Update

As at 8 February, 2019…

In the two and a half months since the previous entry the rate of progress has hovered somewhere on the scale between insignificant and negligible. Substitute ‘months’ with years and anybody speed-reading this might think it’s got something to do with Brexit and decide to read no further. Who could blame them?

Time – such time as has been available – has been divided between attempts to make better Youtube slideshows and acquire at least a rudimentary grasp of Instagram. How’s that gone? It’s gone exasperatingly; infuriatingly; maddeningly; all manner of ‘inglies’ plus profanely at times.

With Youtube I’d hoped to refine the small amount of knowledge I’d already gained and thereby learn how to generate a more polished finished article – a smoother flow  through the sequence, more seamless transitions between frames, that kind of thing…

I feel as though I’ve hit a wall with that and can only hope that the stasis is temporary; otherwise my quest to carve a niche as a producer of low budget, avant-garde slideshows, watched mostly only by myself may already have stalled.

The Instagram project is even more at the ’embryonic’ stage: I’ve learned how to move photos from computer to phone for uploading; it took me a while – let’s just say more than one session and leave it at that. I’m still struggling to understand why Instagram opted for a square display option when the vast majority of cameras produce a rectangular image, meaning that either everything needs to be cropped square before transferring, or alternatively you leave it to Instagram to crop the image as displayed.

Typing a caption and the hashtag links on an iPhone’s touchscreen is an unpredictable process for this ‘man of a certain age’ and as often as not, regardless of how careful I might have been, there’ll be an annoying error that I’ll only spot once the images have been ‘shared’ (uploaded). The options then are either to live with it – knowing it will remain an irritant (like a poorly joined piece of wallpaper) – or delete the whole thing and try again. First world problems, eh?

To avoid falling foul of intellectual property laws – unlikely given the low volume of traffic, but better to be cautious – I’ve also been browsing libraries of copyright free music to find tracks suitable for use as background to the Youtube slideshows and videos. There’s a huge amount of royalty-free stuff available, but finding what you’re looking for isn’t a quick process; there seems to be a particular fondness for a genre described as ‘ambient’, or “that whiny whale song shite” as Jo is inclined to call it. What can I say – she’s from Tipton!

The first slideshow uploaded onto Youtube since the handful which were embedded in earlier blog posts, consisted of a selection of shots taken in and around Elan Valley in late 2017. As a learning experience it has been useful, but already there’s much about it that I don’t like…

Elan Valley – Autumn 2017

The Instagram site – only a handful of posts so far – can be found here…

Will I stick at it? Not sure right now… time will tell.

 

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The Nature of… Jim Crumley

Jim Crumley is a nature writer whose books I’ve referenced before in blog posts, as indeed have others on their blogs. Among Jim’s books a longtime favourite of mine has been his timeless classic A high and lonely place – a eulogy to The Cairngorms and one which prompted this post back in 2014. Both celebratory and unafraid to confront the issues – many of which endure to this day – it is both a good read and a work of reference.

Most recently I’ve read the two connected works in the series The Nature of… and am hopeful that there will be two others to follow. Both books are written with an intimacy and perspective which can only derive from patience and exposure – the latter possibly in more than one sense of the word. Most of all there is that most scarce and precious of commodities – original thought; something which, in these soundbite days, seems as elusive as the native wildcat which he and I would love to know were out there, moving secretively through the forests of Rothiemurchus and Inshriach.

Here’s an example: it’s taken from The Nature of Autumn

“And the first day of autumn is the beginning of everything, the first stirrings of rebirth. The forest fall thickens the land with limitless tons of bits and pieces of trees. The earth is hungry for food: all spring, all summer, it has been thrusting life upwards and outwards, and by the last day of summer, it is tired. Autumn is the earth’s reviver and replenisher… ”

On first reading, this runs counter-intuitive to my programming: unquestioningly I’d accepted that the natural order of the seasons was spring, summer, autumn, winter – emergence, abundance, slow-down, shutdown. Having your perceptions challenged is never a bad thing and, with the benefit of a different perspective, it makes sense to see autumn as very much the opening step in a new cycle – one which incubates during the winter months; dormant but already primed. From the perspective of our most northerly latitudes it makes absolute sense.

Original thinking challenges us and, who knows, perhaps might encourage us to develop it as a skill of our own. How could that ever be a bad thing?

 

The Nature of Autumn and The Nature of Winter, are both written by Jim Crumley and published by Saraband.

 

 

Cyrille Regis

In an age where words like legendary and iconic, get scattered as throwaways, life and mortality sometimes pull us up short and, in so doing, remind us of their correct and appropriate usage. We awoke this morning to the news that one of our finest had passed away: Cyrille Regis – icon, legend, barely begin to tell his story. This is from the club’s official site…

R.I.P Cyrille; we were lucky to have you.

 

 

A farewell to 2017…

A high and a low from the year just ended…

April: And probably the high point of the entire year; Brummie Saffiyah Khan humiliating EDL leader Ian Crossland with nothing more aggressive than a combination of incredulity and disdain. An object lesson in how to deal with bigots…

May: And undoubtedly the low point, had it not been for Grenfell Tower also occurring within the space of a few weeks: a bomber targets a pop concert at Manchester Arena, killing himself and twenty two innocent people, injuring almost sixty. The bomber turns out to be a UK national – born in Manchester to migrant parents – and someone who had been flagged to the security services by his local community and banned from a mosque. The attack is followed by “a 500% increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes in the Greater Manchester area in the month following” (Police figures).

Sometimes life seems to be like that little spinning circle in the middle of the screen when the wi-fi is buffering – you stare, transfixed, because… because what else is there to be done?

Person of the year: Sunderland supporter Bradley Lowery (01.05.2011 – 07.07.2017), with an honourable mention to Jermain Defoe (both pictured)…

 

A Happy 2018 to all who pass this way…

Modern camera technology

The final photograph in the previous post was of a kingfisher, sitting on some stonework just out of Worcester city centre. I described it in the post as ‘heavily cropped’ and I think it’s a testimony to the quality of modern camera sensors and lenses that an image can be effectively ‘blown up’ and still retain so much resolution.

Here’s what happened (and I must stress that there was no skill involved on my part beyond the use of the cropping tool; no photoshopping or enhancement of any kind – it is all down to the camera equipment).

The kingfisher flew across the river and alighted on the quayside; it was some distance away but was clearly a kingfisher. Not wishing to spook the bird, my son took a few shots in ‘burst’ mode without moving any closer. He was using a Sony Alpha 6000 with a Sony 55-210 zoom lens; from memory he thinks it was shot at maximum zoom but it was all in a bit of a hurry. This is the original shot…

The kingfisher is visible, just left of centre and on the corner of the quayside.

When we’d got the pictures loaded onto the computer at home, I just thought I’d try cropping to remove the railings; I expected the result to be grainy and unusable. This was the first crop…

It was way better than I would have anticipated, but I knew you couldn’t expect to keep cropping without compromising image quality. Nevertheless, I though I’d give it one more trim – this time with really low expectations…

The result was the photograph above, which is the one used in the previous post.

I just thought this was an amazing testimony to the quality of modern camera equipment, even in the hands of an amateur (although Rob, to be fair to him, does have a decent eye for a picture). I contributed nothing beyond the use of the cropping tool.

 

 

 

 

 

The mountain at the end of the street…

I read somewhere – and for the life of me I can’t remember where – about the visual and sensory impact of mountains where they are visible from the streets of a town or city. I recall the article mentioning some of the obvious examples – Seattle, Kathmandu – but also referring to the views of The Peaks from Manchester and Sheffield. I’d credit the author if I could remember who it was; it might have been Robert Macfarlane.

This shot was taken looking south-west along the high street of Kingussie: the looming presence dominating the skyline is Creag Dubh – a two and a half thousand footer which is actually beyond Newtonmore but almost looks within touching distance…

 

Just a thought…

Redundant railway siding reclaimed by wild flowers – Kidderminster

“The wild prefaced us, and it will outlive us… The ivy will snake back and unrig our flats and terraces, as it scattered the Roman villas. The sand will drift into our business parks, as it drifted into the brochs of the Iron Age. Our roads will lapse into the land.”

Robert Macfarlane: The Wild Places