Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Damp Walk Up The Lang Crags

It was a dull and cloudy Sunday afternoon but we decided to head out anyway and take a walk up in the Overtoun Estate above the town of Dumbarton. I lived in Dumbarton for about 12 years and never managed to visit the estate before now so it seemed like it needed ticked off the list once and for all. The estate was bequeathed to the people of Dumbarton by Douglas White, a London doctor, in 1939 and is now open to the public for general wandering around and rambling.

Overtoun HouseOvertoun House

We parked the car at the bottom of the estate's West Drive and walked up the hill towards the main part of the estate. We could have parked beside the house itslef but we were out for a bit of a walk so that seemed a wee bit like cheating. However, after plodding all the way up to the crags and back and it being so wet underfoot, I wish we'd done just that.

At the heart of the estate is Overtoun House, now a Christian centre and unfortunately not open to the public other than it has a wee tea-room open during the Summer but only on a Saturday. The house was built for wealthy Glasgow industrialist James White in 1860 as a family retreat from the grime and factories of Glasgow. It was an ideal location, having wonderful views out over the Firth of Clyde and the Kilpatrick Hills, and yet being within easy reach of his business in Glasgow. White was once one of Glasgow's most prominent citizens, well-known for his philanthropic works across the city and surrounding area so it must have rubbed off onto his descendant Douglas when he gave the place to the people.

Close to the house is the fifty foot high Overtoun Bridge, built in 1895 and which crosses the Overtoun Burn and leads on to the West Drive and down into Dumbarton. The bridge attained a level of mystery a few years ago when it was reported that a number of dogs had apparently commited suicide by leaping to their deaths from it. A bit of digging by some reporters unearthed the grim fact that about 50 dogs had killed themselves in this way here since the 1950s. Maybe the dogs are supersensitive to atmospheric conditions in the area, maybe the topography is just confusing for them or maybe the place is haunted; no-one knows why they do it! All that aside, it's a very pleasant, if somewhat neglected looking bridge.

Dumbuck hill to Dumbarton RockDumbuck hill to Dumbarton Rock

Towering above the estate are the Lang Crags, a line of rugged cliffs that overlook the lands and skirt the summit of Brown Hill. The cliffs are possibly named after the Lang family that once owned the estate back in the 18th century but it could just as easily mean "long" as they are quite ... long. The walk up the the crags is reasonably gentle, if a little long and boggy. The path follows the course of the Overtoun Burn and then turns uphill onto the hill from where you can wander out along the edge of the crags where the view out over Dumbarton and Firth of Clyde are amazing. You can also see all the way up to Loch Lomond and the hills beyond although it was pretty cloudy so we didn't get a great view of those.

A Slideshow of Images Taken At Overtoun

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sunday Afternoon In Mugdock Country Park

Mugdock Loch and CastleMugdock Loch and Castle

Lorna had checked the weather maps on Saturday night and predicted that there would be a hole in the cloud on Sunday afternoon over the Glasgow area so we might very well get out for a stroll before the rain we've been having returned. We didn't want to go too far as that hole didn't look like it was going to be that large or last that long so we opted to stay close to Glasgow and head out to Mugdock Country Park.

We haven't been to the park for a couple of years, I mentioned it here at the time, so it was a well due for a visit again. Amazingly it's still free to get in and, with the sun being so accommodating, it was pretty busy too and the ice-cream was going like hot cakes, although not literally or it'd have melted. Mugdock Country Park is an enormous place, with over 260 hectares of woodland, moorland and wetlands it's ideal for almost any length of walk you fancy. Add to that a couple of castles, several lochs, a visitor centre, a walled garden and quite a few other attractions, there's not much chance of getting bored for quite a long time.

We parked close to the visitor centre and had a wander around the walled garden for a bit as the sun was pretty warm, then strolled over to the 14th century Mugdock Castle. The recently refurbished South-West tower was open for visitors but it was dark in there and the sun was still out so we gave it a miss. Wish we'd gone in now as you can get out onto the tower roof. From there we walked to nearby Mugdock Loch and wandered all the way round that, which gives some good views of the castle tower above the trees, before heading along to the anti-aircraft gun placements and then back round to Craigend Castle.

We ended things up in the wee garden centre restaurant for tea before heading back home for the evening. The sun had gone by then and it was getting very cloudy so we'd had the best of the day. We should really come here more often as there's an awful lot of ground we didn't cover.

Related Posts: Mugdock Country Park

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Darckr Side Of Flickr

I've just discovered Darckr, a free web application for displaying and acting upon Flickr images. In essence, Darckr is a streaming Flickr viewer that will allow you to customize how you view your, and anyone else's, Flickr photostream. You can change the presentation options: size, number, number of columns, background, etc. and every option is available in a single-click. Darckr will even remember your preferences if you want it to.

Initially written so the author could view his contacts photos on a black background, Darckr can also automatically enhance the display of your photos by adding drop shadows and borders if you want. Another useful feature Darckr offers you is the possibility to view only your public photos, or only your non-private photos. That way you can see what your photostream looks like to everyone else without having to logout from Flickr.

Darckr's other aim is at saving you time in your Flickr life. You can post comments on your contacts photos or fave them much more easily than in the standard Flickr interface. You can even use this interface to comment on and tag your own photographs.

Darckr comment view
Darckr uses the Flickr API to retrieve data so cannot let other people view unauthorized content. By default Darckr displays photos at a size that cannot exceed "Small" (240 pixels) and, unlike other viewers, Darckr allows you to "opt-in" to grant others access to larger sizes. Darckr presents and in no case copies your pictures. They remain on Flickr and other users see only what they are entitled to.

If you're a Flickr user and have granted access to Darckr, then you can view your own photos, or a gallery of your contacts photos, and if you're a friend or family view full contents of other people streams. You can also share permalinks to your Darckr stream for instance to publish your most interesting photos as a Darckr gallery.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Where'd My Images Go?

Well I finally did it! I managed to delete an entire photo-shoot from both my computer and the memory card they were on. It was one of those really easily done things; I'd just imported the photos off of the card and into iPhoto, deleting them off the card when it was done as I always do. Then, after working on the pics for an hour or two, I was careless and managed to drag the lot into the iPhoto trash and then, like a crazed loon, emptied it without thinking.

So there iIwas, thinking "Golly, that was most unfortunate!, I've been a very silly Billy!" and then I remembered that I'd posted an article about Recovering Lost or Corrupt Camera Images on my other blog a few years ago So, I immediately looked up my own blog and then started hunting out the software I'd mentioned back then. The card mounted fine on my Mac so I tried the Exif Untrasher utility but to no avail. It's pretty old and probably couldn't handle the Canon format on the card. It was time to move over to the PC, for which there are loads of free file recovery utiltities. However, the card wouldn't mount as a drive on the PC as it's not a recognized standard format and that stumped most the the file recovery utilities, like Recuva, that focus on recovering deleted files.

So that left me with another couple of options to try - PC Inspector Smart Recovery and Zero Assumption Digital Image Recovery, both free tools. Luckily for me, both of them recognized the card, scanned through it and discovered all of those deleted images. PC Inspector threw up a few errors during the process and locked up while trying to recover the images in batches. I eventually had to recover them one by one to get the job done without it freezing on me. The other tool, the Zero Assumption thingy, was far better at it and got all of the images off the card in one go. Okay, it took a while to scan the card but it found everything that was deleted and sooked them all off onto my hard drive really quickly.

So, what have I learned?
  • Blogs are good for keeping useful information.
  • Dedicated photo recovery utilities can do the business and file recovery tools can't.
  • There are no reliable, free, Mac-based photo recovery tools.
  • To be more careful before deleting my iPhoto trash.
  • Don't stay up all night editing photos; life's too short.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Photo Aging Made Easy!

Eilean Donan Castle
If you've ever fancied making some of your photographs look like they were taken in a bygone age, then check out the Bakumatsu Koshashin Generator from Wanokoto Labs in Japan. This free web service will allow you to upload an image from your hard drive or supply a URL to an online image and they'll apply their aging algorythm to it.

For example, I took the above image I had taken of Eilean Donan castle and ran it through the generator to produce the one below…

Aged Eilean Donan Castle
It certainly gives it an old and very neglected appearance! There are lots of possibilities for using this site - old landscapes like the one above, aged family portraits, faded vases of flowers, etc. You could even give your web site a somewhat crumbly and ancient look.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Wet Sunday Afternoon In Geilston Garden

It was a Sunday that looked like rain and we couldn't risk going too far so we ended up driving over to Cardross to spend a few hours in whatever decent weather we had left of the day in Geilston Garden, a place we've been to a few times now.

The Geilston BurnThe Geilston Burn

Geilston Garden lies just on the western edge of Cardross, on the road to Helensburgh, and is set in the 10 acres around the 15th century Geilston House. It was only opened to the public in 1998 by the National Trust for Scotland. Prior to that I assume it was privately owned as I used to fish in the little burn running though the grounds as a lad and had been chased off more than once; a great wee burn for brown trout and the occasional sea trout too.

The house isn't open to the public and the garden isn't that big but it's usually quite quiet and a nice place to sit in the sun when we get some. It's got a walled garden with an enormous Wellingtonia (Sequoiadendron giganteum or giant redwood) in the centre, a smallish formal garden, a decent sized kitchen garden and lots of little wooded paths around the burn. There's usually plenty of flowers in bloom in the garden so there's always some colour about the place too.

Wet Chocolate CosmosWet Chocolate Cosmos

Today, however, we got rain from almost the moment we got there until we left. Not particularly heavy rain but enough to make us have to shelter under the huge leaf of a Gunnera plant down by the burn. What they need is a wee tea-room and scones, definitely scones...

There are more photos of Geilston Garden here.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Finding The Best Online Digital Photo Printing Service

Given the financial insanity of buying a digital photo printer for occasional home use, I was hunting around for a price comparison site for photo printing services and found It's fairly simple to use - just enter the number of prints you want at what size and what shipping method and it returns a comparison table of results from a decent sized list of printers.

It's a primarily US-based site but does allow you to change the country to the UK and, while reviews of UK photo printing services are fairly thin on the site, hopefully that will improve as time goes by.

I saw a review of several of these sites in a magazine a while ago and, given the results of that on the quality of the printing, I've been using PhotoBox but I may well try a few of these others out now as well.

There are a few reviews of online photo processors out there worth checking out as well…