My 2020 Steadings Gallery Exhibition gets underway in a matter of hours today, running until 14th August at Balmacara Square. The event is open daily from 11am to 5pm and entry is free. As a taster of what you will see I have prepared a pdf e-Book of the images with a little description and commentary from me. The e_Book can be found here. It is best viewed in the two-page view as you get the image on one page and the text on the adjacent. I hope you enjoy it and I welcome feedback. I hope to see lots of visitors to the exhibition over the next two weeks. All images are available for sale in a variety of formats so if you are interested please get in touch via my Contact page.
I have just sorted out, printed, mounted and framed all my photos for my 2020 Steadings Gallery Exhibition which opens this Saturday. The exhibition runs for two weeks this year, starting on the 1st August and will be open daily from 11am to 5pm. There is no particular theme to the exhibition, but it includes a range of different formats including large and medium sized canvases, framed prints and mounted and un-mounted prints. There are a selection of my more recent foray into photo painting and some of my desaturated photos along with the more traditional colour and black & white images. All exhibited photos will be for sale along with the mounted and un-mounted prints, greetings cards and postcards, and custom orders can also be placed.
The Steadings Gallery is operated by the National Trust for Scotland at their Balmacara Estate in Wester Ross and is located in Balmacara Square, IV40 8DJ. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic we will be operating a 'One Group In - One Group Out' system to keep everyone safe and visitors will be expected to adhere to the Scottish Government's Social Distancing Guidelines, including wearing a face covering when in the building and avoiding touching the exhibitions. Unfortunately, the toilets will not be available for use by the public.
Also open in The Square will be the NTS Visitor Information Centre (unstaffed), Beth's Cafe and Delicatessen, the 'Home in The Highlands' shop (please check their respective websites/social media platforms for details of opening times). There is also a good range of walks available from The Square so why not pop down and enjoy the full experience.
Enquiries can be made directly to Iain Turnbull at email@example.com or by calling 07733674947.
At the weekend I had a brief opportunity to visit the beach at Ashaig on the Isle of Skye. I wanted to try out my 10 stop Zomei HD Schott Glass ND1000 filter to see how it worked in terms of colour distortion. This is a relatively recent acquisition, having previously relied on a cheap circular variable ND filter, with poor results, with images showing a dstinct magenta colour cast. I have to say that I was very pleased with the results from this filter, with no colour cast to speak of, and clear images. I tried combining the filter with the same make of ND grad filter to darken the sky a bit, but the effect was that all the dust on the lens surface caused lots of magenta aberrations. I need to learn to clean my camera kit more often. Anyway, the result was good from the filter perspective and I look forward to using it more in the future.
This past week was very exciting after all this time in lockdown, with a four day trip to visit our friends at Paible, North Uist. The weather was not at its best but we did have some breaks in the overcast providing some moments of interesting light and some sunshine. This shot was taken on our first evening, looking south-west across Loch Sandary towards Cnoc an Torainn. I have processed it with my new semi-desaturated look, which I am getting quite into. I feel that there is a tendency with digital images to over-process and produce overly saturated images and this is a kind of reaction to that.
The following images are a mix of landscapes and some of our friends and their two Westies on the beach.
So this weekend, at last it was possible to get out and about with the camera, a little further than five miles at least. The above photo of Bla Bheinn from the shore of Loch Slapin is my favourite from the two days, just managing to catch a brief bit of light on parts of the mountain and the moody dark sky adding to the sense of drama.
On Saturday I had to pop up to Kinlochewe, so took the opportunity to drive on towards Gairloch. I had never been right along the road to Red Point, so decided to take a bit of reconnaisance trip, despite the light being a bit flat and the rain being a constant threat. I took the chance of using my Intrepid 5x4" large format camera and will soon be in the darkroom to see how those exposures come out. However, as always, I took along my trusty Canon EOS 5D Mark II and lenses producing this image, more-or-less the same composition as the large format exposures. This is looking down the Inner Sound with the Skye hills on the right and in front. It looked a bit flat in colour but the conversion to monochrome definately adds something to the sky. The seat provides a bit of a leading line into the frame.
On the way home I took the Shieldaig to Applecross road, while it was still not too busy with tourists, and shot these two images, the first looking back across Loch Torridon, which might make it into my collection of Passing Places.
The second image is from the top of the Bealach na Ba, looking across one of the rockiest expanses of ground anywhere in the country. I particularly liked the way the distant peak (Carn Dearg) was showing intermittently through the low cloud. The colours of the stones in the foreground are amazingly red.
This afternoon, I crossed the bridge to Skye, although I had little hope of anything good with the camera, with heavy rainfall as I headed towards Kyle of Lochalsh. However, as is so often the way with the west Highlands, the weather can change in a second, and so it was when I arrived at Torrin. The first image, at the top of this post, is definately my favourite from the day, capturing that elusive moment with bright patches of sunlight through the clouds in an otherwise dark and brooding landscape. I also took the chance to shoot some more with my Intrepid large format camera, and the next image is approximately the same composition I selected, I will post those images once I have developed the film along with the one from yesterday. The film version will be in black and white, this one is desaturated colour.
The final shot was taken from just below the trees in the previous image, looking up towards Beinn Dearg Mhor. The contrasting colours of the mountain from the tree and the grassy foreground, set against the grey cloudy sky appealed to me.
It was a bit of a wet day today so I thought I would pass the time trying out some photo painting to create a watercolour effect with some of my images. I did a bit of research over the past couple of days and there are lots of ways of doing this, some more complex than others. Today I discovered this guy (Seven Styles) who has produced a Photoshop Action file that randomly convertes your image into a watercolour. It takes a bit of adjustment afterwards to get it the way you want it but it is certainly effective. The top image is of a small square in Saumur where we had a coffee and ice cream a couple of summers ago. I have always wanted to paint this kind of scene in watercolour, so I thought I would try it out digitally. I like the effect although it is a bit of a cheat I guess.
The following are a few more examples from my experimentation this afternoon and evening. As always, feedback is welcome.
Over the past week or two I have been very focused on tidying out my Lightroom Catalog, or should I say catalogs. Over the years since I started using Lightroom I had managed to create a complete buarach of copies of images. I began the process by consolidating all my images into one single catalog, containing over 21,000 images, many of which were duplicates. I gradually worked through them all and now have just over 4,000 left. It took a great deal of courage to finally press the delete button and remove the discarded images once and for all. No doubt I will discover that I have lost a few by mistake but I feel strangely elated at having completed the task.
One interesting aspect of going through all your old images is that you see how you have progressed in terms of post-processing of the RAW images. In some cases I know I could do much better now, but many still stand up to scrutiny I think. As a result though, I decided to take ten of my favourite images and try an alternative approach to their processing. I chose to experiment with a more desaturated look. I feel that too often one gets subconciously into a habit of over processing and creating highly saturated and contrasty images. While this can add drama and punch to your work, it can also become a bit predictable. Anyway, here are the results of my little experiment and I would welcome feedback via the comments option below.
This eveniing's walk yielded some lovely flowers and amazing light in the trees at Lochalsh Woodland Park. The above shot is of some beautiful umbellifers in the deep shade of a conifer stand. The minute I saw this scene I new it would look good in black & white with a beautiful range of tonality. The colour version is lovely, but the overall green hue tends to detract from the whites of the flower heads.
The next shot is of the fantastic buttercup meadow where the grass has yet to be cut, one of the benefits of the pandemic. Buttercups are often overlooked as flowers but they bring a wonderful golden colour to the grassy areas when left to flower.
The next shot was an attempt to capture the glorious light shining through the trees. I often find this challenging to photograph as the scene is very contrasty, between the brightest areas, usually the sky, and the darkest shadowy parts and the tree stems. This one worked pretty well I think. I reduced the clarity a little in Lightroom to soften the glow a little, more in keeping with the atmosphere at the time.
The last shot is of a Northern Marsh Orchid. I had literally just finished saying "I am surprised there are no orchids here" when I spotted this specimen. This is one of around 11 or 12 species of orchid found on the Balmacara Estate.
Another beautiful sunny day here today and I popped out to try some shots with my 70-200mm lens on my cropped sensor camera. This provides a 1.6x additional zoom as the lens is designed for a full frame camera, thus 200mm equates to 320mm when used with this camera.
This first image, in the Sunken garden at Lochalsh Woodland Walks, was taken to try and capture the broader perspective while at the same time retainng shallow depth of field. It worked reasonably well, but the contrast between the flowers and the background was not as great as I had hoped, so I applied a bit of desaturation to the whole image while retaining a bit more colour and clarity in the flowers and foreground stems.
The following image is of the same clump of dandelions but from closer-in capturing greater detail. In this case, I feel the flowers stand out much better. The central flowers are pretty sharp, despite being blown around in the breeze a bit, so I dropped the clarity on the image producing a nice soft feel.
I am an amateur photographer who is also a Chartered Geographer 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.