The festive season kicked off last night with an amazing starry night in Lochalsh. After switching on the lights in our big window at the front of the house, and taking the dog for a late walk, I could not resist getitng the camera out to try and capture the amazing stars in the sky last night. These two images are the best, the first being a panorama of two shots taken from the old slipway at the foot of the drive. The second, taken from part-way down the drive through some trees, which I think frame the shot really well. The red light is the navigation light off the point of Skye at the entrance to Kylerhea, which flashes throughout the night to warn ships of the long shallow spit of land that sticks out, under the surface, into Loch Alsh.
Shooting at night like this is not something I have done very much of. I know that to get sharp stars, as opposed to star trails, you need to keep the shutter speed down below 20 seconds. However, given the low level of light this means you need to open up the aperture and bump up the ISO. These images were taken at 3200 ISO, which is pretty high for my Canon 5D Mark II, and there is a lot of noise in these images as a result. This shows the limitations of a camera that is now over ten years old. With a more modern equivalent I would have had no problem shooting at this level of ISO. Oh, well, not sure that would justify the £2,000+ price tag. Stil, it was a great way to end a fabulous November, weather-wise at least.
Today involved a quick visit to Torrin, while we were on Skye, to check out a rumour that the stunted tree in my 2017 photo "Stunted Tree & Bla Bheinn" had recently disappeared. Sadly, the rumour was true, so there will be no more shots of this wonderful mountain with that stunted and twisted old tree in the foreground.
However, it was late in the afternoon and the late sunshine was producing some lovely light. The main shot above was taken on the way home, from the Torrin to Broadford road. I always like this spot on the road when travelling to Torrin. You come round a bend and Bla Bheinn is just standing there, looking massive, when it is not shrouded in cloud and mist. Today, the contrast between the grey and white of the snow dusted mountain and the last of the autumn trees in the foreground, the latter being lit up by the suinshine, made for an excellent shot I think. I tried a few different compositions, but really like this one, which was taken with a bit of zoom (170mm), focusing in on the detail of the most spectacular bit of the hill, and foreshortening the distance to add a sense of the dramatic.
Earler, while in Sleat at the An Crubh Centre, I took this shot of Beinn Sgritheall. I used my brand new Zomei glass ND4 grad filter to darken the sky a bit, allowing the foreground to be better exposed. This is my first glass ND filter, having previously been restricted to the cheaper resin ones, and while Zomei may not be Lee, they are much more affordable, and as you can see the quality is very impressive I think. The image is very sharp and I did not need to make any post-processing adjustments to correct any colour cast which commonly result with the cheaper resin filters.
I had a great day out with the camera yesterday, with Caz Austen. We visited a few places around Loch Maree, the pinewoods of Beinn Eighe and Torridon on a wonderful sunny day with pristine blue skies. The hills had a little dusting of snow on their tops, contrasting beautifully against the blue sky and the last of the autumn colours.
The above shot was taken from the shore of Loch Maree looking towards Slioch. The low angle does reduce the impact of the height of the mountain a little, but I like the composition with the rocks in the foreground leading the viewer into the frame. The next shot better illustrates the steepness of the hillside on the north side of the loch.
We arrived at Loch Maree relatively early, and the light on the trees on the north side produced an attractive image, captured in the following shot. There was a bit of frost on the trees, creating a slightly muted colour palette.
Just back from the shore are some amzing pine trees and a truly odd birch tree. The following two shots show, first the amazing roots of a large granny pine, right by the shore of the loch. These roots must have been exposed by the waters of the loch and they create a marvellous pattern against the stones. The second shot is of a twisted birch branch. The branch is about 30cm in diameter and looks like it has been corkscrewed somehow.
Further from the loch, moving uphill slightly, there is the pinewood proper, with a great array of old and young trees, offering occasional vistas across the loch towards the hills on the north side. The first shot was taken looking through the trees towards Slioch again. The second, looking slightly further east to a smaller knoll known as Beinn A' Mhuinidh. The early light shining on patches of the woodland provided a lovely mix of light and shade, with some trees highlighted beautifully.
On turning round from taking this shot to put my camera back in my backpack, I noticed some lovely frosted blaeberries growing out of purple sphagnum moss. I decided to experiment with a little macro photography using my Sigma 105mm macro lens and a variety of combinations of extension tubes to try and get in really close. These two shots are the best of the lot. I love the frost crystals on the leaves.
By this time it was nearing luncthime so we decided to head to Torridon for some food. On the way I decided to stop for a quick visit to Loch Clair to catch the views of Liathach and its reflection in what had to be a flat calm loch. My guess was accurate and on arrival we were both stunned by the perfection of the view. Quite a bit later we left for a late lunch with lots of shots and just about every angle covered. These are a selection of my favourites, some in colour, others in balck & white.
After lunch we headed along the north side of Loch Torridon to Diagbaig. By this time the light was getting pretty low, but it was still quite bright. The low angle of the sun was producing wonderfully warm light and amazing colours. It had been a long time since I was last in Diabaig, it wont be so long again as it is a fantastic place for photography.
Yet again I have been failing to post photos over the past month. That does not mean i have not been busy, in fact too busy to find the time to maintain this blog. So here is a quick update on some of the things I have been doing since September.
The above shot was taken as part of work I am doing for an HNC in Photography at West Highland College. This particular assignment requires four images of an Environmental style. I chose to focus on Abandoned Dwellings around Skye and Wester Ross. I had not been to Suisinish for a very loong time so decided to use this old house as one of my examples. The other three I have taken so far include a crannog, a broch and another old house. The following examples are my favourite versions, some with different post-processing options.
Yesterday was such a beautiful day that it would have been inexcusable not to go out with the camera. In all honesty, the light was so bright and contrasty that it made photgraphing some scenes pretty challenging. The ND grad filters were in use for a lot of the landscape shots as a result.
The above shot was taken from the Tocabhaig to Tarscabhaig road, looking towards the Cuiilins, with the ruins of Dun Scaich (pronounced "skee" apparently) in the foreground. There was no ND filter used for this one as I didn't have an adaptor to fit the lens with me. I don't use this big lens much, but it makes for some lovely shots when used at its minimum zoon, foreshortening the distances really nicely.
The following shot was taken at Ord, again looking towards the Cuillins and Bla Bheinn, truly spectacular scenery.
I took a little detour into Tarscabhaig to search for old abandoned dwellings, for a project I am doing for my HNC in Photography. I found a few likely subjects worth another visit when the light is a bit more moody and dramatic. However, I also spotted an unusual sight these days, piles of grass being set aside for hay or silage. Normally, this is simply cut into rows and then baled and wrapped in black plastic. I am not sure how this was going to be baled, but perhaps into old fashioned square bales? Anyway, I could not resist taking a shot with Rum in the background.
Tarscabhaing is a lovely, picturesque crofting tonwship located on the west side of the Sleat peninsula. Crofting is still pretty active there and the croft houses are spread around the sloping ground making for a great foreground against the backdrop of the Cuillins. You can just make out the moon in the top left corner of the image.
Earlier in the day, before heading over to Skye, I took a trip to Ardelve, then over Carr Brae for a view down Loch Duich. Many years previously I took some photos of an old thatched croft house and some other sheds in Ardelve. I was a bit saddend to see the poor condition of the thatched cottage, with rotten thatch and tufts of grass growing out of it. The walls poorly maintained and the property obviously unused. Anyway, I took a couple of shots of the windows and a nearby timber shed. Let's hope something is done to renovate the cottage before it is too late.
The view from Carr Brae is wonderful when the light is good, as it was on Saturday morning. Looking into the sun posed some challenges but I managed to get a couple of shots that did not have too many sun flares on them. This one really shows how much of a fjord Loch Duich is.
I also succumbed to the familiar photo looking up Loch Alsh with Eilean Donan Castle in the foreground. It was really a beautiful morning, so that's my excuse.
My final shots from the day are of the old boatman's house at Totaig on the opposite side of Loch Duich from Eilean Donan. The first shot shows the approach to the house and slipway where the ferry used to run to Dornie, while the second is another one of those window shots, which I like so much.
This little guy was sitting on his web, between two shoots fo heather, waiting for some prey. I caught sight of it on a test image I had done with my new phone camera while out with the dogs, so popped back to the house and got my DSLR and macro lens. The position was about head height and my tripod would not allow me to get the right angle for the shot. So I had to opt for handheld. I took a few shots and this was the only one that came out reasonably sharp.
This afternoon I spotted some interesting brown mushrooms/toadstools in the Lochalsh Woodland Walks. I am not sure what this species of fungi is called so if you know, please get back to me.
I returned with my camera gear later on, to try out some macro shots, and specifically to try out focus stacking using Photoshop. I took a straight macro shot using my Sigma 105mm macro lens at f/16 to try and get as much of the fungi in focus as possible. This worked OK (see below), but the background was not as soft as I would have liked. This being the conundrum of using macro lenses, balancing depth of field to achieve a nice soft bokeh effect.
So, I took thirteen shots of the mushroom, focusing on different parts of the image as I went. The camera was set at f/2.8, my lens' widest aperture, taking care to avoid movement of the camera on the tripod, using my remote trigger to take the shots. The result is shown at the top of this post, and as you can see the whole of the mushroom is in focus but the background is beautifully soft.
I tried another single larger mushroom nearby, this time with a stack of fourteen images. This one worked well too, as you can see below.
My new photography exhibition opened today at the Steadings Gallery at Balmacara Square. The exhibition of photographs on canvas runs from today (23rd August) to Friday 30th August, open daily from 11am to 6pm. Limited-edition prints are avalable to buy at a range of sizes and on a selection of media, including canvas and archival Giclee or satin. The 2020 Iain Turnbull Photography Calendar is also available, along with a range of cards. Come along and enjoy a browse with a cup of coffee or tea and a chat.
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.
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.