Hiroshima: 70 years ago today

It’s now 70 years since America dropped the first atomic bomb in warfare. The target: Hiroshima. There’s plenty of information, images and debate about the bombing (and the subsequent one of Nagasaki) so I won’t cover that here.

I have, though, written already about my experience meeting a survivor. The suffering – mental and physical – that survivors carry around must be incredible. And in the name of freedom and democracy too.

Only a month after visiting Hiroshima with my friends Neil and Rami, I got to see the vehicle of Hiroshima’s destruction: the Enola Gay . It’s currently on display in the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia. It is a really beautiful aircraft. Deceptively so. I suppose most warplanes are, to be honest. They are engineering marvels and triumphs of human imagination, ingenuity, endeavour, and purpose. But most are also anonymous. Most of us do not know, even roughly, how many people have died through the power of the aircraft in front of us at a museum, or an airshow. It could be thousands, dozens or none. In that way it’s easy to lose sight of their true purpose: killing.

Not so with the Enola Gay. We don’t know for certain how many people died when it dropped ‘Little Boy’, but estimates range from 90,000 to 160,000 (Source: Wikipedia). Think that over…one aircraft alone accounted for at least 90 thousand deaths.

I beautiful piece of engineering, no doubt. But standing next to it gave me the chills. It made me angry, sad, frightened. An odd sensation to have looking at an inanimate object. But it’s not to blame. We are. Humans. For all that we’re brilliant, we’re also terrible.

R.I.P. the victims of pointless wars.


Yosemite night sky timelapse

More blogs to come on a recent trip to the USA, but this one couldn’t wait!

Last week (Oct 13th 2014) I had a pretty magical night at a place called Glacier Point, in Yosemite National Park. It’s a view point at nearly 2,200m above sea level, which looks across a 1km deep valley to (among others) the famous Half Dome cliff/mountain, which tops out at nearly 2,800m.

My friend Johannes and I got up there for sunset (by car, this is America after all) and stayed on to watch the stars on an almost perfect high, no-wind, no-light pollution night. We even got to see the most amazing moon rise from behind half dome, after staying up there for over 6 hours.

Some proper photos to come later, but this is a quick knock-up of 144 images taken over a period of 80 minutes from an hour after sunset. It’s far from perfect, but gives a wonderful sense of movement of the stars (well, the Earth, really), as well as overhead air traffic, clouds, and climbers bivouacking on Half Dome. You can see the Milky Way on the top-left of the video. My only wish is for a wider lens!

All images shot on Sony SLT-A58 at 18mm, f3.5, ISO3200, 25s with some post-processing in Lightroom 4.4. The images were combined with VirtualDub and compressed with Movie Maker on Windows 7.

Heading back to NYC

In 9 days I’m off to New York City with some awesome friends, en-route to Austin (TX) for a conference. I was last there nearly 2 years ago, and this will be the sixth visit, if memory serves.

I can’t wait. It’s a magical city. I find it hard to believe I’m there when it has so successfully invaded our cultural reference for many things. Films, TV, books, music, foods, accents, tragedies.

Here’s a photo from a helicopter tour I did in January 2013. What an icon.

New York by air
New York by air

More photos from my previous trip are on Flickr: New York photos


Hiroshima: Kiyomi’s Story

In November 2012, a couple of friends and I had the great pleasure and honour to meet Kiyomi Kohno, an 80 year old hibakusha.  Kiyomi survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on the 6th of August 1945.

I have been wanting to tell the story of our short time with Kiyomi for a while now.  I gave a short talk to fellow students at Uni in May last year, 6 months after meeting Kiyomi.  But I wanted to relate to a wider audience the experience of meeting such an extraordinary woman.

This kind of writing does not come naturally to me, I’m afraid, so it will be perhaps not as eloquent(!) as my normal writing, but please bear with me!

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Scottish Winter Photography

I’m not going to pretend for a second that I’m a decent photographer, but I’m still proud of some of the photos I manage to take.  I think I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but I used to be resolutely against overly-processed photos.  Well, seems I’m slipping in my resolve as any glance through my photos will show.  Or maybe not?  Whether they look overdone or not, I recognise now that this is the beauty of digital photography; one can so easily express their creativity with just a few minutes of work.

Anyway, below are some photos from the Scottish winter around Edinburgh, and the Highlands.  No snow, I’m afraid, but we’re only half-way through winter at the moment, so you never know… And I’ve snuck in some photos from the end of Autumn too, but I’m sure you’ll not mind.  My flickr feed is www.flickr.com/photos/gingerfox/ for more photos, and I hope you enjoy!

Forth Rail Bridge 2

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Graveyards of the World

A bit of an odd one, this, but I like walking round graveyards.  I supposed I have a small fascination for them.  They represent a very personal connection to history; one which I find you don’t get with buildings or landscapes.

Not that I spend a lot of time hanging out in graveyards, normally!  But in my travels over the past 13 months or so, I’ve ended up visiting one in each country I’ve been to.  Admittedly not many countries, but they are all different, some more obviously so than others.  And of course, carrying a camera around, I got plenty of photos, which I’d like to share.  I try and be as respectful as I can, but I don’t see there’s anything inherently wrong in photographing graves.  I know I’m not unique in that regard!

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Mixing Work and Play in Fiji & the USA

My third and final wee update on my recent travels, following on from adventures in Australia and New Zealand, has me stopping for 24hrs in Nadi, Fiji before flying on to the USA.

As reported, I’d been in pretty good health for my 18 days in NZ, so I was hoping this would last through for as long as possible. I was particularly paranoid about Fiji as tummy upsets are common for travellers here, and the last thing I wanted was to spend my ten hour flight to Los Angeles in the toilet!

So I avoided drinking non-violent water, ice cubes, washed salad leaves, etc. and had no problems. I spent my day there sitting on the deserted island you see in the first photo…bliss!

From Nadi, I flew to LA and on to Las Vegas, where I met my friend Jamie from home who had come over to help me with my fieldwork (the reason why I’m in the States). We roadtripped from Vegas to Salt Lake City in a few days and were very lucky to have got into Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks before the federal shutdown on the 1st of October.

Salt Lake City was a nice surprise, but we were soon on our way to Green River, Utah: the watermelon capital. A sleepy town, apparently hit hard by the recession, it was home for ten days while we worked in the San Rafael desert to the south of the town.

We had time to play though, so we got down to Moab a few times, and had a good old explore off some of the local sites, including an abandoned coal town called Sego.

Fieldwork finished, Jamie went home and I came down here to Austin, Texas to finish my work and present to the Carbon Center at the Bureau of Economic Geology, University of Texas. In a couple of days I fly back to Scotland and life goes back to normal for me after two months on the road.

I’ll be mighty glad to be in my own home again, not eating out (food in the USA is not kind to my health, and I’ve been struggling here), and being able to see my friends again.

But what a great time it’s been! I sign off my travel posts (for now…) with another set of about-one-a-day Lightroom processed photos. Enjoy!

Desert island Fiji
Desert island for the day, Fiji

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