Yesterday evening was one of those wonderful soft nights where the gentle breeze was just enough to keep the midges away without making it chilly, and the late evening sun provided lovely warm light on the landscape. I chose to go for a walk around the coast from Duirinish to Port an Eorna and on to Drumbuie and the views across to Skye were truly fantastic. My favourite plant, the globeflower, was in full flower at Drumbuie, overlooking the bay at Port Cam with the Skye hills in the background. The above shot is my favourite, taken with at small aperture (f/16) to get the star burst effect of the sun. I exposed for the bright sky as I didn't have my ND Grad filters with me, and brought out the details in the foreground in post-processing. One of the beauties of my fantastic Canon 5D Mark IV is that it has great dynamic range and when shooting in RAW it is possible to make these kinds of adjustments. The following are a few of the other shots from the evening.
This month has been incredibly busy and as a result I have not been out with the camera for nearly four weeks. However, yesterday, while returning to the house, I was taken by the amazing light shining through the vibrant green leaves of the trees. I returned with the camera to try and capture the essence of that wonderful light. I chose a small aperture to produce a star burst effect with the bright sun, and managed to balance the exposure reasonably well considering the dark shady foreground.
The amazing blossom of the crab apple tree in the background stands out in perfect purple against the bright lime green of the new leaves. The following shot is a close-up of the same blossom. I really like this image with the soft tones of the purples of the blossom against the smore muted green of the new leaves.
Inspired by the wonderful late-afternoon light I shot a few more close-up images of various plants in the gardens.
The South Skye Camera Club held its first outing for ages and ages tonight with a visit to Cill Chriosd and Torrin. After a quick meet up at the old churchyard at Cill Chriosd we split up to try and find some interesting shots of the area, agreeing to meet up again at the shore at Torrin. I shot this, and the following variation, from the side of the loch, managing to capture the crepuscular rays breaking through between the heavy cloud above Bla Bheinn. The colours were very muted with backlight from the low sun, and it was only when these occasional rays broke through that the scene merited a shot.
After a heavy cloud descended on the mountain I headed to the shore at Kilbride to see if a different angle, with the rocky shore in the foreground, might offer up something worthwhile. The light was not that great on the hill with the sun setting behind it, but the following shot captured the scene quite well, with the sun illuminating the clouds just above the top of the mountain. I liked the small rock pool in the foreground providing interest and colour among the rocks and the angles leading the eye into the view, countered by the spreading cloud pattern above Bla Bheinn.. Once again the colours were very subdued late in the evening and it was extremely cold for May.
The first overnight trip of the year, since lockdown, was to Uist this weekend. We were very lucky with the weather, bright and sunny most of the time but the north-easterly breeze did provide some more active fronts, including the above which moved quickly across the islands from east to west. The dark clouds and curtains of rain, offset by the bright sunny patch on the dunes and the amazing turquoise of the sea in the bay made this shot irristible.
Equally dramatic was the light at Clachan when we first arrived, looking west. Again the amazing turquoise colour of the sea made this scene truly wonderful. I particularly liked the renovated old croft house adjacent to the old abandoned one, and the ubiquitous telephone poles.
The trip involved quite a bit of driving, mainly to do a lot of bird watching - 64 species counted in two days, but I did manage a few shots in between. Not surprisingly, the white-tailed eagle was one of the main highlights, but we also had decent views of a male hen harrier, short-eared owl, and long-tailed duck. The following images are my other favourites from the trip.
The other evening I popped out for a short walk and took along my APS-C cropped sensor Canon 250D fitted with my Sigma 105mm macro lens, which is equivalent to 168mm on a full frame camera. I was inspired by the latest edition of Outdoor Photography magazine which had a really interesting article on photographing flowers and plants. There were not too many good photo opportunities during my short walk but here a few of my results - more practice needed and perhaps I should take the tripod with me next time as getting these remotely in focus was challenging.
A great day today, with the relaxation of travel restrictions we had a trip to Spean Bridge and Loch Arkaig to meet the in-laws for the first time in 16 months. We had a lovely picnic lunch in the sun at the Forestry car park at Eas Chia-aig waterfall. Despite it having been a long dry spell and most of the watercourses along our journey being pretty dry, this fall was still flowing well, although nothing like it would when the river is in spate. The falls are in three steps, these two being the lower parts, with a magnificent pool at the base. The early spring colours offset the brown of the pool and the blue sky really nicely, providing good contrast and texture in the woods around the falls.
I used my Zomei ND64 (6 stop) HD Schott glass filter to allow the use of a long shutterspeed, in this case 1 second. This produced a lovely smooth effect on the water, capturing the sense of motion really well. It is easy to overdo this by using too long an exposure and all the water just becomes a blur with no details remaining. I tend to favour 0.5-2 seconds depending on how much water is flowing. I took a few shots from different vantage points with the above being my favourite, but I like the following two as well. The first captures the rocks in the foreground, while the second was taken from between the two falls, and I like the patterns in the rocks, all of which are obviously covered in water when the river is in full spate.
Life has been very busy lately and that, combined with lots of rugby to watch at weekends during the Six Nations Championship, and some poor weather meant that it had been almost one month since I last went out for a walk with my camera. Today, after doing some work in the garden, I took advantage of the lovely afternoon weather to head over to Duirinish & Drumbuie for a walk round the coastal path. I almost opted to take my film camera with black & white film, so perhaps that mood was upon me as most of my final processed images from the walk ended up being in monochrome. When we have lovely blue sky with crisp white clouds I love the contrast provided by applying a red or yellow filter, which darkens the sky and makes the clouds pop. Today, I took my relatively portable cropped sensor Canon 250D with a Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 lens (equivalent to 16-32mm on a full frame camera), so ultra-wide angle landscape shots only and lots of scope to capture expansive skies.
The first image (above) was taken from close to the shore at Port Ban, looking across the croft land towards the Bealach an Ba in the background. I was drawn to this shot because of the lovely fluffy clouds suspended amid the vibrant blue sky, which is why I composed it with the sky filling the majority of the frame. I cropped the bottom off the image as the wide-angle lens had captured a lot of not very much in the foreground, which tended to detract from the composition. The image was initially post-processed in Lightroom Classic and then exported to Silver Efex Pro 2 for conversion to monochrome where I also applied a selenium tint (which was a favourite practice of Ansel Adams) and a light vignette as well as the rough border.
The remaining shots were taken aroud the coast looking either north towards the Bealach na Ba or south-west towards Skye. They are a mix of monochrome and selectively coloured black & white conversions which create a de-saturated and interesting alternative. These conversions were all done in Silver Efex Pro 2 which I really like as a plug-in to Lightroom and Photoshop.
Following a quick trip to Skye on Thursday, and a gentle coastal walk from Duirinish on Friday, both in beautiful sunny weather, things deteriorated a bit at the weekend. This gave me the opportunity to undertake some displacement activity and avoid many of the things I should have been doing, focusing instead on image processing and tidying up the old images on my phone. So, the following series of images were captured on a mix of dslr and mobile phone. Sadly, I have to admit that these modern mobile phones certainly support the old adage - the best camera is the one you have with you - and the quality can be amazing, especially in challenging light. So why do we bother with all that heavy professional kit???
The above shot is a case in point. I have very similar images shot on my full frame Canon 5D Mark II, but the above was shot on my mobile. When viewing on screen I have to say it is hard to tell the difference, although I am sure if I wanted to print this one at any size at all the deficiencies might start to become more apparent. This camera has an alleged 48 MP camera when set to hi-resolution, but at that level the zoom function does not work so it is a bit restricted in terms of application. Otherwise it defaults to 12 MP, still not too bad really and it fits into your back pocket.
The next few images were taken over the past couple of years at various locations so are a bit random, but I selected them from the many on my phone for a little bit of post-processing and fine tuning.
So having played with the old images on the phone, with a little post-processing in Lightroom, I also worked through what I had captured during the previous few days on Skye and at Duirinish. These were shot mostly on my Canon 5D Mark IV, apart from the last one which was on my cropped sensor 250D. Can you tell the difference in quality from the ones above? I know from processing them that there is a difference but it may not be too obvious on screen. Still worth having all that kit though!
After a lovely day with too many small things happening to allow time for a proper outing with the camera I managed a quick trip with my wife along to Kintail just in time for the developing blue hour. The snow on the hills was making them glow beautifully against an increasingly dark blue sky. I chose one of my favourite locations near Ratagan, overlookig Loch Duich with the Five Sisters of Kintail and Ben Attow as a backdrop. Using a combination of two of my ND Grad filters to balance the exposure, and my ultra-wide-angle lens (17-35mm), I set up in various places to try and get the old seaweed covered shore fence and the salmon trap in the foreground. In processing, I selectively adjusted the colour balance a bit to bring out the colours in the foreground, a bit more like it actually was, and the above shot is the result. I also tried converting this one to black & white using Silver Efex Pro II (see below)
On the way home the sun had pretty much set in the west but there was a faint glow behind the Cuillins on Skye and Eilean Donan Castle was all lit up for the night as usual. I made a snap decision to pull into the deserted car park and shot these two images.
I decided today was a day for a return to the woods of the Balmacara estate, specifically the oak-birch woods above Duirinish. I wanted to look close-up at some of the lichens and fungi growing on the trees as well as some of the amazing textures on the bark of the older trees. This first image is of three different types of bracket fungus growing on a birch branch. The branch is also covered in an array of lichens and bryophytes, almost completely smothering the bark. The subtle colours are wonderful, offset against the blue/purple backdrop of the winter birchwood.
I shot the next image very close to the first, on a different tree at a more oblique angle. I took several shots at different apertures to try and get a sense of the depth of field in the shot, with soft foreground and background, while still retaining a fully sharp focal point on the fungus. I think the first of the two (shot at f/16) is the better but the very shallow deth of field in the second (shot at f/4.0) has a certain appeal.
The tones and textures in these woods are fantastic and no matter how often you return you always see something new and wonderful. This old oak tree has a wonderfully striated stem, with a huge burr and a wide array of lichens, bryophytes and mosses. I took a selection of this tree from a wide angle right down to a close-up of the stem.
Just to the far sde of this old tree is an amazing group of large boulders, all covered completely in green moss. You can just see them in the background of the above shot, but from in front they are truly impressive, especially when they are set off against a clear blue sky as was the case today.
The next group of three images is of a white lichen (I think) but I do not know its name. I will check this out with a friend who is pretty good at lichens and I'll update this post once I find out what it is. Suffice to say I have never seen this one before. It is a rather lovely and delicate structure, somewhat like small white trees. I shot a wide angle of it in its location on the tree stem, a closer view and a very close macro shot of the strucutral detail. It was very hard to get a good focus on the detail as the depth of field was incredibly shallow, but I think it should be good enough to get an ID.
Finally, after finishing in the woods I headed home via Duirinish and Broadford, not specifically to take photos, but I ended up stopping at the Gorstan at Drumbuie and took this panoramic shot across the croft lands to the snow covered Applecross and Torridon hills. A magnificent view on a day like today.
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.
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