Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

I told you – Just Shoot, Don’t Think!

Unplanned, but the demand of a return trip to Cambuslang last night meant the chance to repeat Just Shoot, Don’t Think! with a proper camera. No offence to the compact, but when it comes to REALLY low light, it’s just not made for that job.

Although this was as near as makes no difference 24 hours later, that doesn’t guarantee the same ambient lighting or weather, or even Moon.

I ended up taking two shots, separated by a little over an hour.

Obviously, there’s no train this time. Nice as it would have been to have one, I wasn’t going to stand about waiting for one to appear.

There was no Moon, at least not in shot, as it was a lot higher in the sky and too far to catch.

There was no wind in the first shot, and when it did turn up for the second, it was blowing the opposite direction compared to the previous night.

So, two technically competent images, sharper, better exposed thanks to the sensor, but…

Without the train, the Moon, and the near horizontal ‘smoke’ – not really much of a pic.

I think the first chance catch is much better.

Cambuslang Night 1

Cambuslang Night 1

And an hour later (as I was heading back).

Cambuslang Night 2

Cambuslang Night 2

Reminder of the grab.

At least I avoided that damned tree!

The shots above would probably look better with some more contrast dialled in, and a litter darker too. It’s amazing how much more can be caught with a large sensor.

Cambuslang Night Train

Cambuslang Night Train

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February 22, 2018 Posted by | photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Think, Just Shoot

While I’ll admit to a degree of OCD and/or perfectionism (I’m so glad I simply can’t afford something like Photoshop or I’d never be seen again), and while I once just used pics straight from the camera, I don’t think I’ve done so for years, as even the simplest of ‘tidies’ can vastly improve things. For example, ever since digital arrived, I don’t think I’ve shot a level/straight pic – yet I never seemed to suffer from this when I used film.

Sometimes I just go with the Lomograph (look it up online) motto of the title – not every pic has to be pin-sharp and perfectly exposed.

No need to splash out on a special camera though. Save money and just downgrade your digital, or shoot without thinking.

I was hanging over a bridge near Cambuslang last night (so, I have some strange habits) when I spotted a train coming, and an interesting smoke trail being picked out by light coming from below, plus some Moon. It was a slim crescent in reality, but looks more like a disk.

I’m almost surprised at how much came out in this unplanned grab (with only one chance), as it should be obvious there is little ambient artificial light here, but the spill from works on the right, plus the light from the passing train just made it work – and delivered my demand of a low-light hand-held shot.

I wish somebody would lose the trees nearest the bridge though, apart from encroaching on the view, they catch too much light from the road behind.

Cambuslang Night Train

Cambuslang Night Train

February 21, 2018 Posted by | photography, Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Glasgow Green football pavilion

Sometimes you come across decent pics completely by chance, at times and in places where you might not even have thought about finding them.

With our dopey practice of ‘Moving the clocks’ there is at least the option of being in places which are dark, but not at times that would classed as insane (if you value your life).

One such place could be the walkway along the River Clyde where it goes through Glasgow Green. With clocks set back an hour, darkness can descend here while the shops are still open, and people are still around.

Being mostly open land or park, there little or no lighting, and when the few lights on the paths are dead – it gets dark fast down there.

But football pitches were established on the Green some years ago, and these are floodlit, and provided with a pavilion.

I should declare that if measured, my interest in football would produce a negative number.

So, first surprise for me was a pool of light, and that eventually produced a nice wide shot (click for wider).

Glasgow Green Nighttime Football

Glasgow Green Night-time Football (Click for wider)

But the real gem was the pavilion itself.

I got lucky here, as the failed path lighting on the Green itself seemed to extend to the lighting around this building, and even the street lights closest to it.

This meant the building was bathed in a dim but even glow from street lighting far in the distance, and there were no bright spots to screw with the exposure.

These were long handheld exposures, one braced against a handy old tree, the other while I was buried in thick hedge for support. Even so, I don’t know why they are not blurry, at over 2 seconds apiece.

You may see an apparently light/white sky, but this is purely an effect of the exposure time, and that sky was quite black in reality.

Glasgow Green Pavilion Front Night

Glasgow Green Pavilion Front Night

I have no idea how those railings were captured with sharp edges, as I was supported by nothing more than a hedge, which far from solid or stationary, and the rear of the building had even less incident light than the front, which had a few street lights shining in the distance. This backed onto the Green, so the only light was spilling from the illuminated pitch seen above.

Glasgow Green Pavilion Rear Night

Glasgow Green Pavilion Rear Night

January 30, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

In the dark dark distance… Cambuslang

Fortunately, just missing the snow (not necessarily a good thing for night shots, depending on what you are looking for) I collected a few shots of Cambuslang in the dark, and added some more tools to the low light box.

2oo mm is never going to be handheld in the dark, so it’s time to add the skill of finding something, ANYTHING, solid to brace or lean against. This means even a long lens can catch a shot demanding time in the order of 2 seconds, even at high ISO.

So far I’ve failed totally to remember the manufacturer’s instructions to DISABLE all the anti-shake goodies, but I can’t find evidence of that causing visible problems, even in close examination of the original.

The closest notable subject in these pics is probably the high flats, about 1.4 km or 0.85 mile away.

Not here of course, but in the original pics that means people in those windows could be seen.

Cambuslang Night Time

Cambuslang Night Time

Although there was enough definition in these tests to allow the autofocus to work, I turned it off, as the distance meant that having a stab at something short of the ‘infinity’ setting was likely to work better.

The subject can’t really be seen in enough detail under these conditions, so a best guess, plus a few either side, are needed.

These came out better than others I’ve seen, even if having the aperture wide open means a reduced depth of field. But the long lens setting means that is less of a problem than it might be.

Cambuslang Night Time

Cambuslang Night Time

I’m not too unhappy with the results.

Probably the most important lesson is just how disruptive have a bright area can be, as the hills in the first shot (with no bright area in view) are quite well captured, while they’ve almost been lost (along with much of the background) completely in the second.

January 26, 2018 Posted by | photography | , , | Leave a comment

A couple of dark Glasgow lanes

I decided to play with a couple of pics taken in Glasgow one night, neither of which seemed to deliver what I’d seen.

The first was shot down a lane off Mitchell Lane, and I only noticed the panda mural later.

This one was really aimed at the staff who had wandered down it as they finished a disgusting ‘Smoke Break’ and were stinking the place out.

The shot reminded me of the fail such captures can have when there are bright sources sharing the same view, and even small ones (like the central floodlight shining along the lane) can knock back the exposure and lose all the detail. In this case I started off with a fine view of the barber’s on the left, and cute bright spot in the middle (and the bonus panda light by the barber’s).

Getting smarter, I tried knocking back the highlights, the boosting the shadows, and was pleasantly surprised to find detail had been caught.

There is actually a lot more to be recovered than I chose to bring up in this edit, mainly because it showed more details, but also ruined the contrast, losing any semblance of black and rendering the scene very unnatural. Fine if that was the aim, but not this time.

Glasgow Lane With Panda Off Mitchell Lane

Glasgow Lane With Panda Off Mitchell Lane

This one…

This one is just kind of disappointing.

Glasgow Springfield Court Night

Glasgow Springfield Court Night

I’ve tried a lot with it, but it just doesn’t look right.

I’ve levelled it, corrected perspective, cropped out distractions (but it was so busy then I could not a clear view with no bodies in front of it), and altered the lighting levels, again to maintain some black – but it just doesn’t feel right, to my eye at least.

I think part of the problem is the fact that the building either side of the lane are actually offset, so there’s a permanent lack of balance, so even levelled, it still looks slightly skewed.

Oh well.

January 25, 2018 Posted by | photography | , , , , | Leave a comment

Take a chance

Sometimes it pays to take a chance, and even failed pics can come good.

Although this ended up looking like a reasonably well-lit street, in reality, the lighting is pretty poor and it looks quite dark, even to the eye – which is why I pointed a camera along it.

Apart from the exposure, autofocus laughed at me, and manual focus brought similar laughter – I just guessed and took a few shots.

Being handheld, most went in the bin, but one was reasonable and could be tidied, then a little processing brought up hidden detail, and lastly, a noise filter tool out the ‘snow’.

It’s funny, and so far I can’t see an obvious rule, but I no longer immediately ditch what appear to be failed low light or night shots.

Most of them are indeed total failures that can’t be recovered, but some of them deliver a half decent view and are worth a bit of effort, even if just for practice.

Dark Dalness Street

Dark Dalness Street

January 18, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

University of Strathclyde – The Place of Useful Learning

Looked back on this view and noticed the illuminated signs.

I’ve seen plenty of pics of the recent Innovation Centre (on the left) taken looking from the George Square end, but not noticed any looking the other way, like this.

University George Street

University George Street

Earlier, before the lights came on.

University George Street

University George Street

January 12, 2018 Posted by | photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Just a test (revisited)

Well, THAT’S typical.

I give up on waiting for a dry (or ‘not pouring constantly with endless rain’) day, post a pic that SHOULD have a comparison without the one it should have, and… the rain stops dead the next day.

Conveniently, the ground was still wet for the comparison pic with the big camera, but I could only manage a single-decker bus, rather than the double-decker of the original.

While it treats the bright sources better than the compact, the appearance of light circles seems to confirm some contamination somewhere, which needs investigation, and hasn’t been seen in earlier, similar shots.

The sky is different now, and since all earlier pics from either camera had the blue/white appearance, I suspect this is due to the clouds/atmosphere, and how it reflects light from the ground. It’s a phenomenon I haven’t seen in previous years, so I suspect is another side effect of the replacement of sodium street lights with LEDs, but I’m just guessing.

It’s also relevant to note that the upper pic still had falling, if light, rain in the sky, while the lower pic was taken in clear air. That probably accounts for the yellow cast over almost the whole image.

It’s slightly weird – while the two pics (to my eye) look as if the pic from the compact is visibly poorer, detailed examination of both full-size originals shows that there is not actually a great difference between any detail zoomed in at the 1:1 pixel level.

That said, both are being stretched closer to their limits to make these captures at settings suitable for handheld use.

Night Test II

Night Test II

The previous pic seen yesterday (for comparison).

Night Test

Night Test (Compact)

Yes, ‘expert’ critic would be right to say that this is poor comparison as many things are not identical, but the aim is not to make a technical equipment comparison, but to gain an impression of whether or not it’s a disaster if I have to go equipped with a decent pocketable compact, rather than a (small) brick hanging from my shoulder.

And it seems that while the final pic of any situation may be different, it’s neither a disaster nor a loss.

January 7, 2018 Posted by | photography | , , | Leave a comment

Just a test, but…

It’s not a great pic (not for me anyway) and the full-sized version looks no better than this little blog version, but it managed to avoid any shake as I balanced amongst some trees, and will become a rarity one day, as sodium street lighting is slowly consigned to history.

Although it’s not a great pic, it is interesting to note the difference in colour where the houses on the right have recent downlighters installed, and they are probably white LEDs.

Night Test

Night Test (Compact)

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

Clydesmill old pumping station (at night)

More successful than expected, a recent test shot of an old pumping station on the banks of the River Clyde at Clydesmill looks much better than expected.

At night, this place is pitch dark despite having some street lights nearby – they’re not all that near.

Just about none of the camera automation works, certainly not the autofocus, and this meant trying some tricks (or maybe just guessing) to get the focus set.

It worked.

Exposure can be a trickier, more guessing, but the advanced features now offered mean that at least some of the settings can be relied on from the camera itself, and even if the photographer can’t see much, it seems the camera can.

Again, this is place with only sodium lighting as the only source, and it’s interesting to see the colour of the sky after processing.

Fiddling with the balance to find a white is largely pointless, so I’ve learned just to go with yellow on most of the scene, and take whatever appears in the rest.

Even I’m impressed by the level of detail delivered in this shot, and unlike the reduced version that goes into this blog, there’s no problem in seeing the individual bricks in the original. There’s even a reflection from the water in the bottom right corner.

Clyde Pumping Station

Clyde Pumping Station

January 5, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Secrets of street furniture – the single fuse box

I like to find ‘damaged’ street furniture, and reveal the secrets within.

They’re usually secured with tamper-proof fixings, which prevent casual tampering, but are generally pretty basic, and those of us involved in electrical probably have most of the tools in a box somewhere (but it’s less hassle to let somebody else ‘open’ these boxes, and avoid awkward questions).

In this case it’s one of those slim metal boxes that can be seen at the side of the footpath.

As can be seen, there’s not much in there, just a termination with a fuse, and earth points.

Single Fuse Box

Single Fuse Box

The pic’s a bit weird – it may look like daylight given the pronounced shadow, but it was actually near midnight when it was taken, and I somehow held the camera still for some 2.5 seconds according to the data (even I only claim to be able to manage around 1 – 1.5 seconds), so don’t know how this is so sharp.

I collected a flash shot for insurance, and it was useless – the dark background caused the nearer box interior to be grossly over-exposed.

January 3, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | Leave a comment

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