In late January 1986 my family drove from the south of France into northern Italy, continuing our grand tour of Western Europe. After skirting Genoa we drove south to Pisa, stopping to take a unique, never-to-be-repeated photo of the leaning tower, and then carried on to Florence, where I fell in love with Botticelli and Michelangelo at the Uffizi, and learned from a newspaper stand that the space shuttle Challenger had just exploded on take-off.
At the end of our month in Britain in 1985–86, my family and I boarded a ferry from Plymouth to Santander and drove off it into the wintry sunshine of Spain, for two weeks of exploring my first non-English-speaking European country. Heading south to Burgos, we followed a route from there to Cuellar, Coca, Turegano, Segovia, San Ildefonso, Madrid, Toledo, Belmonte, Cuenca, Teruel, Tarragona, Barcelona and Cadaques. I was bowled over by the country’s enormous, sumptuous cathedrals, and by the many immaculate castles dotting its barren landscape. I fell in love with El Greco in Toledo, Velázquez and Goya in Madrid, and Gaudí and Miró in Barcelona, and took numerous photos of castles, Roman ruins, dusty towns and dazzling architecture. The best are on show in part two of the Grand Tour: Spain and the South of France 1986.
Five years ago I bought a scanner capable of scanning 35mm negatives, and started working through my oldest rolls of film. It takes a while, and once I paused I didn’t come back to them for years, as we had started travelling again and my digital photos were mounting up. Recently I went back to them, though, and kept working my way through the 1980s, beginning with my first trip to Europe with my family in the winter of 1985–86, after our time in Japan.
When I posted my backlog of Switzerland photos earlier in the year, I mentioned that we had another Swiss trip planned. Last weekend we were in Basel for a few days, and this time I’ve turned the photos around in record time.
This photo from New Norfolk on our way out to the West Coast in July didn’t fit in the relevant gallery, but I wanted to post it somewhere, as like the West Coast itself it’s a madeleine for my childhood. It’s a Ford Falcon, or “chook tin” as my mates called ’em (they’re fowl-cans, geddit?), from 1972 or thereabouts. Whadda bewdy.
Mouseover that beast and you’ll see another that I photographed at Forcett in 2005. This one isn’t a Ford, or a Holden that I can tell—it looks like a 1960 Chevrolet, but might be something else from that year or a year either side. Which means it wasn’t as old when I photographed it as that Falcon in New Norfolk was in July. My mate had a Holden EH ute that seemed ancient when he bought it in the mid-1980s but was only half the age of either of these at the time. Now they’re disappearing fast, with a few hanging on in places like rural Tasmania. EJs to ashes, doomed to rust.
Now I’m missing my 1976 Toyota Corona Mark II.
After eleven new galleries at Detail, and additions to a few more, I’ve finally finished with the photos from our summer (winter) holiday in Australia. The last pieces of the puzzle were the photos from the flights themselves, where I sat in the window seats so that the kids could take turns in the aisle. They provided a dozen-ish additions to Window Seat, which you can find at the end of that gallery, or by jumping to the first additional photo and clicking through the rest. They needed a bit of cropping and balancing, especially the ones from Dubai to cut through the dust and smog, but include the best aerial shots I’ve ever taken of Canberra and a great string of images from the approach to Hobart, which on a good day is one of the most beautiful landings in the world.
Our last few days in Australia in August didn’t yield many photos without the kids in them, but you can see a handful of them by treading clicking on the snake.
Earlier in the year I made a series of new galleries of the Tasman peninsula for Detail, catching up on a four-year backlog and five trips out there to see my folks. A year after my last visit, I was out there again in July and August with the kids, and this time took them to the most significant tourist attraction on the peninsula, indeed in the entire state: the convict settlement of Port Arthur.
Camping trips were a regular feature of my childhood, our family bundling into the Landy to drive all day to a distant site by some deserted Tasmanian beach. My first memories are of camping, and my first photographs feature camping trips to Tasmania’s northeast and far south. But the place I associate most with those endless summers is the West Coast.
A Glaswegian Twitter-user has posted an excellent thread reviewing every national parliament or congress building in the world, the kind of thing Twitter was made for. He courted controversy early on by bagging the Australian federal parliament, which I loved (as well as the old one) when I lived in Canberra in the 1990s. Its 1980s interiors remind me of my youth, and feature some impressive tapestries, and the flagpole towering over the hill makes a great visual shorthand for Australian cartoonists. The building’s confident modernism was a good match for the Australia of the late 1980s and early 1990s—the one that all went to pot in 1996 (cf. UK architecture of the late-1990s and early-2000s). I was dismayed when they fenced off the grass running over the top of the building, as it was so fundamental to the concept and the experience of the place. I haven’t seen it since that was done, and am not looking forward to seeing the fence in person.
Whenever I travel home to Australia, high on my list is to have at least one good ol’ Aussie meat pie on my trip, and preferably the kind I grew up with: a National Pie from Tasmania. Although they’re now expanding interstate, for most of my life National Pies have been stubbornly parochial, and none of the pies I’ve eaten on the mainland have been quite the same, although some have come close. Too often nowadays, a meat pie in Oz is a fancy-pants café-bakery creation with too many ingredients and meat that’s too chunky: a steak pie, in other words. The prices reflect their fancy-pantsness: one cafe on my last visit wanted ten bucks a pop for their homemade pies. That’s fine, I suppose, if they’ve made an effort to make a quality item, but it ain’t the real thing.
In the second week of our recent trip to Oz we headed in my father-in-law’s campervan to the South Coast of New South Wales, staying for a few nights in Huskisson on Jervis Bay. I’d been out to the coast a few times when living in Canberra, but mainly to the stretch between Batemans Bay and Narooma. Another time I visited Kiama, and at one point passed through Eden and Merimbula on my way up from Victoria before turning inland. Never Jervis Bay.
After Singapore I was in Sydney again in July, visiting family with the kids, where I photographed its iconic sights—the Harbour Bridge (crossing it on foot for the first time), the Opera House—as well as some lesser-known ones, like Tarban Creek and Chinamans Beach. We also spent a day up in Gosford at the Australian Reptile Park, taking lots of photos of Aussie fauna. I was going to tack these onto the end of the gallery I posted earlier in the year, but there were enough for a whole new one.
On our trip back to Australia to visit family in July we stopped for a day in Singapore, a city I’ve visited five or six times over the years, first when my brother lived there in the 1990s, and later when my brother-in-law lived there in the 2000s. Add in some additional stops at Changi Airport for a quick curry or bowl of noodles between long-haul flights, and I must have set foot on the island eight or nine times.
While Brexit wreaks havoc on Parliament, its opponents in Parliament Square are drawing inspiration from protesters on the other side of the world, as Hongkongers take to the streets to resist the erosion of their rights by the city’s Beijing-supported administration. Their example drew me back to my photos of a couple of days we spent in Hong Kong on our way to Australia in June 2015, which has yielded another gallery for Detail (and also provided a couple more panoramas).
My summer (winter) holiday photos have borne their first fruits in the form of dozens of new panoramas of Singapore and Australia. Some I’ve added to earlier galleries, either because those were a bit slim or there were only a few relevant new ones. All of the locations featured here will feature in regular galleries eventually.
It’s over five years since the last collection of Scottish castles at Detail, so here are six more, represented in collages compiled from trips over the past few years to Galloway, Glasgow, East Lothian and Perthshire. This gallery brings me up to date with my photos at long last, apart from the unscanned 35mm negatives, although some travel I’ve got planned for the rest of this year will no doubt bring some more.
At the beginning or end of half of the sets of travel photos collected in Detail are a handful of photos from the air, either of countries I’ve visited or places I’ve flown over. Window Seat gathers together over thirty years’ worth, taken first on 35mm film and then on a succession of digital cameras, and in one case on a phone. I haven’t recorded every flight, and some of my most memorable views from the air, like the snaking Thames after dark or the islands of the Pacific, are missing, but there’s enough here to evoke a lifetime’s travel.
Looking back at these now leaves me with some feelings of environmental guilt, and one day when air travel is again out of reach I’ll no doubt look back with nostalgia... but in the meantime, come fly with me.
The next batch of galleries at Detail looks closer to home, recording trips to the west of Scotland going back over a decade. It’s a beautiful part of the country, with plenty of out-of-the-way places little-known to tourists.
One of the most significant gaps in Detail has been a series of trips I made at the beginning of the decade to Switzerland, mainly to Geneva but also to Zurich, St Gallen, and other towns around Lake Geneva. I had so many photos of the place building up so quickly, and so many thoughts about them, that I could never quite get them together.
I’ve finally dealt with the photos, at least, if not all of the thoughts. The result is a series of new galleries, only six to nine years late.
Eighteen months ago I spent a few days in Bilbao with my brother, enjoying its fine food, beverages and art. It was my second time in the Basque Country, after an unplanned visit to Donostia/San Sebastián in 2010, and it felt even more of a place apart from Castilian Spain, not least because the weather was cool and overcast, and the surrounding hills were a different shade of green than those down south. I saw some separatist stickers here and there, and a lot of Basque flags.
In between stops in bars and cafés we took in the Guggenheim and the local history museum, and while my brother was off on business I also visited the museums of archaeology and fine art. It was a great weekend, which I memorialised at the time in a limerick, and now at long last I’ve added a gallery at Detail to go with the panoramas I posted of it last year. Gozatu!
The kids’ February school holidays are an ideal opportunity to steal away for a city break, and this year there was every incentive to get over to the continent before Brexit threw everything into chaos (or didn’t, as it turned out, but at the start of the year it sure looked as if it would). I was surprised to find some good deals on flights and hotels to a city I’d long wanted to see, but which had always looked expensive, so grabbed the chance to go. A few weeks later we were on the plane to Venice.
At the beginning of last month my family and I caught the train down to Manchester for the weekend, to have a look around its vibrant mix of old and new buildings and attend some special events, like the CBBC tour at MediaCityUK and a Day of Percussion at the Royal Northern College of Music. My son and I had been to Manchester before, but spent all of that trip looking at much smaller buildings, so this was effectively a first proper visit to the city itself. There was a good Martin Parr exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery; we saw Stephenson’s Rocket and the world’s first railway station at the Science and Industry Museum; and I finally got to see the Daniel Libeskind-designed Imperial War Museum North from the inside. I liked it all. Still didn’t manage a curry on Rusholme Street, though.
Here’s the compulsory gallery for Detail, this time posted within a month rather than after 1+ years. (With a few extra photos from last visit which have sat on my hard drive for seven, ahem.)
Did I say I was done with photos from Australia for now? Not quite. Here’s a gallery of Aussie Birds (a more serious sequel to this one), featuring the best photos that didn’t fit in the other Australian galleries of the past couple of months.
Now that the site is back up and running, and I’ve finally recovered (pretty much) from a fortnight-long case of the flu, I at last have a chance to post a project from weeks ago—although the photos go back much further. These are some galleries for Detail from my trips to Tasmania over the past decade, covering places other than the Tasman Peninsula. Most are from trips made with my parents during our visits to them, apart from one we made on our own.
Sorting out my 2015 & 2016 photos of Melbourne sent me back to some photos from a decade earlier, which I’d never fully done justice to here—so here’s a small gallery for Detail of one of my favourite cities, which includes half a dozen previously seen in Eastern States.
Here’s another trio of galleries for Detail from my trips to Australia between 2015 and last year, which included various stopovers in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, along with a road-trip in 2015 down the Hume Highway, which I’d done many times before but not for a long while. The galleries cover some of the same ground as Eastern States from a decade earlier, with some additional side trips.
Over the past few years I’ve had a backlog of potential galleries mounting up for Detail, partly because these few years have involved multiple trips to the same places, meaning that just as I’ve thought about dealing with one trip’s photos I’ve had new ones from another. Nowhere has this been more true than with pictures of the Tasman Peninsula, where my parents have lived since 2003. My earlier visits were recorded in Tasman, Tasman II and Tasman III, with photos taken on December trips there in 2005, 2007 and 2009. Then followed a gap of five years, after our second baby arrived, our mortgage went up to pay for an attic conversion, and the pound languished against the Aussie dollar: trips home became more difficult, and we had to rely on family members coming to us instead.
In July 2015 we finally managed another three weeks back in Australia, with half of those spent in Tasmania, where I had a chance to photograph some landscapes in winter rather than summer. On the peninsula, the weather was still largely sunny and warm (relative to a Scottish winter, anyway, or even an Edinburgh summer), only with shorter days. The kids even went for a splash about in the sea once or twice. We visited some places I’d never seen before, like the convict site at Point Puer and the tranquil Safety Cove, and walked to Maingon Blowhole and admired the perilous view (it’s literally a hole in the ground right through to the sea, with no fence). We saw Remarkable Cave again, which is, and the remarkable sight of three echidnas strolling across the road up to Hobart. They’re all captured in Tasman IV:
A new year, a new gallery for Detail: two dozen photos from Up North (down south) in Durham and on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, taken between 2014 and the start of 2017. An earlier post about Durham explains what I was up to down there.