Thursday, June 28, 2007

Lensbaby 2.0 and Stella Pictures

Stella the Wonderdog

A break from vacation photos for a day. We finally got a new Lensbaby 2.0 lens for our Canon EOS Rebel XTi. Which is by far the most affordable way to get cool pictures.

Lensbaby 2.0 on Canon EOS Rebel XTi

It is a fully manual lens. In fact it doesn't even have focus on it. Well it sort of does, you have to bend the lens in and out like an accordion to get focus on a subject. Which is really tricky, but then you can blur the rest of the photo out depending on the angle that you are holding it.

Stella the Wonderdog reading the New York Times

Above is a nice shot of our dog, Stella, with her Sunday morning paper. The lens is pretty tricky to use at first, especially when shooting subjects a few feet away because you have a very shallow depth of field. I like to get focus on her right eye. Considering she is usually moving this can be tough. I shot about 500 pictures to get the three on this page in perfect focus on her eye.

Picture of Stella the Chow Chow German Shepherd mix photographed with Lensbaby 2.0

We ordered the macro lens attachment ($32!) for the Lensbaby so we'll be taking all kinds of cool photos soon. Here's a good shot I took in our front yard after a rain with our normal 17-85mm lens a few days ago.

Photograph of a slug.

Sluggish. I'll be posting more vacation photos soon, been busy. Ni!

Although I have not been writing much about it, work has been progressing steadily on the George Westinghouse Film. It is in post production now and music is being composed. I'll have more photos and information on that coming soon.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Trip Day 7, Doune Castle and Wallace Monument

Day 7 of our trip was one of my favorites for we went to Camelot! Rather, we went to Doune Castle, where they filmed Monty Python and The Holy Grail!

Doune Castle where they filmed Monty Python and The Holy Grail in Doune, Scotland

It's only a model.

Seriously, I was so excited when I learned we were able to take a short bus ride there from Stirling when planning our trip. I visited the website because I was intent on seeing at least some filming locations from two of my favorite movies, Monty Python and The Holy Grail and HIGHLANDER. Regrettably we couldn't fit any Highlander locations into the trip... "Another time MacLeod!"

Mark Bussler standing on stairs at Doune Castle used in the filming of Monty Python and The Holy Grail

"There can be only one."

Damn right, these are the stairs that John Cleese (Sir Lancelot) ran up to save Terry Jones' character, Prince Herbert, from the tower. You know the scene of which I speak. That's me racing up the stairs to tour the castle.

Interior of Doune Castle

Look familiar? Just a hint: they built stairs on the right side for the movie.

Doune Castle was a surprise because it was the best castle I could have imagined visiting, even without the Monty Python connection. Let me explain. We took a bus (#59) to Doune, walked through the town to the castle and entered the gate and hallway that John Cleese runs through when attacking the wedding party..

Courtyard at Doune Castle which was finished around 1420 AD

You can barely see her, but my wife is clacking two halves of a coconut shell together by the steps. The book store in the castle was featured in the DVD special features of The Holy Grail where they said visitors could borrow coconuts and run around. Heck yeah we did it! We purchased tickets and asked to borrow coconuts, which they let us borrow, and clacked out the hallway into the center courtyard.

Mark Bussler in Doune Castle

Castle Anthrax.

One of the greatest things about Doune Castle is that they let you explore on your own. No forced tours. No crappy signs with crappy cartoons. No bastardized commercialization. It was really great! It was as I'd imagined a castle would be (from movies of course). Solid stone construction, many rooms, spiral staircases and nooks and crannies. And it was way bigger than I thought it would be.

Monty Python and The Holy Grail being viewed on an iPod in Doune Castle

We brought our video iPod with us and reenacted scenes in all the locations from the movie. That's right, we watched the movie in the exact spot where they filmed the movie. We're dorks.

Famous wall from Doune Castle

"What are you doing in England?"
"Mind your business!"

After having a great time we took the bus back to Stirling and went to the William Wallace Monument. I like the movie Braveheart, but to be honest it pales in comparison to Highlander. I was very, very upset there was not a Connor MacLeod monument anywhere in Scotland.

William Wallace Monument in Stirling, Scotland

Look how big this thing is! The monument sits on top of a hill which is a hike to the top... but nothing too difficult. I found it amusing that they offer a bus to the monument that says "The easy way to the top". Very American I thought. What would Wallace think of these tourists who can't even put forth the effort to hike 10 minutes to his monument?

William Wallace Monument

A statue to honor the Quickening.

This monument is a huge tower and the view is commanding. There is a museum on the inside where they have the William Wallace sword.

View from the top of the William Wallace Monument

A view from the top. This was one of my favorite and most memorable days of our vacation. As I am a movie buff and enjoy history this just couldn't have gotten much better. Oh wait, yes it did....

Mmmm... beer.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Trip Day 6, Stirling, Scotland

Somewhere in between Durham and Edinburgh lurk these sheep

On the sixth day of our trip we took the train heading north from Durham to Scotland! And what a train ride it was.

Mark Bussler taking photos from the GNER train

We road the GNER (Great North East Railway) which snaked along the Northwest coast and offered many amazing views of sheep, small towns and the North Sea. I shot pictures the entire ride for the most part.

I regret that we did not have a chance to stop at this town called Berwick-Upon-Tweed which looked very nice from the train.


We changed trains in Edinburgh and headed to Stirling. Most people wonder why we chose Stirling over Edinburgh for our two day excursion into Scotland. The decision was made based on the prices in Edinburgh and the fact that Stirling is near Doune (more on Doune next post). I also wanted to see Stirling Castle and the William Wallace monument and sword.

Stirling Castle and the King's Knot

Upon arriving in Stirling we hiked up to the Castle and were greeted with some amazing vistas of Scotland! This is a shot of the wall of the castle and surrounding countryside.

The Scottish Landscape

It is very green and rainy in Scotland. The weather changed every 10 seconds.

Robert the Bruce statue in Stirling

Above is the statue to Robert the Bruce. Aye.

Although it seemed like most of the castle was being renovated while we were there we enjoyed learning about its history and seeing the details throughout.

The castle is just enormous and as I mentioned provides some amazing views. I never even had a chance to get a photo from the ground in front of it, we just didn't have time to walk that far.

A sentry box at Stirling Castle

After spending some time there we wanted to get some good Scottish food like fresh Salmon, but were told that everyone there eats Chinese or Italian. I ever saw an "American" steakhouse... which we did not go to. Instead we found a nice pub and enjoyed cheddar and chutney sandwiches.

My beer report of Scotland is favorable! I had some McEwan's on tap and really liked it. Scottish beer has a unique toasty flavor that you don't find many other places.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Trip Day 5, Durham

Statue of Charles William Vane Stewart in Durham

You can click on these photos to see full size versions. Photos are not to be reproduced without my permission.

On the fifth day or our trip we ventured North from Masham on the train and arrived in Durham. It was about this time that I realized that I had not packed nearly enough warm clothes for our trip and that wearing shorts was not going to be an option. I bought a new sweater for the low price of 15 pounds! Which converts to $30. We basically doubled the price of everything because of the value of the pound vs. the dollar which SUCKS. It's a good thing all we ate was pub food.

Gammon Steak and Fried Egg

That night I had a "gammon steak and fried egg". Mmmm... pork.

Durham Cathedral and Castle

My wife wanted to see Durham Cathedral, one of the oldest cathedrals in England. We walked through town and through the hordes of drunk college students only to find out that we could not take pictures inside of Durham Cathedral. We were a bit dismayed at this since we love photographing cathedrals. Anyway, it was very impressive inside and worth seeing.

Durham Cathedral rising over the river

It was a wet and dreary day (like every day in Pittsburgh) but we climbed the tower anyway. Upon reaching the top we were greeted with sheets of ice cold rain and wind. The view might have been nice had i been able to see more than 5 feet in front of me. We trundled down the 300+ steps through another tiny stairway made for 13th century mini-people and went to dinner. My wife snapped off this nice picture from the tower showing where the previous photo was taken from:

View from tower of Durham Cathedral

After dinner we decided to try some nightlife. We hit a few pubs and called it another successful day of touring. When travelling I tend to find that any college town can be a bit crowded and irritating, especially when compared to the nice small town atmosphere of Masham. But we made the best of it by hitting a college bar that served Samuel Smith on tap! This was one of my favorite beers of the trip, a very smooth and hoppy bitter.

Samuel Smith Sovereign Best Bitter

Durham Cathedral is regarded as one of the most impressive Norman buildings in Europe. It is perched high upon a hill next to a castle (now a university building) on the bend of a river. I found the best spot to enjoy it all was away from the busy center of town. I recommend walking along the river to get the best view.

Durham Cathedral as viewed from the river

Onward to Scotland for day 6!