A little learning

Today’s picture shows my old place of work standing above the building site which is going to provide a replacement.  I bet the new building doesn’t last as long as the old one.

Langholm School

It was another cold, cold morning with a bitter east wind of considerable strength and I sensibly decided to forgo any thought of cycling.  I was really impressed therefore when Dropscone rang me up later in the day to tell me that he had been out round the morning run, fearlessly facing the gale and bravely pedalling through occasional small snowdrifts.  I was impressed but I was glad that I hadn’t gone with him.

I put the time when I might have been cycling and while Mrs Tootlepedal was out singing in the church choir to good use by putting a week of the newspaper index into the database.  It is a never ending task but enjoyable, especially when I manage to keep up to date with the data miners and don’t have large amounts of typing-to-do cluttering up the in-tray.

Sandy came round for coffee and we arranged to go far a walk after lunch.  As a result, I didn’t take too many pictures of birds in the garden.

chaffinch and goldfinch

greenfinch and chaffiinch
The greenfinch simply shrugged off the impudent chaffinch and went on eating calmly.

I had some scrambled eggs on toast for my lunch and thus fortified got ready for Sandy’s arrival.  I had just packed my camera into its carrying bag when a sparrowhawk descended from above, picked off a small bird and stood imperiously on the lawn with its prey under one foot, posing just long enough for me to get the camera back out of the bag but not long enough for me to get the lens cap off before it flew away laughing.  Any listener might have thought that I was quite annoyed.

However, when Sandy arrived I was quite calm again and we set off down to the river Esk.  There was a commotion and it looked as though the heron was being attacked by black headed gulls….

heron and gulls

…but it turned out that their target was a slice of bread which had been snapped up by one of our pair of herring gulls.


The heron turned to face the wind and ignored the hubbub.


We walked on to the Kilngreen.

black headed gull
A black headed gull considers the wavy pattern of a picnic table.

We walked over the Sawmill Bridge and up the hill towards Pathhead where we turned to walk along the top of the wood towards Holmhead.

Thanks to the dry cold weather, the path was in good condition and walking was easy.

In the course of our walk, I was keeping a weather eye out for fungi, inspired by the blog of the New Hampshire Gardener.


I am not sure about the one in the top right corner.  It might not be a fungus.

We were rewarded by a continuing show of snowdrops at Holmhead.


And there is always plenty of moss to beguile the eye.


I was rather tired and  Sandy had to point out several things of interest as we passed which I would otherwise have missed but as he took a lot of pictures too, I expect they will appear soon on his blog and you can get another view of our ramble there if you wish.

We saw several trees that had been given a good going over by woodpeckers…

pecked tree

…but we didn’t see any woodpeckers themselves.  We did see a lot of rabbits.

This one mistakenly thinks it can hide behind a molehill.

We  saw very little bird life but we did catch a glimpse of a nuthatch, high up among the branches of a big tree.


There was plenty to entertain the eye though as we walked along.

A wrinkly tree trunk

A well stocked wall
moss and lichen on wall and concrete post
Moss on a wall and lichen on a concrete post

The minister has a grand selection of decorative but practical chickens in the manse garden.

the minister's chickens
This is just a selection of the flock.  He will sell you eggs.

The minister himself is both decorative and practical too.


He is a man of relentless good humour even when people are snapping his chickens uninvited.

When I got home, I almost immediately began the task of cutting down the photos that I had taken to a reasonable number for this post and I was still doing this when Sandy arrived again, this time to take me up to the High Street where we both got a lift to Hawick from a fellow camera club member.  We were going to a Border Battle but not one that involved steel bonnets or cattle thieving.  This one was a battle of digital images between fifteen camera clubs from both sides of the border.

It was very well organised and after a buffet and a cup of tea, we trooped into a lecture theatre where a highly competent judge said interesting things about 120 photographs very succinctly.  I was very pleased to find that our club had included two of my efforts among our eight entries but neither of them caused the judge to give them  high marks.  His remarks were helpful though and in general I am beginning to learn the difference between a photograph and a picture.

A photograph is merely a record of what the camera has in front of it.  It may be well or badly taken, it may be of an interesting or dull subject, it may well be improved by a little work in the photo editor but it lives and dies by its subject matter.  This would apply to 99 out of 100 photos on this blog.  A picture on the other hand is interesting to look at itself, regardless of subject matter.  Its design, its colour, its focus, its sharpness or softness, its originality all matter far more than the subject matter.  All this means that you can never tell what will do well in a competition.  Tonight a picture which had won first prize in another competition only last week got a very poor mark this time.  And although I agreed with almost all of what the judge said, I positively hated the picture that he gave first prize to.

The Dumfries Club won the team competition and some of the winning pictures had been in the show that Sandy, Mrs Tootlepedal and I had seen in Dumfries earlier in the year.  Although I admire the technical skill that goes into them , I don’t find that they interest me very much as they look too polished, too stagy and posed and the technique often overwhelms the subject so that all you can see is the skill of the maker of the image and not the image itself.  However, I enjoy a bit of competition so I am going to make every effort to improve my skills so that I too can produce striking images of nothing in particular.

(The best picture in the show for me was of three trail hounds simultaneously leaping a gate in a hound trail.  It was a sensational action shot but the judge, knowing nothing of hound trailing, thought that the picture might have been faked and didn’t understand what it conveyed in the way of athleticism, courage and stamina. He also thought that the design could have been improved.)

In spite of being a very small club, we weren’t last so we came home quite satisfied with our evening out.

The flying bird of the day is  one of those back headed gulls we saw by the river.









Published by tootlepedal

Cyclist, retired teacher, curmudgeon, keen amateur photographer.

22 thoughts on “A little learning

  1. Thank you for the shout out Mr. T! I think your shot of the 4 fungi include some very dead ones in the upper left. I’m not sure what the others are, but I’ve been trying to identify the one in the lower right corner for over a year.
    I’d like to join a camera club to become a better photographer, but I think there should be 3 judges for competions like this so the majority could decide. Or even let the viewers decide by writing their favorite on a slip of paper.

  2. A very enjoyable walk, and I share your comments on the competition especially the ones about the the photo of the trail hounds it was outstanding in my opinion.
    I thought the winning photo was rather whimsical

  3. The gulls are very pretty – so sharp and clean looking. Also enjoyed the fuzzy rabbit! I was excited beyond belief to see my neighbourhood’s “urban rabbit” sporting a brownish stripe down its back, as I have more faith in the rabbit’s colour change than I do the local weather wizards’ forecasts.

  4. Judges are personally biased it sounds like. The main thing for the photographer is the pleasure it brings personally and the ahhh from at least a couple of other people. 🙂 Here’s mine: Ahhhh. The chickens one is a keeper. I like the grouping, but the variety in the fowl is fun.

  5. Well, I hope that you don’t “learn” very much from the judges, as I like you photos just fine. Photo judges are like art critics, the works of a modern day Rembrandt or Monet would be shot down in flames!

  6. I don’t anything about what makes a good photograph but I know what I like and those two framed birds in the plum tree gave me special pleasure.

  7. Not only the camera sees only that what it is pointed at, also the so called “expert” sees only what he is able to reflect in his own knowledge. So don’t be too much surprised at the judgement others give to your pictures. As the proverb goes “De gustibus non est disputandum” (In matters of taste, there can be no disputes). I took the liberty to copy some of your pictures as a wallpaper to my PC-screen because I deem them to be highly artistic.

    1. That was very clear in our judge last night. I think my pictures are gaining a little more artistic sensibility as I practise. It is a great honour to be your wallpaper.

  8. I liked your well stocked wall very much. Glad you had an interesting evening, and good to get some more ideas even if the winning photographs are not to your taste.

  9. I must ask – what is your old place of work? It looks like an interesting building.

    “Relentless good humour.” I like that phrase.

    1. It is the building of Langholm Primary School, originally the Langholm Public School of 1874. I worked as a teacher there from 1974 to 1981 and returned as headteacher in 1994 but got overwhelmed by my own shortcomings and packed it in in 1997 and took to supply teaching instead.

  10. I now realize that I had better careful what I refer to as a photograph or a picture. I have been passing artistic judgement without realizing it.

    I like your fungus images (ha!). It is a good addition to the moss and lichen themes.

    1. Images is good. I think the point is that there is a moment in the touching up process where the photo turns into a picture. Where that moment is, is currently under heavy consideration.

  11. What a lovely stroll.
    The large group of snowdrops is beautiful.
    Spring must be coming soon. Hang in there!

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