Category Archives: winter

River Forth, Gartmore

It’s been a bit wet here recently.

However we thought we’d go for a walk today, and headed for the Fairy Knowe near Gartmore; we thought the car park that we often use, despite being not that far from the River Forth, would probably still be accessible. We took the 4×4 car, but decided even that wasn’t going to get to the car park at the bottom of the track:

River Forth, Fairy Knowe, Gartmore, 5. December 2015 (click to see the full size pano)

River Forth, Fairy Knowe, Gartmore, 5. December 2015 (click to see the full size pano)

In May, those trees were… err… not in the river:

Fairy Knowe, Gartmore, May 2015

Fairy Knowe, Gartmore, May 2015

Also, the Forth is normally much calmer than this:

River Forth, Fairy Knowe, Gartmore, April 2015

River Forth, Fairy Knowe, Gartmore, April 2015

This is from just a few weeks ago:

River Forth, Fairy Knowe, Gartmore, November 2015

River Forth, Fairy Knowe, Gartmore, November 2015

The Forth runs very low at times, and it’s possible to get to the sandbanks in the middle of the river without any difficulty:

River Forth, Fairy Knowe, Gartmore, April 2015

River Forth, Fairy Knowe, Gartmore, April 2015

Of course, for me this is just an interesting and unusual experience – I do realise that there are many people who are experiencing real difficulty with flooding, whether in Tamil Nadu, Lagos and Dar es Salam, or elsewhere in Scotland or northern England and Wales.  As the link on Lagos and Dar es Salam describes, global climate change is clearly very real.

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Walking and photographing

Loch Carron Reservoir in the rain

Loch Carron Reservoir in the rain

Yesterday, my wife and I went for a walk along the Loch Carron Reservoir – probably about 13km.  It rained almost the entire time (hence the wet dog photo I posted yesterday evening), and was a thoroughly enjoyable walk.  It involved some ups and downs, but all rather gentle.  I had a digital camera with me, but aside from some images using my mobile, this was the only snapshot I made.  When out walking with others, snapshots are fine.  There isn’t much time to consider the careful detail of composition: to step backwards, to the side, back again, move around a tree, kneel down, walk back 100m to a better vantage point… the primary purpose of walking with other people is to walk with other people, not to make photographs.

Nonetheless, sometimes these can emerge too.  Two weeks ago today, I spent a weekend with Mike Colechin in the Cairngorms and Strathconon area, and on the Sunday we met with James and Yvonne Davidson and went for a walk up Carn Liath.  This was not, for me, a gentle walk!

Yvonne and James - and a fair bit of spindrift atop Carn Liath

Yvonne and James – and a fair bit of spindrift atop Carn Liath

I am not as fit as I thought I was after moving house in November and not doing much photography (and therefore walking up hillsides), but my walking companions were generous and supportive, and ensured I made it without too much difficulty – warm thanks to them!!

Mike, James and Yvonne

Mike, James and Yvonne

The conditions on top were a bit wild, as can be seen from how well wrapped up we were, but I did try and make some images, some of which I stitched together in Photoshop to produce a couple of panoramas.  As James remarked as we were looking north over the mountain tops, ‘why not photograph something as beautiful as that?’  Indeed.  For me, the panoramas represent some of the sense of vastness and breadth I experienced whilst there.  The first image is simply of an ice pattern on the ground:

Carn Liath

Carn Liath

Carn Liath, looking south

Carn Liath, looking south

Carn Liath, looking north

Carn Liath, looking north

Carn Liath, looking north

Carn Liath, looking north

Carn Liath, descending to Mar Lodge

Carn Liath, descending to Mar Lodge

James wrote in his blog posting from that day: ‘some of the greatest rewards will come to you if you push yourself, force yourself out of your comfort zone and try it. It may not work out but you can learn from the experience and congratulate yourself for making the effort.’ Well, getting up the hill and down again worked out (in no small part thanks to my gracious companions!), and I was delighted to have done it – but I will make sure I spend more time outdoors now and get a bit fitter again! 🙂

(Oh, and I will shortly have my large format images from that weekend available here too.  Not from Carn Liath…!)

Cashel Forest and Strathcashell Point, Loch Lomond

On Saturday we went for a walk by Loch Lomond.  This was intended to be a woodland walk, but it was so wet, it became more of a bogland walk – but was still very enjoyable.  We went to Cashel Forest and up Cashel hill, which would normally be a relatively easy walk, with occasional steep parts.  Water gushing down the hillside, at times washing away what path there was or turning the path into a slippery morass, made for a slower ascent and descent.  Nonetheless, being high over Loch Lomond did reward us with some beautiful views.

Loch Lomond, 4.1.14

Loch Lomond, 4.1.14

I had taken a digital camera with me.  This was my first ‘proper’ excursion for some time, what with moving house and work demands stopping me from getting out with a camera since the summer, and whilst these were little more than snapshots of new views for me, I was wanting to engage fully with the context I was in.

Cashel Forest, 4.1.14

Cashel Forest, 4.1.14

In the periods when it stopped raining (or rained less), this was, of course, easier to do, not least for simply enabling greater visibility.  However, the great thing about wetness is that it emphasises some of the fantastic colours in the trees and bushes, with purples and reds dominating.  In the spring and summer this will all be covered in foliage and so will mostly be green (which is a different kind of beautiful), but I do prefer autumn and winter for the richness and variety of the colours on display.

When it rained, it rained heavily, testing the waterproofing of our raincoats pretty thoroughly!  It also became much more difficult to make photographs – this image was taken on my iphone and the rain was so heavy I could barely see the screen:

Loch Lomond, 4.1.14

Loch Lomond, 4.1.14

I tweeted this from the hillside, but later deleted it when I saw it in detail.  I should not have done that – it does actually convey a very real sense of the hillside views in the rain!  Shortly afterwards, in a brief drier moment, I made the first image above of a similar view.  At one stage, when I wanted to photograph the path and the colours we were on, I took out the camera to find the lens almost completely misted over.  So I breathed on it to mist it over completely, and made this:

Cashel Forest, 4.1.14

Cashel Forest, 4.1.14

Of course, we buy cameras with millions of pixels and expensive lenses so we can breathe on them and create blurry images…! 🙂  I jest, of course – but this actually represents our view for much of the walk, so it’s an accurate image – you can just about make out a path leading from the bottom left, and see the outline of the hills.

Strathcashell, 4.1.14

Strathcashell, 4.1.14

Before we went up the hill on Saturday morning, we walked briefly towards Strathcashell because I wanted to see the way to Strathcashell Point, a place that I wanted to visit on my own on Sunday morning.

The track to the Point goes past a patch of woodland that I intend to go back to – widely spaced trees in various states of growth and decay, offering some interesting explorations.

The Point itself is reached by following the track almost to the end, and crossing a field with livestock in it.  The Point has ruins of an old fortification, presumably an ancient watch post to monitor traffic up Loch Lomond, but the ruins consist primarily of the remains of some exterior walls, none higher than about 50cm.  The point is itself shielded by a small cluster of trees that do not really suggest a promontory at all when viewed from the land:

Strathcashell Point, 5.1.14

Strathcashell Point, 5.1.14

The trees would offer shelter in wilder weather, but in contrast to Saturday’s strong winds and torrential rain, early on Sunday morning the air was completely still: with birds singing, and the sun gently rising, it felt as if spring was on the way!  Because nothing was moving I was able to use some longer exposures and still keep detail in the branches of the trees.  I made a few images overlooking the Loch, in part towards the snow-covered peak of Beinn Eich on the western side of the Loch (at least, I think that’s what it was), but mostly I just paid attention to the partially submerged trees – the high rainfall in recent weeks have clearly filled the loch.

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Strathcashell Point, 5.1.14

Strathcashell Point, 5.1.14

Strathcashell Point/Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Strathcashell Point/Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

I quite like these images, and it was reassuring to know that being out with a camera again felt so natural.  After all these months when it has not been possible, I’ve really missed not making anything more than occasional snapshots, and whilst the images above are mostly simply to be ‘enjoyed’ rather than being particularly thought-provoking, they give me great satisfaction.  Not photographing for any length of time always results in my mind developing doubts about my ability to ever make images again: I am very good at self-doubt!  So this weekend was carefully thought-through and planned to counter this gnawing insecurity: apart from identifying locations on a map and on PhotoTransit and then scouting the Point on Saturday, using a digital camera rather than film meant I could do something with the images as soon as I came home.  Whilst out with the camera, everything felt completely natural – this is hardly a surprise, but it is still very reassuring (telling myself this would be the case in advance doesn’t work: I need to see that it would be so).  That is why digital made sense this weekend, even if most of my landscapes are now on film.

I have no idea what kind of half-used film is in my sadly-neglected 35mm and Mamiya 645 cameras that are still in the cupboard, but I’ll be getting them out and finishing the rolls shortly.  Now that everything has settled down a little after the move, my mind is clearer and I can start to think about creating imagery again.  It is also helping me with thinking through the next stages of the windfarm essays (ha! I bet you thought I’d forgotten about that!).

Also: this week, my new darkroom equipment should be arriving… more excitement!

This is exciting…

… though probably mostly to me! 🙂

On 5. January this year my wife and I were in Strathpeffer, and in the morning we went to the nearby Rogie Falls.  I decided to go back there in the afternoon on my own and try to capture a scene I had noticed in the morning.  A bit of a miscalculation in terms of timing (err… yes, I know, Scottish winter…!) meant that it was rather late in the day to do this, but I was keen to persevere, so I set up the Chamonix looking down into a little gorge.  I started setting up at about 14:45, had a composition I was vaguely satisfied with at 15:15 bearing in mind the decreasing light levels, and took a series of light readings.  I was mortified to find that any reasonable chance of a decent exposure would necessitate at least 30 minutes by the time I included the film’s reciprocity failure.  ‘Never mind,’ I thought, ‘FP4 has plenty of latitude!’ and went for it.  By 15:45, I could barely see anything in the woods around me.  So I decided that another 15 minutes would do no harm, meaning the exposure was 45 minutes long.  It then also started raining which was a good motivator to move on, and I could only pack up and find all my bits and pieces by getting out the head-torch (one of the most useful things to have in a camera bag!).

I finally managed to get the film to the lab and picked it up today.  The resulting negative is slightly under-exposed (another 5-10 minutes would no doubt have helped), but it is perfectly usable with some relatively minor adjustments to levels and curves:

Rogie Falls, Chamonix, Fujinon 180mm, Ilford FP4, f22, 45 minutes

Rogie Falls, Chamonix, Fujinon 180mm, Ilford FP4, f22, 45 minutes

My first reaction to the image is two-fold.  I think it does represent the balance between tremendous chaos and small signs of order that I felt in the woods: all these twisty branches contrasting with the clear white trunks and branches.  I like the way the whiteness of the tree trunks directs my eyes – I can remember seeing this and wanting to achieve precisely that.  And yet I am not completely happy with the composition: the gorge with the fallen-down tree feels a bit lost as the trees on the left dominate the foreground.  I could crop the image to exclude the large tree on the left, but then the other smaller trees seem a bit irrelevant and the white trunks almost seems less prominent – perhaps the large tree is not so much a dominant tree as a counterweight to the thin white lines?

In any case: this is all very exciting for me, because it is the very first large format image I have taken completely on my own, AND I managed to use tilt and movements successfully in achieving reasonable focus across the frame.  I wanted it to be a technically decent image, and it does enough of that for me to be confident to continue what I’m doing, even if it is not (yet?) that emotionally engaging for me.  It may have taken me half-an-hour to set up, it may have been too late in the day to use a sensible exposure time, and it may not be perfectly composed – but I am very happy!

A wee thought on using different equipment

My family think that I have too much camera ‘stuff’ (I don’t dare ask them too often!) – and it doesn’t help if I say things like ‘but XYZ has so much more than I do…!’  Of course, I think I have appropriate amounts of ‘stuff’ for what I want to do… 🙂

But sometimes, I realise that there are certain pieces of equipment that I have but don’t use as much as I might (don’t tell the family!).  This morning I was out with my neighbour, Mabel Forsyth, wandering around Newhailes Estate in the snow.  I had my Nikon digital camera with me.  At times, it snowed whilst we were there, as this shows:

Snow at Newhailes Estate, Musselburgh

Snow at Newhailes Estate, Musselburgh

As we were returning to the car, the trees by the path caught our attention.  I thought I’d try something a bit different, and got the Lensbaby out.  I’ve had this lens for a while, but I am weary of all the contrived flower shots – it’s art, don’t you know?! – that so many people use Lensbaby optics for (I caricature, but not by much), and that puts me off getting it out too often.  I should not be swayed by that, I know.  This is the Lensbaby image from this morning that I like most:

The (Lensbaby) snow storm

The (Lensbaby) snow storm

Processing has been minor: small changes to tones and curves, and other than that it has been cropped to a more pleasing 4×5 ratio, and turned clockwise by 90 degrees.  As will be obvious from the first image, we were not in a snow storm (the snow was rather gentle!), but for me this second rather more abstract image communicates something more about the dynamic of snow coming down than the first one, and I rather like it.

So now I can prove to my family that some of that ‘stuff’ can be used to create nice abstract images… 😉

———–

PS My favourite image from this morning’s excursion is this one, that I put up on my other site earlier today:

Newhailes Estate, Musselburgh

Newhailes Estate, Musselburgh

On the beach with the Rolleiflex

20120108-085440.jpg

What is there not to like about winter? I fell out of bed at 7:15 and was on the beach at the bottom of the road twenty minutes later – marvellous! In the summer, I’d have to be up at some horrific time to do the same thing (and the light isn’t so good…).

It was lovely to watch and photograph (sort of) the sunrise, seeing the light change and transform the shapes on the beach. I wasn’t too interested in the sun itself, of course, but the patterns of the beach and the water on black and white film will hopefully work.

I wasn’t the only one out there: apart from the perennial dog-walkers, two other folks with cameras and tripods were on the beach. Of course, I felt terribly superior: they had some new-fangled digital camera-thingy, whereas I was using my 60-year old Rolleiflex TLR… and now I’m off home to breakfast (whisper it: and to my digital camera for some family photos later on!).

Photographing Ngoni Namate (in the snow…)

Ngoni in the snow

Ngoni in the snow

I had the great pleasure of photographing a new (to me) model yesterday: the fabulous Ngoni Namate.  When we first met a few weeks ago to talk about possible shoots sometime during the next few months, she mentioned that she would really like some photographs in the snow, were it to snow at some point soon…

Well, providing snow pretty much anywhere in northern Europe is currently not such a big problem!  So we met yesterday, and she spent much of the day in gorgeous dresses in the woods – and she even managed not to freeze to death (for those who wonder what it is about ‘my’ models being cold… no, no, no, it’s just a coincidence, honest!).  This is one of the (unprocessed) snapshots of Ngoni from the day – proper edited images to come once I’ve had a bit of time to go through them (not 15 months for most of them!).