Friday, December 11, 2009

Swan Lake

You don't have to go all the way to Florida to see interesting wildlife. I can see some from my study window looking out over 'Braidwood Loch.' (Don't tell anyone in Braidwood but the 'loch' is really just a large duck-pond - beautiful, none the less.)
There used to be a family of swans resident on the loch but a few years ago one of the parents was killed and there have been no swans for some time. However, a few weeks ago this lone swan settled back in the loch and added a bit of extra glamour to the scene.
I couldn't resist taking the camera out and 'capturing' it.
If this is a mute swan -and maybe someone can tell me whether it is or not- then it is apparently the property of Her Majesty the Queen.
In case anyone asks, I am not planning to have this swan or any other for our Christmas dinner!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


The wildlife in Florida is great - especially in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Reserve. In particular the birdlife is prolific. And so was my photographing of it! I took 902 photographs in a week. (I love digital photography. I would have needed 25 rolls of film for that lot!)
Out of the hundreds of pics I took, the above was one of my favourites.
I think it is a Great Blue Heron.
I managed to 'capture' it in flight. What I like about the picture is that you can really feel the combination of strength and control required by this bird to get airborne.
But there is also something strange to me about this picture although it is probably true of most photographs. A fleeting moment is frozen in time and something that was so full of life and movement becomes like a statue.
In life itself some moments are worth holding on to.
It reminded me of a song I heard many years ago from an Irish band called Picture House.

Moments Like These

Recall, return
Relive and learn
All of our memories
In summer nights
We've put it right
Tumbled down into it
I know they're only moments

But moments like these
Are so hard to come by

Some bridges burn
Some things we learn
By tumbling into it
Recall, re-learn
Relive, return
And all of our memories
Are nothing only moments

Light and Shade

I suppose one of the most important elements in photography is the use of contrast.
Taking a photograph (or rather 'making' a photograph, since there is usually some element of creativity involved) has often been described as 'capturing the light.' But, of course, that is only half the story. If it is all light and nothing else, there isn't much of a photograph. It's the contrast between the light and its reflections and shadows which make any picture worth looking at.
Talking of contrasts- last week my wife and I had the good fortune to be in Central Florida for a week. There was a heatwave! Not like the ones we occasionally have in Scotland in the summer-time when we have two or maybe even three consecutive days of sunshine with temperatures getting up to 80 degrees!
In Florida last week (mid-October, remember) temperatures throughout the whole week were in the 90's. Quite a contrast when we arrived in Manchester on Saturday to a temperature of just 42 degrees.
But in spite of the photograph above (taken at 6:39am when the air temperature was already in the mid 80's) we hadn't gone there just to find sunshine: the real reason for our visit was to spend time with two people (Ernest and Mary-Louise) who have been our friends and mentors for the last 35 years.
Which brings me to another contrast- to celebrate his 85th birthday, Ernest decided to go skydiving. There is absolutely no chance of me doing likewise - though I may consider it for my 125th birthday!

Friday, October 02, 2009


Look closely at the picture and you'll see the main reason that I haven't done any blogging lately. We welcomed 10 visitors from Dongkwang Church, Seoul, including their Senior Pastor, Rev. Chang Bin, to spend just over a week with us in Kirkton and formally create a congregational partnership through signing a Partnership Agreement.
One of my tasks for the week (apart from organising most of the visits and events) was to drive the minibus. [And it has taken me another week to recover!]
Among many other things, we had a great time visiting Glasgow, Edinburgh, Loch Lomond, Stirling Castle, New Lanark, The David Livingstone Memorial in Blantyre. We were guided round the Scottish Parliament by our MSP, Karen Gillon, and welcomed by the Moderator of the General Assembly.
[I will gloss over the parking ticket I got in Edinburgh because our minibus was a bit too long for the parking space I had put it into... we'll wait and see how the appeal goes.]
But the highlights for me were the services of worship on the Sunday morning and evening and our "Scottish Evening" on the Tuesday night, which involved Scottish, food, music, dancing and lots of fun. In each of these instances many people in the congregation joined in which made the idea of a congregational partnership a reality.
I know from my own experience that Korean Presbyterian worship is quite a bit more formal than the style of worship we are accustomed to in Kirkton, so I knew that there would be a bit of culture-shock for our visitors- but the thing that really delighted me was walking into the church while people were still gathering and noticing two of the younger members of our church family (both about 6 years old) chatting away to some of our Korean visitors who I knew did not speak any English. It didn't seem to matter. The children got the message across... "Welcome to our family!"
The message was underlined during the service when we sang the song "Welcome Everbody it's good to see you here."
OK - it is hardly a liturgical (or even musical) classic but there was something very sincere and heart-warming in the way that the congregation sang it, and the visitors seemed to sense that too.
A few minutes before the service began I decided to make up another verse of the song (again - I know it is more doggerel than literature - but it worked.)
"Scotland and Korea are very far apart
but through the love of Jesus our partnership can start,
and as our friendship deepens we will be one in heart
gathering in this place."
Now if I could only learn a bit of Korean myself...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Keeping it real

Following up on Elizabeth Gilbert's wonderful quote, I share with you a picture which I hope shows that you that not all plants and flowers need to have bold, bright colours to be beautiful in their own way. Sometimes such understated beauty goes unnoticed when other 'show-off ' flowers are nearby, but that's a pity because to me there is something intrinsically fascinating about this particular plant (although I can't remember what it is called.) Can anybody help?
It reminds me a little bit about one of the house martin chicks in the previous post. The bold, brash, pushy chick with its beak wide open makes very sure that mother notices it, but look more carefully into the picture and see the other chick very much taking a back seat.
All too often people who are like this go unnoticed and ignored which is a real pity for they often have so much to offer.
It's one of the things I like about the gospel pictures of Jesus; he preferred to spend most of his time and energy on those who were on the margins rather than those who in all sorts of ways cried out 'look at me.'
[By the way, you can still keep sending in caption suggestions for the two pictures below.]

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Open wide

[house martins nesting in the eaves of my sister's house]

So far we have only had one response to the caption 'competition.' Thank you, Lynn.
Of course, it may be that we only have one reader!
Or maybe the rest of you are waiting to see what the prize might be?
C'mon... let's have some suggestions as to what, if anything, is in the mind of our photogenic sheep!
Or if that doesn't appeal... what about a caption for today's photograph?
You'll have to look carefully but there are three House Martins in the picture. What might each of them be saying? What does the picture make you think of?
Answers, please... but not on a postcard- a comment will do.
The competition is wide open.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Very Random Thoughts

No doubt, if I take the trouble to write anything at all for this blog, I ought to be reflecting on major issues of the day, such as the controversial release of al Megrahi, and the difficult (if not at times impossible) tension between compassion (mercy) and justice. However, I will leave such matters to those more qualified and better informed than I.
In passing, though, I would simply observe that as a general rule most of us prefer mercy for ourselves when we mess up but justice for those who do us wrong. All the same (for what it is worth) I reckon the release of al Megrahi, and the manner and timing of it, was probably a mistake. return to the far more mundane matters that usually fill this space I ask you to take a closer look at the subject of the portrait above. [click on the picture to see it full size]
The photograph was taken at the Black Isle Show a couple of weeks ago.
There were some pretty impressive animals on show, Clydesdale Horses and the like. But this particular sheep caught my eye (almost literally.) Most of the other sheep, of all breeds, were either shy or contemptuously indifferent to the camera lens but this particular one was virtually posing. I don't know what you think of sheep as a rule but what do you imagine this sheep was thinking about the photographer?
Let's have a caption competition for a little 'thought bubble' we can add to this picture. Send me your suggestions.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Oh for the wings (iii)

To complete the trio it's back to the natural world and back down in scale with the blue here reserved for the damselfly itself.
I originally tried to post the three photographs together but for some reason that I don't have time to explore something happened which meant that you could not click the photographs to see them in their full size.

I don't like some of the changes that seem to have been introduced to Blogger and the way it works (or more often doesn't.)
For one thing I no longer seem to be able to access some of the blogs I used to visit from time to time. It is also difficult to post using Firefox. [Anyone know why?]

However, there is one blog that I can still visit entitled "Cause I believe in you" and on it I came across this wonderful quote:

""To devote yourself to the creation and enjoyment of beauty can be a serious business - not always necessarily a means of escaping reality, but sometimes a means of holding on to the real when everything else is flaking away into . . . rhetoric and plot" ~~ Elizabeth Gilbert

It gives me all the justification I need to continue taking photographs when I can and posting them here. Apparently in doing so I am not escaping reality but actually holding on to what is real.
That is good to know.

Oh for the wings (ii)

With a not-quite-so-blue sky for background this very colourful kite was also being flown from Dunstable Downs.

Oh for the wings...

On the subject of flying things, here's a man-made flying machine soaring silently over the Dunstable Downs. [Incidentally, does anyone know why it is that in England hills that are clearly 'up' are nevertheless called 'downs'? Just wondering.]

Autumn in the air?

Apparently the 'experts' are telling us now that Autumn has come early this year - just as Spring did. For most of us in Scotland the biggest problem is that there doesn't seem to have been very much summer in between!
The photograph above was actually taken on 22nd July in the south of England and already it looks pretty autumnal to me, although, to be honest I have no idea when maple leaves normally begin to change colour.
I know there is a big difference between climate change and changeable weather but it does look as if some of the predictions are coming true (although not the one from the BBC weather folk who told us we would be having a 'barbecue summer' this year!) As I look out of the window this morning to see heavy rain falling and the trees being buffeted by strong winds it almost looks like January!
I received an email the other day from a friend in South Korea and he tells me that they have "been suffering the wettest summer ever."
Ah well... to cheer us up (and especially for one of my regular readers, Emma Louise) here's another photograph of that cheeky young robin, its youthful feathers decidely ruffled but its alert stare suggesting nothing but confidence.
Today- whatever winds may ruffle your feathers or buffet you about -may you look out on the world with hope and confidence.