New material from The Capital City
Recently I set myself to work on new stuff for various Edinburgh projects coming up for an image refresh. I enjoy city/street work more & more these days and fortunately I never seem to tire of trying to suss out new angles on familiar places, I try to be always ready for the chance encounter, I guess I sort of treat it as sport.
The National Monument Calton Hill.
Early start on Salisbury Crags, nothing dramatic going on but noted the warm, low directional light hitting the pillars. I grew more interested in the potential on noting the placid surface water on the Forth & steaming condensation rising from an industrial zone on South Fife. I like it when there is an element of juxtaposition or a "contra" subject within an image.
Having gently cycled round from Portobello I was struggling to catch any significant architectural forms to work with so took a moment to chill in a beachfront park area and glanced back towards the city. A partially silhouetted public art curiosity comes to life with some theatrical cloud action and heavenly rays exploding behind it.
The Edinburgh Trams
Some alert jay-walking was required to catch the Edinburgh Trams presence. Their quiet smooth trajectory adds grace to the night scene here on Princes Street.
Always enjoy a stroll through this chilled out zone here in the heart of this elegant city. Its location is a complex crossroads of pedestrian routes and recreational action. Never looks the same it always delivers people watching material in abundance, its all going on, all the time.
A bit of a legend for different reasons, its turrets are loaded with pictorial power, gaining notoriety as scene setting in one or other Harry Potter films. Arguably now rather infamous, being the seat of learning for our disgraced ex PM Tony Blair, the stripey red blazers are a conspicuous symbol of privilege as more egalitarian principles are hopefully being embraced, at least in Scotland that is. Its graduates include Christian Salvesen and perhaps more comfortably on the conscience, it also delivered Tilda Swinson.
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
An impressive venue for its illustrious collection I particulary like this bizarre but engaging neon lit statement shouting out from the grounds. A message always worth bearing in mind.
Castle Douglas - Portrait of a Forward Town
Earlier this year and with some trepidation I moved "into town" overturning my long held loyalty to abiding as near as possible to wildness and solitude. I chose "The Forward Town" Castle Douglas and it has been an engaging journey, and one with plenty of unexpected rewards.
Aside from the legendary array of quality shops and the convivial nature of the inhabitants I am struck by the many walks, shortcuts, nooks & crannies that have revealed themselves to me as I explore my new domain. I have been pleasantly surprised to discover that the town possesses some impressive architectural landmarks and this coupled with the privilege of having its "shores" lapped by a unique and captivating jewel that is, Carlingwark Loch.
It was essentially through dog-walking that my eyes and mind were opened to the different layers that compose this cohesive and sure-footed small town. Early morning and later evening sorties fed my growing curiosity and I soon went into full image-hunting mode just as Spring delivered its joyful and colourful expression of the life force. Landscape photography can be a bit solitary but it is also reliably enhanced by chance encounters with like-minded people who are also out walking, walking usually for the simple, meditative pleasure of it. Walking early and late has become both essential "timeout" for the busy mind and useful for feeding my perpetual photo habit.
I have sussed out and savoured numerous views on offer from the surrounding gentle hills & gaps between trees & buildings that surround the town. I have taken delight also in how on the outskirts, both the agricultural lands and the wilder habitats merge into the dwelling spaces in a respectful way. I believe kids growing up here are most fortunate in having real countryside to grow up in. Its feels like one of the most valuable things I can recall from my own childhood experience.
Photography is mostly about seeing, the techy stuff is secondary. A great joy putting this work together is a sense of communion with nature, everyday semi-wild habitats on the doorstep are uplifting, surprising even, but also a connection with nature of human kind. Both of these accompany me when I am delving into new territory, it becomes a sort of mobile meditation. As I devised new angles on the town I relished the way a higher viewpoint elevated the stature of the towers and spires that define and decorate the skylines. I also find it intriguing how places can be immediately recognisable and yet, because of the viewpoint, they appear somehow unfamiliar, it's all about ones' "point of view".
It is with pleasure & privilege I offer this personal exposition of a great little town.
Castle Douglas - Portrait of a Forward Town
Exhibition runs at The Workshop Gallery from 1st - 31st July
183 King St. Castle Douglas (AD Livingston & Sons)
Hardback Book, 76 images, 4000 words, 24 x 29 cm, £20.00. available on line at
or at Livingston's furniture shop.
Launch 7 pm Thursday 30th June at the Workshop Gallery - all friends and followers welcome. (nibbles by Earth's Crust Bakery!)
I will be on hand 11am- 2.30pm Friday at The Gallery for book signing, general chat etc.
Allan Wright's Galloway Sojourns 1
I started doing landscape photography right here in Galloway a long time ago, the eighties in fact, and although I have had to plough furrows elsewhere in Scotland to make a living I have never stopped exploring new places here in my adopted homeland. As most landscape and nature lovers know there are no limits to the experience that can be had from rambling around in new places.
Starting with the present time and working backwards through time I thought it might be interesting to share my journey, in blog sized slices, that I have had with Galloway as my subject over these past years. I'd like to pick out the highlights and test my memory a bit with how the pictures might have come about. There are a lot of pictures so this may take some time.
Ok here we go; last shoot I did was a dusk and dawn assault on 3 locations in our beloved Galloway Forest Park. Feral Goats get my attention, I photographed them 20 odd years ago so felt the need to refresh my files. I understand they have been culled in other parts of the Park which sounds just too brutal to contemplate, so I hope this small but contented herd in the official Wild Goat Park at Talnotry is not all that remains.
1) Quizzical looks and those amber eyes with little black slits - Pan is alive and kicking in there somewhere with this fine young billy.
2) How pleasant it was shuffling around in the dry Heather and warm April sunshine waiting for this nanny and kid to come up with a cute pose - strenuous stuff.
3) Fine horns juxtaposed with The Murray Monument is just across a wee Glen at the Grey Mare's Tail. It beams with pride as it pays homage to the memory of Alexander Murray, a local shepherd boy who later became Professor of Oriental Languages at Edinburgh University, erected in 1835.
4) On such a perfect Spring day I calculated that a sunset across Clatteringshaws Loch might be a worth a go. I trundled up and down the West Shore in anticipation of a good angle but nothing really emerged so I headed back towards the Visitor Centre, just moments before the colour started to fail, I seized on this lyrical little part-submerged willow.
5) Camped out at the top of the Garroch Glen and struck out at 5 am for sunrise on summit of Meikle Millyea, one of the Rhinns of Kells. I got there twenty minutes late but no matter. I did this walk back in about 1986 with Logan Paterson, a man passionate about the Galloway Hills, who sadly left us a wee while back. I recall the exact spot where we stood overlooking Loch Dungeon and cursed the mass plantings of Sitka Spruce sharing nostalgic images of life on the land in days of yore. It looks pretty much the same I reckon.
6) Meikle Millyae is a lovely hill, an easy enough climb, its broad flat summit was a joy in the warm sunshine with not a breath of wind or cloud in the sky. I seemed to spend I fair bit of time just sitting on rocks staring here and there to the sounds of cuckoos, skylarks, ravens and buzzards. One of the pleasures of hill walking is to raise a thirst and quench it with the freshest and coolest of water from a mountain burn. View here looking South the Clatteringshaws Loch.
7) Looking across to Corserine Hill with dyke detail and nice little lochan. I never fail to be impressed with the extraordinarily hard grafting that our forefathers must have expended in building dry stone dykes all across the land. Their presence is always reassuring and their unique shapes and weather-beaten textures lie in complement and harmonise so well with the land, the wee birdies and insects love them too. Such a toil to build them though just to keep out the neighbour's sheep. If only we could hear an ancient echo of Galloway "craik" that those dykers that must have shared during the long days and nights building them, respect! Ah life was so much simpler then - or was it?
I finally made it to St Kilda, it happened early last June when, along with 2 other members of the Galloway Photo Collective I headed to Harris via Skye hoping to reach this remote archipelago. Thwarted by grim weather, worst for many years, the outlook was pretty bleak, so we abandoned the trip after only one rather good day & night on The Isle of Harris.
I had work to do on Skye so I stuck around there for the next 10 days, finally there was a break in the weather and I made a dash for it. It was a real wave-thumper of a sail out, most passengers on Angus Campbell's Kilda Cruises power boat were sick. I was lucky riding shotgun so kept my eye on the horizon, this did the trick.
I'd logged many images of St Kilda in my mind over the years so there was a familiarity which took shape straight away, but this was my time to do my thing so forget those! I have faith that nowhere ever looks quite the same ever again, so I'm always game for bit of "re-interpretation" and my excitement at being here did not subside for the entire 3 days.
In the care of our National Trust for Scotland its future as a World Heritage Site is assured. Their role is to defend and further comprehend its unique ecology and archeology. During the summer a dozen or so work-party volunteers enliven the human wildlife of the island. I was privileged to join one of these very sociable gangs for a ramble to some hotspots on the other side of the Island. Apparently there is a long waiting list for this work such is their popularity, a fair few return many times.
I have been asked which bits I liked the best - always a hard one in such an intensely interesting destination such as this. Off the top of my head here are three;
1) The outrageous Bonxies, aka Great Skuas are a bit of legend I would say. Probably for the first time in my life, for a second or two at least, I actually knew what it feels like to be attacked by a wild animal. I can't claim it was bad luck, I was warned that up a certain Glen they would have a go at me, of course the wee boy in me just had to check that one out didn't he! Whack and whack again across the top o'ma heid they came one after another working as a team, crafty and forceful, watching my every move, angling to come at me from directly into the sun to avoid detection. I was both shocked and exhilarated - what a game this is - how to get a shot of these menacing bruisers and not lose an eye in the process. I reckon they are the living embodiment of a WW2 Heinkle bomber. Anyway if you want peace, stick your walking pole up high in your backpack above the head and they leave you alone.
2) The Village on Hirta is simply breathtaking, with the texture & graphics of the rudimentary dry stone cleats & cottages, the echoes the past are redolent in an almost intoxicating way. For me, images of that lost civilisation are never far from mind and the inherent sadness of its failure is palpable. But I found joy in touching stone and marveling at those outer/outer Hebridean people's resilience and practicality in the face of what we might regard as hard core austerity.
3) The outlying satellite island cluster of Boreray demanded attention but the light was full and bright i.e. not forthcoming for dramatic interpretation. Sunrise would be right behind and so that might work. A groan inducing alarm call at 3.45 was close to being ignored but with some rare discipline I'm off up the hill up to "The Gap". The curious and wonderful thing about this exact place is that invariably "virgin gappers" report a powerful sense of shock and revelation when the rocks of Boreray emerge to view as they reach the crest of the hill having huffed and puffed their way to the edge of the cliff for the first time. I did that too and wow, a full-on crimson dawn getting into its stride, no choice, it had to be a time-lapse sequence.
I'd like to go back.
Skye at Last 6 - more images from the Misty Isle
Almost forgotten how good last summer was so by way of a reminder us here is some work I did last year as part of my "Skye at Last" Odyssey.
Skye at Last 5
Continuing my exploration of the magnificent Isle of Skye
There are a handful of locations/scenes on Skye that many of us have had etched into our consciousness over time. They have a familiarity about them that has generated a "Mecca" like attraction to those who compulsively need to photograph Scotland's finest. A very brief visit to Skye back in 2006 bagged me my first shot of The Cuillins from Elgol. I was lucky there was something going on with these cattle probably roaming in search of some nutritiously superior seaweed.
My return 8 years later was different as I had time to check it all out in more detail. The weather was wild and changeable with swathes of cloud, rain and sunshine juddering in from the Atlantic in rhythmic cycles. I was alert and headed out along the boulder strewn shore with some optimism.
I chose my viewpoint with some foreground and settled in for a session. I have mixed feelings about encountering fellow photographers on location, on the one hand I relish solitude, but on occasions, I also appreciate a bit of likeminded banter. Today I met Thierry Frey an ardent image hunter who hailed from Alsace, we shared the time & space and have since stayed in touch on FB, as you do.
I was drawn to the intriguing green luminescence emanating from the rock strewn shallows at my feet. This phenomenon combined with the dynamic cloud patterns whizzing across The Cuillins really got my attention. I noticed that as the light levels dropped with the weight of cloud so did the green luminescence seem to increase in intensity. I should check out the science of that.
Almost in a moment the restless air cleared and these iconic mountains revealed their forms bold and clear. Mysteriously, all this almost without a murmur from the surface of Loch Scavaig, thus I claim the unpredictability of Scotland's West Coast never lets you down. Knowing when to quit is not an exact science but on instinct and at this point Thierry and I ascended to a more elevated viewpoint.
I admit I am a bit of a sucker for a cliché i.e. I have classic Scottish imagery embedded in my memory from the "J Arthur Dixon" postcard days, heather in the foreground, mountains to the rear! The rapidly changing, patchy light called for both patience and speedy responses, in this case I love the richness & warmth of the foreground colours and the brooding cool of the distance mountains, it could only be Scotland.
A warm glow and a cheerful sense of fulfilment came upon us as we romped back over rough moorland and headed back to Elgol village. Momentarily distracted whilst packing the gear away and no doubt pondering upon my next location I glanced across the bay to the moored boats to this "scotch mist" inspired image offering itself. After such a generous session is it too greedy to keep going? I don't think so, as Lenny Kravitz says - "Its ain't over 'til its over" That'll do nicely thanks Elgol.
I seem to spend a fair bit of time rambling over mundane moorland but I am always alert to instances where commonplace elements all seem to come together to elevate the moment of encounter. An example of such occurred at Point of Sleat with these two blackface sheep. juxtaposed with familiar heathery tussocks and a Rowan lush with berries. Added value came in the form of a recent sale of this image to a Skye vet practice!
I kept hearing about magically sounding "Fairy Pools" so after a quick check on sun angle v aspect, a mid afternoon visit looked promising. After negotiating the now familiar parking mayhem I took a stroll up the burn to see what all the fuss was about. A classic Scottish mountain burn issuing from foot of the magnificent Cuillin massif, what's not to like? I watched and waited while the hoards came and went, I figured dinner time would clear the decks and the late low sun would work its magic, which both did. I love the ruggedness set off by the tasty colours in the foreground, I'll be back.
Same evening I head north from the Fairy Pools up the side of Loch Harport and happen upon a subject that's been in my head for decades, Gesto Farm. Truly iconic for sure, but what I find myself asking is, were the original creators of this farmstead aware of the pictorial power they were also generating? Blessed be the rainbow that lands on things at just the right moment, a rare and wondrous kind of feeling.
The Quiraing of Trotternish gets heeps of attention, it's a geological masterpiece and strong images are on offer to all with a camera - all you need is the light. I was lucky with the August colouring enhanced by the dappled texture from scattered cloud cover. I took lunch in the balmy air with a sense of quiet satisfaction.
Turned a corner just out of Portree and had to do a second take as I clocked the ghostly mirage of a monster cruise ship sitting still in the shelter of the bay early one morning. Is it the incongruousness of the shape in situ or the promise of lucrative tourist spending that triggers the thoughts here?
During the trip I spent a fair few nights around Uig in the North, I have a fascination with ports and boats and found myself drawn back to this classic scene in various modes. Church-going maybe in serious decline these days but the perceived significance of these buildings in landscape imagery is no less important. There is a special point at dusk where the "ambient" fading daylight is equal in strength to artificial man made light, it only lasts minutes but that's a productive time to work.
I often find myself getting under the skin of a place just by being receptive and engaging with locals and happily this time a chance encounter revealed a whole new dimension to landscape appreciation. Here I met Sheila Parlane, an energetic and knowledgeable lady farmer, working for the RSPB and managing pasture specifically for the benefit of the recently resident but iconic Corncrake, that famously shy and elusive symbol of Hebridean agricultural ecology. Today she and some volunteers were gathering & burning the poisonous Ragwort prior to late silage making for the local herd of Highland Cattle. I joined in for a while and shot the breeze on this balmy August day, I so love my job on such days.
The wide curve of Ardmore Bay below promised rich pickings as I noted the herd of peculiarly near-white Highland Cattle, a nicely positioned ruined farmhouse and a beckoning cliff top to boot. The cattle were amazing, appearing freshly shampooed and very content. Highlanders are snapped thousands of times in a tourist year but I still love to have a go myself, after all, good shots still sell consistently well and these near albino versions were lovely. Turns out the ruined farmhouse is used as a warehouse by the local wine club distributor, a gentleman in his 80's who, with his wife who has the cattle, moved here from down south 20 years ago - now that is a lifestyle choice if ever I saw one!
Over to the cliff top where I was promised a view of "The Dragon" drinking from the Atlantic, I saw it instantly but I am not sure how easily others see it?
Feeling energetic still I jumped on my bicycle, sometimes the best tool in the bag, and headed to the East side of Vaternish. Can't help but be fascinated by housing styles on the island from stunning new eco builds to vernacular "tumbledowns" sitting side by side it is clear Skye is having its own housing boom. Back to base camp(er) and a day spent reading whilst the rain hammered down. Next day a glance at the ferry timetables directed me to Armadale and the chance of a shot at the Mallaig-Skye Ferry. Planned a shot for later with specific conditions but caught the atmosphere with shot through the trees.
North on the Sleat Peninsula are the captivating hamlets of Tokavaig & Toskavaig, an archway to a ruined castle on a promontory,
a cute little rainbow and the Cuillins slipping in and out of view made the day, made a note also to return at my earliest convenience, mmh, Skye - I am starting to understand what all the fuss is about.
In search of winter
Real winters have become an unreliable occurrence, but of course all the more wonderful when they do appear. A hefty part of my job is producing calendar images which tradition demands contain archetypal wintery material. We have seen some lean years of late in this regard so when the chance arises I like to get going and stock up. Last week I set off to Skye via Glencoe. A critical component of this business is watching digital forecasts by the hour, often trying to second guess and plan the most efficient route for the best conditions, a high level of flexibility is de rigueur and plans can change by the hour.
First stop Glencoe and a visit to the classic Buachaille Etive Mor viewpoint. Eight thirty in the morning and there were only 4 other photographers on the job! Wonderfully bitterly cold and crunchy underfoot, it was joyful to be back at work after a dismal January trying to shake off a wretched flu virus. 1st shot in the bag, unoriginal composition I know, but you've got to start somewhere!
Possibly some sun on West of Skye next day pm so made sure I was at The Fairy Pools on time, but the sun never came, so commiserated with the half dozen or so other bereft snappers and invested in a more textural / mono style image. Perched on a rock beneath the harsh majesty of the Cuillins was edifying nonetheless, the cabin fever of the past weeks slipping away nicely.
Driving through the night to Highland Perthshire, where next morning I was promised a glorious combination of early mist, deep frost and bright sunshine, the most heavenly of combinations. Perthshire's landscape can be so dreamy in the way it combines so many elements and this morning it was truly on form. My heart raced as I frantically sought to park the truck and get stuck into this scene before it evaporated. Farmland between Kenmore & Tummel Bridge.
Glen Clova is the most prominent of the Angus Glens and I have made rather too many fruitless visits to it in the past so my resolve was I high as I planned this particular approach . A Bunkhouse overnight stay with a 6 o-clock rise got me into position for a direct hit from the sun from the South East. Very predictable scenario as the warm light spread down from the crests picking up the shapes and textures of the broad Glen. My only challenge was to get some subtle detail / texture into the foreground, it was all over in about 6-7 minutes, that'll do nicely thanks, back to the truck for a coffee brew, bit of a glow on now.
Stonehaven is starting to annoy me as a overnight stay, overpriced and under-supplied is how I would describe the accommodation on offer but I was determined to get a Dunnottar Castle sunrise in the bag as all looked well on the forecast. Only 5 other photographers on site, so it seems bitterly cold Sunday mornings do help keep the numbers down. The shot? OK I guess it's in the bag but I was hoping for some mist or a wee bit more drama - next time maybe.
Arbroath, The Declaration of Arbroath is a declaration of Scottish independence, made in 1320 - just thought I would stick that in to jolly things along a bit. Famous also for the smoked Haddock or "smokie" My instinct was to revel in this symbol a bit and get a "working toon" image that has a whiff of tradition from inside the working harbour - here is what I came up with.
Heading South through a gloriously lit central Fife and on impulse I took a chance on maybe getting a shot of Glenrothes Town Centre. Thinking logically, high population centre, Fife calendar to produce - got to be worth a go. Words fail me in trying to describe this utterly exasperating experience, Glenrothes has no centre, there is absolutely nothing there apart from a shopping centre that goes on forever. How hard must it be to add heart to a new town when its being designed? Getting out of town and back on the M90 south was hideously difficult to boot. An hour and a half of my life I will never get back!
Hungry for some sort of productive closure to the day I took a stab at Culross, Fife, that fairy tale wee village with its oldest of vernacular "Fifey" style architecture, all NTS, listed & with cobbled streets. Alas I was too late, the light had gone and surprisingly there was no usable street lighting. What the heck, cranked up the ISO to 2500, did a little post production Photoshop work and hey presto I had my "sundowner".
SKYE AT LAST 1
Skye is big on the landscape photography map, it has a worldwide reputation for being spectacular, so in some ways it is surprising it has taken me almost 30 years to get round to "having a go" myself. I confess I had been put it off because I was daunted by its magnitude and reputation, in effect deferring the task to a time when I could do it justice and so I took 18 days this August to see what I could come up with.
4) Toskavaig, sunset and my travelling home.
My initial reaction was of shock as I drove over the Skye Bridge and found myself in the midst of an ad hoc convoy of 19 camper vans (from which I did a sharp harp exit at Kyleakin). It got worse, the whole place was bursting at the seams with tourists, roads were chokka and parking chaos at the main attractions was insane. I was not prepared for this and quickly acknowledged that in terms of dear old Galloway's quest for tourism growth, I was heard muttering to myself on Galloway's behalf to "be careful what you wish for!".
2) Point of Sleat with Eigg & Rum on horizon
What also struck me hard though was just how compulsive visitors are these days about taking photos, it seems an insatiable reflex has entered the human condition. I confess I am a little bemused by this, everything seems to be a potential subject with cameras instinctively brandished without hesitation. Maybe this abundant snapping is because Scotland is so stunning and people are heightened in their enthusiasm and expectation, I feel an urge to engage with folk to find out what drives them and how they see the end product being used ? I am genuinely curious to see where this photo mania is leading us.
On the other hand I was also struck by the plethora of photographers actively promoting themselves as fine art photographers through their real time and online galleries visible throughout Skye, in fact someone even told me there were upwards of 40 photographers presenting themselves as professionals. I am I confess staggered by the popularity of photography and the ease with which many have evolved themselves from the status of amateur into "professional". I have on occasion found myself cautioning enthusiastic amateurs to consider the true meaning of the word amateur - i.e. from the old French "lover of" and that the pure uncorrupted passion felt from the act of producing images is to be revered and that the step into commercialisation does not comes without risks at least in terms of a potential loss of that early passion.
3) Looking South from Neist Point to Waterstein Head & Moonen Bay
The logistics and planning involved in successful landscape work are numerous but here is quick resume of a few; tides, angle of sun, cloud style, humidity, season, time of day, aspect, access, mapping, safety, fitness, equipment, market potential, patience, ferry times, let alone camera and post production technique etc ..... these all more or less play their part. Photographing Skye had these issues in abundance, an OS map and up to the minute i phone weather reports along with a readiness to drive huge mileages were absolutely crucial. I had an amazing time I admit but on reflection I scarcely had a minute to myself during the 18 days. I plan to show more of my Skye images in a series of blogs and share some of my experiences in the coming weeks but meantime I have chosen 4 images that seem on the face of it to be more or less spontaneous but in reality were underpinned by a combination of many factors.
1) Stormy shore and cliffs at Staffin with lone explorer
Twin Peaks - our wee local hills
Screel Hill is a favourite wee local hill - great for a quick jaunt which often rewards with a great view across Auchencairn Bay to the South and the Ken Valley to the North. Its sister hill Bengairn is less well known, but happens to be my preference. It's a gentle ramble at first on forest tracks then past ruined crofts and starkly dramatic Larch trees to the heather and bog moorland that comprises this fine piece of Wild Galloway.
Recently I acquired the kit for camping out on hillsides to enable me to get those special sunrises that only mad photographers can get by being up hills at 4.30 in the morning. A tiny wee tent, camera and other lightweight gear packed I decided to road test it all on Bengairn last Tuesday night. It might be lightweight but at about 18 Kilos I could feel the strain on this creaky old frame but I made it. At the close of a fabulous warm summer day I did get a sunset across the Glenkens before I pitched camp and hit the hay(heather) with an set for alarm for 4.30.
Forecast was for a big old fat sun at sunrise so imagine my surprise when unzipping the tent I felt the cold rush of a thick & damp chilly fog rushing past the flapping canvas. That and the grim touch of a damp everything was not quite the romantic image I had of brewing up as the sun rose across Screel Hill and the bay below. Temperature must have been about 5 degrees and my hands were white, that and the depressing prospect of packing up wet gear only to trek home "sans images" was a wee bit testing.
I decide to try to warm up a bit before packing so I nipped up the trig point summit at which point the sun started to punch its way through the gloom and within minutes I was clicking away at a fast emerging ethereal hillscape across on Screel. I do sometimes get caught out by abandoning shoots to early and this was one of those close shaves.
I chose this picture because it suggest more than it really is. The pure hill scene was good too but there is a suggestion of the ancient in this shot, an illusion of course because it's entirely recent and but why let facts get in the way of a good illusion.
It's that iconic volcanic plug that sits there so conspicuously as the gatekeeper to the Firth of Clyde, familiar like an old friend, yet I suspect few have actually visited it, indeed it's on my own list of "places in Scotland to visit before I die". I have enjoyed it many times from Ayrshire and from Arran, as it provides the ideal anchor point on the horizon , helpfully decorating many a seascape.
Continuing my "Galloway Revisited" project I recently took a couple of days down on the Rhins of Galloway, that spindly shaped part of Wigtownshire down by Stranraer. It's a longish haul along increasingly narrowing roads in my lumbering beast of a camper van but I just made it on time to catch a nice fiery sunset behind Corsewall Lighthouse on the north western tip of the Rhins. All places have their own special feel and this quiet corner of Galloway and here during the summer solstice it glowed in many ways, but in essence it's all about farming, ferries, quiet seclusion and views of the "Craig".
In Landscape Photography there can be a strong element of strategy, i.e. narrowing the odds by studying, weather sun angle, tides, ferry timetables and seasonal colour etc etc. It can be an all-consuming task, so much so, that at times I forget to eat and lose track of the established rhythms of the day perhaps at this time of year having to nap in the afternoon to avoid sleep deprivation. Having said that one of the best parts of my job is the "unexpected encounter" when the elements of a picture just seem to fall together just like that. It has been called serendipity I believe and this is how image 2 came about. I just turned a corner on a wee back road and there it all was. To me it sums up the uniqueness of the North Rhins, but it was fleeting - 2 hours later the cows had moved on and the magic was gone.
Image 3 was an exercise in strategy that only half worked. The elements are all there and I am happy with the dynamics and the composition but the light was less than enhancing. In my experience it may take perhaps 3-4 return trips to nail this kind of shot with the kind of great light these subjects deserve.
Safely back home and with many hours of image editing ahead of me, It's not uncommon to be asked "did you have a good holiday?" I confess I have sort of given up trying to explain that my job is not exactly a holiday, I have grown to quite like the idea that people think I make a living by going on holiday, it makes me chuckle.
Misty old Ayshire
Rather illogically our neighbour county of Ayrshire has very rarely been in my viewfinder. This fact belies the frequency of my "just passing through visits" over the past 35 years in total and at a rough guess it must be into four figures. However last year the Photo Collective I am part of was invited to submit certain images of Ayrshire for a project on our local Biosphere. This got me started but was soon followed by a request from my principle calendar customer to produce images for an Ayrshire Calendar for 2015, green light was definitely on now.
I chose a promisingly crisp, bright but slightly foggy day in February last year to get started and headed North with intent. First stop was the Scottish Industrial Railway Centre near Patna. Deserted of course but eerie and atmospheric with curious combinations of rusting machinery old locomotives and iconic industrial revolution chimneys fading into the distance and spooky crows alighting noisily here and there, my kind of place then. I have intended to visit here since forever and here I was at last - steeped in imaginative historical energy, a fine venue for image making, glad I chose today.
The trip got better as I dropped into the splendid environs of Culzean Castle a place I thought I knew quite well. It was a dream ticket as the morning haar-like mist very slowly burned off revealing the subtlest and sweetest of colours with magical and ethereal shapes emerging as sometimes familiar and other times as absolutely brand new. I cannot recommend more highly the rare, but reliable, few days each year that start off like this, a photographic banquet of opportunity.
Other gems revealed themselves even as the haze lifted I discovered the joys of the River Stincher, the countryside round Pinwherry followed by an exquisitely tranquil Girvan Harbour. The following day was equally rewarding with a mystical showing from Burns Cottage and the romantic Brig o' Doon topped only by a wonderfully pastel coloured presentation of The iconic Turnberry Lighthouse. Mostly skipped the urban bits round Ayr, Irvine, Troon, Ardrossan etc. and finished off with the late sun kissing the upbeat traditional resort that is Largs with its Millport Ferry and famous ice cream heritage.
Ayrshire - I will be back soon - why did I leave it so long I ask myself?
If you want to see a more complete set of images from this trip go to portfolio galleries - Ayrshire on this site
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