I am currently studying with the West Highland College - UHI towards an HNC in Photography. For our Graded Unit we have to undertake a small project on a theme of our choosing, and produce ten final images. I have chosen to do a study of the "Celtic Rainforest in Wester Ross". In fact I am planning to expand the project for the whole of the year to allow me more time to cover the wide range of native woodlands in the Wester Ross Biosphere area. The HNC project has to be completed by May, thus missing so many of the seasonal differences in the woods.
So today, on my way to a meeting in Torridon, I set off early to try and do a bit of reconnaissance of one of the nicest native pinewoods in the area, at Beinn Shieldaig. The weather was not great and I had very little time between first light and my meeting, so I was a bit rushed. I spotted a nice old pine, standing out from those around it and decided to take a pop at it.
As part of my research for the project I have been looking at some inspirational photogrpahers and one of my favourites in Michael Kenna. He is known for his atmospheric black & white images of trees. He still shoots in film, mainly using a Hasselblad camera, but occasionally using a simple Holga medium format toy camera. I have decided to try and use some film for my project but will also be shooting in digital. Today I took my digital kit, but also my Holga 120N with old, out-of-date, Kodak Tri-X Pan film (380 ISO!). The results of that will have to wait until the film is finished and processed, but this post contains a couple of the digital images from the trip which I have processed into black & white in Nik Collection's Silver Efex Pro II. I have selected the Kodak Tri-X 100 ASA film option in an attempt to replicate the old style of the film. I like the effect and can only hope that the film versions come out as well.
On the way to Shieldaig I stopped just above Tornapress to take this shot looking towards A' Chioch, Beinn Bhan and A' Phiot in the snow. It was a very dull morning, with limited light, but quite atmospheric.
These are some shots from my first foray out with the camera in 2020, on the 3rd January. I had only a short while available to me so I headed over to the Lochalsh Woodland Park, just over 1/2 mile from the house.
I am about to undertake a photographic study of the native woodlands of Wester Ross (more in a later post) so wanted to practice some techniques of shooting in woodlands. I have been doing a bit of research online and it seems that using larger lenses and shallow depth of field can produce nice soft atmospheric shots. This first shot was taken with my new-ish 70-200m f2.8 lens with a long exposure (due to the low light level) on a tripod. I have done very little to this image other than slightly increase the clarity of the bark on the main tree and some minor adjustments to the lights and darks. I love the shape of the tree trunk and the trees behind break up the background really nicely.
I took a few shots in this area and then went over the road to the park and shot some more of the pathways and one or two close-ups of bits of trees and lichens, etc, all taken with the same 70-200mm lens..
As we approach the end of 2019 I thought I would post a selection of my favourite shots from this year. It has been a year of stop-start photography, with much of my time being dedicated to thmy HNC Photography course work as opposed to my own ideas and projects. Therefore, I have taken fewer images than I would normally expect in one year, but I think there are some good ones. Let me know which are your favourites.
I have just been informed that one of my photos, Old House, Suisinish on the Isle of Skye, has just been published in the Landscape Photography Magazine. This is a digital magazine for landscape photographers and the article can be found at https://landscapephotographymagazine.com/2019/old-house-suisinish-isle-of-skye-scotland-by-iain-turnbull/
This is the first time I have had a photo published so I am very pleased. It has proved to be a popular image, captured very recently as part of a study of abandoned dwellings in Skye & Wester Ross.
This is your last chance to order one of my Iain Turnbull Photography 2020 calendars. They would make an excellent Christmas present for those family members who love the Highlands & Islands. There are only about 30 left so if you want one, email me before they go and I'll arrange collection/delivery. The price is £10 plus P&P (which will be kept to a minimum). Please share this post with your friends.
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.
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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