Sunday, March 11, 2018

Proper Winter

According to our neighbours it's been the hardest winter here in Scotland for sometime.   2010 was a toughie, but it snowed harder and longer in January and February than anyone can remember.  That and the flu we both caught somewhat limited our getting out and about.   We've managed a few bits here and there though including a walk along the shore on the North side of the Forth at Culross on a sunny day:

In the distance the refinery at Grangemouth (we drove home from Edinburgh one evening recently with low lying cloud and the motorway was lit orange from the flame-offs and everything smelt of sulphur, it was a relief to be past it).

Then came the beast from the East and 18 inches of lying snow with drifts half as much again:

Having joined a community dig-out we watched the snow start to melt away in the heavy rain that followed.  I picked a brief window of sunshine to drive out and head to Glencoe, dodging rain showers on the way.   Although the bulk of the snow had gone it was still a magnificent sight both on the way:

and on arrival:

The weather soon caught up with me so i turned round and headed back, getting home again before lunch, that's how close one of the most spectacular natural landscapes is to us now.   Spring is coming and it's time to get fit and get out exploring again...

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


With Christmas behind us and my birthday approaching I decided to gamble on the weather and picked a long weekend in Oban, as it has long appealed and why not?

We got very very lucky with the weather with a long, dry, calm spell forecast, though the drive up on the Friday night was anything but, we encountered stags, sleet and snow on the road but made it to a quiet, post festive seaside town, that was still lit-up and with plenty of food and accommodation choices.

After a good night's sleep it was up before dawn to get down to the harbour to watch the light slowly filter into the sky.  As it did so the snow-capped mountains on Mull became visible, beyond the small island of Kerrera:

The harbour waters were still and at pretty much full tide:

I wandered around a bit before breakfast, long enough to watch the Mull ferry come into the ferry terminal:

After breakfast we drove a little way down the coast to the departure point for the foot ferry to Kerrera, having decided to spend my birthday walking the 7 mile loop:

The ferry left early because enough people were waiting so we arrived on the island to be greeted by a lone sheep, one of the more abundant Kerrera residents:

We decided to go against the flow and walk the circuit counter-clockwise on the basis the light would be on Mull and the Highlands and then behind us as we completed the circuit thereafter:

The views to Mull on that Saturday morning were magnificent:

As indeed was much of the landscape of Kerrera:

Not much in the way of wildlife though we did see our first ever White-tailed Eagles, soaring above the channel between the Islands.  Magic!

We completed the circuit surprisingly briskly in 3 hours, despite the boggy and somewhat icy conditions.

From Kerrera we caught the foot ferry back (again early, our thanks to the ferrymen) and headed back to Oban to warm-up before heading out to catch the sunset.  We decided to watch the sunset from McCaig's tower, a folly overlooking Oban.   Whilst there we met a lovely family from South Uist, a place we have to and indeed have yet to visit.

The tower is a circular structure without purpose other than to be and to be seen:

The view over Oban from the ledge in front of the tower is splendid.   You can see the chimney of the Oban Distillery in the centre foreground as the sun set over Mull in the distance:

At night the harbour lights give an entirely different impression of Oban, luckily we were there while the Christmas lights were still on, adding a line of purple lights to the normal fare:

McCaig's tower is lit-up at night too:

Sunday morning was another cold crisp morning, this time with a lot more cloud cover, though with some sunlight breaking through from time-to-time:

The ground was frozen solid in places as were a number of smaller water bodies and water courses:

It was another beautiful morning as we worked our way North along the coast:

At one point we though we'd seen an Otter (we did later) but it turned out to be a couple of young seals close to the shore:

in a magnificent landscape and setting:

Our first stop was Dunstaffnage Castle:

Before heading on further North.   At one point i stopped to walk on to a bridge to take a picture of some snow-capped hills.   The cold breeze blowing up the channel was quite something to experience while taking this:

Our next brief stop was at Castle Stalker, which was intermittently sunlit through the clouds:

How on earth they built that...

From there we headed into Glencoe, which was duly snow-dusted and barren:

But absolutely breathtaking:

We'd met some more photographers on Kerrera the previous day and they'd mentioned Rannoch Moor as a good location for photography.   They were right:

 The moor is dotted with lakes, rivers and waterfalls, frozen or partly active:

And all in the snow-capped landscape of Glencoe:

Even with the sun heading down (at 2pm) it remains a magnificent landscape and spectacle and well worth a winter visit or two:

Our final stop of the afternoon was at Kilchurn Castle, though we approached it from the other side of Loch Awe:

I've seen a number of images of the castle reflected in the Loch but not today, there was far too much surface ice, with just a small window for the reflection:

But it's a lovely spot.  You have to move around a bit to obscure some of the electricity pylons but you can reduce their numbers at least.   I also note the landowner has given in to the inevitable flow of tourists and built a stile over their fence.  Smart!

Monday, the last day of the long weekend started even colder than the previous two days, due no doubt to the mostly clear skies.   The dawn started with red light:

Before moving into pastel shades:

And eventually yellows and blues:

It's hard to make progress when there's so much spectacular scenery around every corner.

We headed first to Lochgilphead, then alongside Loch Fyne to Inveraray before heading home from there. 

We stopped in the Trossachs to photograph more of the snow-capped mountains along the way:

And to admire the frozen ground where the sun had yet to reach:

Another frozen Loch at altitude in the Trossachs:

And our final stop on the way home, a waterfall with Christmas trees growing alongside it.

We were elated at the weather, the landscape and the whole experience of a winter visit to this part of Scotland, we'll back to Oban, Glencoe and a number of other spots as soon as we can.... fingers crossed.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

L plates

We did some more exploring as November progressed, visiting Loch Leven to climb the hill behind the reserve and take in the magnificent view:

November ended with a trip to Watford, meeting friends locally and in Milton Keynes and with a day trip too as tourists to London.   We picked a cracker of a day and enjoyed a walk with clear skies and warm sunshine, alongside the Thames.   The first stop was a sneaky wander down to one of the London Transport floating pontoons to photograph HMS Belfast:

We passed the Millennium Bridge:

Cleopatra's Needle:

And the London Eye:

Back home in Scotland winter has been settling across the landscape and with it comes the winter darkness, with ever short days until the end of the year.   This provides an opportunity to work with night photography.  So with L plates and warm clothing on I headed to Glasgow to photograph the Clyde at sunset and into the first darkness of the night:

I then headed up to George Square and the Christmas Market there:

Before meeting-up with Helen after work and heading home.

A Supermoon was forecast at the end of the weekend so I headed this time to Blackness Castle on the Forth, a little too early and settled down to wait.   Meanwhile behind the sky caught fire was a stunning sunset back over Blackness Village:

The bridges across the Forth are lit at night:

And the moon did indeed make a larger-than-life appearance, however it was readily consumed by the cloud:

Another sunny, cold day saw us head up into the Trossachs National Park, visiting again Loch Venachar, looking very different to a green, warm Spring day or indeed a breezy summer day (see previous posts):

And into the mountains to enjoy the hoar frost which was rapidly melting under a warming sun:

It really was a beautiful day and well worth the trip.  I need to find more opportunities to photography the landscape draped in winter as it is.

I've joined Falkirk Camera Club, which I'm really enjoying and have started to explore more of the country and the technical aspects of photography.   That and wanting to learn night photography led me and a colleague on an evening explore, the first location i'd picked was a write-off as the lights weren't on (doh!) however Arria by Andy Scott was lit-up, so we parked at the back of the cemetery and spent a good couple of hours taking various images.   Mine were all rudimentary until i saw what my colleagues was doing with her camera settings, and bingo i was suddenly taking pictures including the night sky, what a difference!

I also tried some light trails from the passing traffic:

As well as being more technically prepared she was also better prepared for the temperature, it was properly baltic!