Sunday, 31 August 2008

It's all about the light

Apologies for the lack of updates, it's been a busy week. However, the good news is that my Mum's visiting for a week, starting tomorrow, so we'll be out and about with the cameras every day.

I've finished reading the first Joe Cornish book and one of the points he made that struck me was that there's no such thing as bad light, there's just the wrong light for the kind of picture you're trying to take.

So when I was sea-watching on Strathy Point yesterday afternoon (saw bugger all!) and the sky was overcast, I remembered what I'd read and instead of grand coastal vistas, tried thinking in more pastel tones:

Misty view from Strathy Point

Misty view from Strathy Point (2)

Then the clouds came in and I got something a bit more dramatic:


Food for thought, anyway.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Last night

Just to show you how good the light is up here at the moment - these were taken last night from the field below the house. No filters, no Photoshop.

Evening light

Sunset sky

And I'm splurging on a piece of new equipment - thanks to a generous Amazon birthday voucher from my brother, I'm going to order a Lowepro Mini Trekker AW, a rucksack that takes a digital SLR camera plus three or four lenses and a tripod. It'll be better for my back when I'm walking, because the weight I carry will be central rather than on one shoulder, and it'll leave both hands free when I'm climbing hills and rocks rather than having to catch the shoulder back as it swings round when I wobble a bit.

My boyfriend got me two Joe Cornish books that I wanted as well, so watch this space as I read, learn and attempt to apply...

Friday, 22 August 2008

Fancy a shag?

I had to use that as a title sooner or later and today I have a picture that gives me an excuse to! Juvenile shag at Thurso harbour:

Juvenile shag

I was also very amused by this gull (it's a juvenile, but I'm not sure which species - trying to find out), which didn't spot the wave coming in behind it:

There's a wave coming...

Not quite quick enough!

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Melvich and Strathy

A couple of shots of Melvich beach from Monday afternoon - nothing special, but they do show the amazing weather we've been having up here:

Melvich beach (1)

Melvich beach (2)

Yesterday I finally went on my first ranger walk - I had about 10 marked that I wanted to do, but work, lack of car and weather have all conspired against me up until now. It was too overcast for photos, but I went up to Strathy Point and walked round it with a group led by the North Sutherland ranger, Paul Castle. Very, very interesting - I now know what a primula Scotia looks like (small and purple), can tell the difference between a cormorant and a shag (the shag flies low over the water - the black birds in my last Strathy Point post are actually shags) and can identify black-backed gulls, great skuas and kittiwakes (I think...). They're nearly all over for the year, but there's an all day walk on 13th September to go up Ben Hutig looking for golden eagles and mountain hare, and then another one in October in Strath Halladale to watch the red deer rut, so I'm definitely going to try and get to both those.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Mean 'n' Moody

We went to Borgie Forest yesterday to get some wood - Mick's permit started on Saturday, so we thought we'd go down there and suss it out. The only wildlife seen was a weasel (which we nearly ran over when it shot across the track in front of the car) and a dragonfly so big that Mick said if it came in through the window, he was getting out! The world's first carjacking by an insect?!

Since it was a nice day we drove on round the coast to Tongue and parked up by the causeway for a stroll on the beach. It was a bit too hazy for landscape photography, but Mick jumped at the offer of some Top Gear-esque shots of his Jeep. These are the best two:

Jeep (1)

Jeep (2)

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Notes to self...

...after a useful conversation with Julia today.

Primula Scotia (Scottish Primrose - very rare) can be found up on the headland. Take the path to Polouriscaig, then turn right after the first gate and walk to the end.

There's a peregrine falcon up on that hill as well as the buzzards.

Whales have been seen in Armadale bay for the past few years. They usually pass by between 22nd and 24th August.

Oh, and Margaret at the post office says that if I want to start doing postcards, she'll sell them for me there, so I think I'll get a small number printed up and see how it goes :o)

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Strathy Point

Sorry, no lovely sunset pictures - the sky was flat last night. But today has been absolutely gorgeous, clear skies, sun and not too much wind, so I awarded myself the afternoon off and went to see if I could spot anything in the sea off Strathy Point.

Of course, British weather being what it is, a grey cloud turned up just as I got there. Which is why these cormorants were all hanging around on a rock rather than fishing:


Nothing in the sea, so I decided to walk slowly along the fence by the cliffs to the lighthouse and then back up the road, hoping that something would show up. And it did:

Seal (1)

He was swimming around by some rocks and just at that point there was a stile over the cliff fence and a path. So since there was very little wind, I decided to be intrepid and hopped over it. The path led down to a wide ledge where I could sit and watch the seal in comfort:

Seal (2)

Seal (3)

But there were boot prints leading further down the path. I had a look and saw that the rocks below the ledge could be easily climbed down, almost like a ladder. Ten minutes later and I was seated on the pyramid-shaped rock at the centre top of this picture:


I'd spent a good quarter of an hour watching it to make sure the waves weren't getting anywhere near it first :o) I unpacked my camera again, sat there and waited. The seal popped up about 10 feet away, saw me, boggled, dived and wasn't seen again! This was the only shot I got - bear in mind the ones above are all heavily cropped in. This one isn't cropped at all:

Seal (4)

Fabulous view from that rock though:

East side of Strathy Point

And this is what's at the end of the point - the lighthouse. It's a private house now and was up for sale at about the same time we found our house. Quite glad we didn't buy it, it must be a nightmare out there in winter:

Lighthouse at Strathy Point (1)

Monday, 11 August 2008

Armadale sunset

At 9:10pm last night I looked out of the living room window and saw a pink cloud:

Armadale sunset (1)

This is usually a sign that there's going to be a superb sunset behind the house, so I went out to have a look. And sure enough...

Armadale sunset (3)

The moon had come out:

Armadale sunset (2)

I went inside to get my coat and a shorter lens and set off towards Port a'Chinn, the colours deepening as I walked:

Armadale sunset (5)

And as I watched from the road by the Salmon Bothy, the sun finally set:

Armadale sunset (6)

Armadale sunset (7)

No filters on the camera, no Photoshop magic - that's really how it looked. If the clouds are anything like that tonight, I'm going to Strathy Point about 8.30!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

A chance encounter

One of Mick's brothers has been to visit today, bringing one of his daughters and two of his grandchildren with him. The elder grandchild, Amy, is mad about whales and dolphins and over lunch at the local hotel in Melvich I stupidly said "Next time you're here, we'll have to go down to Strathy Point and see if we can spot any."

Mistake, especially when she found out that Strathy Point was on the way back to the house.

So we drove down to Strathy Point, parked in the carpark and instead of walking all the way up to the end by the lighthouse, went across the field to the cliff edge, with me crossing my fingers all the way there'd be something to look at, because she was so excited about seeing a dolphin.

Luck was on our side - not dolphins (although we saw what was either a pod of dolphins or a school of porpoise way out to see), but a basking shark, circling lazily by the cliffs looking for fish and surrounded by diving gannets. Except we had to tell Amy that it was a baby whale, since she's absolutely terrified of sharks! She was thrilled anyway.

Of course I didn't have my camera with me, so no pictures, but I'm going to go back on a fine day - I've never seen gannets dive before and it's quite spectacular :o)

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Armadale airport

At least that's what it seemed like on Tuesday! Never seen so many birds taking off and landing:


Oyster catchers (2)

Oyster catchers (1)

And I saw my first stoat! I'm pretty certain it was a stoat and not a weasel, though we didn't see the tail - but we both went 'Ooh, look, a stoat!' instinctively. Unfortunately I'd put my camera away and by the time I'd got it out of the bag and fired it up, the stoat had whisked back into the long grass. But now I know where to look for it, I shall keep an eye out.

Old joke: What's the difference between a stoat and a weasel? A weasel is weaselly recognisable while a stoat is stoatally different...

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Photography club

I went out to Crosskirk last night with Thurso Photography Club. The weather was pretty horrible, a flat grey sky and drizzle, so we stayed out for an hour and then gave up.

Because of the lack of colour, thanks to the light, I had to think about what would make a good black and white photo. These are my three best attempts from the night (and if you click on any of the pics to go through to Flickr, you'll see the fourth as well, which is another dead sheep!). The building is an old snuff mill.

Snuff mill, Crosskirk (1)

Snuff mill, Crosskirk (2)

Beach at Crosskirk

Saturday, 2 August 2008

One to enter

The September issue of Outdoor Photography landed on the doormat this afternoon and guess what their 'If you only do one thing this month' competition is this issue?

Beach abstracts!!

The brief is:
To celebrate our coastline, this month we are challenging you to send us your beach abstracts. From still life shots of shells to colourful seaweed and marbled rocks we want to see the best of your local beaches.

They want up to 10 TIFFs on CD by 30th September, so I've got time to take more. The winner gets £50, but they usually print the top 6 - I'd really, really love to make that top 6.

Things I also need to follow up on from this issue are:

- Aberdeen University's archaeology department is looking for striking images of ancient sites in the north east of Scotland and is offering £1,000 for the best submission. for further details. Subjects must be over 500 years old and the top 10 images will be exhibited in Aberdeen.

- Clikpic is offering 3 readers a free 'standard' website for a year - email with the subject line 'OP offer'.

- Arron Barnes Photography and Blair Drummond Safari Park are offering 4 places on their Go Wild at Blair Drummond experience day on 19 Oct. Send name and address to Outdoor Photography 104 Offers, 86 High St, Lewes, BN7 1XN.

- The Marine Conservation Society's annual beachwatch event is 20-21st September. Check to see if Armadale has been adopted by anyone as an MSC organiser yet -

EDIT: I nearly forgot! I've had my first commission!! Someone locally who saw my pictures of the working hunter classes at the Caithness show got in touch to ask if I'd be prepared to go down to Dunnet Beach and photograph her and her friend on their horses and she'd pay for my time and petrol! Unfortunately she emailed while I was in Thurso at 10.30 this morning and wanted to do it this afternoon, which just wasn't possible, but I've said I'd be delighted to do it and suggested we arrange an alternative date. Watch this space!