Due to the damp overcast day today I was hunting around for something to do photographically and inspired by an article in Outdoor Photography I decided to try and set something up for some garden bird shots. The article suggested attaching a cutting from a tree/busg to a bird table, to act as a perch for birds waiting to feed, thus providing a natural looking prop for the birds. Instead I decided to set up a couple of feeders in some young regenerating wild cherry trees near our lounge window. I set my tripod and camera up in the lounge with the window open and waited for some birds to come. I had high hopes of goldfinch, siskin and maybe even a blackcap as a male was singing from tiem to time in the garden. Unfortunately, only the more common robin, great tit and chaffinch graced me with their presence, but it was useful practice with the big lens.
All these shots were taken using my Sigma 150-500mm lens and the Canon 5D Mark II combination. The light was not great so I had to use a fairly high ISO, getting up to 1250, so there is a bit of background noise, but it allowed some good fast shutterspeeds to freeze the motion of these active little birds.
Despite warnings of a heatwave this weekend it was somewhat cool and overcast with a few bursts of modest sunshine in the north-west of Scotland today. This promised some decent opportunities for photography so it was off to Skye, along the Broadford to Elgol road to see what I might find. The timing was not ideal when I set off but the light improved as the afternoon moved on and I managed a few interesting shots of some of the most photographed parts of the island. Nothing spectacular but a good momento of a lovely afternoon out.
The first shot, above, is of Bla Bheinn from the Boradford to Torrin road. Usually folk stop by the shore of Loch Cille Chroisd for this view of Bla Bheinn, hoping for a reflection in the loch, but the surface of the loch was pretty well rippled today with the breeze, and I am building a collection of shots with Passing Places in them for a project I am working on, so I liked this unusual perspective.
This shot was taken from the rocky shore at Kilbride, looking towards Bla Bheinn. I chose f/22 and focused on the smal island in the middle disctance, aiming to get somewhere close to the hyper-focal distance and hence the best depth of field possible. In this case the foreground rocks and pool are nice and sharp as well as the distant mountain tops so I am pretty happy with how that worked out. I also used my Cokin P Series 0.9 ND Soft Grad filter to retain some fo the detail in the brighter sky (this was used in most of my shots today). The relatively long shutter speed has also prodced a lovely smooth surface on the foreground rock pool.
The next two shots were taken from Elgol, looking towards the Cuillins. The first was a panorama of five shots, handheld, using my Sigma 70-300mm lens from the car park while the second was taken from the lower perspective of the beach using a single shot at a wider angle to capture more of the rocky foreground interest.
The final shot was taken from the Glasnakille road looking towards Elgol and the Cuillins. The light was improving by this time and Elgol township was slightly illuminated by a patch of sunshine and the Cuillins looked really close. I am not sure I really captured the foreshortened effect the way I had intended but I like the shot and will bear this location in mind for a future visit, perhaps really early one summer morning to catch the first light on the hills.
Yesterday we had a lovely trip to Corran on the shores of Loch Hourn with our good friends Helen and Tich. The main purpose of the trip was to experience the fantastic fish and chips at Sheena's Tea Hut, which lived up to its reputation. However, despite it being a somewhat hazy day I took the camera along hoping to get some good shots of an area I have not been to very often. In the end I got these shots, some of which are OK, but from a photographic perspective the best outcome is probably that it was a worthwhile recce for future trips when the light is better. That being said, the fist image, taken on the way back to Glenelg, did nicely capture the patchy light coming through the increasing clouds and lighting up the sea on the Sound of Sleat.
I am just back from four days in Argyll, or more specifically the Kimartin area. While the weather was not at its best there was some good light at different times which allowed for some decent photo opportunities. That, allied with the wide range of spectacular historical sites, made for an intersting and fun trip.
This first shot was taken late in the afternoon with low sunlight from the right emphasising the long shadows from the stones. The clouds in the otherwise blue sky add depth and interst to the image, helping to lead the viewer's eye into the shot.
The following few shots were taken at Crinan, again late in the afternoon/evening so a large part of the basin was in relative shade compaed to the hill behind. The basin was fairly quiet with just a few yachts and these two old steam boats. The larger boat had its engine going, producing lovely wisps of smoke which add a sense of motion to the image. The wall on the left leads the viewer into the image and adds texture with the lichens on the stones.
I generally like canals as a subject for photography because of the good chance of interesting reflections and obviously lots of boats. However, last time we went to Crinan I took several shots of the canal so this time I focused elsewhere. This shot was taken from the bridge that crosses the River Add where it enters the sea just beside the canal, looking east. The wonderful reflections in the calm water and the clouds in the blue sky made me stop for this shot.
One of our favourite haunts in Carnasserie Castle, an old ruin situated on a bit of high ground just north of Kilmartin. The castle offers many opportunities for intersting angles and perspectives. The ight was very dull and flat with overcast conditions so I focused mainly on wide-angle shots of the outside of the castle, trying to capture something of the scale and mystery of the place.
On our last, slightly damp and overcast day, we took a walk to a spectacular ruined old mansion called Poltalloch House. This house has a very sad story, being first constructed in the 1840s, when the owners were busy clearing folk from the land and were apparently involved in various business ventures, including the slave trade. The house was used to host multi-national business deals, no doubt at the cost of many poorer folk, but ultimately was only occupied for less than 100 years. The roof was removed in the 1950s to avoid paying tax and it has since fallen into serious disrepair, currently sitting on the Buildings at Risk register. All this being said, it must have been a spectacular house in its hey-day, costing £100,000 to build at the time, the equivalent today of c. £10 million. It is not safe to enter the house, though I did sneek into the conservatory for my final shot, but I took a few external shots although it was difficult to capture the scale and grandeur of the building. Also, there is a church located just a short distance from the main house, which has some interesting details in the form of gargoyles and intrictae carvings.
On our way home we took a short detour to explore the Ardfern road and just after the main village and marina we found this old wreck sticking out of the water. I immediately thought it would make for a good photo with the contrasting blue sky and clouds to add interest.
Today was an exciting one with me delivering my first lot of mounted photographs for exhibit, and hopefully sale, at the Bealach Cafe & Gallery at Tornapress, near Kishorn. This is the only place where my photos are on display and for sale, apart from any exhibitions which I might run myself. Located at the foot of the famous Bealach na Ba, increasingly one of my photographic obsessions, the cafe and gallery are at a prime location on the North Coast 500 route and the welcome, the food and the coffee are fantastic.
These two shots were taken from the roadside just above Gesto Farm on Skye looking south towards the Cuillins, late this afternoon. This is a popular viewpoint for photographs but I thought the afternoon light was rerally nice today so called a halt to take these shots. The contrast of the blue of the sky and sea against the bright green and oranges of the land lit up by the low sun, with the attractive farm steadings makes a really interesting scene. The farm is situated on one of those isolated areas of relatively fertile land, surrounded by rough grazings and rocky hills and mountains. You can guess that folk have farmed here for many centuries. I took the second shot in portrait with a bigger zoom to try and bring the mountains closer to the farm in the foreground. It worked relatively well but I could not use quite as big a zoom as I would have wanted because capturing the whole of the farm complex was my aim. I like both shots but possibly prefer the portrait shot as it holds slightly more detail.
After dropping my eldest daughter off at the train in Kyle this morning, at 6.12am, I took the chance of going for a walk around Duirinish and Drumbuie crofitng townships before going to work. It was a marvelously frosty morning with muted colours becoming more vibrant as the sun rose above the hills to the east. This first shot was taken from Drumbuie, overlooking the crofts towards Skye in the distance. The bare tree adds interest in the foreground, highlighted by the rising sun behind me as I took the shot.
The following shots were taken during my walk. Some are in colour, but with the muted colours, especially in the sky I converted most to black & white which I feel adds drama and impact to the images in these conditions.
Last week I took advantage of a few hours after a training session to visit RSPB's Vane Farm and Loch Leven Reserve to see what birds might be around. I took along my Canon 5D Mark II and my Kowa telescope with a view to trying out this combination for a bit of digiscoping. Effectively by using an DSLR adaptor you can convert your scope into a long lens. The technique requires you to use fully manual mode on the camera, including manual focus. In the past I have found focusing very difficult but this time round I used the live view function and it was a bit easier, although the camera shake made it quite difficult still to know when you had a really sharp focus. This image was the only one using this technique which came out reasonably sharp (this final image was cropped a fair bit). I took a few shots with my Sigma 150-500mm lens for comparison but it did not really have the reach as the bird was a fair way off, and ironically, using auto-focus did not provide any really good sharp images either. All in all worth perservering but probably only for birds that are happy sitting still!
Last week I had a trip to Canna for work and was meant to be there from Tuesday to Thursday but a huge storm prevented the ferry from sailing on Thursday. As a result I was left having to wait until Sunday to get off the island and back home. This was not really a great hardship, although the weather remained poor until Saturday morning when I went for a long walk around the east end of the island. This shot is a panorama of two images of Canna's Harbour Bay from Blar na Carraigh. The light was challenging as the sun was shining brightly to the south. I tried various exposures but ended up resorting to merging three auto-bracketed shots into an HDR image using Lightroom. This was a process I was forced to use for a few of these shots but I think they accurately reflect the way things looked on the day. Normally I try to avoid using HDR but sometimes when the range of light is so enormous and you don't have any filters with you it can work well.
This image of the snow covered Cuillins of Rum was taken from the ferry on my way to Canna on Tuesday. The co;our version was good but it lacked real intensity due to the distance and the clouds just didn't impress me so I converted it to black & white in Lightroom and I feel it works much better.
This is basically the view from outside the Bothy where I was staying on the island. This was taken using a very wide angle (9mm - equivalent to 18mm in old 35mm film) cheap lenscap lens with a fixed aperture of f/8 and only three focus settings, infinity, distant and close-up focus options. This was taken using the distant setting and I straightened out the optical distrotion produced by such a wide angle lens using Lightroom. The colour version was nice but I prefer the emphasis on the clouds that the B&W produces.
This is another wide-angle shot taken from above the main village area on the island looking west with the farm land in the foreground and the island of Sanday in the distance.
The next couple of shots are of the two old churches on the island, the first the catholic St Edward's on Sanday and the second the presbyterian on on Canna. Both are no longer used as churches and sadly needing some significant repairs and ultimately a sustainable use.
The next four shots show the view westwards from Compass Hill towards the Sanday bridge and beyond that to Heiskeir Lighthouse. The one of the lazybeds, or Rig & Furrow patterns shows how the land would have been worked in the past, contrasting nicely with the more recent housing, a genuine cultural landscape.
Canna is well known for its cliffs, particularly on the north side. I don't have the best head for heights so avoided getting too close to the edge. Instead I meandered my way from east to north and back to the south facing crags, and eventually westward towards Tarbert and then down the steep slopes between the basalt columns before heading home along the Tarbert road. The landscape on the top of the island is rough with heathery knolls interspersed with boggy grassland and rocky crags and outcrops. The following shots attempt to illustrate this variety and some of the spectacular vistas that make climbing the steeper bits and navigating around all the bog areas worthwhile.
Finally, these ladies were just posing for a photography beside the Tarbert road.
This afternoon/evening I headed over to Kishorn with Aileen to drop off our daughter, Eilsh, and her friend Ellen for a sleepover. It was such a lovely day and having been stuck indoors all day I was keen to try and get some photos so I took the big backpack with all my DSLR kit. I was fortunate with the timing and as we arrived at Achintraid the sun was just setting behind the Cuillins on Skye. I took this first shot with my Sigma 150-500 mm lens at 150mm zoom, on the tripod. It actually looked quite a bit brighter than this image suggests but because I was zoomed in a bit the colours we captured in their full vibrancy, missing out most of the brighter sky above. This was one reason for not taking a wider angle shot. I tried the following shot at a slightly bigger zoom, to focus more on the area where the sun was disappearing behind the hills. Not much difference really but I like the slightly wider angle better.
The same setting sun was lighting up the Applecross Hills from the left and there was a really nice cloud sitting just above the Bealach na Ba which made an otherwise not very inspiring shot really come alive. The next two shots were taken from the same place, the first at 17mm zoom and the second at 35mm, thus cutting out the foreground rocks. I like the first one becuase of the texture of the rocks but the colours in the second are more vibrant and there is no distraction from the boat mast and house off to the right as there is in the first one.
On the way over I took the following shof the Bealach na Ba above Lochcarron. The shot was lit strongly from the left (west) as the sun was getitng low on the horizon and the topography was emphasised nicely as a result of the low angle of the light. As you can see I was lucky that the cloud had lifted from the Bealach by the time we got over the hill to Achintraid (just over the hill a bit on the road that can be seen disappearing into the distance).
Whiel at Achintraid I spotted an old dilapidated stone pen with a bunch of creels and bouys in it and thought it might make an interesting compostion. The light was not very good by that stage so I didn't take much time thinking about it but I might well pop back and try again at a better time of day. Still, I converted this shot to black & white and it makes an interesting shot I think.
Finally on the way home I just had to stop at the loch side, near the avalanche shelter, to take the following shot looking down Loch Carron towards the setting sun. The colours and reflections made this a must and while there is not much interest in the sky I still think it works quite nicely.
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.
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