The light in the north-west Highlands is ever-changing, especially in winter, and it always pays to have a camera to hand. The above view was taken from our back garden, looking across Loch Alsh towards Kyle Rhea. The soft light, with a tinge of warmth that is common during these misty, cloudy conditions where the sun is fighting to penetrate the murk, made the scene for me. I shot this without realising I still had my CPL filter on the lens so it came out a bit different to what I expected, and the warm glow is perhaps more than I would really have wanted, but it produced an effective and evocative image.
Also, I find that I have a tenendcy to increase the clarity or structure in most of images in post-processing, hopefully not excessively, but that is a matter of opinion I guess. In this case, I deliberately tried the opposite and reduce the clarity by 20% to add to the softness of the final image. Something to try a bit more of I think.
Happy New Year to my regular readers and I hope you all had a wonderful festive season. I have had a prolonged holiday this year and had hoped to be out with the camera much more than actually happened. The weather was less than conducive for photography and I found myself busier than I had expected. However, since the New Year, I have managed out a couple of times and these are the best of a fairly mediocre collection.
The above image, fittingly of Bla Bheinn - one of my most photographed subjects - was captured this afternoon at Ord on the Sleat peninsula of Skye, looking towards the Cuillins and Bla Bheinn. The Cuillins were pretty much in cloud but thre was a little light catching the upper slopes of Bla Bheinn, with the tops just shrouded a little in cloud, and the sky had enough interest in the clouds, with a little blue here and there to make it interesting.
The following photos were captured on the 1st of the year during a coastal walk from Duirinish to Drumbuie. I had my Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens attached to my Canon EOS 250D, cropped sesnor camera, thus an effective 640mm lens. I wanted to try and capture some bird images but the opportunities were few and far between, with the crofts largely silent in the cold and my only chances restricted to long-distance shots of a few birds on the sea. I also took a few wider landscape shots but the light was not overly exciting, so it was more for the sake of it than in expectation of anything brilliant.
I have just ordered my 2023 calendars. The calendars are due to arrive by 24th November and are strictly restricted to 75 copies. Copies can be pre-ordered by emailing me at email@example.com or calling me on 07733674947. I will also have the calendars for sale at my upcoming Pre-Christmas SALE at The Steadings Gallery, Balmacara Square from 25th to 28th November (open daily 11am to 5pm) as well as at the Light Up Balmacara event on 2nd December 6-9pm at Balmacara Square in the Steadings Gallery again.
The calendars are A4 format with a different half page landscape format image each month, see below, along with the monthly calendar below. They are priced at £10 each with £3.50 postage if your require them to be sent to you, multiple purchase will incur a postage charge of £5 for up to three calendars.
My Pre-Christmas SALE offers the opportunity to pick up a bargain for that perfect festive gift. I am selling framed prints, canvas prints and mounted and unmounted prints at 50% off their normal retail price. So come along and view my stock and enjoy the festive ambiance of the Square, where you can take an enjoyable walk in the woodls around the village followed by a visit to the Gallery and the Home in the Highlands gift shop and the Cosy Corner Cafe.
The above shot was captured on Thursday on my way home from a very wet and windy trip to the north end of Skye. I have seldom driven in such poor rainy conditions, but on my way home there were some breaks in the weather and this wonderful rainbow was the result. Rather than try for the usual wide-angle shot I opted for a bit of zoom, focusing on the foot of the rainbow and foreshortening the distance to the background hills of Applecross and the Crowlin Islands.
I took another shot just a little further down the road, looking across Broadford Bay towards Pabay, but I felt that the light was not quite so good and the composition came out a but less engaging than I had hoped for.
I enjoyed a break in the weather today to take a stroll with the dog along the old Sleat road south of Broadford on the Isle of Skye. There was a good amount of blue sky with plenty of interesting clouds, and the sun was providing a lovely colour and quality of light. The above shot is my favourite from the walk and actually works pretty well in both black & white and colour, as can be seen from the colour version below. I think I prefer the monochrome, it is just that bit more dramatic.
The following shot was taken looking eastwards, towards the mainland, alng the road and into the sun. I could not balance the exposure due to the intensity of the sun light, so I opted to bracket three shots and blended them using Adobe Lightroom Classic's HDR tool. This worked pretty well, and was finished off with a black & white conversion in Nik's Silver Efex Pro and the colour version was adapted a little using Nik's Vivezia tool. I opted for f/16 (a small aperture) to create the wonderful starburst effect, which is a bit clearer in the monochrome version.
Looking the other way, back towards Beinn na Caillich, the road provides a wonderful leading line into the frame. Again this one works well in both formats.
The last few images are variations on the same theme, in colour and black & white.
One of the perks of living in this wonderful part of the country is that I sometimes have to travel for work purposes. Today, I was returning from a trip to Inverness, up Glen Morriston. At this time of year the woodland at Dundreggan is always spectacular in its full autumn glory. Loch Dundreggan was looking particularly impressive, with perfect reflections, and an interesting sky as well. I stopped and scrambled down to the loch-side and captured the above shot while the good light lasted. The lovely leading lines created by the combination of sky and the rocks and broken tree stems in the foreground really make this a lovely composition. The slight warm glow in the sky adds to the dramatic impact of the scene, balancing the yellows and oranges of the trees.
The image below was an attempt to capture the lovely textures of the birch bark on the foreground trees along with the backdrop of the loch and the woodland on its banks. I opted for a smaller aperture (f/16) to maximise the depth of field, focusing on the birch tree to optimise the sharpness of the bark textures. I think it worked really well and makes for a different perspective on this landscape, showing the detail close-up as well as the wider context.
Over the last few days I have managed to get out with the camera to capture some autumnal shots around the Balmacara Estate, albeit for short periods mostly. The above shot was taken looking towards the rising sun through the Scots pine trees at the west end of the Lochalsh Woodland Walks on the shores of Loch Alsh. This image illustrates the power of modern camera sensors and the RAW format, allowing me to bring up the shadow areas in the foreground to balance the exposure against the bright sun. I managed to hide the sun slightly behind the foremost tree, just allowing a small part to provide the starbust effect due to the small aperture.
The following shot was taken further along the walk, heading down the road to Glaick, capturing the colours in the various species of trees adjacent to the road. The recently fallen needles and leaves on the road help to break up what would otherwise be a dominant feature and make the scene look much more rustic and appealing.
Yesterday I took a brief opportunity to pop out of the office to capture the following shots around the Coachhouse and Sunken Garden, again in Lochalsh Woodland Walks. The colours were brilliant in the patchy sunshine.
This one is a bit fuzzy, possibly due to the focus point being midway between the fungi and the bench, and possibly a bit of camera shake, depsite the image stabilisation. I was in an awkward position and it was more luck than good judgement that I managed to capture both elements in the image.
Finally, today I walked up to Loch Scalpaidh and then drove on to Duirnish and Drumbuie for the coastal walk. The light was not overly dramatic but the clouds did offer scope for decent shots, with a little bit of help in post-processing. These are probably a little bit over-developed but the effect is interesting and they capture a sense of the atmosphere of the walk.
Despite to wet and windy weather that has been predominating in Lochalsh lately, the autumn colours in the woodlands around Balmacara have been developing really nicely. In between the showers we have had the odd patch of sunshine which just brings the landscape alive with vibrant colour. The above view is looking from Strathy, just south of Plockton, towards the Isle of Skye, with the Cuillin Hills in the background. The mixed birch-pinewood forest at Strathy is amazingly varied in species and structure, with trees growing on the craggy slopes of Creag nan Garadh. The road wends its way through a small strath providing excellent views across the Inner Sound towards Skye. This is one of my favourite views when the light is right at this time of year.
I had a flying visit to Kilmuir in the north of Skye for work purposes today. Between the light showers there were occasional bright breaks, with lovely sunshine. I was lucky enough to be approaching Sligachan, on my way home, when the light in Glen Sligachan was bright through the gaps in the cloud, producing beautiful, distinct shadow areas, and bright patches on the Red Cuillins. The light was challenging in relation to selecting a good exposure, and I only had my small DSLR, with no ND grad filters, so I relied on trying to avoid over-exposing the bright areas, in the hope that I would be able to bring out the detail in the clouds, raising the dark areas in post-processing. The result above has captured the light well enough I think, and I am happy with it considering the challenges. The sun to the right was far too bright to attempt a wider panoramic shot, which would have been truly spectacular, but the Black Cuillins were sadly hidden in darker cloud, so I opted for a bit of zoom, focusing in on Marsco and the Beinn Dearg ridge, with Bla Bheinn in the background. I managed to exclude the road, which was just below me and out of sight.
So today's photogrpahy exercise was in response to the fortnightly challenge for the Lochalsh Cemera Club - macro or close-up photography. My other main passion is bikes and cycling and I have quite a collection of spare parts, many older than I am from my mum's and dad's days on the bike. Today I opted to shoot some of my rear derailleurs, dating back to the late 1950s and psanning over 60 years in terms of cycling history. It is interesting that the essential mechanism is much the same, and it is possible to fit a modern derailleur to an old steel road bike from the late 50s, I have done it with my Dad's 1959 Flying Scot. This small collection includes a late 1950s/60 Huret with a coiled leaf spring and chain tensioner; a Sunrace of indeterminate age c. 1970s/80s, a classic 1950s Capmagnolo Gran Sport (in really nice condition) and a modern 10 speed long cage Shimano 105 .
I shot these images in a small light cube with two tungesten lights, one each side, with the subjects set on a sheet of white perspex. This collection was shot using my Canon EF24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM lens to get a wide enough field of view to fit all four derailleurs in the frame. I cropped the image square to remove the edges of the perspex sheet. The other images were shot using my Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Macro lens to get closer in on each piece individually.
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.