Portknockie (3/3): Bow-Fiddle

I’ve left the usual photos to last, seeing as how everyone else has shot this scene before.

It wasn’t particularly easy; the tripod was struggling to stay steady in the breeze and the course of a few seconds between adjusting the camera, leaving it to stop vibrating and pushing the shutter remote release, the light was changing radically from dull shade to bright sunlight on the foreground rocks. Still, a moderately long exposure worked, eventually.

Herewith, four different ways of processing the same images.

Portknockie (2/3): colourful rocks

The coast at Portknockie features an intermingling of Cullen quartzite (dating from Lower Dalradian times, 650 million years ago during which time they’ve transformed from sedimentary sandstone through partial volcanic metamorphosis) and the usual Highland psammite and semi-pelite.

The colours in these photos are more or less natural; it was totally stunning to be in the shady cave with the daylight behind and beyond, with these huge colourful boulders to play with.

For a sense of scale: the photos featuring a distant patch of light playing on the sandy pebble floor, well that gap is large enough to walk right through. A veritable cathedral of colour.

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle is a ruined medieval fortress located upon a rocky headland on the north-east coast of Scotland, about 2 miles south of Stonehaven. The current ruins date from the 15th and 16th centuries, but there is believed to have been fortification on the site since the Early Middle Ages.

The ruins of the castle are surrounded by steep cliffs that drop to the North Sea, 50 metres (160 ft) below. A narrow strip of land joins the headland to the mainland, with a steep path leading up to the gatehouse.

I made these photos over the course of a couple of hours after the eclipse in March, partly because I know the place well, partly because I was reminded of it by a photo in the local photo-club, and partly because I wanted to reshoot it at greater quality with newer processing techniques. It’s a pity the path down to the shore is so muddy – perhaps I should revisit either in winter or early spring instead.

For the record, the workflow for these is:

  • tripod, SRB ND1000 filter, multiple frames around 8s shutter-speed at source
  • RAW conversion in Photivo
  • HDR panorama in Hugin + enfuse
  • tonemapping in LuminanceHDR
  • post-processing in darktable
  • further post-processing in Gimp:
    • colour toning
    • film emulation (vintage, Ilford Pan-F or Rollei black and white film emulation)
    • wavelet sharpening
  • organization (tagging + metadata) in digiKam
  • bulk resizing with ImageMagick.

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.

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.

Bluebells

A day out, today, with the Focus on Photography Perth meetup group. We parked in the MacRosty park carpark in Crieff and strolled along Lady Mary’s Walk, a dismantled railway line on the north side of the River Earn to the Trowan woods.

Many photos were taken. I was feeling a bit experimentalist, so deployed a couple of tricks:

  • Helios 58mm f/2 lens with lens-cap covered in many holes – this gives many superimposed images, a bit like a starburst filter; I thought it would work well with the small-scale textures such as repeating blue and white flowers
  • an infra-red filter – partly for long exposures in daylight (it’s similar to using a 10-stop ND1000 filter) and partly for the effect when shooting foliage with a strong red filter.

Herewith:

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.