Got my Gannets back

I’ve spent the last couple evenings trying to retrieve my gannet photos from the corrupted disk. The first piece of software I tried was a failure – ran for 12 hours, and didn’t manage to find anything. Thankfully, the second, C-Data Recovery, did the trick, and I now have the complete set of photographs back from the dead – a great relief!

Now that I’m back in full possession of my photographs, I can happily say that the experience was well worth the stink of fish guts and bird poo that attached themselves to me for the rest of the weekend!

Off to France/Norway now, but more gannet photos to follow on my return.

Ultimate Antartica

So, after years of dreaming, I’ve finally signed up for a photo safari to the Falklands, South Georgia and Antartica! Unfortunately, the trip isn’t until November 2009, so I guess I have to do a little more dreaming between now and then.

Gutted about Gannets

So, I went to Bass Rock (near North Berwick, Scotland) this weekend to photograph gannets. Despite bad weather cancelling my original booking for Sunday, I managed to join the workshop being held on the Saturday, and we were blessed with a few hours of clear skies whilst we were on the rock.

The experience was fantastic. On route to the rock we had a “chumming” session, where the skipper of the boat threw pieces of fish in to the water to attract the gannets. Before we knew what was happening, the boat was surrounded by a maelstrom of gulls and gannets, the gannets diving into the water to grab the fish – really spectacular.

We then spent a few hours on the Rock photographing the gannets. They’re beautiful birds, wonderful to photograph close up, especially when the pairs interact with each other. All in all, I was pretty pleased with the photos I came away with, especially as I had some reasonable flight shots.

But…… got home, tried to download them. The second card of the shoot (only 87 photos) downloaded fine, but the first card seems to be corrupted. 300+ gannet photos (including all my flight shots) vanished into dust.

Huffin, Puffin and Howling

So, after an overnight stop in Aberdeen, and a very early flight, I’m in Shetland again. The wind is howling, and there’s a fair amount of rain – business as usual, thus.

We went straight from the airport to Sumburgh Head (about 10 minutes down the road), where as promised, we found some puffins (and a few cormorants, guillemots and gulls). Very pleased with the performance of my camera… hopefully the skies will clear enough over the next few days for some landscape photography too.

For the rest, a leisurely first day, meeting up with some of Jen’s friends, and hatching plans for setting up a geocache (hopefully more on that later). Owl, Jen’s gorgeous, rotund and rather shy cat, is getting used to having me around again, though he does have to hide under the bed every now and then when it all gets too much for him.


Our second day in Denmark dawned rather cloudy after the beautiful blue skies of Friday. Our plan for today was to visit Roskilde, 30 minutes away by train, to see the Viking Ship museum.

The museum is based around 5 viking ships which were found in the Roskilde Fjord in the 1950s and were excavated and, as far as possible, reconstructed in the 1960s. In addition to these original ships, the museum also houses a number of replica ships which are built using traditional Viking methods, and used for historical research. Given the cold weather, we didn’t hang around outside to explore the replica ships in great depth!

After visiting the museum, we had some lunch and then headed back up towards town, via the old part of town, which featured some attractive half-timbered houses). We were lead that way, in part, by the lure of a geocache, which we found, in a wooded area near an old church (see the log and a couple photos).

I had hoped to visit the cathedral, but by the time we got back up the hill, it had already closed for the day. A pity, as I also missed it on my last visit! In fact, at 5.00 on a Saturday afternoon, it was amazing how quiet the town centre was, with the main shopping street all but deserted.

We headed back to Copenhagen, and after a refreshing gin and tonic at the Hotel Angleterre, visited what claims to be the oldest restaurant in Copenhagen for dinner. Det Lille Apothek was originally a pharmacy, and has a very cosy atmosphere. We were lucky enough to have a triangular corner table, giving us rather more space than many others in the restaurant…

Velkommen til København

Since Dad had a business meeting in Copenhagen, it seemed a good excuse for Mum and I to join him for a weekend away.

Mum and I spent a relaxing Friday morning – getting up late, and then strolling down to the Nyhavn, a very picturesque street with colourful houses and a canal running down through the middle. As we happened to see a canal boat tour about to leave, we decided to jump on for the 1 hour ride around the canals and harbour. The trip itself was quite fun, taking us past the new theatre and opera house up the canal to the Little Mermaid (who is rather disappointing in the “flesh”) and then back down through Christianshavn – an area which is known as Little Amsterdam, for its canals, and is also the setting for the book “Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow“.

At the end of the canal tour we headed up into the centre of Copenhagen to meet Dad and two of his business associates for lunch at the Schønnemann restaurant, which opens at lunchtime only, and serves traditional Danish smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches). The food and atmosphere in the restaurant were both excellent, and we were all very taken with the convenient ordering system – simply tick the box on the menu next to your choice of sandwich. A very nice easy option when you don’t speak the language!

After lunch we visited the Rundetårn, a 17th Century tower that was (and still is) used as an observatory. The tower has a wonderful circular passageway leading up it, which were used by a horse and carriage to bring books to & from the library which was accessed by the tower. The top of the tower gives a fantastic view over the city – something I didn’t fully appreciate on my previous visit to Copenhagen, as the weather had been very cloudy.

After leaving the Rundetårn, we headed slowly back to the hotel through the shopping streets and back along the Nyhavn, trying some toasted almonds, which were available from numerous street stalls, along the way.

EHRA – Building Week

So, after all those “on my way to the elephants” and “on my way home again from the elephants” posts, here is the first post to tell you how I actually spent my vacation – working for two weeks as a volunteer for the EHRA (Elephant Human Relations Aid) project in Damaraland, Namibia.

The volunteers work in two week cycles – the first week is building week, and the second week is spent on patrol (more about that in a later post). Normally speaking, the building week is spent on location at one of the Damaraland communities, and the time is spent building a stone wall to protect windmills or water pumps from the elephants, who have a tendency to knock things down in their search for water.

Originally, it was planned that we should complete a wall for which the foundation had already been created. However, due to a lack of water (this is the rainy season, but no rain had yet arrived), it wasn’t possible to mix the cement, so wall building had to be put on hold.

Instead, we were put to work on a different task – building a 3 fences at EHRA Base Camp, which has also been suffering from elephant visitors.

We gathered logs from dead trees in the surrounding area – a tough task given that the wood we used was extremely hard, and didn’t much like to be sawn through, loaded them up in the landcruiser and brought them back to camp. As well as being hard, the logs were very heavy, and we needed all the strong guys we could find to help carry them.

We painted the bottom of the logs with diesel, to protect them from termites, planted them about 3 feet deep and stabilized them with rocks, sand and water, which we beat down with a “stomper” (i.e. a heavy lump of metal on the end of a stick). By the end of the week, the stomper was feeling the strain, and about half of its stomping end was stomped away. The photo shows me having a go at stomping – it didn’t last long, it took all my strength just to lift the wretched thing a couple times.

Once we had the main posts in we found smaller logs to build up the fences with, and fastened them together with bolts and wire.

Since we didn’t really want to put our fences to the test, we finished our creation with 6 feet of “elephant cobblestones” (another fun job – gathering rocks) in front of each fence, to dissuade the elephants from approaching the fences and trying to break them down.

The work took us four days, although we had to leave the job unfinished because we ran out of bolts. Of course, we weren’t in an area where you can just nip down to the local hardware shop, so everytime something broke (we broke a few tools along the way, that wood is seriously hard!) we had to find an alternate solution or fix it ourselves.

Recent EHRA tradition has been assigning a name for each group of volunteers – our group earned itself the name “The injury group” for reasons which are pretty obvious. My own personal contribution to these injuries included the stomper falling on my foot, right across the toes, and two days later, the side of the LandCruiser falling on both feet – hitting my toes for the second time. Ouch, and ouch again! We also had a couple head meets log incidents…

Photex 2006

The EPO Photo Club’s annual photo exhibition, Photex, is opening on the 20th November, and will include 4 photographs from the trip I made to South Africa in June 2006.