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17 October 2014


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are friends electric

italian cycle component manufacturer, campagnolo, has had electronic gearchanging in development for a number of years now without putting it on the market.

however, photographs have popped up of an electronic shimano groupset at the paris-nice race, so we presumably now have a race (if you'll pardon the pun) to see who puts a whole set on sale first.

there are those of us, however, who want to know why you'd want to in the first place.

Posted on brian at 09:08

holiday on islay

obviously a sign of age, because i forgot to mention it earlier, but the long awaited (by me at least) cd release of the sheena swanson quartet recording at last year's black bottle islay jazz festival is actually here.

as i may have mentioned before, we're selling this cd at £10 each (plus p+p) to raise funds for the west of scotland adult cystic fibrosis unit. they're the only ones making any money out of this, thanks to generous sponsorship from black bottle and duffies of islay (transport). also to paul and mario for foregoing any income or royalties.

if you'd like a copy, drop me an e-mail at
Posted on brian at 09:07

suffering from exposure (in the nicest possible way)

not quite the usual photoshop tuition, but maybe something for the traditionalists. in order that those who have adopted digital technology out of necessity or practicality (if everywhere else is like islay, traditional film and developing is hard to come by) can continue to enjoy the look and feel of 'analogue' film, try this (or these)

makers of a range of photoshop plug ins, alien skin (we will never wear suits) now have 'exposure' - a suite of plug-ins that emulate a wide variety of traditional film stock, including black and white.

by way of two examples, i've started with a 6 megapixel fuji digital photo of islayseasafari's 11metre rigid inflatable at port ellen pontoons. this is followed by an example of a colour film filter emulating e6 cross processed in c41chemicals (no, i don't know what that means either).

the black and white example below that is a calotype - i did look this up on google, but the explanation (from the university of glasgow) is way too wordy to put up here. but it creates a darn good b&w pic and a lot more easily than faffing about with channels, layers, levels etc.




the sooper-dooper part is that it creates the filtered version on a new layer, leaving your original alone to live another day and because of this, you could create several different filtered versions and experiment with the blend modes in the layers palette. hours of endless fun


according to the alienskin website, the plug-ins run with photoshop cs or later and photoshop elements 3 or later (and photoshop elements 4 for mac has just been released) and although it specifies at least a 1ghz mac, mine is only 667mhz and it still works (if a bit slowly - just like its owner)

all these screenshots were taken in photoshop cs2.
Posted on brian at 20:14

the lightlessness of being

after months and months of having something in common with the mainland that we didn't necessarily want to have, the traffic lights at the duich bridge have gone, the single track diversion road has been covered over (?) and we have a shiny new bridge over the river.

and the low road is straight once more:-)

Posted on brian at 19:49

mobius strip

it appears that the quest for digital photography enlightenment is alive and well on islay, since i have just been asked to run another ten week course after easter.

and mark at islay studios and i plan a weekend digital photography workshop in the summer.

is this trend reflected anywhere else on the islands?

Posted on brian at 18:54

point and shoot

saturday 18th february - bright blue skies, little wind and a new set of brake and gear cables and colnago bar tape. heading out of bowmore on the way to bridgend (about three miles), and passing the columba centre on the left (ionad chaluim chille ile). all the following photos were taken while cycling a colnago c40hp - sometimes it blurs, but what the heck:-)

the road out of bowmore

ionad chaluim chille ile

lots of geese around the top of the loch at the moment and looking down the rhinns and loch indaal towards uiskentuie on the bruichladdich road


not a lot of trees on islay but a smallish wood on the entry to bridgend

bridgend woods

bridgend woods

through bridgend, over the river sorn and turn left towards bruichladdich and port charlotte, passing bridgend auction mart on the left past the entrance to islay house.

river sorn

bruichladdich road

a few miles further on are crosshouses and then to glenburn and blackrock. first time since bowmore that the road has pointed upwards (slightly).




then down the other side to uiskentuie farm and uiskentuie strand. still heading towards bruichladdich.


uiskentuie farm

looking back from uiskentuie farm, then forward down the strand.

uiskentuie strand

pretty flat and sparse down the strand till we reach the approach to bruichladdich.

bruichladdich entry

on the right hand side is bruichladdich distillery and on the left the tugs and platforms constructing the new bruichladdich pier extension. as luck would have it, just as i clicked the shutter to take a picture of the pier, they detonated an underwater explosion and here it is in pixels. couldn't have done this if i'd tried because i had no idea it was going to happen:-)

bruichladdich distillery


next stop is port charlotte about three miles further on.

port charlotte

and just to round things off at this end, self portrait with bike.

self portrait

however, i snapped the following pic of islay house on the way back. this is all quite literally 'point and shoot'.

islay house

Posted on brian at 18:56

grab the blender

here's another way of adjusting the levels of your image(s) without going anywhere near the levels dialogue or even a levels adjustment layer. and yet, it still gives a high degree of flexibility and is entirely non destructive.

ark royal start

the image this week is one of the royal navy's 'ark royal' when it visited ardbeg distillery a couple of years ago. you can see that the original image is somewhat on the dull and dark side, and here's how we're going to change that.

layers palette

open the layers palette either from the palette well at the top right, or from the window menu and select layer. first thing is we need to duplicate the background layer which we do by clicking and dragging the layer to the new layer icon (highlighted) at the bottom of the palette.

layers palette duplicate

if done correctly, you should see the result shown below. if you can't get the hang of clicking and dragging, click the 'more' button at the top right of the layers palette and select 'duplicate layer'.

we now have two identical layers situated one on top of the other. we're now going to change how these two layers interact with each other by altering the 'blend mode' from the top left of the layers palette. by default this is set to normal, but clicking the small arrow to the right will display a list of different blend modes, some of which are shown in the screenshot.

because we'd like to lighten this photo, we'll choose 'screen' and have a look at the result.


cool huh?

if the result is not to your liking, you can either change the opacity/transparency of the layer or dump the duplicated layer and start again. if you're feeling really dangerous, try some of the other bland modes - you'll get some interesting results.

Posted on brian at 17:20

for those of a certain age

this may come as a surprise to those of a certain age and who know what the initials csn&y stand for. it appears that graham nash, one of the original members of british pop group, the hollies, and integral member of crosby, stills, nash and young (remember them?) has been awarded the photoimaging manufacturers & distributors association (pmda) “Visionary Award” for inventing digital fine art printing.

nash is an award-winning photographer, and along with his business partner, master printmaker mac holbert of nash editions, they appear to be at least partly responsible for our ability to print our digital pics from relatively cheap inkjet printers.

now that's what i'd call a career change
Posted on brian at 09:01

does this photoshop stuff never end? - lesson three

this lesson may not appear all that dissimilar to lesson two - and in fact it's really not. but it is a much more powerful and flexible way of enhancing an image, particularly if you might want to come back and adjust it later.

our opening image is that of the old pagodas at the former port ellen distillery, taken from inside the top floor of port ellen maltings. because it was taken from indoors through not particularly clear glass, it has resulted in a tonally flat image.


first move is to open the layers palette from the palette well, top left of your screen. if the screen resolution makes this difficult, go to the 'window' menu and select 'layers', which will result in a small palette similar to that shown below.


it is common practice to duplicate this background layer so that you are never actually working on the original image (ie, if you foul up you can always delete the duplicate layer, leaving you with the original image to start again). however, in order to maintain a degree of visual simplicity, i have foregone this step.

what we are going to do is add an 'adjustment layer' from the adjustment layer selection button (circled in red). and adjustment layer can be thought of as an additional layer above the image that displays any alterations made, but without ever touching the original layer below. what is referred to as non-destructive editing.

clicking this button results in a flyout menu as shown below.


in order to carry out the same enhancement as in lesson two, we will select the levels adjustment layer as highlighted in red (above). doing so presents us with the now familiar levels dialogue box with the shadows and highlight points circled in red (below).


notice that, again, the image is displaying clipping in the shadows and highlights. by moving the sliders in to that shown immediately below, we can accomplish this very simple enhancement, shown in the final image below that.



when the levels dialogue box is dismissed by clicking 'ok', it's time to look at our layers palette. notice now, that there is a layer sitting above our image with a small icon (circled in green) and a white rectangle to the right. just make a mental note of the rectangular square because in the next lesson this will assume a greater degree of importance.

layers_palette _final

meanwhile, if you wish to compare the original image with the enhancement we have just carried out, you can click the eye icon (circled in red) which switches the layer's visibility on and off. double clicking the small icon (green circle) will display the levels dialogue box again, and further enhancements can be made at any time. if you save the file as a tiff or photoshop file (.psd) then you can open up the same file years later and still have the ability to adjust the levels of the image.

it is possible to have more than one adjustment layer per image but that's perhaps something for another day.

Posted on brian at 19:11

photography while cycling quickly (sort of)

after asking if anyone knew how to take photos while cycling quickly, i went out saturday afternoon and tried it. unfortunately, while i could retrieve the camera from the back pocket and take photos while pedalling (not really fast - mostly around 25kph), due to the super efficiency of assos rear pocket elastic, i couldn't get the darned thing back in again without stopping.

i'm not clever enough or trusting enough on islay's roads to cycle no-hands.

anyway, below is a visual blog of the cycle from bowmore to ardbeg and back.


duich bridge

after the lights at duich bridge (yes, they're still there) comes islay international airport

islay international airport

five miles further and then it's the end of the eight straight miles of the low road and time to turn off left to port ellen. second pic is a marvellous view towards port ellen but with the architectural monstrosity that is diageo's maltings blotting the copybook.

low road

port ellen road

into distillery country, and in order of arrival, laphroaig (creatively blurred because i was pedalling a bit faster at this point), lagavulin and then home to velo club d'ardbeg, ardbeg distillery.


lagavulin road


ardbeg approach

ardbeg distillery

in true cycling world style, photos would not be complete without the obligatory colnago in front of the old kiln cafe photo. stood and talked to stuart thomson (manager) for five minutes, then did the whole thing in reverse (though did take the high road part of the way.


Posted on brian at 18:52

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