2022 September

calendar for September
calendar for September

A month that started with the heatwave and the drought, and then the rain came …
Saving water, and using every drop from the house to keep the garden alive … that’s how September began. It was so dry that one of the barn swallow nests collapsed. There was nothing we could do to help – the nest was just too dry, it disintegrated. The fledglings had learnt to fly, which was a relief – but we wonder if they will return next year!
Then on September 5th we had some rain! 15mm over 3 days – the first signs that maybe the hot dry season was ending!

For several months we have been organising and planning for the coming winter. Storm Arwen last November-December, and our week with no power, no connectivity and no way to keep ourselves properly warm have etched into our minds just how vulnerable we are here. It took months before we felt our body core temperature was restored – and we vowed never again to trust the electricity company (SSEN) to tell the truth and address the situation. So we have been adding to our “resilience” stores all year – and topped up our coal this month. Sadly it might be our last top-up, as coal is now becoming too expensive both to import and to buy!

Technology has also thrown up problems for me this year. My large 8TB EHD failed, and I dropped my main portable EHD that I use to connect the desktop with my laptop. Big expense and many hours retrieving data. My desktop USB ports also failed and refused to connect … so work-arounds are needed there. It seems to be a season of technology jinx. My machines are all 3 or 4 years old now – and that seems to be when the problems begin to mount up!

September also saw a few more of our pre-pandemic routines restored. Eye tests, last done over 2 years ago, were accomplished. And new specs ordered. And I had the first tooth extraction since wisdom teeth as a student. A very ‘soft’ diet for several weeks!

And of course the Queen died on September 8th.
In a jaw-dropping return to medievalism the entire country came to a grinding halt for 2 weeks of mourning! As a long-time republican I was hoping it would be time to look again at the whole question of having a monarchy … but no debate was permitted, and the whole anachronistic cavalcade rolls on. All semblance of government addressing the major problems of energy supplies and rampant inflation were abandoned, and all news coverage within the UK was restricted to the medieval pageantry.

I’m trying stop buying flowers, as they are becoming so expensive! But can’t resist gladioli!

macro of gladiolus flower

For so long I believed “Dame Edna” the fictional creation of Barry Humphries, that gladioli were just to be sneered at! How wrong I was – they are both beautiful and extremely photogenic!

I’m bringing in a small ‘something’ to shoot each day – and have made a new Flickr album “From the garden”. Snail shells and feathers, fallen leaves, flowers and berries …

We have a large rowan tree in the garden, close to the patio – and every year a profusion of bright red berries adorn the tree, and then carpet the flagstones! I’ve never tried making rowan berry jelly … must try it!

a basket of rowan berries
Victoria Plums

The other fruit-bearing tree we have is a Victoria plum. And come September we are awash with plums – plenty for all the birds and insects as well as enough to make plum sauce for the freezer!

And September saw some new additions to my collection of miniature vases, created by Yuta Segawa. I find them perfect for small still-life photography. Here with some hydrangea petals from the garden.

new green Yuta Segawa vase

Ways to entertain myself, to keep the creative impulse alive is always a challenge as the weather and general stamina (and Covid) keep me limited to the house and garden. So the weekly Flickr challenges always keep me looking again at the everyday things around me.

Book shelves

There are so many corners, doors, shelves and cupboards that are just overlooked – they become so familiar I rarely think of using them as a subject for a close look through my cameras! Here the Flickr challenge was “Libraries and Books”.

Another challenge was “I love to …..” and my non-photographic absorbing pastime is watercolour painting. I want to learn enough to paint like Cezanne! Well – to paint what I want using Cezanne as my guide to technique!

art room workspace
Small bonsai scissors

The macro lens is one of my favourites. It can (just like a microscope) take you places where the naked eye strains, or simply cannot reach. Composition plays its part in any shot – but here a pair of very small bonsai scissors becomes something special.

The kitchen is a treasure-house of subjects to shoot – especially in macro. Here sunlight falling on a humble cheese-grater transforms the metal into a dancing bokeh. Yes – inspiration is all around … though sometimes it is easy to lose sight of it.

cheese grater bokeh

And sometimes I just take things from my treasured collections … and make pretty pictures! This lovely perfume bottle was a charity shop find.

still life with perfume bottle


Along with a birthday present David Andersen brooch and some geranium flowers it makes something pleasing to my eye – and satisfying to my creative urge to seek out beauty and record it….

And so on to October, where autumn begins, and the summer heat is but a distant memory!

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2022 August

calendar for August 2022
Calendar for August 2022

The heatwave that has been dominating the summer across the Mediterranean bringing record-breaking temperatures, drought and wildfires has spread north throughout Europe and finally arrived in the UK. August saw our local Aberdeenshire area feeling just a little effect in comparison, but it was enough for me! according the Wiki

“The 2022 United Kingdom heatwaves were part of several heatwaves across Europe and North Africa. The United Kingdom experienced three heatwaves; the first was for three days in June, the second for three days in July, and the third for six days in August. These were periods of unusually hot weather caused by rising high pressure up from the European continent. There were also more grass fires and wildfires than average, and in August a drought was declared in many regions”.

We found our daily pattern was to move our planters from the overnight shelter of the porch to the patio each morning to catch the shade at the back of the house … and then by late afternoon they were all moved back to the porch as the sun blazed down on the back garden. Chasing the shade cast by the house itself was the name of the game!
Every drop of water we could collect from indoors was used for the planters too. Trying to keep little water pans scattered across the garden for the birds, and putting out apples each day was the best we could do to help the birds.
We had to move the cars to catch a little shade, and open their windows too … as the metal baked. Temperatures outdoors were in the high 30s at some point each day, and overnight didn’t dip below 20c.

Every window and door was open to the max. trying to get some circulation of cooler air. Not very successful as our houses are built and designed with heat retention in mind, not heat dispersal. I slept with just a cotton duvet cover (no duvet inside) and windows as wide open as possible … but sleep was difficult. We ate less, cooked very little and drank lots of water! As August passed and the temperatures moderated we were so grateful … just a taste of what most of Europe was enduring …. but enough for us!

It all meant that at least half the month was spent on dealing with the heat, and little else was accomplished. And we emerged from our brush with the heatwave feeling exhausted and low on sleep! So there wasn’t a great deal of interest to report!
I tried to keep my photography going, with different lenses recording the local scenes.

Infrared landscape

Using my infrared camera here to record the barley field across the road from us. I use infrared mainly for landscape shooting, and like my other landscape lenses it has been little used since the pandemic began!

Looking the other way from the farm gate, back up to the Kirk. The IR filter here is the 720nm, which gives a soft, gentle effect, and allows a little colour to enter the image.

Infrared local landscape
B+W Doorway at light

Another way to combat the heat was to shoot at night when things are cooler! Still too hot for comfort, as our windows don’t open very wide. But the front door looks inviting!

One thing I miss is my collection of sun-specs. When my eyesight was 20/20 I had some elegant and unusual sun specs. Now it is one pair of varifocals with light-sensitive lenses. Not quite the same!

Sun specs
Guitar abstract

My Flickr groups keep me alert with weekly challenges. Here a macro group asked us to shoot ‘sound’. This is guitar strings in the bright sunlight, seen up close from an unusual perspective.

And another macro shoot brought me close-up to my pink geraniums. As well as keeping them well watered and in the shade, they are also beautiful photography subjects!

pink geraniums
Agapanthus flowers

It’s not often I can find agapanthus flowers – these ones came from the supermarket. shooting them is a real challenge, as they have such an amazing flower-head!

One thing that I wanted to do was to celebrate my friend Laurie’s wonderful creative work with Japanese temari balls. While she was here in May she made me two new balls, and the making of one of them is described briefly here. It gives just the smallest hint of the skill and complexity of the art form.

making a temari ball
making a temari ball

And so on to September, when the world here cools down!

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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 Vision

The shape of 2021
What will the shape of 2021 look like?

2021 and we are in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic. 2020 began with hope and a sense of a fresh start to not only a new year, but a new decade. Hopes were quickly dashed as the virus spread across the globe, and we all struggled to handle the new reality. It changed the shape of our lives!
2021 begins with a new and more transmissible variant of the virus threatening to overwhelm our medical services, with another lock-down across Scotland, indeed across the whole of the UK, and a small glimmer of hope as the first vaccines are rolled out. So the question I ask myself is … what will the shape of 2021 look like? At the moment, as the year begins, I see it defined by the monthly blocks of vaccine jabs … we are being divided up by age and vulnerablity, and will be allocated a vaccine slot accordingly. So the months will be blocked out for me as I wait my turn.

So I am starting the new year as I always do, with the one resolution, to see clearly! To see with camera lens – and hopefully with the paint brush too this year.
There is something magical and paradoxical about the camera lens … when I look through it I can somehow see more than I can when looking around with just my eyes. I guess there is something about the narrowing effect of the frame together with the extra concentration demanded to frame and focus the shot. But the world can surprise me through the camera lens. And increasingly I find I can ‘see’ the reverse process … I look around and can see the potential photograph or painting that is there. I guess that the two sides of the coin are gradually coming together!
My ‘canvas’ has been radically and progressively restricted through 2020 – as the pandemic has developed my freedom of movement has been curtailed. Add to that the way that the pandemic has also taken so much of my small energy store away from anything creative, and focussed it on the increasing challenges of simply getting through the day/week/month.
And so the 2021 journey of discovery begins:

January – and the pandemic worsens, forcing another lock-down. And I try to keep focussed and creative.
February – the roll-out of the vaccine, and the worst snowstorms in years.
March – and has Spring finally arrived? And my painting picks up momentum.
April – Still no Spring, but we do get our second vaccine shot!
May – and finally Spring? And lockdowns are gradually eased once more.
June – and who has heard of the ‘Delta’ threat?
July – and the world shrinks as we tackle health issues
August – and summer is overshadowed by a 400% rise in Covid-Delta cases
September – and it’s all about shortages!
October – where Covid-19 meets Beowulf!
November – winter creeps closer and we meet Storm Arwen
December – recovering from Storm Arwen, and meeting Omicron.

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