Stunted Tree & Bla Bheinn - Commended in the Landcsape Category and Winner of a John Muir Trust Award in the Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year Awards 2018
The winners of this year's SLPOTY Awards have just been announced and I am very happy to say that one of my photos was selected for a John Muir Trust Award and commended in the Landscape Category overall. I have not entered too many of these competitions and this is the first time I have received anything better than a thanks, but no thanks, so it is very exciting for me. This photo features on the cover of my 2019 Calendar (and is the photo for April) and has proved to be the one that is most commented on by folk who have seen it.
This means that my photo will feature in their travelling exhibition which will show at several venues around Scotland and will also be included in the published book when that comes out. So, a huge enormous thanks to SLPOTY for giving me this award.
Well it certainly felt like spring this afternoon but one can't help feeling that there is still a little winter left to come. The young calves and lambs are still to arrive, and while we have seen lots of young frogs out and about in the evenings recently, and bumble bees and butterflies have been active for the past few days, and even some birds appear to be singing like it is the breeding season, most of the plants remain unconvinced. These catkins were one of the few signs of activity increasing in the plant kingdom, but the majority of stems remain bare.
The croft land at Drumbuie and Duirinish remains pretty bare although the grass is a bit greener than I have seen it at this time of year. This afternoon would have been an incredibly warm time to be out and about but for a determined haze that built up into cloud cover as the afternoon moved on. This did limit the scope for dramatic landscape shots but the shades of the distant hils can sometmes provide an interesting composition. The following shot was taken looking across the crofts at Duirinish looking towards the road that passes Drumbuie, as it snakes up a small rise in the ground. There is a series of lumps and bumps in the landscape that I thought might make for an interesting shot, with the wet ground in the foreground providing sharp contrast. I opted for conversion to black & white as there was limited colour in the shot anyway and I felt it would emphasise the shades of grey and tonality better.
Yesterday afternoon I popped out to try and get some snowy pictures of the estate where I work. Unfortunately the light was not great for landscape shots, but there were a few Highlanders about, including a few recent youngsters. This one stood nicely for a few shots and when I looked at it on the computer afterwards I was taken by the two ear tags, hence the title BNWT as they say on Ebay. There is no doubt that young highland cattle are among the cutest of young animals, looking almost like little teddy bears and I particularly like these brown ones as opposed to the more common red colour..
I am concious that I have not posted any photographs this month. This has mainly been due to being short of time with my main priorities going on the HNC Photography course work and other stuff. Also, there have not been many good photo opportunities when I have been able to get out and about. That being said here is a selection of my favourite shots from this January, a few of which are pretty decent I think.
Well we have been warned that there is some wintery weather coming and today we woke up to a fabulous red sky, so it looks like the old adage is going to be accurate - red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning! This was taken at 8:30 this morning, it had been much brighter and more saturated colours just beforehand, but I had not got my camera out. I actually like this shot better I think, because there is a bit more blue in the sky as opposed to being just orange and red, but that's just my excuse for sleeping in this morning.
This shot was taken on a quick walk with the dogs and my daughter, Eilish, at the weekend. The dappled shade in the woods was fantastic with bright sunny patches and deep shade alternating. I really liked the way Eilish appeared to be almost painted by the shade and visualised this as looking really good in black & white, which I think it does. I opted for a wide open aperture to get a nice soft background.
A quick trip down to Edinburgh today yielded a couple of colourful photo opportunities on the journey home. This first shot is of a maple in full autumn colour in my brother/sister-in-law's garden. Maples are defintiely one of the most colourful of our trees in autumn and this one was displaying the full range from green through to yellow, orange and red, nicely off-set against the blue sky behind. I opted for the f/1.8 (largest) aperture to get a shallow depth of field and a good soft bokeh effect which worked well I think.
Later, when we were almost home, we stopped at Eilean Donan to capture it in its Remembrance Day red illumination. This was taken on the tripod with a long exposure to get as much light as possible, given how dark it was. It was a bit breezey so I didn't want too long an exposure but ended up balancing the exposure length with the ISO to try and achieve manageable noise levels in the dark areas. I had to do a bit of post-processing noise reduction in the darker areas of the image but it worked OK. This is a cropped version in square format. The orignial included part of the bridge leading off to the right but I felt it was too contrasty with the red as it was lit in bright white light.
This afternoon on my way back from the Post Office I took a quick run around the Balmacara Estate since it was another lovely afternoon. This shot was taken from one of my favourite spots, down by the coast at Port Cam, between Duirinish and Port an Eorna. There are always boats on the shore there and with the backdrop of the Bealach an Ba, when it is not hidden in cloud, you can't go wrong.
I stopped again on my way back to the office, just near the railway crossing at Duirinish and popped up one of the small knolls to get this shot looking towards the low sun and the Cuillins of Skye. There are a few clumps of trees and some isolated individual trees which offer nice foreground interest in what is otherwise a very wide vista which is hard to capture effectively. The sun made the fading autumn colours look more vibrant than they realy were , set against the bright blue of the sky. This was a pretty challenging shot to capture with the very bright sun making the foreground very dark. Working with a RAW image does allow a lot of the shadow detail to be recovered in Lightroom though and the final result is much more like the human eye saw it.
This morning dawned bright and sunny with beautiful blue skies and still some snow on the higher ground. I could not resist heading out to try and get some shots of Bla Bheinn with snow on it but also some colour still in the landscape as Autumn has not quite passed just yet. Anyway, I stopped at Loch Cill Chriosd for the wonderful reflections, givent he complete lack of any breeze. I was not alone of course, as you never are these days on Sky, but it was still a pleasure to be out. These shots are a collection of the best ones I managed to capture, including the remnant moon shining just above Bla Bheinn and reflected in the water. The reeds also make the reflections more interesting rather than just an expanse of open water.
For the following shot I tried something a little different. It was taken through the reeds but still focused on the background with a small aperture to try and keep the reeds sharp.
For this shot I just took the reflection and I think it works really well, but it does mess with your mind a little.
The next one was taken on the way back to the car, looking back towards the church at Cill Chriosd. It was a difficult shot to expose properly as it was looking towards the sun and a bit washed out. I liked the vibrant colour of the bracken but the grass was still frosty and very pale, as was the water and the pale blue sky.
I moved on to Torrin and the shore of Loch Slapin for the classic shot of Bla Bheinn. Not very imaginative but it is still a fantastic view. With the bright colours of the seaweed on the shore and the fading colours of autumn and just a little dusting of snow the hill was looking rather splendid. This was taken with my widest angle lens to try and capture the grnadeur and scale of the landscape.
For the next one I composed the shot with the end of an old wall in the foreground to add interest, and also to hide the road which was just in front of me when I took this.
I have taken a few shots of this tree with Bla Bheinn in the background but today the sky looked a little uninteresting. However, when I got down low to the ground the fanne dout light clouds became more apparent and even more clear wen converted to black and white in Nik's Silver Efex Pro with a red filter to darken the sky a bit. I really like this shot, with the moon just showing above the hill and to the left of the tree.
Just to the left of the stunted tree there is a lovely old bit of dead wood which provides lovely leading lines into this picture. Again I think this one looks better in black & white as the textures on the wood show up better
Finally, another shot from the shore, in balck & white this time. I am not sure if I like this that much as the reflection is lost in the mess of seaweed floating in the water. It definitely shows up better in colour.
My 2019 calendars are now available to buy or order. At £10 each they would make an excellent festive/New Year gift for friends and family. I only got a small number printed so if you want to avoid being disappointed get your order in soon. I will also be selling them at the Plockton High School Christmas Fayre on Saturday 1st December, if I have any left.
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.