Today was again spent walking around the city on foot. A part of the area covered by the tour bus yesterday included a road called the Royal Mile, which I wanted to walk along. I didn’t walk the length of the road, but only a part that I thought was more accessible to me.
The weather again played in my favour and walking around didn’t feel tiring at all. I think Edinburgh could be a very nice place to live in, not least because it has a very interesting mixture of modern commercial outlets intermingled with classic architecture and monuments that serve to create a very special atmosphere. I walk here and can’t help but think that it must be similar in some ways to other major European cities in Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, etc. where life and history have been coexist in a very appealing manner. No wonder they’re all so popular as tourist destinations.
I’m not quite sure of where I’m going tomorrow. I’ll sit down later in the evening and sift through the options list. I have been considering going to the Isle of Arran, said to be Scotland in miniature, but the ferry service from Ardrossan to Brodick seems to have been suspended for a day or so some time ago due to weather conditions. Seeing how the weather has been fine these last couple of days leads me to believe that worse is in store in the next few days, in which case the ferry service may be erratic, so I’ll have to investigate that a little more before I make up my mind.
I caught up with a friend today and we spent the day taking a hop-on hop-off bus tour of some of the main attractions in Edinburgh including the Edinburgh Castle, the National Museum and Holyroodhouse Castle (not necessarily in that order, though). Some of the exhibits in the War Museum inside the Edinburgh Castle premises were fantastic, but not having enough stamina to look at everything closely meant that we didn’t spend a ton of time within the castle, even though the exhibits and views over the city were quite good. It was quite windy up there, not to mention chilly being a dry day, so we were both glad when we good out of there and got ourselves hot coffee at a café nearby.
Walking along the city streets had us pass by a Scot dressed in a full kilt, standing on a busy street corner playing his bagpipes, much to the joy of most passers-by, especially tourists who couldn’t get enough photographs of theirs taken with him, to which he would graciously agree.
The Scott monument in the city centre is extremely distinctive and stands out among all the other buildings, being a very different colour from them. I’m not sure whether the dark stone which the monument seems to have in abundance was a design choice or a result of many years of existence among the elements, but it sure does give a very strong presence to the structure, which means it is impossible to miss if it occupies any part of your vision while walking around the streets. A 3 pound entry fee allows you to climb to the top through a narrow spiral staircase in the middle of the monument, which again is always crowded, particularly at the topmost section where there is space for no more than eight to ten people at most.
Luckily the weather today remained good throughout and despite the cold winds blowing it was great to see Edinburgh (well, most of it’s most popular places) with the sun shining on it.
I came to Edinburgh today and thankfully the Youth Hostel here wasn’t hard to locate. It was a short walk from the bus station. The hostel itself is quite a departure from the others I’ve stayed in so far, mostly up in the highlands. It’s much larger, has a huge number of rooms, and is open all day long. I’ve grown quite fond of these hostels, funnily, and I do believe they make it so much easier for someone on a budget to travel around a country such as Scotland in relative comfort and security.
I rested for a short while after checking into the hostel and then proceeded to take a walk on the streets of the city. The architecture is certainly distinctive and has elements such as the few cobbled streets, especially in the old town, that speak of days gone by. It’s also very crowded, and the whole place seems to have been overrun by people from out-of-town, looking to capture some of the enigma that Edinburgh, as the capital of Scotland, is associated with. I was admittedly one of them, although being alone allows me a certain degree of detachment from the whole process, while retaining the curiosity and willingness to explore.
Once again, having no fixed agenda or desire to only see the monuments, but rather giving into whatever I feel like doing at any point of time allowed me to catch a faint tune while I was taking a walk through the Princes Street Gardens. At first it seemed as if I was hearing things, because even as I stood at the same spot where I thought I had heard the sound, all I could make out was the wind ripping across the branches and leaves of the trees nearby along with the cackle of a group of youngsters chatting nearby. Just as I moved I heard the sound again, and this time I was sure I wasn’t imagining stuff. It sounded like a flute or a saxophone, and as I followed the notes over the air, I found this young fellow standing in the middle of the walkway in the park playing his instrument while resting on the railing besides him. I shall refrain from stating the instrument he was playing because, frankly, I don’t know and I didn’t ask him. All I know is that the music he was playing was extremely good, and seemed perfect for the late evening ambience that prevailed at the time.
I sat down close to where he was playing and stayed there for 15-20 minutes, while people crossing both ways stopped, listened for some time and then walked away, or paid no heed to the beautiful sounds being created by this young fellow and his instrument, and went on with their (rather loud at times) conversations and walked right past. His tunes were melodious and soulful, and he seemed to be quite proficient in his playing, as one who has spent years practicing their craft. The music I heard sitting there that evening was a great way to get introduced to the city on my first day there. It never ceases to surprise me how having music can alter the way we perceive the world around us at any given point in time, irrespective of our own mood or state of mind. It was great timing that I was there when he was playing, because as I later found out he wasn’t a regular there, but was only playing for a short while on his way to the west of Scotland where he would soon commence his new job. Thank you, Ano (I hope that’s how you spell your name) from France, for making my first evening in Edinburgh such a great one.
Today turned out to be quite a day. I had booked the ticket to Aberdeen thinking that I’d want to at least see one place on the east coast between Inverness and Edinburgh, but little did I know it was to turn into something so unexpected. While walking out of the train station at Aberdeen in the afternoon I heard someone call out my name, and I turned around to find, to my amazement, Barbara (from the workshop) standing there looking astonished (as much at my presence there as my at facial expression, I’m sure!) I didn’t know she’d be travelling by the same train to Aberdeen as the one I had booked my ticket in. I had a faint idea that she had told me yesterday she’d be in Aberdeen today for some reason, but I didn’t know anything about her itinerary. I was as surprised to see her at the station as she was to see me standing there.
We ended up sitting in a restaurant, having food and talking about everything under the sun for a good two hours, I think. She had originally planned to do some shopping in the city before leaving for Dublin in the evening, and I had thought I’d roam around the city after dropping my bags off at the local Youth Hostel. In the end she did manage to get a short amount of time for shopping while I got trashed by the time I got to the hostel, waiting for the bus for almost 45 minutes. I found it so easy to talk to her, both yesterday and today. I think she’s a beautiful person, full of life, and has an easy-going demeanor and the desire to explore new things and places. She has a child-like curiosity for new things, but a sensible approach to them guided by her experience, and I think that makes her a very appealing individual to hang around with, especially in a strange new city, be it Inverness or Aberdeen.
The workshop I was attending ended this morning. I had a great time, spent living, breathing, and talking about photography for 12-13 hours a day. Bruce is a fantastic person, and a great teacher to boot. Not only was he patient with all the questions that all of us had, but he didn’t mind talking about off-track topics or discussing stuff that wasn’t on the agenda. I think all six of us, two from Holland, one Croat, a German, an American-Irish woman, and me, were lucky not just to have the opportunity to learn from Bruce, but also from one another during these five days.
All six of us seemed to be on slightly different levels in terms of the art of photography, although not terribly far away from one another. We all shot at the same locations, but always with different results, sometimes strikingly so. It was great to see how each individual perceived and saw different things in the same scene, and patterns, lines, shapes, tones, textures – all seemed to become visible or invisible depending upon who you were. It was only afterwards during the review sessions that we’d see stuff that we’d been completely oblivious to just a few hours ago, standing right next to the person who made the image. I’m not sure if it is possible to learn how to see by watching other people, but it was quite revealing in terms of interpretation, personal viewing style and preferences.
There were many great things about the workshop, not the least being that I learnt things, which I didn’t know that I didn’t know! I think it’s easy to keep gathering a lot of theoretical knowledge but unless it is actually put into practice, it doesn’t teach you anything. Sitting at home in front of the computer and reading guides, tutorials, and seeing other photographers’ work can only go so far in teaching you the ins and outs of the art and craft of photography. Only by shooting regularly and identifying the strong and weak points in your images is it possible to really learn and progress. The simple fact that an experienced photographer, who is well versed in their medium of expression, is there to continuously review and critique your work is far more helpful than reading 50 guides. It can be a little difficult sometimes when stuff that you think is good is completely ignored during the critique, but it is also ultimately good because it teaches you how it is so easy to ignore the mistakes you’re making, and falling for the trap of being self-aggrandizing about your own images, whereas an outsider can look at it with complete objectivity, bringing their own experience, knowledge, and sensibilities to the table, and teaching you things about your work, and sometimes yourself, that are otherwise easily overlooked.
On the way back to Inverness from Ullapool this morning, I sat with Bruce at the front of the VW Transporter, which was our vehicle for getting around during the workshop, and it might just end up having been the most significant time that I spent in the whole five days of the workshop. It was very good to speak to someone on the other side, who could identify with a lot of things that I said, and could tell me so much about not just photography, but also life and the way we go through it, especially from multiple perspectives including, but not limited to, career path, overall balance, perspective, choices, and opportunities. I don’t know how it will affect what I do later, but he did give me lots of things to think about, and also helped me clear some things in my head that had so far been left unanswered, although if he reads this he might wonder what they were! Thanks Bruce, you’ve helped me in more ways than you know, and the last hour alone of talking with you was possibly worth the entire cost of the workshop to me.
Moving away from photography – I did have my first truly touristy day today in Inverness, which I spent walking around the city centre along with another workshop participant, while taking images of the buildings and roaming around with the sole objective of seeing most of the major attractions listed in the ‘Touristy things-to-do’ brochure. Inverness is probably the fastest-growing city in the UK, but the city centre is fairly tiny and easy to walk around. The weather was dull and wet when we reached the city centre around 11 in the morning, but it did clear up after 3, and again did a u-turn a couple of hours later. It was good fun hanging around with Barbara, and walking around the tiny streets of Inverness with her along was literally a laugh-riot. Contrary to our expectations, we were able to go around the city centre and view most of the places to be seen in less than an hour. Barbara eventually took a cab to her hotel around 4.30pm, and I made my way to the hostel I had identified, to sleep for the night.
Spent the last waking hours of the day figuring out what I’m going to do tomorrow, which, as it turns out, will be spent in Aberdeen. I had no idea of where to go, and the thought of going on a short tour around Inverness did make itself quite appealing for a while, but I was never fully into it, so it got beaten out of the contention zone soon. Deciding to go to Aberdeen was probably as much determined by the desire to see more of the east coast of Scotland as by the fact that I had only just heard of it earlier in the day when three of the workshop participants had made their way there by train to catch connecting flights to their countries later. So I’ll be in a train during mid-day and will probably spend my time just walking around and taking a hop-on hop-off bus, if I can. Again, some touristy stuff compared to the distinctly non-touristy 11 days I spent driving around the west coast before the workshop.
Day 4 of the workshop with Bruce Percy.
Morning Session –
Evening Session –
Day 3 of the workshop with Bruce Percy.
Morning Session –
Evening session –
Day 2 of the workshop with Bruce Percy.
Morning Session –
Evening session –
Day 1 of the workshop with Bruce Percy.
Shot 1 – Morning session.
Shot 2 – Evening session