Sunday 27 September 2015

It's that time of year again.

Normally we wait for the first frost, but the sloes are ripe early this year. Think we may need a little more gin.

Wednesday 23 September 2015

It's hard to believe

That a week ago we were still swimming up through sleepiness, in a hotel room in Spain that was as large as the ground floor in our house.

Planning to go swimming, after we'd found our way back to the fresh water lake recreational area that we'd discovered by accident a few days before.

In another hour we wandered down to get breakfast: fruit juice, slightly disappointing bread, chorizo, jamon, queso of some kind, maybe a yoghurt.

And warmth. Strong sunshine and mild air. About 23-24'C in the shade.

This morning the car thermometer said it was 9.5'C outside and the lab downstairs is 17.8'C according to the pH meter temperature probe.

Feels like longer ago than a week already.

Over the last few days I've been doing image selection and basic processing, having whittled down to around 450 images which were put through DXO Optics pro software, then loaded back into lightroom, only for them to look rather pale and watery instead of glowing and crisp as they did in DXO - every package stamps it's own 'mark' on a picture.

I did a quick re-development on a DXO image that I was particularly disappointed with, then into Perfect Effects to polish. It looks nice and very detailed, but the process is slow and batch processing won't really work. Ho hum.

More, better, pictures eventually. If I have time later I'll pop up examples and 100% crops to show the difference the processing makes.

Friday 18 September 2015

¿Se puede imprimir mi tarjeta de embarque

Per favor?

Which caused a smile and subsequent helpfulness yesterday from the pretty lass on reception.

Patience is required.

Images from my Sony A58 are about 20Mb each as RAW files, and I've just uploaded around 35Gb of images to my main computer, then imported them into Lightroom. I've often loaded in 300 or 400 images at a time and it's been fine - a little laggy, but coped OK.

Not this time.

Lightroom didn't exactly freeze, but it did go VERY slowly. This machine has 16Gb of RAM, which normally would swallow a modest import and let me carry on working while it processed in the background, but not this time. Once this is finally done then I'll go through making basic selections: which to delete now, which to process soon and which to hold as spares/alternatives if I want to do reprocessing later. If I were wise (debatable) then I'll set up a batch process to give everything the basic processing treatment too (lens profile, remove chromatic aberration, 15 units of luminance noise reduction, 10 units of clarity). The rest will then be the usual tweaks specific to each image of black and white points, exposure and maybe a gentle tweak to colour balance. Best images will go out to perfect photosuite for a polish and in a couple of cases some anticipated cloning/removal of unwanted objects.

Once that's done then Chris can go through the selected images and see what she wants to have printed for this years scrapbook and I'll choose a few for printing a bit bigger.

Someone on a photography forum found a 'bargain' 64Gb SD card that can transfer data at 150Gb/sec (my nice Sandisk card will only do 90Gb/sec) but I'm asking myself if that's actually something I'll use.

And so to work.

Englnd felt more damp and grey than usual this morning - more han it usually does even after a holiday in the sun.

I'm really grateful for a good trip. By that I mean that the weather was kind, we got along well, there was relatively little stress and lots of opportunity to see fascinating things, we managed to see 2 different sets of people that we knew from England and all the arrangements worked out as they had been planned. There's so much planning that goes into holidays like this and so many things that could easily either improve or spoil the experience, yet we were blessed with good treatment even down to getting seats in the first row with all that extra legroom on the way out.

I'm grateful.

It's also making me ask if I want to be back, with 2 jobs and a slightly complicated lifestyle. To an extent it's natural for me to 'spend' all my capability currency to the limit on the things I do, rather than leaving reserves, and that's how I prefer to live. At the same time I'm starting to wonder why, and whether another change in lifestyle would be 'better', whatever better is.

And I would like (nearly wrote need) to lose the 7 or 8lbs I seem to have gained while we were away. :p

Wednesday 16 September 2015

And so our last day passed.

We swam in a fresh water lake out near Algondales (that reminded us of Minnewanka, but warm) and sunbathed in between. On the way back up from there we found the north end of the Cambionita del Rey through a long tunnel/cave that was dimly lit, then took final pictures as the weather closed in.

Tonight both our preferred restaurants were shut, but we've managed to remember enough Spanish to get good tapas from another bar here. I've heard the rain rattling on the windows since we've been back - looks like it's time to go home.

It feels very final

when you check in or flights for the next day in your hotel room. I'll be glad to get home: comfy familiarity, hassle-free dining, friends, guitars and all the rest. But I'm also sad to be going.

Today we'll head back to a lake/reservoir for swimming.


Tuesday 15 September 2015

Hello Pueblo Blanco trail

We drove up, down, around and around for nearly 350km today, reaching a maximum altitude of almost 1200 meters and managing not to drive off the road into the valley below. We drove past an artificial reservoir or 2, having lunch at a place that reminded us so much of Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe, complete with trees still sticking out of the water.

Monday 14 September 2015

A desirable diversion.

We just fancied another day at the beach today, so set off on the road to Malaga about 120km away. However the sky was increasingly overcast and as we drove the temperature actually dropped from around 23'C starting to just 20'C as we neared Antequerra on the A92.

Not so good for the beach we decided (little did we know).

So Chris looked up a route to the El Chorro canyon, with its spectacular and previously highly dangerous walkway, attached to the rockface high above the canyon. I say previously, because thanks to the miracle of EU funding, a new, shiny and safe walkway has been built, in places directly on top of the previous version that still remains underneath. The route to reach the southern end, with it's spectacular gorge and hydro-electric power station took us through tiny hamlets, swooping up and down on narrow roads past precipitous drops and yet more amazing views. The sun came out, providing more amazing and constantly changing lighting through the rapidly moving clouds, and eventually the day heated up to about 30'C again.

So we arrived, hiked a couple of kilometers to the start of the trail only to find that, being Monday, it was shut (all activities of interest are shut on Mondays in Europe - it's a rule apparently). The smells of hot pine trees and local herbage were wonderful, but it was bloomin' hot and there wasn't much shade.

We eventually returned and drove on toward home, passing a variety of, once again, spectacular landscapes, huge reservoirs of water high in the mountains and a previously unknown (to us) water sports area near Ardales. At this point both the map and satnav failed us (road signs worked OK though) and while the roads seemed to be where we expected, reality broke down with a lake on the wrong side of the road! We also drove back through a windfarm accidentally on the way to Campillos.

Eventually we got back to the hotel for showers, rest, image uploading eventually (shortly) dinner.

Sunday 13 September 2015

We began touring the 'white towns' of the mountains.

Driving back through the mountains south of Osuna, we were reminded of how amazing this area looks - with the right lighting, of course. One week on from our first drive here, it was just as amazing.

You know they have good mobile connectivity

........when your phone is down to 27% power after 5 days, instead of the usual 2 or 3.

What else is different about Spain?

I've mentioned in the past about the airport 'sniff test', but there was nothing overtly different in the scent when we first got out. However there seemed to be a subtle herby scent, almost like oregano, in the background when driving out in the hire car (possibly the interior cleaning spray!) and many foods had a similar earthy, spicy taste. There have been plenty of places with nice floral smells, usually produce by local plants, but no 'typical' smell.

We've mentioned the tapas thing, where you order small plates of food instead of a single large dish and the local prices being good. One thing we did notice was that there tends to be a lack of green vegetables, so that it's easy to slip into a diet of meat, bread and fried materials. Yesterday Az and Abby - our friends in Badajoz - took us out for churros for breakfast. Think freshly deep-fried English doughnuts (the ring type - not filled) but extruded in a sausage with a star-shaped cross section about 12 inches/30cm long. What I would describe as a fat delivery system for poor people needing lots of energy.

Driving has been mildly hairy at times, but not so different from Greece (less organised than France's roads) and only really stressful in the major cities like Seville and Granada.

We've slowly picked up a little language, but our progress isn't what one might call impressive, however we have always managed to get the necessary food & drink, fuel for the car etc, so that's good.

Anyway, it's been a good time so far. :-)

Saturday 12 September 2015

A little catch up.

Yesterday morning, from the top of Osuna.

Black Iberian pigs, growing ready for making Jamon.

In Zafra, on the way to Badajoz (bad-a-hoth to non-lisping peoples)

Thursday 10 September 2015

No pictures today

We had a day off, down to the beach at Malaga, a little swimming, a little sun burning bathing and generally not doing much apart from reading. In order to save time we used the functional but tedious motorways, which removes the possibility of stopping for pictures, and so the camera remained in the boot.

Eating has been something of a challenge for us, not really having any Spanish between us, but with the good graces of the locals and some Spanglish on both sides we cope most of the time. On the day we first arrived we headed for the main street, which seemed to be a restaurant-free zone (cafeteria & cervezeria was a common sign, but without food being evident in the evening. We ate in the hotel 3 evenings in a row until the restaurant here was closed.

A chap (and chapess) needs dinner.

We drove round until we located people eating outside at tables, managed to squeeze into a tiny parking space and settled ourselves in the Torre Vera tapas bar. A bubbly, cheerful waitress with enough English to help made life much more fun and took the dread out of dinner time. We've eaten there a couple of times now, and only went somewhere else tonight to make a change. Locals prices does no harm either, and we're trying to avoid doing 'English' style menus with their single large dish at the same price as Tapas for 2.

Tomorrow we have a long drive to see some old friends from Bicester, who now live and work near Badajoz.

Sleep well.

At 10am we shut the windows

And closed the heavy shutters to keep the fierce sun out of our room. It's warming up again, so this time we're off to the sea.

Wednesday 9 September 2015

And today we were very Seville with each other.

Well, y'know - it *sounds like* civil.

We were also there with an old friend, Mike, and a new friend, Bev, who married him a while back. :-)

We visited the cathedral, the university and wandered through various gardens and tiny lanes. We all declined to join Mike in a meal of pigs cheeks, and then regretted it afterward because it tasted so good. Really.


Neatly illustrating some of the problems with traditional 'Christianity'.

Honey - I shrank the street.


Tuesday 8 September 2015

The Alhambra is a long way.

Well, not VERY far, but it felt like it on the way over to Granada.

It's a lot closer than Mogul India, which is what the Nasrid palace looked like, and a bit closer than Rome, which is what other parts looked like. A big, fascinating, crowded, hot and busy place, with long queues and heavily restored buildings, cool fountains and green gardens.

Monday 7 September 2015

We spent much of our day in a religious place.

The was, apparently, am early Roman church in Cordoba, which was added to by the invading Visigoths, pulled down and rebuilt as a mosque, then taken over by the invading Christians, inside (literally) which they built a cathedral - the Mezquita of Cordoba. There's a lot of treasure in there.

There was also a big dump of rain happening in the distance as we drove home - right over Osuna, as it turned out.