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.
It was a beautiful morning and early afternoon today so I took the opportunity of feeling much improved after a bout of the flu to get out with the camera and binoculars for a bit of photography and bird watching. What better way to spend a Saturday afternoon? I went for a lovely walk from Duirinish to Drumbuie and Port an Eorna, and back to Duirinish. This first shot was taken at the edge of Drumbuie township where a group of starlings were roosting in the lovely sunshine. The birds were beautifuly lit up by the oblique sunshine and the backdrop was in shadow making the birds stand out wonderfully.
I saw a good range of winter birds during the walk including the following Fieldfare which kept coming clser and closer, allowing me to try and get a half-decent shot. This was still extreme range with my small camera but it was well lit by the sun which was behind me, so it came out OK.
The main aim of the walk was to try and get some decent landscape shots. These are my favourite shots: the first one of the Cuillins in snow being taken from the shore at Badicaul. I have tried this shot a few times previously but continue to find it difficult to capture the grandeur and scale of the panoramic view. The hills have a tendancy to look much less impressive against the wide aspect so I took this as a panorama of ten shots with the camera held in portrait orientation to try and capture the height of the hills. I think it worked quite well.
This shot was taken from right beside the car at the cattle grid at Duirinish, looking north toward the Bealach na Ba just before it disappeared into snow clouds. The final shot was taken from Drumbuie looking towards Skye with one of my favourite stunted trees which grows out of a rock by the edge of the croft land. The tree provides foreground interest against the dramatic backdrop of the view towards the Cuillins of Skye. I liked this shot in colour, which was how I envisaged it, but something didn't quite work for me, so I tried converting it to black & white in Silver Efex Pro and I really liked the result, using a deep red filter to darken the sky, making the whole effect much more impactful.
This was the view from the foot of our drive this morning. I popped out with the camera, but not the full camera bag!, to try and catch some shots before the wonderful colours faded. I managed a few decent shots before the battery failed and of course I had left the spares in the bag back in the house. I tried various aspects, including a wide panorama but that did not work too well. This one is probably my favourite because of the slightly brighter colours but the following ones are not too bad, especially the one with the moon. The long exposrues has produced lovely smoothed water surfaces, despite it being very calm.
This morning I spent a few hours at Broadford Bay with Judith Bullivant doing a bit of bridwatching. These are the best two photos I managed to get of Greenshank and Dipper. They were a bit far away and the light was not great so a high ISO was required to get any sort of decent shutterspeed. Still not too bad considering the kit I was using.
Here is another of my favourite shots of 2017. This one is of a Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) taken at Loch Sandray, North Uist this summer. I like this shot because it is reasonably sharp and the background is nicely blurred. The bird sat quietly on the fence post wathcing me as I gradually approached it, taking shots as I went. Eventually it had enough and flew off. The colours of the background grass make the bird stand out well, showing off its wonderful speckled plummage. This photo was taken using my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 bridge camera at 108mm zoom (35mm equivalent of 600mm zoom), ISO 1000, 1/1000 sec at f/2.8, handheld. While not as good for detail as my DSLR this camera has the benefit of being relatively compact and a very good zoom range. Many of my best bird shots have been taken on this camera.
This is another of my favourite shots from 2017. This was taken somewhat opportunistically on our way home from dinner at the Applecross Inn. The light was not great, being quite late at night and fairly overcast but it works well in black and white. This was taken on my Canon EOS 5D Mark II with the EF 24-105mm f/4 L lens at 24mm, ISO 2000, 1/6 sec at f/14 on a tripod. Due to the high ISO I had to do a bit of selective noise reduction but managed to retain the sharness in the foreground passing place sign. I am slowly working on a series of shots featuring passing place signs in interesting views so watch out for more.
This is one of my favourite shots of 2017. This area, Coigach and Assynt, in many ways appears to be very empty and devoid of human activity, and some folk might even think of it as "Wild Land". However, the land here has been managed by people for centuries and while the main concentrations of people today are around the coast there is evidence everywhere of man's influence on the landscape. In this case, in the far distance is the iconic Suilven and Quinaig and the rest of the image is largely composed of rough moorland and sky. BUT, in the foreground the peat cuttings are the sole obvious evidence of man being active in the area. I like the composition because of the counter-balance between man's activity and the wilder mountains, but also because the sky is fantastic and the line of the peat cutting face leads the viewer's eye nicely into the frame.
Over the next few days, as we approach the end of the year I will post some of my other favourite shots with analysis of why I like them. Feedback is, as always, welcome and fell free to share with your friends.
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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