This morning began with clear skies to the east and a few strung out clouds to the west. When the sun started to rise if the reflected light in the west produced this amazing effect, looking more like a sunset than a sunrise. This shot was taken looking west at 8:15 this morning. I actually took four shots to make a very wide panorama covering about 180 degrees hence the strange curved effect of the clouds, which actually ran more-or-less across the view in reality. However, it was the light that attracted me to this shot. I also took a zoomed shot towards the Cuillins ans the Skye Bridge (below) which really shows the strength of the colours, I did almost no post processing on this one, apart from removing a few dust spots and reducing the noise a little.
I had to travel to Achnashen for a morning meeting so left a little early to try and cacth a few shots on the way. The following one of the Bealach na Ba came out OK despite the sky being a bit dull and uninteresting. The little bits of light shining on the hills made this worth stopping I think. This was taken using my Sigma 150-500mm lens at 403mm zoom handheld using the lens' excellent image stabilisation.
Finally I stopped just short of Achnasheen for a shot I had envisgaed many times but never had decent light when passing this spot until this morning. On the south-east side of the road just about 1 mile south of Achnasheen there is a layby with a gate leading to a footpath, or rather a boardwalk which crosses the bog to an old cottage or bothy. The boradwalk snakes a little across the big after crossing the river in a south-easterly direction, straight into the rising sun. Today it was very cold, c. -2 degrees and had been colder, so the bridge and boardwalk were covered in frost. I took this shot from the start of the bridge looking along the line of the boardwalk. I converted the image in Nik's Silver Efex Pro using the Low Key preset to emphasise the sillhoutte effect and reduce the glare from the sun. I really like this one.
Towards the top of the previous image you will see a post with a diamond shot on top, this was the focal point of the following image which I just had to take. Only in the Highlands....
I took the opportunity of having a free afternoon with some interesting light to make a trip over to Glenelg for a visit to the brochs. The main aim was to take some shots with the new View Camera, which I did and am now eagerly awating the opportunity to develop them. However, I also took my trusty digital kit and got some nice shots.
There are two brochs in Glen Beag this being the larger of the two, Dun Telve, which is apparently the second highest remaining broch in the coutnry. I took a variety of shots but this is my favourite with the two trees and a fairly atmospheric sky. For all of these shots I was shooting against a much brighter sky so it was really difficult to get a good exposure on the structure while retaining any detail or colour in the sky. Hence, I used the auto-bracket funxtion on the camera to shoot three shots of each photo, one at normal exposure, one at +2 and one at -2 stops and then merged them using Lightroom's HDR merge tool. While I don't like using this tool overly much there are times when shooting into a bright background when it works well. The following shots show the structure from different viewpoints illustrating its shape and form quite well.
I also took an interesting close-up shot of the amazing stonework which looks cmpletely different in colour to black & white. These structures are double skinned with tie stones holding the two walls together and somehow this strucutre provides excellent strnghts without needing to be too heavy which allowed the cnsiderable height to be achieved.
I also visited the smaller f the two brochs, Dun Troddan and this was my favourite shot, taken from below a large sycamore tree which grows just to the side of the broch.
On the way home I stopped at the top of Mam Ratagan and took a shot of Kintail and the hea dof Loch Duich. I don't think this is a aprticularly great shot but it shows the hills with a bit of snow and some nice light on the more distant hills. This is a panorama of two shots.
Then finally as a spur of the moment decision returned via the old Carr Brae road and got this lovely shot of Loch Alsh, looking towards Skye. I didn't use any filters on this one, preferring to go for more of a sillhouette effect and focusing on trying to capture to warm light on the loch and in the clouds.
I had a few chances to take some interesting shots today with at least three trips to Plockton at different times of the day. The shot of the boat above was taken mid afternoon just before the weather front began to arrive from the west so I caught the last of the good light. We have had a few days of strong-ish southerly wind and the clouds reflect this quite clearly, adding some real interest to what would otherwise have been a bit of a boring blue sky. I decised to try converting this to black & white using Nik Collection's Silver Efex Pro (below) but am not sure which I prefer, both have their merits.
I also took a shot along Harbour Street which I quite like in black & white. The houses lead you into the image from left to right and the pampas grass adds a focal point in the foreground too.
The following shots were taken on the croft land at Duirinish loking towards Drumbuie this morning. The ground was lightly frozen with the grass a bit on the frosted side and the sun was just rising above the hills to the south. The first shot was taken just as Sgurr Coinneach was lit up in the distance but the foreground was still in shade. The second one, I took several times but this one had a mix of sunny areas and shade in Drumbuie but the Cuillins in the background are nicely lit up.
Finally I stopped for this shot of the Cuillins from the road at Badicaul. The hills were pretty murky as the weather started to come in from the west but the islands provide a bit of foreground interest as well.
Abnother fantastic sunrise this morning. This shot was taken from our back garden looking south-east over Loch Alsh. I merged four shots together into this panorama in Lightroom. It was dfifficult to get the exposure right as I was in a hurry and was using my old Canon 500D and with the panorama approach there was a bit of variation across the four shots. I sorted this out in Lightroom and Nik Collection's Viveza plugin and I think it just about reflects what it actually looked like. Afterwards there were some lovely cloud formations for about half an hour or so until the sun was properly up but I had to travel over to Plockton so didbn't have the chance to take any more shots.
Work today involved a visit with Steve Carter to Plexus Media at Cromarty to discuss our Crofting Education website. The ligth on the way through was aboslutely wonderful but due to timing I didn't feel like I could justify any photo stops. That being said I did take my new Intrepid camera with me with a very specific target in mind. I wanted to try, on my way home, to get a shot of a lovely stand of birch trees just outside Contin. The shots above were taken at the same spot as I took my first ever photo with the new 4x5 film camera. I am not sure hw the large format image will come out but it will be black & white. I did find it ver difficult to sort out the focus as the image on the ground glass was not enormously bright, maybe a better dark cloth is needed, but I tried a bit of tilt to maximise he depth of focus and it will be intersting to see how it comes out. These images will act as a good comparison when I get the film printed.
On the way home I also stoped just east of Achnasheen to photofraphy an old ruined house that has often attracted my interest. Today the low light in the west was creating a lovely soft tone and the sky was interesting too. The two images below are the result. For the second one I opted for a sepia tone as I felt it was in keeping wth the image and I also added a bit of grain. Any comments welcome.
An early start this morning to try and catch the first rays of light on the Cuillins from Elgol Beach where I met up with Yvonne MacDonald and Audrey Campbell. I took all my gear with the hope of trying out the new large format film camera. However, it was a wee bit breezy and I was having some difficulty sorting out the dark cloth that is needed to shade the view on the ground glass of the camera and could not get the focus to work. Not sure if it was set up properly but suffice to say it worked when I got home and tried in the comfort of the house. Better luck next time I guess. Anyway, I did take a couple of images with the medium format Bronica ETRSi and will look forward to seeing them when they are develped. As a result though I did end up using the trusty digital and here are a few of the images.
The above was taken close to the shore among the large boulders looking towards Loch Coruisk with a variable ND filter attached to my wide angle lens. This produced a long exposure of 30 seconds and with the waves crashing among the rocks it produced quite a nice misty effect. Not sure what is going on in the top right corner though as I had a bit of flare there, maybe just an aberation of using a cheap filter.
I took a few other shots focusing on the intersting rock formations on the shore and using an ND8 Grad filter to try and balance the brighter sky witht he relatively dark foreground. The image below was the best one I got.
On the way to Elgol the sun was rising above Knodart and despite wanting to get to Elgol fr the sunrise, and being a bit tight for time, I decided to stop at the top of the hill above Kilmarie and took this shot towards Ladhar Bheinn. I was in a bit of rush so instead of setting up the tripod and digging out the lens tripod mount I simply took this hand held resting on the roof bars of the car. The Sigma 150-500mm lens does have pretty good image stabilisation and I opened the aperture wide open to get as fast a shutter speed as possible. Only afterwards did I think I could have increased the ISO as well. One day I will remember all these things, even when rushing.
On the way back home we stopped at the side of Loch Slapin for the ubiquitous shot of Blabheinn. I took this as a panorame of two shots using my ND8 Grad filter again to balance the exposure. I really like the bright colours in this one, lit up by the sun from the south (left on the image). Also, the fact that there is cloud on the very top of the mountain adds interest I think.
Finally I stopped at Cille Chriosd church for a couple of architectural black & white shots. This old ruined church is a favourite photo stop witht eh old buildings, grave stones and monuments and the old yew trees. These were taken in colour but converted to black & white using Nik's Silver Efex Pro with a red filter added to darken the deep blue sky.
Being Friday and such a lovely afternnon I decided to pop out of the office and check a few things on the estate, and of course took my camera with me. I would have liked to have been able to use the new large frmat film camera but that will take time to sort out so I resprted to the trusty DSLR.
When you have been photographing an area for a very long time, and particularly when you have been doing it alot over the past couple of years it is sometimes a bit difficult the get inspired and you feel that you are just taking the same old views, which is usually true. However, the light is always changing and sometimes you notice a new viewpoint or perspective as was the case with the above photo. I was just walking back to the car on the Duirinish grazings when I noticed the two trees which I though would be good silhoutted against the blue sky and setting sun. I took a few straight shots but also auto-bracketed by 2 stops since I was looking straight into the sun and ended up using those for an HDR merge in Lightroom. The above photo is basically the result with little other edits, apart from removing the usual dust spots from the sensor and a couple of light aberations.
The following shot was taken not long before the above one at Port Ban, near Port an Eorna. This is a favourite photo spot of mine and the light was not too bad, would have been better but I ended up talking to a friend for a while beforehand - you now who you are!. Anyway, for this photo I wanted to try and get the foreground rocks and beach in view with the island in the mid distance and the Bealach an Ba in the background all in resonable focus. I guess this si where the new large format camera would have helped, but in this case I opted for f/22 to maximise the depth of field. Again I used a light ND Grad filter (ND2) to try and avoid the brighter sky being blown out. Perhaps I should have opted for a strnger one but I am just messing around a bit wit them just now and learning as I go. The result was that the foreground was a bit darked than I wanted but I did a little adjustment in Nik's Vivezia plugin and the rsult is pretty decent I think.
The final image is one that resulted as a spontaneous response to some old fishing gear on the shore at Port Ban. I was keen to try and do something different from the usual landscapes so thought I wouold try these old ropes and a bouy as a sort of still life. I originally took the shot with the whole bouy and the ropes in view but then zoomed in as afar as the lens would allow and I much prefer the toe closer perspective. I had always intended to covert it to black & white as the colours were not great, a bit washed out and the subject was in quite deep shade.
My wonderful wife surprised me this Christmas with a totally unexpected and rather fantastic gift, an Intrepid 4x5 view camera. She had taken advice from the inspirational Simon Larson about what kit was needed and also provided a fine Schneider Super Angulon 75mm f/8 lens. Although this is a brand new, hand-built camera the design goes back to the early days of film photography. Once upon a time these large format cameras were state of the art and many current day photographers would argue that theys till produce the best images. Thefilm is 4x5 inches in size, much larger than the more common 35mm film we are all used to, and certainly a lot lerger than a modern digital sensor. Hence, you get incredible clarity and the negatives can be used to produce very large sharp printed images. Not only that the front element, which moves in and out to focus, hence the bellows, can also be move sideways or tilted and swivelled to adjust the perspective and the focal plane, allowing a wider rnage of in-camera manipulations to achive enoprmous depth of focus and overcome wide angle distortion for example. Below are some images I took of the camera this lunchtime. I look forward to trying it out, maybe this weekend but it will be a while before you see any results as my next step is to set up a dark room to develop the film..... Happy Days.
I took the above photo this morning when I was out and about on the Balamacara Estate. It was a pretty dull overcast sort of a day but the sky was much brighter than the land so I decided to use my graduated ND filer to try and get a more even exposure. I opted for my strongest filter, the ND8 Grad and as you can see it has certainly darkened down the sky a fiar bit. I also underexposed the overall image by one stop and then adjusted the exposure levels in Lightroom a little, not much though. This one was cropped to remove the boring foreground, just lots of grass, and to bring more emphasis to the sky.
I also converted the image to black & white using Nik's Silver Efex Pro with their High Structure - Coarse preset I applied a modest red filter and increased the brightness level a bit too and the result is OK.
In terms of compostion I was tryig to capture the sense of the numerous fences marking the boundaries of the runrig croft strips running across the image. I am not too sure this comes across in the landscape image but I cropped it (see third image below) to effectively zoom in a bit and I think that sense of the geometry is perhaps a little bit clearer?
After a couple of windy, grey and snowy days this afternoon cleared away to some lovely winter sunshine and blue skies. It had been a long week in the office so I took the opportunity to escape for a sort while towards the end of the day and headed up to Loch Scalpaidh to try and capture to last of the sunshine. The best shot, above, shows what abeautiful late afternoon it was. Although very cold the loch was still not frozen and in this part atleast was calm enough to produce an outstanding reflection of the sun setting behind the clouds. You can just see Sgurr Coinneach in the distance to the left, whcih was actually much whiter than it appears here. I used a my smallest aperture and widest angle lens to try and get the foreground in focus as well as the background.
The following shot was taken towards the far end of the loch with a closer study of the cold loch water, the snow and the fading sunshine behind the clouds reflected on the water. I quite like the composition and the colours.
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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