Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

So, who’s first with their Christmas lights?

Although it was really too early in the evening, it was just dark enough to show what would seem to be the first Christmas lights to be seen in Glasgow for 2018.

My spies told me they’d seen the workers on platforms in Royal Exchange Square, stringing them up last week, around GoMA (Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art).

You really need dark skies to see these lights, and even October’s evening sky can hide most of them.

I tried both sides of the street, but one was as bad as the other, but at least the south side has darker buildings than the north.

Interesting to see that the horrendous amount of Glasgow air pollution (allegedly killing hordes of people, at least according to Green Loonies) hasn’t killed of the City Tree. Maybe the loonies are exaggerating? Surely not. They wouldn’t do that, would they? Just to further their own agenda?

The skateboarders are hilarious, and must have OCD or something.

They just keep trying the same stuff over and over and over again here, seldom succeeding, and generally falling off their boards.

I wouldn’t normally have noticed, but I was waiting for a clear and quiet spell to get my pics, and the constant clattering of the flying boards landing (minus rider) caught my attention.

Christmas Lights (South)

Christmas Lights (South)

Tried from across the road, to cut down the amount of sky – not much better.

Christmas Lights II

Christmas Lights II

North side, even worse thanks to the lighter finish of the buildings.

City Tree (square thing in the middle of the pic) still going strong.

Christmas Lights (North)

Christmas Lights (North)


October 16, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Shettleston’s Christmas lights – still up (but not on)

I can’t recall how long the were left on (and I’m far to lazy to look back) but I do remember it took a while for anybody to remember to switch off Shettleston’s Christmas lights.

No such problem this time, and they went dark not long after Hogmanay.


This year it looks as if nobody has remembered to go collect them, and they’re still hanging up there even though we’re now eating into March.

They’re not lit, that just reflected light on the framework that making them show up in the dark.

Shettleston Christmas Lights

Shettleston Christmas Lights

March 9, 2018 Posted by | photography | , , | Leave a comment

March of the snowmen

Don’t know if this it’s a ‘good thing’ or a ‘bad thing’ that I didn’t start collecting these large illuminated snowmen when the Christmas lights started to go up around me.

I could probably have collected quite a few (just as pics, not the snowmen themselves) over the festive season as they seem to have been quite popular here this year.

But, thanks to the slightly naff weather, I haven’t been out much, so this is only the second I’ve actually ‘collected’.

They seem to have taken over from the Santa figures (they’re still around, but mostly smaller this year).



December 31, 2017 Posted by | photography | , | Leave a comment

Sodium streets

I’ve mentioned how nice the world of night photography had become since LED street lighting had made significant inroads into the upgrade and replacements of most councils street lighting, on main roads at least.

Prior to this, most street lighting was sodium based, either low pressure (very yellow) or high pressure (some say ‘golden’ yellow that can almost look white to the eye, but still yellow). Also used were fluorescent tubes (as near white as doesn’t matter), and various mercury discharge types, also effectively white. There are more variations, but they’re not so common.

Most were chosen for efficiency, to keep power consumption down, but where truer colour rendition was considered important, the higher consumption of those closer to white was considered acceptable.

While this didn’t matter for B&W film, colour film (print or slide) was less forgiving.

Unlike a digital camera, correcting for white balance came at the darkroom stage, or by buying film stock for specific light sources. Not forgetting the option to buy colour correction filters. There was an additional problem – colour film suffered colour shifts if used for long exposure low-light shots (reciprocity failure).

I’ve been enjoying the ability to take night or low-light shots that have colour in them, and seeing the results is still a pleasant surprise.

But there is still the occasional chance for a ‘sodium street’ shot, and while this could be expensive to get right with film, the magic of digital means a stream of shots need not be taken in the hope of getting one right.

I got the chance last night, as the snow brightened things up, and I wandered through some streets with only low pressure sodium lights.

In the past, this would have needed a tripod, a number of shots to get a decent one, or two, and costs of developing and processing.


Two shots – two pics. No tripod, just handheld.

Did I say I liked digital?

Sodium Street

Sodium Street

I wasn’t paying proper attention to the focus, but it seems to have been just fine. The original show the number plates in detail.

The correct colour of the few Christmas light is a further bonus.

Seen like this, sodium lighting does actually make a nice subject.

Normally I’d knock back the brilliance of the lights themselves, but it looks OK in these pics, so I left it as was. Similarly, the shadow detail did not have to be raised, and again is as it was with no processing. I think any changes would have made the result look artificial.

Sodium Street

Sodium Street

December 28, 2017 Posted by | photography | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Clachan Illuminations

Almost missed this one.

I can’t recall Barrachnie’s Clachan being lit up in the past, and I’m sure I’d have noticed, while catching the nearby light at the junction.

Christmas Clachan

Christmas Clachan

Looks like it has some elves or gnomes for additional decoration too.

Clachan Patrons

Clachan Patrons

December 26, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | Leave a comment

Still waiting

Remember the big bauble I mentioned in George Square, with a queue of people waiting to stand inside so they could have their pic taken?

Guess what?

They’re STILL queueing!

Bauble Queue

Bauble Queue

I’m quite impressed – standing inside FREE!

I don’t know how much a pic of a miserable little kid in a snowless Snow Globe costs, but this looks like MUCH BETTER value for money.

December 23, 2017 Posted by | Civilian | , | Leave a comment

George Square tripod festival

It was intriguing to see the number of tripods that appeared in George Square recently, once it got dark and the Christmas lights came on.

While I’ve embraced technology to get rid of any dependence on traditional solutions to shooting in dark or low-light conditions, and left such items as tripods and flash on the shelf, to enjoy the freedom hand-held wandering, it seems that there are still plenty of them around.

I really was taken by surprise as a steady stream of photographers arrived in the square and set up their tripod (and even one monopod), so much so that by the time I thought mentioning the phenomenon would make for a handy post – only three were to be seen, and I had dallied for almost two hours, so waiting for another batch was just not an option (and I still had almost two hours to walk home).

Interestingly, I think all the tripods seen were what I would call ‘lightweight’, and even my lightest ‘real’ tripod is heavy by comparison (but by no means heavy in the sense of ‘Pro’ gear), although I do have some small and light items I used to use for supplemental flash and similar aids.

Now (unless I intend a long exposure), I just can’t live with the exposure times allowed by a tripod, and find the real fun is had with fast lenses and fast cameras.

(No, I can’t afford either of those at ‘Pro’ level, where both the glass and camera run into four figures apiece.)

If I can take pics like this as hand-held grab shots without a tripod, (or flash) think I’m happy. And I still have leeway for faster shutter speeds to freeze the movement further, or slower for light trails.

Fairground Ride

Fairground Ride Unedited

So… on to the tripods.

I guess this marks my first ‘candid’ post.

George Square Tripod Festival

George Square Tripod Festival

See? Not a single tripod to be seen as I turn to leave.

George Square No Tripods

George Square No Tripods

December 23, 2017 Posted by | photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Baillieston’s ALL NEW Christmas tree lights

After I got there too early, I was beginning to wonder if I’d even get back to Baillieston to catch it’s Christmas tree.

But it was worth the effort, as the fairly standard (plain) lights it has had for the past few years got an upgrade this year, and are probably now the BEST to be found anywhere.

I had planned to use the (old) offering as a camera test, but the smart new upgrade meant this was even better than expected for this purpose.

The only small problem was that it was still freezing, so I struggled slightly with some unfamiliar settings thanks to rapidly numbing fingers, and kit I had not used ‘for real’. One camera was crying out for manual focus (I had no idea how to quickly kick the autofocus into life continuously rather than ‘on demand’), so most of the video tests had to be dumped.

(Bear in mind this is all hand held, no tripods or similar.)

Technically best pic first. Although the verticals are accurate, the leaning tree base make the pic appear to ‘lean’.

Baillieston Christmas Tree Accurate

Baillieston Christmas Tree Accurate

This was the scene as captured by an up-market ‘compact’ camera.

Baillieston Christmas Tree Convenient

Baillieston Christmas Tree Convenient

This comes out surprisingly well (but there is a lot of light) – most notable downgrade is a loss of detail, on the ground and in the distance. It has also made the colour a little more vivid than in reality.

Last is my poor little pocket compact.

Baillieston Christmas Tree Pocket Pic

Baillieston Christmas Tree Pocket Pic

This comes out even more surprisingly well than the previous shot, but is even more fortunate that there is so much light around.

And, unlike the previous two pics, which only required a little ‘tidy’ as far as post-processing was concerned, I had to work on this one to raise the shadow detail, but avoid excessive noise while still recovering information.

Barrachnie bonus

While the ‘illuminations’ at Barrachnie lights don’t really merit their own entry, they do nonetheless appear every year, so deserve credit, and a quick snap was grabbed in passing.

By sheer chance I caught this while all the traffic lights were dark.

Barrachnie Lights

Barrachnie Lights

Found some tree lights in a park

I happened across some new tree lights,  not seen before, so tried them as a tougher test for the three camera.

First up, the ‘real’ one as reference.

Christmassy Park Trees Best

Christmassy Park Trees Best

Next, the expensive compact.

Christmassy Park Trees Better

Christmassy Park Trees Better

Lastly, my poor little compact.

Christmassy Park Trees Poor

Christmassy Park Trees Poor

The last needed the most work to change it from a pic showing just the lights against an almost dark background, so is noisier than I’d like. I normally wouldn’t even push things this far, but made the exception just to show it was there, if wanted/needed.

While some may argue I should just show the three unprocessed captures, my intent was to see what I could get if carrying only one of the options.

Notably, the last pic needed two different edits to recover not only background detail, but also to sharpen what was there – the autofocus barely caught enough to let the shutter be fired, and I would say did not really hit a proper focus.

There were no real problems with the ‘expensive’ compact, just a bit of boost for shadow detail.

And the ‘real’ camera?

It’s result could have been used straight from the camera, but a little tweak never hurts 🙂

Bonus video

While I am devoid of any decent video editors (I thought I had some freebies, but it appears not) I did play with some video of the tree, but most of it was useless, and it took a while to find out how to clip a decent section that was not embarrassing.


December 19, 2017 Posted by | photography | , , | Leave a comment

Shettleston Christmas lights

Strange to say, I almost forgot about Shettleston’s Christmas lights.

But the various routes I follow at the moment nearly all avoid the centre of the main street, although I skirt all the way around it on most days.

I did ‘remember I had forgotten’, so after going to the shops I diverted and caught them.

Shettleston Christmas Lights

Shettleston Christmas Lights

I must be getting better at this, I usually have to try hard to avoid little light trails from my hand-held shots, but these seem to (thankfully) absent.


I had to dive through the back streets to get back on route to head home, and happened to look up and spot the local housing association office, ready for Christmas too.

Shettleston Housing Association Christmas

Shettleston Housing Association Christmas

Bonus 2 – Just for fun

I thought I’d include a pic that would usually be rejected…

Shettleston Road

Shettleston Road

This one is pushed just a little too far, and shows more shadow detail at the cost of noise and other naughty effects I try to minimise.

While it shows more of the street and is arguably more interesting, it also includes bins and rubbish, normally left out and collected on a Friday, these have been missed today, and will probably be removed during an extra bin lorry run on Saturday (overtime?).

As an aside, it also shows how little dazzle and overspill (light pollution) our new LED street lighting produces, effectively proving those who object to it on the basis that it ‘dazzles and blinds’ compared to the old yellow sodium lighting are just naysayers, who would probably complain that a gold bar was ‘TOO HEAVY’ if they were given one.

Shooting under LED lighting is amazing, and on the occasions where the old sodium lighting still prevails – it’s horrible!

In the pic above, for example, the street lights (LED) are almost invisible. Had they been sodium, then there would have been a series of mini-suns blowing out the upper parts, and everything would have been YELLOW!

December 16, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography | , , , , | Leave a comment

An interesting Christmas

I like to collect some of the (illuminated) garden displays that pop up around ‘my’ streets at this time of year.

Pickings have been a little sparse, thanks in no small part to me being grounded, but also due to the extreme cold snap that hit (and presumably scared folk back indoors for a few days).

This one appeared during that period.

Interesting Christmas

Interesting Christmas

One of a pair of nearby (to each other) houses that sold recently, and were extensively modified – the other was a bungalow that had its roof removed and a whole upper story added, an intriguing process to watch.

But this one was probably more interesting.

I knew it had been owned by the owner of a business I/we had done one job for.

A chance remark to a neighbour revealed (if true) that he was ‘Worth a good few million’. No reason to doubt this, knowing his business in our industrial estate, and others he had elsewhere. In a way I was impressed by his ‘normal’ house and car(s). The last genuine millionaire my work took me to had a huge house in a select area, and a Rolls heading the fleet in his private driveway.

Anyway, this one threw us out as ‘incompetent’.

We weren’t, but I reckon it suited him to be able to shift the blame for failure to complete a contract he started for a major manufacturer of electrostatic air conditioners. That job had been to provide monitors for the inline testing of every unit manufactured, and required a jig to measure multiple power supplies in the order of 20 kV.

His unit was fine, apart from a small problem – each of the five LCD digital voltmeters (DVM) used would fail catastrophically after a few minutes operation. Not cheap after a while as they were around ÂŁ50 (trade) apiece.

We were called in to look at the problem, but found that the DVMs failed so fast we couldn’t test anything. A MKI eyeball on the design seemed to show the proper voltage dividers etc in place, but after we had burnt through a set of DVMs he just took the jig back and told us we were useless. The two businesses fell out at that point, we wanted paid for work to date, and he wasn’t paying ‘For nothing’.

Some years later I came across the same DVM modules being used happily in another job (‘normal’ volts this time, not kV), and when I pulled up the ‘Design and Use’ notes for the modules, guess what?

They had a specific design note advising against use in ANY HIGH VOLTAGE APPLICATION as they had been found to be highly sensitive to electric fields and would break down under such stress.

I guess our advice, had we been allowed to get that far, to “Use different indicators” would have been right.

But, on reflection, I think the speed with which we were thrown off the job means we were just used as mugs, and thrown to the dogs so his company could say ‘Not our fault, the contractor screwed up (so give us our money please)’.

Back at the house…

I’m always amazed at how much work ‘New Buyers’ will do to a house, even one owned by a millionaire.

In this case, the roofing was discarded and new tiles fitted, then all the windows were ripped out and new units fitted, the front porch was torn out too. It had been closed and glazed, it now just has two glass panels and is open. The tiling was smashed off the steps and renewed too. The wall around the property was stripped, re-rendered, and recapped. New block paving was laid to replace the existing. Some new fencing went up, and although it’s mostly hidden from the road, I could see that an extension to the rear was extensively stripped and refurbished as well.


Many thousands spent on a house that was, or should have been, in near ‘walk-in’ condition and I would have thought needed only redecoration, carpeting, and furnishing to taste.

I can understand this extent on a ‘fixer upper’, but in this case I’m left wondering why.

That said, it seems to be the norm nowadays – I’ve watched a number of housed sell nearby, and if they sell again, even if only months later, the first thing that arrives is a series of skips, and most if it is carted away each time.

December 14, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , | Leave a comment

Cambuslang Christmas lights

Cambuslang got its Christmas lights switched on too.

Cambuslang Christmas Lights

Cambuslang Christmas Lights

And a Christmas tree of course.

Dare I point to another member of the “Hook ’em and Drop ’em” school of Christmas tree light decoration?

The practice of simply hooking the light strings to the top of the tree is almost universal now, rather than the more decorative and attractive method of wrapping the strings around the tree.

Cambuslang Christmas Tree

Cambuslang Christmas Tree

That’s three for three so far (Glasgow and Rutherglen match), leaving Baillieston’s vote to be collected when I next get there.

I can’t think of any others that still have real trees (that I get to), and while I will be dropping in on some shopping centres, most of those have no trees, or they’re stylised versions with the lights built-in, so don’t count.

December 11, 2017 Posted by | photography | , , | Leave a comment

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