The 12 disguises of Christmas

I came up with the idea of creating this fun little stop-motion selfie for the 12 days of Christmas. I used what we had gathered over the years from the Christmas box and hey ho here we go – the 12 disguises of Christmas!

See you next year!

Quotes that got me thinking No.16

The Shortbread Shed-movement

“A blurry photo communicates feeling
in a language that perfection never will.”

Yan Palmer

The mighty Glencoe

Back in early July this year I took part in the Great Glencoe Challenge. A 26.2-mile Trekathon through some of Scotland’s most breathtaking scenery. From the north end of Glencoe to the foot of Ben Nevis.

It was a fantastic race and the weather could not have been any better (I know, I know, we’re talking about Scotland and Fort William, one of the wettest places in the UK). However, this was one of the warmest summers to bake the entire UK since 1976. Instead of the usual lush green fields and trees associated with our British summertime, the landscape was drifting to a more autumnal colour palette of browns, yellows, and ochres across the parched landscape.

The Shortbread Shed-Glencoe 7

Whatever the colour palette Glencoe has to offer though it doesn’t distract from its rugged and mighty awesomeness. Although the weather on the day of the race was amazing (blue sky, sunny, light breeze and warm – 18-22 degrees) it didn’t make for taking good pictures. It was too sunny, mostly directly overhead and at the wrong angle. For most of the day the sun was casting too harsh a shadows! It wasn’t until the day after when I was heading back through Glencoe on the way home that I managed to grab the images I was after.

The Shortbread Shed-Glencoe 6-2

There was no more sun, the temperature had dropped, rain was driving in, the breeze had picked up and there was plenty of low lying cloud. PERFECT conditions for taking atmospheric pictures of the Glen.

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I pulled over into a lay-by to take some images. It was mesmerizing just sitting in the car watching the constantly changing cloud formations roll in and out of the mountain tops. The landscape was so dramatic and the weather changing so quickly that it didn’t seem to matter where I pointed my lens to get a great shot. Mountains would appear and disappear with each rapidly approaching wave of low flying Scotch mist!

Attached are a few of my favourite images I managed to capture on that day.

The Shortbread Shed-Glencoe 4The Shortbread Shed-Glencoe 3The Shortbread Shed-Glencoe village

The Great Glencoe Challenge 2018

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Here we go, this is it, the start of the 2018 Great Glencoe Challenge.

In July 2018, I returned to compete in The Great Glencoe Challenge (Scotland’s toughest trekathon with over 5000ft of ascent). A 26.2-mile trek from the heart of Glencoe to the foot of Ben Nevis in Scotland.

The previous year I competed as part of a team and although it was great fun I knew I had a lot more left in the tank as we crossed the finishing line! I knew I was capable of doing it a lot faster (Click here to see the 2017 Great Glencoe Challenge blog) and thought I would return to take care of unfinished business and give the course another crack to see if I could really do it in a faster time.

Part one of my footage shot while competing in the Great Glencoe Challenge. From the start in Glencoe to the halfway point in Kinlochleven.

 

Part two of my footage from the halfway point in Kinlochleven to the finish line at the foot of Ben Nevis.

So a year later at 08:00 on a cool sunny Saturday morning on the 7th of July 2018 I took my place in line with the other eager Trekkies to get piped across the start line on this epic journey.

Through some of the most spectacular scenery in Scotland, we headed off at a leisurely pace. A wee bit too leisurely a pace for my liking. I really didn’t want to hang around as I was conscious I needed to pick up the pace somewhat to beat last years time. It was difficult to overtake for the first few miles with such a narrow path, overtaking was pretty tricky at the best of times without looking like a right road hog and pushing in at every available opportunity. I decided to go with the pack, bide my time and should an opportunity arise, seize it and slip up another place until the route opened up and I would have no problem overtaking.

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I managed to really pick up and maintain my pace at around the five and a half mile mark just past checkpoint one. This is known as ‘the bog’ which is a long stretch of peaty, wet ground that takes you up part of the route called ‘the Devils Staircase’! Now last year the bog was indeed pretty boggy and one of the group actually disappeared up to his knee in it. However this year in Britain we’ve had an amazing summer and there was no exception for Scotland. With weeks of dry sunny weather, almost unheard of for these parts, the bog had literally dried up. The ground still felt spongy underfoot but there was hardly any wet patches around which made the going easier and quicker.

I didn’t hang around, picking up the pace, I soon overtook those I was unable to pass in the previous miles. With a big push, I was up and over ‘the Devils Staircase’ in a cracking time. There’s a long plateau to follow next before descending down into Kinlochleven to the halfway point.

All competitors had to check in at the Leven Centre upon arrival to make sure you were fit and able to continue on the next 13 miles. There was hot food and drink on offer so I grabbed some pasta, garlic bread, and some water. I sat down to eat, then had a quick check over my feet before reapplied vaseline, talcum powder, and a change of socks before I hit the road more energized ready for part deux of the challenge.

A few images from around the course.

For the next 45 minutes, it was a beasting all uphill through wooded terrain until you reached to the top of the hill. From up top overlooking Kinlochleven it was pretty much following a more gentler contour of the hills for the next few miles through a long winding glen, phew.

Although the weather was great i.e. not much cloud, blue skies, gentle breeze and temperature in the high teens to low twenties it didn’t make for taking great pictures. There was too much harsh sunlight. Race start was at 08.00 and because it was in the highlands we had more daylight hours having just passed the longest day of the year. It meant I missed the sunrise and would get well in before sunset, so no golden hour opportunities to make up for it. There was simply no decent light to be had I’m afraid. Last year was much better for taking pictures as it was mostly overcast, raining, low cloud and mist cover and good contract (basically what you would call a traditional summers day in Scotland)! Now that sort of weather makes for great atmospheric shots.

The rest of the course was pretty straightforward although at six miles to go most of my body was aching especially my lower back and the tops of my toes where I seemed to manage to stub them at full pelt on unmoveable rocks all too regularly. Apart from that I was in good fettle and kept up the pace all the way to the finish line.

It was brilliant. I had come to settle a score, I had put the training in and was determined to beat the previous years time. I set off at a slow pace but more than made up for it later on. I had stopped many times to take pictures and video and had allowed 20 minutes at the halfway mark for a bit of a rest, a check over of my body and a change of socks. The weather, well the weather couldn’t have been any better especially for Scotland!

So you may be wondering how well I did. Well, I’m delighted that I did the 26.2-mile trekathon in 7:42:27 and came in a 20th overall position out of 385 competitors. whereas last year we came in at 11:30:49 in an overall position of 378 out of 430 competitors. GET IN THERE!!!

I was really chuffed with that time and of the whole experience during the day. The course was superb as was the organization, the volunteers and marshals throughout the course were brilliant. I finished the day off with a hog roast and a pint sitting down on the grass watching the other competitors cross the finish line, some in a better state than others.

I went back to my B&B just outside Fort William with a couple of cans of beer for a celebratory drink. I sat on my bed in front of the TV and promptly fell asleep!

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The finish. What an amazing day. I came 20th out of 385 competitors which I was delighted at.

Finish time: 07:42:27
Overall: 20/385
Categ: Over 40
Race No: 263
Gender: Male
Status: Finished

Moving still – Cinemagraph experimentation

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been really trying to create and make better Cinemagraphs, some examples of which you can view below.

The main takeaway from my experimentation are three-fold –
1. looking for opportunities 
2. planning
3. using a tripod

Looking for opportunities

I’ve been much more focused at looking for more opportunities to create video for use in Cinemagraphs. When I’m out and about – walking, driving in a car or commuting on a train, I’m looking for opportunities that might make a good image. If I don’t have a camera with me, I’ll take a mental note of the situation and location for future projects and then make a point to return to take the footage. Alternatively, I may come up with a concept or idea at home and when I’m out and about I’ll be looking at places where I could execute my idea.

Planning

Planning saves a lot of time and helps to alleviate some of the stress in capturing the footage. The more you plan the better and smoother the shoot should go! So, the things I look out for or will be thinking about before the shoot will be some of the following: best time of day to take the footage (busy or quiet), lighting (night, day or artificial) what camera to take (DSLR, GoPro or point and shoot), What’s the subject matter (people, machinery, wildlife etc), angle (above, below, sideways, wide of zoom angle).

Using a tripod

I have realised this is critical to successful shots! I have tried on numerous occasions and thought I would get away with handholding a camera. I would always be convinced I was not moving, not shaking and not breathing to avoid as little shake and movement as possible. When I got back home and downloaded the footage it was immediately apparent just how much movement there was. Unfortunately, in most circumstances the footage was no use and I couldn’t use it. So now I don’t bother to hand hold and hope for the best. I always take a tripod with me or if I’m tight on space and need something a bit smaller and lighter I’ll take my Gorilla Pod with me which has become invaluable.

I’m off on holiday in the next few weeks and looking forward to having the opportunity to capture some unique footage to allow me to create some more exciting Cinemagraphs.

I hope you like the ones below and don’t forget your tripod!

Spectacular lightning show on mute!

The storm caught on camera at the front of our house. I combined the hand held still images to create a short stop-motion movie showing just how amazing the storm was.

Recently we witnessed one of the most spectacular lightning storms we had ever seen in our local area.

There was some spectacular lightning on show but with no accompanying thunder it was most peculiar! It felt quite surreal and ever so slightly eerie. I was expecting at least one god almighty thunder clap to follow the lightning. All we heard was the background hum from cars driving by, the chirping of the birds high in the trees and the oohs and ahhhs from the neighbours looking out their windows as if watching a fireworks display!

Had it not been for the wife calling me out to see the incredible show that was happening literally just down the road, I would have missed the opportunity to take the pictures. I heard nothing inside the house to alert me to the spectacle that was happening just outside. Thankfully though I had the good fortune to remember to grab my point and shoot camera whilst heading out the front door. I stuck it on burst mode, fiddled with a few dials and buttons, pointed to the sky and hoped for the best!

Boy, was I not disappointed. The show lasted for more than 45 minutes and not only was there very little noise, there was not a drop of rain to accompany it.

I had lots of great still images and wanted to combine them into a stop-motion movie to show just how spectacular the storm was. Above and below are two examples that turned out well.

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The Shortbread Shed-Lightning1-2The Shortbread Shed-Lightning1-01512

Above some of the images I manages to capture from the incredible storm.
A stop-motion movie from the back garden.