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Entries in Scotland (6)


25/04/13 Fairy Pools

A couple of hours at my favourite waterfalls in the UK produced some pretty dynamic images. Due to the huge, thick bank of cloud that was hiding the Cuillins meant I could effectively shoot into the sun the light was that flat to begin with.





The tricky lighting conditions were over come by using my trusty LEE 0.6 graduated filter to balance the difference in exposure between the sky and the dark rocky foregrounds. The dark gradient of the filter also added to the moodiness of the Cuillin mountains by darkening the scree and enhancing the low level cloud base. 


24/04/13 Highlands, Islands and Borderlands

Two weeks booked off from work with the aim of walking and driving across Scotland, catching Pave Hawks in the mountains and watching sunrises, sunsets and the stars aloft some of the highest peaks in Scotland. Unfortunately, the initial two weeks ended up just being a 4 day trip with some friends, taking in the Borders, Edinburgh, the Highlands and the Isle of Skye. Day 1 saw me in the borders near to Talla reservoir.

Talla is remote at the best of times but in gloomy, grey and windy conditions it's nothing short of hostile. The mountains either side of the reservoir tower over the odd farmhouse, single track road and a lone fisherman as I wind my way up the road that connects to St Marys Loch stopping briefly to photograph a small series of waterfalls.



After picking up a couple of friends from Edinburgh airport it was a whistle stop tour of the Highlands, taking in Rannoch Moor, Glencoe and Eilean Donan castle before arriving on Skye. The Isle of Skye is home to my favourite view anywhere in the United Kingdom. Elgol. A tiny village at the end of a 15 mile single track road, surrounded by peaks and powerful ocean waves offering a rugged yet peaceful stretch of coastline that is dominated by the Cuillin mountains. 

Sunset here is nothing short of magical as the sun drops behind the hills, the sky glows colours that you can not imagine. Blue, gold, pink, red, orange all being picked up on the waves on the incoming tide that swirls around famous rocky shore.



So after 636 miles driving in just one day (a new record for me) it was time to hit the hay. The following day was to be spent around the Fair Pools before heading back to the mainland heading further North before returning to Edinburgh. 


01/01/13 Kit review: LEE Big Stopper

First of all, a Happy New Year to everyone who's bought prints, left feedback and got in touch over the last 7 months since this website has been running, it means a lot so thank-you all.

Before Christmas I purchased a LEE Big Stopper - a 10 stop filter that is barely see through. When put infront of the camera it allows the shutter speed to be slowed right down to several seconds in bright daylight to several minutes when in shade or on overcast days.

Whilst still in Scotland and having recovered from the Hogmanay celebrations I took a short drive up to North Queensferry to see the Forth Rail Bridge which spans the Firth, just outside Edinburgh and decided to test the Big Stopper out as the the clouds were moving fast and the water was choppy. I've owned a ten-stop piece of glass before, the B+W ND110. This had a slight colour cast which was better than most others on sale as the cast was slightly warm and easily correctable in post processing. Having upgraded to the LEE slot in filter system though, the screw-in B+W became redundant and I'd heard poor user reviews from those who had owned the Hitec equivalent saying that the colour casts were too extreme and hard to rectify in post processing.

First impressions were good. There was no glare on the image when viewed back on the camera and despite there being a very cold colour casts it looked like it was easy to correct. Below are two screenshot thumbnails. The one on the left is the RAW image loaded into Adobe Camera RAW with the original colour temperature and ACR defaults whilst the one on the right is with the colour corrected temperature which has been warmed up to counter the cold colour casts the Big Stopper gives. Other parameters which I've adjusted are the "recovery" tool to bring back some detail in the white clouds and to boost the saturation to bring out the colours in the surface of the water and the reds in the bridge.








As you can see, the changes required to turn the image back to one with the correct colours and white balance is fairly straightforward. Once you're happy with the colour temperature, white balance and the colours are near enough correct it can then be opened up into Photoshop and processed using a whole range of plug-ins and other features and eventually sharpened and resized. I've created an overlay to show the difference in the image of an image without the Big Stopper on it and then the other half of the image has the Big Stopper on. 



So, my overall first impressions of the Big Stopper? I feel it produces much sharper images than my old B+W and although the colour cast is worse than the B+W it's easy and straight forward to correct. It's certainly a lot more fragile than the B+W as there is obviously no filter ring to hold it by but the fact it can be used with other filters like the LEE graduated filters (which I couldn't do with the B+W) means this will be used a lot more often. Below is the same shot used in the comparison above with the Big Stopper attached and final processing completed.



30/12/12 Gloomy Glen Etive

Like last year, me and the other half were spending the New Year break away in Scotland with a couple of days in the snowy highlands before heading to Edinburgh for the Hogmanay celebrations. As I don't get up to these parts very often it's always nice to get out with the camera as much as possible. I tried to get out with it on Rannoch Moor, visually it was perfect. Pools frozen solid, icy grass and wild deer running across the landscape and nobody else around. There was good reason. The wind was horrendous. 70 mile an hour winds across the moor. Not even the deer were hanging around. Another trip where the weather was beating me it seemed.



I tried to photograph the famous Buachaille Etive Mor with the waterfall but it was snowing, cloudy, and at one stage down right dangerous. The road heading into Glen Etive looked impassible in a little city car but I battled through it and then as it descended into the Glen the snow thinned out and the roads cleared, to the point there was no snow on the low mountainsides and as the river was in full flow we decided it'd be a good idea to stop here. Foreground interest was provided by this circular feature in the rock and the sky was held back with a 0.6 LEE Hard Grad postitoned so the graduated part of the filter overlapped the mountainside and the sky to stop the highlights in the snow from being blown out. The eagle-eyed reader might recognise this location from the latest Jame Bond film, Skyfall!



After a much warmer and comfier nights sleep we set off nice and early to the gates of RAF Lossiemouth to be shown around the different sites from the based aircraft to those at Lossiemouth on exercise. We were transported around the different areas by two coaches, so there weren't too many photographers in one spot at any given time. First stop of the day was a visit to the hard standing hangars where the Typhoons were being based for the fortnight. We were allowed to get up close to this 29 Squadron jet from RAF Coningsby in the great morning light with the hangar providing a unique backdrop. Unfortunately the light was smack-bang down the intakes resulting in both sides of the aircraft appearing in the shade!



Next up was the short ride over to the bigger, heavier aircraft. The E-3 Sentry (AWACs), Hercules C-130K and the Sentinel. The E-3 was just about to depart so we couldn't get too close but a quick lens swap to the Nikon 70-300mm meant it wasn't an issue. I also managed to photograph a new aircraft to me, a Sentinel. The aircraft is a modified version of the Global Express business jet which is made by Bombardier and post-modification these Sentinels are normally based at RAF Waddington. Their role can vary from tracking armoured vehicle formations advancing on the ground to strategic reconnaissance tasks. Currently, it is at the forefront of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) within the RAF but after Op Herrick ceases (the war in Afghanistan) and a suitable replacement is found, funded or created, the Sentinel will cease to exist.



After seeing the bigger, heavier and intelligence aircraft it was back to photographing jets. A few Hawks from RAF Valley and the rare visitors...Swedish Air Force Gripens. The Gripens were one of the reasons for us coming to Scotland. They rarely visit the UK for airshows or on exercise detachment's so the chance to get right up to them wasn't to be missed. They'ed even brought over a "twin stick" variant of the Gripen known as the JAS 39D Gripen. The single seat model is known as the JAS 39C. The Gripen is a multi-role aircraft capable of performing the role of fighter, attack and reconnaissance and can reach a speed of over 1,300mph (Mach 2) and can be configured with Paveway II bombs, Meteor missiles and unguided, freefall Mark 82 bombs which are more commonly seen in B-2 Stealth Bombers.



The next thing on the itinerary was a visit to the middle of the runway to watch the mass launch of jets. Waves of Tornado's, typhoons, Falcons and Gripens went out in a specific order. The E-3 Sentry was already up and had been for 30 minutes. Next up were the Shadow and Sentinel. Then a wave of Cobham Falcons departed to simulate various threats which were mission specific. The slower aircraft depart first so they be in the mission zone first and have a longer endurance than the fighter jets which turn and burn. Next up it's the turn of the Tornado which were launching in twos, threes and even fours. It was just continuous for almost 30 minutes with the odd Hawk and the Hercules C-130K departing in-between too. Then came a mass launch of a mix of Typhoons and Gripens that played catch-up with everything that had launched in the previous twenty minutes! Unfortunately the only cloud that rolled over all day, rolled over us after the first ten minutes but here is a couple of departures in the sun.




After a short lunch break we came back outside to find the sun had reappeared and our next stop was a visit to the Tornados that belong to 41 Squadron at RAF Coningsby. With them, they had brought one of their jets with a specially painted commemorative tail to celebrate the life of a former squadron commander who was also an Olympian. Don Finlay flew a Spitfire with the same code, EB-Z, during his time with the squadron many decades ago. His Olympic medal achievements were both in the 110 meter hurdles, winning a bronze in the 1932 Los Angeles games and a silver in the 1936 Berlin games. The tail incorporates the colours of 41 Squadrons motif, the squadron symbol, the Cross of Lorraine and an image of a hurdler. 




With time left to spare we were given the choice of going to see the Gripens and Hawks again or visiting the Cobham Falcons. The majority vote went in favour of seeing the Gripens again, this time we could go further down the flight line which enabled me to get some slightly different, abstract shots. By keeping the Nikon 70-300mm on it gives you a great depth of field by pulling the background closer to the subject but throwing the background out of focus slightly which allows for some great to stand out more predominately in an image.





A huge thanks must go to RAF Lossiemouth Station Commander Ian "Windy" Gale and his media ops team for their hospitality and organising such a well thought out day which will hopefully be repeated next year.