Misty Old Ayrshire

May 28, 2014  •  1 Comment

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



turnberry golf course with lighthouseturnberry golf course with lighthouse scottish industrial railway centre dalmellington ayrshirescottish industrial railway centre dalmellington ayrshire

Timeless Stuff

May 12, 2014  •  2 Comments

Timeless Stuff

I am enjoying revisiting Galloway. Not that I ever stopped of course, how could I with such a wealth of material on my doorstep? It's more like I am retracing my steps from the ongoing series of journeys I started taking back in the early 80's.

I have already accepted with some relish that It's going to be an extended déjà vu and one with I hope many personal memories, memories of the type you only get from the precise sense of place that locations gave you on your first encounter. There is an innocence and receptivity involved in landscape photography and it is that initial encounter that rarely fails to make an impression. Experienced photographers may concur here that it is often the first shot you take in a shoot that ends up being your favourite. This is not say that I believe you should shoot from the hip per se, I most definitely advocate a thorough reccy of the scene before the camera comes out of the bag.

Anyway I was reminded the other day of how others might perceive the photographer's domain. A nice lady I met in a shop was pleased to meet me as she had always wanted to make paintings from some of my Galloway images but had restrained herself as she did not want to infringe what she imagined was copyright. With some delight I assured her I was flattered by this kind of thing and encouraged her artistic pursuit wholeheartedly, without any recourse to any copyright issues. Interestingly it was an image of Sweetheart Abbey she was most moved by and to add to the fun she had imagined I had climbed some impossibly big hill at 4 in the morning to get it!

Truth is there is wee back road you can take to get the view and you need hardly even get out of the car!

The upshot of this chance encounter was that I felt compelled to return to the exact spot I took the original picture in approximately 1988 to see what 25 years experience and the latest equipment might bring to bear on this subject. As you can see very little has changed in terms of the Abbey and the village, only the trees have grown a bit. It is interesting that the new shot I chose (not the first one of the shoot alas) is from almost exactly the same angle as the shot I took back in 88 - rationality or instinct, or both?

One was sunrise and the other sunset, guess which?

Bluebell time is here

April 24, 2014  •  Leave a Comment
Its Bluebell season again - everyone loves this time of year do they not? the freshness of the vegetation, the vigour of the growth, the blossom, the colour, the scents, birds singing - oh joy. I do love bluebells, they carpet the floor of Spring's Cathedral.

Anyway I want to share a few bluebell pics to get the mood going. They are a perenially favourite subject of course and many of us with our new fangled cameras get out there at some point and have a go at doing justice to their delightful presence. How often though do the results fall short of delivering a sense of how beautiful they seemed at the time. I have taken more mediocre pictures of bluebells than I care to remember so don't think its an easy subject - for sure its not.

A few tips - try to bring in another element to the picture like trees ferns, dykes etc and I tend to think its probably not worth trying the close up thing unles you really know what you are doing - they tend to all look the same. Otherwise damp conditions are better than dry also try late and early in the day and don't wait till they are going over. Bluebells forever!

turnberry lighthouse missed opportunity

April 10, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Recalling a visit to Turnberry Lighthouse early last spring when I took these pictures. I had recently got the contract to produces images for a new Ayrshire Calendar 2015 for Lyrical Scotland and I was duly exploring South Ayrshire. This is a place I had for some reason partly missed out on over the years, but not surprisingly I found myself thoroughly captivated.  The Lighthouse is undoubtedly iconic and I was not disappointed as the atmosphere was light and misty, almost ethereal even. With a photographer's eye I gave it the once over scrambling around the famous edifice looking for angles here and there. As you can see from the photos there are some issues; rusty,  bent and broken railings gave it that "unloved" dangerous feel - I wondered is there a plan here or is will it be left to die shamefully? - perhaps it's been restored already does anyone know?  As I left I felt something wasn't right here - such a wonderful symbol for Ayrshire, suffering through obvious neglect.  Stepping back it got worse, I was  looking to get a close up shot  of the whole building but amazingly the  immediate and obvious view was spectacularly ruined by a really ugly power installation right smack in front of me.  Is there perhaps a case for more joined up thinking between Scottish Power and the Planners / Council  etc. a missed opportunity or what?

Parton Estate

April 08, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Parton Estate yesterday afternoon - murky damp and neglected - lucky to have it to hand though - lots of new angles since the clearfell and storm damage.

Scottish Nature Photography Awards - winner

March 31, 2014  •  Leave a Comment


Feels great to be a winner in this prestigious competition having entered for the past 3 years, been on a few shortlists and even a runner up. It's interesting to note that the scene though attractive, perhaps gained some of its recognition by the number of boxes it quietly ticked.

"This shot revealed itself whilst at Glasgow Green late October last year. I was updating my Glasgow image bank around the Clyde Walkway and the People's Palace on what was a  fine crisp autumn day with a rich and intensely colourful light quality. At the time I thought it was good find, but only later appreciated it was also quite an eloquent description of a significant , if less well known part of Glasgow's heritage. The St Andrews Suspension bridge makes an appearance as do the brand new "des res" apartments along the restored riverbank habitat. The benign steaming chimney of the Strathclyde Distillery may dominate but it does not diminish the sense of tranquillity. The only element missing is an olfactory blend of autumn ripeness and distilled malt fragrance.!  Most of all though I like the fact that this is a picture of the "Glasgow Gorbals", a catchphrase universally synonymous with the worst of urban squalor and deprivation. An identity now resigned to legend, as here is the new reality. Glasgow is good at stuff like this!"




before and after - child photography

March 12, 2014  •  Leave a Comment


Accepting I am perhaps better known for my landscape work, a comment from my principle photo library to the effect that image sales are often achieved more easily when there are people in the photograph led me to trawl my files for people pictures, (an interesting journey in itself!). Out of curiosity I pulled out these two images which have a "before and after" story behind them. The scene is The Dhoon Beach, Kirkcudbright circa 2009 ( locals will know it well) A balmy and magical haar lingers across the bay and there in front of me is a timeless scene, a score or more of young children making sandcastles. This kind of light invokes in me an eagerness to explore possibilities. Working quickly while the action lasts I rattle off two or three shots with a longish telephoto lens, conscious of the need to keep my distance where children are concerned. Enjoying the candidness of the scenario,  primary colours popping out from the neutralising fog and even the ghostly boat skeleton in the distance, I thought, this is nice material to work with.

There was an edge to my creative moment though, too good to be true you might say, I sensed trouble brewing and from experience I knew exactly where it was to come from. Teacher was quickly on to me, not happy, suspicious and presuming the worst of course. down goes the camera,  metaphorically hands go up, professional status presented, assurances offered, demonstrations of virtual anonymity of said children in such a long distance shot etc etc.  In short no acceptance of the benign nature of my purpose was accepted and the shoot was abandoned. Meanwhile in a display of protectiveness our conscientious teacher shepherded the kids away from the scene.

It's an awkward ethical quandary for the "street" photographer to have such a   "no go zone". Most of us anyway, love children and childhood and so naturally would wish to share such experience as this time-honoured tradition illustrates. Arguably we have been in an semi- hysterical state about child photography for many years now and we all know why. Will the tension ease over time and we can get back to a more innocent time where one can explore and celebrate child innocence and personal sentimentality without zealously upheld constraints? Let's hope so.

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