Pictures by Walter

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Adventures with Susan – A Walk In The Park October 2005

As 2005 wound it way to 2006 our friendship was deepening.  Having discovered digital photography I always took a small camera into work with me.  On days that I walk to work I would stop and take photos of Sunrise, how the light changed the shape of trees and images which pleased me.  At this time I was using a simple point and shoot Nikon E7900 a 7 mega pixel camera that fitted into my pocket. In fact that little camera was responsible in re-awakening my interest in photography.  Looking back to 2005 images I rediscovered a set taken on the Wednesday 5th October 2005 during a lunchtime stroll along the river Almond (Now Almondale Park.   Looking at the images I realised that the landscape then was a lot different as were the amenities.  Under the  Livingston Development Corporation (LDC) the town was developed in stages.  The riverside was retained as natural as possible with an open air bandstand/Antitheater, Pitch & Putt course (Now the site of the Civic Centre). Walkways, seats placed alongside the river. In 2005 a lot of the sites were dilapidated and in need of restoration/replacement.

However, the walk along the river was a pleasant walk on a nice with plenty to see if one looked carefully.  I found to my pleasure that Susan like to listen to the birdsongs, and nature watch  We were slowly finding out that we did have a lot in common as well has having different interests from each other.

Being Autumn the foliage was autumnal in colour, gold, bronze and the birds were singing or even trilling their songs. Squirrels were dashing up and down trunks, scampering along branches looking for nuts etc to take to their store for the oncoming winter.  I found on these walks that Susan loved nature in all its forms,  she was perfectly happy to sit and just listen to the sounds that surrounded us.

During good weather days we would take many walks along side the river Almond and the many country parks surrounding Livingston over the 14 years we were together.  Our last trip was on the 14th June 2019 when we went to look at the changes made to the old weir at the road bridge on the B7015 Calder Road.  They had made changes to reduce the force of the water flow from the weir and creat salmon ladders and pools to allow salmon to get up river.  We had seen the Almond change from a dirty, frothy, contaminated river to a cleaner river that salmon had returned to.  That was just the latest change we had witnessed over the 14 years.

Link to the album of our walk on 5th October 2005


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Adventures with Susan – Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre October 2005

Perthshire hills

Looking back at pictures taken in 2005 it would appear to have been avery good year weather

Susan acting her age.

wise.  I am judging by the fact that on the 2nd of October 2015 Susan along with my young cousin Caitlynn headed off to Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre.  If I recall correctly it was known as Auchingarrich Wildlife Park then and the sky was blue and the sun shone.   I had found out about this hitherto unknown wee gem of a place in Undiscovered Scotland.  The park was nestled in the Perthshire Hills near Comrie.  It was a wee bit of an eye opener, in more ways than one.  As well as the park it was also a farm, a Bird of Prey Centre with indoor playing areas where kids of all ages can have fun.  I discovered then that Susan had a zest for life and refused to let decorum or other restrictions on how adults should behave stop her from releasing her “inner child” (see picture on left).  Caitlynn was surprised at first as was I.. shocking behavior in front of my young cousin  ;).  We headed to the cafe (which would always be our first port of call on any visit), to enjoy coffee and a bite to eat before we set off exploring.

Susan posing at Standing Stone

Outsider the cafe to the left as you leave is a small hillock with a standing stone on a small hillock. I forget how old it is, but it has been there since the year dot as we say.  I posed Susan next to the stone to proved scale, and as I suspect that many of use would do, Susan reached out and touched it (see image on right).  As she turned her back to the stone, I looked up with a look of horror on my face and indicated that the

Kookaburra

stone was falling…..   I got laldy from her – she discovered I had retained my service humour.  We did have a good laugh over that over the years.  It was here we both saw our first Kookaburra – the Australian King Fisher, funny it would be another 8 years before we say the British Kingfisher and that was on our trip to Bath via Stratford on Avon.   We had a right laugh at the sign pointing “This way for the Tartan Sheep”, we ignored as we were sure were were not tartan sheep or that gullible.    There are many exotic animals at the centre/park and all well looked after.  We wandered among geese, ducks, hairy heiland coo (that ate bananas as a treat), the outdoor play park where the kids had fun:

Susan on the ball, Caitlynn the catcher

Sited among the Perthshire Hills Auchingarrich provides good opportunity for landscape photography as well as wildlife (captive or otherwise).  What of our younger member Caitlynn?  Apart from attempting to keep Susan under control she was enjoying the experience apart from birds flying near her.  She told us that she had a fear of birds as did her mother.  However, she had no objections to walking through the Birds of Prey section as she was assured there would be no birds flying loose there.   As we wandered around the central arena Caitlynn spotted a small “Kestrel” it was being held by its handler.  She backed away from the bird which had fluttered as it was startled by some noise.  The handler placed the bird on its perch, amd went to reassure Caitlynn that the bird was more afraid of her the she of it.  Susan and I looked on as the handler slowly talked Caitlynn into approaching the bird, but not too near.  As the handler told of the life of the bird Caitlynn began to relax and ask questions about the birds in general.  After a while the handler asked Caitlynn if she would like to have the bird on her hand?  Hmm, bad idea I though as I had experienced the effects of her phobia when a wee budgie escaped from the cage at home.  To my surprise and to her credit Caitlynn did indeed hold allow the bird to perch on her hand, but as the picture shows she was still wary of it.  Susan and I were so proud of my young cousin that day.  Mind you she went with Susan to the cafe as I took a few shots of a  falcon in a flying display.  In all we had a great day out and as the weather was beginning to change we decided to head home after we had some tea of course.  As we left the cafe and headed for the car I took one last picture.

A promise for the Future

 

 

 


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Adventures with Susan Part 3B – Deep Seaworld (2005)

As our ramble around Kinross Gardens was a bit too quick and the day was sunny we decided to spend a little time in a cooler place.  After a short discussion we headed for  North Queensferry and Deep Seaworld as Caitlynn and, if truth be known, Susan wanted to walk under the sharks.  So we headed back south and entered the undersea world.

Walter walking under the sharks at Deep SeaWorld

I am saddened to state I have very little memory of the visit, I know I was there and took pictures in very trying conditions.  Susan took a few, one of which is me walking under the sea tunnel with camera glued to eye as I attempted to take pictures.

I do wish I had more memory of the visit and I’m positive we did go back on another day. I do know Caitlynn and Susan were really excited, no surprise there with Caitlynn, but Susan displayed the joy and wonder she felt so openly in her face.  I came to know that look as so often she showed it on our outings, sometimes the simplest thing would light up her face.

One thing – we found Nemo before he was officially lost, as the picture below reveals: (click on image to see album of visit)

Nemo Found

In all we had a good day visiting Kinross House Gardens and Deep SeaWorld.


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Adventures with Susan Part 3a- Kinross House Gardens

Susan, Catelynn and Debbie

Having enjoyed our inauguration adventure on The jacobite we looked forward to our next adventure which turned out to be in two parts.

On this adventure we had the company of my cousin Debbie and her daughter Caitlynn.  I have heard that the days remembered always appear to have been warm and sunny, all I can say is that 7th August 2005 was very hot and sunny.    Our first stop was Kinross House to wander round the formal gardens. I had discovered the gardens some time previously and told Susan about them.  No entry to the house, just the gardens and it was an honesty box system.   I understand that the house and gardens were sold in 2012 and one can no longer visit the gardens.

As you may have noticed Susan had her camera with her and  looking at her archives I found some pictures she took of the day:

Susan was a good photographer but she really enjoyed doing videos.  However she would always take a few shots – but tended to use mine in preference to hers own.

I particularly like this one of my young cousin Caitlynn that she took:

If it is true that one can no longer walk around the garden it is a sad loss. The history of the gardens was interesting as was the layout.  From the garden you could see across Loch Leven to the ruins of Loch Leven Castle

Ruins of Loch Leven Castle

From Wikipedia:

Loch Leven Castle is a ruined castle on an island in Loch Leven, in the Perth and Kinross local authority area of Scotland. Possibly built around 1300, the castle was the location of military action during the Wars of Scottish Independence (1296–1357). In the latter part of the 14th century, the castle was granted by his uncle to William Douglas, 1st Earl of Douglas, and remained in Douglases’ hands for the next 300 years. Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned here in 1567–68, and forced to abdicate as queen, before escaping with the help of her gaoler‘s family. In 1588, the Queen’s gaoler inherited the title Earl of Morton, and moved away from the castle. It was bought, in 1675, by Sir William Bruce, who used the castle as a focal point in his garden; it was never again used as a residence.

Today, the remains of the castle are protected as a scheduled monument in the care of Historic Environment Scotland.[1] Loch Leven Castle is accessible in summer by the public via a ferry.

Click on image to see Album.


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A Winter’s Month – January 2010

Nikon D300s

A New Year, with two new photographic toys Santa had very kind left at Christmas. A New Nikon D300s with a Sigma 150-500 Zoom.  It had become apparent that I needed a larger zoom than the 28/300 for some of my animal shots at zoos.  Unfortunately (if I recall correctly) there were not many third party lens for Pentax fittings.  I was contemplating buying a Sigma 150-500 for Canon but a hint was dropped to forget that.  Christmas revealed why.

January 2010 (at least in West Lothian) started off with a lot, and I mean a lot of snow, along with a big freeze.  Yet the sun did shine – it shone but not a lot of warmth.  To test my new outfit I took my normal walk to my place of work getting to know the camera and lens.  This took me from Craigshill to Almondvale and the (then) new Civic Centre where |I was employed in Legal Services, West Lothian Council. Susan, Sid and I headed off to Linlithgow – which shuts down over the festive season, and had a walk around Linlithgow Loch to feed the birds.  It is a nice walk round the loch (see WalkHighlands) and popular, even on the 1st of January.  Being a loch there are lots of waders as well as gulls.  Most popular are the Mute Swans and Ducks (Mallard, Tufted Ducks etc.)  Regretfully we had to wait until we got home to have a warm soup – as I said Linlithgow closes down at Festive Season.

Where else would one test out the combination of large Zoom lens  and new camera – Edinburgh Zoo sprung to mind.  In a previous blog I mentioned that we were once members of the Society but no longer.  However the Zoo was the ideal place to test the outfit and I captured (to my mind) some great shots of Tigers, Lions etc.  I forgot to mention that Sid had purchased a Nikon D300s and Sigma 150-500 from Jessops in Edinburgh.  I thought he would have twigged and brought it with him to the zoo.  Silly man forgot them, mind you that was the last time he did so. Nowadays he carries the D90 and D300s with a small zoom and the 150-500.

I did not realise it at the time, but the year that started off so well would soon become the year from hell as far as my personal life went.  My mother lost her battle with cancer and soon after my partner was fighting for her life against pneumonia.   In all 2010 was a year of change and led to a bigger change in 2011.

Video/Slide show “A Winter’s Month”


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Wandering with a Pentax K200D – 2009

In 2008 I had two cameras – A Pentax K200d to act as a Second body to my K10D it eventually became my main camera of choice.  It was rated as a beginners camera but had weatherproofing.  However, by 2009 I owned 6 DSLRs.  I had bought a Canon EOS 50D, EOS 500D, Nikon D90, Nikon D300s.  I was spreading my wings testing the myth about which is the best camera.  Whilst I still retain the Pentax K10D, Canon 50D and 500D I no longer have the Pentax K200 or Nikon cameras.  I had fun that year taking 13,900 images, learning to cope with RAW files and Lightroom – having given up Photoshop as far too complex for my simple needs. The breakdown per camera is:

Pentax K10D – 4021 images, Pentax K200D – 2800, Canon 50D – 1974, Canon 500D – 1915, Nikon D90 – 1508 and the Nikon D300s – 571, a total of  12965 pictures the remaining 931 taken with unknown cameras. As you can see I preferred using the Pentax K10D closely followed by the  K200D.  The Canons came second and the Nikon last.   I still have not solved the which is best dilema as I use Pentax, Canon and Nikon for different tasks.

Anyway I digress 2009 I took the K200D on my travels around the UK as it was lighter then the K10 and a lot lighter than the Canon/Nikon. My Partner (Susan) and our fellow Intrepid Sid had fun traveling around Scotland, Down to York and looking through the images brought back the adventures.  My highlights were – Photographing inside St Giles Cathedral (actually the High Kirk of Edinburgh), Catching the moment the 1 o’Clock gun was fired, our trip to Inchcolm Island in the River Forth and my night shot of the Forth Bridge (rail bridge) at night from North Queensferry Harbour, at the time the bridge was undergoing a lengthy restoration and paint job – started in 2002 and finished in 2011.

I’ll leave you to enjoy (or not as the case may be) a short video of my wanderings with the Pentax K200D


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Memory Of Edinburgh Zoo 2007

I  had enjoyed using my Pentax *istDS (rather an unfortunate model name) until I became aware that my images were no longer sharp.  It took me a while to discover the cause and it was a very slight tremble in my left hand. There was no loss of sharpness at fast shutter speed, only on the lower speeds.  For Christmas 2006 I was given a Pentax K10D with the latest 10 megapixel sensor and in body anti shake also acting as a sensor cleaner.  Along with the K10D I was given a Tamron 28-300 zoom lens.

I soon got used to the idiosyncrises of the camera/lens combination – one being the fact that the anti-shake does not cut in until you half press the shutter button,but you could take a preview shot to check all was working as it should.  One other oddity was the way the camera/sensor loved Red – every image with red was saturated and had to be toned down.  I used to be a member of Edinburgh Zoological Society i.e. I bought an annual pass for the zoo and made good use of the pass to frequently visit the zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park near Kingussie in the Highlands.  I was more than pleased with the results of shooting through glass with the Pentax K10D as there was a row of enclosures (now long gone) which housed Leopards, Panthers, Cheetahs and Pallas Cats.  A wooden barrier extend from the front so you could not get close up to the glass though many tried.

Panther

The panther used to hide in his/her den under a fallen tree, the Leopard would sit up high and occasionally patrol around it’s enclosure. I mention this as I had come across a set of images taken in July 2007 using the Pentax K10D and the Tamron 28-300 zoom along with many other shots.  I have re-edited the images using the latest Lightroom CC. and they are shown in the video below.

The video comprises of 29 images taken at the zoo in 2007.  The majority of these animals no longer have abode at Edinburgh Zoo, which since the “Gift” of a Panda sold off many animals including the Leopards, Cheetahs and Panthers.  The Amur Tigers were transferred to Highland Park Zoo along with the Red Panda and Polar bear. On my last visit to the zoo I found that the Cat row had been left abandoned and left to decay.  Over the years the zoo has shrunk re exhibits – whilst the Amur Tigers have a large new enclosure/building I feel the loss of the other cats.