Sometimes you just have to head up the road to catch the sun rising over the horizon at a favoured castle ruin.
I’ve had my eye on the Raspberry Shake seismometer for a couple of years now. Last week, I finally succumbed and bought both a new Raspberry Pi (just a 4B 2GB RAM – cheap yet more than adequate) and a Shake 1-D.
The 1-D is a simple seismometer, responding only in the up/down direction. Other products are available…
Mine arrived as a kit, that even I was able to stick together in under half an hour (thanks to a youtube video showing what most of the screws and things were for).
I installed and levelled it on the downstairs windowsill and plugged it directly into the main ADSL router – when you’re uploading a hundred samples per second, minimizing latency is essential.
Obviously, being based in mainland Scotland, I don’t expect to see that many significant earthquakes. We get a handful of ~magnitude 2.5 around the country every couple of years if we’re lucky. However, recently YouTube has sent me down a rabbit-hole of geological analyses of goings-on in Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula – the recent sequence of volcanic eruptions alternating with tiny earthquakes as the magma chamber refills.
The very first night, I spotted a magnitude 3.6 quake in Iceland.
Since then, the live data stream has sadly been unavailable for about 5 days, but when it works, the ability to select a quake event and then click on a station and see the station’s raw data really rocks.
There was another magnitude 3.7 earthquake along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge offshore a few miles south-west of Grindavik yesterday. The live-data view is currently working in the mobile app, leading to this analysis – showing the P and S waves propagating from the event.
As monitoring equipment goes, I’m impressed. It’s a wonderful device, very sensitive yet easy to set up and works well. I’ll continue to watch for all quakes nearby and larger ones further afield, if only to be able to say “I saw it” 🙂
A few years ago I discovered a pleasant gentle walk route around the Water of Ruchill outside Comrie. Almost entirely flat, it follows a loop from the village centre through scrub woodland (ideal shade on a sunny day!) along the side of the river past fields formerly occupied by a Roman fort, down to Cultybraggan PoW camp and back along the main B-road for a bit before taking a detour along a path from a standing stone over fields into the southern end of Dalginross and back along the streets to where it started.
In the town centre, the White Kirk stands out for its architecture with prominent tower and spire. Formerly the parish church, it is now home to a community centre.
Scrub woodland detail: a plethora of small gnarly trees amid a sea of wild garlic. Taken on a stroll around the Water of Ruchill walking route. Taken on a stroll around the Water of Ruchill walking route. One of a handful of standing stones in the West Cowden farm area, hinting at possibly being a stone circle, the cup-marked “Roman Stone” sits beside the B827 south of Comrie. One of a handful of standing stones in the West Cowden farm area, hinting at possibly being a stone circle, the cup-marked “Roman Stone” sits beside the B827 south of Comrie. A striking building with its tower and spire, formerly the parish church but now home to the community centre. A striking building with its tower and spire, formerly the parish church but now home to the community centre. A striking building with its tower and spire, formerly the parish church but now home to the community centre.
Finally, a drone overview of the whole town – to the north, Dalginross, Comrie, Melville’s Monument and Glen Lednock; to the south, the Highland Boundary Fault runs from Glen Artney in the west right along the field across the road from Cultybraggan through Cowden Loch, Mill of Fortune and Newburgh Wood.
I wouldn’t be the only person to favour Scotland’s west coast – its beautiful landscape, impressive geology.
After a day exploring outside and around Mallaig, I stopped at Arisaig to catch the sunset and was not disappointed.
First, a couple of obvious scenes at the end of the road, the low warm light skimming lines of rock
A favoured location – can’t beat a day on the west coast of Scotland, the beautiful landscape, impressive geology. After a day exploring, I stopped at Arisaig to catch the sunset and was not disappointed. This was an easy composition to find, the lines of psammite rock zig-zagging through the vertical frame, all illuminated by the bright warm/orange sunset light from the west.
I flew the drone a little way out over Loch nan Ceall for a more elevated perspective. The light was turning red, catching the rugged hills nearby
The view out west directly toward the setting sun was particularly impressive
A favoured location – can’t beat a day on the west coast of Scotland, the beautiful landscape, impressive geology. After a day exploring, I stopped at Arisaig to catch the sunset and was not disappointed. So I flew the drone out over some small islands just off the shore of Loch nan Ceall – the imaginatively named Sgeirean Buidhe (“yellow reefs”) and caught the sunset over Torr Mòr
The 360º panorama is one of my favourite art-forms: for best results, the optimum workflow is:
- choose a location directly above some non-uniform structured area – not just directly above the sea but over a reef, so the panorama can stitch properly
- think about the contrast-ratio from brightest to darkest areas of the scene; if the sun is visible, use a narrow aperture (f/10 or thereabouts) so the diffraction-spikes cling closer to the sun; choose an exposure such that the brightest part of the scene is just beginning to overexpose – typically you can recover 2/3EV highlights in post but the shadows get noisy fast and with a direct into-the-sun shot the shadow-side can easily require a 3EV shadow-lift
- shoot RAW DNGs and ignore the JPEG
- use RawTherapee to convert the JPEGs – apply lens distortion correction and a small amount of tonemapping, maybe even the dynamic-range-reduction module
- use Hugin to stitch the panorama: optimize for position, barrel distortion and view but not translation; use equirectangular projection and auto-straighten; ensure the FoV is 360×180º (it may be out by 1, ie 179º); use blended+fused output for noise-reduction, unless it introduces stitching edge artifacts
- finish, including toning and noise-reduction/sharpening, in darktable.
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Finally, just as I started the return drive, the sky provided yet more drama to see me on my way:
A favoured location – can’t beat a day on the west coast of Scotland, the beautiful landscape, impressive geology. After a day exploring, I stopped at Arisaig to catch the sunset and was not disappointed – the sky provided these beautiful parting shots of the sunset fading to twilight just as I was driving away. A favoured location – can’t beat a day on the west coast of Scotland, the beautiful landscape, impressive geology. After a day exploring, I stopped at Arisaig to catch the sunset and was not disappointed – the sky provided these beautiful parting shots of the sunset fading to twilight just as I was driving away.
A selection of the above photos are available on my gallery website as prints, cards, masks and other products: Arisaig on ShinyPhoto.
On a whim, I spent my August bank holiday out and about exploring a new location: on the far west coast, Mallaig is home to the ferry port connecting to Skye.
Just to the south of the town lies Loch an Nostaire – a lovely shallow loch of clear pure water and indeterminate name etymology: the current spelling is clearly anglicised, although there are no mentions of the more obvious Gaelic Nostaraidh, but rather variations include “Nosaraidh” and “Nossery” according to the 1852 Admiralty Charts. One option is for the name to date back to Old Norse naust, a ship; an alternative derivation might be via Gaelic nòsar, juicy, sappy, white. This would be cognate with nòs, cow’s milk, which sits well with one of the tributary burns being called the Allt a’ Bhainne.
The Mallaig Circular walk leads from Glasnacardoch just off the Rathad nan Eilean inland to the loch, then up between the hills Creag a’Chait and Cruach Mhalaig before descending to Mallaig.
The view down the loch, especially from higher up, is beautiful: to the east the hills of Cruach Clachach and Cruach Bhuidhe are quartzite outcrops forming a backdrop behind an unnamed island on the loch covered with native Scots Pine trees; along the opposite side of the loch runs a prominent ridge where Morar schist pelite changes to psammite.
Classic landscape: small rocky boulders in the foreground, an expanse of grass, and the loch and hills beyond under a clear blue sky. A view down the length of the loch to thet south, small rocky hills with clusters of Scots Pine and other native trees. An impressively clear prominent ridge running along the west of the loch: to the west, the Morar Schists Formation – Micaceous Psammite And Semipelite; in the plain of the loch, Lower Morar Psammite Formation – Psammite. Metamorphic Bedrock formed approximately 541 to 1000 million years ago and covered with a layer of peat. As landscape goes, the Mallaig Circular route is beautiful even on a sunny day. It has a little bit of everything – some isolated native Scots Pine trees (could use more!), clear water in Loch an Nostarie, and stunning geology – a quartzite-topped mountain to the south-east and prominent ridge where the bedrock changes from pelite to psammite along the west edge of the loch. An idyllic setting: a clump of Scots Pine trees on an isolated and sadly unnamed island in the loch
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For the second day of my holiday last Autumn, I got up – again! – at a ludicrously early hour and drove from Tongue round to the Assynt peninsula, to my favourite viewpoint for sunrise.
It was some drive.
All the way from Tongue to Loch Assynt without seeing another car. Bliss.
Take the A838 road (abused as part of the ghastly NC500 coastal route) via Durness at 5am in the pitch black, the wind blowing a gale, rain + windscreen wipers on full speed.
Picture avoiding a herd cows intruding across the road. Avoiding more than 10 deer.
At that surreal pre-caffeinated hour of the morning, seeing a signpost advertising “serving local seafood” makes me picture a restaurant waiter taking a scallop’s order at table.
The music of choice was Arcade Fire Mountains beyond Mountains – a song bemoaning city life with its world so small – a mental image contrasting with my surroundings, passing rural Scourie, pop 132 – the sort of place that takes longer to say the name than drive through.
And so I arrived at Rhicarn – the landscape black, clouds a grey plasma, just a little bit windy…
And the sun rose. Quite spectacularly, casting brilliant crepuscular rays from the horizon and underside edges of clouds.
A brilliant display of crepuscular rays, shadows coming from the edge of a cloud as the sun rose beside Canisp. Beautiful morning light: crepuscular rays streaming from a cloud edge, illuminating the sides of Suilven and Canisp and the Manse Loch in the foreground. A thick cloud obscured the freshly risen sun – its edges casting crepuscular rays over the hazy landscape. Autumn at my favoured viewpoint, Rhicarn in Assynt. A thick cloud obscured the freshly risen sun – its edges casting crepuscular rays over the hazy landscape. Autumn at my favoured viewpoint, Rhicarn in Assynt. Loch Uidh a’Chliabhain and the Manse Loch in the foreground; beautiful receding layers of mountains in the middle; a stunning dramatic display of crepuscular rays as a cloud obscured the rising sun in the distance. Projection: Rectilinear (0) FOV: 23 x 16 Ev: 11.38 Loch Uidh a’Chliabhain and the Manse Loch in the foreground; beautiful receding layers of mountains in the middle; a stunning dramatic display of crepuscular rays as a cloud obscured the rising sun in the distance. Projection: Rectilinear (0) FOV: 23 x 16 Ev: 11.38
Throughout the sunrise, the light was spectacular – brightly illuminating colourful clouds.
…and casting a subtle hazy glow over the morning fog across Little Assynt, outlines of hills receding into the mist
As the sun rose, the ground heated just enough for the overnight dew to evaporate into a thick fog, filling the landscape enough to obscure the receding lines of hills into nothing but a bright haze beside the sun. Manse Loch / Loch Uidh a’Chliabhain remains clear, a mile into the foreground. Iconic Scottish landscape: the Manse Loch and layers of hills and mountains receding into the hazy distance
Perhaps my favourite image from the morning has to be Suilven, the unmistakable mountain on the horizon, catching a subtle patch of oblique sunlight on a flank.
Once the sun rose, I explored the Falls of Kirkaig outside Inverkirkaig. A nice long walk through lumpy landscape, to a large thundering waterfall.
Undulating landscape; gneiss outcrops amongst the grass and heather beside the path above the River Kirkaig gorge. An impressive waterfall – 60ft tall and flowing deep and fast into its splash-pool below. It’s also one of the scariest places I’ve been in a landscape; this view is from a small platform area, a steep descent down the left face of the gorge. With my own dog for company there was limited space even to turn around and plant the tripod and camera bag. As if the river Kirkaig wasn’t full and fast enough in the bottom of the gorge, walking back along the top the clouds were pretty dramatic, the light behind coming through as crepuscular rays above the silhouetted hills.
Returning to above Rhicarn, clouds had flowed in obscuring the mountains on the horizon, so I experimented flying the drone to admire the surrounding landscape.
There’s something about finding a thin strip of old tarmac that obviously used to be a road – it makes a connection with the story and heritage of a location. From researching on Pastmap, it appears there was not much road here at all throughout the 19th century – presumably a cattle drovers’ track or similar. Then the old tarmac was laid, following a circuitous path around the gneiss rock hills. Finally, some time after the 1960s, a new road, now the B869, was laid through it in a boring straight line, the old route relegated to a carpark yet visible and walkable either side of the road.
Behind this scene, on the way to Clachtoll, lies some beautiful Karst landscape (cnoc’n’lochan or knock-and-lochan), formed by underground erosion of softer rock, leading to a classic pattern of rocky knolls interspersed (almost 50-50 by area) with lochs.
The joys of knock-and-lochan Karst landscape: it’s almost all equal parts gneiss rocky outcrops and lochs with roads wending their way through the shapely landscape.
Further along the road lies the Maiden Loch, of which I’ve been very fond since first catching sight of it years ago. That first view was on a sunny afternoon, the sky blue reflecting in the water. I flew the drone over it, to admire the gneiss landscape all the more…
Some of the above photos are available on my photo gallery website: ShinyPhoto: Assynt
Can’t beat Scotland’s West Coast in summer. Saturday was spent exploring a new place to me, Smirisary in Glenuig, Lochaber.
A beach of large psammite outcrops with lyprophyre dykes
Cracks and sedimentary strata lines in an exposed lump of psammite, Smirisary. Erosion in action: an exposed lump of psammite (metamorphosed former sandstone) showing lines of strata and cracks, with gentle folding, yet surrounded by stones and boulders where the sea has eroded it away. Cracks and sedimentary strata lines in an exposed lump of psammite, Smirisary. A perfect subject for an abstract art: dense close strata layers of psammite (mid/coarse-grained metamorphosed sandstone) tightly packed.
Signs of habitation – old (but possibly still in use) croft/houses just above the shore in amongst the caves
Signs of settlements – Smirisary forms a small cluster of houses down around the shoreline, nestling amongst the rocks. Evidence of former habitation. Just because the west coast has its culture and traditions does not mean we should refrain calling out an example of litter for what it is in the context of environmental pollution. Discarded metal bath-tub and other crap in a cave-mouth, Smirisary. A beautiful beach – ideal for a paddle in the shallow seas with Dog – surrounded by rocky cliffs.
Beautiful landscapes – wide vistas via light on the sea out to the islands of Eigg and Rùm on the horizon
Sunlight playing on ferns in the foreground, looking out to the islands of Much, Eigg and Rum with their distinctive mountain outlines on the horizon. Sky meets sea in an atmospheric haze of glowing light. Very ethereal. Dramatic light: crepuscular rays emanating from dark clouds over the islands of Eigg and Rum across the water. A variety of types of cloud billowing gently over the distinctive outlines of Eigg and Rum on the horizon.
And on the way back home we called in at Loch Eilt by the roadside – partly to wash the salt water out of the dog, but also to admire the symmetrical reflections. The midges were out in force, pesky and biting as ever, but the photos were worth it…
Pure green: Scots Pine trees on an island across Loch Eilt. Pleasant clear and pure water. Shame about the hordes of midges – some flying so close to the lens I could see them larger than life on the live-view screen. A combination of long exposures sufficed to remove them, however – this is a combination of HDR (5*±0.7EV) and pixel-shift (4*1px offset) for optimal dynamic range and resolution. Scots Pine trees on an island across Loch Eilt.Pleasant clear and pure water. Shame about the hordes of midges – some flying so close to the lens I could see them larger than life on the live-view screen. A combination of long exposures sufficed to remove them, however – this is a combination of HDR (5*±0.7EV) and pixel-shift (4*1px offset) for optimal dynamic range and resolution.
Some years ago I had a passing interest in the abstract shapes and forms rocks can take.
Recently I was out on the Aberdeenshire coast hunting photos with a friend, who, being impressed with the rocky coastline, wondered exactly where the Highland Boundary Fault emerged at its most north-eastern extremity.
From the outside it doesn’t look like much, but on closer inspection it is awesome.
There are actually two faults – a small one at the north-eastern end of Craigeven Bay corner with Garron Point, forming a small spur off the Highland Boundary Fault which clips the coastline from the town out to sea.
On the lowland side the bedrock is metabasalt, psammite and pelite (North Esk formation) – metamorphic bedrock formed around 461-485MYa in the Ordovician period. On the highland side is gritty psammite (Glen Lethnot grit formation) – around 541-1000MYa.
The fault itself can be tracked to a matter of a few feet – a view from beside one of the golf greens shows the junction of both faults, with a strip of incredibly deformed grey rock leading away some meters rather like a line of chewing-gum.
Prior to metamorphosis, this used to be sandstone. Now it forms a medium/coarse-grained rock, pale blue-green in colour, along the line of the Highland Boundary Fault. This boulder marks the intersection of two fault lines; a small one, running diagonally from top-right to bottom-left, and the Highland Boundary Fault, running front to back. The zoom lens has compressed perspective, but for a sense of scale, the foreground rock in the right is maybe 15-20′ away.
My favourite image is an abstract closeup – purply-red microbasalt meeting gritty blue-green psammite in a spray of cracks and marbling lines.
A few photos from Sunday afternoon’s explorations around Loch Rannoch.
We walked through the Black Woods; whilst flying the drone near Camghouran I discovered remains of a building – a pile of stones and hints of mounds in the earth possibly in the shape of a former but’n’ben croft? – in a clearing in the forest.
Walking along the path through the woods, one comes across this clearing just off to the south; quite photogenic from ground level, it becomes even more interesting from 100m up in the air as the beautiful pale tree is apparently stuck on the end of a pile of stome rubble, the remains of some kind of building. The impressively tall fir trees of Camghouran / Croiscraig from above the Black Woods of Rannoch
Sunset on the shore was beautiful; contrasting deep blue ominous dark blue clouds and vibrant orange sunset across the water.
Beautiful glowing colours: warm yellow, orange and red sunset light contrasting with the thick passing clouds near Camghouran, Loch Rannoch Beautiful glowing sunset gold and blue colours, near Camghouran, Loch Rannoch Beautiful glowing sunset gold and blue colours, near Camghouran, Loch Rannoch Beautiful glowing colours: warm yellow, orange and red sunset light contrasting with the thick passing clouds near Camghouran, Loch Rannoch Beautiful glowing sunset gold and blue colours, near Camghouran, Loch Rannoch
Prints of some of these photos will be available through my ShinyPhoto website: photos around Loch Rannoch.
I used to make a point of closeup nature photos, simplifying the complexity of plant structure down to a few lines, in dull light. For the first time in ages, I spent most of yesterday afternoon with just the old Helios 58mm lens attached, walking around, seeing what could be seen.
Didn’t expect ladybirds to feature at this time of year.
Detail of broom seedpods Tree structure A cluster of ladybirds in a broom bush twig junction Tree structure Detail of broom seedpods
We made it up to the Rannoch area mid-afternoon in time to admire the pure calm stillness and misty distant mountain reflections on Loch Rannoch.
(Obligatory plug – the above image is now uploaded to my main fine-art / landscape website: Blue Stillness, Loch Rannoch.)
Drone photos also happened – flying around inversion layers over the Black Woods of Rannoch.
Patches of mist above Loch Rannoch near Croiscraig / Camghouran. ..then we went for a stroll underneath all that mist, too.
And the forest was its usual welcoming self, albeit in subdued winter mode:
Black Woods of Rannoch late in the day – hints of mist rising in the distance, colours turned cool. It’s interesting how this end of the Black Woods is so much more densely planted – even though the Scots Pine is a native species, it’s still not naturally evolved. Indeed the history of the Black Woods includes attempts to log the forest – one can only presume this was an attempt to replant, with native species, but still with some potential degree of profit in mind. Black Woods of Rannoch
A couple of weeks ago in the middle of December, we were treated to a quick overnight blast of snow. It remains my favourite season for photography, so I staggered up Birnam Hill to fly in the late afternoon light.
Snow-capped hills either side of the Highland Boundary Fault line – catching the last warm rays of sunset in the distance. Snow-capped hills either side of the Highland Boundary Fault line – catching the last warm rays of sunset in the distance.
Straight-down abstracts – trees and outlines of the Birnam Burn flowing through the snow:
Wiggly shapes – the Birnam Burn running down past Stare Bridge viewpoint. Wiggly shapes – the Birnam Burn running down past Stare Bridge viewpoint.
Ground-level tree abstracts:
Detail of tree twigs and filigree – lichen-covered branches silhouetted against the low winter sun. Detail of tree twigs and filigree – lichen-covered branches silhouetted against the low winter sun.
As an experiment to help learn my way around the Shotcut video editor, I made a short video of the area too:
Saturday was one of those strange days where the weather forecast changed, leaving me not particularly inspired where to go take the camera. But I carried on regardless up to Kinloch Rannoch and climbed Craig Varr. The views on the way up were pleasant: nice trees silhouetted against the sky, views along Loch Rannoch; as I reached the top of the crag, however, the mist came down reducing visibility to barely 100yd with low cloud flowing over the trees in front.
Descending, below the cloud level, I could see clouds zipping along above Loch Rannoch like a steam-train, the mountains opposite appearing and receding in the mist.
Sparse trees on Creag an Fhithirich, better known as the Sleeping Giant: a beautiful lumpy shapely crag in the foreground before Meall Dearg across the valley from Craig Varr. Simple things: abstract shapes of tree branches and twigs forming a fine filigree silhouetted against the sky beyond. Some of my favourite landscape elements: a contrasty plasma-cloud sky and overlaping layers of mountains receding into the distance, the other side of the Black Woods of Rannoch. Shape and solitude: a much-windswept lone tree battling the elements at the top of Craig Varr. Shape and solitude: a much-windswept lone tree battling the elements at the top of Craig Varr. On previous visits to the location I’ve tried to replicate another photographer’s work, getting the Sleeping Giant a mile away across the river in the corner of the photo; this time, however, thick mist at the top of the crag put paid to that idea, completely eliminating anything in the distance with a visibility of about 50yd. On previous visits to the location I’ve tried to replicate another photographer’s work, getting the Sleeping Giant a mile away across the river in the corner of the photo; this time, however, thick mist at the top of the crag put paid to that idea, completely eliminating anything in the distance with a visibility of about 50yd. An energetic climb up Craig Varr outside Kinloch Rannoch as the mist flowed over the mountains, followed by a quick descent to return to civilisation. This was taken from the way back down, as I paused to admire the clouds flowing fast along Loch Rannoch like steam trains. An energetic climb up Craig Varr outside Kinloch Rannoch as the mist flowed over the mountains, followed by a quick descent to return to civilisation. This was taken from the way back down, as I paused to admire the clouds flowing fast along Loch Rannoch like steam trains.
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.