Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Watch this space...

I caved.

One slightly used (200 shutter releases) Canon 50D has been bid for and won on eBay. It's only in Aberdeen, so if by some miracle the seller can get it to the post office this afternoon it might be with me tomorrow, but it's more likely to be Saturday/Monday now (2nd January is a bank holiday in Scotland instead of Boxing Day).

I got it for £130 less than Jessops wanted and £70 less than the cheapest online price I could find, but it's still a large enough amount to make me a bit 'Omigod I don't believe I just spent that!' So I'm going to use it with the lenses I already have for a bit, rather than splash out an even larger amount on the 100-400mm L lens as well. That way I can see what improvements (she says, being optimistic!) in the pictures are due to the camera body and what gets changed by the lens.

New camera, new boots, new year, new photos - 2009 is going to be fun :o)

Sunday, 28 December 2008


Today we headed down to Inverness so Mick could buy me some new walking boots for Christmas. The first decision of the day was which route? The A9 coast road (the longest distance, but the fastest road), Strath Halladale (medium distance, single track) or Strath Naver (shortest distance, very bendy single track). We plumped for Strath Halladale as a balance between miles covered and using a road that had been gritted and were glad we did. This is the view we pulled over to take a photo of:

Strath Halladale (1)

Mick had turned to look at the view in the other direction and was making a strange stuttering noise behind me, which eventually turned into "Stag!" And so there was - a young red deer stag with his lady:

Red deer stag & doe (2)

But nothing could have prepared us for seeing this, just 50 feet from the road:

Red deer stags (3)

There must have been 15 or 20 of them, quietly grazing, completely unbothered by us watching from the car.

Red deer stags (1)

One of them had lost an antler in the rut:

Red deer stags (2)

A bit further on we saw a buzzard by the side of the road, happily tearing a rabbit to pieces, but it had taken off by the time I got the camera out.

I dropped into Jessops in Inverness to have a look at the camera I'm intending to buy and see how it felt in my hand - I've held the next model up from the 50D and because my hands are tiny, find it awkward to hold, but the 50D is fine, fortunately :o) They had the 100-400mm L lens in stock as well and I asked if they could do me a deal if I bought both together. The ticket price was £1,850 in the shop and I knew I could get them online for about £150 less than that - or £250 less if I was prepared to take a second-hand lens in near mint condition. Unfortunately the best they could do was £20 off, so I thanked them for their time and left it.

Then onto Tiso, the big (and I mean big! It has a rock-climbing wall and several types of terrain on the floor for people to try out gear on before they buy!) outdoor shop on the outskirts of Inverness. I never thought I'd own a pair of blue boots, but they were the ones that fit best after I'd walked over their rocky path a few times and they have fantastic ankle support, so I've absolutely no excuse for not getting out and about with my camera next year!

We went back via Strath Naver, seeing another three herds of deer (mostly does, not near enough the road to stop for) and got up it just in time to catch the sunset:

Sunset at Strath Naver

Saturday, 27 December 2008

A common Thurso species

It struck me the other day that there's one species often seen in north coast waters, particularly off Thurso, that I haven't blogged about yet, despite photographing it several times.

Often mistaken for a seal, due to their black pelts, the Thurso Surfer is a hardy creature that will brave the waves even on Boxing Day if the surf's good:

Boxing Day surfers (3)

Boxing Day surfers (4)

North Light reckons he counted about 24 out on Christmas Eve and we saw 15 or so out yesterday.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Following on from my last post...

With the moon on my left and the sun on my right,
To my brother, good morning, my sister, good night.

8.50am, back doorstep:


Approaching mid-winter

Moon-rise over Lednagullin (the village - well, more of a hamlet really - on the other side of Armadale bay), taken 3.10pm yesterday afternoon.

Moonrise over Lednagullin

Friday, 5 December 2008

Lucky day

Ever since I drove past Dounreay last week and saw a buzzard happily devouring a freshly killed rabbit not 15 feed from the road, I've vowed to take my camera bag with me EVERY time I get in the car. I nearly forgot it today and very nearly didn't bother to go back into the house for it.

I'm glad I did. I have other shots taken today, but I'm so unbelievably chuffed with this one that it's going to have a post of its own! Nothing done to it other than cropping out some telephone wires from the bottom and a touch of sharpening when converting the RAW file.

Buzzard (1)

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Cold day

I wouldn't want to be on Orkney right now:

Snowy Orkney

I had to go to the post office at Melvich today, so instead of turning the car round in someone's driveway, I went round the loop to see if there were any oystercatchers at Portskerra. There were:

Oystercatcher (2)

And this is why I want that new camera and bigger zoom after Christmas; the bird is sharp but because I only have 6.3MP, I can't crop in to get the shot I want without the picture going grainy (this was only ISO200):

Oystercatcher (1)

As I went back to the car, I spotted someone looking for their lunch:

Hunting buzzard (1)

And this is my favourite of the day:

Hunting buzzard (2)

Saturday, 29 November 2008


I do apologise for the lack of activity on this blog recently. There are several reasons for this, but the two main ones are that a) I'm a retailer and this is silly season and b) my walking boots have big holes in. Both situations will be resolved by the end of next month as my lovely other half is buying me new boots for Christmas!

In the meantime, here are some pictures of last weekend's snow and this morning's sunrise:

Snow at Armadale (1)

Snow at Armadale (3)

Morning clouds, Armadale

Thursday, 13 November 2008

An hour on the beach

And not my beach at Armadale for once. I was on my way to Wick to start off the Christmas shopping and took a small detour to stretch my legs on Dunnet beach:

Dunnet beach

It's a really ginormous beach that swings round in a big curve from Castletown to Dunnet. This is Dunnet Head, which is the most northerly point on the mainland:

Dunnet head from the beach

Today, even though it was lunchtime, I had it to myself :o) (There are some benefits to freezing cold weather!). Well, not quite to myself.

A bunch of ringed plovers (and something else, which I haven't identified) were hanging around digging for food:

Spot the plover (1)

There was a solitary curlew doing his best Meryl Streep (French Lieutenant's Woman) impression:

Curlew (1)

A Greater Black-Backed Gull was fishing for some lunch:

Greater black-backed gull fishing (1)

And finding some:

Greater black-backed gull fishing (3)

And I just hung around by the water and practised my panning shots :o)

I have to say, I'm really pleased with these. They might be grainy - I had to push the ISO to get the lens speed up - but I think I'm moving from pictures that record something towards pictures that show something, if that makes sense?

Friday, 31 October 2008

In search of Scotland's Haven

Apologies for the lack of posts - the weather's been lousy and I've been busy, but today we had some sunshine scheduled, so I awarded myself the afternoon off and went in search of a place called Scotland's Haven, which is supposed to be one of the beaches that grey seals go to pup at this time of year.

All the best expeditions start off with an omen of some sort and one turned up at the top of my drive:

Rainbow at Armadale

I stopped off in Reay. Every time I've driven through it in the past few weeks there have been pheasants in a field just outside the village. Were there today? Were there heck! I did find these two on a garden wall though:

Pheasants at Reay

James at the post office had told me he'd heard there were seals at Ham and since it was on the way I stopped off. Jackpot! Not pups, but plenty of seals. This fellow saw me standing on the cliff top and sounded the alarm:

Seals at Ham (13)

So I lay flat on my stomach and spent the next hour watching the seals:

Seals at Ham (1)

This one amused me. He'd been eyeing up this rock:

Seals at Ham (8)

...and since none of the senior seals seemed to want it, decided to haul up:

Seals at Ham (7)

...only to be foiled by the seaweed!:

Seals at Ham (6)

Lots more seal pics on Flickr if you click on any of the pictures.

I reluctantly heaved myself up out of the heather and headed on down the coast. I didn't actually know where Scotland's Haven was, just that it was between East Mey and Gills Bay somewhere. I turned off the main road at what I guessed was about the right place and 500 yards down the lane found a parking spot with a pedestrian gate next to it, so pulled up and went to investigate.

Half an hour's walk across a peat moor later, I was in the right place - but there were no seals! They must be somewhere else this year. The light was beginning to fade (it's a location to photograph in the mornings, after midday it's heavily in shadow), so I headed back for the car, stopping only to photograph a tanker heading to pick up the gold at the end of the rainbow:

Rainbow at East Mey

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Somewhere over the rainbow...

...there's a photographer who knows how to use their camera, unlike me! Guess which muppet forget to double check her ISO setting and took these on ISO 800...?

These very grainy rainbows were taken on the Black Isle, looking over the Cromarty Firth. As I went over the bridge, it developed into a full bow, but unfortunately there was nowhere to stop. You can get an idea of the size of it from the second picture though.

Rainbow at Cromarty Firth

Big rainbow at Cromarty Firth

Back to ISO 100 for this morning's sunrise though. 7.34am , my back doorstep in Armadale this morning.

Armadale sunrise

Morning clouds

Friday, 3 October 2008

A visitor on the beach

We're starting to get some Weather here now and the seas have picked up further:


I went down to the beach this morning and found this fellow considering his/her options:

Goose on the beach (1)

Rather sensibly, it decided that discretion was the better part of valour (it was hailing at this point!) and settled down in the shallows:

Goose on the beach (3)

There's a lot of foam washing in:

Foam on the beach

And the Allt Beag is running faster, deeper and wider than I've ever seen it:

Allt beag

(no, I didn't try crossing it! That's the *smaller* of the two!)

Typically the weather cheered up as I climbed back up to the house:

View from the top

And I discovered that we do have hedgehogs round here, though sadly this one appears to have succumbed to the weather:


EDIT: I've been informed by m'learned friends on caithness.org that it's not a goose, it's actually a first year Whooper swan. Live and learn!

Sunday, 21 September 2008


As autumn approaches, the seas start to pick up and the flat, Caribbean-like bay we've had all summer is now something a little bit wilder. We're predicted a 14ft swell tomorrow and one of my neighbours told me that he's seen the end of the point disappear under spray before now. Here's a couple of snaps from yesterday of a pair of oystercatchers flying low over the waves:

Oystercatchers (1)

Oystercatchers (2)

Saturday, 20 September 2008


Please insert your own swear word into the title.

I saw an otter yesterday.

Did I have my camera with me? Guess!

To be fair, the Somerfield car park in Wick is not the place one would expect to see an otter, but as we got out of the car we saw something swimming very fast against the current in the adjacent river that definitely wasn't a duck. We followed it upstream for a few minutes, got close enough to ascertain that it was an otter, not a rat or a water vole, and then it dived and was gone.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

I'm in love

Sorry for being so quiet recently, things have been busy. I've finally got round to joining Thurso camera club and went to my first meeting on Monday night - a lovely bunch of very talented people :o)

I've been thinking about a new camera for a while now and had more or less promised myself a new one once my flat sale completes. Yesterday Canon announced the successor to the 5D and now I know what I'm going to be buying:


This is such a huge leap in spec. from my 300D - I'm getting excited already!

The results for the Scottish Natural Heritage Biodiversity Week competition have been announced and I didn't make the top 30 - a shame, but there are some really fantastic photos there. Do go and have a look:


Monday, 8 September 2008

Whirlwind week

Mum flew into Inverness last Monday and was greeted by the best weather Scotland could offer - bright blue skies with little fluffy white clouds. But as we travelled north, the storms from the south started to catch up with us and overtook us at Golspie:

Storm approaching

Storm front

On Tuesday we went to Lybster for lunch and then on up the coast to John O'Groats to book our ferry tickets. There's a big clump of pampas grass near the pottery there and it was covered in sparrows, all munching on the seeds:

Sparrow on pampus grass (2)

Wednesday was Orkney, a whistle-stop coach tour of the sightseeing highlights. I was hoping we'd see some sealife on the ferry, but apart from a brief glimpse of a common seal's head, nothing breached the surface.

Orkney was fabulous - I think I'll have to go back when I'm not tied to a coach tour schedule and don't have 40 other people traipsing round the same place at the same time. We went to the Ring of Brodgar:

Ring of Brodgar (1)

and St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall:

St Magnus nave

We spent Thursday recovering and didn't go too far, but we did go to Strathy:

Strathy grey

and to Castlehill:

Ruined cottage (1)

(infrared filter used on that, I like the way it makes the grass go soft).

On Friday we went west, past Torrisdale Bay:

Torrisdale bay

and on to Talmine:

Talmine wreck

Today we went down Strath Halladale and saw grouse, buzzards, deer and, best of all, a golden eagle - shame that none of them stopped long enough to be photographed!