Posts Tagged Trees

Union Canal – Linlithgow to Ratho

Thirteen miles in six photos, the second part of my walking blog along the Union Canal from Linlithgow to Ratho.

I started off from a free, long-term car park in Linlithgow near St. Mary’s Hospital, walking into town to join the towing path where I left if last week… and it was still there!

The boats in the basin have changed around, giving me a clear photo of Victoria, the steam yacht I seen last week, so that was nice. Walking out along the tow path I seen a canal boat round the corner and disappear, a lost opportunity I thought then I realised that I was catching it up, my 3 mph ish walking pace was actually faster than the boat’s cruising speed.
Catching up with it, I joked about the Tortoise and the Hare and then left if in my dust as I strode away from it. I’m not that daft as I know that I will soon start to tire while that engine will keep on plodding along all day at the same speed but the thought was nice when it lasted.

I discovered a new stone on the tow path marked “L PB.” Checking up on some old maps I found out that it marked the border of the Linlithgow Parliamentary and Police boundary, perhaps shades of the wild west with the boats sprinting away from the cops, giving up the chase at the county line.

About two miles out of Linlithgow I came across The Park Bistro, it looked like a nice place to stop and rest, too early for me plus I had already brought my sandwiches so I kept on walking.
This was certainly the busiest stretch for boats meeting another coming towards me a mile or so later, a veritable rush-hour on water.
I took this photo near Philipston, the colour was just too good to convert to monochrome

The blue skies were deceptive as there was a wicked wind blowing behind me… good for pushing me on but not so good for keeping me warm, although I did manage to walk for almost all the way wearing a T-shirt.

The red topped shale bings of Philipston dominates the next part of the walk. This was the site of Scotland’s first oil boom, were oil was extracted from shale by heat, the red stone residue being dumped in huge spoil heaps that are dotted around West Lothian.

The bings gave great shelter and it was really pleasant walking here, so much so that I found a place to stop and have lunch and that canal boat, which I left behind at Linlithgow caught me up.
A car park about a mile past Philipston gave a degree or mirth, the Police are trying to curb the off road motorbikes and they urge anyone to report bikes, giving the “locus as Philipstoun North Bings.” Who else would use the word Locus but the polis?

The view at Bridge 38

Bridge 35 gave some variety, with a monogrammed key stone and iron balustrades. It seems to be over a minor road bridge but they must have been out to impress someone as monogrammed stone work costs extra.

Another stone, which proved to be a real oddity came up near Winchburgh, it stood beside a regular mile stone bearing the inscription ” DIVISION BETWINT SECOND AND THIRD STACKS.” Strange enough that it is in old Scots but just what was the second and third stacks?

Further on, past Winchburgh, a canal barge lies rusting in the weeds on the opposite bank its side half gone.

A contrast as a modern barge with crew accommodation and a hydraulic grab moored up a while later.

Another oddity, all the British Waterway gates across the tow path that I have encountered since leaving Falkirk have been open but one at Winchburgh which was locked closed.

Uncharacteristically Bridge 31 bore the date of 1820 on the key stone, the canal being opened in 1822, provided some interest. A little while later at Bells Hill Wharf and the headquarters of the Bridge 19-40 Canal Society, no disputing their territory then. More power to folk like this as they believe in the canal and it’s future.

Out of town and the partially restored Niddry Castle comes up on the left, the folks have taken a long time to restore this old tower house. A little further on and the Broxburn Alps comes into view, this large collection of shale bings dominates the view as the canal curves around them.This is taken from a distance with the town of Broxburn at the foot of the bings and a hail shower is threatening. The canal contours for five miles, when the direct route is only two, but then again no locks were needed to be built so money was saved.
I nearly caught up with that canal boat again as I was nearing Broxburn, the wind must have played merry hell with its speed. I could have overtook it once more but I still had a long way to walk so I screwed the bubbin’ and kept my walking pace at a sensible rate.

The trip through Broxburn wasn’t that bad except for the large number of dog-eggs by the path, that’s folk for you.

A sign on the outskirts of the town welcoming you to Port Buchan. I wonder that that was for?
I kept on going under the A8 road bridge, which didn’t have a number, indicating that this route was made later, after the opening of the canal and the original route of the A8 may have went through Broxburn at one time.
A strange piece of sculpture on the opposite bank, I later found out that it was entitled “Jupiter” part of the Kirkhill Pillar Project. “Saturn” appeared under Bridge 25. Stopping for a rest in the lee of the bridge I read a plaque that this and other art works were inspired by the Earl of Buchan’s 1775 Solar System, when Saturn was the furthest known planet and the drawing represents the motion and nature of Saturn’s rings as described by James Clark Maxwell.
Port Buchan for the Earl of Buchan, that makes sense now.

I took the picture of the above Broxburn Alps from near here.
The canal goes under the M8 motorway, it’s course being changed as the canal was closed to navigation with the building of the motorway. The new bridge built for the Millennium celebrations bore the usual inscription MM, standing for Millennium Money… and you thought it was the Roman numerals for 2,000?
The noise of the motorway is an unwelcome intrusion to the peace of the canal, it dies off but unfortunately comes back later on.

The Almond Aqueduct is not too far away, it is smaller than the Avon Aqueduct but none the less as impressive.
One more Aqueduct over a small road and you arrive at Wilkie’s basin with an island in the middle and a wooden fort, it must have been put there to amuse the motorway traffic, and although I have been driving by here for years and I can’t say that I have ever noticed it.

The Indoor climbing area come up on your left as the canal skirts past the old quarry and then you know you are nearing civilisation when the wall appears by the tow path, obviously built to keep people off the land. Rounding a corner you see a low building ahead, which is the beginning of the end as that’s Ratho basin and the end of the walk.

It started to hail again as I neared the Seagull Trusts’ building, sensing the end I never even bothered putting on the fleece, just took it in my stride and walked on. Finally leaving the path at Bridge 15 and a bus stop to the right. I only waited 10 minutes on the Lothian bus only to get chucked off because I didn’t have the £1.60 fare in the correct change, so I had to make a 3/4 mile walk down to Ratho Station to wait on the No. 38A First bus to take me back to Linlithgow and he had no problems taking my money.
I think the Lothian bus drivers are not allowed to count for themselves but keep that quiet.

So there we go, only eight miles left to do and I think I will cycle out and back along the tow path rather than rely on the Lothian buses as I now grudge them their money. All I have left to do now is find some place to leave the car and it’s done but there’s one thing for sure….


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Something different

To deliberately blur ones photos goes against every single thing that photographers learn when they come up through the ranks to join the elitists who can take tack-sharp, in focus photos, which I think is the root of the problem in that making the same kind of photo time and time again fails to become challenging.
I guess that may be a source of comfort to many, especially aviation photographers, whose only desire is to record what they have seen but to me I like to try something different, to learn something new and to that end I read an e-magazine called The Photograph published by Craft and Vision. Here I discovered the technique called ICM, Intentional Camera Movement, where one deliverately moves the camera as the exposure is being made to blur the resultant image creating some wonderfully abstract images of some very commonplace things.

I needed out, I have been spending too much time in the house, I mean it was almost an our!
The only known cure for what I had was some photo-therapy and to that end I grabbed by trusty old Canon 5D and fitted the 50mm f1.8 lens and off we went for a walk in the woods. These days I prefer the standard lens in preference to a zoom, I have a zoom for the 5D but that’s not much more than a glorified body cap to keep the dust out.

The Standard lens also gives one the ability to zoom with ones feet, move around to get the composition. Zooms can make you lazy, making you settle for the first composition that comes your way, with a standard lens you have to look for that composition.

Anyway, after the second shot of the day, which was to set the exposure. Incidentally, I have this “thing,” I’m sure that it’s a trick from the old days where one meters off ones hand, that’s a skin tone, which is Zone VI (Ansel Adams stuff, you know old fart, big camera, shot a lot of big American landscapes) so the trees will be darker than that so open up a couple of stops and things should be OK… and generally it is. I’ll continually meter like this throughout my woodland walks making adjustments as the lighting conditions change. Like the Standard lens, you have to think your exposure through, rather than letting the camera do it for you. I suppose that it gives a whole new meaning to hand-made.

I digress, after I had set the exposure, I had the idea to change the Picture Style to Monochrome, instead of my usual Faithful. Usually I do the black and white conversion afterwards in Photoshop, I’m never a great fan of any in-camera picture styles but I though what the hell, it’s RAW anyway, which easily changed in Lightroom anyway, so I’ll give it a try… and from that point on things just snowballed.

It’s so trite to say that being able to see in monochrome was a revelation but it was and when coupled with ICM, wow it was like falling in love with photography all over again.
Just one thing, the photos do not seem to appear as sharp as they should do. You can see better if you click on the image to show it at it full size, without any compression, using your browsers back button to return to this blog post.


Spot of sunlight

Spot of sunlight

Fairly innocuous was this spot of sunlight on this single tree, which was followed by a conventional photo of a piece tree fungus

Tree fungus

Tree fungus

Next up was the Ditch… still waters run deep and I’d hate to find out how deep this piece of water is but the reflections have always captivated me and until now never quite been able to get the picture right in colour and now that water is like black glass.

The Ditch

The Ditch

Now things start rolling, rocking and just plain jerking with the ICM. This one was slightly de-focused and was created with an upward movement. Again a revelation, usually I focused first then moved the camera, de-focussing makes it even smoother.

Trees ICM

Trees ICM

This one was a rocking motion of the grass with some light shining through the trees for contrast. Look out Chris Friel, there’s a new boy in town! (Chris Friel is an inspiration for ICM and so if the ICM- Intentional Camera Movement Flickr Group


Rocking in the grass

A variation on a theme was these small trees

Bushes ICM

Small trees ICM

Onto bigger stuff with the revelation that part of the a spinning ICM picture is more or less in focus, giving contrast to the abstract ICM.

Tree ICM

Tree ICM

I have been to this part of the woods before, the old raised bog is to the left with a manky ditch between the old and the new parts of the wood and it was seen in a new light, when….

The Raised Bog

I came back from the other direction…

Backlit trees

Backlit trees

The trees were backlit and I deliberately over exposed to top part of the picture giving it an ethereal look. The rim lighting on the fallen tree also helps.

Old tree

Old tree

Over exposing the background also helped with this one, there are a number of dead Scots Pines amongst the plantation, giving a contrast to the upright and regimented conifers.

A spot of sunlight

A spot of sunlight

This was something that I hadn’t done before, I metered off my hand in the sunlight and just used that for this exposure, capturing the light and the texture on the tree bark at the expense of everything else.

Four and out

Four and out

I used the same trick on this piece of shadow, the pattern and the texture on the ground that was important, with everything else being immaterial and under exposed.

The truth is out there

The truth is out there

I turned this picture on it’s head, giving a different slant to the picture, with a spot of ICM on a relatively fast shutter speed.


After all that, this post may seem like a load of pretentious crap and you could be forgiven for thinking that however I had fun making these pictures and that’s what it is all about enjoying what you do otherwise it would not be worth doing… but there’s one thing for sure….

Mair tae come


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