Tag Archives: landscape

Smoky mountains – the art of forgetting

I made a number of images last year that I’ve only just had developed (mostly by Dan at The Photo Parlour – highly recommended).  One of the advantages of this delay is that I have been discovering the images afresh.  This is something I learnt from Bruce Percy, though I’ve never had such a long wait – there were even images from November 2014 in this batch!

I’m pretty pleased with most of them, and forgetting exactly what was intended makes me see them in a different way to more rapidly processed images.  I have distance to them, and interpret and see them in new ways.  For example, here’s one that I had not remembered until I came to looking at it much more closely once it had been scanned and imported to Lightroom:

July 2015, looking east across Loch Ewe (click to see a slightly larger version)

July 2015, looking east across Loch Ewe (click to see a slightly larger version)

I think these are Glas Mheal Mor – Bidean a’ Ghlas Thuill – Sgurr Creag an Eich – Sail Liath, but in the meantime am not completely sure, and my extant notes simply say ‘smoky mountains’!  Any note I may have had of how I identified them at the time is lost.

What is now more interesting to me than the exact location is that sometime before going north to Loch Ewe I had been reading about distressing negatives – see, for example, this short description – and I have a vague recollection that I deliberately scratched and damaged one of my negatives. In a careless (carefree?) sort of way, I didn’t write down which one that was, but it must be this one – and I love it. At the time I clearly thought through what the image would be, choosing Ilford FP4+ film to emphasise the subtle cloud tones (even though I can’t exactly remember doing that) and the damaging of the negative (that I also only partially remember) accentuates the sense of foreboding and darkness that the weather was creating. In fact, it almost looks as if it was raining heavily – but I know that it was a dry evening.

The art of forgetting takes on a new meaning…!

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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.

Every morning…

… should ideally start with stumbling around on a hillside with the dog, falling into a bog (though I must add: the dog was smarter than that: he didn’t fall into the bog), and making photographs of snowy hills, then returning home and drinking hot coffee…

WINTER IS COMING!

Snowy tip of Ben Lomond

Snowy tip of Ben Lomond

Lochan by the Hill of Balgair, near Fintry

Lochan by the Hill of Balgair, near Fintry

Early morning sunlight falls on the Fintry Hills

Early morning sunlight falls on the Fintry Hills

A light dusting of snow in the Trossachs - and a promise of yet better weather to come!

A light dusting of snow in the Trossachs – and a promise of yet better weather to come!

Revisiting images, locations

We are on holiday in the north-west of Scotland, escaping the rain our house-sitter is experiencing, and getting different rain! 🙂

I’ve revisited some locations that I first encountered on the two Bruce Percy workshops I’ve been to in this area – one based around Torridon (2009), one around Assynt (2011).  It’s been very interesting photographing one or two of these locations again and seeing how differently I’ve approached them.  Here are three images from Achnahaird Bay that are quite different to the previous ones from four years ago; clicking them will show you the older images from the bay.

This first image is really what the bay is about for me, I think: three elements in different patterns.  It’s not always necessary to be really clear about what I’m seeing when standing in the middle of the bay looking around it, something I’ve tried to achieve by the grasses being sufficiently in focus to be discernible as grasses, but not clearly defined (I know, I know, thousands of £ on camera equipment to make out-of-focus images, but…!).

Achnahaird Bay, 2015

Achnahaird Bay, 2015

Achnahaird Bay, 2015

Achnahaird Bay, 2015

Achnahaird Bay, 2015

Achnahaird Bay, 2015

These are, of course, digital images.  I have been making large format film images of my wanderings too, but they’ll come later.

PS As it happens, I caught up with some of Bruce’s recent blog posts, and he wrote about revisiting images too (but honestly, after I took these and thought of posting them here!)

I found some negatives…

When tidying up in my study last night, I found three 5×4″ negatives on my desk under a pile of papers.  There were from August and September last year, made with my Ilford Obscura pinhole camera.  I had no memory of them whatsoever.  Here are two of the three, quickly scanned last night.

The first is from the Küchensee, one of several lakes around the small town of Ratzeburg in northern Germany.

Küchensee, Ratzeburg, on Fuji Pro 160NS

Küchensee, Ratzeburg, on Fuji Pro 160NS

The second one was made on a local hill where I had been photographing wind turbines.

Fintry wind turbine, Fuji Pro 160NS

Fintry wind turbine, Fuji Pro 160NS

These were both made on Fuji Pro 160NS film – the first colour negative film that I’ve found to be one I can practically use for my semi-digital workflow (i.e. that includes scanning and digital manipulation).  Not only does it have phenomenal detail and no notable grain it is far easier to scan and colour correct than the far more well-known Kodak Portra, which I’ve never really liked.

In tidying a little more this morning, I’ve also found some Provia that I’d forgotten about…!

Fairy Knowe, Gartmore

Here are some photographs I made yesterday using a digital camera from a wee walk around the Fairy Knowe by Gartmore.  It’s almost bluebell season in this part of the world, but we made it to this hill before the clichés begin! 😉

There are wonderful stories about faeries in local folk beliefs connected to the Fairy Knowe.  Robert Kirk, a local minister, took a great interest in the faeries, publishing a book in 1691 about the folk beliefs surrounding them (with the catchy title Secret Commonwealth: or an Essay on the Nature and Actions of the Subterranean (and for the most part) Invisible People heretofor going under the names of Fauns and Fairies, or the like, among the Low Country Scots as described by those who have second sight).  Although his ultimate interest was no doubt in convincing his parishioners to be good Christians rather than believe in what he regarded as superstitious folk tales, it is said that publicising the stories about the faeries did not go down well with the faeries themselves.  They wanted their secrets kept, and in 1692, as he went on a walk up the hill (which was behind his church), they captured him and took him away to faerie land so that no further secrets would be revealed.  The folklorist Andrew Lang wrote a poem about him:


Now far from heaven, and safe from hell,
Unknown of earth he wanders free.
Would that he might return and tell
Of his mysterious company
For we have tired the Folk of Peace;

No more they tax our corn and oil;
Their dances on the moorland cease,
The Brownie stints his wonted toil.
No more shall any shepherd meet
The ladies of the fairy clan,
Nor are their deathly kisses sweet
On lips of any earthly man.
And half I envy him who now,
Clothed in her Court’s enchanted green,
By moonlit loch or mountain brow,
Is Chaplain to the Faery Queen.

The Literary Loch Lomond and the Trossachs website (a wonderful resource, if you don’t know it already) has the full poem and discusses this episode in more detail.

My wife was telling me about this story as we were going up the hill (she had been there before and read about it), and it really is a magical sort of place – it’s easy to see where such stories come from.

Fairy Knowe, Gartmore

Fairy Knowe, Gartmore

Fairy Knowe, Gartmore

Fairy Knowe, Gartmore

Fairy Knowe, Gartmore

Fairy Knowe, Gartmore

Fairy Knowe, Gartmore

Fairy Knowe, Gartmore

In the snow

Here are a few images from an excursion into the snow early on Saturday morning.  I was going out to make one particular image (not shown here – it’ll come in due course), and made several others at the same time.  After what feels like a protracted break from making photos, I feel as if I’m discovering something new again.

This is probably my favourite image of the day, and perhaps the one that took longest to compose:

Just about alive

Just about alive

In contrast, these trees – large and small, though I suspect the little one on the far side of the water is much the same size as the near one! – seemed just perfectly placed in the landscape for me:

Trees, large and small

Trees, large and small

Other trees and bushes offered further insights into the tangle of life:

Branches 1

Branches 1

This seemed to be an invitation through the branches (that I didn’t take up; there’s another image of these branches here):

Branches 2

Branches 2

I’m busy writing something about ‘wild places’ for this website, and it’s helpful to be reminded that some of these apparently ‘wild places’ are not as wild as they might at first appear:

Branches 2

Branches 2

There is something magnificent about going through snow that others have not yet been through, even in a car – but I know where this road leads, and did not want to go up the hill and down the sharp bends in my wee car, especially as it is only a front wheel drive (given that accidents can easily happen, even to professionals with better vehicles)!  Still, it’s an enticing prospect:

The open road

The open road