I had a short jaunt around the estate this afternoon with my Panasonic Lumix mirrorless camera and its lenscap fisheye lens. This is an interesting cheap little lens with plastic lens elements, fixed aperture of f/8 and only three focus settings, close-up (20cm), middle and distant. I took these shots in Aperture priority mode, as that is fixed anyway, and let the camera select the shutterspeed and ISO.
The above image is one rendition of three that I created from the same raw file. I like this one in black & white and the low vantage point and ultra wide-angle lens really emphasises her head and the span of her horns. I like the framing of this one with the bright blue sky (darkened here with a red filter appl;ied in Nik Solution's Silver Efex Pro) and the trees leaning inwards lsightly due to the wide-angle distortion of the lens.
The next two shots are from the same RAW file, the first, simply colour version of the one above. The second is a portrait crop which I think would make an excellent gift card.
The remaining images were all taken at Kirkton where there is an traditional old Lochalsh type barn which is category C(S) listed. Adjacent to the barn is a lovely path that leads to the saltmarsh and shore at Kirkton Bay and there were a few nice woody glades with bluebells and primroses worth a shot or two. For these shots I decided to stick with the wide-angle approach, aiming to get close to the foreground features while retaining an element of their context in the background. The exception is the last one of the ivy covered fence post which was taken using my 100-300mm lens.
This fabulous Eatser weekend brough great weather and all the spring flowers have bloomed and the trees are now properly in flush. I thought I would try and capture some of these early signs of colour in close-up mode.
This morning was an early start for the first croftland bird survey at Balmacara Estate. Today we were at Duirinish and Drumbuie from 6:30 to 8:45 am for what was a beautiful calm morning. We had 34 species of bird recorded in total if you include the great northern divers and a guillemot offshore. Highlights were the first wheatears of the year, of which the above was one very obliging male who sat nicely on this fence post while I took a few shots, also a single twite, lots of linnet and lesser redpoll and skylarks singing, reed bunting and a merlin. There can't be too many better ways to start a day than wandering around these wonderful crofting townships listening to the spring bird song as the sun rises above the eastern horizon, and no midges yet.
This is a macro shot of Aileen's Phalaenopsis Orchid (at least I think that is the correct type of orchid), which I noticed was in full flower today. It was sitting on the window sill nicely lit by the overcast daylight, against a beige backdrop. I decided to try a simple macro shot and set up pretty quickly using my 105mm macro lens set at a fairly small aperture to maintain a decent depth of field. The petals on the extreme left of the rear flower-head are a little bit bright at the edges for my liking, but otherwise it came out quite nicely. I tried a couple of different apertures which resulted in much shallower depth of field and didn't really like the results. The image didn't need much by way of post precoessing, just removal of dust spots from my sensor and a little adjustment to the exposure and whites and an small increase in the luminence of the reds and oranges to bring up the darkened areas at the centre of the flower heads.
Ths Sunday was a beautiful early spring day and I took the opportunity to take a road trip to Gairloch and Loch Ewe with my camera. Essentially it was really more of a reconnaisance visit to check out possibilities for future photo shoots but I managed to capture a few decent shots of what has to be one of the most picturesque parts of the country. There is a lot of fuss about Skye, but to be honest I think Wester Ross has evrything and more that you can get on Skye. Fabulous mountains, beautiful coastline, magnificent beaches and lots of lovely little communities.
The above shot is one that I have often thought about stopping for but have until now never quite been there with my camera when I had the time and the conditions. The remnants of snow on the hills makes their cragginess really show well. The reflection in the loch, with the old fence post in the foreground adds drama and a little human interest.
The next few shots were taken at Melvaig and at the lighthouse at Rubha Reidh near Gairloch. This was a new road for me to explore as I had never gone beyond Big Sand before, which is quite hard to believe given the number of times I have been to Gairloch and I worked at Poolewe for a summer back in 1986. This is certainly an area I will go back to as there is an interesting walk further along the coast towards what looks like a great isolated beach at Cama Mor just about 1km beyond the lighthouse.
After visiting Melvaig I headed back towards Gairloch and then on to Loch Ewe and Inverasdale, and some of my old haunts from 1986. The landscape is enormous with the Torridon hills to the south and looking north-east across Fisherfield, and this can be challenging to capture effectively on the camera. I resorted to a few panoramas as follows..
It feels like it has been a very long time since I found the time to go out with no reason other than to take some photos, but today I managed it. The light was not spectacular but the mix of blue sky and clouds did allow for some interesting shots. The above shot was taken from near the top of the bealach and is composed of five portrait oriented shots stitched together in Adobe's Lightroom.
For all of the shots I shortlisted today I have processed tham in colour and B&W with the B&W versions presented together at the foot of this post.
The following shot was taken half way up the bealach, showing the road climbing up the right side of the corrie and the waterfall at the centre of the hanging valley. This is a classic glaciated landscape.
The following shot was taken from the same location looking the other way, back towards Loch Kishorn. The localised squall of wet weather makes this shot I think.
The next two shots were taken by the old bridge looking up Allt Coire nan Arr, an old favourite of mine, but no rainbow this time. For the first wider shot I used a faster shutter speed with the camera on a tripod, which stopped the water more sharply. For the second, portrait shot, I used a slower shutter speed to blur the waterfall but sadly this did mean the image is not quite as sharp as it might have been. I should have found a way to use the tripod for this one despite the awkward footing in the burn.
The final two shots were taken looking across Loch Coire nan Arr towards the hills above the coire itself. One day I must go up to the top of these spectacular hills to see the view looking back down on the loch.
And these are the black & white versions...
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.
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.