The last couple of days have produced some snowy weather and as always the hills look fantastic when dusted with the white stuff. Yesterday I had the pleasure of a work trip over to Strome Castle at North Strome (near Lochcarron). Afterwards I quickly nipped over the hill towards Kishorn to see if it was worth catching a shot from one of my favourite viewpoints. The above shot is the result. To be honest the light was pretty flat and the colours very muted, although about 20 minutes after I left to head home, I could see the whole scene lit up by sunlight from the south side of Loch Carron. Anyway, I find these muted winter coluors lend themselves to conversion to black & white, creating more texture and drawing out the tonality more than colour does. This is not one of my best by any means but still nice to see the hills with snow on them.
Late this afternoon, I was driving towards Kyle from Duirinish and there was some really dramatic light on the Cuillins of Skye with dark blue clouds above and dark blue sea below. I stopped at Badicaul and shot the image below with my 70-200mm lens, focusing in on the illuminated area of the landscape. You can see the snow squalls coming down form the north-east against the very dark and dramatic sky. I should probably have increased the ISO and gone for a faster shutterspeed, but I keep forgetting I can do that with my new camera without getting too much noise. Soon I'll get used to it, hopefully. As a result this image is not quite as sharp as it might have been. At least I managed to capture the amazing colours of the hills on Skye illuminated by the low sun from the left, just squeezing below the lowering clouds.
Today I had reason to visit the north end of Skye for work purposes, so I took my camera bag in the hope that the light would be kind to me and I might get a decent image or two. On my way home I popped up to the parking area at the top of the Quiraing pass to find it entirely empty - that has to be a first. I guess tourists are sticking to the Covid rules which is good to see. So, I headed along the footpath towards the Quiraing to what must be one of the most popular photographic viewpoints on the island. I have previously vowed never to go for this cliched view but since it was quiet, I thought I ought to take my chances. The timing wasn't ideal in terms of light, but the clouds showed some promise and there was a bit of sunshine here and there, helping to bring out the textures in the landscape.
The above image was created using a 3 stop ND grad filter to balance the exposure of the sky with the darker shaded areas of the east facing slopes, with some success. I processed the image in Lightroom initially and liked the result (see below) but as always I opted for a more desaturated, and to be honest, more realistic finished product above, which really brings out the contrast and atmosphere of this most dramatic landscape.
I also produced a black & white version, using Silver Efex Pro II for the conversion from the processed raw file (see below). I do like the monochrome version and I applied a selenium tone and slight vignette to this image, resulting in a nice clear tonality I think.
The view looking north is also rather spectacular, with amazing rocky outcrops and lovely variations in texture and tones with the different surfaces, vegetation and the sky (see below).
This morning's dog walk was testament to the old adage that the best camera is the camera you have with you. The sunrise colours had been looking like they would develop into something special and then they started to fade just as I was heading out with the dog. As a result I decided not to take my proper camera and headed out. Fortunately, I did take my mobile phone, and it does have a pretty good camera. As we headed towards the west end of the Lochalsh Woodland Walks the colours just developed into a spectacular sunrise, as you can see from the image above, no editing worth talking about, honest. What a wonderful way to start the day!
Following yesterday's walk to Loch Scalpaidh I decided to return to the start of the walk today to try and capture some macro shots of the wonderful frost crystalisation on the footbridge and vegetation near Balmacara. The above shot is my absolute favourite, taken with my Sigma 105mm macro lens plus two extension tubes to get as close in as possible to the frost crystals on the hadrail of the bridge. The shot is backlit by the sun to the south, providing this lovely soft, warm glow and illuminating the crystals perfectly. The next shot shows the handrail from a little further away by way of context.
The remaining images below are a selection of other subjects I shot in the same vicinity. The light was fantastic for this type of photography, with areas of shade which made it possible to avoid too many blown out areas, but also with some warm backlight from the low sun.
So, 2021 has started with excellent weather, unlike the end of 2020, and we have been making the most of the last few days of the festive holidays with some lovely local walks on the very frosty, and often frozen, ground. Today we went for a 5 mile walk from Glaick to Loch Scalpaidh and then back via the Erbusaig to Balmacara road. The views east and west from the high ground overlooking Loch Alsh were incredible, pretty hard to capture effectively with the camera. My favourite shot from the walk was taken looking north across Loch Scalpaidh towards the Applecross Hills (above). The loch was almost completely frozen over, with ice forming on the few remaining areas of open water. The snow covered hills stood out beautifully against the cerulean blue sky and the sun-lit russets of the moorland surrounding the loch. I cropped this shot into a panoramic format because the foreground was lacking any great interest, just frozen loch, and the sky was plain blue above, so not really contributiing anything to the image.
The views from the Balmacara to Kyle path are always worth the walk, and today the air was crystal clear and the Kintail hills and the Cuillins on Skye were standing out proudly. These two images hopefully capture some of the grandeur of the wonderful winter landscape.
This morning turned out to be a decent one with the promise of brighter skies to come. I wasn't sure where to head to with the camera today but on checking around it looked brighter towards Skye so I headed in that direction. Surprise, surprise, the option of Loch Cill Chriosd and Torrin was looking fine, with good patches of sunlight, snowy squalls on the hills and some dramatic clouds, so I set off for Broadford and out towards Torrin. The above shot was taken at the west end of the loch, looking towards Bla Bheinn, from a low vantage point and with a small aperture to try and keep the foreground and background in relatively sharp focus. I have to say I was pretty pleased with the result. I love the way the patterns on the ice flow into the picture from the bottom right, leading the viewer's eye into the frame.
The next few images are some more shots I took looking towards Bla Bheinn from the loch side, and with a few variations in terms of post-processing. Feel free to feedback to me with your preferences.
I also took a coupe of shots of Beinn na Caillich from the loch side and these were my two favourites.
I then moved on to Torrin and captured this shot of Bla Bheinn from the shore below the Old Schoolhouse. The second is the same shot with high structure and selective colourisation applied in post-processing using Nik's Silver Efex Pro 2.
Finally, as I headed back home, I spotted this hawthorn tree off to the left of the road, still with many of its berries in place, the bright red standing out against the snowy hills in the background. The light was good so I decided to stop and try to capture the brightness of the berries against the otherwise fairly subtle colours of the winter landscape.
Yet another dull, wet and overcast day with more snow on the hills but just rain down at sea level. Once again it cleared up a bit in the afternoon so I popped along to Dornie to Eilean Donan Castle, to take advantage of the empty car park and absent crowds. I had hoped for more dramatic light but the weather looked like it was closing in again so I didn't hang around too long and didn't really get much in the way of any really decent shots. The image above is my favourite of the day, shot with a 1 stop ND grad filter to balance the exposure of the sky and the foreground. The following two shots are similar but from different angles and/or zoomed in a bit closer on the castle.
After the arrival of my new Canon EOS 5D Mark IV camera for Christmas I have been waiting for a break in the wet and windy weather for a chance to get out and play. Eventually, this afternoon, the skies cleared and I took the brief opportunity to try and capture some images of the nearby hills in snow. The light was fading fast, so time was short but I got this first shot from the beach at port Ban, near Duirinish, looking north towards the Applecross hills and the Bealach na Ba. The sky was actually really blue with pinkish tints to the clouds and the contrast of relatively bright sky and darker foreground meant I had to use a 2 stop graduated ND filter. I processed the image in Lightroom but opted for a desaturated conversion to try and emphasise the textures in the hills. The result is pretty dramatic.
I took a few more shots from the same location and then quickly popped over to Plockton to try and capture the very last light of the blue hour, probably a bit late. These are the results.
The last three shots are the original colour version, the black & white conversion and the selectively colourised version respectively.
Today was my first day off work for the festive holidays and the weather forecast was really good, so I decided to visit somewhere I had never been before on the Isle of Skye, despite having lived only a few miles from there for over a year back in the early 1990s, yes the Fairy Pools. To be honest I was very much put off visiting this iconic tourist site on Skye because of the numbers of tourists that flock there in the summer, and indeed throughout the year. However, with Covid lockdown restrictions I guessed it would be quiet and I was pretty much correct. I had the pools to myself when I was shooting these images and apart from the erosion caused by over 200,000 annual visitors, and the motorway of a path from the car park, you would not have known it was a popular visitor attraction.
The above shot was taken at wide-angle using my Zomei circular polarising filter to try and cut through the surface of the water to see the stones below, which kind of worked a bit. The coire was pretty dark, sitting in the shade as it does at this time of year, but this helped with acheiving the slow shutterspeed I wanted to get the sense of motion in the waterfall. The bleak colours in the landscape and the slow moving clouds on the Cuillin hills behind create a lovely atmospheric shot.
For the following shot I used a little more zoom to focus in more on the conical peak of Sgurr an Fheadain and the main part of the falls. I actually prefer this composition and I really like the pale winter colours and textures.
On my way home the late afternoon sun was setting off to the west, producing amazing light in the gaps between the clouds. As I approached Sligachan I got wonderful views of Marsco and Glen Sligachan with the light and clouds making a beautiful scene.
All in all, a good day. In future I would leave a bit earlier to give myself a little more time to try more shooting angles and locations before it gets too dark, and it would be really nice to visit when there was a bit more snow on the hills and a little less cloud. Having said that, I guess I was lucky to get to visit when it was so quiet. Added to that I also had sight of two dolphins and an otter in Loch Alsh from the bathroom window this morning, followed by a white-tailed eagle and a peregrine falcon on my way to Glen Brittle, so a good day indeed. Not a bad way to start the holiday.
Today we had our first real snow of winter, with snow falling almost to sea level, albeit in small quantities. The morning was overcast but it cleared away to a lovely afternoon with occasional sunny spells. I took the opportunity, late in the afternoon, to capture this shot, just a few hundred metres from the house. My regular readers will recognise this old stunted pine tree by the shores of Loch Alsh, with a snowy Beinn na Caillach in the background. The warm glow coming from the right was the sun setting off to the west, as early as 3pm!
For this photo I post-processed as usual in Adobe Lightroom CC Classic and then exported it to Nik Collection's Silver Efex Pro2 to convert to black & white. I then applied selective colourisation and other adjustments, resulting in this image with darker de-saturated tones which is a style I have come to like a lot recently. I then reduced the clarity back in Lightroom to produce a softer effect which I felt worked well with this composition. For comparison the original Lightroom processed image is shown below (left) with the un-softened de-saturated version (below right)
The second image (below) was shot from the same point (more-or-less) looking east across Loch Alsh towards the hills of Kintail with the same pine tree much more prominent in the foreground this time. The raw image was treated in much the same way as the above one.
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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