Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Drawn to a close

Drawn to a close, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

"why are they drawing in the sky". Back from the fireworks display in stornoway, with a stop-off at cameron's chippy. Big changes for 2009. I've no idea what they will be, but i'm determined to have a laugh, spend no time on people determined to drag me down and i'm going to spend more time finding answers in books rather than skimming the net in the hope i might find the same solution. Web2.0 is dead. It promised much but ends as a giant chatroom. Cloud computing needs an expansion of the network capacity. Will we exit the recession with a globe-spanning high-capacity mobile network? Will we be drawn to the cloud? The future belongs to us. Maybe i'll see you there.

Monday, 29 December 2008

FMAO Stornoway

FMAO Stornoway, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

About 4'c outside, so alpkit filo and mountain hardwear gloves in evidence. As is the big polis landcruiser that pulls up parallel to the aktomobile. I ignore them. I have no stolen trees on view. The special branch drive off. Later i see same vehicle across harbour with its blue lights going. Poor sods. A difficult job.


North Beach

North Beach, Stornoway. Photographed from the Castle Grounds. For those unfamiliar with the place, this is the beach to the north of the town, and from the grounds of the castle. (maplink) f/4.5, 1.3", 27mm

South Beach

South Beach, including the Town Hall. With the eternal stream of car headlamps creating the white-snake spectral glow through the town. The stillness of the night cut by the harping of car horns and revving of engines. A car pulls up sharpish behind me and a gaggle of girls giggle, unseen by me, and the young lad driving drives off around town once, twice, more. (maplink) f/16, 15", 18mm

From Goat Island

Stornoway's South Beach and ferry terminal as seen from Goat Island. (maplink) f/16, 10", 27mm

Lews Castle

From the same location, but using the 55-200mm lens. Lews Castle, imposing itself over Stornoway, even across two stretches of water. f/5.6, 6", 200mm

Occam's stickpic

Occam's stickpic, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

I really hadn't thought about storing the stickpic adapter until seeing Jason's video. A quick loop and it's done.

So Long and Thanks for all the ...

Woolworths closes its doors in Stornoway.


To say that it was the 'heart' of the town is an understatement. Always busy. Always things to buy. No more.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Natural Born Lens Flare

Well, the sun cast long shadows for most of the day. It wasn't warm enough to clear the dew from the car. The long finger reaching to the sky is the war memorial on the outskirts of Stornoway. Maplink


I tend to tilt the camera downwards so that the light doesn't blind the sensors. I used the Canon Ixus 950 for this one. Cropped and resized.

The sun might come out tomorrow

Well, the first sun that i've seen rise in over a week. I feel guilty at not slaughtering a sheep in celebration, or at least going somewhere with the big camera. Frankly, i can't be @rsed when i feel forced into doing something when i'm really not in the mood. I could walk round the castle grounds snapping away like a tow-rist, but, i mean, it isn't interesting like the Yukon. Anyway, i'm Mum's taxi today, so i'll use that as am excuse.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Amazon Rating for Akto

Whilst perusing the sales on my online high street, I noticed that the Hilleberg Akto was rated nr 3 in the tents section of I was pleased, but surprised, as most of the other tents are much, much, lower in cost.


Good for Hilleberg. Yay.

In other news, the sun was out for a record 15 minutes in today in my part of Lewis.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Noddy's For Life, not just for Christmas

This was Slade's 3rd number one chart-topper, spending 3 weeks at the top in 1972, and was their second number one of that year. Source.

12 years ago Slade had their 20th anniversary.

I'm not sure if things have changed that much since then. Of course, Noddy is no longer in the band's line-up. The charts are pretty much dead, replaced by iTunes or whatever online source of information new bands aspire to. Hopefully, good, passionate music still comes to the fore, and that bands with character still come to the heart of the country enough to have the mickey taken from them in a loving way.

Next time you hear the strains of "it's Christmassssss" give a thought to Slade, and the inspiration that they were to others.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

IR wishing for weather change

Manipulation using Virtual Photographer, following workflow from IRbuzz. Same photo as before. It is raining outside. It is overcast outside. I am inside. My niece is doing her best to impersonate a herd of elephants, trumpeting "unka dunkan" before setting off too or from the watering hole (kitchen).


General Pole Hospital

General Pole Hospital, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

I'll state for the record that i love my pacerpoles. But it just seems to be me who has a problem with them jamming. No-one else has to return them once a year for a refit. No-one else has to call upon their good will. So i tried using my dad's vice (no, not his weekly cigarella) padded out. No joy. So i'll need to contact the folk again. Silly thing is that they were fine when i last used them, i didn't use them when i last overnighted in the cairngorms, leaving them strapped to the pack. And now they are both jammed. At different sections. Trust is a dilema for me. They are the only poles that i have used since getting them.

In Filo Country

In Filo Country, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Indoors if wet


Second attempt at IR image manipulation, I tried following advice video ( I need more practice for sure.

In the meantime, here's a photo of my folk's cat, Flick. Earlier in the year she was testing Flickr and investigating the MLD Spinntex Mid tarp.


Sunday, 21 December 2008

IR in need of wellies


I blame Leo Laporte.

Yesterday afternoon, I was standing in a squelchy part of the croft, waiting for the heavy tripod to sink into the marsh. My inheritance does remind me of a scene from "The Holy Grail"

So. I set up the camera, switch off the autofocus and carefully screw on the Hoya R72 infra-red filter. I'm not sure what to do with it afterwards, and merely remove the colour and do a bit of level balancing.

What's this got to do with a chap half-way round the world? Well, I caught a podcast where he talked about photography. Then I followed up the photographers that were out in Australia with him. I was amazed by some of the Infra-Red images that were in amongst the others.

Every now and again, I would do some more research into the subject. Eventually tracking down an affordable filter. But I never quite got round to finding out what the software processes were.

I'll have another look tomorrow. Unless the weather's nice, in which case I'll be outside. Doing things.

Death of an Icon

Catching up with things, I hear that Majel Barrett Roddenberry died a few days ago. It became a game to spot where she'd turn up in a series of Star Trek. It was a shame that she didn't stay as the First Officer of the Enterprise, but the original series had a few changes from the pilot screening, and that was one. The only woman on the bridge would be another icon, Nichelle Nichols; and I won't deign to include the note-passing passing floozies that wandered by the Kirk.

TOS is going the same way as that "Dad's Army" sketch: pointing and shouting "he's dead" as a character appears in shot. It comes to us all.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

New tripod

New tripod, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Playing with setup of new slik pro 700dx tripod with pan head. The central column can be inverted. Two spirit levels two.


Lull, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Before the next storm

Once more unto the breach

Once more unto the breach, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

I do hope that head office at gourock take note of the good communications and hard-working staff. The same gent was on gate duty at 11pm as was there when i went for a wander at 4am. The cheery cafe staff and chap in car park who remembered who i was amidst all the passengers he called yesterday.

No stormy bay this

No stormy bay this, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

As is often the case, a calm bay ends the nautical leg of the journey. Anchors away, lads.

Holm, sweet holm

Holm, sweet holm, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

A recognisable sliver of land appears in the window. Time to get up.

Navy lark

Navy lark, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Left hand down a bit, mr philips. And we're off. Or so i assume. I pulled my sleeping bag, in quilt mode back over my head and dozed off. Waking as we hit some choppy patches and submerging again beneath a blanket of feathers.

By van's early light

By van's early light, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

I have to leave my roost to wait in the car. I was woken more times last night than when i was sleeping in the car the night before. But the car was a dead thing, immobilised, while the boat is alive - ready to spring into action once the ropes release her.

In my cold, dead car, key in ignition waiting for the signal to give it the re-animator's spark. Every carpet-bagging person leaving a car to walk on and reserve a place. I have no such luxury. For my 24 hour wait, i expect to return to find a cuckoo in the nest. Some chirpy bint who has kindly moved my sleeping bag and pillows out of her way so she and her brood can wait for man-the-driver to drag his knuckles from the car deck.

I'm not a morning person.

Friday, 19 December 2008

End of transmission

End of transmission, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

As a tipsy student sings "God save the Queen", service aboard the good ship lollipop winds down as da youth seem set on talking shight into da night. In a topsy turvy world, the bar is packed with kids as it is the most stable part of the craft, that leaves this observation lounge, high up near the pointy end, for the rest of us landsmen and landswomen.

I'm starting to wonder if i'd get more zzz's in the car. Too much nonsense in the air.

Christmas illuminations

Christmas illuminations, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

There is a lighted christmas tree, but it only appears from behind the lorry when the wind catches it. So strong on the deck that i can bearly stay balanced while keeping the camera-phone steady. Some youngsters drinking in the quiet lounge, thereby making it a nonquiet lounge, so defeating reason why they came to this end of boat in first place. Like tourists descending on an area to see its unspoilt beauty. Hey ho. Jotting notes for a new wargames campaign i hope to run in the new year. Finding that opera mini 4.2 is failing to connect me to internet when the nokia safari browser is okay. I didn't have this issue with 4.1, so i'll need to look into this when i get home.

Hamecomin'? No. Wait

Hamecomin'? No. Wait, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Homecoming08 delayed by stormy weather. There's no sun up in the sky ... Oops, coffee kicking in. Calmac office have been texting out messages during day and are now phoning people with information about tomorrow's 0600hr crossing. I commended them on their comms system.

Going through my cables bag, i found that i hadn't bought my usb mains charger, so no watching movies on my ipod. Hey ho. It'll give me a chance to read without distractio ... Oh look, another one of these nautical dust devils. Quite stunning.

A view with a room

A view with a room, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

I go to the calmac person and say "you have a big boat there and i have a small cold car. Can i get onto your boat so i can get warm?". He seems suprised that i did not already know this. Is there some form of telepathy that i missed? Maybe a lesson in customer communication wouldn't go amiss.

I gathered a few things together n walked up gangway. The boat's crew was far more helpful. I've even got a comfy sofa with view and recharge point. Of course, the crew haven't had a morning dealing with frantic christmas travellers having to delay their journey.

New pair of thermal leggings bought in gear shop and three new books from book shop. There were a few more books i could have left with, but i had to rein back. But i prefer a shop that has too much choice than too little.

No bridge over troubled waters

No bridge over troubled waters, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

So. Hrmph. I get to ullapool behind a gritter. 4th car in the queue. Some more shut-eye thanks to the vango travel pillow that lives in my car.
Bzz goes phone. "there will be no sailings from ullapool today. Call xxx.yyy after 8am for options". There are no real options. It's the weather. I'm on holiday. Woohoo. I'm resisting the urge to set up the honey stove on the shingle beach just to see if i can scrape enough driftwood together.
Ullapool, gateway to tir-nan-og. It has a tv-chef recommended chippy, a better bookshop than any i've seen in aberdeen and a very good gearshop. Due to attrition, i'm now 2nd in the queue. Maybe it was the sight of me deciding what socks to put on. I'm trying the bridgedale coolmax liner socks - which turned out to be 2 pairs. Woohoo again. I'm just so easy to please. Life is what we make of it.

Outside it is heelan

Outside it is heelan, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Trying to catch some zzzz's in the back of the car before catching the early ferry. Nature is being damnably insufferable by doing what it can to play with my emotions.
As one eye closes with fatigue, the other spies the heavens alight with a flash of lightning. An empty view suddenly clears itself of obscuring snow-clouds to reveal orion and his chums.
Temp is about 2'c outside but i'm wrapped in my down bag. Merino top but rest is civvies. Oops it's tomorrow already.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

The Akto Standard of Measurement

Mike borrowed his Slik tripod back for a few days. Despite the fact that I hadn’t used it for a while, taking most of the recent Honey Stove videos using the Velbon 2nd hand tripod. I did get some good shots with the Velbon but it isn’t as stable or good looking. I felt that I needed to have a decent stable tripod for myself. Something that looks right and feels right.

A look at the named brands found a sale on the heavyweight Slik Pro 700DX kit. Although the head on offer is different from the one in the video (via a review link from, it sealed the deal. I ordered from despite others having similar deals. I had used them before, and they have free shipping.

That is almost 2 Aktos in weight. At under half and Akto in price.

I aim to do away with kilograms and pounds and weigh everything in relation to my tent. I did that when buying my Scarpas. The cut-off weight was the Akto’s weight (approx 1.5kg). It ties in with the ‘beer standard’ used in “White Dwarf” years ago.

And I haven’t even had my breakfast yet.

Saturday, 13 December 2008


Not much been going on this week. Okay, so that is a lie, there has been lots happening, but nothing vaguely related to this blog.

Paramo short gaiters arrived from Foothills. Part of my WHW AAR. Also part of this was the ordering of a pair of Goretex over-socks from Furtech. My feet don’t do well in Sealskinz socks – great for river-crossings, and for around the tent, but not for hiking in. Oversocks had been on my radar since some people, eg Dawn, had mentioned them.

I’ve been reading some more of Jon Vonhof’s “Fixing Your Feet” . There is a great section on solutions for feet problems…lots of solutions. Great – everyone is different, and there is no one solution. Something it takes time to realise.

A very nice woman has mailed me her … sorry … their BushBuddy woodburning stove, and I’ll be having a play with it over Christmas. I’ve given Honey Stove feedback to Bob, so it will be good to see them both side by side. He has certainly piqued my interest. I want to see how it all works – or doesn’t – in a moorland situation.

The StickPic arrived during the week. I had found that they were selling off ‘seconds’, so got a few dollars off. Which was nice. I hadn’t had the chance to try it out yet … well, I have, but you really don’t want to see late-night photos of me in my PJ’s waiting for the cold-drugs to wear off so that I can sleep. In case you don’t know what a StickPic is, here is George and Jason’s videos about it. I’m sure they can send John and Andy a typed transcript instead ;-)

Having had problems with my tv recorder, I finally cleared off all the recorded shows and re-formatted the hard drive. No longer will every activation of the device start up with a clip of Chris Townsend pitching his Akto! Och. But hopefully it means that the recorder will stop ‘forgetting’ to record programs. A very useful device, and has changed my viewing habits.

Cheated and painted the gun crew in a uniform expensive black cloth, and based up the demi-culverin.


And my new washing machine was delivered today. Hopefully the saga ends there. A tale of attempted DIY, poor online shops and poorer real-world shops.

Having caught the “Culture Show” special on Baz Luhrmann last night. Besides being another chance to see some great clips from his work, I was left pondering a quote of his: “we don’t have anything if we don’t have stories”. Even something as humble as a washing machine has a part to play in the epic.


So far, so good, and no leaks.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Slinging Mud

There are many reasons that I don’t like this song.

It isn’t Elvis.

It is a dirge.

It still isn’t Elvis.

It makes me feel sad.

And it was playing at Asda yesterday, because someone doesn’t check to see what constitutes cheery shopping Christmas music. But I guess the sales of razor blades increased for a few minutes.

And worse, far worse, is that since then, I’ve been humming the freakin’ song.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarghhhh, will no one rid me of this turbulent tiresome tune?

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

And when Oliver goes to sleep

And when Oliver goes to sleep, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

Oliver Postgate has died. But he left the world a happier place. Well done, sir.

Not Scottish, But What the Heck

Come one, surely this is worth re-broadcasting?

It’s Christmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaassssssssssss

Now For Something Completely Similar

This vid eo was part of the excellent “Absolutely” series. I can’t help but wonder if the committee for the Homecoming 007 vid eo was done by the same crew. Cruel. This one was intentionally funny.

Come to Scotland, we have a land of Scots. But no wasps.

Sourced via Andy in Derby. Add the dvd to your Christmas shopping list.

Visit Scotland next year, or I’ll keep pointing out how much you miss if you’ve never been.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Stirton Gifts

To advertise their latest twice-award-nominated movie “One Day Removals”, Stirton Productions have opened a “cafePress” site. I particularly like the sticker. The ideal gift when you buy the video.

Warning - Material contains strong language and graphic violence. Well, the gift store doesn’t, unless you drink some weird freaking tea out of the mug. Yuck.

プラネットX 惑星爆滅

Earlier movie – now out in Japan.

Festive Message

Lighten up you miserable, argumentative, whinging, bar stewards.

It may be Christmas. It may be a poor time of year for people who are skint. It may be a bad time of year due to the lack of sunlight regenerating the chemicals in the brain. It may be a tiring time as all these memories of chores and changes that 2008 was going to bring.

But – keep it to your freaking selves and don’t drag the rest of us down with you.

Life is too short. Think of the loved ones who we lost this year, and of friends who are suffering from illness. We don’t need more pressure over a broken zip, a misplaced comment in the media, or if a stove takes 3 seconds longer to boil a pint of water at room temperature.

Now, take it away Neville …

He is English.

Long may your lum reek.

Oh, and any negative comments will be deleted. So, blow it out your left ear.

This weekend i had

This weekend i had, originally uploaded by dimacleod.

This weekend i had been mainly assembling and preparing perry 28mm english civil war figures. Some new projects were discussed on at the christmas party and old interests rekindled. I have also been using the opportunity to wean myself away from the online 'communities'. Do i really care about the bbc coverage of the outdoors? Does anyone believe anything in the press or do we all do our own research and make our minds up? Do i really care? It is time to reacquire the muse and spend more time with my paint and brushes, trying to solve the problems of recreating an image in my brain (acquired from books and the internet) on to a 3d metal model using nothing but paints and washes and varnish.

Friday, 5 December 2008

You'll Have Had Your Tea

Share and enjoy

Why should I be the only one to cringe at this. Heuch.

Official Site

Sunday, 30 November 2008

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

I was following up Darren’s re-broadcasting of Tinny’s videos of the products from MiniBullDesign when I noticed something.


Is it me, but it seems to be an old backward-looking attitude that just because a man is watching another man baking a cake, that the said viewer would be interested in such relationships?


I thought these assumptions died away with Mr Inman from “Are You Being Served”.

Okay, let’s end the weekend on a high note, and kick Google into touch with a real view of the manly outdoor life.

NCIS Cairngorms

Some geartalk in this video from yesterday morning.

And one of the chaps at work wondered about camera fittings, so here is how I secure my Berghaus hardcase to my Osprey Atmos hip-belt. Means the camera can be taken out quickly.


As the Atmos has a split-belt, I can hook in a d-karabiner, and clip it to the loops of the camera case. when I unclip the belt-buckle, the case (and camera) don’t come flying off.


*Ask Darren about the NCIS reference.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Vaseline, Cookset Condom and Women’s Underwear

In the beginning … too cliqued, but the story has a beginning, not quite of Biblical proportions, but a beginning nonetheless. In the beginning, Big Kev was taking his son, “The Lad”, out for a trip to the Cairngorms. There was an open invitation to join them, so I pencilled it in my diary, and Dawn was going to travel up from London. Except for the plague that was brought upon both their houses. As I work for a far-seeing employer, I had already been inoculated against Cold, Flu, and the vengeful wrath of the Almighty.

And so it came to pass that I had a rapid turn-around after work on Friday night, and I was heading into the Chosen Land National Park. And lo, it was bloody brilliant!

Friday night.

With temperatures down to –4°c, it was going to be a cold one. I had the MWIS forecast and dressed accordingly. Also this month’s skymap was in my map-case. Leaving the car and walking through the woods, the cold mist clung to my face. No sounds except a distant water flow. No breath of wind except that which my lungs exhaled. The mist thickened with each breath and my gloves wiped away melting water droplets that clung to face.




Walking up the glen, I could smell woodsmoke from the bothy about 10 minutes before walking past it. No birds, no deer, no wind, no sounds bar the water in the glen and the occasional burn rushing down to join it. Clouds moved slowly in the sky, and a meteorite flashed by. Despite all the hi-tech modern kit, the inner-child still made a wish. About 90-minutes later, interrupted only by a “good evening” to a gentleman hiker walking his dog, I arrived at an empty ford (maplink). I had already decided to pitch where Mike and I had been earlier in the year. I stuck to that, even though I had the whole area to myself.


I cleared an area of debris, and pitched the tent. Then I cleared the debris from under the groundsheet. And once more before inflating my Insul sleep mat (the insulation will prove its worth tonight), and stripping down to baselayer, and climbing into sleeping bag (Cumulus Ultralight 350), and pulling my down jacket over my torso, and leaving my fleece-lined jacket over my lower body. I pulled on my warn cap and noted that the air inside the tent was much warmer than outside.


There was nothing interesting on the radio, so ate some peppered salami, drank some malt whisky and switched off the light and listened to Nature. I moved the Silva ADC device onto the groundsheet beside me. That would give me a shock in the morning.

I awoke twice in the night with a cold nose, so turned the cap around by 90° so that an earflap covered my nose.


With no fuss, it was morning. It was also –4.9°c and not quite 8am. Opening the zip on my sleeping bag, the cold quickly drove me to suit up – we’d see how good the Furtech trousers would be today!



Yes, there is an Akto in this photo

Filling the Camelbak from the stream, I found that the drink nozzle was frozen. This is the insulated version too. We had had problems with the crew-in gas canisters before, but was pleased to see that the Blackfly 4 worked well. However, I didn’t put it on a stone, and was using the Honey Stove separately, so it fell over as the frost in the ground melted. Twice.






Display reads –4.3°c

Leaving no trace

Any embers were doused with water, and scattered into the stream.


As I knew that there would be soot, I had carried in a ziplock bag to prevent it from making a mess of my kit.


Duly wrapped inside the pot-cozy, whilst the Honey Stove was back in its pouch.


I’ll do something about the fire starting kit, cutting the Maya sticks into shorter lengths, taking the small blue container of vaseline, pack enough cotton wool balls, and store it all in a lightweight, waterproof container, along with a knife that will fit there.


Everything was packed away and the ground checked for any tell-tale signs of my passing.


Hiking out




Low cloud gave glimpses of the mountains beyond. About 6 people had ventured past, and I would see two more before reaching the car.


South towards the Linn of Dee.


Looking back north up the glen.


Like some gate-keeper, this tree always freaks me.



A final parting shot from a great night out – a small party of deer were lurking near the car park.


Thank you, Nature. Shame out the cap, and the buff cravat.


Standard kitlist: Akto Year 2

Extras: SnowClaw (just in case), Alpkit Filo jacket, Extremities cap (apparently it is called a “Took” hat). Smartwool liner socks worn under thick Ultimax socks.

Things to do: cut Maya sticks in half. Replace batteries in headtorch. Protect Camelbak from cold overnight (by the way, my Silva measured –24°c in my freezer on Sunday). Water had frozen on the filter of the Aquagear, so that needs watching too. Look into a separate camera for video clips – maybe my old Sony stills camera.

New gear that made the grade and will be with me again: Furtech trousers, Lowe Alpine briefs (xl-w-noir), Honey Stove, Blackfly 4 (using a stable base).

New gear that didn’t make the grade: PossumDown Gloves – toasty, but left tickly fibres on my rough manly face. I also couldn’t operate camera whilst wearing them. My normal Mountain Hardwear “powerstretch” liner gloves will be staying with me.