scotland

Beads on a Thread

Work has begun on some new routes for a new book. The process is interesting, I guess because the brief is - it’s a good fit for all three of us who are contributing I think.

I caught the last of the good weather and managed a few days of exploring a line I’d been side eyeing for a few years, watching and waiting for the right moment. 8 Munro’s over 3 days, and staying well above 1000metres for the most part.

I’m editing different sets, but here’s some shots I quite like for now, most of which won’t appear anywhere else for the time being.

I met Ginge again back at basecamp before a few hours on the loch the following day. Ginge is a locksmith from Bude, who plied me with tea and American beer as we sat around his IKEA stove - but the job is not the man. The man is a surfer, backpacker and canoer, an ex-soundman for Katrina and the Waves who by the seem of it has been walking on sunshine for many of his 60 odd years.

“For me…” he said, gesturing around him as we sat deep among the birch and pine, “…this is a necessity.” Yea man, you’re among trees, and friends. These kinds of chance encounters in slightly out of the way places are not something that Visit Scotland will ever be able to put a price tag on… and so I worry sometimes that even Scotland is becoming more formal and less convivial under a yoke of inforced austerity… but then I meet people like Ginge and my equilibrium is restored. Cheers dude.

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Storm dodging in the CNP

Winter has arrived late, but my friend Tim, who escapes from that London but once a year, was right on time. Plans for the first route of a new book were abandoned as being too high, too dangerous, which in the end was OK by us - sometimes it’s best to stay down. I spent three days showing off the Western Cairngorms to Tim and Mick. It’s somewhere I’m getting to know more intimately now, but it’s always different, never the same. A day of sometimes chilly forest walking was rewarded with a visit to the refurbished bothy cum glamping arrangement in Glen Feshie, where we were greeted by a good measure of whisky and Lyndsey the MO, up for the weekend from that Glasgow.

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Friday’s promised visibility didn’t materialise, but by then we’d forgotten that advice about staying down and were already committed. The Mhoine Mhor was a surreal white wind tunnel, and Glen Gives-as-good-as-it-gooshikens was as brutal as I remembered. Corrour was full of happy Danes so I spent the night outside, sleeping with one eye open, occasionally grabbing the tent pole and watching Tim being slapped in the face by a corner of Silnylon. All at sea.

We flushed ourselves out by the Ghru, accompanied by Luke, a green, keen and determined young’un up from that Swindon, in beautiful but coruscating conditions. Heavy, wet snow followed our sandblasting, finished off with a christmas-card-like sun-dappled walk out and a pint of Stag at the Old Bridge Inn.

After a few weeks bouncing off the walls as a small cog in the Save Glen Etive campaign, a simple 57km stumble in fantastic company was a perfect tonic to the politrics back at the desk. My daughter calls it scantavanting, after stravaiging I suppose, but whatever we call it I’m deeply grateful for good friends and big country in these miserly, ridiculous times.

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This photo is a collection of work and play photos, or a photo diary from the last couple of months. Some may have appeared in your viddy before now, via Instagram.

This Photo was taken in the final weeks before Christmas, a slightly abortive family trip out into the forests near home. We took a path that had been taken back into the forest for want of regular use. For those of us who live in the Highlands, in December we live in the mountain’s shadow. It can feel quite sombre and subdued, so it’s important to get out for fresh air and whatever vitamin D is there.

This Photo was taken in the final weeks before Christmas, a slightly abortive family trip out into the forests near home. We took a path that had been taken back into the forest for want of regular use. For those of us who live in the Highlands, in December we live in the mountain’s shadow. It can feel quite sombre and subdued, so it’s important to get out for fresh air and whatever vitamin D is there.

This Photo is from the back of our local hill, looking over Newtonmore, a glorious family walk. Christmas eve was brighter. I’ve started using the 40mm Voitlander again for local stuff. It’s cranky but I love the colours, and a prime is good discipline.

This Photo is from the back of our local hill, looking over Newtonmore, a glorious family walk. Christmas eve was brighter. I’ve started using the 40mm Voitlander again for local stuff. It’s cranky but I love the colours, and a prime is good discipline.

This Photo is from the same walk, at dusk. I am slowly feeling out a photo project or series based around local birch trees called  The Silver Darlings . Birch are early colonisers, and support more UK wildlife than any other tree species bar Oak.

This Photo is from the same walk, at dusk. I am slowly feeling out a photo project or series based around local birch trees called The Silver Darlings. Birch are early colonisers, and support more UK wildlife than any other tree species bar Oak.

This Photo is another one I’m looking at with the same project in mind, but I don’t think it’s there yet. I like the shadows in this version but the highlights need something else. I remember when this branch came down last year. I like the way the woods have embraced the fall.

This Photo is another one I’m looking at with the same project in mind, but I don’t think it’s there yet. I like the shadows in this version but the highlights need something else. I remember when this branch came down last year. I like the way the woods have embraced the fall.

This photo was taken on a very damp workshop, while discussing tone. Although the subject here is very conventional, the exposure and processing reflect that conversation.

This photo was taken on a very damp workshop, while discussing tone. Although the subject here is very conventional, the exposure and processing reflect that conversation.

This Photo was taken on an old road above the new road. If you know your classic Scottish photography, you’ll know this spot. Conditions weren’t right for a straight ahead shot, so here’s a crop which I quite like. There are further crops possible inside this one.

This Photo was taken on an old road above the new road. If you know your classic Scottish photography, you’ll know this spot. Conditions weren’t right for a straight ahead shot, so here’s a crop which I quite like. There are further crops possible inside this one.

This Photo was taken as my student was looking in the opposite direction. I was aiming at the light, but I like the car in this photo just as much.

This Photo was taken as my student was looking in the opposite direction. I was aiming at the light, but I like the car in this photo just as much.

This photo, and the one below were taken in-between rain showers in Glen Etive, a powerful place.

This photo, and the one below were taken in-between rain showers in Glen Etive, a powerful place.

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This Photo was taken on the same workshop. I knew the river further down but this exact spot was new to me, and a real find. It’s one of 7 rivers that Dalness estate are looking to build Hydro on, which would be a total disgrace. I believe it’s our job to witness these places, and to tell others what we’ve seen, a controversial position for some. Anyway, conditions weren’t great this time, but I know where it is and will return and try and get a photo that does the place some kind of justice.

This Photo was taken on the same workshop. I knew the river further down but this exact spot was new to me, and a real find. It’s one of 7 rivers that Dalness estate are looking to build Hydro on, which would be a total disgrace. I believe it’s our job to witness these places, and to tell others what we’ve seen, a controversial position for some. Anyway, conditions weren’t great this time, but I know where it is and will return and try and get a photo that does the place some kind of justice.

This Photo is from the Cairngorms. I don’t think I’ve ever had great conditions here, and this is as close to a decent shot of the ridge as I’ve come. Suddenly, the angles slid into place, ‘landscape’ photography as movement.

This Photo is from the Cairngorms. I don’t think I’ve ever had great conditions here, and this is as close to a decent shot of the ridge as I’ve come. Suddenly, the angles slid into place, ‘landscape’ photography as movement.

This Photo and the one below were taken at the end of a fairly obscure ridge, in the north, in November, one section of which was particularly testing. File under  Vanishing Point . Since then it turns out that a new book may be happening, so this route warrants a return visit in more conventionally scenic conditions. There’s a good circuit to be completed around a haunted glen. I met a fox in the dark at the bealach.

This Photo and the one below were taken at the end of a fairly obscure ridge, in the north, in November, one section of which was particularly testing. File under Vanishing Point. Since then it turns out that a new book may be happening, so this route warrants a return visit in more conventionally scenic conditions. There’s a good circuit to be completed around a haunted glen. I met a fox in the dark at the bealach.

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This Photo and the two below were taken in well known spots near Aviemore at dawn and at dusk, to facilitate discussions on subject and abstraction. What are we aiming for when we take a photograph? What do we hope to achieve and what’s the best way of describing where we are? Most people come ready to ask those kind of questions, some less so, but it’s all good. Everyone’s answers are theirs.

This Photo and the two below were taken in well known spots near Aviemore at dawn and at dusk, to facilitate discussions on subject and abstraction. What are we aiming for when we take a photograph? What do we hope to achieve and what’s the best way of describing where we are? Most people come ready to ask those kind of questions, some less so, but it’s all good. Everyone’s answers are theirs.

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This photo and the one below were taken to facilitate a discussion on composition. Students will often be familiar with ‘the rules’ (thirds, leading lines and all that) but are often less sure how to play with or against them in the field. When the lochans are under ice, there’s more opportunities to work with curves, but even so, the pictures don’t take themselves. We have to move ourselves and the camera.  Teaching is about helping others to articulate what they ‘see’ and then make it happen on the ground.

This photo and the one below were taken to facilitate a discussion on composition. Students will often be familiar with ‘the rules’ (thirds, leading lines and all that) but are often less sure how to play with or against them in the field. When the lochans are under ice, there’s more opportunities to work with curves, but even so, the pictures don’t take themselves. We have to move ourselves and the camera.

Teaching is about helping others to articulate what they ‘see’ and then make it happen on the ground.

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This Photo and the one below are both local to me and taken in autumn, but in different places. More  Silver Darlings  to finish seems appropriate. This scene is a wood local to Grantown, the other is on the slopes of the Feshie Hills, which are regenerating as the deer numbers come under control. Photographing trees is an excercise in relationships and simplicity. Keeping complex things simple a life skill worth practicing as much as I possibly can!

This Photo and the one below are both local to me and taken in autumn, but in different places. More Silver Darlings to finish seems appropriate. This scene is a wood local to Grantown, the other is on the slopes of the Feshie Hills, which are regenerating as the deer numbers come under control. Photographing trees is an excercise in relationships and simplicity. Keeping complex things simple a life skill worth practicing as much as I possibly can!

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Thanks for stopping by

Mountain gold

A few photos from a two day trip in the North-West. Not exactly off the beaten track, but not the usual honeypots either (although you'll see a fair few of them on the skyline). Big, rough and tumble country, a natural circuit around a rugged glen, a high camp and no midges. The sun never quite sets in the mountains at this time of year. It's pretty perfect if the weather works out.

I went with a photography client, but when the company and conditions are this good, it's not work - or at least, it's not hard work! Matt has an interesting job working for the planning department at SNH, and for me personally it was energising to spend time with someone who has a layered understanding and appreciation of wild places. Whatever people come with is great - the range of experience is one of the best things about tutoring - as for Matt, he was pretty familiar with camera technicals, and more than able enough in the hills, which allowed us to cover some burly ground on foot, as well as (I hope) some alternate ways of looking and seeing.

I can't wait to go back for the Corbett, and to camp in the deer paradise underneath, studded with lochans and stuffed with craggy ribs of pink granite.