Happy Birthday Forth Bridge!

Today marks the 125th anniversary of the iconic Forth Bridge’s official opening on the 4th of March, 1890. She’s a magnificent structure. According to the BBC Scotland New site this morning, the BBC have received more photos of the bridge than any other Scottish location. And Scotland is stunning, so I think that shows the allure of the structure!

It doesn’t have the longest span of any cantilevered bridge in the world (that record goes to the Quebec Bridge) but it is definitely the prettiest.

I can’t claim that the Bridge has always been part of my life, but some of my earliest memories are of the view from my granny’s house in Dalmeny, where you could see both bridges from her kitchen window. My parents grew up round Dalmeny and South Queensferry, and it’s a place that I suppose will always be part of home in a little way to me.

Forth Rail Bridge 2

I’ve taken a few photos of the Bridge over the years myself, including during a recent incredible sunset, but yesterday I got a fresh and rare perspective. As part of the 125th anniversary celebrations, Network rail offered 250 tickets for members of the public to be taken up to the top of the North tower of the Forth Bridge. All of the money raised – some £30,000 – went to The Prince’s Trust, a charity which helps disadvantaged young people get their lives back on track.

So I bought my ticket last year, although to be honest I felt more like Charlie winning a golden ticket to see inside Wonka’s Chocolate Factory when I showed up yesterday. After a quick safety talk and some history about the Bridge, and a short ride up in the hoist on the outside of the North tower, the reward is a breathtaking view of not only the surrounding landscape (including Edinburgh, North and South Queensferry), but also of the Bridge herself. She really is a work of art, as well as a feat of Victorian engineering.

Forth Rail Bridge 5 min exposure

Many thanks to Network Rail for their organisation, and they clearly love their bridge. It was an incredible experience, and all down to them. And well done to them too for raising so much money for The Prince’s Trust!

So these are the views from the top. It was windy, cold and inbetween flurries of snow, but then it is Scotland so what else was I expecting! More photos are on my Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gingerfox/

Many happy returns of the day to our beloved Forth Bridge; here’s to another 125 years!

Forth Bridge 125-00150

Forth Bridge 125-00135

Forth Bridge 125-00081

Forth Bridge 125-1

Forth Bridge 125-00141

Forth Bridge 125-00116

Right place, right time

Saturday night was pretty special. If you had looked out the window anywhere in Scotland at about 5pm, you would have been treated to the most incredible sunset.

The colours in the sky were simply phenomenal, but even better was being down by the water at the same time. It was such a still night that the brilliant pinks, purples and reds were reflected back up at you giving the most surreal and ethereal experience. I feel lucky to have been down by the Firth of Forth to witness it, since I’ve been holed up in an office for the past month, and even luckier to have a decent camera with me.

I was with a group of folk on a photography workshop run by Grant Ritchie of Real Edinburgh. We were learning to use graduated and neutral density filters to give elements of our images a bit more contrast, and to play about with smoothing the water surface by taking long exposures. About 2hrs in and BAM! Phenomenal sunset! We all shot some amazing images, not least Grant who’s photo of the Forth Rail Bridge (link opens on Facebook) has been viewed over 750,000 times on Facebook so far. It’s a corker, and he absolutely deserves it!

What I didn’t realise, though, was that I was in for my own bit of personal success. I posted this photo to my personal Facebook page, to Flickr, Instagram, and Twitter, and emailed it to the BBC News Scotland team.

Forth Rail Bridge Sunset

From that spree of sharing, I ended up with the most likes on Facebook of any photo I’ve ever posted; within 24hrs on Flickr the photo’s picked up nearly 11,900 views, 480 faves, and a host of new followers ; BBC News Scotland included it in their special gallery of Saturday’s sunset photos but also used it as the leading image on their front page (see below); and the Daily Mail asked to print it in today’s paper (although didn’t in the end).

BBC News 08.02.15
BBC News Scotland front page at 10pm 8th Feb 2015

It’s not even that good! I mean, the colours are fantastic, but compositionally it could be a lot better, and it suffers from some other technical flaws. But that doesn’t matter, I love it, and seems a whole lot of you do to. Right place, right time. And a tiny bit of skill to bag the shot ;-)

Yours, with a big-heid for a few days,
Kit

Mining a rich seam for blog posts

I’ve just finished reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick. I should really say re-reading, as I first read the sci-fi classic (and basis for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner) back in 1996/97 for my Higher English Review of Personal Reading.

As a rule I only read books once. I’ve broken that three times though with: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. It was a very odd experience going back to a book I’d first read as a teenager nearly 20 years ago. Firstly, the influence of the film weighed heavily on my impression of what the book was/was not about, and secondly having written about it for a school subject I was positive certain things happened in it which transpired not to be the case!

Which leads me to this rich seam of blog posts which I found on my computer: my English, History and Computing reports written c. 1995-97, and my UCAS personal statement c. 1997. They’re mostly about 1,000 – 1,800 words long, and a rather embarrassing window into the life of my precocious teenage years. Ideal blog fodder then!

At some point you’ll bear witness to my musings on CD-ROM technology, censorship of internet pornography, media attitudes to videogames, and various essays on 1984, Hamlet, etc. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this wee gem from my S4 Research Project titled: What are the effects of computer/video games on the general public?

It was claimed in the newspaper that [Endorfun] was a new form of taking drugs: instead of injecting drugs into your blood stream, you could just sit in front of your screen and you could get the same experience.  Now I can tell you that I have played this game and in no way did it make me feel good about myself at all.  In fact after a while I began to feel nauseous because of the colours, but that was as far as the game went to introduce a new experience.

Kit, age 15.

2014 in Photos

I’ve been using a DSLR camera since 2006, but 2014 was definitely the year that I really started to treat photography more seriously as a hobby. My skill progression has been pretty flat since first bought my Sony A100, but now that I’ve embraced RAW files, Lightroom and Photoshop I can create some really nice images. Never perfect, and to a standard below most amateur photographers I follow, but I consider myself very much a beginner still with lots to learn!

Anyhoo…here’s a look back at some of my favourite photos from 2014; my coming-of-age year of photography. You can click the photos to go through to the full-size version on Flick, and my entire photostream is here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gingerfox/

January
Falls of Bruar 9

February
Edinburgh Aurora Feb 27/28th

March
Daffodils

April
Newhaven Harbour sunset

Beltane

May
Salisbury Crags

Granton Harbour

June
North Esk Reservoir

Oosterdok, Amsterdam

July
God rays

Forth Road Bridge sunset

Sunrise over the Forth

August
Crescent moon setting over Princes Street

Red Arrows

Vennel Fireworks

September
Newhaven lighthouse

October
New York October 2014-18.jpg

San Francisco October 2014-17.jpg

San Francisco October 2014-6.jpg

Torridon Waterfalls

November
Storr and Sheep.jpg

Fairy Pools, Skye

December
Arthur's Seat from the Scott Monument

All the fun of the Hogmanay Fair

Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week

This week (1st – 7th December, 2014) marks Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week, and as a local volunteer for the Crohn’s and Colitis UK (CCUK) charity I wanted to post up quickly about how you can follow the events this week, get more information about Crohn’s Disease and colitis, and engage with the charity and sufferers of these ‘hidden’ diseases.

Crohn’s Disease and colitis are collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Crohn’s can affect the entire digestive system from mouth to anus, while colitis only affects the large intestine. Around 300,000 people in the UK and 1.6.million in the USA have been diagnosed with some form of IBD; around 0.5% of the population, although diagnosis rates are on the increase in the UK and many people probably suffer from some form of IBD who have never been diagnosed.

IBD is an autoimmune disease and chronic. Symptoms include pain, diarrhea, bleeding, tiredness, weight loss and ulcerations, and are usually accompanied by other problems such as skin problems and arthritis. No cure exists for either Crohn’s or colitis, although drug treatments are available which put sufferers into remission. Some people require surgery to remove parts of their bowels because they are too diseased to function properly, leaving many with an external pouch for their excrement.

BeCrohnsAndColitisAware

There’s also nice looking infographic about IBD here: https://www.behance.net/gallery/17804301/Crohns-Disease-An-Infographic

Obviously, IBD causes great anxiety, embarrassment and stress in addition to their physical symptoms, but most of their friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances will be unaware of all these problems, hence it is a ‘hidden’ disease. And hence the need to raise awareness.

I suffer from Crohn’s Disease, and have been on an immunosuppressant drug for nearly a year called infliximab. It’s working pretty well, but carries serious (but low) risks which require me to be constantly pricked with a needle for blood tests and the occasional indignity of trying to get poo into a 20 mL vial with a tiny spatula.

In the summer of this year I was asked to join the organising team of a local group of CCUK  volunteers to look after their social media presence. I’ll be doing my best to keep on top of things this week on Facebook and Twitter. If you’d like to follow what we do, get involved in supporting the charity and IBD sufferers, or just want to know more, then please visit, follow, or tweet the following:

Websites:

Facebook:

Twitter:

Thank you for reading, understanding and supporting. Friday is “dress in purple” day to support the awareness campaign, so maybe see some of you at work, on Facebook or Twitter resplendent in purple. Enjoy your week!

Feuerzangenbowle!

I have no idea how to pronounce “feuerzangenbowle”, but nonetheless I had a great time last night trying out a new festive drinking experience!

My friends Steph and Alun, neither of whom are German, yet they somehow own the right kit required to send a cone of sugar to a fiery, alcoholic (and delicious!) oblivion. A bit like fondue, but with less bread. And cheese.

If you’ve no idea what I’m on about, then let me enlighten you with my sole experience of feuerzangenbowle:

  1. Make lots of mulled wine, keeping it hot
  2. Add to the bowle
  3. Place your specially bought/prepped sugar cone on the metal shelf (zangen, I guess) over the bowle
  4. Dowse sugar in rum, set alight, and go “oooooooh!” and “aaaaaah!
  5. Drink the resulting mixture of wine, rum and sugar
  6. Repeat until legless, or the fire brigade needs calling.

Here’s some shaky photos of Steph playing with fire:

Feuerzangenbowle-2.jpg

Feuerzangenbowle-1.jpg

Feuerzangenbowle-7.jpg

 

More on my Flickr page. And no, the shaky photos were before having a drink!

 

Cheer up!

Today I was trying to explain to a friend why I decided to cancel on a social event. I found it really hard, first of all making sense myself of what I’m feeling, and then trying to convey it in some way that’s understandable.

I don’t blog for sympathy. I don’t blog because I think I have interesting things to say. I blog for therapy, by words and pictures. And I blog to try and help folk understand even a little bit about some of the issues that people like me with depression and Crohn’s Disease face. I have mostly focused on the former – I like to take and show photos. It’s a form of escapism, although laced with frustration (I’m a perfectionist after all!). I’ve not so much talked about my issues. In one case I retracted what I wrote, embarrassed about friends and strangers knowing my intimate problems.

Most of my readership comes from Facebook, so a variety of close friends, mates, colleagues, family, and professional acquaintances will read about my problems. In some ways it’s very cathartic getting thoughts in print, in other ways it’s embarrassing being so open with many people I really don’t know that well. It’s also a one-way exchange; visitors here take away something about me (positive or negative), but I rarely get back something about them. But as I’ve said, this isn’t about that.

Going back to why I bailed on an evening out tonight, I declined to socialise because I feel really detached from my usual social group at the moment. New friendships and relationships are afoot, but not coming my way. Probably my own fault, but I feel lonely and isolated. This knocks my confidence: “I must be doing something wrong”, “People don’t like me”, “No one fancies me” and so on. So I hide. Of course, this makes me feel worse for not socialising, and I beat myself up about it. Which makes me feel unsociable, and repeat from the top…

I have periods of this, I think triggered by seeing friends and associates being apparently capable of a level of social interaction that I am not. Mostly because they have some sort of romance in their lives. I’ve had none for years now, and for reasons I won’t talk about now, I’m unlikely to resolve this any time soon. Being on my own kind of suits me for most of the time, but eventually it gets too lonely and I crave company and physical contact. I’m not a natural hugger though. I grew up in a house where hugs and cuddles were not common, and I have become a 30-something adult not knowing how to ask for them.

If none of this seems rational to you, then it’s because it probably isn’t. People with depression can get depressed for totally irrational reasons. Which is why you can’t simply tell a sufferer to “cheer up” or “just ask for help” or similar things which seem obvious and easy to others. It’s far more complicated for us than just being able to do the thing which would help us. But we do appreciate you trying to help, if you want to. I appreciate it, and thank you to everyone who’s offered support before. Cheers.