I has been one of those magnificent summer days with bright sunshine, blue skies and lots of fluffy white clouds. As such my thoughts turned to infra-red photography and I popped out briefly with my IR-converted Olympus E-P1 mirrorless camera. I tried a few different shots with mixed results but the one above, of the coachhouse here at Lochalsh Woodland Walks, was by far the best. The trouble with bright sunshine is it can sometimes lead to lense flare if the angles are wrong, especially at wider angles, so several of my attempts were less than perfect as a result. That being said, it is always good to practice, and it is the first time I have been able to test the IR method on a truly suitable day. The following are a few of the other examples, some in black & white and some in the 'goldie' format.
I honestly can't believe that it has been six months since I last posted on my blog, but it has!! I have genuinely lost my mojo when it comes to photography over the last few months, with a combination of work pressures and really poor weather in the north-west of Scotland (mostly), I just wasn't feeling the vibe. When I did get out I was generally just going through the motions and as a result haven't produced any notable images for quite some time. Anyway, I am feeling more in the mood and have some holidays coming up, so let's hope the energy returns and I can get back into posting more regularly.
The above image was taken this weekend at Alltandhu in the Coigach area of Wester Ross. There was a small flock of twite, a kind of brown finch which is actually pretty rare, flying around the campsite and feeding on the flowering docks. This one kindly perched, feeding, quite close to the car and I managed to get some shots through the open window before it flew away. There were also some wonderfully colourful lesser redpolls, a close relative of the twite, but sadly they were too mobile to get a decent shot. I have been trying for many years to get a dgood shot of a twite, without success as they mainly sit too far away, on fence wires and the like, but at last I have one - happy days.
While going through my more recent images I worked up the following collection of bird shots which I am pretty pleased with:
So today was one of those days when a bit of improvisation paid off, resulting in a lovely coastal walk at Drumbuie. Originally, I had planned to walk to Coille Dalavil on the Sleat peninsula on Skye, with my Border Collie, Broc. However, after a very short distance down the path, I realised I was going to have to negotiate a herd of feeding cattle. The area around the path was a quagmire and my dog is very nervous of cattle, with good cause. The cattle quickly saw the dog and started towards us, so I decided discretion was the better part of valour, and as there was no easy way around them due to the wet boggy ground, I headed back to the car and then off in search of a new location for a walk. I drove round the coastal road to Ord and we spent a little while on the beach while I took a few shots looking towards Suisinish and the Cuillins. The light was not generally great, with lots of cloud covering most of the main Cuillin ridge, but Bla Bheinn was occasionally peeping out of the clouds, showing off its amazing skyline. The above shot is the best of today's collection, with the little patch of sunlight on the Kilmarie peninsula in front of the mountain really adding to the scene.
I then decided to head home and opted for a walk around the coast at Drumbuie and Port an Eorna, back on the Balmacara Estate. Again, because of the likelihood of cattle feeding around the main croft access road I decided to do the circular route in an anit-clockwise direction, going down to Port an Eorna first and then round the coast as far as Drumbuie. The shot below was taken from the edge of the croft land at Drumbuie, looking westward towards Skye. The small islands in Port Cam, off Drumbuie, and the stunted trees on the foreground headland really set the scene nicely. I pretty much tried to balance the exposure to avoid losing detail in the sky but retaining as much detail on the sea and foreground as possible. I darkened the sky a little using a grad filter in post-processing, and I also lightened the foreground slightly, as it had become a bit silhouetted. The washed out winter colours of the land and the pale cerluean sky are beautifully offset by the warm glow of the low sun, just out of the scene to the left. The amazing subtle colours in the clouds really made this a compelling shot for me.
As expected the cattle were gathered around the main gate at Drumbuie, so rather than try to force my way through them with the dog I just about-turned and headed back the way i had come. While a bit disappinting it meant I did get a longer walk - much to Broc's delight. As I got back to the car the light was really improving, as the sun got lower in the sky, and I got the next two shots looking across the Duirinish crofts.
Finally on the way home I stopped the car on the roadside, hoping not to cause anyone too much of an issue, so I could try and capture the following shot, looking beyond Erbusaig towards Skye. The light was very dramatic and this view often appears very foreshortened, adding to the impact. I used my 45-200mm lens, which on thesmall mirrorless camera is equivalent to a 90mm lens of a full frame dslr, so it added a bit more zoom, increasing the foreshortening effect a little. The road leads the viewer's eye into the frame and the v-shape of the valley frames the dramatic background really well. Sometimes it pays to stop the car, although I am often not very good at doing just that.
So, while not exactly what I had planned, it turned out to be an excellent afternoon out for a lovely walk with the dog. Best laid plans are sometimes better changed!
Yesterday marked my first outing with the camera in 2022. I took the opportunity of a semi-decent forecast and a break in the snowy weather, to take a flying trip north to the Coigach area. As it happened the light could have been better for most of the trip but I did get a few opportunities for some decent shots. The first shot, appropriately at the gateway to Coigach is from Loch Culdromannan by the main Ullapool to Lochinver road, looking west towards Beinn Mor Coigach and Stac Pollaidh. The subtle muted colurs and the light snow covering made for a nice composition.
I then headed along the road to the Achnahaird peninsula and got a few decent shots of this wonderful landscape and amazing coastline. The following is a selection of the best ones.
Since it was the first day in ages with a bit of blue sky and some cloud, when I had time to try some photography, I thought I would do a bit more experimenting with infrared (IR). This was done using a 680nm converted Olympus Pen E-P1 camera. The final result in colour is shown above, the original shot from the camera looked like this one below:
The conversion of this image involves quite a few steps in Lightroom and Photoshop, including setting the white balance to get the correct tones initially, then switching around the RGB channels and fiddling with a range of other settings, curves, etc. to get the correct balance of colours. The result is interesting and the yellows contrast the blues in the sky nicely.
I also tried converting it to black & white using Nik's Silver Efex Pro III, the result is below:
The classic white effect, reminiscent of snow, is the result of the IR light being emitted from vegetation, particularly the green stuff. It can provide fantastic contrasty images but does require a fair bit of experimentation, and I need to keep practising - watch my blog for future posts on this subject.
My Annual Exhibition at the Steadings Gallery, Balmacara Square (IV40 8DJ) opens today at 11am. The exhibition, entitled 'All Washed Out', will run from today (27th November) until 2nd December, open daily from 11am to 6pm. I have produced an e-Book of the exhibition collection which can be downloaded, free of charge, here. However, if you wish to make a donation towards the Wester Ross Biosphere please get in touch via my email - here - and I will arrange for that to be made.
I also have a wide selection of canvas prints, mounted and unmounted prints, cards and postcards for sale, as well as the limted edition 2022 Iain Turnbull Photography calendar - an absolute bargain at £7.50. A lot of these prints will be on SALE at up to 50% off the normal retail price, so why not come along and see the exhibtion, grab a Christmas bargain, and have a chat.
After weeks of very poor weather and an almost complete lack of any photography, I found a couple of hours yesterday when the light was good and I had time to get out. I went for a spin round the Balmacara Estate and ended up at the Coral Beach at Plockton where I shot this image using a long exposure of 105 seconds. The long exposure produces this smooth sea effect and blurs the clouds due to movement, but also results in stationary objects remaining pin sharp. I used my Zomei HD glass ND1000 (10 stop) filter to reduce the amount of light reaching the sensor, and thus requiring the lonnger exposure, plus a Zomei HD glass ND0.9 (3 stop) graduated filter to darken down the brighter sky and balance the exposure.
Compositonally, I opted for more foreground and less background as the bulk of the sky was not very interesting and the beach had this wonderful pinky red coral exposed at low tide. The coral here is maerl which is a relatively rare form of coral found in Scotland's north-west coastal waters. The view is looking from the beach across the Inner Sound towards Skye and Raasay, one of three Marine Protection Areas in the UNESCO Wester Ross Biosphere.
While I was out I stopped between Erbusaig and Drumbuie and took a couple of shots from the roadside as the light was interesting, highlighting the colours and textures of the landscape at this time of year.
The patch of foreground light and the bright tops to the clouds brought my attention to this scene as I drove past, so I stopped and walked back to capture the shot. While this is nothing special in terms of dramatic composition, essentially just another bit of bog and moorland with a few hills in the background, the varied light makes it an interesting and compelling composition, typical of this part of the nort-west Highlands. I opted for my 70-200mm lens with a bit of zoom to focus on the loch and foreshorten the distance to the mountains of Skye, highligting the light and dark areas. With a wider angled lens the broad expanse of the image diminishes this type of effect illustrating the fact that sometimes it is the details in the landscape that make for interesting images, not just the wide expansive shots.
The following shot was taken from just along the road looking north towards the Applecross hills and the Bealach na Ba, which were also illuminated by the same low sunlight, contrasting the slightly darker foreground which was in shade. The amazing textures of the rocks really stand out in this low angled sunshine and the fine dusting of snow on the tops produces a really fine sharp definition against the sky.
I took advantage of a quick trip to Lochcarron this afternoon to take a walk up the south side of Strathcarron to the old dwellings at Arineckaig. This was my first time up as far as this, although I have seen these old buildings many times from the Balnacra road and promised myself I would visit one day. The light was at times excellent today, and at times flat and overcast with rain showers threatening throughout my walk. When the sun did peep through the gaps in the clouds the effect was wonderful, highlighting the early autumn colours in the landscape. The above view was taken on my way back to the car and I just managed to catch the sun on the trees around Arineckaig Lodge, showing off the varied shapes and forms of the different tree species really nicely. The looming clouds provided a lovely dramatic backdrop, contrasting marvellously with the illuminated foreground.
I love trees, especially as a photographic subject. Whether it is close-up shots of the bark or leaves, twigs and the like, or wider shots of specimen trees, or just woodland habitat, they never fail to provide variety and lots of opportunities, especially at this time of year. Today was one of those days when the light was behaving well, sometimes, and the following are a few shots of trees from my walk.
The above shot was taken looking north-east up Strathcarron from the deserted settlement of Arineckaig. There are the remains of several old dwellings that at some point in time have been abandoned, or possibly cleared - I do not now the local history. There is good land here whihc despite being poisoned by sheep grazing and neglect appears to be fighting the onslaught of rushes, in parts at least. This is yet another location among the many across the Highlands and Islands where people used to live in greater numbers than they do today. Yet there is demand for croft land and affordable housing, and still we continue to see over-grazing by sheep and deer and decent land being neglected when it could provide for more families. One wonders what it will take for our society to see the potential benefits of taking a different view of what our future can look like, where people work in harmony with nature to provide a sustainable future for both. That is certainly not what I was seeing today and the echoes of the community that lived here once upon a time were loud in my ears as I took the following image of another empty house.
I had an early start yesterday for a work trip to Inverewe and Gairloch so I decided to head out even earlier to try and catch some shots in Torridon at first light. As it happened the morning was not ideal, and if anything I was a bit earlier than was ideal, but with a scheduled meeting I had no time to hang around for better light. That being said, it was a wonderful calm dawn with great reflections of Beinn Alligin on Loch Torridon and Liathach & Beinn Eighe on Loch Clair. The shadow areas were pretty dark against a brightening sky, so for the above panorama I opted to try something I have not done before, and do an HDR panorama using that processing function in Lightroom. The result is pretty decent although it took ages for my computer to do the processing.
The next shot was taken by the shore of Loch Torridon, looking towards Beinn Alligin which was partially shrouded in patchy cloud/morning mist, creating a beautiful effect. Again the shadow areas were dark but I managed to lighten them in Lightroom by bringing up the exposure and the shadows a bit and then applying a digital ND grad filter to the sky and the sea. Again it worked quite well, although as it was early and the light level was pretty low I had to use a fairly high ISO so the image is a bit noisy - the same goes for most of these images.
Taken from the same spot, but looking to the right of the previous one I got the following image of the village of Fasag with the steep slopes of Liathach looming above. The beginnings of the the autumn colours reflected in the loch and the varied textures of the mountain make this an interesting shot I think.
At Loch Clair I took various shots of Liathach, over and above the top image at the start of this post with this one being my favourite. This was made using a single exposure as opposed to HDR and with the wonders of RAW images and post-processing I was able to recover some of the detail in the shadow areas and produce a colourful and compelling image I think. I tend to find the HDR option works in extreme cases (see below) but can produce weird abstractions around the edges of mountains and tree branches, so it is usually a last resort or a bit of an experiment. With modern camera sensors the dynamic range is much improved and they deal far better with extremes of exposure.
My penultimate image of the day is a classic view looking eastwards up Loch Maree from the Poolewe road. This was taken looking into the rising sun with the clouds on Beinn Airigh Charr adding drama to the scene. This is a view that is always different, sometime spectacular and sometime invisible in the cloud, but this morning it was wonderful. These conditions were extremely challenging for my camera so I did opt for the HDR approach. I used a small aperture to create the star effect with the sun. This time the HDR method worked pretty well, though I shoud have remembered to reduce the ISO as it is a bit noisy in what were the darker areas and I had plenty of shutter speed latitude - one lives and learns.
The final image was taken at the beach on the the Inverasdale road at Camas na Muic. This shot was taken looking back up the burn that runs out onto the beach, straight into the sun which was back-lighting the spectacular mackeral sky. I would have experimented a bit more with composition on this but unfortunately my EF 24-70mm lens stopped working - this being the bad bit of the mixed fortunes of the day!! It turns out it is the flex cable that controls the aperture iris that has failed, a common problem with zoom lenses apparently, and expensive to fix. That being said this is probably my best, and certainly my most expensive lens, so it will get repaired and hopefully I'll have it back soon. The photo is still pretty good, despite my angst at what occured when shooting it.
I have just approved the proof of my 2022 Calendars and am now awaiting delivery within the new week or so. I am very happy with the selection of images this year and I'm sure you will agree that they are a bit different from previous years. I have had a few orders since my original post so get in touch if you want to reserve your copy(ies). £7.50 each, plus P&P if you require them to be sent to you. Simply email me at email@example.com with your requirements.
I will be attending some local craft fayres over the next couple of months leading up to Christmas, in Plockton (24-25th Sept and 22nd-23rd October) and Dornie (15th Oct) so watch out on Facebook for those dates (Lochalsh Craft Group). I will be taking orders for calendars, until they arrive that is, and also selling canvas prints (some at discounted sale prices), A4 and A3 prints (some mounted, mostly unmounted) and cards. I am also planning a short exhibition at The Steadings Gallery, Balmacara Square from 27th November to 2nd December - the ideal opportunity to buy that perfect Christmas gift, or just to spoil yourself - why not?
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.