Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Entrance light at The Lighthouse

This was just a quick pic of the light fitting installed just inside the entrance to The Lighthouse in Mitchell Lane.

It looks better in real life than in a pic.

Ignoring the two dead lamps (it really could do with a little TLC or maintenance), like most subjects that emit light rather than reflect it, the illuminated parts can be too bright to be recorded accurately without underexposing the surroundings.

I slightly underexposed this to try to counteract this effect, and boosted the shadow detail so the background didn’t become top dark and lose details. Even so, not enough, as the illuminated areas are still ‘blown’. It’s awkward there as the narrow line affects and limits the background light.

Maybe another try on another day.

Given the subject, I was surprised to see the camera stepped in and chose a high ISO setting – an option I usually active as I prefer to use hand-held all the time, and make sure that flash is never deployed.have

Lighthouse Light

Lighthouse Light

10/03/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

When things in a museum become exhibits just because of what they are

While wandering through Riverside recently I noticed something interesting in one of the larger displays.

It has a couple of subway reconstructions, with old carriages, or parts of them, which visitors can step into.

One of them includes filament, or incandescent, light bulbs illuminating the carriage interior.

They look as if someone has been clever enough to drop the voltage to them, meaning their lives will be significantly extended.

This matters now, as such energy wasting lamps are largely outlawed, replaced by CFL (compact fluorescent lamps), which are now themselves being displaced by LED (light emitting diode) types.

Keeping the original filament lamps retains the authenticity of the display, although the news is not all bad for the future. While CFLs were little fluorescent tubes that could never look anything like an incandescent filament lamp, LED lamps have evolved rapidly, and can now be obtained with various filament-like configurations, often hard to tell from incandescents when lit.

The lamp in the subway carriage was a challenge too inviting to refuse, so it was OFF with most of the camera’s automation, and time to start fiddling with the controls to see if a decent pic of the illuminated lamp could be taken home.

It wasn’t too hard to get something useable, and show not only the illuminated lamp, but event the interior of the carriage, which I thought might have been just too dark to show. I’m guessing that my assumption that the lamp is being under run, and therefore not as bright as it could be, helped this view.

Kelvingrove Subway Train Lamp

Kelvingrove Subway Train Lamp

Since that seemed to go so well, I thought it was time to try for something closer.

Kelvingrove Subway Train Lamp

Kelvingrove Subway Train Lamp

I think this went really well, and should make it clear that both images have been heavily processed.

This season’s conscious effort to move towards under exposure of dark or low light shots really seems to have paid off, meaning there is more detail recorded in the overall capture.

The ‘obvious’ choice of using settings that increase the exposure in such shots isn’t really a good idea, and leads to loss of detail in brighter or lighter areas, not to mention a lot more work processing the images later, to balance out the light and dark areas. While detail can be recovered from shadows, the same is not true of light or bright areas. Once they hit 100% white, no more information can be recorded or recovered.

Just think…

At some point in the future Riverside may be obliged to put ‘DANGER! HOT! DO NOT TOUCH!’ signs beside these lamps, as kids will never have seen them, and be unaware that the filament might be at 2,500°C.

And it will have become an exhibit itself!

22/02/2019 Posted by | council, Lost, photography, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Doulton Fountain lights (and more)

One of the things that never ceases to irritate me is the installation of high-maintenance

ing on new attractions, and in new buildings.

In most cases this looks great – the day it was installed!

But, unless it’s been fitted to something owned by a company worth billions, the chances are it will never be maintained, and slowly fail over the years without proper care and maintenance.

As examples of this ‘great idea’ failing, have a look at the internal stairs in GoMA (Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art, connecting the upper floors, and to be found in the north west corner. You’ll find some circles of wood stuck into the risers – where these stairs used to have light shining onto the steps.

Next example can be seen behind the Doulton Fountain on Glasgow Green, where you can see a stairway in the pic below (just to the right of the centre and a descending jet of water).

Look closely and you will see only two lights remain lit on those steps, the rest are dead.

Click for bigger.

Doulton Fountain Lights

Doulton Fountain Lights

I came across this pic taken of the steps two or the years ago, when they were already down to only a few.

Although many appear to be lit, in fact, most are reflecting the sky in this evening shot, and you have to look carefully to spot the ones that are actually lit.

Doulton Fountain Step Lights

Doulton Fountain Step Lights

And this was a year earlier still.

Glasgow Green Doulton stair lights

Glasgow Green Doulton stair lights

As of a check in 2018, I found NONE of the stair lights remained lit, and there are three across each riser.

I’ve no idea how many lights have failed on the fountain now, but I’m pretty sure if I looked, the view would be different from that seen above.

While larger floods, spots, and washes seem to fare reasonably well, things like lights installed into the ground, or into stairs just seem to be a waste of time and money, as they are seldom maintained.

I had a pic of those GoMA stairs I mentioned earlier. Those used to be halogen fitting, as the original installation predated LEDs.

GOMA stairs

GoMA stairs

I’m willing to accept it is not the council’s fault or cutbacks,

More likely oversold by the lighting vendor, with claims of low maintenance with modern fittings, meaning that was never any ‘Care & Maintenance’ budget put in place. Some of the sales ‘pitches’ I’ve seen for LEDs border on ‘magic’ rather than even possible reality. Now being made WORSE as installers overdrive them to make them ever brighter – which kills their life expectancy, now sometimes LESS than the incandescents they often replace.

But, it the LEDs that get the blame, NOT the shoddy installers and vendors.

I found a test video I shot of the fountain, so converted and uploaded too.

Nice water sounds!

11/02/2019 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Kelvingrove lights

Passing Kelvingrove, I thought the light was maybe right to catch the decorative lights that stand ahead of the façade.

I wasn’t far off.

In this case it was still light enough to take pics of the building, yet catch the lit fixture without the illumination burning out the detail.

The only disappointment was that it’s not really possible to get into positions where they line up in interesting way.

Well, you could try, but you’d probably also get carted off by the police, given how some people react if you stand in the wrong place,or climb onto something.

Kelvingrove Lights

Kelvingrove Lights

It’s nice to catch the light at this time of day, and get images like this without having to process them to alter the balance.

Kelvingrove Lights

Kelvingrove Lights


Kelvingrove Lights Kelvin Hall

Kelvingrove Lights Kelvin Hall

And… the Kelvin Hall, just because.

Kelvin Hall From Kelvingrove

Kelvin Hall From Kelvingrove

Actually, I find I have to grab shots like this because I really thought it was something (a regular haunt) I’d never see for real again, some years ago.

Lamp Detail

I almost missed detail on the lamp, such was my interest in the few minutes of evening light.

As I walked away I noticed the lamp bases had Glasgow’s coat of arms cast into the base, I thought it was just the tree at first, but all the parts are there:

There’s the tree that never grew,
There’s the bird that never flew,
There’s the fish that never swam,
There’s the bell that never rang.

The fish (salmon) does have a ring in its mouth, it’s not a flaw in the casting.

Kelvingrove Lamp Column Base

Kelvingrove Lamp Column Base

I was sure I’d lined this view up accurately, but it seems distorted.

I’m not sure if these are the original light fittings, from the opening back in 1901, or if they are modern replacements or upgrades, I’d have to dig out original pics to answer that one.

However, as foundry items, they would never be ‘perfect’ due to way they were made.

The manufacturer really is SUGG, a company which has been making such items since 1837, so it’s entirely possible these are ‘modern’ items, but made with the original patterns. I just don’t know (perhaps an ‘expert’ is looking in 🙂 ).

I might ask, but it’s surprisingly ‘hit-and-miss’ doing this, as some staff are knowledgeable, while others have no idea. That’s not a criticism or complaint, as they do offer to help, I just find it a little surprising that info/knowledge is sometimes not easy to get. I think it’s simply that those who know seem to specialise in their own area, with great detail.

23/11/2018 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

George Square lights

Oh, you wanted Christmas lights!

Sorry, not happening – you need a ticket to see those (or the switch-on at least) and I imagine it’s not really that pleasant, as it must be a horrible crush nowadays, as so many want to go see this that it is a (free) ticket lottery to limit the numbers.

I happened to pass through the square last night, and given that the ‘Big Switch On’ is set for the 18th, and this is the night of the 16th – there’s not a lot there, compared to last year, when everything was in place around the square.

Maybe they’re not having features (I know the Christmas Market will be set up there soon, filling some of the space), it just seems a little bare.

On the other hand – council workers!

Maybe they are just waiting until the last minute, so they do all the work in overtime 🙂

Since it looked so nice with its own lighting, I thought it deserved a couple of passing shots before I left.

I might change my night shooting style – while I’ve allowed fairly high ISO to kick in (but not so high the image is horribly noisy), I might force it a little bit lower, and risk slower shutter speeds (for my hand held only work). I’m reluctant to go tripod or similar, but would like to get darker/deeper backgrounds.

Click for bigger is allowed.

George Square Light

George Square Lights

As a slight aside, it seems I’ve come across the chap who invented the lights (decades ago!) that the lighting frames we see attached to the square today were derived from.

Apparently, all this was invented and used here first, then copied elsewhere.

Sadly, today’s versions are much simplified compared to those originals, and have lost most of the animation they featured.

(All bow down and say ‘Thank You’ to Clive.)

Even though I should be used to this by now, I and STILL blown away by the wonderful colour rendition of the ‘new’ LED lighting we enjoy now, so bright, and balanced, compared to he various colour horrors we used to live under in nights gone by.

While I don’t actually disagree with those who see the passing of those lights, such as the various yellow sodium sources, I don’t miss having all my night scenes coloured largely by monochromatic yellow, or the weird colour shifts of other types.

It was nice having digital for the overlap, as it could compensate for many of them (unlike film, which needed a lab), other than mono yellow – if the colour ain’t there, you can’t recover it!

George Square Lights

George Square Lights

I might repeat these two shots later, once the Christmas lights are lit, if I remember (hahaha).

I keep saying I’m trying to take shots with people in, but…

I don’t know.

I still like my shots without people cluttering them up and getting in the way of a nice clean view.

This ‘people’ kept walking in circles, and I thought this was going to be one of the pics I was going to have to live with – my OCD was starting to make my hand shake, and I was beginning to sweat!

George Square Lights Peopled

George Square Lights Peopled

17/11/2018 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Play ‘Spot the Difference’ – with Dalmarnock Bridge

So, can you spot the difference between these two light fitting on Dalmarnock Bridge?

Dalmarnock Bridge Lights 3

Dalmarnock Bridge Lights


Dalmarnock Bridge Lights 2

Dalmarnock Bridge Lights

This isn’t a recent ‘modification’.

The oldest pic I can dig up shows the same view was to be had back in 2008, so it’s been like this for a while.

I’m not sure how to find out (easily) if these are original cast iron fittings, dating from long, long ago, or are perhaps a more recent addition, made during a refurbishment of the bridge.

Either way, nowadays it’s probably a certainty that the foundry is long gone.

If not, they used to keep the formers used to create the mould into which the metal was poured to make such street furniture – such things being retained against the day when a spare might be needed to replace a damaged or broken piece of such street furniture.

Here’s how they look when seen together (sad lamps are sad 😦 ).

Dalmarnock Bridge Light Pair

Dalmarnock Bridge Light Pair

Hidden gems!

Looks like I should head back for some detailed pics of the parts nobody ever sees!

Just look at the detail hidden from plain sight behind the lights.

Gorgeous column toppings, and even some nice cast iron just caught here.

The steps had a similar wall to the left, which butted into the brick/concrete wall of Dalmarnock Power Station, and then there was a red brick wall along the road above. All gone now, with housing development now arriving on the former power station’s land to the left.

Dalmarnock Road Bridge Steps And Light

Dalmarnock Road Bridge Steps And Light

Just for completeness, one of the single light fittings found on the bridge.

No handy place for a ‘Glasgow Traffic Cone’ to be fitted by the locals, so they just took a handy life belt from one of the official stands on the bridge, and hung it on the light instead.

Dalmarnock Bridge Light And Belt

Dalmarnock Bridge Light And Belt

23/10/2018 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography | , | Leave a comment

Another car light mystery

Just in case anyone thinks ‘normal service’ has been discontinued in the Blog, it’s just been put on the back-burner so some Christmas fun can be had, and any interesting oddities spotted have been logged for future use.

That said, I did almost walk past this one recently, and it may echo a similar spotting made some time ago.

That one was solved after a while, with a handy hint that it was a Fire Service vehicle.

This one may be the same, or related, as there didn’t seem to be any further lighting, badges, or surveillance gear in sight – but it was dark (much darker than these processed images suggest).

As before, no way to guess since the LED lighting has no need of coloured lenses, so no colour cue.

Mondeo Illuminations

Mondeo Illuminations

And closer.

Mondeo Lights Detail

Mondeo Lights Detail

23/12/2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Scotland gains another ‘Dark Sky’ award

I like to give a mention to ‘Dark Sky’ awards made to areas of Scotland, when I’m lucky enough to spot them.

A large area of woodland in hills above Loch Ness has become a Dark Sky Discovery site.

Abriachan Forest Trust has been awarded Milky Way class Dark Sky status, the first location in the Inverness area to receive the certification.

There are other Dark Sky Discovery sites in the Highlands, including Castlehill Heritage Centre near Thurso.

The status is only awarded by Dark Sky Discovery to places with “very clear views” of the Milky Way galaxy.

Via ‘Milky Way’ designation for forest near Loch Ness

It’s a bit of a sad story in a way, and while the subject may not be impinging directly on this newly awarded site (yet?), it does wave the tiniest of warning flags for its future if care is not taken.

I refer to a paper I saw recently, reporting the findings of a survey carried out using a new set of satellite images taken of the Earth as seen at night.

Both worrying and disappointingly, it seems that despite the continuing switch to LED illumination, and efforts through cooperation and legislation to deliver more efficient and directed outdoor lighting sources which should reduce light pollution, artificially illuminated area of the Earth are actually growing BRIGHTER, not dimmer.

It would seem that while we are producing lighting units which use less energy, we are not using that to provide the same lighting for less energy consumption, but maintaining the same budget and pouring out MORE light for the same cost.

Well, that’s my take based on what I see.

Council’s HAVE reduced consumption by using better and more directed street lighting (I’ve even seen some being slated for REMOVING lighting they consider excessive), while commercial interests are simply getting more ‘Bang for their Buck’, and installing brighter lights to advertise their presence, yet paying no more to run them.

Since I won’t be getting anywhere this site any time soon, this random night sky wallpaper scene will have to do.

Dark Sky

Dark Sky

28/11/2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Were feature lights a bad design idea?

It’s not often that technology moves fast enough to render your thoughts almost redundant as you are having them, but that could be the case with this observation – and why the post is ‘Were feature lights a bad design idea’, rather than ‘Are…’

Designers have often tried to use lighting to emphasise features and make otherwise plain structures look more interesting and engaging, and that’s no bad thing. Carefully positioned lighting, well positioned, not dazzling the observer or shining straight into their eyes, but used to pick out or emphasis a shape, or introduce a point of interest can add to the appearance of a design element. Let’s not even go to the dark side – it’s often self-evident because you just don’t want to look.

In the past, one of the main failings of this technique has been the short life of the bulbs used, meaning that unless the owner is prepared to keep on coughing up the cost of ownership, and maintain the installations by renewing the bulbs before, or as, they fail, them the original vision will always be lost, as there will always be failed bulbs on view.

The two pics I caught recently show this effect quite well.

The first was taken in GoMA, Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art. Here we have some wooden disks apparently stuck into the stairs with no obvious reason, but regular visitors will know that these cover the holes left behind when the lamp fitting were removed from the stairs, presumably when the owners got fed up replacing the bulbs when the died, or got fed up with the dead and dark light fittings, which were ultimately seldom to be found with working bulbs installed.

I don’t know if these were ever a good idea (at the time). While they cast a nice glow and pattern on each step, they shone in the eyes of anyone looking up the stairs (so count as fail under my rules) , and were probably kicked by those of lesser intelligence, just ‘for fun’, which would have reduced their life.

So now they’re history.

GOMA stairs

GoMA stairs – no lights now

The second example was spotted on the same day, but is not as old that seen in GoMA.

Leaving the People’s Palace, the early onset of dusk meant I could see how many bulbs had failed in the steps leading to the restored and relocated Doulton Fountain, restored in 2005. 36 fittings had only 18 were illuminated.

This would look really nice if all were lit, but sadly, half of them are dead – and when we have dark evenings too, which would the best time to have them all working.

Glasgow Green Doulton stair lights

Glasgow Green Doulton stair lights

The interesting thing is that today, in 2014, we are in the middle of a lighting revolution.

LED (light emitting diode) technology has matured in the past few years, and gone from being something that was promised to something that has been delivered.

LEDs can be delivered in any colour, or colour temperature, and at brightness levels that are the equal of anything they might be used to replace. Power consumption (dependent on application and type) is anything from 50% to 20% of old technology, and service life can be anything from 20,000 to 50,000 hours.

Even as I write, I have bulletins arriving on my desk which announce new design that provide even brighter replacement for specialist bulbs, and yet more improvements in output and service life for ‘ordinary’ replacements. The only downside is that of initial cost, but even that is falling, as the initial R&D costs are rolled into increasing production numbers. Buyers just have to beware they are not suckered, and are ripped of by rogue designers who make silly claims, and price their lamps as if they were unique.

So, the problems of the stairs I happened to come across on the same day are really a thing of the past.

GoMA could refit its stairwell lights with LED fittings that would not burn out a few hours after being fitted, nor would they suffer almost instant death if kicked by brainless neds (since they have no fragile hot filaments), and for that type of fitting, 20-50,000 hours would mean little maintenance needed. And we have not even touched on the vastly reduced power consumption.

The Doulton Fountain steps could benefit similarly, as they are not high power lights anyway, so once fitted would last for thousands of hours and need minimal maintenance.

22/03/2014 Posted by | council, photography | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dumfries and Galloway continues to support its Dark Skies initiative

Astronomer and telescopeIt’s some time since the UK’s first Dark Sky Park had its last mention regarding the observatory to be established there.

However, it’s clear that Dumfries and Galloway council was not just paying lip service to the concept, and just forgot all about it once the award was achieved, but is continuing to maintain a serious effort to make the area into a significant astronomy community.

The council is investing millions of pounds across the region to install dark skies lamps in all of its street lighting. £7.4 million will be spent to convert 24,000 street lights from old-fashioned sodium types to more efficient LED types. While the main aim of this change is to meet forthcoming key carbon emissions targets, and save thousands in running costs (LED lighting uses significantly less power than any conventional street lighting), the council expects the change to boost to the local economy by attracting even more star-gazing tourists to the area.

Tests were previously carried out with the new lighting in Glentrool village, where the savings were described as “dramatic”, and the refit there saved £1,500 per annum in electricity charges, with further savings to be delivered due to the much longer life of the LED units, and consequently reduced maintenance demands. An eight year payback period is projected.

LEDs emit a bright white light, without the orange of the old sodium types. Those installed at Glentrool have been describes using 40 W, compared to the 67 W of the sodium units. LEDs also send their light in only one direction, down onto the street, unlike the normal sodium lamp which is omnidirectional, resulting in yet more waste as it has to be shaded, yet still spills light to the side and upwards.

Ameé Hennig, programme manager for the American-based International Dark Sky Association, said: “Dumfries and Galloway are leading the way with their plans. “Should they be designated as an International Dark Sky Community [IDSC], they will be an example to communities around the globe as the first IDSC home to over 100,000 residents.”

There are only four Dark Sky Communities worldwide, the largest of which by population is Flagstaff in Arizona, home to 70,000 people.

Via Dumfries and Galloway install stargazer-friendly lights – Top stories –

International Dark Sky Community

The World’s first International Dark Sky Community was declared on the tiny island of Sark,  located west of France’s Cotentin Peninsula and about 80 miles (130 km) off the south coast of England.

The island, 3 miles long and 1.5 miles wide, has no cars and no public street lighting, so had a certain advantage, but local residents and businesses still made the effort to reduce the amount of light spilled upwards by adjusting the lighting used around their homes.

In January 2011, following an audit in 2010 by the International Dark Sky Association, Sark was designated as a Dark Sky Community and the first Dark Sky Island in the world, meaning that Sark is sufficiently clear of light pollution to allow naked-eye astronomy.

The award was significant in that it made Sark the first island community to achieve such recognition.

Until this award was made, Dark Sky Places had only been established in largely uninhabited areas.

See details: Sark is world’s first ‘dark sky island’ | UK news |

Starry sky

22/04/2013 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fifty years old today – the LED

I had no real idea of the age of the LED (light emitting diode) or, more embarrassingly, who the inventor was.

Unlike the transistor, which I think now has a widely known history, when asked, I did not even know if there was one person who had the invention of the LED against their name, or if it was maybe an anonymous corporate credit with nobody behind it.

Fortunately, we can all give a nod to Nick Holonyak Jr, who created the LED while working at General Electric, 50 years ago today, and spoke of his creation on its half century:

I never really thought about it.

I got my first LED as free gift, in a plastic bag stuck on the front of one of electronics hobby magazines I used to devour when I was a tiny person. It was in a transparent red plastic transistor casing, which look very odd since it only had two legs instead of the usual three. In those days, apart from things like arcs or gas discharge lamps of various types, I think the only (practical) way to make electric light was via a nice hot incandescent lamp, so the first time I powered up a cold LED and got light was something special.

A little later, I went to work part-time selling electronic components, and was amazed to see that they had boxes loaded with red, green, amber, and yellow LEDs (but to be honest most of them looked the same), and their brightness, even the ones labelled ‘High Brightness’ left a lot to be desired. I left that job far behind before the world ever saw a blue LED, or a white one.

And now we’re on the crest of a wave that has white LEDs of any colour you might ever want, able to produce any variation of cold or warm white to suit your mood, and able to match the now outlawed incandescent 100 watt light bulb.

The really sad thing about this is that there is a bunch of retards fighting for the old white-hot filament lamps as if they were the greatest light source the world ever saw. I suspect they are the same loonies that mount campaigns against CFL (compact fluorescent lamps). Granted that the CFL has been badly manufactured by a number of companies, but that is not the lamp’s fault, and most of the complaints levelled against it may have a shred of truth, but they are not really down to the lamp, but the production – and I suspect a few bad examples being repeated in so many stories to build a few problems into an apparent mass.

It can’t happen of course, but I would really like to have seen the loonies who campaign against CFLs and LED lights being presented with incandescent light bulbs as replacements for them, had those been invented first.

I’m willing to bet that they would not be fighting for incandescents and rubbishing CFLs and LEDs. Far from it – they would be jumping up and down and calling the inventor a madman, and a dangerous one at that, expecting people to light their homes with such a fire hazard which had a bare white-hot filament that could set things on fire if the fragile glass envelope was broken, and electrocute people with the live metal such a breakage exposed. And they would have moaned interminably about the amount of electricity it wasted in heat, and how it lasted only for 1,000 hours  (if you were lucky) as opposed to 25,000 or even 50,000 for a LED. Even the CFL manages 5,000 to 8,000 – IF manufactured properly.

I can only see one problem with the domestic LED lighting revolution…

With those lives of 25,000 hours and upwards, the manufacturers are really hammering the poor LED lamp buyer at the till, with prices that are currently anything from 4 to 10 times greater than the CFL price. And even more if the LED lamp is in any way fancy or decorative.

We benefited from subsidised prices when there was a drive to replace energy hungry incandescent lamps with CFLs a few years ago – I was buying them 5 or 10 at a time to make sure I had spares on hand, and was paying only 10 pence per lamp. The same lamps are now selling for around £3 today.

And if I want an LED version?

Unless I buy from the pound shops (and some actually do have them, although they are not very good) then I can expect to pay anything from £7 to £27 for the largest – the magical 100 watt equivalent. I know that counts as over-pricing, because I’m in the trade that sells the components inside these lamps, and what they cost in quantity. And I would not normally even mention this, as this early high price is justified to pay for the research and development, but somehow… I just don’t think the price of these new LED domestic lights will ever come down (much).

10/10/2012 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

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