I don’t remember how I first came across them but IIHS’ small overlap videos caught my attention.

You probably aren’t aware of IIHS if you live in the UK but they’re the America equivalent of Euro NCAP.

In their small overlap crash tests, the IIHS send cars at 40mph into a solid barrier. The car impacts the barrier with only a small percentage of its frontal area.

This is quite a brutal test but it has a purpose: a quarter of all road deaths are attributable to this type of crash.

So I thought about my three star Euro NCAP 2003 Fiesta and the hairy road I have to drive on to get out of this village and decided a more modern car was in order. In the end I bought something newer with a five star NCAP rating.

Question is: was it money well-spent?

Road deaths per billion kilometres (621,371,192.237 miles) travelled in the UK were 3.6 in 2013. I travel about 10,000 miles per year in my car. This means I have approximately a  1 in 17260.31 chance of being killed on the road each year (In an average car).

If my five star Euro NCAP car halves my risk of being killed versus the 2013 average (Generous estimate), I now have a 0.0029% chance of being killed in a year, versus a 0.0058% chance before the new car.

The new car cost me a fair chunk of my savings. Was it worth it, solely on the safety criteria? I think not but in our new risk-averse world, safety sells.



The M8

To Edinburgh on the M8 today. It’s not my favourite road. The last time I drove along it there was a storm and my wee car was getting blown about quite a bit. Then there was the road works, the lorries, the spray, the surface water. All in all not a great trip.

Today was better but still not great. You have two choices on the M8: the slow lane, where you trundle along at 45-55 mph sandwiched between lorries; or the “Fast” lane, where traffic goes a little bit faster but you find yourself being harassed by people in a more of a hurry than I usually am.

Film2 Frame 6
The M8 on a sunnier day.

My brother commutes on the M8 a few times a week (I used to do it myself) and it’s even less of a joy at rush hour. All it takes is a breakdown or a crash and your 90 minute commute becomes a three-hour headache.

A partial answer would be to add a third lane on each side.  There’s work in progress at the moment where it looks like this is being done for at least parts of the whole. However adding the required lanes for the entire length of it would cost a huge amount.

As an occasional user, I would be happy to pay a toll to fund the third lanes. Commuters might have a different view as it would obviously be more expensive for them but on the other hand they would have a better road. This is one of the main transport routes in Scotland and it’s completely inadequate in its current state. I wonder when it’ll get better?


Canon Pixma Pro-10

This printer actually belongs to my brother. I use it to print short-run brochures for him. I also do the occasional print of my photographs but lately I’ve been thinking that’s a little pointless as I have a good monitor and they look the same on the monitor as they do in print.

This is a nice piece of equipment. It prints up to A3+ (329 x 483mm) and I have actually used it to print some images on that size paper but the problem you then have is finding an off-the-shelf frame to fit. A3 is much more common and not that much smaller.

It uses 10 inks to give very nice colour and black and white prints. If I’m printing photographs, I use Ilford Gallerie Gold Fibre silk, a beautiful baryta paper. It seems to work well with the Pro 10 and has the added benefit of smelling like a true silver-based photographic paper. I’m not sure how archival it is. To my eye, the prints are indistinguishable from a proper darkroom silver print. (Note: Ilford Imaging Europe Gmbh went out of business, so this paper will soon be out of stock everywhere.) Which reminds me that Pixma inks are the pigment type, meaning they should be quite durable prints.

IMG_7780Sample A4 print.

A set of inks is currently about £80 from Amazon, down from about £110 when I first got this printer. The cartridges are pretty small so they don’t last very long. I couldn’t guess how many sheets of full-colour print you’d get out of a set but it’s fairly expensive to run. The print head has never gummed up despite the printer sitting idle for months at a time, which has been a bonus.

This printer has been superseded by the Pixma Pro-10S, which looks to be a similar spec but no doubt has detail improvements.

I tried using the Pixma wirelessly but the connection was very unreliable so I reverted to plugging it into a USB port and it now seems fairly happy. (The only available space for it was on the bedroom floor next to the door so I’ll no doubt be stubbing my toe on it at some point.)


Anyway, if you’re in the market for a photo-quality A3+ printer with pigment inks, this is a great choice.


Hasselblad SWC903

I had seen pictures taken with an SWC here and there – notably Robert Adams’ pictures from shopping malls in the Midwest. Then I got a book of self-portraits by Lee Friedlander, many of which were taken using an SWC.

So I idly perused these cameras on eBay, thinking I’d quite like one to play around with. The 903 seemed like the sweet spot – not too old, not too expensive (Relatively speaking).

Then one came along in mint condition and I bought it. It was in Italy and had been part of a collection.


It’s quite a light camera and fairly compact for a medium format one. The shutter is pretty quiet (Adams used to cough as he pressed the shutter release when taking his candid shots). There’s no mirror. The viewfinder is external – it fits on the hotshoe.


So anyway, I now had this nice camera to play with. I soon discovered that I liked to take “Selfies” with it. I put three rolls of Tri-X though it and was quite happy with the results. Then I went back to look at my Friedlander self-portraits book and realised that he had been there before me, done it all, packed up and gone home.

And so, a couple of months after taking ownership of it, I somewhat reluctantly put the SWC back on eBay. I got my money back, more or less, and I have about 30 self-portraits from it I suppose.

I’m not sure what the moral of this tale is – maybe that you shouldn’t be impressed by your heroes into buying expensive camera gear. But I never seem to learn that particular lesson and I do like buying stuff…


Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum

To The Kelvingrove for a quick wander. It’s one of my favourite museums / art galleries. (The National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh runs it a close second.)

Amongst my favourite paintings in the Kelvingrove are two Monets:


Vétheuil, 1880 (Above) and, more importantly –


Ventimiglia, 1884. I could stand for a long time in front of this one and sometimes do. It makes me happy that you can be alone in front of a masterpiece in a small city like Glasgow. (Mind you there was a small rabble of schoolchildren at the other end of the gallery today but they moved away after a bit.)

The gallery itself is a fine-looking building too:

IMG_7757 Panorama

(I hope you’ll excuse the very terrible quality of this panorama. I hope to do better next time.)


Donald Trump

TrumpPhoto: Dominick Reuter

Had a long conversation on the phone last night with my brother about Trump. He reckons Trump doesn’t take himself too seriously and that a lot of his comments are intended to be funny. He also thinks that most of Trump’s outrageousness is designed to ensure he gets maximum press coverage. So far it seems to be working.

I’m not so sure that Trump is quite as benign as my brother thinks he is. When I look at his treatment of the people on his golf course in Aberdeenshire, he seems like a bit of a bully. Calling Mexican immigrants “Rapists” is quite an inflammatory thing to do. Then there’s this list of his Twitter insults. (He calls Neil Young, one of my rock heroes, a “Hypocrite“, which is plainly unforgivable.)

I’m not very well-informed about the Republican alternatives to Trump so I can’t say if he’s the least-worst candidate but it seems to me that he’d be a liability if he got the job.

Of the Democrats, I’d much rather Bernie Sanders got in there than Hillary but that seems unlikely given how far left he must seem to most Americans.

The election is on November the 8th. It’ll be interesting.


Soligor Digital Spot Sensor

I bought this spot meter some time ago to use with my Deardorff 8×10 camera.


It was considerably less expensive than the more popular Pentax alternative. For all that, it works just fine.

The readout uses old-fashioned ‘Light-up’ LEDs rather than LCDs, which I rather like. (It reminds me of the first digital device I ever saw, a Texas Instruments LED watch my Aunt Sheila brought over from America in 1977.)

Anyway, this meter is simple to use: you point it at the target and press the trigger. The E.V. value is displayed and you take your shutter speed and aperture from a rotating scale on the lens. Easy peas.

I don’t use it much now that I’ve sold my Deardorff, so I may just put it back on eBay someday soon…

IMG_7750(It proved very difficult to get a decent picture of the LEDs in action.)


Weekend Papers

To the shop to get the FT Weekend and The Times.

I only read the Life & Arts section and the magazine in the FT. These incorporate a fair amount of photography. The quality of journalism in the FT Weekend is so good it makes The Times look pretty shabby. So much so, in fact, that I might stop buying it. (There’s also the fact that The Times is a Murdoch paper, which I find a little distasteful.)




It’s been a long winter and still a bit to go yet. Storms, and there have been plenty, have recently been given names by the authorities. Today’s turmoil brought to you by Gertrude:


Sequester / Awoiska Van Der Molen

I received a copy of Awoiska Van Der Molen’s “Sequester” in the post from Germany today. It’s a signed first edition. I don’t usually spend this much money on books but this one seemed special.

Sequester garnered a lot of critical acclaim when it was first published in 2014. The photographs are mostly quite or very dark, which I like. The subject matter is landscape – open country, hills and foliage. Print quality is excellent.

Ever the camera geek, I emailed Awoiska before I bought the book to ask which camera and film she uses. The answer is Mamiya RZ and Kodak / Ilford, though she wasn’t more specific than that. (She did say, though, “dear Stephen, knowing the camera and film I use won’t give you the recepy :)” )

Text interview with Awoiska here.
Nice Vimeo interview here.
Book flick-through video here.