Last weekend I had a short camping trip north to Altandhu with my friend Glyn Young, mainly with the object of doing photography, but also to get in a game of golf at Ullapool on the way home. The weather was mixed on the Saturday, with very low cloud to begin with, clearing away a little later one, with some patchy sunshine. Not ideal conditions as it turned out for photography but we managed a few good locations and the odd spot where the light was worth a try. The above shot was taken above Achnahaird, looking north-west over the lochs and bogs of the peninsula. There was a little patch on sunshine sneeking through the clouds, lighting up the ground beyond the nearest loch. The grass is now turning amber as autumn approaches, producing a nice contrast with the clouds and little pathces of blue peeking through. The following shot was taken to see if a closer perspective worked at all. I quite like the contrast bewteen the bright patch and the rest of the moorland but also the bright loch in the foreground, contrasted against the brooding cloudy sky.
As usual I managed to take a shot of passing places. In this case the road heading down towards Achnahairdf was brightly lit up by a patch of sunshine, set off beautifully against the murky grey of the low clouds on the Assynt hills in the background. Ther passing places were highlighted wonderfully.
Our road trip took us along the coast road to Lochinver and on to Drumbeg. We headed home via Ardvreck Castle on Loch Assynt where I took the following shot looking towards the limestone escarpment at Inchnadamph. The rocks and old posts in the foreground add interest to what might otherwise have been a dull scene. The colours were pretty flat, as were the clouds, so I converted this to black & white and burned the sky a fair bit to bring out the details in the clouds.
Glyn wanted to learn how to operate his camera in manual mode, so we did a bit of theory, for which the soft light from the overcast conditions was actually quite useful. This portrait shot was taken, along with one at f/22 as a comparison using different apertures and the impact on depth of field. I really like this shot, not only is it well focused with a good soft background, but Glyn's expression is brilliant.
It has been ages since my last post, mainly due to the frantic effort of getting on top of things at work, ready for a couple of weeks holiday in France, and then the actual holiday itself. This post comprises a collection of my favourite shots from the trip to the Saumur area of the Loire Valley in France. It is always good to travel to new and interesting places. From a photographic perspective it allows you to see things differently and to try out new alternative approaches to the light conditions which in this case are very different from home in the north-west Highlands.
The shots from Chateau Chenonceau were all taken with the intent of converting them to black & white, specifically to try and diminish the impact of the enormous number of visitors, often in bright clothing. I think this tactic worked really well, and the bright blue sky contrasting nicely with the white clouds provides a dramatic backdrop to this spectacular architectural gem.
This post consists of the best images from an short overnight break away to the Trotternish peninsula on Skye. The weather started off pretty grood but deteriorated to more typical misty, low cloud, but as you can see that change produced some interesting light.
Carr Brae is the high point on the old road to Kyle, by-passed now by the modern trunk road. The view is wonderful looking either east or west. This shot is looking west, taken late one evening last week.
This is the last post with images taken last weekend in the NW. In this case these are all from north of Lochinver, up to Durness.
This small selection of shots was taken on my way north towards Durness on Saturday morning. The first one is of an old house situated on top of a small knoll near the main road at the north edge of the village of Elphin in Sutherland. I always fine these old buildings very interesting and this one has regularly attracted my attention in the past, being loctaed in a very prominent position. As you can see from the second shot it has a splendid outlook to the west towards Suilven.
There are always nice little architectural details on these buildings that provide excellent images as can be seen from the next two shots. The first is a close up shot of part of the roof of the old house above, while the next is a window detail of an old tin house on the other side of the main road.
The final shot in this selection is a classic touristy shot of Ardvreck Castle on Loch Assynt with the lower slopes of Quinaig as a backdrop. This was taken using my Sigma 70-300mm zoon lens from a fair distance. Not one of my best shots but one to remind me that I ought to revisit this site for a longer duration, preferably during the quiet season.
Still more to come from this trip over the next day or two.....
I have been slowly working my way through the many shots I took last weekend so here is the next installment. This one is of Suilven gradually being revealed from the low lying cloud which was hanging in the glens early in the morning on Friday. The cloud soon burned off to leave a very hot and sunny day. Canisp is also showing to the rear and right of Suilven.
The coast road from Ullapool to Lochinver is one of the most spectacular in the north-west with tantalizing glimpses of the famous hills which stand out separately from each other, unlike the hills further south in Wester Ross. This creates a dramatic landscape with lots of moorland interspersed with broadleaved woodland, plenty of small lochs and lochans and occasional views of the sea and beyond. This next image is of a paricularly scenic section of that road where it hugs the rocky shoreline and presents the motorist with tight blind corners and sheer drops into the sea. It is definitely one of my favourite bits of road, albeit relatively short.
The next couple of shots illustrate the distinctive stand-alone peaks and small lochans that so characterise this wonderful area. The first shows Stac Pollaidh while the second is of Suilven from Glencanisp. I used a combination of my Zomei circular polarizing filter and ND8 full neutral density filter to emphasise the bright blue of the skye ad vibrant colours in the landscape, and to slow down the shutter speed to try and capture some movement in the foreground vegetation in the light breeze. The first element worked well but the movement did not really work. Still I like the shot.
The next shot in this group was taken on my way to Achiltibuie from one of my favourite vantage points. It shows the road to the Summer Isles in all its colourful glory with Beinn Mor Coigach on the left and Stac Pollaidh creeping in on the mid-right distance. On a day like Friday at this early hour the landscape was illuminated perfectly by the sun and there is just enough cloud in the sky to add a little depth.
The final shot in this group was taken back at Achnahaird beach, or just above it on the machair, in the early evening with the landscape lit by the sun in the west, looking eastwards towards the hills with the colourful grassland swaying in the foreground. This was also taken using the CPL to emphasise the bright colours.
Anyone who has any interest in photography has heard of Ansel Adams. He was undoubtedly one on the greatest landscape photographers of all time and was particularly well known for his association with Yosemite National Park in the USA and was a strong advocate for the conservation of wild land and landscape in general. For me, Adams was, and remains, a major influence and inspiration for my photography. Also, the area of Assynt and Coigach in the North West of Scotland is the main reason I became involved in the world of conservation.
Having been brought up in my early days in central Scotland our family visited Assynt most years on holiday, a tradition I kept up with my own young family. The area is truly spectacular and was immensely influential in inspiring me to want to live and work in the NW Highlands and particulalry to protect and promote our wonderful Highland landscapes, the people who live there and their way of life. I always try to get up there, only 100 miles form where we live, at least once a year for some photography, and this year I managed a weekend of camping at Altandhu, near Achilitibuie, at the end of June. The weather was scorchingly hot with very few clouds in the sky so not truly ideal for photography, with the light often being challenging in terms of getting the correct exposure. I did manage to take a huge number of shots, some good, many not so good, and over the next few days I will be processing them to reflect the way I visualised them at the time, by way of a record of that trip. This may take a little time so I will post them as I go and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did the trip.
These first two shots were taken as I arrived late in the evening. The day was still bright and sunny, being just after the longest day at this northerly latitude. At this time of dfay the iconic hills are often illuminated by the low sun in the west.
The following shot was taken as the sun was setting behind Achnahiard and desp[ite there being almost no clouds in the sky there was just enough colour and cloud off to the north-west to provide this lovely subtle glow. Looking at this shot I am drawn to the line of telegraph poles running away into the distance on the right of the shot. As a child I used to constantly doodle little landscapes in the margins of my jotters at school, and they always had lines of poles running off into the distance. Maybe this is where that habit came from?
The following morning I had a work meeting at 10:30 but woke up really early and after breakfast was out and about with my cameras just after 5am. The next few shots were captured during that early morning light and as you will see provided some fantastic opportunities.
This is one of my favourite shots from the trip, capturing the very bright but pale colours of early morning and the mist hanging around the base of Suilven. The distant hills are wonderfully subtle shades of grey and the wispy clouds in the top left add interest that would soon burn off as the day warmed up. The passing place in the foreground is one of my regular features as I am trying to capture a series of spectacular landscapes with passing places in them. These iconic things are gradually disappearing in our landscape as roads are widened or when they are damaged and not replaced.
The following couple of shots were taken in the boggy area in the foreground of the above shot where the bog cotton (Eriopherum) was if full flower producing a fantastic display of white.
The following shot was taken from just above the beach at Achnahaird looking north towards Quniaig. Again the early morning light produced beautiful suble shades of blue/grey
More to follow shortly..........
It was a relatively early start this morning on my way to Aberdeen to collect my daughter Caitlin from Uni and it was a beautiful sunny morning. As I approached Eilean Donan I did a very touristy thing and inidctaed right at the last minute to pop into the car park for a few shots of the castle and its reflections in the calm sea. The above shot was taken from the start of the footbridge to the castle, which is a relatively unusual angle for me. I liked the way the castle was reflected in the pool between the mainland and the island. The castle was wonderfully illuminated by the early sun and the sky had just enough cloud against the bright blue to make it interesting.
I really liked the colours in this shot but as always wanted to see what it looked like in black & white. The following shot was converted using the Nik Collection's Silver Efex Pro software and I applied an orange filter to this one to darken down the sky (I was a bit stuck between a red or yellow filter so unusually went for a happy medium which worked well). As usual this made the sky much more dramatic and the castle very bright against it. I think on balance I prefer the B&W version but the colour is nice too.
The following two shots are taken from a similar vantage point from a previous time. Again I like the colour but the black & white is certainly more dramatc, I think. Both had very similar treatment in terms of post processing. I tried to do as little a spossible to the colur ones but the shaded areas did need lightened up a little as I had under-exposed the images a little to try and keep some of the detail in the sky and I did not want to use auto-bracketing and HDR merging. The B&W one had a red filter applied this time.
Today was Mid-Summer's Day and we had a power outage at the office. So after trying to do as much as possible in the office I decided enough was enough and popped out to take advantage of the lovely sunshine to try and capture some shots of the species-rich meadows on the croft land at Drumbuie & Duirinish, and to see if I could get any decent macro shots of dragonflies at Loch Achaidh na h-Inich.
This first shot was taken in the woods at the edge of the loch and shows two dragonflies mating. I like to soft background and the blue male dragonfly is pretty sharp. You can actually see the hairs on his back and the tiny spines on his legs when you zoom in to full size. This has been cropped a fair bit to remove a lot of the background distractions and to focus on the insects.
The next couple of shots are of the same two dragonflies from slightly different vantage points. I am not sure which I prefer most as they all have bright distractions that take away a bit from the overall quality of the images.
I also got a half decent shot of a Green Veined White butterfly by the side of the loch. This one is not entirely in focus because the flower was moving around a little in the breeze and I should have increased the ISO to get a faster shutterspeed, but it was the best one I managed to get.
While at the loch I captured this nice shot of Yellow Flag Iris in the sunshine and the following reflections of the reeds on the loch itself. I really like the ripple effect and the colours in this last one, it almost looks like smoke. The slow shutterspeed has smoothed out and blurred the reflections a little.
Finally, I stopped off at Drumbuie for a few shots of the croft meadows. There was a lot of motion going on in the grasslands due to the stiff NW breeze. I like these two shots which capture the scale of the view quite well and also the brightness of the day. There is no better place to spend time on a summer's day.
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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