Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

What do they do in Kelvingrove when I’m not looking?

While there are occasional events hosted in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum which appear in event listings, for example, Glasgow Contemporary Art Fair 2019 – Preview Evening 17th May 2019 The Marquee at Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, there are others that don’t get listed publicly.

But for the venue being given as ‘The Marquee’, I was about to assume that the main building was being kitted out with lighting gantries and other fixtures for that very event (which is Ticket Only).

I had a look at the list of things taking place there, but there doesn’t seem to be anything else imminent.

I’m just nosey, and don’t like to hassle the staff – who generally don’t know about such things anyway, or are just being discreet.

Anyway, this was the gantry I spotted today, and the LED Par Can and wiring harness I was playing foot hockey with at lunchtime. These were stashed behind all the balcony pillars.

Kelvingrove Theatre Lighting Gantry

Kelvingrove Theatre Lighting Gantry

No sign of DMX control – maybe that’s coming, or they’re just using them for straight lighting.

Kelvingrove Extra LED Par Can Plus Wiring

Kelvingrove Extra LED Par Can Plus Wiring

13/05/2019 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography | , | Leave a comment

Glasgow University undercroft lighting has gone

Previously caught Under Bute Hall at Glasgow University, in the cloisters referred to as the undercroft, was some decorative LED lighting wrapped around the columns.

I’m not sure how long this was present, but when I was visiting a few weeks ago I noticed some of the lighting was not working properly.

I couldn’t be sure if it had failed, or if it had been damaged, but sad to say, looking at the pattern of failure, and the wiring, suggested damage was more likely than failure, a thought reinforced by the extent of the failure. Also, given how long the strings had been there, working fine, multiple coincident failures really weren’t that likely.

Sadly, subsequent visits have shown that ALL this decorative lighting has been removed.

Since it’s hard to take a pic of something that isn’t there, here’s a recent pic I happened to grab when passing through, just before noting the failure/damage, and the disappearance of the LED strings.

Glasgow University Bute Hall undercroft LED lighting

Glasgow University Bute Hall undercroft LED lighting

Be it due to vandalism, or planning, it’s a shame this simple enhancement to the area is no longer present.

11/05/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , | Leave a comment

Broken and lost streetlight – repaired

Starting with the ‘Fat Birds’ post back on 19 February, we’ve had a nice new streetlight fitted to replace the broken one that did a disappearing act during Storm Gareth.

Not sure exactly when it was replaced as I missed the event, but since I had been wandering back and forth, and it had not been replaced earlier, I can say it happened during a two hour window.

Pity, I wouldn’t have minded so much if I’d been out all day and missed this, but being in all day and STILL not seeing any of the show is just irritating.

The good news is that this the first LED streetlight to arrive in my street.

While we have had three white light fitted in recent years, these have all been the old fluorescent legacy type, which I’m sure the council lighting department was trawling up from old stock, to avoid buying any low pressure sodium replacements before the LED changeover was underway, and new stock was all of that type.

While it would probably be very hard to photograph, to the eye at least, the single new LED light in the sea of yellow murk is impressive to say the least.

There’s obviously NO upward light pollution as LED fittings only emit light from one side anyway.

Side spill is controlled by the lens and fitting, and is very low, just enough to provide useful illumination outside the main light pool.

Probably the most impressive aspect is the clearly defined main illumination pool, which can be clearly seen with only this single light in the midst of the sodium yellow surrounding. Being able to compare the brightness of the two is impressive, with the gloomy yellow being in stark contrast to the clearly illuminated white area, where a lot more detail can be seen.

By eye, I can see how it illuminates a rectangular area of the road, extending far enough to eventually merge with the lights on either side, but seems to be shaped to avoid the footpath. I’m not aware if that is intended, or just an incidental effect of how it is mounted. Poor or careless mounting could influence this, and there are some of these lights in nearby streets which have been very badly installed and aligned (they may actually have been disturbed after fitting). Regardless, the illuminated area is a near perfect match for the width of the road.

Broken Streetlight Repaired

Broken Streetlight Repaired

A little better than before.

Broken Ligh tNight

Broken Light Night

30/03/2019 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Today is Flashlight Day

21 December 2018 is Flashlight Day.

I’m afraid this is another of those ‘wandering’ days, not guaranteed/set to fall on the same day every year.

This day fall on the winter solstice, which will 22 December next year, 2019.

(The winter solstice, hibernal solstice, or midwinter, is the longest night of the year, or shortest day, depending on your preference for having a glass that is half full, or half empty.)

The flashlight is described as a portable, battery-powered light source, called a torch outside North America.

While I like ‘flashlight’, it’s come to have an unfortunate similarity to the name of another er… ‘product’ in recent years, and torch could become a safer term.

It seems that workable dry cells and suitable small glass bulbs just managed to bring this useful tool into being before the turn of the 20th century, around 1899. Not my research, but seems fair.

To be honest, I never rated the torch with dry cells and an incandescent light bulb as even remotely useful.

The light was terrible, little more than a candle in reality, and any attempts to replace the silly little bulb with anything useful meant the batteries’ life was realistically measured in minutes, as the voltage fell rapidly, meaning the brightness failed soon after.

The only decent torches of this type I ever owned had rechargeable lead-acid gel batteries, and tiny halogen bulbs – they were great, but didn’t slip into a pocket, and needed an overnight charge before use. NiCads didn’t cut it due to the intermittent nature of their use, and died due to being trickle charged for too long, or were flat if not left on charge, due to self-discharge if not used.

That said, it seems that NiMh batteries have a chemistry that means they can live long and prosper if trickle charged at a low level.

Life is much better now, with LEDs producing more than enough light from the super efficient operation, and newer LiPo batteries always being ready for use thanks to their improved characteristics.

Even NiCd and NiMh batteries work well, since LED torches are so good they get used all the time, so it’s  not a chore to keep them ready for use.

I now have a ridiculous collection of assorted LED torches (sorry, flashlights), and another box of LED lights for use on my bike, where even the cheap types I buy are more than capable of blinding/dazzling if carelessly aimed at the front, and even the lesser rear red LED lights can be more danger than help for the rider, if they are flashing insanely like strobes, or so bright they dazzle following drivers.

Since the last Flashlight Day, I’ve had a proper year of regular use of my LED cycle lights, and can say it really is fun to be able speed through deserted parks and unused walkways, while the super power of LEDs cuts through the dark, unlike the ‘asthmatic’ light which incandescent lighting failed miserably to pierce. There were decent mini-halogen and sealed lead-acid batteries, but they were HUGE and inefficient.

The last tor flashlight I bought was in a sale, a Cree T6, able to zoom and illuminate a whole wall, or focus to reach far into the distance. It also can be set to flash, strobe, or even generate SOS Morse, and be set to three different power levels to extend battery life.

Cree T6 LED Torch

Cree T6 LED Torch/Flashlight

21/12/2018 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Motorway LED surprise

I’ve mentioned the upgrading of street lighting in Glasgow to LEDs in recent years (which is now a widespread change taking place everywhere), but hadn’t noticed any specific references to places such as motorways, which have much greater demands than urban roads.

The most obvious difference is the greater height of motorway lighting supports, and consequent need to provide a higher light output from the luminaires mounted on them, to produce a similar level of illumination on the ground/road.

In my innocence, I thought they still used metal halide or other discharge lamps to get the required intensity, but I was wrong.

I’ve been studying various LEDs recently, all intended to increase output and efficiency using the latest advances in materials and manufacture, but even that hadn’t included any motorway references.

So, I got a bit of a surprise when I took a pic of high lighting towers over the motorway near Anderston – and if the anti-shake could cope with the long zoom setting in the dark (it often tries, but often can’t cope with hand held demands).

This was the compact, so I was really pleased with the eventual results after a few test shots and setting tweaks.

BUT, while I expected to see some sort of sizeable gas discharge light source in the fittings – I found LEDs!

This was a bit of a surprise, as these support columns are, I guess, about 20 metres tall, much more than twice the height of an urban street lighting pole, yet the light sources,

(Seems my 20 metre guess may not be as bad as I thought, as I was later told the statue at the centre of George Square is about 80 feet, or 24 metres, and that was what I had in my mind when I made that guess.)

This was the first decent shot that revealed their ‘secret’.

Motorway LEDs

Motorway LEDs

From past experience, I’d actually been expecting to see that each unit housed four gas discharge, or similar, lamps.

Instead, I found that each housed four high intensity LED arrays.

Getting a little closer into one of them.

Motorway LED Luminaire

Motorway LED Luminaire

Unfortunately, at this distance and zoom length (must be close on 700 mm (35 mm eq), there isn’t high detail to examine in the image.

There are clearly four identical LED arrays in the housing.

Each array has ten LEDs.

I know each of those LEDs is made up of multiples, but the brightness means there is no detail – it looks like each of them may be made of two LEDs mounted in parallel, but it’s impossible to be sure. There might even be three, or its just a reflection or distortion in the image, I just can’t be sure, so will go with two. It would be more likely to be two, to avoid overheating.

Also, each of those LEDs will probably comprise a number of individual LEDs mounted together to form what looks like one LED, but is not.

So, each of those four arrays in the circular housing could have at least 100 LEDs, meaning that there is at least 400 LEDs shining from it, and possibly more if the detail was visible.

I tried to find some details of these fittings online, but couldn’t quickly find anything to match what I saw above.

I did find some specific motorway lighting from Philips, but the units have square arrays.

It’s hard to interpret the specs, as there are so many options.

Suffice to say, that you can now get some very bright lighting using LEDs.

And they’re not simply being overdriven to get that light output, which would shorten their life.

The economics are a bit complicated too, but overall, it looks as if the energy saving, in other words ‘How much electricity the council has to buy’ is cut to about 40% of its former value using the older lighting systems, but that figure has to be understood better. It’s not as simple as just looking at the LEDs power consumption alone.

But never mind that.

I’m just impressed, very impressed, by the brightness of these LEDs, and I didn’t even know they were there.

12/12/2018 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography, Transport | , | Leave a comment

VERY flat LED floodlight

I was intrigued to watch a guy on ladder crawling around one of my neighbour’s houses recently, as it wasn’t immediately obvious what he was doing, but he was in and out of the house, and up and down the ladder umpteen times before the final reveal appeared.

I guess he was trying to find some way to drill holes in the wall in acceptable places that didn’t upset the owner, as it turns out he was running internal wiring for some new LED floodlights, and didn’t follow the usual custom of running external wiring.

I’m quite irritated by most of my neighbours who have fitted LED floodlight to their houses recently.

Instead of angling the fixtures to spread the light within the confines of their own gardens and yards, the morons who fit 99% of them just bolt them flat against the wall, which means that instead of the bulk of the light illuminating the owner’s property, most of it shines ‘normal’ to the wall – and STRAIGHT INTO MY ROOMS! This applies not only to my immediate neighbour’s floodlights, but also those across the street, mounted in the same moronic direction.

This installation, however, is different.

Not that it helps, since these floods are on the side of the house, so wouldn’t shine into any of my rooms regardless of their angle.

I managed to grab a pic of one of them (yes, there are more) while out for a wander.

I’ve been looking at a lot of LED floodlights recently, and going over the technical aspects of the LED modules and drivers, but they’ve generally all been similar in that their casing follows the shape of the preceding halogen (tubular) lamp housings (which are kind of pyramidal), modified to act as a mounting base and heatsink for the LEDs. There have been some flatter examples, but they haven’t been REALLY flat, with lumps and bumps for the LEDs, provision of a heatsink area, or to make space for the driver and wiring.

These new ones are REALLY flat, and I haven’t come across anything similar from any of the suppliers I look at, including the cheapest and nastiest that can be found online.

All they’ve done is move the driver and wiring from behind the LEDs to the area below them, as evidenced by the blacked out area below the window. This has also increased the area of the rear of the enclosure, so that can act as a larger flat heatsink.

I haven’t seen them lit yet, and from the viewing angle constrained from the street, can’t see if there is an array of smaller LEDs, or a single large module in the centre.

Well, NOT shining directly into my rooms/eyes, so not really bothered, just grateful 🙂

Flat LED Floodlight

Flat LED Floodlight


By chance, I happened to be on Glasgow Green on 05 November (I wonder why 😉 ), and took the opportunity to spin past Pearson’s in The Barras.

A very similar floodlight to the above was sitting in their window, but was a plain flood with no PIR. That doesn’t mean they don’t have this variation, just that I didn’t take the time to go in and ask.

But the front was exactly the same, with the clear window above a blacked out area, where the LED driver probably sits.

So, while I may not have come up with the same item in online pics, of course, you can always get stuff first at Glasgow’s famous Barras – even Microsoft’s latest Windows operating system (I forget the version now), BEFORE it was officially released, if you can remember that absolute gem from some years back!

04/11/2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , | 2 Comments

Glasgow lighting elves must be emptying the spare lighting stores

Noticed a funny thing a few weeks ago, while cruising the back streets of Shettleston and Sandyhills.

Along with the bigger main streets, these are beginning to see a slow roll-out of new and upgraded hardware.

While the main roads have seen a 100% commitment to LED upgrading, lesser streets seem to be benefiting from an upgrade to many of the ancient lampposts standing in them, but not to a 100% LED upgrade.

This probably makes a deal of sense. Many of the posts must be decades old, and are made of ferrous stock, or the more interesting reinforced concrete.

In either case, these relics are, sadly, suffering the effects of Scottish weather and their age. Many metal poles are now showing advanced corrosion, and the concrete type are failing as the surface concrete lets water in to the reinforcing steel rods within. These corrode, blow off their concrete protection, and accelerate the corrosion process.

While I’ve never seen any of them just collapse, I have seen a number of lesser posts on road signs suffer corrosion to the extent that they have become weak enough to collapse from their own weight, or have just been pushed over.

Now that it’s getting dark early, I get to play with low light hand held pics again.

I’d almost forgotten about the back street lighting updates. This work seems to be carried out by the Street Lighting Elves, since I’ve never seen it actually happen, just see the changes when I pass during the morning after.

But dark nights mean I can see the ‘new’ lights in action, and this confirms an earlier observation that the lights fitted to the new poles appeared to be chosen at random, and are not a general changeover to LEDs.

A couple of view along one street show the effect.

In the first, looking along the left side of the street we have: fluorescent, sodium, sodium, fluorescent, fluorescent; and along the right: LED, LED, fluorescent, LED.

I’m still pretty sure they’re using up existing stock, rather than discarding it, as the upgrade progresses.

Odd Street Lighting Upgrade 1

Odd Street Lighting Upgrade 1

In this view we have along the left: sodium, fluorescent, sodium, sodium, fluorescent; and on the right: LED, LED (this IS lit although it looks as if there is no light on this pole, spot it in the first pic), fluorescent.

Odd Street Lighting Upgrade 2

Odd Street Lighting Upgrade 2

26/09/2018 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

An exercise in LED photography

One of the advantages of digital photography is the ability to try experimental (or difficult) pics without losing the money and time this once demanded when tried using film.

It took time to shoot, develop, and print (you can only mentally picture what a negative will look like when printed, esp colour) test pics, and then there was the cost of film stock, chemicals and photographic paper – most of which would be binned.

Other than the cost of a dSLR, and some memory cards, this is now… free!

Provided you can spare the time, you can try anything, and not end up in the poor house.

I spotted one of ‘new’ LED street lights had failed a while ago, and was one of a number of the first that had been fitted to our roads, so I had been expecting these new lights to fail, as there was little experience with them in the real world, although they would have been tested in the lab.

Rather than a single bulb as in most sodium street lighting variants, LED lighting uses an array of small LEDs to create more illumination than a single LED. There are variations in how this is achieved, but the type seen here uses discrete, or single, LEDs mounted on a backplane. Failure of a few makes little difference, but this one was severely dimmed, and there was probably a failure of the electronics driving the LEDs, rather than the LEDs themselves.

These lights are too bright to look into comfortably (probably not a good idea to try), so photographing them is an ideal way to find out what is wrong.

Exposure settings have to take account of the extreme brightness of the individual light sources provided by the LEDs, but this has to be balanced by allowing enough exposure to reveal their background, otherwise all you get is a pattern of bright dots against a dark background with no detail. Automatic exposure works well if you can master metering modes.

The same cannot be said of automatic focus. This is usually defeated by the high brightness spots and darker surrounds, and either has to be tricked into working, or disabled. It’s probable easier to preset the focus using something at the same distance.

I found there was another, more practical problem encountered in taking this sort of pic, which I’ve found on other occasions.

You have to be directly below the light(s) in order to get a decent, square-on view.

The most immediate problem can be that of getting squashed if the luminaire is over the road – I tend to avoid those situations. Standing in the road, in the dark, under a probably faulty street light? Not really a good idea.

Assuming the unit is over the footpath, you find yourself trying to shoot vertically upwards, and using a long lens or zoom, with your neck bent completely back. That hurts, and makes for a shaky shot. I suggest high ISO and fast shutter speeds.

Faulty LED Street Light

Faulty LED Street Light

In the example shown, it’s interesting to note that the backplane seems to be fully populated with LEDs.

But even where the lights were working normally, all were not used, and only that central rectangular group was illuminated, leaving all the LEDs around the perimeter unlit.

That’s 28 LEDs unused in every street light.

So only 36 were lit, of a possible total of 64, which is just over half.

Is this to reduce unnecessary power consumption? Half is a major saving.

And it could be as cheap to manufacture the backplane populated with all the LEDs, and disable those not needed, as to set up the manufacturing to leave off those not needed in an application for a given illumination level.

Bear in mind light pollution is also becoming an issue, and lighting that is too bright is as hazardous as lighting that is not bright enough.

Since I have an example, this is what you get if you underexpose manually, and overdo it.

This was still able to get camera shake and blur the individual LEDS, they are so bright when zoomed in (and your neck is bent back at 90°).

LED Streetlight

LED Streetlight

12/08/2018 Posted by | council, photography | , | Leave a comment

Street light test shot

Before the Beast from the East arrived, I grabbed a shot of some street lights, after I noticed I had three different types in the same place.

The nasty LP (low pressure) sodium types have already been cleared from most of this area, removing most of the yellow vomit from the surrounding, so the types are identified as:

1 HP (high pressure) sodium, still yellow, but described as a much more pleasant ‘golden’ colour.

2 Metal halide These contain a mix of mercury vapour and metal halide molecules, and an MH bulb emits a fairly uniform white colour. The molecular blend has become more-or-less standard, so the colour is consistent.

3 LED (light emitting diode). While this should be consistently white, it is achieved by mixing colours at source. This has apparently led (sorry) to some atrocious buying decisions by some councils/authorities, and some weird colour temperatures being installed during LED street lighting upgrades. Of course, those responsible for such mistakes have no desire to admit their foolishness, and readily hide behind claims that LED street lights are ‘horrible’ or ‘useless’ compared to what they replaced. But be aware, the fault lies NOT with the LED, but with the persons responsible for their bad choice.

Snotty little ‘jobsworths’ always love to have a handy scapegoat to protect their jobs when they make another mistake.

Where correct specifications are made, few notice when existing metal halide street lights have been replaced by LEDs.

Cambuslang Streetlight Test Shot

Cambuslang Streetlight Test Shot

In the above pic, the two ‘golden’ yellow lights are HP sodium.

The two lights in the middle of the shot are existing metal halide types, and appear to be white.

The last three lights along the road off to the right are all LEDs, and replaced the old sodium lights along the road some time ago.

There does seem to be little notable difference between those and the metal halide types to their left.

It’s uncanny to be here when the lights are switched on.

The two gas types display the usual slow start-up sequence and variations as they reach a stable operating condition.

But apart from what I assume to be the effects of a soft-start circuit (to avoid a switch-on surge), when the LEDs come on, apart from a momentary flicker as they stabilise, it’s like having daylight return while you are still standing under a dark sky.

And I DO mean daylight – the number of horrible yellow shots I bring home has dwindled, while I sometimes have to check the time/date stamp on an image to confirm it was taken in a street at night time, or look at the shadows or sky for clues.s


01/03/2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | Leave a comment

Baillieston Credit Union seems to be on the move

Bad timing meant no pic to back up my claim that it looked like the Baillieston Credit Union (BCU) might be the next occupant of the former Chamber’s lady’s clothes shop.

Better luck this time, and a nice clear view of the sign on the wall beside the building.

Chambers Wall Baillieston Credit Union

Chambers Wall Baillieston Credit Union

I keep referring to this, but it can still be amazing to see the difference the steady change from yellow sodium street lighting to white LEDs makes, as this is virtually a daytime pic taken in the ‘dark’ of night, a fact that only the dark sky sitting over the top of the wall confirms.

13/02/2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | Leave a comment

Street fight – LED vs sodium

Not sure what’s going on here.

Last year, I noticed that new lampposts were being installed next to a number of existing poles on this road.

Over a period of months, these eventually started to have new LED light fittings installed, while the old low-pressure sodium fittings were removed.

Slow as this process was, eventually it seemed to grind to complete halt. Maybe it will restart in 2018.

Crossing the road recently, I noticed the contrast between the two, and since this is something that will eventually never be seen, as sodium lighting fades into the past and stocks are depleted, it was time to grab a pic.

This one went better than expected, as the trees popped out of the background as a surprise when I processed it.

LED Vs Sodium

LED Vs Sodium

17/01/2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

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