Snowy Strathearn

The view driving south-west along the A9 just above Forteviot is quite a treat – an open expanse of Strathearn with the river and road flowing through the landscape, bounded on the south by the Ochil hills.

On a snowy winter’s day with passing sunlight, even better!

Herewith, a few photos taken in the course of a few minutes as a filthy dark cloud rolled in.

Above Comrie

A selection of photos taken around Glen Lednock, mostly up the Melville Monument overlooking Comrie.

This is Highland Boundary Fault territory; the fault itself runs up Glen Artney from the south-west straight through Cultybraggan PoW Camp, on through Comrie and across the A85 to the east.

I was also struck by how vintage Comrie itself looks from afar – a nice ratio of buildings interspersed by trees, with such a low vehicular traffic flow (even on a Saturday afternoon) that one could almost imagine the cars being replaced by carriages.

And no visit to Glen Lednock could be complete without the obvious long-exposure photo of the Wee Cauldron waterfall, of course!

Corrie Fee

It seems like ages ago now – but back in April, a friend took me for a walk up Corrie Fee near Glen Clova. It was the first time I’ve been there, and didn’t know exactly what to expect; the first stretch through the forestry was pleasant (once the weather made its mind up what to fling at us), but when the view opened-out into a massive wide vista at the foot of a corrie, complete with glacial morraine hillocks, it was wonderful.

Moody Eclipse Photos

I was up early on the morning of March 20th to get to Stonehaven on the coast in time for the solar eclipse.

It’s funny how there was so much discussion as to what filters one should use when shooting the sun: on the one hand, a direct view of the sun’s disc requires special Baader solar filter (approx 23 stops’ filtration); however, when I arrived to see the extent of the clouds, only conventional photographic filters were needed (a mixture of ND1000 and circular polarizer 2-stop filters). And I think the results were all the more dramatic for it, too.

The first of these photos was made using a Centon 500mm mirror lens over 20 years old – from when I bought my first film SLR (a Canon EOS500n – that dates it) It even shows sunspot N 2303 pretty clearly.

The others are with the Sony 55-210mm lens at full stretch instead.

Each image is an HDR of 3 source frames bracketed +/-1EV, converted in photivo, blended in enfuse and worked in darktable.

Solar Eclipse 2015: a teaser

After all that driving to get this, I couldn’t let today pass without posting┬átaster shot from the solar eclipse.

I find it interesting that, for all the posturing online about the need for Baader solar sheets and that ND filters wouldn’t provide enough protection, nature provided clouds as the best kind of filter anyway.

The colour photo was taken with a 20-year-old Centon 500mm f/8 mirror lens and probably an ND8 filter hand-held in front; the black and white image was the kit telephoto 55-210mm lens at the far end.

Both taken from the road beside Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven.

Water: Around Loch Rannoch (3)

This one isn’t so much about the water as the mountain, Schiehallion. Back in 1774, its regular shape and relatively isolated location led to it being used in the famous experiment by Mason and Maskelyne to determine the value of the gravitational constant, big-G, and the density of the Earth.

Certainly it sits fairly impressively in the landscape.

Cauldron Falls, West Burton

One of my favoured parts of North Yorkshire’s scenery is the well-known waterfall at West Burton. Always good for a bit of classical landscape photography, exploring both context and closeup (“intimate landscape”); it’s also quite fun to compare with other people’s views of the same location, although I envy anyone who manages to get good light in such a location.

My Favourite Camera Settings


There’s one particular combination of camera settings I keep coming back to, that forms a base for almost all my work. Just in case anyone else is interested:


Great Success: a replanted willow tree budding, in black and white

Circular polarizer filter: for acting as an optical control of local contrast

RAW+JPEG: so I have vast amounts of data to process properly and a reference of what the camera thought of it, which can also be recovered more easily in case of SD-card corruption (rare, but not unknown)

Mode: maybe 90% aperture-priority (auto-ISO, auto-shutter speed), 5% shutter-priority (auto-ISO), 5% manual (because the NEX-7 fixes ISO to 100 by default); of these, unless I’m doing a long exposure, the aperture is the most distinguishing control between closeup and landscape work.

Processing: black & white, so I get to think in terms of shape and form and colour-contrast even if sometimes a scene is processed for colour.


Great Success: a replanted willow tree budding, in colour

Metering: matrix/multi-zone metering, because it’s quite good enough, especially when coupled with a histogram on-screen

Compensation: normally +1/3rd EV for reasons of expose-to-the-right, improving the signal-to-noise ratio.

Shooting: HDR +/-1 EV

The shooting-mode is a new departure; not because I’ve suddenly started “doing HDR” (I’ve been open to that workflow on demand for several years), but rather because the ability to produce 30-40megapixel photos requires multiple input images. By shooting hand-held at high frame-rate I get enough image-data to combine upscaling (using super-resolution) with noise-reduction (using stacking). Full-speed burst-mode on the┬áNEX-7 is a very fast 10fps, which leads to taking bursts of 5-6 images by the time I’ve thought I’ve got 3; the camera enjoys a wide dynamic range so even if the scene contrast doesn’t require HDR per se, there’s only a little difference in quality and using the HDR bracketing restricts the burst to 3 frames at a time.



A little barn: scenery from Steel Riggs on Hadrian’s Wall