Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

The Dipstick – Rutherglen

I’m not sure when this old sign was revealed, but a check on Google Earth and Street View suggests it has not been seen for years, and probably only came into view in the past year or so. Google’s views don’t show it, but only go back to 2008.

It’s to the right of the auto shop

Interestingly, this smaller shop was once PH Components (visible in the older Street View images).

You can get an idea of the vintage of the old dipstick sign from the phone number, which uses the original 041 Glasgow code, rather than the later 0141 version, introduced when the numbers were revised in the late 1990s to early 2000s.

Yes, that first ‘I’ IS as dipstick.

I might add that this is another late-night low-light shot, despite looking like daylight at first glance, and the bright light casting a shadow from the left is actually coming from the many floodlights Dunlop’s have running next door.

The Dipstick Rutherglen

The Dipstick Rutherglen


December 18, 2017 Posted by | photography, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Winter elves are east end council gardeners

One of the strange things that happens in the east end of Glasgow is the care and maintenance of public parks.

Although there are times when I can be waking through some of them on an almost daily basis, I’ve almost never seen anyone actually working in them. The closest I usually get is sightings of piles of cut branches, or piles of chippings which show where chain saws have been in use.

There’s an example of this below, which I collected in a sortie to the shops, after the recent snap freeze we ‘enjoyed’.

While the rest of us were frozen in our homes, and the temperature plunged to -9 deg C (at least), it seems the council’s gardening elves were making the most of the quiet paths, and getting lots of work done (wonder if they a bonus for working in ‘freezing conditions’?) while nobody was watching.

Tree Cutting

Tree Cutting

Lest I be misrepresented as mocking our council gardeners, quite the opposite.

I’m actually quite grateful to them for their winter ‘advice’, and have now taken to catching all the odd tidy jobs over the late autumn, winter, and early spring periods (weather permitting), and getting to watch all my neighbours labouring to do what I had done during the period when the green stuff was NOT GROWING!

This was also a test of the ‘new’ compact camera (I really should carry the ‘old’ one for comparison shots) and proved surprising.

I’ve learnt how to leave some automation to the camera, and just forget about those aspects altogether, while I control a few key factors.

In this case, I was surprised that my (as yet untried) settings worked first time – yet when I flipped the switch and allowed the camera to make ALL the settings for the same scene, it failed totally. It wouldn’t autofocus, and when I forced it to take a shot, it couldn’t even meter the scene.

And that was odd, as I had tried this previously, and while it wasn’t as good as my semi-manual efforts, it did at least work.

I need to RTFM closer, but the detailed version has 402 pages (admittedly small pages), and that’s… boring.

December 16, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, council, 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

Shawfield footbridge pair

I’ve been trying to evaluate some smaller cameras, suitable for carrying around when the ‘monster’ can’t be carried, or I just want to feel a little lighter when out walking.

Trouble is, I’ve got used to the game of shooting low light and high ISO with minimal degradation thanks to the sensor a big camera uses.

And, while the same CAN be had with smaller cameras, at the moment that option comes with a silly price tag, easily twice the price of a dSLR and lens that it might come close to (as regards analysing the image at the pixel level).

I asked for a recommendation while in Glasgow’s last real camera shop – the answer presented came with price ticket of £529 attached.

I was running around with a really silly small compact, but it suffered an accident, and I’m not sure if the focussing works properly – the pic quality is not good enough to be certain if it’s the focus now being ‘off’, or the unreasonable demands I’m making. The trouble is, I just accepted what it did before it took its short ‘flight’, but since that incident have started looking (too) closely at the results.

I usually ditch test shots, but this pair collected as I noticed the lit view of the Shawfield footbridge (I usually don’t see this as I arrive head-on) came out with some surprise lighting, as the camera(s) saw light in the sky that was not perceived by the naked eye.

Shawfield Footbridge

Shawfield Footbridge


Shawfield Footbridge

Shawfield Footbridge

I’m not interested in fuelling arguments about camera makes or similar, so am deliberately not giving any data regarding the pics.

Suffice to say both received the same processing, but not applied with the intent of matching them or making them look the same, exactly the same tweaks were applied to each simply to wake up shadow detail.

I only wish I had also had my ‘silly wee compact’ in my pocket – I’d really like to know how it would have stacked up against two fairly respectable big name boxes with huge sensors compared to its tiny effort. A tiny effort which I might add has surprised me in the past!

December 12, 2017 Posted by | photography | , , | Leave a comment

Swans are back

Waking home from the shops (need I say ‘one night’ – I feel like a vampire living in the dark since the clock went back) I happened to look over at the spot where I’d watched a pair of swans nesting earlier in the year, and got a surprise in the cold and dark.

Once they’d hatched their eggs and eventually led the family to the river, they disappeared and weren’t spotted again.


I thought I saw a couple of light blobs in the distance, through the bare trees, but it was too dark and too far for anything to be made out, however they did seem to be moving slowly.

Lucky to be carrying a long stabilised zoom, I tried to get a closer look, but it was too dark to see anything by eye.

I killed the autofocus and took a best guess manual focus on the blobs, then let the camera take care of the rest.

Looks like the swans have come back home.



I thought I’d try for a second shot from a different spot, but by then their heads were up and they were on the move.

Guess they must have been talking to catbutt, and realised it was me!

Still, the second shot did at least confirm I wasn’t imagining them.



I hope they don’t sleep in the water – I know from past observation that this pond freezes over, and we were hitting -6 deg C  and even -8 deg C last night.

I couldn’t do much with these pics as the only light here is from street lights about 50 metres away, or headlight from vehicles going around a roundabout, and these pics take over 2 seconds to expose even at high ISO (and 35 mm equivalent 300 mm lens). I usually don’t hit 1 second with my settings.

Incidentally, I happened to be carrying a non-budget compact camera – while it had the sensitivity and zoom to match this, it’s focussing method rendered it almost useless for this situation. I’d liked to have tried harder and had a comparison shot, but it was too cold and I hadn’t digested the manual!

December 10, 2017 Posted by | photography | , | Leave a comment

Templeton on the Green in the dark

I got a chance to grab a pic of Templeton on the Green recently, in the dark, as part of my pursuit of hand-held low light shots.

It turned out to be an interesting pic (for me at least), confirming a conclusion I’d come to after some recent shots which I had thought would turn out… were less than useless.

Rather than being an aid, street lights can ruin a shot by pouring TOO MUCH light into one area. This can knock back the whole scene exposure and drive dark areas even further into the dark.

I’ve recently found better results in places where adjacent street lights had all failed – the overall exposure may be longer, but the more even light (non-light?) leads to an improved and more even ‘illumination’ of the scene.

But back to the Templeton catch.

I don’t like a lot of processing, even more so if it begins to produce odd effects that make it obvious, but I think this scene was largely recoverable, and doesn’t end up with any really objectionable results after processing.

Templeton On The Green Night

Templeton On The Green Night

A hint at how this arrived…

Templeton On The Green Night Original

Templeton On The Green Night Original

December 9, 2017 Posted by | photography, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

I finally caught up with Yorick

TWO success in one day! (I will no doubt pay heavily for this later).

I’ve been tripping over pics of this skull for years, but nobody ever seems to mention the location along with their pic.

It’s either a conspiracy, or an assumption that there’s no need, since “Obviously everybody knows where it is“.

Don’t worry, I’m NOT about to break the conspiracy, and since it’s so ‘obvious’, I’m not going to mention the location either.

After a kind, but mischievous, informant gave be some cryptic clues to follow, I eventually worked them out and finally found it.

The partly bad news was that darkness had fallen (no surprise with sunset at a friendly 16:00 or so these days), and getting a pic became a serious low-light exercise. The back street (free clue!) concerned had no working street lights adjacent, only overspill from those some distance away. And as should be known by now, I only do hand-held (or available support), no tripods or clamps.

This one was tricky, as the flat scene almost defeated the autofocus, and it was too dark to distinguish focus in the viewfinder.

Thankfully one shot came out half decent before I had to fall back on a really really high ISO, and could be post processed into something useable.

I might add that ‘Yorick’ is a big clue, and came from a chat while in a shop in his shadow, where the kindly owner dropped the name after I mentioned spotting my prey.



I had no idea he was so damned BIG!

On reflection, it was probably fortunate the adjacent street lights were dead.

I’ve been analysing a lot of low-light pics, and have noted that many which include individual sources such as street lights can end up with compromised exposure. The illuminated parts can ‘burn out’ with over-exposure, while shadow detail can be buried and vastly underexposed as a result.

While the lack of a nearby light can make a pic hard to get (hand-held remember) due to the extended exposure time needed, the result is often better as the more even lighting means no losses due to shadow or highlight exposure compromises.

December 7, 2017 Posted by | photography | , | Leave a comment

Parkhead lit for Christmas

I hadn’t even been thinking about this one, but it was nice to see Parkhead had its Christmas lights up and running.

First up, the ones I saw first, looking to the cross along Duke Street.

Parkhead Lights Duke Street

Parkhead Lights Duke Street

Next. from the cross back into Westmuir Street (picked up a weird effect like falling rain, but it wasn’t).

Parkhead Lights Westmuir Street

Parkhead Lights Westmuir Street

Looking from Tollcross road to the cross, and on into Gallowgate.

Parkhead Lights Tollcross Road

Parkhead Lights Tollcross Road

Just to be awkward, I tried getting Westmiur Street and Tollcross Road together.

Parkhead Lights Westmuir Street and Tollcross Road

Parkhead Lights Westmuir Street and Tollcross Road

Lastly, a reprise of And the Sky Full of Stars from Glasgow’s Gordon Street.

Parkhead Christmas Lights Burgher Street

Parkhead Christmas Lights Burgher Street

Burgher Street STILL gives me the creeps, after being sent there as part of the unemployment benefit claim process when I was still little more than a kid, even though the office concerned was razed years ago, and replaced by flats.

Today, I’m probably standing in that street with more ‘money’ invested in the camera I’m holding than I ever received in benefits.

December 5, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography | , | Leave a comment

Anatomy of a low low light night shot

It’s not secret that I like low-light and night shots, and this carried over from my film camera days.

While I was usually not too pleased with the results – everything came out yellow thanks to the near universal adoption of low-pressure sodium street lighting – I did seem to be able to get results, and was often surprised by others who I thought were decent photographers who claimed they just couldn’t get it to work for them.

I beat the yellow lighting by shooting black & white, which had the fun side effect of often not looking like a night shot, and surprised a few people when they learned what looked like a slightly odd daytime pic had actually been shot at something like 3 am. Then, I was also tied to tripods or supports. Today, I work mainly hand-held, don’t use a tripod, or a support (can’t carry them casually anyway), and avoid flash if at all possible.

Folk don’t know how lucky they are now, as their phones carry cameras that will take pics at night (without flash) in places where there is half-decent lighting.

Real cameras do even better, but still need sensible users. Despite buttons and settings marked ‘Night Shot’ they often don’t deliver if it REALLY is night, and there’s no nearby lighting.

I was reminded of this as I tried to grab a ‘casual’ pic recently, while walking home.

The first attempt was a joke, and there was so little light (no working street lights nearby) – my little pocket camera just laughed (no pic).

So, disable the flash suppression – well, the flash certainly fired, but the result speaks for itself, and the expression ‘Taking a pic of a black cat in a black room with the lights off’ came to mind. This pic.

Bicycle Try 1

Bicycle Try 1

I have an ‘Auto Adjust’ pic correction option in my software. This almost never fails to impress me with the adjustments it makes, and there are often cases where I cannot manually reproduce whatever it does with some pics, regardless of which individual tools I use.

But it barely changed this one.

Bicycle Try 2

Bicycle Try 2

I tried an alternative, which allowed me manual control of the automation to tweak the effect, and this managed to do a little better, but this was the limit for a ‘simple’ pocket camera.

Bicycle Try 2A

Bicycle Try 2A

I was going to have to go back if I wanted this shot, and take the ‘Big Guns’.

The first shot was really just meant as a trial, with no street lights shining on this corner, and me too lazy to release the highest ISO setting in the camera, I didn’t expect much. In fact, I was caught by surprise as the shot would have come out reasonably… had I not moved too soon, before the shutter closed. My bad, not the camera or the way I have it set. I just didn’t wait. I thought it was going to hold the shutter open a lot longer than it did. (No second shot, this was only an exposure test – to compare against the previous examples above).

Bicycle Try 3

Bicycle Try 3

I normally avoid flash, unless absolutely necessary, so the last shot in this set allowed it to fire.

Bicycle Try 4

Bicycle Try 4

Even I’m impressed, as it’s only a tiny pop-up.

Probably the main advantage it brings is to kill the dreadful yellow of the old LP sodium streets lights still living here.


I ended up delaying this post for a few days, in anticipation of the arrival of a fast lens (f1.8 – all I can afford) and a final comparison.

While the ‘new’ lens was just on the camera and I had not had a chance to test or calibrate it (the body settings are still tweaked for the slow zoom lens, and a surprising change in the weather (it got WARMER after raining lightly through most of the afternoon/evening) meant I was plagued with condensation on the relatively cold camera body and lens surfaces, all but ruining tests I had been trying to make.

That said, the comparison was amusing – while this corner was so dark, the zoom lens exposure was almost 2 seconds for Try 3 (no wonder it blurred, even with vibration reduction doing its best), the fast lens took the same shot in 1/6 second.

Bicycle Try 5

Bicycle Try 5 (Yes someone sat it up since I was last there)

Bear in mind that this was a straight hand-held shot in a corner so dark the autofocus couldn’t see anything to focus on, and manual focus was not going to happen, I couldn’t see enough detail in the viewfinder. Fortunately, I could fire-up an autofocus illuminator.

Slightly puzzled by the WHOLE scene being notably out of focus though, as focus confirmation was signalled (shutter is locked if AF fails anyway). Might have been down to condensation, which the weird wet weather I had been walking through all day had hit inside the camera body, and affected this function. While a wide aperture lens does have a narrow depth-of-field, NOTHING in this view is actually in focus.

Update 2

This post got delayed AGAIN!

The f1.8 lens turned out to be horrible for my purposes, and after a day (and night) spent with it, it was found to produce poorer results than any of my cleverer lenses with slower f-numbers, but vibration reduction (and able to zoom).

I wanted one last shot of this scene, but in daylight.

I almost missed it, as it gets dark so early, but as can be seen, the shop in the background is open this time.

Bicycle Try 6

Bicycle Try 6

This shot just confirmed that a fixed lens without vibration reduction just doesn’t cut it, not even in daylight.

And the wide aperture – meaning narrow depth of field – is just a liability. I generally need MORE, not less.

They may be great in sunlight, or in a studio, or with a tripod, or under a flash, but for street use?


(It’s history.)

November 29, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Transport | , | 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

Shadows in the old St Enoch Picture House

It’s not that long since I happened to put a name on one of the few original surviving buildings in decent condition in Argyle Street.

I mentioned the St Enoch Picture House with a pic of the façade some time ago, and was left wondering if the building was still in use in any way, or was just lucky to be reasonably well-preserved by being located between two active buildings.

Normally, the window are in darkness, but when I was walking along Argyle Street recently, I glance up and was surprised to see some of the windows were lit.

St Enoch Picture House Windows Lit

St Enoch Picture House Windows Lit

Probably belongs to one of the clothes shops, those silhouettes are clearly manikins, which may sound obvious, but when seen by eye, rather than enhanced in the low-light pic, the shapes were not quite so obvious.

November 23, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

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