My Ordinary Month #2 (March)

March started with a talk at Ayr Photographic Society, one of the oldest camera clubs in Scotland and within its stunning location at the Loudoun Hall, Ayr which in itself is full of history and character. It seemed to go down very well with the very welcoming membership and organisers. Rarely do I pass up an opportunity to shoot near the location of a talk and this was no exception with an early evening stop at a wet Troon beach. Unlike other locations I’ve visited through doing talks this was one I was very familiar with so I knew where I wanted to go when it looked like there might be some changeable weather on the way. With the tide out, the beach can appear messy and unexciting but with the water receded there are some patterns and textures revealed and these are what I was looking to shoot. The incoming rain and low evening light combined to add some colour to the scene as well, leaving me happy but wet with the results.

A few days later I managed to get a few hours to myself but had missed most of the snow that had fallen on the hills. It was warming up and there had been plenty of rain so a big thaw was on and I decided to pass the time checking out a location I hadn’t visited before, Loup of Fintry. Only 30-40 minutes from my house I headed up after I dropped the girls at school. On arrival the skies opened and it was horizontal rain/sleet but with a strong wind I knew it would pass and I hoped for maybe the chance of some dramatic light. This was not to be the case though. The rain did pass but cleared too quickly and left bright blue skies with clear, harsh light. This visit though was mainly a recce so I wasn’t too disappointed with the conditions. I found the best parking spot, got the gear out the car and went for a walk to see what was there. I was surprised how big the falls actually are and spotted a few areas on the hills surrounding them I may return to in more favourable conditions in the future. With all the melting snow and heavy rain we had been getting, the waterfalls were a torrent and the noise close to them was deafening. With the harsh light hitting the water it was hard to managed the highlights so all I really managed was a shot from afar using the 80-200 f4 AIS to try and isolate some detail and with a little mist/spray from the falls softening the light slightly. I managed a good recce though so the journey was far from wasted and the cold wind had helped put some colour back in my cheeks.

The following week was a planned family trip to London for a visit to the Harry Potter Studios in Watford which Santa had kindly arranged for us. We had made the most of it and booked a few nights down there and took the girls around the city where we were welcomed by the youth of today showing their displeasure and rightful fears for the future of the environment. They marched through the streets and protested peacefully near Parliament Square while we explained to our girls that this is what you need to do if you want to change the world and how it’s all too ease to just moan about things on social media from the comfort of your home but if you want to make a difference then you need to get up and do something about it.

We did the usual bits and pieces around London but there was a bitingly cold win so indoors was the most favourable meaning plenty of time spent at the Science and National History Museums to stay warm. There was a queue for the latter and that gave me an idea of a few shots to try out which came from my long admiration of the work of Alexey Titarenko and particularly his City Of Shadows series from the early 1990’s. I had no tripod so it was a case of using the nearest stone wall to get some stability for the long exposures. A fun experience and it helped beat the cold and boredom of queueing in the wind.

It was a great trip and we all enjoyed it ,especially my girls who on the Sunday night got what they came for, to explore the wonders of the Harry Potter Studios. I’m not really a big fan of it all but even I couldn’t help but be impressed with the place, with loads to read and learn about the making of the films. It’s a place I can see us all coming back to in the future, even if it’s just for the Butterbeer drink and ice cream.

Between all this I also managed to process an old B&W roll of film I had forgotten about and hence had no idea what was on it. It turned out to be a mixed bag of shots that I must have taken when I was practicing with the rangefinder. Scanned using a light box and my Nikon D850, and as with all my film shots they are what you would call rough around the edges to say the least. But there is still something about film that will always have a raw appeal to me.

Things became quite busy for a while as the month moved on and I started to feel like I hadn’t gotten much fresh air for a while. So one evening coming home from work I used the last few minutes of daylight to have a side of the road wander with the 50mm f1.2 to recharge my batteries. Sometimes I find even the briefest of moments in woodlands can refresh my head and body and strange as it may sound, it definitely has an effect on me and long may it continue. Medicine you just can’t buy. So I decided to have a play with the multiple exposure functions within the Nikon D850, a practice I am far from comfortable with but at the same time excited about whenever I give it a go. I played with a few shots, building on each double exposure with another until I found something I thought I might like, trying out different blend modes to gain a little more experience and skill to know how to approach a future subject or scene. Here are some of the raw captures I was building on.

I was quite drawn to the shapes of the bare Hawthorn bushes and eventually found a way to emphasise them within the textures that surrounded them. I used a few layers to settle on this image before heading home. 30 minutes well spent, as I find working with in camera ME demands deep concentration and lots of thought, forcing me to zone in and forget about anything else that might be on my mind in the process.

A few days later I had the chance to get an early start and decided to head to The Trossachs with a spot in mind between Loch Chon and Loch Katrine that I hadn’t visited in a few years. It has views South towards Ben Lomond and with some snow remaining on the tops of the highest mountains my eyes were on the weather. It had been quite flat and grey for a while and this morning suggested there may be a break in the cloud early on before returning to subdued dull light. So off I went early to be in the right place for any light that might materialise. It started well and I managed to capture a couple of shots just as there was a nice colour from the rising sun as it popped above Ben Venue.

The good thing about this spot is that it has almost 360 panoramic views but the foreground had changed slightly from my last visit with a lot of tree felling so I set up for a pano taking in Ben Lomond and west towards Loch Arklet and the Arrochar Alps. There was still a bit of colour in the sky which helped brighten the whole scene.

At this point the cloud started to build a little earlier than forecast and flatness resumed. I played around with some foregrounds but these were generally too messy. I then packed up and stopped at one more spot over the Dukes Pass that I’d wanted to recce for a while. It’s hard to imagine if there’s a shot or not when conditions aren’t right but there was one potential over hanging tree I might come back to perhaps in late Autumn or with more snow around.

At this time of year we are treated to the return of some colour to the landscape and there is one in particular it’s hard to avoid admiring. That is the beautiful Cherry blossom. It seems to be found mainly in urban areas or gardens meaning finding one in a pretty surrounding can be hard. There is a little copse of around 5 or 6 Cherry blossom that we pass each day on the journey to school with the kids and with this years early bloom I decided to stop on my way back home. They are set against a brown garden fence on one side, grey roughcasting of a gable end of a house on another and a busy road on the remaining other two. To round it all off there is a small thigh high fence around them all too, presumable to stop kids playing football near them and on this occasion the light was once again flat. So with that in mind I took the option of once again use the multiple exposure function of the Nikon to try and remove the unsightly surroundings while still focussing on the beautiful colour and texture of the blossoming flower. In hindsight I wish I had spent a little more time with these trees because I am now struggling to find anything better to work with since their peak has seemed to have passed already.

I’ve had a lot of bother with my wee Sony RX100ii culminating in the screen remaining blank so there was no way to frame a shot or see the settings. For a while there was a way to hold it which turned the screen back on so it obviously had a loose something somewhere. To be honest though it has taken a battering over the years with bits hanging off it and dents etc so when after replacing the screen for the second time and see that it still didn’t work I bit the bullet and replaced it with a new one. I couldn’t afford a newer version so I stuck with Mark II since to be honest its been brilliant. This time though I’ve invested in a good case to help absorb the bumps that are on its way since it comes almost everywhere with me. My first outing with it was a short evening stroll around the streets of Carlisle while at work, I quickly realised how much I had missed having it with me especially working flawlessly again.

You will be glad to read (if you’ve stuck it out this far) that my ordinary month is coming to an end. There’s just a couple of images to talk about and those are from the Isle of Arran. We head to Arran at least once a year as a family and is one of my favourite places to be. This year my first full day fell on the last day of March and I got up and took my brother in law out for a tour since it was his first visit to the Island, where I managed to stop at a regular spot I quite like. My last stop here was in late Autumn and I photographed this spot with a little more colour on the branches. The shapes of these trees are fantastic at any time of year though and with them still being bare and the morning sun creeping round to light the tops of them, they once again stood out from their dark surroundings. I managed to stop and fire off a few hand held shots with the 80-200mm f4 AIS.

So I suppose that is a little taster for next month where there might be one or two more shots from Arran. I’m realising while writing this that the monthly blog might be a bit long winded for some and hope this won’t deter you from reading it in the future. I do expect there to be a lot more barn months though too so there will be the odd shorter one too. So if you managed to make it to the end then I thank you so much for giving up your time and hope you found a little bit of enjoyment or at least liked an odd image to make it worth your effort. Once again thank you and hopefully you will come back again next month.