Going back to Cali

In early summer of 2005, after a year of living in Australia and in a bid to continue my self-imposed exile from the UK,  I moved to San Francisco, CA. I was 20, broke and ambitious. Within a couple of weeks I had a room and 2 jobs. The American Dream starter kit. A lot happened in the 9 months I was there that can be told another day, but my time there was a solid milestone in my own coming of age story. I bought my first DSLR there. I achieved legal drinking age for the second time in my life, and gained a scar to mark the celebrations. And it was from San Francisco that I embarked upon my first trip around South America in 2006, inspired by the many wonderful immigrants from Latin America that I had worked alongside in the pizzaria in the city.

Now nearly thirteen years later, im revisiting the city and my family there, on route to another South American adventure. In many ways I’m not just rediscovering this incredible city, but discovering it for the first time. Able to afford many things that were simply out of my budget back then, and with the advent of the smart phone and the wealth of online local knowledge, it’s already looking like a different city to the one I got to know in the mid-00’s. Réka, an adventurer in food, has done her own research by watching as many Anthony Bourdain episodes as possible. Together, we are well prepared.

 Our first couple of days are spent mostly walking and eating. Swan Oyster Depot, Tartine Bakery, a vegan place I can’t remember the name of that did one of those ‘can’t tell the difference’ burgers, Taqueria Cancun, mission Chinese. After a couple of days in the city we headed north to Marin and Sonoma, hosted by my wonderful family who live just across the Golden Gate Bridge. While we were there the disastrous ‘Camp Fire’ wildfire spread out of control, destroying thousands of homes, an entire town, and engulfing the whole of the Bay Area in a dense and choking fog-like smoke. Everything looked like Las Vegas in Blade Runner 2049 for a while. A really scary thing to experience.

 

NYE in the Swiss Alps

First off, Happy New Year everyone! I hope wherever you were you all had a great New Years Eve, Hogmanay, Silvester, etc etc etc...

For many years, Hogmanay had become something of a foregone conclusion. Drinks with friends, find a place to watch the Edinburgh fireworks, then head to a party or night club. I used to look forward to these nights for all kinds of reasons, and would be filled with excitement for weeks beforehand. Lately however I've started to lose interest. The big party, even once a year, has lost its buzz. I still loved having friends gather together from afar, but had felt a need to try something different. It just so happened that this year I wasn't alone, and together with a group of similarly minded friends, rented a remote chalet in the Swiss alps and decided to leave the hedonism of Edinburgh's Hogmanay behind. 10 people, together in a 350 year old wooden chalet 1000m up a mountain. Sounded like bliss.

And it was, for the most part. Ok, so the chalet wasn't the most comfortable, with old beds, walls and floors that afforded next to no privacy, and mice that ravaged the walls and cupboards. Not to mention the bed that was in a curtained off section of the attic, without any windows, that passed for an acceptable place to sleep a couple of guests. Then there was the water pump that fed the chalet that had stopped working due to the unseasonably dry weather, and the fuses that kept blowing and needed changed every day. We weren't even sure whether the chalet itself would remain standing long enough to see out the bells, the threat of fire from the stove or collapse from the 10 people crammed inside both a strikingly real possibility...

...yet these factors aside, this was without doubt one of the best Hogmanays I have had. A charming chalet in the stunning alps with excellent people what else do you need?

Wild Tended at the Edinburgh Food Studio

On Friday night I had the privilege to attend a pretty unique event at the EFS, an event celebrating 1 year of the Food Studio and one that saw cocktails take a central role in the dining experience. Three of the worlds best bartenders, Alex Kratena, Simone Caporale and Monica Berg provided a menu of unique and unquestionably fascinating cocktails that were then paired to food by the EFS chefs along with Douglas McMaster of Silo in Brighton, the UKs first "zero-waste" restaurant. The results ranged from delicious to the challenging, each one questioning everything I thought I knew about flavour combinations. Pumpkin & gin, a porcini mushroom beverage, halibut & orange wine (my personal favourite) and many others. A wild culinary ride, and all great fun with great hosts and friends. Big thanks to Ben and Sashana and all the chefs and bartenders who came together for it. Read more about it here - http://www.edinburghfoodstudio.com/new-events/2016/9/20/wild-tender

 

Islands Hopping Indonesia & Malaysia

This past July we had the unbelievable opportunity to attend our friends Holly & Gilles' wedding on Gili Meno, a tiny tropical island near Lombok in Indonesia. I've travelled South East Asia before but hadn't made it as far south as Indonesia, so along with not wanting to miss our friends wedding, I wanted to go explore some new islands and try and get in as much scuba diving as possible while there.

One of the best things about this trip was the number of friends who managed to make it across with us, and it's safe to say that we really made Gili Meno a home away from home the 4 nights we were there.

Our route took us 32 hours from Edinburgh via Abu Dhabi, Kuala Lumpur and Denpasar to our first destination Ubud, among the rice fields of central Bali. after a few days there we went to the Gili Islands for around 8 days split between the islands, before Réka and I said goodbye to our friends and set off for the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia for some more diving. An almost perfect 3 weeks away and about as perfect a wedding as anyone could wish. Truly magical.

Below the photos is a video I made of our diving. Nothing fancy, some shaky gopro work, but they were some of the best dives we've had. I made a 4K version that's 11 minutes long as well... maybe one day I'll upload that too.

The Devil's Pulpit

It's been a busy year for me, and I notice now that it's also almost exactly a year since I last posted anything here. Moving house, as well as taking on a full-time contract as head of photography with SquareFoot has meant dedicating myself to developing things on that front and less time on my own personal work. That doesn't mean that I haven't been taking photos, and there is barely a weekend that goes by that I'm not adding to a growing collection of images and video that are yet to see the light of day. They'll make it out one day, but I've been saying that about stuff I shot 3 years ago, so...

Despite that, I've found myself with a small collection of images from a visit to the Devil's Pulpit yesterday, ready and waiting to be uploaded. The Devil's Pulpit, located about half an hour drive north of Glasgow in the Loch Lomand area, is the name given to a 100 foot deep gorge in Finnich Glen. We accessed the gorge via a small walk across some fields, though we think there is possibly a more official route in. After climbing a couple of fences and wading across the river at the downstream end of the gorge, we climbed along the bank and found the old steps that take you down into the bowels of the beast. I'd seen photos of this place before and always thought that there had been some photoshop trickery to make the water turn a red colour, keeping in with the hellish tone of the place, but it turns out the red sandstone sediment in the water is what gives it this ghoulish tint. A good setting for an October walk indeed.

All images shot on the Fuji XT10