Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Rannoch Moor

Wanted a picture of the "Lochaber Tree" for a book I'm working on, so yesterday Ruth and I headed out on a bright winter afternoon to the wastes of Rannoch Moor. Arrived too late for the best of the light at the Black Mount, but got some reasonable shots of the tree - Ruth driving slowly and me in the passenger seat with lens out the window.
The Lochaber Tree is a particularly determined rowan (I think) which has sprouted from an erratic boulder on the moor, just south of the county border that separates Lochaber ( and Highland) from Argyll & Bute. It's a better way-marker than the council's signage, and passing it coming north means we're entering home turf...

The real hit of the day was a liitle further south, though, at the lay-by above Loch Tulla, where this guy

and a couple of his friends have established a close relationship with the chap who runs a burger & tea stand.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Just another Highland Sunset

I wasn't ready for the otter as we strolled down Mallaig harbour yesterday afternoon. I sensed a decent sunset in the offing, and hadn't taken my camera out of its case when I caught out of the corner of my eye what I took for a small seal. But it wasn't. It was my first encounter with the almost-tame otters that have been hanging out the quayside at Mallaig this year. Ruth had seen one before there, and recognised it at once. By the time I'd got the camera out it had stopped staring up at us, dived and swum away. When it re-surfaced, it was a bit too far away for my EF-S 17-85mm lens. So this was all I got...

Then it was onwards, chasing the setting sun...
Firstly in Mallaig, with the sun setting by Eigg

Then down the coast to Morar bay...

Then finally to Traigh, just north of Arisaig.

Best sunset we've seen here since our honeymoon in December 2000.

Winter is the season for West Highland sunsets. Not least because they happen in the afternoon when you're out and about and can just bump into them

Monday, November 12, 2007

Out to Lunch

Just another lazy Highland Sunday...
A short drive from here to Oban for a decent seafood lunch at "Ee-usk!"

Swans in Oban harbour

"Ee-usk" (Gaelic for fish) sits on the town's North Pier, with superb views over the harbour and Oban bay

Looking over Oban bay to the isles of Kerrera and Mull

...and a surprise sunset over Loch Linnhe and the Mull bens from Benderloch on the road back home

... all in all not a bad place to abide...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Day Return to Mull

Rather belatedly, I guess, Ruth and I have recently discovered two things about the isle of Mull. Firstly, it's only about an hour's drive - plus a couple of ferries - from here (Fort William). And secondly, it's astonishingly dramatic in it's landscape and wildlife.

A group of 30+ cormorants were basking on a rock as the ferry from Lochaline in Morvern glided into the quay at Fishnish on Mull.

As we drove along Loch na Keal the air seemed to teem with raptors. Mostly buzzards, but there are eagles around too, and Mull has a renowned colony of white-tailed Sea Eagles. I'm gonna need to shell out on something sharper and steadier than my current Canon 100-300mm f/4-5.6 USM lens to get really useable pics of these birdies!

Last time around we started at the southern end of the island and turned along the north shore of Loch Scridain, climbing up through woods and open moorland before plunging down and round a bend to find Loch na Keal and this wide Atlantic vista opening out below us, just by the barely-discernible habitation of Balnahard:

This time we headed north from Fishnish to Salen, then cut across the isthmus to Killiechronan on the north shore of Loch na Keal. On the south shore of the loch rises the massif of Ben More, Mull's highest peak and a dominant feature of the landscape for many miles around (plainly visible from Oban, Appin, Morvern and much of the west coast of Argyll, and the islands which lie off it). Yesterday's light was weaker than on our last trip, with an early mist which had risen to hang below the clouds, and clung still to the hillsides. Not making for the easiest photographic environment, but this shot captures something of the light:

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Inverness to Bangkok on the Cheap, anyone?

Seen on the tarmac at Inverness Airport yesterday afternoon:

this 737 belongs to Thai Budget Airline nokair.com (telephone Thailand 1318, it says!)

No bookings yet showing on their site for Inverness > Bangkok, but they do have Bangkok > Hanoi for 3 baht, so the Scotland flight should compete with RyanAir's cheapest.....

Last Days of the Mod

Friday saw the final stages of the competitive Mòd, with the Gaelic Choirs singing for the Lovat and Tullibardine Shield and other prizes. Elsewhere in the town, music was everywhere - in the pubs and bars, the High Street and the Parade. Only sorry to say I missed out on the band Daimh's Kilmallie Hall session on Friday night.

Click on a pic to see more

It all ended on Saturday morning, with a procession of pie bands and choirs down the High Street to the Parade, where the assembled choirs sang the 2007 Mod out, in Gaelic, surrounded by townsfolk and tourists.

As I said previously, this was Ruth's and my first encounter with a Mod, but it won't be our last. It's a shame Fort William can't host the Mod every year, but we'll maybe become Mod-followers, now we know how to play it. Watch this space next year...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It may not be much, but it's here....

The first snow of winter 2007, now showing on (from right to left) Ben Nevis , Carn Mor Dearg and Aonach Mor, from I'd guess about the 3700 ft mark!

(Picture taken noon today)

On with the Mod

I've posted some more images on my main site from Monday evening's Award Winners Concert at the Nevis Centre,


and from a Ceol Sraide (Street Music) session on the Parade in Fort William on Tuesday afternoon

Click on either image above to view relevant image gallery.

This has been Ruth's and my first experience of having the Mod in town, and it's been a welcome enhancement of the town's off-season entertainment. There are good exhibitions at the West Highland Museum and the Lochaber Rural Complex, as well as the music and dance stuff.
The Mod has a website at
www.lochabermod2007.co.uk, but sadly Tiscali seems to have nobbled it, this of all weeks! (But try the link, it may yet come back up)

* This picture is one of a collection I'm building of digital photographers at work. I'll be putting a gallery of them on lochaberphoto.co.uk sometime soon. It's also a victim of an abuse of Photoshop CS3 HDR technology. I took 2 shots of this guy at work, but neither was exposed quite right to capture the dynamic range from shadows - where the photographer stood - to well-lit stage - where the performers were. And I'd re-composed the shot between exposures, so this was the first time I'd really tested the "Align Layers by Content" feature in CS3's "Merge to HDR". The results were interesting, especially as HDR is supposed to need at least 3 image files to work on. After running the HDR merge and getting something quite nice from the Local Adaptation dialogue, I wrangled the perspective in PS too, added a little Clone Stamp-work, and here it is... Not the sort of stuff I'd regularly do in PS, but once in a while it can be fun, and the dynamic range is improved (if nothing else)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Lochaber Mòd 2007

The Mòd is the annual Gaelic cultural festival which moves around Scotland year by year.

The 2007 Mòd is here in Lo
chaber, and I'll be posting some pics of what I see of it in the next few days.

Saturday night (Oct 13th) saw the start of activities, and I got some available light pics of the proceedings at the Nevis Centre in Fort William. Here's one:

and there's more on my main site here

Well, it's been a bit of a learning curve getting this first post out, so I'll leave it here for now.