Continuing the mega road-trip drive from a day in April: having taken in Dunnottar castle I proceeded up to Portknockie on the north Moray coast. A well-known location with lots of scope to explore, sitting on a transition between red sandstone conglomerate and quartzite underlying rock.


Bow-Fiddle rock itself is situated just beyond the mouth of a cove with interesting caves to the north side:

The approach to Bow-Fiddle rock at Portknockie.
We’re heading down to that strip of a pebble beach…

There’s a classic composition to be had by heading down to the boulders just beyond the pebble beach, plonking one’s tripod on the rock and adding enough ND filters to make a long exposure. With the right light and the wind kicking-up choppy waves, it can make for pleasantly dramatic arty photos. And despite being a sunny day, having to lie down on the hard rock to keep my shadow out of the shot, it definitely didn’t disappoint…

Technical details:

Pentax K-1; Samyang 24mm f/1.4 lens at f/11; Nisi ND1000 (equivalent to a Big Stopper) and circular polariser filters; ISO 100; 30s exposure using pixel-shift for a total of 2 minutes’ exposure at high resolution.

That Tree: Millarrochy Oak

“Make Photo Here” – another total photographic cliché, but I figured it had to be done. The Milarrochy Oak on the shores of Loch Lomond.

What the photos don’t show you is that the tree is barely three yards from the edge of the carpark and, with a pleasant sunset behind it, there were four other photographers lined-up along the strip of beach.

It has the advantage of just being in the Highlands: the caravan-site at Milarrochy Bay is definitely north of the Highland Boundary Fault, on psammite and semi-pelite; while the oak tree itself is in a local igneous intrusion surrounded by sandstone conglomerate.


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Obligatory Zig-Zag

I remember when I first saw a contact of mine on Flickr produce a photo of this scene, quite a few years ago now – and it’s become quite the cliché since.

So, take your pick: wide-angle 16:9 or 5:4 aspect ratio similar to large-format? Black and white or colour (not so often used in longer exposures)?

Me, I liked the light – cool shades of dusk on one side of the concrete break-water, remains of a sunny afternoon on the other.

Up Kinnoull Hill: classic landscape

It has to be done – the view from Kinnoull Hill, past the folly looking along the River Tay wending its way through the Carse of Gowrie.

I made this photo partly because some scenes have to be done, and partly to test a new Carl Zeiss 50mm Tessar f/2.8 lens acquired for surprisingly-cheap on eBay. The wide-angle field of view comes from this being a panorama of 11 frames stitched together; at over 56 megapixels, there’s enough detail to easily resolve roof-tiles in the houses at the foot of the hill, or road-signs across the A90.

Forth Railway Bridge

A friend of mine has regularly suggested that someone seems to dot road-signs saying “Take Photo Here” around the landscape. The view of the Forth Road Bridge from South Queensferry is one location where such a sign would not be out of place, but still, heading home from Edinburgh late one afternoon, it had to be done.

A classic shot - a long exposure black and white image of the Forth Railway Bridge from South Queensferry

A classic shot – a long exposure black and white image of the Forth Railway Bridge from South Queensferry

Bird on a Wire

It had to be done:

"Bird on a Wire"

“Bird on a Wire”


A few days ago a contact on flickr observed I’d entitled a photo in a rather perfunctory fashion, `A Tree‘. The tree itself is relatively characterful, branches blown according to the prevailing wind direction into an exuberant tentacle-waving display; the work that went into the processing of that image was, as usual, significant: it’s a vertorama, the presets used for each image evolved for optimum image quality, the stitching took time, and a lot of time was spent choosing the filtering, black&white conversion and toning.

One thing I noticed about competitions in photography clubs is a distinct tendency for photos to be awarded higher marks according to the literality of their titles relative to their physical subject-matter. This was irksome at the time (as I’m currently “between clubs”), but on a little thought I’ve realised there are several styles of titling photos:

  • one layer of abstraction towards a concept: “dreich”
  • literal: “sparrow”, “buzzard”, “dandelion”
  • understated – perhaps textual / ideological minimalism parallel to the photographic aesthetic
  • cynical, throw-away or orthogonal (e.g. “Untitled” or using the camera’s sequence-numbered filename)
  • outright cliché

Some photos just fall straight into the latter category. No amount of grungy texture-blending processing is going to stop people seeing my photo of the day today and superstitiously muttering the incantation, “bird on a wire”; a Google image-search brings up an entire page full of similar images, differing mostly in the number of birds involved. Similarly, there’s something in the shared photographer psyche that instantly entitles any example of wabi-sabi as “seen better days”. Googling that is left as an exercise for the reader.

More to the point, if a photographer (or their editor) has sufficient lack of background story to entitle such a shot otherwise, should it have been taken except for the sake of adding to one’s collection?

I’m up to 7 birds on the wire now and they’ve changed into pigeons.