoJo completely and replace it with the new one … for an entire week. By then I will either feel OK or crash completely into the beginning of a relapse. A dangerous tightrope to walk!

Through June and July I tried out 3 products that I can source in the UK. The first 2 proved to be good, and could give me energy close to my MoJo. As July started I was testing out the third one – and by day 5 of the trial I was struggling to get out of bed in the morning. So I stopped, and returned to my dwindling supplies of the MoJo!
It meant that the first half of July I was feeling very low and struggling to get back to my ‘normal’ equilibrium. I had to rest a whole lot, I found my hands were shaky so I couldn’t hold a paintbrush, or use a camera without a tripod. I had to monitor food, only eating easily digestible food, and in small quantities – too much and I break out into a cold sweat, and must lie down until my body can digest the food. Loud music, or bright lights on the TV screen were both painful …. it was a salutary reminder of what ME had originally done to my life – eating up whole decades!
[see the page on “ME and me” here. Although written a few years ago, it is still true today! ]

So on to August ……. and it gets really hot!

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2022 June

Calendar for June 2022
Calendar for June 2022

June has been a month of recovery! It is month 3 of our major undertaking of the year. We are both ‘disabled’ by long term health problems, and have a very meagre energy supply. So we live very restricted and limited lives, and only maintain a balance by carefully monitoring our energy output. For me it is crucial, as long term ME/Post Viral Syndrome is so similar to Long Covid …. as the world wakes up to what we have known for decades … that viruses can do long term and irreparable damage to the human body! Fatigue is not a new concept to me, it is what I’ve lived with for decades!
So April saw us preparing for Laurie’s visit from the USA – May was the month Laurie was here – and now June has been the month of recovering. Energy is very low – an energy drought that is echoing the water drought across Aberdeenshire – so staying at home is the best idea all round! We have had deliveries of groceries rather than driving to Inverurie and shopping for ourselves. So my photography has been home based, with indoor still life photography replacing the usual summer visits to the coast and local beauty spots.

Another reason for staying home is Covid. The latest versions of the virus (BA.4 and BA.5) are still very active and growing in numbers both locally and nationally – Scotland is always the worst figures of the 4 nations. I follow Aberdeenshire quite closely, and we began June with a recorded 350 cases (134.2 per 100,0000) peaking at 996 on the 26th and ended the month with 868 cases (332.8 per 100,0000). In May I had my second booster shot, but Mike has not been offered one, so we are super-careful this summer.

And as June progressed the garden has blossomed, growing apace despite the meagre rainfall. It has been neglected this year, as the growing season has coincided with us focussing on Laurie’s visit and the preparations. So weeds abound, the honeysuckle is running rampant, and the dandelions are thriving! But we do have some surprises and delights in the mix too.
I’ve tried to grow clematis over the years and always failed. Last year I planted 6 along the bare ranch fence in the back garden.

The clematis fence

In the Spring everything looked dead, but then they started growing from the ground up. By early June at least 4 were looking promising with plenty of buds ….

And by the end of the month the fence is a blaze of blossoms, both purple and pink. I’m told they are ‘Clematis Pink Champagne’. I am just so thrilled that they have managed to thrive in our northern climate!

the clematis fence 2
clematis flower

Needless to say I managed to bring indoors some of the beautiful clematis flowers so I could shoot them!
Here one flower, in the sunshine, shot with the Lensbaby Double Glass and macro ring.

Buying flowers from the supermarket is becoming a very occasional treat now, as prices of everything sky-rocket! But I did indulge in a small bunch of peonies, something I can’t grow here.

a white peony
physalis or Peruvian groundcherry

One thing I did add to my range of planters was 2 physalis plants. I have them indoors and they are thriving and growing rather tall! They are a new venture for me … I’ll see how they do. I’d love to be able to grow my own!

On a more sombre note about ‘growing tall’ we have had to cut down our tallest tree, an alder. If we are to expect gales like Storm Arwen this coming winter, then this is the tree most likely to succumb, and damage house and garden.

tree cutting
signs of barns wallows

As ever, we share our house and garden with visiting barn swallows. This year we have two families busy raising their first brood. We sometimes have a second brood – so we are hoping.

Here the first eggshell I found, and an early feather. Shot with a miniature vase – with the Lensbaby.

Since the last vaccination in the spring (Pfizer) I’ve found my taste buds have gone really weird. I lost my taste for Japanese food, and it has only now returned. What a delight to enjoy my favourite tea –Genmaicha Iri Matcha.

Japanese tea

And I can’t close without referring to ….
the cost of living crisis.
Everything, but everything is shooting up in price. Food bills are creeping up week on week. And when there is no price rise we find that the quality or quantity of items has been reduced! Do they think we are idiots and don’t notice??
And our heating oil has had a 50% rise this Spring, with a bigger rise promised in the autumn. We have no gas supply in rural Scotland – and have never enjoyed a ‘price cap’ – so suppliers are free to charge whatever they want /0\
Electricity is another essential that is set to sky-rocket this autumn. So we do daily monitoring to get our usage as low as possible. Only use dishwasher once a week. PCs off unless specifically needed. Laptops and iPhones replace the PC. Lights and appliances off unless needed. It feels like wartime as describes by my parents!
Scary when you think we are in summer … winter in the north of Scotland can be brutal! So as we leave June we are feeling sombre and wondering what disasters await us as 2022 progresses …

So on to July and summer arrives and the world around us gets madder!

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2022 April

April 2022 Calendar
April 2022 Calendar with tiny daffodils

April always seems such an ‘in-between’ month, suspended between winter and Spring, havering, unsure whether to let go of winter and commit to Spring! And this year it has seemed just as indecisive as ever!

Spring snow

The month began with some dramatic displays of winter weather. Whiteout conditions, blizzards and sub-zero nights were common – too common!

It looked as though another Spring would be blighted, as the early Japanese plum blossom struggles with the snow. Last year much of the garden suffered with blackened buds.

April snowstorm 1
Xmas cactus

The plants that had overwintered indoors thrived, sheltered from the cold – and our Xmas Cactus gave us a lovely colourful display – at Easter!

And as April drew to a close the Victoria plum was full of blossom. We kept our fingers crossed that no sudden blast of frost would kill the blossom before the fruit buds were established. Maybe a good crop this year?

Victoria plum blossom

With the weather still cold, and the arctic winds strong, I spent most time indoors.

macro of computer circuit board

Here I was shooting macro, and having fun with what the macro lens can show. This is a small 1 inch slice of a computer motherboard!

I love to shoot glass, all sizes and shapes – it is always a delight and a surprise too. Here a burst of evening sun caught two crystal glass balls ….

Two clear crystal balls
lines and light

…. and here shooting a glass cube on a glass side table, against the reeded glass of the front door. Shooting on glass or through glass there are always interesting effects to find!

And finally the collage of all my uploads to Flickr this month. My uploads reflect only a small selection of what I have been shooting, out and about as well as indoors in my little studios.

Collage for April 2022
Collage for April 2022

On to May …… which brings us a visitor from the USA
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2022 February

calendar for February 2022

February begins quietly here – there is little sense of winter progressing as we used to experience it. Yes there is some snow, but it rarely lasts more than a day and is never as deep as we were used to! The weather pattern seems to be warmer, wetter and windier!

snow storm

Snow is one of the real beauties of winter. The landscape can be drab here, with fields of raw ploughed earth waiting for the Spring sowing. A bright white is transformative.

snow begins across the howe

At its best the snow can enhance the muted green and browns of the winter garden, and create a misty distance of half obscured trees across the howe, creating mystery as well as beauty.

Both of those shots were taken on February 6th – so to keep the timeline for the early part of the month, let’s take a look at the state of play across the UK with Covid 19.
The UK is now dominated by the Omicron variant, which is quite alarmingly transmissible, and has spread so quickly it has taken the experts and the politicians by surprise. Hospitalisation and deaths are not as high, due in part (probably a major part) to levels of double and triple vaccinations. But the high levels of infection mean that more and more people are away from work, self-isolating. And that impacts on every part of the functioning of society.
The approach to this situation has varied, with Scotland and Wales both keeping as many ‘mitigations’ as possible in place, especially regarding mask-wearing and behaviour in crowded indoor spaces and large outdoor events. The English government has been keen to lift as many restrictions as possible, encouraging a return to office work, abandoning mask wearing, and freeing social and school situations from Covid mitigations. It is all a matter of ‘self selection’ now, and individual freedom of choice.
And the countrywide map for Feb. 5th clearly shows the impact of the different approaches!

Covid map February 5th 2022
UK Covid map for February 5th 2022

The lighter the colour, the lower the rate of both infection and transmission.
Personally the impact of Omicron has been to return Mike and I to stricter self-isolation, and upgrading our masks from n95 to n99 (FFP2 to FFP3). Outings are almost exclusively for shopping trips, early in the morning when the shops are reasonably empty of customers!
Storm Arwen has curtailed our usual patterns of exercise, as most of the places we visit to walk and take photographs are closed due to the storm damage of last November/December. And they will probably remain closed for most of the year! This is making big problems for us both, as two years of the pandemic has had an impact on our general health and our muscles and general stamina.

speed and rain

Our outings are mainly shopping trips, and I do tend to shoot through the car windscreen as we drive along, whatever the weather! Here I merged several shots to add the sense of speed.

Snow through the window

And when the weather is too bad to tempt me outdoors with some cameras, I can record the view through the windows. Here I was shooting with an iPhone. A typically grey and sunless day. As the snow hit the window it melted, adding a nicely cold and wet feeling to the scene.
There have been so many days with the same leaden grey skies this February! It does make the world indoors much more appealing!

So I have spent more time focussed on indoor creative pursuits – both photography (on Flickr) and watercolour painting.

My Xmas blue Segawa vase

I’ve begun collecting some wonderful miniature vases by Yuta Segawa – hand-thrown, and so very small. I’ve spent plenty of time shooting them. The smallest of flowers will set off their delicacy!

My Xmas white Segawa vase

This is the tiniest one I have, and pure white. With a few dried hydrangea flowers it seems to float.
And I do search out flowers from the local supermarket ……

beauty of tulips out of season

….. they brighten the house, and lift the mood, glowing in the occasional winter sunshine. These yellow tulips remind me that Spring will return … maybe soon?

white roses in the sun

When I buy flowers I tend to hang on to them, and gradually as the blossoms fade I find a few that still look fresh. So smaller and smaller vases are used until, like this, a small maple syrup jar suffices to show them off!

On to March, and the hope Spring!
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2022 Vision

Happy New Year
My New Year greeting Card for 2022

So, we look forward to 2022 with hope, but tempered by the sense of Deja Vu – that we have been here before! Last year we were facing the first big Covid variant, called Delta – and wondering if the newly tested vaccines could help us through. This year we are triple vaccinated, and facing the next major Covid variant – called Omicron – and wondering what the variant will throw at us, and how we will cope!

Scotland begins 2022 with the promised ‘tsunami’ of new infections. Omicron is highly transmissible, but seems to be ‘milder’ in that the symptoms can be quite like a bad cold, and it doesn’t seem (so far) to be damaging the respiratory system as badly as Delta does. Omicron has been circulating mainly among younger adults and children, as they are the most socially active, and the least vaccinated groups. It remains to be seen how badly it will affect the older age groups, and how well the vaccines will protect us. Being among the most vulnerable group, we are especially cautious when leaving home!

For us, the ‘Pandemic Reality’ has limited us physically. There are shops and locations we haven’t visited since 2019. The shops and locations we do visit are ones we have become happy with in terms of the protection they offer. They form our new ‘comfort zone’. Wearing masks, physical distancing, limiting number in a shop at any one time, spacing while queueing, paying by card and screens at checkout points. All these are the pandemic ‘normal’. Open air or good ventilation are very important … so grocery deliveries to the gate are safest (we take items up the drive in the car, or by hand ourselves) again masks worn even outside now. Omicron is many times more transmissible than Delta, so we are super-careful!

The year and the day starts with the usual daily pattern of checking for cases in our local area, especially when planning to go out. But the numbers now are so far beyond anything we have encountered before – so we no longer feel that anywhere is ‘safe’ or ‘low risk’. So we feel we are in new and uncharted territory once again – which raises the anxiety level.

So… on to the monthly record of our journey through these partly familiar, partly uncharted waters:
January – and the 3rd year of the Covid-19 Pandemic begins, and I have a new lens to play with in my photography!
February – and the winter of storms continues. From Arwen to Franklin, we have clocked up 7 storms dangerous enough to be named!
March – and a new variant, Omicron BA.2 sweeps through Scotland. The government acts as if the pandemic is over, and number soar locally!
April – the most volatile month as winter finally gives way to spring.
May – which brings Spring and Laurie to visit from Texas!
June – as summer blossoms, we are in recovery mode.
July – summer and the world around us gets madder!
August – and it gets really hot!
September – when the world here cools down!
October – where autumn begins, and the summer heat is but a distant memory!
November – where winter begins with a personal loss.
December, where memories and winter takes hold

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2022 January

calendar January 2022
My Calendar cover for January 2022

Yes. Year three of the Covid-19 pandemic begins. It has been such a long journey since November/December 2019 when we first read about a virulent new virus causing concern in Wuhan, China …. then January 2020 when we found it was here in Aberdeenshire, brought back from Italy by someone returning from a ski holiday in the Italian Alps.
It is hard to recall just how innocent, how ignorant we were of what might lie ahead as the new decade began! So how does the world look as 2022 begins?

In pandemic terms the Westminster government is yet again trying to suggest that the pandemic is over … well NEARLY. Desperate for some ‘good news’ it is repeating the mistakes of last year by trumpeting the next “Freedom Day” of no face masks and back to work in the office.
The reason for this (looked at with a cynical eye) is to divert the populace away from the ocean of lies, corruption and sleaze that is engulfing Boris Johnson and his government. It is difficult to find a way to summarise this … Partygate, lying (both to the Commons and the people), bullying and intimidation of MPs … just a tiny taste of the sewer that the ‘national’ government has become. It is being revealed day after day. Desperate attempts to shore up the government mean that throwing vulnerable citizens under the Covid bus is just one plan to divert attention away from the mess they are in. Declare the pandemic over – compare it to a winter ‘flu once again.

And where am I personally as the year begins? Well my energy seems to have shrunk to the size of a walnut! I guess 2 years of constant stress and anxiety would be enough of a problem for the ME/PVS (Post Viral Syndrome) my body has had to live with over the past 30 years. I used to avoid the annual ‘flu jab because it took months to recover from the after-effects. But Covid has redrawn the map! Now I have had 2 ‘flu jabs and 3 Covid jabs. I guess the answer is right there! And since the booster jab of Pfizer I have had some strange side-effects such as alterations to my sense of taste. Nori, which I love, became quite horrible. This winter’s ‘flu jab was administered at the same time as the booster shot, and the arm muscle involved has remained painful – even now – 3+ months after the jab.

So I find very little energy for my creative drive. Even back-pedalling on the housework, and neglecting the garden, I find myself sinking into watching DVDs or recorded TV programmes rather than beginning my painting for the year! And endless card games on my iPhone take the time I used to spend reading poetry, or books on Cezanne, or my only magazine on B+W photography. My eating is chaotic, with far too much sweet (cakes and chocolates) and little salad and fresh fruit! So I have a mountain to climb to get myself back on track!

It is only slowly, as the end of the month approaches, that I feel able to take some tentative steps towards what was ‘normal’ in 2021, or further back in 2020, and even pre-pandemic times. I sourced a ‘new’ vintage lens on eBay, and now have a second Meyer Optik Gorlitz lens – this time a closer Domiplan 50mm. Not expensive, and very like the Helios range, but giving an hexagonal bokeh light ball. And I am beginning the year by brushing up on my photographic skills.
Something I can do every day, especially in the early morning, is to step outside and shoot the dawn from the garden. It is often the most interesting and colourful time of the day.

morning sunrise

In winter a stunning dawn like this can resolve into a grey, overcast day. So the zoom of my RX10m3 is by the door, to catch the ‘lightshow’ that welcomes the morning!

Misty winter world

The other photogenic morning offering is the early mist. Here I tried out the new Domiplan 50 lens outdoors. Focusing on something as insubstantial as the mist across the howe is quite demanding of any lens!

And indoors I’ve been using the Domiplan 50mm as my ‘go-to’ lens. I find it’s the best way to learn a new lens, to have it to hand as much as possible, and shoot anything and everything that catches my eye. Looking at the results later on the PC monitor I can discard disappointing shots, but all of them build up my knowledge of what are the strengths and weaknesses of a lens.

fading yellow tulip

The remnants of a vase of yellow tulips, caught in the sunshine and reflected on the wooden table surface.
The hexagonal bokeh in the window was a delight.

glass and light

A ‘grab the camera’ moment as the sun caught some glass photo props before I put them away! I was about to finish for the day … and prepare some lunch.

One of the few remaining ‘normal’ activities we have is the weekly shopping trip to Inverurie. The range of shops we visit is reduced to just two, and has been since the early days of the pandemic. It makes for a quick ‘exposure’ with masks and sanitiser …. early in the day before the shops are crowded. But there is a bonus to the early start, especially in the winter, as it means we drive through the dawn! We drive into the sunrise as we go, and the sun is behind us as we return. Both effects can create beautiful photographs!

January dawn

As the daily ‘light show’ of the dawn unfolds before our eyes, there is the chance of the sky silhouetting the trees by the roadside. Irresistible for me with my Sony RX100 – which is perfect for such ‘drive by’ shots.

On the road with lenticular clouds

By the time the shopping is done, the day has opened up, and with the low winter sun at our backs we can take in the full glory of the world we live in. I’ve recently learned that the clouds we often see here are called Lenticular and can look like rolls of cotton wool.

By the middle of January we made our first (short) trip to the coast – the first since last April! The day was grey and cold, but we missed being able to walk by the sea and enjoy the freedom to exercise in fresh air, walk on the sand, and feel the power of the sea as it meets the shore. The damage inflicted by Storm Arwen has closed our local exercise places, Fyvie Castle and Leith Hall, so the sea is the only space that is open to us.
As it turned out we found that Storm Arwen has robbed us of our usual seaside spots too! The road to Banff Scotstown was closed off, with nowhere to park. so we couldn’t even park and investigate on foot!

Banff Bay January 2022

I had to shoot Banff Bay from above, fighting a gale as I tried to catch the sea with my new lens! It was beautiful, but I couldn’t stay long, as standing upright was a battle in itself!

We decided to try Portsoy, further up the coast. If the sea was too wild and windy, then the shelter of Little Loch Soy might be a place we could stretch our legs and get some exercise. We discovered that Storm Arwen had marked even Little Loch Soy, with trees destroyed, and only freshly cut tree stumps remaining in some places.
I had decided to take my Lensbaby Double Glass lens with me, as it too had been languishing over the past few months. At least I could try for some interesting lens effects, if the day was grey and the lochside walk was dull!

Little Loch Soy with Lensbaby

As it happened the Lensbaby did transform the dull day into something more magical! Back home I took 3 Lensbaby shots and wove them into a wintery wonderland. It is amazing what the Lensbaby can create!

tulip petal

Back home I played with the Lensbaby indoors. With macro rings I can get in really close. There are lovely swirling patterns the lens can create with a fallen tulip petal and stamens, on pebble glass.

As the month progressed we continued to slowly clear up the damage from Storm Arwen. So many branches brought down in the garden, and debris together with leaves needing to be hauled up to the recycling centre in Turriff. As the month drew to a close we were warned of another severe storm arriving. The closing weekend was going to be graced with not one but two storms – Storm Malik and Storm Corrie. So before the worst began to hit Aberdeenshire we returned to the coast and treated ourselves to fish and chips by the sea at Whitehills.

Banff from across the Bay

The weather was already becoming wild and stormy, so we ate in the comfort of the car before venturing out to catch the surf breaking on the rocks. As it happened this was the quiet before the real storm arrived!

Storm Malik

An online capture of the two storms! We waited for power cuts, and for trees in the garden to be brought down, but we were lucky and survived with just more debris to clear away!

And so the month draws to a close with us feeling battered and bruised and very tired! Anxiously waiting for both storms to pass, and wondering how we could run our generator with 70+ mph gales battering us. We look forward to a more peaceful February, and are in need of time to rest and recover!

On to February, and the hope of calmer weather!
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