My 2019 Photography Exhibition is coming soon at the Steadings Gallery, Balmacara Square from 23rd to 30th August. The Gallery will be open daily from 11am to 6pm. This year I am focussing on larger canvases but there will also be mounted and unmounted prints for sale, along with cards and copies of my brand new 2020 calendar.
A new feature this year is the publication of an eBook of the images that will feature in the exhibition,. The book contains notes on the images, including the equipment and settings I used, plus comments on my thoughts on the shots and some comments on post-processing. The eBook can be viewed here:
During a week-long trip to the Achiltibuie area the week before last I managed to get a few worthwhile shots despite mostly poor weather. We had a couple of really excellent evenings with spectacular sunsets and two really sunny hot days but otherwise it was rain and very low cloud/mist. The above shot was taken on our first night looking north-west from the roadside above Achanhaird, across Loch a' Chaorainn. The colours were fantastic with blues, pinks and yellow/orange blending wonderfully and reflected in the loch.
The following image was taken almost one hour later at 11:22 pm, looking across a small lochan known as Dubh-Lochan (black loch) towards the hills above Achnaihaird. The reflected sunset highlights the stones and reeds in the loch. I really love the soft tones in this one, and it was worth putting up with the midges to get it right.
The next image was taken on the hot sunny day and I resorted to looking at close-up shots of flowers and the like, since the landscape was just to contrasty and the sky not very exciting for good landscape shots. This one is of Bog Asphodel (Narthecium ossifragum,) one of my favourite bog/moorland plants which almost looks like it should be in the orchid family. "The Latin name of Bog Asphodel, ossifragum, literally translates as 'bone-breaker'. This unassuming plant acquired this violent name because it was believed that the livestock that grazed on it got brittle bones. However, it was actually the calcium-poor pastures that caused the problem" (The Wildlife Trusts).
Towards the end of the week, after several days of very low cloud and rain, we were treated to another lovely evening and I got the following shots across the Summer Isles and at the harbour at Old Dornie.
This post is long overdue having taken these shots while on Uist visiting friends for a few days in the first week of July. The weather was pretty good but the light could have been better for photography. That being said I did get a few decent shots, like the above taken from the shore of Loch Sandary near Paible, looking to a croft in Paiblesgarry. The bright yellow is from flowers in the grasslands, yet to be cut. I used a 100-300mm zoom lens at 100mm on my mirrorless Panasonic Lumix G3 camera. This combination provides the equivalent of a 200mm zoom on my full frame DSLR, so the image is pretty fore-shortened. I also darkened the grey sky behind a little to add contrast and drama to the scene.
On returning from the break I decided to try something I have never attempted before, to try paiinting in Photoshop using the above image as the background layer, aiming for a watercolour effect. I did a fair bit of online research and it is obvious that this kind of post-processing can result in some awful tacky images, but it was also clear that with practice and avoidance of the simple use of filters, that some very creative and attractive results can be achieved. So, based on some of the online examples, I set about converting this image to a digital 'watercolour'. The result is not bad (see below), although I need to experiment more and practice the brush strokes on the sky. Not bad for a first attempt I think.
The following couple of shots were taken at Griminish pier. This is a pretty active little harbour with lots of fishing gear stored around the pier. The first shot is a close-up shot of a beautifully coiled rope which attracted our attention.
Adjacent to this were numerous creels and buoys, which I am always attracted to as subjects for photography. In this case I was spoilt for choice, but I like this next image best. Overall, I was a little disappointed by the results, mainly due to the very bright sunshine causing a lot of highlights and blown out parts of the images.
On another day we had the pleasure of visiting the island of Vallay which lies to the north of Solas in Norht Uist. The island can be reached on foot , or 4x4, when the tide is out and there is an old derelict mansion house and farm buildings. The following shots are a selection of my favourites.
The following day the weather was not so lovely, but we took a quick trip south to Benbecula and South Uist. There were not many good opportunities for decent photos, with poor, flat, grey light. However, while we were at the cemetry at Rubh Aird-mhicheil near Stoneybridge there was a small rainy squall out to sea and I got this dramatic shot.
I have been without broadband since 25th June so have been delayed in posting any images. These shots were taken on the 25th at the Plockton Aerodrome in a thin but very diverse grassland around the runway. I have several sharp images of oxeye daisy already and wanted to try and capture a sense of motion in the image, especially as it was a bit breezy and difficult to get the images in sharp focus. Ironically this image was taken at 1/3200 second so it should be pin sharp, but with the very shallow depth of field (f/2.8) and the difficulty of focusing, it has resulted in exactly the sense of movement I was seeking. I have done very little to the image in terms of post-processing but included a little vignette to focus the viewer's eye on the flowers in the centre of the image.
Among the range of orchids in the aerodrome were some nice specimens of greater butterfly orchid as well so I took a few shots of them as well..
On the way home I stopped at Drumbuie to take a few shots of the species-rich croft meadows which were in full bloom.
My new photography exhibition started today at the GALE Centre in Gairloch, from 24th June to 21st July. A small sample of my images are for sale as canvas prints, framed prints, mounted and unmounted prints and cards. Also a sneak preview of my 2020 calendar is available to view. Orders for prints and/or my calendar can be placed by emailing me at email@example.com or via my contact page.
Last night was a beautiful evening with lovely late golden light. I went for a walk at Drumbuie to try and see if any orchids were flowering yet, and to capture some images of the globeflower which I knew was in full flower. Globeflower is a fantanstic lemon yelow flower in the shape of a globe, slightly smaller than a ping pong ball. It thrives in areas of seasonal grazing like the rougher areas of the meadows at Drumbuie, and as you can see from the above shot is an early flowering plant that likes wonderful views. The following shot was taken using my 105mm macro lens but the plants were waving around a bit in the northerly breeze and it was very difficult to get a sharp image, this being the best one.
As for the orchids, well it is still a bit early for them, but we did get some early Northern Marsh Orchids in the wetter areas.
The Common Lousewort is another small flower found in these acid grasslands, and was in flower too, so I took the opportunity of taking another macro shot for reference purposes.
Beyond the flowers, the landscape was also wonderfully lit, although the low bright sun posed some difficulties in exposing images properly and avoiding flare from the lens.
Finally on the way home I stopped above Balmacara Square to capture this shot lookng towards the Five Sisters of Kintail which were lit wonderfully as the sun set behind me, producing fantastic pink/purple clouds.
Last night it was one of the practical meetings of the South Skye Camera Club with the destination being Kyleakin. It was a fabulous evening with excellent light for shots of Eilean Ban Lighthouse and the Skye Bridge and Castle Maol. The above shot was the best of the evening I think, taken just as the sun dropped below the top of the bridge and the reflection of its rays was perfectly placed behind the reflection of the lighthouse.
The following shots are the best of the rest, including the next one which is simply part of a reflection on the waters of An-t Ob.
I had a short jaunt around the estate this afternoon with my Panasonic Lumix mirrorless camera and its lenscap fisheye lens. This is an interesting cheap little lens with plastic lens elements, fixed aperture of f/8 and only three focus settings, close-up (20cm), middle and distant. I took these shots in Aperture priority mode, as that is fixed anyway, and let the camera select the shutterspeed and ISO.
The above image is one rendition of three that I created from the same raw file. I like this one in black & white and the low vantage point and ultra wide-angle lens really emphasises her head and the span of her horns. I like the framing of this one with the bright blue sky (darkened here with a red filter appl;ied in Nik Solution's Silver Efex Pro) and the trees leaning inwards lsightly due to the wide-angle distortion of the lens.
The next two shots are from the same RAW file, the first, simply colour version of the one above. The second is a portrait crop which I think would make an excellent gift card.
The remaining images were all taken at Kirkton where there is an traditional old Lochalsh type barn which is category C(S) listed. Adjacent to the barn is a lovely path that leads to the saltmarsh and shore at Kirkton Bay and there were a few nice woody glades with bluebells and primroses worth a shot or two. For these shots I decided to stick with the wide-angle approach, aiming to get close to the foreground features while retaining an element of their context in the background. The exception is the last one of the ivy covered fence post which was taken using my 100-300mm lens.
This fabulous Eatser weekend brough great weather and all the spring flowers have bloomed and the trees are now properly in flush. I thought I would try and capture some of these early signs of colour in close-up mode.
This morning was an early start for the first croftland bird survey at Balmacara Estate. Today we were at Duirinish and Drumbuie from 6:30 to 8:45 am for what was a beautiful calm morning. We had 34 species of bird recorded in total if you include the great northern divers and a guillemot offshore. Highlights were the first wheatears of the year, of which the above was one very obliging male who sat nicely on this fence post while I took a few shots, also a single twite, lots of linnet and lesser redpoll and skylarks singing, reed bunting and a merlin. There can't be too many better ways to start a day than wandering around these wonderful crofting townships listening to the spring bird song as the sun rises above the eastern horizon, and no midges yet.
I am an amateur photographer who is also a Chartered Geographer (GIS) with his own part-time consultancy business and I work as an estate manager for a national conservation charity in Scotland. I am based in Lochalsh, Wester Ross, Scotland, just next to the Isle of Skye.
If you like my photos and are interested in purchasing prints, whether framed, mounted or otherwise please click here.