Glen Clunie: Landscape Vistas

I must admit to not having found the landscape in Glen Clunie particularly inspiring – good for covering distance whilst hiking but not many trees to catch one’s interest. However, the resultant photos have some merit – hopefully the convey a sense of the expansive topography of the post-glacial floodplain through which the Baddoch Burn runs.

The particularly dark photo is an experiment inspired by my twitter friend Neil Mansfield‘s work with Dark Landscapes.

As I was returning back along the glen, three dogs in the garden of the stone house started shouting and running around me; the owners invited me in and plied me with tea. Next thing you know there’s three dogs all clambering over my knee on the sofa. Highland hospitality at its best.

Falls of Bruar: Flow

One Saturday lunchtime several years ago, I spent a happy hour bugging the assistants in my local favourite camera shop, trying to find the ideal tripod.

Having visited the Falls of Bruar the weekend previously, I had a particular photo of the waterfalls flowing around the rocks in mind.

As usual, Manfrotto was the most recommended make. I tried to believe in them, honestly, but with no combination of legs, invertible centre-column and 3-dimensional head being sturdy enough for the camera of the time, I emerged with a Slik. (This process has been repeated with the same outcome a few times since.)

That afternoon, I went back to Bruar with my new tripod and totally failed to get the photo I wanted, but by dint of pointing the camera the other way staring down the gorge after sunset had happened and the light was fading – what’s come to be known as the blue hour – I wound up with a photo that would be my No.1 most-popular on Flickr for about 5 years.

That was “Raw“.

The first of these is “Flow”, the photo I intended to make in the first place.

Water close-ups

A small series of closeup studies in flowing water, taken on a stroll around the Falls of Bruar.

I’ve admired the striation lines ¬†in the psammite riverbed below the lower bridge at the Falls many times – yet every visit they’re still fascinating every time.

Noctilucent Clouds, Perth, 20150623

A classic location for long-exposure night-time photography: standing on the bridge over the M90 at Rhynd, with the road snaking away into the distance… and a clear display of noctilucent clouds above Kinnoull Hill.

From wikipedia:

Night clouds or noctilucent clouds are tenuous cloud-like phenomena that are the “ragged edge” of a much brighter and pervasive polar cloud layer called polar mesospheric clouds in the upper atmosphere, visible in a deep twilight. They are made of crystals of water ice. Noctilucent roughly means night shining in Latin. They are most commonly observed in the summer months at latitudes between 50¬į and 70¬į north and south of the equator. They can be observed only when the Sun is below the horizon.

They are the highest clouds in Earth’s atmosphere, located in the mesosphere at altitudes of around 76 to 85 kilometres (47 to 53¬†mi). They are normally too faint to be seen, and are visible only when illuminated by sunlight from below the horizon while the lower layers of the atmosphere are in the Earth’s shadow. Noctilucent clouds are not fully understood and are a recently discovered meteorological phenomenon; there is no record of their observation before 1885.

Dramatic Sunset

In the evening of Feb 7 2015, I was driving back along the A90 from Dundee to Perth, right into this sunset. It lasted a while, so I pulled over beside the road in the Carse of Gowrie to shoot it, including a reflection in the car roof (as one does!).

Stunning light.

A Favourite Walk

Around January I discovered a new walk near Dunkeld that quickly became a favourite way to spend a weekend afternoon. Starting from the Pass of Birnam, head up the track from Bee Cottage and turn left to go around the south side of Duncan’s Hill then rejoin the path up to Stair Bridge Viewpoint and the top of Birnam Hill.

As routes go, it gives a mixture of sheltered woodland tracks and sweeping landscape views, complete with my favourite feature – you can watch the rocks changing from till to slate to psammite and semi-pelite as you cross the Highland Boundary Fault. Small wonder I’ve done it half a dozen times dragging various folks along with me, gradually exploring further each time as the winter receded.

These photos are from an experiment with a Prakticar 24mm lens (M42 fit) – acquired for cheap from ebay and stuck on a wonky adapter which might explain some focussing issues. Several of them depict the line of the HBF through the landscape, with hills on one side in the Highlands and on the other in the Lowlands.

Changeable Weather

A few photos from the start of January – experimenting with a road I’ve not often travelled, up from the A9 to approach from the south. It was a stunning morning – swathes of cloud-shadow flying across the landscape such that the mountains north of Comrie were alternately visible or obscured behind passing snow/hail clouds.

Glen Affric: Landscape

Two final landscape scenes to close this series. It was a long morning spent watching the sun rise, walking around the River Walk and along the side of Loch Affric past An Tudair, before returning to the River Walk a second time and clambering up the opposite hill to the memorial to capture the passing light on pine-covered mountains above the loch.

Glen Affric: Caledonian Forest

From wikipedia:

The Caledonian Forest is the name given to the former (ancient old-growth) temperate rainforest of Scotland. The  known extent of the Roman occupation suggests that it was north of the Clyde and west of the Tay.

The Scots pines of the Caledonian Forest are directly descended from the first pines to arrive in Scotland following the ice-age; arriving about 7,000 BC. The forest reached its maximum extent about 5,000 BC after which the Scottish climate became wetter and windier. This changed climate reduced the extent of the forest significantly by 2,000 BC. From that date, human actions (including the grazing effects of sheep and deer) reduced it to its current extent.

Today, that forest exist as 35 remnants covering about 180 square kilometres (44,000 acres). The Scots pines of these remnants are, by definition, directly descended from the first pines to arrive in Scotland following the ice-age. These remnants have adapted genetically to different Scottish environments, and as such, are globally unique; their ecological characteristics form an unbroken, 9,000-year chain of natural evolution with a distinct variety of soils, vegetation, and animals.

To a great extent the remnants survived on land that was either too steep, too rocky, or too remote to be agriculturally useful. The largest remnants are in Strathspey and Strath Dee on highly acidic freely drained glacial deposits that are of little value for cultivation and domestic stock.

It’s also amazingly beautiful. I can happily drag myself out of bed at 3am and drive several hours north to arrive at the forest in time to watch the sun rise: with its ancient history, the scent of the heather, watching mist flowing around the old pine tree-tops catching the morning light, there’s nowhere more gorgeous on Earth.

Glen Affric: Rockery

There’s an impressive outcrop of rocks (psammite and semi-pelite, looking rather like limestone) near the waterfalls in the River Affric. Some kindly soul had balanced these pebbles on a boulder on their way past previously.

Glen Affric: Mixed Thoughts

Sadly, it’s not all good news at the glen – a few years ago, the Forestry Commission installed two paths, one wending its way between the trees like a play-park and the other using non-native sandstone paving flags to enlarge the walk beside the river – in the process, cementing its way through the pine trees’ roots. I am not impressed.

The other two photos in this set are a bit strange by my standards, too: shooting directly into the sun with only a few seconds to capture a crepuscular ray, I extended my usual HDR bracketing from 1EV to 2 stops either side; it’s taken me the last 6 months and no fewer than 10 re-processing iterations to make the best I can of that scene and the results are necessarily unrealistic in order to capture detail in both foreground and sky. The scene is from the path along the south side of Loch Affric to Kintail, beside¬†Loch Salach a’Ghiubhais (“dirty loch of the pines”) – I have no idea what they did to merit such a title, as it seems a pretty gorgeous place to me.