I got back yesterday evening from a couple of days farther north in Coigach, Assynt and Durness, with a detour home via Altnaharra and Lairg, and have spent a few hours today processing images. Despite lots of driving I had plenty of opportunity to get my camera gear out and enjoyed it very much. The above shot is one of my favourites from the tirp, although I have shot this old building before I think I prefer this angle and the clouds and mixed light on Suilven in the background make for a compelling composition. It looks good in desaturated colour as well although, personally, I prefer the monochrome version. I also had my Intrepid 5x4" film camera with me so I exposed a few sheets of film at this location as well. I now have 12 sheets of film ready for development, so a spell in the darkrom is required soon. Watch out for a post with the results.
The above shot is one of three that I took of old abandoned dwellings during my trip. This part of Scotland is of course well-known for the part it played in the story of the Highland Clearances so it is perhaps not too surprising that there is plenty of evidence of older habitation, often in some incredibly remote spots. It is, I think, somewhat ironic that so much of the north-west is not only denuded of people but also of trees and its natural vegetation, as a result of the extensive sheep farming that prevails there. So, as you will see in these three images, there is not a lot of woodland, and there is lots of empty space.
Solmar is a small collection of old structures located on the headland beyond the old church and the golf course at Balnakeil Bay in Durness. Just beyond the ruins it is possible to make out the ancient field patterns of what would once have been croft land which would have been cultivated. Beyond that are the amazing sands and torquoise waters of the Kyle of Durness with Fashven in the background. This image also works well in monochrome but in this case I prefer the colour version as the ruins stand out more clearly and the contrasting colours of the sand and the sea make it special, although the field patterns do stand out better in black & white.
The last of the three old buildings is located at Alnabad, above Strathmore, close by the minor road from Hope to Altnaharra. This is a slightly more recent structure than those at Solmar but has none-the-less been long abandoned, and given its location in the middle of nowhere it is not at all surprising. This shot was taken from beside the road, looking west towards the empty lands of the Reay Forest (an ironic name if ever there was one as there are virtually no natural trees here at all, only some ill-conceived forestry plantations). The clouds were looming over the hills but there was some light getting through in patches, helping to illustrate the landforms. The overall perception was one of desolation. It must have been a pretty unappealing place on a bad winter's night.
This one also works well in black & white.
The following shot is my other favourite from the trip. I really love the light that you get at Durness, and particularly on the Kyle of Durness with its amazing sands when the tide is out. On this occasion the tide was well out and, while it was pretty overcast, there were gaps in the clouds which were providing amazing shifting light on the sands and the many channels by which the River Dionard reaches the sea. I managed to time this shot to capture one of those shifting patches of light falling on the house at Altanan. The contrasting colours and light and shade make this a really dramatic exposure and one that I am sure I will print so I can have it somewhere on the wall.
At Achnahaird Bay the Sea Thrift was in full flower on the saltmarsh at the head of the beach. It was a truly impressive dislay of soft pink flowers, visible from the road. I made my way down to the beach specifically to try and capture some shots of this colourful feature, set against the rugged landscape of Coigach. These three are my favourites.
The following images are a few of the others I captured during the trip. Some of these work well and others perhaps less so, but if you don't try things out you never really improve. The black & white shots of the trees and the drystone wall didn't really come together as I had hoped, but I quite like them all the same.
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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