Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

It’s still chilly

The past week has been fun (for what I can still think of as fun, which is not much) as I waited and waited for the snow to come, and for the country to grind to a halt based on the weather forecast The Scotsman relied on for some strange reason.

I know we have the occasional weather extremes in Scotland, but who in their right mind would give any credibility to The Weather Channel, founded by an acknowledged climate change denier (according to John Coleman – dead – it’s all government manipulation to make money), when it said:

Experts at The Weather Channel warned that the mercury could drop to -2C in areas by the middle of next week, causing air frosts in rural regions that are a complete contradiction to this week’s summer temperatures.

Heatwave over: Scotland set for sub zero temperatures

I’ve screen-grabbed that article, just in case it is deleted, and also noted the weather in Glasgow for the week following its publication, see here Now it’s winter in late April (I just object to being treated like an idiot, and I consider that forecast, and the article, both did that).


On a lighter and more fun note, I did get to dig up a couple of pics I didn’t get around to using before the ‘heatwave’, so it’s not all bad.

Just for fun, I grabbed an almost complete 180° panorama of George Square when it was quite on a chilly day – it’s not the full sweep simply because I had to crop out some ‘distractions’ at each end which would have wasted the view if they’d been left in. (Click to expand).

George Square Stitch

George Square Stitch




How can you tell (they’re tourists)?

They’re dressed for a chilly day – therefore clearly NOT locals (and I could hear them, but not understand a word)!


April 27, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Selfies in the square

It seems I can never actually GET the pics I’d like of tourists taking selfies in George Square.

I’m one of those sad types who just doesn’t see the need to get themselves into a pic, and finds the whole idea of selfies and selfie sticks hilarious (and maybe just as sad as I am for thinking they’re sad).

I’ve seen lots of selfies being taken, but somehow never seem to be in the right place to catch the perpetrators.

I spot them too late, or when the finally stand still, they’re holding the thing in such a way that it’s pointing at me, so is almost invisible since as my view is along its length.

This one was caught after many tries, and I’d almost given up.

George Square Tourists

George Square Tourists

Yes, there IS a selfie crime in progress here.

George Square Selfie Stick

George Square Selfie Stick


Why not just get your mate to take a proper pic?

February 11, 2018 Posted by | photography | , , , | Leave a comment

George Square memorial lions in profile, as promised

I did promise to include these fine carvings in profile, after an attempt to capture them looking down their noses at everyone failed to come off as expected.

The loss of perspective and flattening of their full 3D glory was completely lost in the static image, even though I managed to take if from the desired location.

Looking back at the lions in that post, it actually looks better than I thought, maybe because I still had the ‘real’ view fresh in my head.

Whatever, here is that promised profile view, with the pair looking at one another (never going to happen in the real world) and can be clicked for a larger version.

Memorial Lions Profile

Memorial Lions Profile (Click for bigger)

January 23, 2018 Posted by | council, photography, World War I, World War II | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fabulous phablet

I was mildly surprised to see this, since the media never seems to stop bleating about how scared ‘silver surfers’ and the elderly are (in its ‘valued’ opinion) scared of modern tech and the Internet.

I’m more used to seeing phablets and the like being used at events, where the pesky owners feel the need to wave their wonder-toys over the heads, and make sure anyone behind them has their view ruined.

At least there was plenty of space here.



It might be the start (discounting some earlier pics from the same place) of me breaking my phobia about candid shots, and including people  – something I normally HAVE to avoid doing while taking scenes where the main subject is a place, object, or building, and I don’t want distractions.

I also think I might have earned myself a Gold Star, and (shock!) grown up a bit.

I used to indulge in the odd bit of sarcasm, but decided it was too much like hard work once the Internet became pervasive, and some people just don’t have a sense of humour. So much as it can be an easy and cheap source of laughs, I don’t need death squads on my tail.

Doesn’t mean I won’t try for the odd laugh though, if somebody jumps up and down and waves their arms to attract such attention.

But a nice gent taking pics at Christmas?


January 6, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

The fair in the square

Clearing down some accumulated images, it seems I still have some material left. Fortunate, as it seems I was not the only one to decide the weather was not inviting. The Boxing Day sales apparently failed to entice shoppers out.

I found a few general shots grabbed of the fair in George Square, which included a few comparison tests between a hulking great dSLR, and handy compact (no, I’m not going to be specific, just suggest similar costs, as I have no intention of getting involved in brand loyalty and dogma).

The compact has the largest sensor fitted until recently, when 1-inch types became easier to find, but can also raise the cost to more than a dSLR (at the moment). The last pocket camera I found with pics that came close also came with a price tag of £1,250. The size may have been attractive, but I could match with a larger dSLR for only £400. Prices are falling though. (Not enough for me, yet).

The big wheel was the first subject.

Big Wheel Data

Big Wheel Data

First pic.

Big Wheel A

Big Wheel A

And a second.

Big Wheel B

Big Wheel B

I don’t have any control over the lighting on the wheel, but from the rest of the scene (and pics) the compact is tending towards over-exposure. This may be due the presence of more tricks inside the box to extract info from the smaller sensor, but it could probably stand to have anything up to 1 stop taken off, and get a little more post-processing.

Tried a couple of video clips, but they’re not really like-for-like either, as the colour pattern varied greatly between them. I couldn’t match the views quickly, as each camera altered the view and aspect ratio to suit themselves (and I lack familiarity with the relevant settings).

And the second for comparison.

Again, the compact is tending towards over-exposure. It looks to have more colour, but I suspect this is down to a change in the light display on the wheel.

This is an earlier pic, already seen in the blog.

Fairground Ride

Fairground Ride

I had a similar view captured with the compact.

Fairground Ride B

Fairground Ride B

Seen from the other side.

George Square Scene A

George Square Scene A

And from the compact.

George Square Scene B

George Square Scene B

This seems to confirm my thought about the compact tending towards slight over-exposure, as it has selected a slightly, but noticeably longer, shutter time.

Another ride (compact, processed).

Fairground Ride Horses B

Fairground Ride Horses B

Just a view of the fair (processed to tone down the over-exposed parts).

George Square Fair

George Square Fair

Out of curiosity, I took a clip of the chair ride running at full speed, to see how the motion was captured.

It’s remarkably good, at least to someone who ditched all their video gear back in the analogue days, as the image quality was just so poor, and even the smallest Video8 gear was huge. While it was small compared to VHS or even VHS-C, it gained that by splitting the recording hardware from that for playback. The camcorder could only record – and the video cassette had to be extracted (a slow motorised process) and inserted into a small VCR in order to review material.

I did try some digital video back then (recorded on tape though), it was a lot better, but by then I had other issues to deal with, so it was all shelved and forgotten.

Just a detail

While this comparison was not planned, and not made under fully like-for-like settings, it was still clipped from similar shots the cameras had been allowed to make their ‘best effort’.

It shows the biggest difference between the two cameras and their sensors, when pushed to their limits.

Pics may look similar overall, but with the dSLR I can clip out small sections of the original, and still have a better image than a compact.

From the dSLR (reduced to 640 wide).

dSLR Clip

dSLR Clip

Compact clip (actual size).

Compact Clip

Compact Clip

The compact can give decent results when there’s a lot of light around (in low-light terms as opposed to daylight), but falls far behind rapidly if the light is really low.

I’ll need to collect some examples that demonstrate this.


December 29, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, council, 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

Frustration… thy name is ‘Balloon’

I’ve been brought down to earth once or twice, after being presented with technically challenging subjects to photograph at work.

The usual problem was generally along the lines of being given something tiny – but no proper macro lens, or something that was almost impossible to get some light on. (Both no longer a problem thanks to the near death of film, and arrival of digital).

But that doesn’t mean not coming across seemingly simple scenarios that result in almost complete frustration.

I spent ages following people around George Square recently, after spotting them carrying some rather nice clear LED balloons, filled with helium (they were floating, so clearly not ‘lead balloons’) and dotted with LEDs on their surface, and along their ‘string’, which led to the batteries.

While they looked a lot smarter than the usual light-up novelties sold on the street, they also proved almost impossible to photograph (in the wild at least, a studio setup would have been trivial – but I wasn’t in a studio, or even indoors).

The problem was simply the highly reflective glossy surface of the clear plastic film the were made of – being spherical, they caught and reflected any and every light in the square. While this wasn’t initially apparent to the eye, which fixed on the brighter light sources of the balloon, but which the camera didn’t really see as much different from the still bright reflections. Their transparency didn’t help either, as the background could be just as distracting.

And as a final thought… How do you focus on a transparent object with only pinpoint light sources on its surface?

I did keep one pic, just as a reminder (to think about doing better next time).

There was another problem – the damned things never stopped moving!

Irritating LED Balloon

Irritating LED Balloon

December 23, 2017 Posted by | photography | , , , | 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

Reflections on George Square’s Nativity

And I really do mean reflections.

Since I didn’t want to simply take a close-up shot of the Nativity scene within the display case, it seems there are two choices, neither are ideal.

There the option of adult backs and squabbling kids – all of whom wandered off.

And the one I ended up with, reflections of the Christmas lights in the square, unavoidably shining off the glazing around the scene, which now protects the contents since some nice person decided to steal the main character from the display a few years back.

At least it’s lit now, as it was even harder to see the first time I spotted it, and the case lighting was still to be switched on.

Glasgow Nativity

Glasgow Nativity

December 21, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography | , , | Leave a comment

They turned on the Christmas lights this week

Glasgow’s Christmas lights were turned on a few nights ago – even though I didn’t hang around to see it happen!

While this sort of event might have been nice to catch a few years ago, today, I doubt it’s as much fun as it appears to be, being overcrowded to the extent that number are limited by tickets, the venue is surrounded by security fences, gates, security staff, and even police cordons are partly hidden nearby.

I probably got the best part of this years switch-on when I watched the fireworks from about a mile away, in peace, with no jostling crowd, and can amble along to the square any time I like now, and enjoy the lights at my leisure.

The big tree’s up and lit, but for once, I think I’ll complain, as the lights are not arranged on it, but simply draped from the top. Maybe it’s just me, but the tree looks much better with the lights strung around it.

George Square Christmas Tree

George Square Christmas Tree

The giant bauble is interesting, as it has a passage through it.

But, rather than walking through it, most folk were ending up in standing in a queue, so they could have their pic taken as they stood in the middle of it.

I had to wait for a break in the fun, as I wanted a reasonably clear pic of the bauble,  not a random crowd.

George Square Bauble

George Square Bauble

After last year’s silliness where I thought the reindeer just looked like a mass of lights with no definition (until I saw someone else’s pic taken from a good angle that made them stand out), I thought I’d just take the pic I wanted this year, and see if it could be processed to cure ‘white mass’ lighting problem. I think it worked.

I’m never sure about backgrounds though, since I’m usually trying to pull detail from hand-held low-light shots. This means it easy it bring them too far forward, and lose the contrast which is needed  emphasise the desired foreground detail.

George Square Reindeer

George Square Reindeer

Conversely, this last offering has had almost everything thrown at it, as it was almost thrown away.

It had to be straightened (a lot – and the verticals were converging like mad), the colours had largely gone, highlights had almost burnt out, and shadow detail seemed to have been lost. I didn’t even know there was a Ferris wheel in view. After a few tries, it delivered a decent view of the general lights, with no suggestion that a drunk had been holding the camera!

George Square Lights

George Square Lights

The slightly odd structure growing to the left of the big wheel is a sign of the festive market (like the one in St Enoch Square) which will open in the square in a few days, and while I had no idea what it (the structure) was last year – this year I know it’s merely a decorative rotating tower, having a huge frying pan for various sausages and other treats housed below. (But, the prices!)

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

That’s the second time I’ve avoided Glasgow’s Christmas lights

I’ve never been to the switch on of Glasgow’s Christmas lights (held in George Square), and in more recent years the introduction of ‘Ticket Only’ access to keep the scruff out (and a cynic might say to let waste-of-skin ‘celebrities’ get their mates to the front of the queue) means I never will.

But, that doesn’t stop me making mistakes.

Last year I found myself being shuffled away from the square by security staff as I was trying to leave the city centre and head for home – I’d dallied too long, and hit the square shortly before the big turn-on, which I didn’t know was taking place that evening.

Seems I just made the same mistake this year and arrived there at the same time again, and while things seemed to be quieter, the place was still fenced off and I had to make a detour to get around it all.

Unlike last year, there didn’t appear to be the solid high barriers they had put up last time, and it was possible to see the square from the nearby streets this time, as per the view below. Last year, the same shot would just have been a white wall.

George Square Christmas Lights

George Square Christmas Lights

There was no way I could hang around, just in case there was something to see, and I had to hit the road for home.

I’d also noted a police cordon closing some streets, and the inevitable security staff beginning to tell anyone who stood still for too long to ‘Move along please’.

About an hour later, I was approaching Parkhead, across from the old Whitevale Baths (remains), I heard, and was able to turn round and watch a massive firework display, presumably being launched from somewhere near George Square to mark the switch on.

I’m pretty sure I ended up with the best part of the deal, as I could see all the fireworks in the sky above the city centre – actually being there would have been far to close to see them properly, especially as they seemed to be firing at quite a low altitude, although that may just have been an illusion due to the distance I was watching from (but I’m not convinced, since I had the roofline for reference – and know what Glasgow Green’s November 5th display looks like from a similar distance).

They must have moved fast to finish the installations in the square, as they were not that far advanced when I passed a few nights prior to this, during the week.

George Square Christmas Preparation

George Square Christmas Preparation

November 21, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | Leave a comment

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