Hidden Door

Spent saturday night at this year’s Hidden Door event on Kings Stables Road.  The basic premise is that a bunch of artists take over some abandoned building in Edinburgh, install some art, open a bar, get some bands on and generally have a thing.

The scale this year is bigger than last, which was held in Market Street Vaults.  This year it is tucked away in a courtyard and in what were at one time Council works buildings.  The art is interesting, and impressive to differing degrees. You can go for free during the day, or pay in the evening where there are also bands and a bit more of a buzz. Check out the programme for the week here.  You have until the 30th to check it out, i would say it was worth a look.

Added bonus, the band headlining Saturday called Numbers are Futile were pretty great.

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(All photographs copyright Lewis Brown)

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Back on the horse

Looking at my last entry it’s been six months since I posted, and I’m pretty sure it has been at least four since I properly picked up a camera.  I don’t know why this has (hasn’t?) happened. I’ve been busy, but that hasn’t stopped me before. I’ve not been anywhere on holiday recently, but there is plenty to photograph every day in the street. I’ve been training pretty hard for the half marathon and few other races, but not every day. It’s not like I’m an athlete! I guess I just drifted away from photography until I got to a point where it wasn’t immediately second nature to pick up a camera as I walked out of the door. Well tonight, now that I’m a little injured and need a rest from miles and miles of running every day, I did pick up a camera and went for a little walk around the Old Town.  You don’t forget it but I do feel a little rusty.  Need to get back in the groove, got stag weekends, holidays and a week long wedding celebration for two of my best friends in France over the next few months.

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Perhaps disc pain and lower back muscle spasms aren’t such a totally bad thing.

(All photographs copyright Lewis Brown)

Taking Stock(bridge)

When things get busy with work, your miles on the bike begin to increase and (thanks to an excellent osteopath) your long term hip injury begins to feel better and the running is less painful something has got to give.  In my case it has been the time spent with the camera. In fact it seems to be a theme this year that I don’t get to spend as much time behind the lens as I did last year.  Today was a rare occasion where I was able to grab a camera and take it with me for a lovely Edinburgh morning with the lady and a bunch of friends down at the market followed by a late breakfast (including a delicious Bloody Mary, there are perks of being grown up!)

Getting the hang of Lightroom over Photoshop now, to the point that most of my basic processing is being done solely in Lightroom. Don’t have as much control, but you do seem to get a consistency over a range of shots.  Always found that Photoshop made you work as if every shot was an individual piece, which could often make it hard to link things together if you were telling a story. Lightroom makes this seem easier at least.

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(All photographs copyright Lewis Brown)

Namesake

The name from this blog is cribbed from an old Edinburgh set police drama starring Mark Strong called Low Winter Sun.  The name always appealed to me, and must have appealed to some American TV producer too when they decided to remake it, again with Mark Strong, but this time set in Detroit.

 

Always thought they missed a trick moving the remake to the other side of the pond.  I’ve seen Detroit, I liked it, and even though it was before I was really into photography I can remember it holding great potential for interesting urban images. The name Low Winter Sun however was never better suited than to Edinburgh in the autumn and early winter.  The light is soft and harsh at the same time, it comes at you from angles you don’t expect and lights up the city, old and new, in different ways even day.  It’s my favourite time of year and when the day is clear one of my favourite things to do is to grab a camera and head out.

 

Of course it starts to get dark earlier and earlier, and when that happens another part of Edinburgh culture comes to the fore… a group of friends, a big restaurant table, lots of wine and fun times.

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(All photographs copyright Lewis Brown)

Time Delay

Modern photography is amazing. You can do pretty much anything with a modern digital image, more than I could ever possibly hope to do or even know I can achieve. Film emulation has become so good now through plugins from Adobe, DxO, VSCO and others that it is even beaching increasingly unnecessary to shoot with film even if you are trying to make your photos look like they were shot with film!

 

Nothing however beats the feeling of picking up your processed film from the lab and getting to see for the first time the results of photographs taken days, weeks or even (especially in my case) months before.  There has been so much written about the difference in the length of the “feedback loop” film gives you photography I’m not going to go on about it here. I’m just going to post my favoutites

 

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(All photographs copyright Lewis Brown)

Spring Clean

So its been more than a month since I blogged or posted any serious photography anywhere.  Haven’t stopped taking photographs, but as happens to us all work, other hobbies and general life have taken over recently.  A lot of the time that in the past I would have devoted to photography has been given over to training for the Edinburgh Half Marathon in three weeks time.

Aiming for a 1 hr 45 minute time so having to take it seriously.  Am running to raise money for two local Edinburgh charities, so if you have a minute please take a look here and think about making a donation.

What little I have taken have been primarily 35mm film in recent weeks, rolls of which are away at the lab as we speak.  Should get them back later in the week so will post them when I do, in the meantime here’s some digital work from April.

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Grangemouth from Culross

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(All photographs copyright Lewis Brown)

How I learned to stop being afraid and love independence…

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The idea of an independent Scotland is scary.

 

Scary enough that sometimes the thought keeps me up at night. We have been part of the United Kingdom for 300 years. In that time we became part of the industrial powerhouse of the world. I mean we invented things, and exported both knowledge and actual tangible stuff! In fact we invented pretty much all of the things. So many things that we had to go forth and share them with the world.

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Others at times envied us and our empire. First the French and the Dutch (they were brushed away with muskets and cavalry charges, the Russians in Crimea too). The Americans got a little big for their boots, but we let them go, no hard feelings and all that. Others were more difficult to persuade so we had to fight a couple of the world’s biggest wars and sacrifice an Empire, in reality if not in our minds.

In recent times we have been beset with all sorts of stuff. The liberating of financial markets has shown us that capital is fleeting, and globalisation has proven that jobs are even more so. International terrorism has shown us that the best way to defend against the ‘asymmetric threats’ of this brave new world is by acting first, asserting our authority before they can and maintaining a deterrent that would be just as effective if it didn’t work but we just told folk it did (think about it, those missile tubes could be empty and it would do the job just as well).

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At home the economy became the thing. The ‘market’ became all important, and if you didn’t know what that was then you better wise up and learn all about it because the era of the Government deciding how your life would turn out was over. We have new rules now and these rules are irrefutable. We have maths and stuff to back them up, and principals like ‘perfect information’, ‘free movement of capital’, ‘rational actors’, ‘no barriers to entry.’ Don’t worry that they all don’t apply right now. Give us time, we will sort them out. For all of us. It’ll trickle down to you. Just you wait.

 

We all learned this and we all know this. This is “the way things are”, it can’t be changed. It’s like the laws of physics. They are social structures but they aren’t controlled by people, governments and least of all policy. Even parties who thought that they could control them admitted (late, around 1997) that all we can do is tinker around the edges.

 

There. Is. No. Alternative.

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Except there is. Or maybe there might be.

 

The funny thing about the independence referendum in Scotland is that it is difficult to pin down what exactly it is promising. There is the party of “government”, the SNP, that is offering us a manifesto of policies, the way they would like to do things if they had free reign over the governance of the country. I, like you possibly, am uneasy with that because it sounds like one group angling for total control. It would sound less like that if one or two of the other major groups/parties would offer a vision too, but that frankly isn’t going to happen for political reasons, so let it go.

 

So what are we left with?

 

We are left an alternative vision for a way of doing things differently, offered by lots of people and meaning different things to pretty much all of them. There’s a funny thing about visions, lots of people have them.

 

We live in a world where Blair promised that ‘things can only get better’. But we also live in a world where JFK promised that we will go to the moon by the end of the decade, where Dr King had a dream and where Dr Beveridge envisioned a National Health Service available to everyone and free at the point of use. There are lots of visions promised for an independent Scotland, and many of them may not come true, but no one ever achieved anything by succumbing to fear of the unknown.

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What we do know is what succumbing to the fear will bring, we have evidence from the past for that.

 

The ‘security’ of the British state has led to the squandering of our natural resources, the decimation of of industry, the subordination of our culture and the loss of of our democratic voice. It arguably may have sheltered us from some of the storms that battered the 20th century but it has made us complicit in just as many.

 

Now we are promised more of the vicious austerity that has battered the least fortunate. We are promised greater autonomy but not only are the promises muddled they are similar to those we have had before and never been met. Ironically the same people who are feeding us stories of uncertainty and chaos in the event of independence are increasingly facilitating the possibility of leaving the European Union. We are told that something that we have shared for the last 300 years will no longer be ours and we will have no choice over the money we carry in our pockets. So what are we left to do? Do we chose the uncertainty and hope of striking out on our own and giving it a shot? Of trying to do things differently, even if we don’t know what those things might be? Or do we stick with the known, the familiar and the knowledge that while things will be more certain, that certainty brings with it the continuation down a road that many of us do not want to travel.

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In 2016 we will potentially hold our first general election in an independent Scotland. That will be our next big choice but it will be a choice we all make together, in our interests and on our terms. That is incredibly exciting, and scary but in a good way. I’m going to take that leap, come join me.

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(All photographs copyright Lewis Brown)

An open letter

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On Saturday at the pub a friend of mine, a Northern Irishman who has lived here for years asked me for my take on the Scottish independence referendum.  He said he was on the fence and was considering not voting because he “isn’t Scottish”.  I disagreed and said that as someone who lived here and is affected by the decision he is as entitled to a say as anyone.  The following is the email I sent him.  Not sure why I am publishing it other than it is the best and most concise summary of my reasons I have written so far.  I could have written pages more, but it’s a start.  Please read and if you think it will convince someone pass it on.

“OK fella,

You wanted more info on the referendum so I thought I would put this together to give you my view on the matter.  It is unashamedly biased, and for that I am not sorry.  I think that the decision in September is the most important in my lifetime and I think the case for Scottish independence is strong on both an emotional and practical level.  This is in no way the most detailed or eloquent case, but it’s the best I can do without boring you with pages and pages of stuff.

First off, why am I voting yes?  You will probably hear some people talk about the movement for Scottish independence as a narrow minded nationalist movement that is all about Braveheart and hating the English.  Whilst I am sure there are some people for whom that is what it is all about, in my experience it couldn’t be farther from the truth.  For me independence is all about letting those who live in Scotland finally make decisions on how to run their affairs, be able to shape their society as they would like, and confront the challenges of the modern world in the way they choose to.  My girlfriend is English, as are many of my best friends, colleagues and people who I respect deeply.   I have family living in London.  Scottish independence is not about where people were born, who they identify with or even about whether you feel more ‘British’ or ‘Scottish’.  I totally disagree with the idea that Scot’s living outside of Scotland should have a vote in the referendum.  The choice is about how those who live here want to be governed, and for that reason I think that a Romanian or Somali immigrant living in Glasgow has more right to have a say in that choice than a Scot who has not lived here for 40 years.  Being from Northern Ireland, you said you thought that you shouldn’t vote because you aren’t Scottish. Well I say that you live here and this decision will affect you as much as it affects me so of course you should vote.

I don’t feel that the UK Governments in Westminster make decisions that affect our lives in our interests.  That is total understandable, Scotland makes up only 5 million of the UK’s 60+ million population, they have to do what is best for the majority, but that will never be Scotland and as a result we will always have to live by their decisions, and in the interests of the more populated areas in the South East. The decisions we would make here could and probably would be much different if we had a full say.  Nuclear weapons on the Clyde, where the money from oil goes, social and welfare policy, NHS privatisation, how we behave to the world including who we go to war with, bank bonuses and regulation, all of these things are imposed on us by Westminster Governments that we often don’t vote for and don’t act in our interests.

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I want a Scotland based on proportional representation of parties, on common interest of the people who live here, where the resources we have in the shape of oil are saved and reinvested in our future instead of being used to fund tax cuts to already rich middle class voters.  I want to live in a country that doesn’t throw its weight around in the world and still thinks it can dictate to others.  A country that hasn’t been involved in an overseas war of one kind or another for the last 100 years.  A country that doesn’t sell arms to dictatorships around the world then pretends it is a beacon of democracy.  A country where the school your parents paid for you to go to isn’t the most important factor in how successful you are in life, where all the major political parties aren’t led by graduates of two exclusive universities.  A country with a well-funded and functioning public health service that isn’t being sold off cheap to rich party donors, much like all of our other public services.  I can’t guarantee that an independent Scotland will not have some of these things, and I know that making things better will be hard work, but I am certain that if we remain part of the UK it will only get worse and no amount of devolution will stop it being imposed on us eventually.

I am voting Yes for positive and negative reasons.  Positive because I believe that given the chance to make our own way in the world Scotland can be a wealthy, fair and strong small country that can be respected and liked around the world.  The debate so far has necessarily felt inward looking, but once we vote Yes we can open up again to the world as a new nation, which in itself is incredibly exciting.  Negative because all I can see in remaining in the UK is more of the same old politics of nasty blaming of the poor and watching the rich establishment cement its place at the top of the heap.  We can’t change the rest of the UK, we have voted Labour for decades and all that has happened is that Labour has just gotten more like the Tories.  Perhaps the shock of Scotland leaving will wake people up and create change, but otherwise it will never change.

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I am more than happy to answer any questions you have on specifics, but to start with here are some websites to have a look at that make the case better than I can and address specific issues:

www.wingsoverscotland.com

www.nationalcollective.com

www.bellacalledonia.org.uk

www.businessforscotland.co.uk

www.newsnetscotland.com

derekbateman1.wordpress.com/

I have put part of my case for Yes (there’s a lot more detail), if you want the case for No you will have to talk to someone else, or probably just open a newspaper or listen to the BBC.  For some reason the national press seem to be totally against the idea of independence.  Some think it is because they are part of the establishment that feels threatened by independence, others that they don’t understand it because they are so London focussed they think we are all running around in kilts hating the English.  Feel free to read the websites above and the mainstream press and make up your own mind.  All I will ask is that you bear in mind a few common criticisms about press coverage whenever you are reading something, these are:

“Could” does not equal “Will”

When you read a headline quoting someone saying what “could” happen in an independent Scotland have a think.  Who is this person and what side of the debate are they on? Do they give any actual evidence? They are taking about the future, so how do they know? Is this just a scare story? Which leads us on to…..

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Project Fear

Early in the campaign it was leaked that the No camp were secretly calling their strategy “Project Fear”.  This relates to the idea that for the No campaign to win all they need to do is to scare people enough about the unknown that they will vote No to keep everything safe and warm and cuddly.  This will be enough for some, but do you really want to live in a country that was too scared to take responsibility for itself and try and better itself?  Not to mention that a lot of these scare stories are nonsense and rely on the fact that in the future nothing is certain.

The Status Quo

You will read a lot about how a No vote will keep things the same, this isn’t true.  First, nothing stays the same, there is a direction of travel in any country and all you need to do is take a look at how the last few governments in Westminster have been behaving to get an idea of what a No direction might be.  Not to mention there have been politicians in all parties suggesting that after a No there should be a review of the formula that decides how much money Scotland gets, basically cutting the amount the Scottish Government gets each year.  Things won’t stay the same.

Its Salmond’s Folly

The papers love to paint Scottish independence as all about one man, because it sells papers and they know lots of people hate Alex Salmond.  The fact is independence is no more about Salmond than Britain is about Cameron.  First thing that happens in an independent Scotland is we have a general election and you can vote for any party you want.  In fact the other parties, Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems will finally be able to make policies that are solely about Scotland rather than being told what to do by their London head offices.

Jam Tomorrow

You will read a lot about the Devo-Max option, and other possible arrangements that would allow Scotland to stay part of the UK but get more powers.  First, this isn’t an option on the ballot paper, it is an idea that might happen, maybe, if we vote No and the right party gets in at the next election.  This sort of thing is known as ‘Jam Tomorrow’ and has always been used to stop Scots trying to be independent by promising things afterwards that never materialise.  Once we have voted No there is no reason for Westminster to give us anything, we have said we don’t want independence so it isn’t a threat to them anymore.  If they seriously wanted to give us more powers they would have given them to us.

The UK subsidises Scotland

This is crap and is a lie we have been told for generations to keep us in our place.  Whilst each person in Scotland gets £1,200 more on average spent on them per year, the per person contribution to the exchequer in Westminster is £1,700 more in Scotland than the rest of the UK.  We get more, but we pay even more.  An independent Scotland would also be able to fit its economic policy in line with Scotland’s needs instead of trying to fit in with the policy set in London in the interests of the City and the financial sector.  Have a read of this and see what you think:

http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/10-key-economic-facts-that-prove-scotland-will-be-a-wealthy-independent-nation/

That is just a few thoughts outlining why I think we should be voting Yes in September.  I am sure you have lots of questions about certain bits and pieces, have a look at the sites and I will answer any I can.  There is lots and lots of information out there, just don’t become blinded by it all.  At the end of the day it is down to whether you think we can do better than we are right now by taking control of our own destiny, or if you think things are as good as they are going to be with the way things are.

Good luck!”

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(The photos are just for added interest and are all copyright Lewis Brown)

Early Spring

Some shots from the streets of Edinburgh in February.  Despite some miserable days the nights are getting shorter and once in a while you can feel warmth on the breeze.  The city is beginning to stir back into life.

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(All photographs copyright Lewis Brown)

Time Flies

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It has been, or at least has seemed, a very short and busy January.  Been busy at work and spent a couple of weekends away in beautiful places and with good friends.  Last year’s professional successes have led to new and exciting work which is kicking off in the next few months, and looks like personally I will be taking up new opportunities and responsibilities.

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Perhaps most excitingly I feel like we have begun to turn a corner in the campaign for independence for Scotland.  The vision and drive of the pro-indy camp has begun to get the better of the seemingly unrelenting negativity and “cannae dae that” attitude of the No campaign.

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I understand people’s fears about independence.  It is big and scary and hard to predict. We will no longer have the safety net of a larger country and will no longer be able to blame our failures on the big bad brother South of Carlisle.  The promises of the Yes campaign are based on predictions of the future and these are much harder to buy into that negativity and the status quo.  But we can take control of our own destiny and revel in our successes as never before.  

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I have a deep and enduring faith in the people of Scotland, not just born Scots but those people who have come from all over the globe to call this place home.  We are small and vibrant nation which is not without it’s problems but the responsibility placed on a new country and the need to do thing for ourselves will I believe bring out the best of us and ignite the latent inventiveness and determination we posses.

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The debate has had it moments of nastiness and negativity on both sides however in general it has been conducted at a level which has created what might be one of the most politically informed and aware populations anywhere in the world today.  This will stand us in good stead as we begin the process of building a brand new country, write a new constitution and start to make our own way in the global community.  If you are still undecided, have questions, or are from further afield and are just interested in finding out what is going on check out some of these websites which while all Yes leaning are I believe fairly fair and factual:

Wings Over Scotland

Bella Caledonia

National Collective

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I would also be more than happy to engage on twitter with anyone who wants to talk about the referendum and why I will be voting yes in September 2014, find me at @lewisgbrown

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As for the photos, they are just some of my favourite 35mm shots from January, hope you like them.

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(All photographs copyright Lewis Brown)