Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Westerdale and Loch More

Since I had to go into Thurso to pay some cheques into the bank, I thought I'd take the opportunity to come back via Loch More. On the way there you drive through Westerdale, which is the site of this mill:

Westerdale Mill (2)

There's another derelict building opposite it, which I wanted to explore, but getting to it involves hopping over rocks in a river and since many of them were still covered with ice (at 3pm!), I decided to leave that one for another, warmer, day.

This is Loch More bothy:

Loch More bothy

When it's been raining, the loch pours over the dam you can see on the left of the picture, but today it was disappointingly low. The light was lovely though:

Lochside rocks

And on the way back I saw a sparrowhawk hunting over the fields:


Saturday, 17 January 2009

Target practice

Normally it's seagulls who use human belongings, like cars, for target practice. Today I got my own back and used them - these are the three best from a session at Thurso Harbour, trying to get to grips with the camera's autofocus system.

Gulls (3)

Gulls (2)

Gulls (1)

We're due some really strong winds over the next few days and possible something called thundersnow, which is when you get a thunderstorm and a blizzard at the same time. Could be interesting. Anyway, it was starting to whip up this afternoon and despite the tide's best efforts, I did not get wet taking this photo!

Sea wall, Thurso

Wednesday, 14 January 2009


Sandside is a huge (10,000 acre) estate just outside Reay. Most of it is private, but they've reached an agreement with the Highland Council to allow public access to the beach and the harbour.

We've had high seas over the last couple of days and massive amounts of seaweed has washed up on the beach, attracting seabirds to feed. These are turnstones:

Turnstones (1)

As you can see by the tin can, lots of rubbish has washed up as well.

I tried to get a bit arty by mirroring Orkney in the background with the rock in the foreground - didn't quite work!

Sandside towards Orkney

The oystercatchers at Sandside harbour are much tamer than the ones at Armadale and Melvich, so I was able to get closer:

Oystercatchers (1)

And, if you'll excuse the pun, I caught this one in a reflective moment:

Reflecting oystercatcher

All in all, a nice afternoon:


Wednesday, 7 January 2009

This is going to take some time...

First proper trip out somewhere with the new camera today. I've still got the bug I picked up at the weekend and have been coughing my lungs up, so wildlife photography was out for the day - anything with ears was going to hear me miles away! I'll freely admit that landscape photography is not my strong point - add to that a new camera and photo editing software I'm not familiar with and the results were never going to be outstanding, but the camera is definitely feeling more at home in my hands now and I'm starting to be able to find buttons without having to take my eye away from the viewfinder, which is good.

Since I had to take the post down there, I decided to stick to Melvich for this afternoon's jaunt. I parked in the beach car park and took the path down to the river Halladale:

River Halladale by Bighouse

There was an amazing sky today. One thing this camera does far, far better than the old one is cope with high contrast, though an ND grad filter would still have helped here (another item for the shopping list!):

Melvich sky

Surf was up in the bay:

Melvich bay

Melvich wave (1)

And this is my favourite shot of the day, clouds reflected off ice in the river:

Clouds in the ice

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Sulk over

Right, Canon DPP does just about run, though it's very slow, so here (insert fanfare) is the first picture I took with the new camera:

Shells (1)

*How* frustrating?????

My new camera did indeed arrive yesterday afternoon, although not with the postman. I'd had my headphones on, transcribing stuff for a client, so when he couldn't get an answer, he left it with my next door neighbour who kindly popped over as soon as he saw me put the lights on for Mick's arrival home.

It's lovely :o) In fact, it's lovelier than lovely. It was bought in Japan, but the seller has kindly printed me an English manual and thrown in a converter for the charger and two spare batteries.

So why isn't this post full of sparkly new pictures then? Well, firstly it's rained here all day. Secondly I have a lurgy and I'm not up to doing mammoth walks to get to really inspiring scenery. Thirdly I've just tested it out by taking some pictures of the various seashells scattered round the house and its RAW format can't be read by my version of Photoshop Elements. The most frustrating thing is that the Canon 50D was added into Adobe's RAW files at version 4.6 and Elements 5.0 is only compatible up to 4.3.


So my options are:
1) Buy Elements 7.0 - the cheapest software option at about £80, but neither my PC nor my laptop have the processor power required to run it so I'd need a new one.
2) Buy Lightroom 2.0 - medium priced software option at about £228, PC will require a memory upgrade.
3) Buy CS4 - hugely expensive software option at £558, but this PC could just about run it (though it would be extremely slow).

I don't think I can even run the new version of Canon's own RAW conversion software which comes with it - I'll try it in a bit, but unless they've improved it dramatically, it's a very clunky tool.

Currently running with the 'soddit it's only money' option, which is a new laptop and Lightroom 2.0....

Monday, 5 January 2009

Found the culprits!

New camera may arrive this afternoon, so fingers crossed...

When I took the wheelie bin up the drive this morning, the robin that lives in the gorse bushes at the side was happily chirping around and quite content to sit on a fence post 10 feet away and watch me lugging a full bin around very noisily, so when I went to get it back in at lunchtime I thought I'd take the camera up with me.

Could I find the little blighter? Could I heck. So I went down to the bird feeders by the garden gate and discovered the reason I've found them on the ground a couple of times, even when there's no wind:


Still, they don't seem to be scaring off the chaffinches (I counted 6 today) who just sit on the gate and wait for the starlings to finish:

Chaffinch (2)

Chaffinch (1)

Friday, 2 January 2009

A frosty walk

Happy New Year!

No, the camera hasn't arrived yet, but I've been wearing my boots around the house for nearly a week and thought the time had come to test them out on something a bit more lumpy than carpet.

I chose to go up the Campbells' farm tracks, which follow the Armadale burn and lead up into the hills behind. There were a couple of robins in the gorse near the gate at the foot of the track:


Further on up the hill I could hear a crow going absolutely berserk at something. It's a noise I've heard them make before when there's a buzzard about, so I scanned the sky but couldn't see anything that looked like a predator. Squinting into the sun, I located the crow circling over a small mound a couple of hundred feet away but still couldn't see anything that might have alarmed it. Until I got the camera out, that is:

Fox (1)

Most of the rest of the walk was in the shadow of the hill, so not enough light for good pictures, but I did take these:

Armadale burn (2)

Armadale burn (1)

If I remember right, the mounds are evidence of settlement - I'll have to look on my map (which I've temporarily tidied up and can't find!). It must have been a pretty good place to live: sheltered with water and decent grazing plus the sea just up the road for fish.

And I think my ringed plover obsession of last year is being replaced with a buzzard obsession - here's another one:


One of my new year's resolutions is to take every Wednesday afternoon off and explore a new bit of the area, so that'll mean at least one post a week and hopefully lots more. I'm looking forward to it :o)