Tag Archives: trees

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

Advertisements

Oh, hello…

… you’re still here.  Good.  I’m here again too, and may even start to post things again every now and then.

Since my last blog posting we’ve moved house – out of Edinburgh and into the countryside, to the village of Balfron near Loch Lomond.  Moving is a bit an upheaval, and I may even have been heard to utter the words ‘too many books’ on one occasion – not that I really believe that it’s possible to have too many books!  But since I was still working (giving classes, marking, admin etc.), the pressure on my time in recent weeks has meant I’ve had no time or energy for photography, whether making images myself (whether for the windfarm essays or other photos), but also engaging properly with other people’s images.

So my body decided to do something about that.  On Wednesday evening I came down with a throat infection, and was laid up most of Thursday and much of today (though I was able to tweet and email in between a LOT of sleeping).  I felt rather refreshed by lunchtime today!

I had to collect my son from Stirling station this afternoon, and grabbed a camera as I went to the car and set off for the half-hour drive, stopping along the way.  These are three images taken just outside the village, wandering in a field: they’re sort of ‘None Places’ (to steal Al Brydon‘s term), but that doesn’t mean they should not be photographed.

Treeline, 13.12.2013

Treeline, 13.12.2013

Trees, 13.12.2013

Trees, 13.12.2013

Farm buildings, 13.12.2013

Farm buildings, 13.12.2013

And I arrived at the station only 5 minutes after my son’s train arrived!

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 laziness, composition and zoom lenses

One of my main gripes about Nikon’s so-called ‘super zoom’ for DX cameras, the 18-200mm lens, used to be the distortion that made curves out of straight lines (mine is the older version, but the new version still has the same levels of distortion, as I understand it).  And then came the fantastic new version of Adobe Lightroom and it was possible to fix all that at the click of a button.  Then Nikon introduced a firmware update to the D90 and other cameras that took care of all this in camera – so you might see a sagging horizon in the viewfinder, but the camera now works out compensatory adjustments to remove this distortion, and you would see straight horizons directly on the camera’s screen (by the way, that link is to the Mac version, but if you haven’t yet upgraded to a Mac, there is a Windoze link somewhere too).  Both fixes work for dozens of lenses.

So: on a recent excursion through a woodland outside Edinburgh, I thought I’d just take this zoom and leave the primes at home: exactly the opposite of what I’d been doing for quite a while now (I was only really using the zoom for portraits).

But I’d forgotten how lazy a zoom like this makes me!  Here are two tree images from that walk.

Trees

Trees

The first is not particularly great, but it sort of works.  The four dark trees are offset by the dried out white wood at the bottom of the image, and there is a kind of lead-in through the trees framed on either side by the differently toned greens of the trees on both left and right from just above the white wood.  Shot at 95mm (i.e. about 142mm in 35mm format), it still has just about enough depth to make it look like an interesting woodland.  I’m not going to be framing this and putting it on my wall, but it is vaguely passable.

More trees

More trees

But this image really doesn’t work.  I was initially attracted by the white cross/plus at the top of the image – an interesting feature that I wanted to set in the wider context of the trees around it.  It was only visible from a particular angle, which I happen to have found.  But this image is a victim of my laziness brought on my using the zoom: shot at the full length of 200mm (300mm in 35mm terms!), it is completely flat and totally boring, as all the detail of the surrounding trees just blends into one amorphous mess.  I should have walked towards it, used a much shorter focal length (that cross would still have been visible) and shot it then – but somehow, when composing, I completely ignored/forgot that wide-angle lenses increase the illusion of depth, whilst telephoto lenses diminish it.

At least this little exercise ensures I’ll take my prime lenses with me next time and just work a bit harder at the composition, including using the zoom facility known as ‘walking’ – and then this kind of silliness is less likely to occur… I hope!