I made my way to the far northeast corner of Aberdeenshire today scouting a specific lighthouse, my intention is to return here for a sunrise shoot when conditions are right to do so. I still took along my camera so I could make a few images but these were never intended to be anything other than informative for me at a later date.
But once I started shooting I thought the images were really quite nice so took a little time and effort to do what I could with the conditions. Obviously the light wasn't the best but the sea conditions were good and some solid waves were bouncing back off the base of the structure. I took some time to make images that captured the sea state and also some that calmed the sea state using long exposures.
The images below show one shot with a polariser at 1/640th and f/5.6 to freeze the motion of the sea. The other one shot with a polariser and a 16 stop filter at 30 sec at f5.6 to smooth out the sea. I like both and thought they make an interesting example of how you can make very different shots at the exact same location simply by changing your shutter speed.
Rattray Head Lighthouse is on the northeast corner of Aberdeenshire and has been there since 1895, automated in 1982 it continues to warn seafarers with its 28 nautical mile beam of light cutting through the night sky. There is a beautiful beach and 17 miles of unspoiled sand dunes up to 75 feet high reaching south from the point. It is a stunning, isolated place accessed via a terrible track that is deeply rutted and potholed along most of its length, but it is still well worth the slow drive along it. It's certainly a drive I will be making again when conditions are right.
This week I managed to get out exploring a little of the Cairngorms National Park using my mountain bike to cover the ground. A basic scouting run looking for future photo opportunity found it around every corner, and I had to remind myself that different is not necessarily more photogenic. It's easy to fall into this trap when we travel far beyond our usual haunts. The change in topography provides differing views than we have experienced for a while, so it is natural to be tempted into thinking they are all great views rather than new views.
It's a very difficult thing to combat, and I believe we do need to combat it, because the views are so appealing due to their recency that we tend to see them as much more interesting at that moment, when they are in fact only momentarily interesting.
If you're shooting for Instagram, then fire away, because the image only needs to be momentarily interesting, but if you're shooting to create a landscape image for the portfolio, and hopefully future sales, then momentarily interesting simply isn't enough.
I covered 25km around the south east corner of the Cairngorms and found a number of areas with real promise for future image making. I always carry my little Canon M50 to note the places I find, then once back at home I place them in a 'potential' folder with notes on conditions required to make the image I envisaged for the location.
The image below is fine for sharing on the blog (ignoring clear composition issues) it does give a taste of Scotland, but the light is wrong, the heather to the left of frame is in its winter state and far too dull, and the grasses lifeless.
But if I return on a frosty autumnal morning the heather would be blooming, both on the left of frame and on the mountain in the distance which would catch the morning light, there should still be good water flow, life in the grasses and (if we want it all) just a light dusting of snow or hoar frost on the mountain, that would be the shot.
In truth, I am unlikely to return to this area in perfect conditions, it's simply too far to hike in before dawn with all the gear and to be honest I'm sure I could find a similar composition in dozens of places within striking distance of the roadside. But the process of scouting does make us consider these things more carefully, and look out for them elsewhere, so in that sense it brings value to the whole exercise.
In truth, just being out there hunting images and enjoying the tranquillity whilst contemplating photography is such a wonderful pastime that its contribution is in many ways, invaluable.
So, whenever you're out there shooting, and particularly in a new area, be more critical of the image you're trying to make and don't let the 'new view' fool you into thinking it's a great view.
The blog posting drought is once again over, this time revitalised by the beautiful cliffs of Aberdeenshire. As I alluded to in a previous post, I have finally made the move back to the UK, and it is so wonderful to be home again.
I hope to be travelling extensively as usual. But also taking in a lot of what home has to offer, and what better place to begin than the north east of Scotland and the stunning sea cliffs of Fowlsheugh Nature Reserve. Tucked away on the east coast of Aberdeenshire, Fowlsheugh is a beautiful unspoiled stretch of coast managed by the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). In the past I have seen whales, basking sharks, seals and dolphins from these cliffs as well as the millions of birds including Fulmars, Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins who call the cliffs home in the springtime. Today I was a little early for many birds but I did see a number of Kittiwakes and Fulmars as well as cormorants and a single grey seal searching the rocks at high tide.
There are very few parking spots at the end of the single track road leading to the site, but at this time of year there is no difficulty in finding a spot, even in the best of weather. The area is unspoiled and therefore unprotected, so kids and dogs must be kept on a short leash to ensure you go home with as many in your party as you set out with. In the spring and early summertime the cliffs are a cacophony of cries from a multitude of sea birds, and wildflowers bloom throughout the site, it is a genuinely spectacular sight and certainly one I would recommend to anyone visiting this area.
Blog posts will once again become more frequent now we are settling in and I hope to bring you more of Scotland very soon.
When the local weather showed clouds until 01:30 last night I assumed my chance of shooting the partial lunar eclipse was lost, but I waited up anyway. At close to midnight I ventured out with the camera and tripod as far as our front yard. There was still a good amount of high cloud but it waxed and waned sufficiently to allow me to shoot the moon.
By 01:30 the sky almost cleared and the moon revealed itself fully, so did the freezing cold temperatures, but that aside, it was great to be standing on my own front driveway watching another celestial event unfold.
The eclipse last night was a once in 580 year event due to its longevity, so it's safe to say I won't be around for the next one. In May 2022 there will be a total lunar eclipse of shorter duration so hopefully I'll still be around for that. In the mean time, here's the view from my driveway in Canada; as I have often said, what a spectacular world we live in and what wonders it provides.
Regular readers will know of my ongoing love affair with the prairies. The historic vast wilderness of sweeping grasses now mostly turned to farmland still maintains that wonderful wide open expanse. It is the expanse that draws me, as an Englishman such vast open spaces are unequalled in my home country and it is almost impossible to comprehend that these spaces are as large as my entire home country.
Yet within this seemingly infinite emptiness, masses of life exists. Colonies of ground squirrels and prairie dogs, thousands upon thousands of eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls hunting overhead day and night. Millions of birds in transit to and from the arctic as the seasons turn. Coyotes and Foxes fighting for real estate close to huge water sources teaming with fish. There are elk, moose, pronghorns, deer and bears patrolling endlessly. Badgers, snakes, and rodents too numerous to mention, it is a stunning wildlife paradise that I will miss very much.
One of the great benefits of living within this wonderful wildlife arena, is that all of these beautiful creatures pass by the house with regularity, and just occasionally stop in long enough for an image as this stunning prairie falcon did very recently.
Do you ever get those days when you just aren't 'feeling' it, when the images you think of making don't seem worth the effort and you move on without making anything, I had that kind of a day today. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed being out there hunting, after all that's why we do this, the thrill of the hunt and the trophy image to come.
So, after over 300 km (190 miles) of roaming some of the most beautiful, scenic, mountainous areas in Canada I finally found a snow blown mountain top with light breaking through to its summit for todays image. I did ultimately make a number of shots but I couldn't help but think they were all a little bit 'Meh'.
I have no doubt that the reason was entirely my state of mind, a frustrating morning and upcoming major life disruption combined to distract me throughout the day. I simply wasn't on my game and sometimes that's just how it is.
So, my image today might well be a reflection of my mood, the storm clouds are passing and I see that glimpse of wonderful light, and that is how it always goes. We all go through times when life invades our thoughts to such an extent that we just can't see the images around us, in my case the changes are very positive, but disruptive nonetheless.
The very last of the stunning autumn colours have now died back to brown all across Kananaskis. Before they did I made a hike up to the Rae glacier in the Elbow Valley. It is a wonderful hike past a crystal clear lake through forest and up boulder fields to a terminal moraine and the glacier beyond.
It is almost always windy, in fact very windy, as the topography funnels air up through the valley, across the boulder field and away over the mountain top. This day was no different and I struggled to hold the camera steady enough to make images but the view down the boulder field is too good to ignore.
So, below is an image from my last autumn hike in this wonderful place, in a few weeks the road to highwood pass will be closed for the winter, cutting off access to this location until June 2022, I hope to make one more trip out here before it does.
This week, for the first time in quite a while, I stood in the rear garden of my home in Canada in anticipation of an approaching solar storm, and it promised to be a good one, however, very often the promised aurora can fall flat or not show at all, but as you can see in the image below, not this evening.
This evening as waves of electrified gases raced through space on the solar wind, some of that energy was captured by earths magnetic shield and pulled down magnetic field lines at the poles. Once funnelled into the polar regions these charged particles excite oxygen and nitrogen to produce the incredible phenomena that fills our night skies with otherworldly illumination.
The most familiar green light comes from oxygen between 100 to 300 km above the earth, pink and dark red is produced by nitrogen molecules at around 100 km. Very bright red auroras come from oxygen at altitudes above 300 km and the blue and purple come from hydrogen and helium though these are much easier for the camera to catch than for the eye to see.
Monday evening was a stunning aurora, bringing to life the usually invisible magnetic field lines with vivid greens, reds and purples that encircled the city of Cochrane below. As always when watching the aurora I thought of those times years ago, when I dreamed of seeing it without ever daring to hope I actually would. I crawled into bed in the early hours, freezing cold and wonderfully happy to have been able to stand beneath such an awe inspiring sight once more.
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