Saturday’s involved driving much of the length of the A9 from Perthshire to Inverness and beyond to the Nice Place™, and back down again.
On the return, I broke the journey in two locations I’ve previously admired but never stopped at: one, outside Bunchrew outside Inverness, to admire the clear view along the river estuary to the Kessock Bridge:
Odd: I’ve lived around Perthshire for over a decade and driven this stretch of the A9 many many times, but never explored Ruthven Barracks before. I was fortunate enough to arrive just as the moon was rising in the north-east – a lot larger by eye than it appeared in the photos, but it made a good backdrop to the ruined buildings. Otherwise, in the cold late afternoon light, the ground covered in a dusting of snow, it all looked rather bleak…
For a final subject, just as I was packing up the drone to leave Ruthven Barracks, I noticed a splash of soft light on very low clouds clipping the Cairngorm mountains in the distance. Long lens; click; got it.
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.
Straight-down abstracts – trees and outlines of the Birnam Burn flowing through the snow:
Ground-level tree abstracts:
As an experiment to help learn my way around the Shotcut video editor, I made a short video of the area too:
Thanks to my friends Fox in the Snow Photography over on Facebook for their permission to steal one of “their” favourite trees in Glen Devon as a photo location this past weekend. Less gratitude for the attendant weather, however!
On approach, leaving the car across the road, there was quite a white-out blizzard – snow blowing up the glen, everything shades of grey, low clouds. There’s a whole hillside lurking behind the tree here, not that you’d notice:
First things first, I established it’s an Ash, Fraxinus excelsior. That probably explains some of the funky characterful shapes.
I had a bit of fun exploring the various compositions around the tree. The obvious thing is to get the whole tree in the frame, from sufficiently low on the ground to obscure the road behind, letting the visible grass merge, flowing, into the background.
One idea I’d had was to emphasize the curve of the split trunk by using it to fill the frame, leaving the branches and twigs flying around in the wind during a long exposure, Medusa-style:
Fortunately the spooky mood didn’t last long, as the weather was coming and going in alternating waves of white-out cloud and brilliant sunshine flowing over the tree.
Just one photo – from Sunday afternoon, flying the drone along Glenshee just down the A93 from the ski centre at the Cairnwell.
Some years ago, Dad and I went up the Cairnwell and as we were at the top, watched a Hercules flying down the glen, below us, banking left at Spittal of Glenshee. Nice to be able to fly the area myself now!
Technicalities: 2 deg Celsius outisde, very low cloud base (easily within the drone’s permitted altitude but best avoided); an HDR panorama of 4 frames ISO 100, f/3.5, 1/400s (varying), processed in dcraw and stitched and finished in Serif Affinity Photo.
There’s no better place to start a holiday than the Nice Place(TM), even if it does involve getting up and on the road at 4am for a 165-mile drive up north.
The sun rose over Loch Beinn a Mheadhoin as I approached:
The Caledonian Forest at Glen Affric was its usual beautiful self – still not cold enough for morning mist in the trees, but brilliant morning sunlight and heavy rain caused a wonderful vibrant double rainbow while I was down by the river.
For a change, I took a long walk a couple of miles along the side of Loch Beinn a Mheadhoin, to be rewarded with a gorgeous view of Sgurr na Lapaich covered in pure white snow, across the water.
I spent the morning of Dec 22 – the first day of winter – up Kinnoull Hill. There was beautiful mist rising from the River Tay as it meanders through the Carse of Gowrie.
I experimented with a few new compositions too: semi-abstract views of the hills of north Fife, the motorway/A90 junction and the river north of Perth as well.
My favourite two images were the fairly conventional view from above the cliffs, looking past the folly along the Carse of Gowrie. It’s not that comfortable a location to shoot – to get a clear view of the tower, one has to stand in a gorse bush…
My sense of the geography of Strathearn has not really fitted together until quite recently. There have been a few locations, isolated points and a few lines: the A822 from Gilmerton up past Monzie to the Sma’ Glen; The Hosh at the foot to access Glen Turret; a small B-road between the two; a hill known as Kate McNiven’s Crag; and one or two other areas. More recently I’ve been climbing hills, “bagging” Torlum Hill and Laggan Hill as part of the Lady Mary’s Walk circuit out of Crieff.
The Highland Boundary Fault emerges in a burst of very lumpy landscape at the southern end of the Sma’ Glen. But what it does in the rest of Strathearn to the west, I’ve never really seen.
A couple of weekends ago I explored the Knock of Crieff independently; it struck me that the path up the north side afforded the perfect view along the length of the strath to the far mountains in the west, an elevated view along the glacial U-shape.
So late on Sunday afternoon I took the drone for a spin slightly out over the strath and made a panorama of 7 shots, each a 5-shot HDR exposure bracket sequence – blended on Linux, stitched and edited in Serif Affinity Photo for the iPad.
Lowlands to the left of me; Highlands to the right…
And just for the record, this is what it looked like in the middle of stitched the blended panorama, before I cropped and toned it:
In the middle of January, I went for a drive around Glen Lyon. There was enough snow lying that the road was slippy on corners, so I didn’t get anywhere near as far in as I would have liked, but still, the light was a special kind of low cool glow.
Just a few twists along the road into Glen Lyon from Fortingall – we’re going that way into the glowing light, folks.
Trees draped like a fuzzy fir coat over a snowy mountain
This is a pretty commonly shot view from a small layby – but beautiful in the cold winter light, showing the shapes of craggy mountains:
A beautiful view – rugged crags descending to a smooth glacial U-shaped glen
And that was as far as I dared go for the snow. Turning back, I stopped by the roadside to check out a particularly photogenic little lochan lurking on the edge of the forestry:
Snow resting on a frozen lochan, Glen Lyon – I loved the way it sits on the edge of the forestry.
And I just had to take a photo of the beloved Doglet while I was there 😉
The one and only…. 🙂
By the side of the river, dusk was long gone and the blue hour had well and truly set in.
Snow lying on craggy hillsides beside the River Lyon
This is fast becoming one of my favourite walks around town – not least because it’s less muddy than the other track out the back. Yesterday I awoke to find the world had turned white, complete with snow-drift piled-up on the front lawn by a passing snowplough. Naturally, over-inflated reports of traffic confusion abounded, although by the time I had to drive anywhere in the evening, the roads were as clear as a bell.
Anyway. I like this path. The Ruthven Water makes a great spot for the Doglet to paddle. All very relaxing and shiny in the white snow.
It’s been a while. A couple of weekends ago I made it out to my favourite afternoon walk location, Duncan’s Hill and Birnam Hill near Dunkeld. The place was beautiful in the snow – all bright whites and glowing blue skies, trees and light.
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.
…it does it properly. A small handful of photos taken late one evening when all around was quiet (apart from some lunatic burning-out the clutch in their Ford to get up the road) and covered in white (and slush) and no light but streetlights…