Caithness Holiday Day 5: Badbea Clearance Village

An unusual choice of place to visit on the last day of one’s holidays, but an important monument to Highland/Caithness history nonetheless, and one ideally suited to a bleak cold foggy day, too.

Forced off the land as part of the Highland Clearances, people from the surrounding areas (Ousdale, Auchencraig) sought refuge at Badbea. Not the most hospitable area to try and make home, situated right on perilous cliff-tops in a location so windy the cattle and even children had to be tied down to stop them being blown away.

The bleakness certainly suits black and white.

Caithness Holiday Day 4: Duncansby Head and Stacks

Ignoring the previous post about offensive misuse of woodland, my fourth day of the holiday started out pretty well, with a trip to John o’Groats – awful tourist-trap of a place but at least they’ve renovated the hotel since I was last there and the ice-cream (2 scoops) was excellent. 

The sea stacks themselves are pretty awesome to behold, middle red sandstone showing evidence of having formerly been attached to the land but eroded away by the sea.

We proceeded to Duncansby Head – ignoring the lighthouse, walking down the coastline to the sea stacks. On the way, a large group – maybe 60 folks – were crowding some of the cliff-tops looking south, watching a small pod of Orcas swimming off distant headlands. Unfortunately the one kind of lens I didn’t have with me then was a long zoom – but the shouts of joy when one of the orcas blew or jumped were incredible.

On the way back, a disturbance in the water just away from the cliffs caught my eye: a peculiar kind of standing wave with the shape staying more or less constant. Obviously a conflict of two tides, one running along the north coast between the mainland and Orkney, the other flowing up the North Sea; on checking wikipedia later, that corner of the Pentland Firth is known for two tidal races, the “Duncansby Race” and the “Boars of Duncansby”. 

Wave interference – a standing wave pattern at the eastern end of the Pentland Firth – a tidal race as the east/west and north/south currents conflict around Duncansby Head. I’m not sure if this is the Duncansby Race or even the Boars of Duncansby, but it caught my eye as I was heading back up the coast.

Caithness Holiday Day 4: when a forest is not a wood

Sometimes I have to tell it like it is. Dunnet Forest is one of the least pleasant collections of trees I’ve ever had the displeasure of walking through. From start to finish, a total misuse of the land.

Within 50yd of the carpark are multiple signs warning owners to pick up after their dogs and to use the bin, even with the emotional manipulation that excrement left around could blind a child.

The woodland itself is awful – monoculture spruce with barren lack of undergrowth.

The only burn I saw was a stretch of ~70yd of stagnant scum-covered sludge, vibrant orange with industrial pollution.

There is a reek of unjust hypocrisy about the whole affair: one cannot help but think, even if there is some credibility in the idea of a small kid putting something off the forest floor in their eye, by surface area and decay-rate alone, they would be far more likely to encounter danger in the polluted stream than from anything left behind by a dog – which would, if anything, go some way to re-fertilizing the abused ground beneath the trees.

Toward the end of the ill-defined loop route are several sculptures carved out of the remains of some of the tree trunks. You’ll have had yer entertainment then – but not your walk in nature.

I could not escape fast enough.

Caithness Holiday Day 2: Whaligoe Steps and Camster Cairns

Many moons ago… the parents and I were on holiday around Caithness and having trouble finding the way to Whaligoe Steps. As his tractor turned by the end of the field, we stopped a farmer to ask directions. To southern ears, the instructions sounded memorably like “turn right at the fussky-osk”. With a little thought we established the meaning… and twenty-two years later I still remember the turn of phrase and was pleased to identify the first phone-box in this Spring’s return visit.

Whaligoe Steps themselves are 365 steps down the side of a steep cliff to a former port for offloading herring boats; women would gut the fish and carry it up in barrels.

The place itself is quite an impressive geo with a fault nearby in the rock – strata lines pushed up by thrust – and pleasant views out to sea.

Further down the road are Camster Cairns – quite impressively large piles of rocks with interior chambers, perhaps the oldest buildings in Scotland at 5000yr old.

It had been another ludicrously hot day, with temperatures up over 25-28ºC, so we finished the day’s explorations on the north coast at the Slates of Fulligoe in East Mey, where the setting sun was partially obscured by a thick sea haar – very pleasantly cool.


This was the second evening I’d set out to make a timelapse of the sunset into dusk. At least this time I was prepared for haar coming in off the sea (chose a safer less-cliff-top location near the path back, for starters). It did not disappoint: over the course of an hour the sun moved, the waves came and went, and a huge bank of fog moved in transforming the scene from brilliant sunset reflecting on the water, to complete white-out. All the possible moods of the landscape in barely an hour – quite awesome.
This photo is a temporal flattening of a timelapse sequence – using the intervalometer to shoot HDR brackets 3*±1EV at regular intervals which can be made either into a timelapse video or averaged-out into a still, like this. (The sun itself is blended from fewer images to avoid motion blur.)

Caithness Holiday 1

I had a few days’ holiday at the end of May.

The first day started in Perthshire and finished on the far north coast of Scotland – almost as far north as one can be – at St John’s Point, Caithness, looking north to Stroma and Orkney (disappearing as the distance haze turned to haar) and west to the setting sun.

Frame interpolation for timelapse, using Julia

A long time ago I wrote a python utility to interpolate frames for use in timelapse. This project was

Back in 2014 I ported the idea to the very-alpha-level language Julia.

In recent weeks Julia released version v1.0.0, followed shortly by compatibility fixes in the Images.jl library.

And so I’m pleased to announce that the julia implementation of my project, timelapse.jl (working simply off file mtimes without reference to exif) has also been updated to work with julia v1.0.0 and the new Images.jl API.


zsh/scr, photos 11:32AM sunset/ % ls *
med-00001.png med-00022.png med-00065.png med-00085.png
med-00009.png med-00044.png med-00074.png


zsh/scr, photos 11:32AM sunset/ % ~/j/timelapse/timelapse.jl 50 images-in images-out
[1.536147186333474e9] - Starting
[1.536147186333673e9] - Loading modules
[1.536147201591988e9] - Sorting parameters
[1.536147201648837e9] - Reading images from directory [images-in]
[1.536147202022173e9] - Interpolating 50 frames
[1.53614720592181e9] - frame 1 / 50 left=1, right=2, prop=0.11999988555908203
[1.536147217019145e9] - saving images-out/image-00001.jpg
[1.536147218068828e9] - frame 2 / 50 left=1, right=2, prop=0.24000000953674316
[1.536147222013697e9] - saving images-out/image-00002.jpg
[1.536147222819911e9] - frame 3 / 50 left=1, right=2, prop=0.3599998950958252
[1.536147226688287e9] - saving images-out/image-00003.jpg


[1.536147597050891e9] - saving images-out/image-00048.jpg
[1.53614761140285e9] - frame 49 / 50 left=6, right=7, prop=0.880000114440918
[1.536147615090572e9] - saving images-out/image-00049.jpg
[1.536147615649168e9] - frame 50 / 50 left=6, right=7, prop=1.0
[1.536147619363807e9] - saving images-out/image-00050.jpg
[1.536147619960565e9] - All done
zsh/scr, photos 11:40AM sunset/ %

zsh/scr, photos 11:51AM sunset/ % ffmpeg -i images-out/image-%05d.jpg -qscale 0 -r 50 sunset-timelapse.mp4
ffmpeg version 3.4.2-2+b1 Copyright (c) 2000-2018 the FFmpeg developers


zsh/scr, photos 11:51AM sunset/ % ll -h sunset-timelapse.mp4
-rw------- 1 tim tim 4.9M Sep 5 11:46 sunset-timelapse.mp4