June 2021

Trip To The Borders

During lockdown I was missing travel and now it’s such a pleasure to get a wee run in the car, especially if its a place I have never been to before. I was visiting the stunning Marchmont Estate in the Scottish Borders to meet two visual artists have won opportunities to practice their craft at Marchmont House, one of The Borders’ most culturally important estates. This is a partnership between Scotland’s national provider of studios, Wasps, and Marchmont Estates. The two artists who take nature as inspiration, textile specialist Laura Derby and painter Helen Flockhart, will join the growing artistic community at Marchmont in August in fully funded residencies. What a lovely place to live and work.

A Drone to Catch a Drone

I met an inspiring young man who after the cancellation of flights at London’s Gatwick Airport following reports of drone sightings close to the runway in 2018 decided to do something about it. The airport was closed for 30 hours, disrupting 1,000 flights and more than 140,000 passengers. As an affected passenger he began to give the whole episode some thought. Three years later Joe Gibson has developed a counter-drone project and set up his own business to take this further. His company, Gibson Robotics, pitched the project to Gabriel Investments, a Scottish business syndicate. The drone, which Joe is holding watched by Gill MacAulay and  Lynn Ross of Gabriel Investments was photographed at The University of Strathclyde’s Technology & Innovation building. The drone physically captures other drones in a net after being launched by a catapult and monitored by a human operator. Amazing!

Tea & Biscuits on Board the TS Queen Mary

After last months nautical theme I was back on the high seas, well Princes’s Dock in Govan Glasgow for a new training initiative between City of Glasgow College and the TS Queen MaryThe college and the Friends of TS Queen Mary, the charity behind the restoration of the historic steamship  will provide training and employment opportunities on board the ship for students wishing to enter the hospitality industry. I photographed Paul Little, Principal and Chief Executive of City of Glasgow College and Iain Sim, Chair of Friends of TS Queen Mary with a couple of the college students. Afterwards we went down below deck and into the Queens Restaurant, which in its day would have been the last word in luxury. I thought a picture of the students Alex Dick and Robbie Maitland in the soon to be refurbished space brought together the past and future. The tea and biscuits tasted great too.

The Cedar Room Where it All Began

I love history, it fascinates me. I was assigned to photograph the National Trust for Scotland’s Chief Executive Phil Long in the Cedar Room in Pollok House. The name rang a bell in my head. The room in Pollok House was where the National Trust all began, back in 1931. The discussions for the founding of the National Trust for Scotland took place inside Pollok’s cedar-panelled smoking room.  Mind you, it was not the easiest room to light as the shutters are closed to protect the wood and paintings from the sunlight. The staff were kind enough to open them up to allow some light in this dark dark rooms just for a moment. Phil was a delight to work with too. The picture appeared in the following weekend edition of The Herald on Sunday.

Cleartech In Glass

I do love business assignments and when I get a call for a picture for The Herald business pages I always look forward to it as you get to meet and photograph a wide range of people doing very different jobs. I met the good natured and easy going Jim McGuigan MD of the Cleartech Group based at Blantyre Industrial Estate just a short hop out of Glasgow. I always like to see a nice glass panel with a company logo on it. It always looks great when you light it up with a flash.

May 2021

Dunkirk Little Ship

I was down to visiting the Scottish Maritime Museum in Dumbarton recently. The Skylark IX Recovery Trust had announced their ambitious plans  for a bright future for the much loved Skylark IX ‘Dunkirk Little Ship’ at a new immersive heritage experience and boatbuilding training centre. The proposed £3 million centre will create a permanent home for Skylark IX, which is listed on the National Historic Ships Register and believed to be one of only two ‘Dunkirk Little Ships’ from the World War 2 Operation Dynamo surviving in Scotland. The lifebuoy always makes a good frame for photographing the subjects and keeps everyone nice and socially distanced.

The Healthy Option

I am not usually a fan of healthy foods, although over this last year with Covid I have been changing my diet with less saturated salt and fats. I find  sometimes with these ingredients it does not always taste as good. When I went down for the opening of the new Juicy Superfood Health Bar opening on Byres Rd. I did have a coffee but I was not initially tempted to try anything. After the shoot I was persuaded. It was delicious. The melon drink I had was amazing. Then a lovely pasta dish. I didn’t need my roll and sausage after that. Fallon Carberry and her staff were brilliant. So bubbly and full of enthusiasm.

Music To My Ears

I was lucky enough to have had another visit to the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall to watch award-winning pianist Benjamin Grosvenor performing with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Principal Guest Conductor Elim Chan. They were involved in a digital performance of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No1. As Benjamin is in the centre of the performance area I have to use my huge 300mm I use for football. The picture from up ‘in the gods’ looks pretty cool too.

Wee Quackers

I was asked to visit Tannoch Loch in Milngavie where I know the best fed ducks in the area are.These wee chicks were paddling around where we were sat. They really are wee balls of cuteness.

April 2021

Green Fingers

I love gardening and it was great to get these two young gardeners planting flowers at North Kelvinside Meadow in Glasgow’s West End to launch The Incorporation of Gardeners  ‘Let Glasgow Flourish Garden Awards 2021’.  

The awards are open to everyone within Glasgow and the surrounding area.  There are three categories – Best Garden, Best Community Garden and Best Young Gardener. This year early April does not have a huge amount of flowers blooming but the daffodils really lifted the colours especially with the girls bright red dungarees.

Walking & Creativity

I’ve become a convert to walking over the last year. I try to walk at least two miles a day, and I don’t mean to the chip shop. Recently I was working on a new research project that explores experiences of walking and creativity during COVID-19

The University of Glasgow led project is to explore people’s experience of walking during the COVID-19 pandemic. Professor Deirdre Heddon of the University of Glasgow, who is leading the Covid Walking Project, is pictured with family and friend’s dog Rafa as they painted pebbles in Queens Park. Art and creativity was one of my savours during lockdown. I had my Five Mile Smiles slideshow of pictures that appeared in The Herald Magazine last year showing some of the photographs I took while out walking around the Campsie Fells.

Flying High in Inverness

A day’s work was like going on holiday this month. I had a trip to Inverness as the University of the Highlands and Islands graduates are to feature in an art exhibition hosted at Inverness Airport.

The new exhibition, Highland Creatives, opens with works by Inverness College UHI alumni Louise Innes, Yelena Visemirska and Evija Laivina. They are all current practitioners at Wasps’ Inverness Creative Academy. It felt good being back in an airport building again after so long. 

The launch of Highland Creatives is in preparation for an increase in national travel and recommencement of international travel, expected later this year, while providing an opportunity for local emerging artists to showcase their work in a public space. I forgot how traveling a  couple of hundred miles north is that bit colder than in the central belt. The day after, Inverness had snow and I was lucky enough to see a herd of reindeer in the Cairngorm National Park. 

Lunch at Rouen Glen Park

Sometimes out on an assignment something surprising happens that’s nothing to do with what you’re photographing. I was working in Rouen Glen park in East Renfrewshire when a giant heron swooped down. It gave all around a bit of a start. The heron stopped and ignored everyone watching it, as it had its eye on a prize under some rocks. Then the big bird springs out with a huge eel in its mouth. The heron was there for the next half hour devouring its meal. All that was missing was the port and cigars.

March 2021

Nicola Benedetti with the RSNO at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

What an amazing trip out for my new silent Canon R5 camera this month. I had to be as quiet as a mouse to photograph award-winning violinist Nicola Benedetti as she performed Polish master Karol Szymanowski’s dazzling First Violin Concerto, part of the new RSNO Digital Season, which starts streaming from Friday 16th of  April. The concert was conducted by Thomas Søndergård. I have often said on this blog that I have really missed live music and to be back in one of my favourite venues the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall was great. You get into the music even more when you are taking pictures. Following expressions and hand positions on the instrument really adds to the experience and the photographs.

Red Sky at Night

I am always watching the sky. It changes all the time, clouds, light and colour. One evening while washing the dishes I noticed the sky getting redder and redder. I grabbed my camera and popped outside. This is the picture as I took it with no increase of saturation or photoshop tricks to make it look more red than it was. The thing with a good sky picture is to get something in the foreground to give a shape against the colour. I only had this big tree. I would have loved to have one of Glasgow’s old buildings as my shape. My favourite would have to be the towers of Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum.

Portraits For Business

I met an interesting young entrepreneur who runs Repairel CIC,  a social enterprise that aims to set up a shoe repair lab in the North West of Glasgow to test various shoe-waste reducing solutions & facilitate change. Glasgow based social entrepreneur Petra Baiba Olehno who founded Repairel was in her workshop at home when I did the photos for The Herald Business pages. It was a lovely big windowed room which was so easy to light up. Mind you we had to close the curtains as it was so bright outside, the sun shining in was dazzling. I always like to take my subjects outside away from their place of work too and I really liked the two types of pictures that came out of the assignment. I love the west end tenements in the background of the outside shots.

Head Shots

I often find with smartphones and selfies all the rage just now, people often forget about getting goods quality headshots portraits done. They are so good for business CV’s, LinkedIn profiles and even for Facebook and Twitter. My son Mark was needing some done and as a photographer himself he knows the value of a good picture and getting appropriately dressed for it.  A good contact sheet lets the subject see all the pictures on the one page and it allows them to compare the images side by side.

February 2021

Super Soaps

With all the hand washing over the last year because of Coronavirus my hands have never been so clean.  My selection and choice of soaps has never been as varied. When The Herald business department asked me to visit to take a picture for The Herald’s Entrepreneur campaign of a soap maker I was delighted. Especially when they have a soap called Gin & Tonic. I met founder Ashley Paton who started the company in 2015, with her partner Sean. We had a tight deadline to take the picture, which as a newspaper person I though was due to an editorial deadline. In actual fact Ashley was due to give birth within a couple of days. I was delighted to see that baby Oisin was born just a few days later. 

Brooch in a Box

With another selection of the popular ‘Brooches in a Box’ I had the opportunity to get out my close up 100mm macro lens. Its perfect for product photography as well as portraits. Sometimes its nice to move away from the studio environment to outside locations. Natural moss growing in a garden is a lovely backdrop. So nice and natural with lots of detail in the texture of its surface … the texture of the brooches showed up well too. Mind you not the best job when it’s raining.

What a Change in the Weather

On Stage with Sydney Devine

I was really saddened to hear of the passing of legendary singer Sydney Devine. Watching the news interviews with the fans who loved him was quite something. I remember Rikki Fulton sketches poking fun at him singing Tiny Bubbles. The sketch featuring the Phantom of the Opera even had Syd at the end of the sketch singing his famous song. The folk at the Pavilion Theatre in Glasgow really felt it as it was almost his stage home. Many people were laying flowers outside the theatre. Ian Gordon the theatre manger and good friend of Sydney, brought the flowers inside laid them on the stage floor and put a microphone with pictures. The stage was set, lights and spotlights were added as if he was about to perform. I was asked to come in and photograph the stage. Every time I am in the Pavilion I always think of all the performances over the years on that stage. If only it could talk.

Young Traditional Musician of the Year

I was delighted to see the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of 2021 named as Michael Biggins. The pianist from Glasgow won at the socially distant event in BBC’s Pacific Quay building. I loved listening to the performances on the programme Travelling Folk. I had a really lovely day photographing all the finalists and listening to them perform. I really miss live music and this was a delight to hear. I must say I thought they were all brilliant.

January 2021

Happy New Year & A New Dawn

With the Covid lockdown still in force my annual trip out in a speedboat to photograph the Loch Lomond Water Ski Club fancy dress charity water ski had been cancelled. For the last seven of eight years I have been speeding over the waves of Loch Lomond with a Santa, Captain America, a kilted highlander or table waiter in top hat and tails. This year we had an early start climbing the Campsie Fells. It didn’t seem right to have the first day of 2021 sitting on the couch. Along with everyone else in the world, I was glad to see the back of 2020.

Scot Squad Back On TV

This month has seen the hilarious comedy show Scot Squad back on our screens. Just before lockdown, back in March, I was working on scenes with Chief Cameron Miekelson and Police Constables Sarah Fletcher and Jack McLaren. It was nice reminder of busier and more relaxed days. With the show on the BBC iPlayer I was delighted to see all my pictures again. Great memories. I will be so looking forward to the next series filming.

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra Poster

One of my assignments a few month ago was given the privilege of listening to and photographing the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at the Glasgow City Halls for Proms for BBC Radio. I was delighted to see my picture, of the hugely talented conductor Alpesh Chauhan, being used for the poster for the SSO digital concerts. I still really miss live music at this time. Thank goodness for radio.

One of my assignments a few month ago was given the privilege of listening to and photographing the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at the Glasgow City Halls for Proms for BBC Radio. I was delighted to see my picture, of the hugely talented conductor Alpesh Chauhan, being used for the poster for the SSO digital concerts. I still really miss live music at this time. Thank goodness for radio.

Life In Close Up

I do love my close up macro lens. I was doing some photographs of my better half’s cool earrings, which are now being sold in the Mugdock Makkers craft shop at Mugdock Country Park. The detail in close up photography really shows the texture of objects. https://mugdockmakkers.co.uk/shop/index.html

Woodys Back

I am still a fan of watching the bird life out in the back garden. I was took part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. It’s an hour of your day sitting with binoculars and a pad and pencil to take a note of what birds visit the garden. It was so nice to see our woodpecker visiting to add to our collection on the day.

Feeling The Cold

This January was one of the coldest January’s on record this year. It made our walks stunning to see the frost on the grass and bushes. Also we had a visit into Glasgow (for an essential visit) so we managed to justify a walk round the Botanic Gardens. I loved the low cold winter light coming through the roof of the Kibble Palace.

December 2020

Feeling A Bit Like Christmas

Christmas pantomime is one of the many things that this awful pandemic has brought to a halt. It is also one of my favourite assignments of the festive season. The Pavilion Theatre Glasgow decided to film this year’s show, Santa Clause is Coming to Town, with the cast in a bubble for the all the rehearsals. The show was available on YouTube on Christmas Eve. It proved so popular the run was extended to the 10th of January. All the regular cast : Stephen Purdon, Grado, Liam Dolan,  Nicola Park, Joyce Falconer, James McAnerney & Mori Christian with dancers and musicians, made it a great watch and I had one of the best days in ages. I did walk through a booth, which misted me all over with a fine spray of disinfectant, I got my temperature taken and put on hand sanitiser and was shown to my seat where I had a row to myself. It was so good watching the filming. It felt like the most ‘normal day’ in ages. The pater of River City’s Stephen Purdon and Scot Squad’s Grado was brilliant.

Glasgow’s Amazing People & Buildings

I love Glasgow’s old buildings. It’s true that they will never be built like that again. I have been privileged to be inside many of Glasgow’s architectural gems and meet some really interesting people. I visited The Clyde Port Authority building on the Broomilaw recently. It’s one of the few original buildings in that part of town. When you see old film footage of the Clydeside its always there with all the horses and carts driving past. I had to meet Tom Allison, chairman of Peel Ports Ltd.  Tom was chief executive at Clydeport before it was taken over by Peel Holdings in 2003. What he doesn’t know about the Clyde Port building is not worth knowing. We spent nearly an hour chatting about the building and its history before we started taking any pictures. Tom, who is also a non executive director at Celtic FC has been given a CBE in this year’s new years honours list for his services to Scottish Business and charities. It was a really dull December day outside, so I am glad I had my big studio lights with me. I loved the staircase with the painting of Sir Nathanial Dunlop the longest serving chairman of the Clyde Navigation Trust whose eyes followed you as you walked down the stairs. 

Happy Deliveries

I met lottery winner Sandra Devine when she collected her win back in November. It was a double treat, as she lives round the corner from my old house in Johnstone and her postman husband Martin was a couple of years below me in school. She was delivering personalised Christmas items, cards and Christmas puddings from National Lottery winners to charity Glasgow’s Golden Generation based at the David Cargil Centre in Langside. My grandpa was in David Cargil House old folks home. It really felt things were coming full circle.

Science Will Get Us Out Of This

Another fascinating person I met lately was Harper VanSteenhouse, president of BioClavis who are based at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus. BioClavis, was set up in 2017 as a spin-off from California-based life science firm, BioSpyder Technologies. I met Harper in the science labs where the company have developed, in collaboration with BioSpyder, the BioClavis Test which detects the Coronavirus virus using biological barcoding. I was puzzled, even with my O Level in Biology, it had to be put in laymen’s terms for me. “So it’s like scanning your shopping?, I asked” Harper was very kind with his reply and he didn’t laugh. I didn’t mention that I failed my higher biology. The good news about the biological barcode testing is that it will be able to test 100,000 samples by the end of January. The story appeared widely in the media and I even saw a piece from as far away as the San Diago Metropolitan. How cool is that.

Bad Moon Rising

Always have a camera at the ready I always say. Driving home I saw the moon popping up from behind the Campsie fells. I knew I had minutes before it went too high and the huge size caused by the curvature of the earth was lost. I put on my 300mm with a 1.4 convertor and using the car window to steady myself managed to get a few frames off. Fortunately there was still some sunlight coming through to put some light on the snowy hillside. The picture was one of my most popular with 470 likes and 54 re tweets on twitter. Instagram had over 150 likes with 248 on Facebook.

November 2020

Big Is Better

I love scale and everything being big. I remember discussions in college about how ‘big is better’. A picture used bigger in a newspaper always has more impact. I remember hearing a story about a picture that was presented to an editor who didn’t like it and wanted something with more punch. The picture editor went away and printed the same picture huge and in colour, as it was originally printed in black & white. It went straight into the paper with the words ‘that’s what I’m talking about’. I met a talented artist Siobhan McLaughlin with her painting Glen Muik at The Lemond Gallery in Bearden. The painting is over over 20 ft long. The gallery was one of the few places that can take such a size of painting. This five panel painting features in her film ‘Landscape in Lockdown’, which was commissioned by The British Art Network, jointly run by The Tate Modern and The Paul Mellon Centre for British Art. The huge scale of the work did it for me, without a doubt big is certainly better.

A New Way To Tip

During this Covid crisis lots of people, including myself have stopped using cash. It was always a thought about how many hands coins had been through by the time they come to you. Now with the pandemic there is concern about catching something from an old 50p piece. The problem was you could not leave a tip for those members of staff that are working to serve us our coffees. I was working at the cool venue The Finnieston on a new pioneering initiative to support waiting staff. Top restaurant group, Kained Holdings had teamed up with TiPJAR and Hospitality Action to kickstart a national charity campaign to help Scottish hospitality workers during the COVID-19 crisis. You pop the app on your phone and you can leave  tip in the virtual tip jar. How cool is that.

The Steamy Sheep

I have been doing a regular couple of miles walk along the old railway track. Usually about between 2 and 3 miles just to try and keep my fitness up and walk off the cake and coffee. It’s a walk that nearly always provides a picture. There are so many regulars on the route, sheep, cows, geese, sheepdogs, birds of prey as well as the usual walkers and cyclists. The sheep had been taken along the path the day I saw them all bundled together. It was really cold  but with all the sheep jammed in the pen, after they had all run through a nearby river made them all start to steam up. It was quite something to watch. They certainly brighten up my Instagram page. This friendly coo also is a regular friendly face. Have a look on my Instagram page.

October 2020

A Look at The Sea

I really enjoy my trips on a Cal Mac Ferry. My regular journey is on The Clansman from Oban going to Coll & Tiree. I jumped at the chance for a trip to Weymes Bay to meet some of their lovely staff. I never get the chance to talk to staff members much, as our Oban journey starts at 6am and I am too tired and sleepy to make conversation. Mental health first aiders Fiona, Callum, Tayloure and Kirsten have been trained to support colleagues who may be struggling with mental health issues. With all the Coronavirus and lockdown restrictions, part of the ferry company’s commitment to staff wellbeing, is having more than 60 workers recently qualify as mental health first aiders. Based across the network, they have been trained to spot the signs of mental distress and are available for colleagues who need to talk about any concerns they may have. The project is accredited by NHS Scotland. They were a great bunch and were laughing as we had about two minutes to do the picture, as the ferry does not hang about for long when it leaves port. The photo got a nice show in the Hebrides News.

A Lottery Award for Julie

Sometimes I feel humble when I meet some people. One such person was Julie Morrison. Julie is the founder of a growing Coatbridge charity supporting bereaved parents. I met her as she was named as the winner of the charity and community category at this year’s UK-wide National Lottery awards. The Baby Loss Retreat charity provides free retreat weekends at relaxing locations in Ayrshire and Dumfries for bereaved parents. Julie received her trophy from TV presenter Jean Johansson at a special event at the Westerwood Hotel. It is a privilege to be invited to work at these events.

Healthy Days For Me Now

I am a fan of vegan and veggie snacks, the low calorie count really helps with me trying to keep weight off and not ballooning to my days of old. So checking out a new range of vegan snacks for World Vegan day was something I was really looking forward to.  Ayrshire based Nudie Snacks sell award winning cauliflower crisps as well as other plant based treats. We had Tracey Hogarth founder of Nudie Snacks in the middle of a field on wild  October day. Sunshine and showers was forecast, so we all had our wellies on and umbrellas on standby. Finally one break in the rain and we managed to get some shots. In the final picture the day looks quite nice. On the way home I finished a packet of the crisps, which were brill and a packet of the delicious coconut chips. Some days don’t get any better.

Night City Scape

With the changing of the clocks from British Summertime and dark nights coming, I love the dark skies over Glasgow. I took a lot of the colour saturation from the picture but left the colour in the Nissan sign. The red really jumps out. The spot at Spiers Wharf at Port Dundas is a favourite spot of mine for a picture, which I used pass on my way home from my days at The Herald & Times. I could leave early and still not be too far away if I got that late job phone call. 

September 2020

Time For A Dram That I Cannot Drink

I do like a dram however I was at The Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine to sample a wee dram that was undrinkable. It was an eighty year old bottle of Scottish whisky salvaged from the 1923 SS Politician, one of Scotland’s most famous shipwrecks and the inspiration for the much-loved Ealing Studio comedy Whisky Galore. How cool was that! Abigail McIntyre, Senior Curator at the Scottish Maritime Museum was the person trusted to hold the bottle. I was too scared in case I dropped it. Also in the picture was the helmet that was used by deep sea diver George Currie when he brought the bottles up from the seabed. I used a small flash inside the helmet to give it a cool look and brighten up the bottle. 

The Sound of the Proms

I have been back in the Glasgow City Halls a couple of times over the last few months and what a delight it was to get the opportunity to go and and listen to the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra performing in the world’s greatest classical music festival, the Proms. What an amazing sight to see all the musicians, all socially distant, performing together. Conducted by the very cool Alpesh Chauhan, the highlight was pianist Stephen Hough. My favourite shot is always looking through the lid of the grand piano.

Making a SplashI have passed the Pinkston Watersports Park at Port Dundas many times and have even walked around the old industrial canal site before it was built. It’s a community paddlesports centre with Scotland’s only artificial whitewater course.There is so many things to do there, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, wake boarding and now tubing. What a lot of fun that looked. STV news person Polly Bartlett  was in trying it out for a TV piece. She loved it. I must say she was very brave. The white water tubing was quite thrilling to watch and great fun to photograph. 

City of Glasgow Merchant Navy Day

It was so good to see something happening in George Square after the long time in lockdown. Thirty City of Glasgow Merchant Navy cadets with Principle Paul Little and Glasgow Lord Provost Philip Braat attended the annual wreath laying ceremony. This was the first time the students from the college had formally gathered since the lockdown back in March.

Brooch In A BoxMy favourite lens at the moment is my 100mm macro bought last year from a pal. It is brilliant for portraits, macro and product photography. I had been photographing cakes with it last month.I was asked by my better half to photograph some of her new creations. A ‘Brooch In A Box’. These are hand printed silk brooches, from original paintings, finished with free motion embroidery. They look lovely in the photographs and are selling well too!