A Tour Around The Scottish Borders

2 OUT OF 3 AIN'T BAD

I had 3 locations in mind. Gore Glen, Leaderfoot Viaduct and Loch Skeen. My route planned, bags packed and ready to hit the road. As I arrived in Gorebridge the skies turned grey. Not good threatening skies for photography, just grey lifeless skies. This type of sky doesn't fill you with dread and concern. It doesn't make you grab the darkest filter so every thunderous cloud is enhanced so you feel like you have just taken a photo of the worlds final hours. No, these were very much typical Scottish skies..... Grey! Not to worry, I had beautiful waterfalls to photograph and no sky was needed. What was needed though was a waterfall and I was having terrible difficulty finding one. I knew more homework was needed for this location, but it's a well-trodden path, along a river, in a glen. Surely I would find the waterfall! After over an hour and a half walking along the river where said waterfall should be, I returned to the car without a single image taken.


Stop number 2 on my planned route was Leaderfoot Viaduct also known as the Drygrange Viaduct. I have seen this place on many photo websites and have always wanted to see it for myself. It is a stunning location. Like many parts of the River Tweed, this area is well known for fishing but on this occasion, I had the place to myself and explored all potential vantage points for a composition I liked. This did involve sliding down an embankment but it was worth it!

 Leaderfoot Viaduct Canon 5D MKII | EF17-40mm f/4L USM | ISO 50 | f/8.0

Leaderfoot Viaduct Canon 5D MKII | EF17-40mm f/4L USM | ISO 50 | f/8.0

The above image consisted of two long exposure shots, blended together to get the most out of the shadows under the bridge. This created a nice softening of the water but with the disturbance under the bridge still evident.

I will definitely return to this spot in brighter weather which would help illuminate the scene and hope to have a more exciting sky to use.


Onwards to my final location of the day. A place I have attempted to access in the past but the rain had other plans for me that day and beat me into submission back to the shelter of my car. As I arrived at Grey Mare's Tail, the drizzle had moved on and the possibility of reaching Loch Skeen looked good.

On the way up, past Grey Mare's Tail, I was pleased to see a whole spillage of waterfalls (made up terminology... but I like it) which were partially frozen. Well, this made up for the unsuccessful trip to Gore Glen. The issue here was that accessibility was rather limited. Actually, accessibility was rather easy if you don't mind falling hundreds of feet down a waterfall. Care was taken to get as close to the edge as my shaky legs allowed and compose an image of one of the more impressive waterfalls.

 Waterfall below Loch Skeen 5D MKII | EF17-40mm f/4L USM | ISO 50 | f/6.3

Waterfall below Loch Skeen 5D MKII | EF17-40mm f/4L USM | ISO 50 | f/6.3

Onwards and upwards to Loch Skeen. After quite a considerably longer amount of time than I was hoping for I finally turned a corner to be welcomed by the sheer beauty of Loch Skeen. Wow, it was stunning and so still. The Loch was partially frozen and the low cloud hung in the air obscuring the hilltops giving me this sense of confined space. I was well aware that this was winter in Scotland and that means limited hours of sunlight and as I was up a hill, with nobody around and no phone signal, I thought it best to promptly find a composition. The icy loch and the low clouds made the picture taking of this scene quite challenging. There was a lot of reflection to contend with and the brightness of the clouds and the loch made the lights and darks of the image very extreme.

 A Tree Island 5D MKII | EF85mm f/1.8 USM | ISO 50 | f/11

A Tree Island 5D MKII | EF85mm f/1.8 USM | ISO 50 | f/11

A high vantage point was required to isolate the tree from the reflections of the hills in the background. Ideally I would have liked to be quite a bit higher but I was already on the highest mound on the loch's edge. This would have to do. I decided to make this quite a tight photo with minimal clutter from the surrounding elements. This way the viewers focus would land on the tree and then explore the semi submerged rocks in the photo.

 Loch Skeen 5D MKII | EF17-40mm f/4L USM | ISO 50 | Combination of 9 shots

Loch Skeen 5D MKII | EF17-40mm f/4L USM | ISO 50 | Combination of 9 shots

This final image of Loch Skeen has a lot more going on with the inclusion of the surrounding land. I noticed this rock with the striking green moss partially covering its surface to draw the viewers eyes through the scene, starting at the base of the photo and moving towards the centre where the isolated tree is perched in its island.

I need to take 9 photos to make this shot work, combining them together so the darks and lights of the scene were well balanced and that there was sharp focus throughout.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip through the Scottish borders and with the photographs I managed to capture. Maybe one day I'll find the Waterfalls at Gore Glen...

 

Exploring East Lothian Scotland

Exploring East Lothian

The clouds were looking promising, the sun was out and I wanted to explore.

The East Lothian coast line is not far and it has been quite a while since I explored there. I had an idea of what I wanted... well, an idea of what I didn't want, and that was to get back home and see the same kind of photos that I had taken on previous trips. In my mind I was looking for simple, no clutter, minimalist photographs. I'll be honest it wasn't easy. I felt myself falling back in to the usual composition set up but I persisted and came away with a couple of photos that were definitely not my usual style.  

 

Here is the video I took when out exploring East Lothian.

A Winter Shoot 13th February 2016

On an early Saturday morning in the middle of winter I found myself in my back garden setting up lights and reflectors for my first photo shoot. My great friend Roxy was needing some shots for her website blog and with her being a South African, we couldn't miss the opportunity of the snowy background. I normally photograph landscapes, cityscapes and interiors so a model shoot was an exciting and very nerve wracking task.

Fortunately the sun was working with us and was creating a soft glow around Roxy so all I needed to do was set the reflector and the strobe light to balance with the natural light.

Everything was going great and the only changes that were needing made were upping the strobe to keep up with the rising sun and repositioning myself so I was catching a sunburst and flare in the shot.

The sun was shining and both Roxy and were having a great time.

Time for lunch break and a change of wardrobe for Roxy. When we got back out things had changed. The sun was high and harsh and balancing the strobe with the natural light was a constant task. The second half shots came out with a very different look with a bit more zing and less glow as every time I tried to get the flare it gave more of a harsh glare, taking over the photo and washing out any details.

 THE LAST OF THE SUN FLARE

THE LAST OF THE SUN FLARE

I decided to flatten out the strobe and shoot tighter with less sky.

The whole experience was great fun and I really enjoyed this type of photography. Roxy was great and was a true professional even when standing, shivering inbetween strobe light and reflector adjustments.

Walking and photographing the West Highland Way

West Highland Way

 

It has been a month since we completed the West Highland Way (WHW) and I am still buzzing with the experience. What a journey and what a country to explore by foot. We were extremely lucky with the weather - not one drop of rain for the 7 day hike, unheard of - and because we chose late in the season to walk the WHW there were no annoying travel companions following our route…. I’m talking about the Scottish midge of course. Because of this I feel rather guilty. I hear others who had to endure wind, rain and fog during the hike, missing many of the stunning views that are on offer and then having to supply blood to the millions of midges that swarm camp each evening. My pitiful complaints consisted of bringing too many warm / waterproof clothes and that some days were a bit too warm for walking… The hardship… 

 

I gave myself a target of capturing one photograph that I was happy with each day. Some days this was easy and the opportunity presented itself without so much as a sideways glance. Other days were a bit more tricky. The endless blue sky didn’t help with landscape photography. It might be nice to look at but for photography having a big blue sky without clouds creating any drama and harsh light on the land makes for a very emotionless photograph. I enjoyed the challenge of photography the ever changing landscape and the hiking that was involved. 

 

I do and will continue to recommend the WHW to everyone. It was such a fantastic experience and really the best way to see that part of Scotland.

 

If you are interested in walking part or all of the WHW check out this link.

http://www.west-highland-way.co.uk/home.asp

 


Sunday 24th of May 2015

We have been driving South for several hours, it’s late on a Thursday night, passing only the odd lorry, we make good time. The destination is the South Lakes, England and the plan is to walk, hike, scramble the Fairfield Horseshoe which starts and finishes in Ambleside. It’s an early start on Friday morning to pack the backpack with camera gear (always pack too much) and lunch (can’t pack enough) we set off. The forecast’s promise of dry weather holds true which is quite something for the Lake District and we are soon taking our layers of windproof jackets and multi activity soft fleece jumpers off as we bake in the mid morning sun. Will it last...?

 

The purpose for this walk is to photograph Lake Windermere through the valley that leads to the town of Ambleside and on to Windermere. When we get to the middle ridge, just before the Fairfield summit we look south down Rydal Beck Valley for the photograph. In all the guide books and walking blogs of the route it’s THE view, regularly described as the best in the Lakes and a must for a clear day, it doesn’t disappoint. There were quite a few clouds forming by now making an ideal scene for some black and white photographs. The sun was occasionally breaking through and lighting the valley, this really created drama and needed for mid-day photography.

 The view towards Ambleside and Windermere.

The view towards Ambleside and Windermere.





Wednesday 6th of May 2015.

After long hours of youtube searches and viewing of these searches I have finally managed to create a store on my website and like a lot of things, once I got my head around it, very much trial and error, it came together quite easily. So easily in fact that I asked myself what else can I add to the website?... Yes, a blog.

The very thought of writing is scary and doesn't come naturally to me. Spelling, grammar, flow, all these will be terrible and I apologise. It was only a couple of sentences ago that I though ‘in fact’ was one word… 

I am planning on keeping these very short and are really just an outpouring (and this is one word…not two..) of plans, thoughts and findings all based around my photography. I will blog about places I have been and places I plan on going, sharing what I am hoping to achieve and capture when I get there. I will discuss equipment and my set-up for the journey and shoot. I will also share some of my workflow which will vary drastically from shoot to shoot just so you get an insight to my technique/chaotic preparation. 

I am very aware that I don’t have a specific style, maybe because I am still learning about the photographic process or maybe because I like lots of different styles. Hopefully this blog will help explain and make clear, mainly to myself, why I choose various styles by capturing my thoughts and my feelings when out on a shoot. It might be that I am heavily influenced by other photographers or artists that I have viewed recently (Mirjam Appelhof). Maybe it is down to the music I’m listening to (Steve Reich - Phases), the book I’m reading (In America, Travels with John Steinbeck by Greet Mak) or something like the traffic whilst driving to a location. Who knows?

Lets see what happens.