So this weekend, at last it was possible to get out and about with the camera, a little further than five miles at least. The above photo of Bla Bheinn from the shore of Loch Slapin is my favourite from the two days, just managing to catch a brief bit of light on parts of the mountain and the moody dark sky adding to the sense of drama.
On Saturday I had to pop up to Kinlochewe, so took the opportunity to drive on towards Gairloch. I had never been right along the road to Red Point, so decided to take a bit of reconnaisance trip, despite the light being a bit flat and the rain being a constant threat. I took the chance of using my Intrepid 5x4" large format camera and will soon be in the darkroom to see how those exposures come out. However, as always, I took along my trusty Canon EOS 5D Mark II and lenses producing this image, more-or-less the same composition as the large format exposures. This is looking down the Inner Sound with the Skye hills on the right and in front. It looked a bit flat in colour but the conversion to monochrome definately adds something to the sky. The seat provides a bit of a leading line into the frame.
On the way home I took the Shieldaig to Applecross road, while it was still not too busy with tourists, and shot these two images, the first looking back across Loch Torridon, which might make it into my collection of Passing Places.
The second image is from the top of the Bealach na Ba, looking across one of the rockiest expanses of ground anywhere in the country. I particularly liked the way the distant peak (Carn Dearg) was showing intermittently through the low cloud. The colours of the stones in the foreground are amazingly red.
This afternoon, I crossed the bridge to Skye, although I had little hope of anything good with the camera, with heavy rainfall as I headed towards Kyle of Lochalsh. However, as is so often the way with the west Highlands, the weather can change in a second, and so it was when I arrived at Torrin. The first image, at the top of this post, is definately my favourite from the day, capturing that elusive moment with bright patches of sunlight through the clouds in an otherwise dark and brooding landscape. I also took the chance to shoot some more with my Intrepid large format camera, and the next image is approximately the same composition I selected, I will post those images once I have developed the film along with the one from yesterday. The film version will be in black and white, this one is desaturated colour.
The final shot was taken from just below the trees in the previous image, looking up towards Beinn Dearg Mhor. The contrasting colours of the mountain from the tree and the grassy foreground, set against the grey cloudy sky appealed to me.
It was a bit of a wet day today so I thought I would pass the time trying out some photo painting to create a watercolour effect with some of my images. I did a bit of research over the past couple of days and there are lots of ways of doing this, some more complex than others. Today I discovered this guy (Seven Styles) who has produced a Photoshop Action file that randomly convertes your image into a watercolour. It takes a bit of adjustment afterwards to get it the way you want it but it is certainly effective. The top image is of a small square in Saumur where we had a coffee and ice cream a couple of summers ago. I have always wanted to paint this kind of scene in watercolour, so I thought I would try it out digitally. I like the effect although it is a bit of a cheat I guess.
The following are a few more examples from my experimentation this afternoon and evening. As always, feedback is welcome.
Over the past week or two I have been very focused on tidying out my Lightroom Catalog, or should I say catalogs. Over the years since I started using Lightroom I had managed to create a complete buarach of copies of images. I began the process by consolidating all my images into one single catalog, containing over 21,000 images, many of which were duplicates. I gradually worked through them all and now have just over 4,000 left. It took a great deal of courage to finally press the delete button and remove the discarded images once and for all. No doubt I will discover that I have lost a few by mistake but I feel strangely elated at having completed the task.
One interesting aspect of going through all your old images is that you see how you have progressed in terms of post-processing of the RAW images. In some cases I know I could do much better now, but many still stand up to scrutiny I think. As a result though, I decided to take ten of my favourite images and try an alternative approach to their processing. I chose to experiment with a more desaturated look. I feel that too often one gets subconciously into a habit of over processing and creating highly saturated and contrasty images. While this can add drama and punch to your work, it can also become a bit predictable. Anyway, here are the results of my little experiment and I would welcome feedback via the comments option below.
This eveniing's walk yielded some lovely flowers and amazing light in the trees at Lochalsh Woodland Park. The above shot is of some beautiful umbellifers in the deep shade of a conifer stand. The minute I saw this scene I new it would look good in black & white with a beautiful range of tonality. The colour version is lovely, but the overall green hue tends to detract from the whites of the flower heads.
The next shot is of the fantastic buttercup meadow where the grass has yet to be cut, one of the benefits of the pandemic. Buttercups are often overlooked as flowers but they bring a wonderful golden colour to the grassy areas when left to flower.
The next shot was an attempt to capture the glorious light shining through the trees. I often find this challenging to photograph as the scene is very contrasty, between the brightest areas, usually the sky, and the darkest shadowy parts and the tree stems. This one worked pretty well I think. I reduced the clarity a little in Lightroom to soften the glow a little, more in keeping with the atmosphere at the time.
The last shot is of a Northern Marsh Orchid. I had literally just finished saying "I am surprised there are no orchids here" when I spotted this specimen. This is one of around 11 or 12 species of orchid found on the Balmacara Estate.
Another beautiful sunny day here today and I popped out to try some shots with my 70-200mm lens on my cropped sensor camera. This provides a 1.6x additional zoom as the lens is designed for a full frame camera, thus 200mm equates to 320mm when used with this camera.
This first image, in the Sunken garden at Lochalsh Woodland Walks, was taken to try and capture the broader perspective while at the same time retainng shallow depth of field. It worked reasonably well, but the contrast between the flowers and the background was not as great as I had hoped, so I applied a bit of desaturation to the whole image while retaining a bit more colour and clarity in the flowers and foreground stems.
The following image is of the same clump of dandelions but from closer-in capturing greater detail. In this case, I feel the flowers stand out much better. The central flowers are pretty sharp, despite being blown around in the breeze a bit, so I dropped the clarity on the image producing a nice soft feel.
I had a wonderful walk round the Duirinish-Drumbuie-Port an Eorna loop this afternoon and took all my DSLR kit. In the end I only used the one lens, my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens, which is possibly my favourite lens, apart from being a pretty heavy combination with the 5D Mark II. As a result most of my shots ended up being of wild flowers. I might have been wiser to have swapped the lens for my Sigma 105mm macro but was just enjoying the walk and not particularly focused on my photography.
The above shot was taken in Port an Eorna (Barleyport). I really like these wild roses and they make wonderful photgraphic subjects. The rest were taken along the route and represent only a few of the wild flowers in these fantastic croft grasslands. In another few weeks the meadows should be in full bloom, so another trip will be required then.
This final image is of an abandoned croft house in Port an Eorna. I have taken quite a few shots of this old house, and today the light was quite good, although the gable was a little in the shade. The result was quite a contrasty image and I opted to de-saturate some of the intense colours and leave the building almost monochrome, making the whole seem a little more gloomy and atmospheric.
I popped out for a slightly wet walk through the local woods with the dog this morning and took along my DSLR camera fitted with my Sigma macro lens for a change. I don't do enough close-up and macro photography and it is something I always enjoy, but have usually acheived very mixed results. For these five photographs I opted for some post-processing in Nik Collection's Silver Efex Pro 2 to produce a selectively desaturated effect. The basic images were fine but lacked punch and a sense of the dull, overcast atmosphere. The first is of an oak leaf with raindrop remnants, illustrating perfectly the wet conditions these trees have to endure in the west Highlands of Scotland. The other shots were all treated in the same manner and I like them as a small collection.
For the past two years I have been studying towards an HNC in Photography with the West Highland College - UHI under the tutelage of the fantatsic Simon Larson. I handed in my final assignment for the Graded Unit this afternoon and so have finished the course. Unfortunately, like so many things this year, our course fell foul of the Coronavirus pandemic and most notably in my case this had a huge impact of my ability to undertake the Graded Unit project. For this I had planned to undertake a photgraphic study of the Celtic Rainforest of Wester Ross during March to May. I did manage to get out for a few sessions prior to lockdown starting and I completed the process for the course as far as was possible. As part of my project plan I said I would produce a photobook of my shortlisted images, so I decided to make up a mock version in pdf format and it can be dowloaded free of charge here (file is 18.1MB).
For the course I was required to produce at least ten final images for assessment so by way of a small taster I have included them below.
Please feel free to submit feedback on the images above and the photobook. Also, if you have any queries please get in touch via my contact page. I hope you enjoy the photographs.
I took this photgraph of the little stand of globeflower plants at Drumbuie this afternoon when I was out checking one of the estate footpaths. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon with a light breeze to keep the midges away. The views to Skye and the Applecross hills were fantastic, especially as I have not been out and about much in recent weeks. It was challenging to balance the exposure with the birght sky to the west as I did not have my full kit with me, so no ND grad filters. I'll be honest, I did apply a bit of a grad filter in Lightroom, just to recapture some of the detail in the sky.
This shot was taken from the Port an Eorna to Drumbuie shore path, looking towards Drumbuie. As a composition it is not a particularly great shot but I liked the view and the range of textures and shapes in the landscape, and the bright blue sky with fluffy white clouds set it off nicely.
The following shot was taken from the same path, near Port an Eorna. I was taken by the bluebells, and tried to capture a view of them in the foreground with something of the hills of Skye in the background. Again the light was challenging but I think I managed to get it just about right.
The last shot was taken near Duirinish Station. This old gnarled tree has often taken my fancy for a photograph but I almost always walk this path in a clockwise direction. Today I was going the other way, and so the view of this tree was not the usual one. It just goes to show that you should take time to move around your subject and consider different angles. For this one I initially envisaged in in full colour (image 1 below), but then felt that it might look really nice in black & white, emphasising the textures in the bark (image 2 below). That didn't quite work as well as I had hoped, with the bright background kind of making the tree less obvious than I expected. So, I tried something I did for a few photos during my study of the Celtic Rainforest in Wester Ross for my HNC course recently (more on that coming up on my blog soon). That was using Nik Collection's Silver Efex Pro II to convert the image to monochrome but selectively colouring some areas of the background, leaving the main subject in monochrome. I think this really makes the tree pop out and focuses the viewer's eye on the textures and tones of the tree. Not necessarily to everyone's taste but something a little different.
I went for an early morning walk aroun d the coats at Drumbuie today and saw 32 species of bird in total. Had great views of a small group of twite feeding on weed seeds where cattle have been feeding over the winter. These two shots were the best I could manage with my small Panasonic bridge camera. It is actually a really good little camera with a zoom equivalent of 600mm on a full frame dslr which is what these were taken at, and f/2.8 across the entire zoom range, so you can get decent shutterspeeds. Focusing is the hardest part with these small birds which are also camouflaged exceptionally well and move around a lot.
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.