Welcome to My Ordinary Month #4, where I go through my photography adventures or more likely lack of them through each given month, but if you’re a returning reader then thank you so much for holding out, in the hope that there might be something slightly less ordinary than that found in previous months. I’m not too sure you will get your wish but thank you all the same for giving me your time once again, I do hope you can get something from my ramblings.
This journey starts with images that could easily have been taken in the height of winter, and not traditional of the expected warmer days of the month of May. After a night at work where I was driving my train north from Carlisle in the predawn hours, I passed by a few areas I often wander with the camera. There was a little frost developing under mainly clear skies with small patches of mist forming. When I finished about 30 minutes before sunrise I took the decision to head back to a location I hoped would still have these lovely developing conditions which was around 30 minutes from my work. Luckily my wife was taking the kids to school on this occasion so it was only my sleep I was missing out on. The location lies next to the railway and I have often thought of visiting it in such conditions mainly to remove distracting buildings and structures in the background. I hadn’t shot here before but I had pinned the best car parking location to allow quick access to the area which turned out to be time well spent. It’s a small area but it is littered with well spaced trees, mainly a mix of small pines within thick heather and bog underfoot. It was unseasonably cold but with it came the mist, which stuck around long enough for me to capture a few of the trees in their own space within the group. Initially there was some early light that had filtered through as the sun got higher, allowing me to capture one shot with it’s warming tones. The other shots were shot in much cooler colour temperatures as the sun was quickly blocked by some high cloud and never reappeared until the mist had eventually lifted. I still like them though as representations of the conditions and form of the trees.
Since I was up I decided to take a scenic route home to see if there was any other areas still holding the mist or displaying the remainder of the morning light. There were beautiful and ethereal scenes still lingering but as side of the road opportunities went, there wasn’t much on offer. Although, there was one little spot I did stop at, where there was a small area of fence lined trees with fresh green leaves softly back lit by the now well risen sun. I took a few quick hand held shots with the old Nikon 80-200 f4 AIS before eventually realising my bed beckoned and it was time to head home.
The first of the 2 bank holiday weekends in May was spent in the Cairngorms. We made a last minute booking at the Spey Valley Resort, Aviemore with the kids for a couple of days. The weather had now become more March/April like which when I look back to last month and the fact we were having BBQs on the beach in mid April it’s all a bit bizarre. There was now fresh snow back on the hills and fleeting hail/snow showers often passing through even at lower levels. Although, with an indoor pool, the kids were always going to enjoy the couple of days away. I’d have loved to have managed to persuade them to head into the hills and get wrapped up for a long slushy walk but it was never going to happen no matter how I dressed it up. So, I made the effort to get up for sunrise on the first which at this point was around 5.30am, meaning I had time to get out and back before the team had made it up and out. I had a few spots I knew I could get to easily and quickly so with a 50/50 chance of nice early light I decided to head to Loch Insh. Two boats lay by the Loch with the snow topped mountains sitting nicely in the background. Side lit by some warm light I tried to find a good composition with the boats, the chain and the shape of the waters edge. Once I’d finished working around the boats I moved forward to the grasses in the water and the reflections. The light was now less colourful but there was still a nice subtlety to it as it caught the tops of grasses.
There was another shot of the grasses I quite liked, but I’m slightly torn between whether it should be colour or black and white. I’ve changed my mind on a few occasions pretty I’m sure I’ve now settled on one, well for the time being at least. it would be interesting to hear your views of which you prefer, as I believe it all comes down to personal preference, but maybe I’m wrong and there is a right and wrong for this image.
From here I decided to head back to the resort and see if the rest of the family had got up yet. Deep down I knew that answer though, as it’s only on school days my two can’t get out of bed and it’s every weekend they’re up at 7am at the latest. I did once again take a detour on my way back to scout around a few roads I hadn’t been on before. It was on one of these that I was confronted by two horses on the road. It turns out they had got free from their paddock and a logging lorry had spooked them down the narrow road. I pulled in, and myself and the lorry driver eventually managed to get them into another field with other horses. It was obvious it wasn’t their normal grazing ground but at least they were safe and off the road and I’m sure they would soon be discovered. It was a fine sight though when these majestic animals trot by with such awareness and grace. I managed a quick video before ushering them into safety.
Mostly the remainder of the Cairngorms visit was spent either in a swimming pool, a games hall or squeezing myself into a child’s grass sledge and being shoved down a hill to great hilarity of others. I did managed to take them all on a mini tour to the slopes of the ski resort but with the funicular closed indefinitely we never made it up to the snow on the summit. There was also a stop at the stunning Loch Morlich which with the snow on the surrounding hills would have been worth hanging around for some nice light to fall on them later in the evening, but that suggestion didn’t need to be answered, the moans and groans said it all and it was soon time to make our way home. Like so many locations I will plan to return with proper camera time and hopefully conditions to make the most of the stunning ancient woodlands and rugged landscape that encapsulate the Cairngorms national park.
The month of May is my girls favourite month, mainly because you get to say “May the 4th be with you” and I must say it’s also mine as I get to celebrate my Wedding Anniversary with my beautiful wife. Which reminds me, I have a bit of advice for anyone who might think about starting a tradition for such an occasion. If you do then please think it through carefully. I thought it would be a good idea to make a flower out of paper for our first anniversary since it was the traditional gift for year 1. I then did the same for our 2nd but this time with cotton since it was again the corresponding gift for that year. You can see the pattern can’t you and yes it has stuck. This year we celebrated our 11th year together and the gift was steel, so I was going to have to raise my game a little to pull this one off. It got me thinking but I did manage to knock something together, in fact I made two incase one didn’t turn out. I seemed to have got away with it for another year at least but God help me over the next couple of years. Firstly I’ll need to find a substitute for Ivory, well, that’s if my wife puts up with me that long right enough. We did manage a beer in the sun and a nice quiet night away together, to celebrate her tolerance and patience of me.
My next photographic opportunity was as is so often the case, work related. For two consecutive weeks I would be in Aberdeen for two days and sometimes there is a window of opportunity to get an hour or two in the evening or early morning before I start work again. At this time of year though with the late sunsets and early sunrise both are out of the question on the one visit if I’ve to be properly rested for the long day of work ahead. So for the first week I chose to visit Dunnottar Castle south of Aberdeen near Stonehaven, since there was a forecast of still clear conditions with the slight possibility of some early mist or fog. I had only once visited this location in the middle of the day to scout possible viewpoints which once again proved beneficial as time was going to be short on this occasion. It’s a popular spot to shoot and can be quite cliched, but I’ve always been one to say these hotspots are well photographed for a reason and you should always get your own perspective of a stunning location as you might see something very different from the majority of us. I arrived as the sun was just breaking the horizon and it was as forecast, clear and calm but the illusive atmospheric mist/fog was nowhere to be seen. I set up with only one other photographer there with what appeared to be an assistant following him around and carrying his bag while he worked his magic, although I kept my distance and just captured my view and interpretation in the available conditions of this wonderfully historic Castle, before heading back to the hotel for a well earned breakfast.
The following week I chose the time up north to get a long lie in the morning and go on an evening recce instead of an area north of Aberdeen that I hadn’t visited before, Forvie Beach and nature reserve. To be honest I hadn’t heard of it before in photographic terms, but ever since I saw it on the map I have never stopped seeing images of it popping up on social media, reminding me of the phenomena of when you think of buying a new car then you suddenly see loads of them on the road as soon as the idea pops into your head. So yet again I would be late the party, but from what I saw on this evening just as the sun fell behind the westerly clouds sitting on the horizon, it’s another location I’m keen to return to with more time and light to work with. I only managed a few shots with the wee Sony for reference but there appears to be great potential in not just the stunning large dune system but also the sand patterns and wild coastline that lie in wait to be discovered in the future.
The rest of the month of May attempted to pretended it was October and so far June is also playing along too. Although when there was the odd moment of light or atmosphere, It just didn’t line up with those brief moments between work, family life or the will to get out of bed at ungodly hours. So the only other notable venture out was a morning after the school run where I recced a spot with potential for autumn/winter, not too far from home in the Leadhills area of South Lanarkshire. Its an small old Quarry, with a mix of tree species within and overhanging the steep rock faces, that might just catch early light in the months ahead. Even in the rain and the summer greens merging all the foliage together, I went off for a wander with the wee Sony and believe it has character and an area I can imagine to be worth returning to when conditions are more favourable later in the year.
On leaving the above location I did make a stop to have a play with the multiple exposure feature of the Nikon D850, which I tend to do every so often, but then usually deterred from doing it again when I see the results. I find Multiple exposure and Intentional Camera Movement, on their own and in combination to be extraordinarily fascinating and captivating forms of photography when performed with competence, knowledge, vision and talent. My problem is I don’t believe I have the full understanding and skills of all these attributes to create successful pieces of work, although I do enjoy working through the learning process of attempting to make them. I know it’s not a case of mastering the process but just to be comfortable in spending my time in the landscape making such images which would be a great asset in projecting my experiences of what I see when I am out and about. For now, this was what I got from my view of the hills of the Leadhills area.
If you’ve made it this far, you’ll be glad to know that you’ve survived my MOM #4. My final image will be that of the framed art work of Paul Kenny I purchased and mentioned in MOM #3, which now sits proudly in what my wife describes as the good room or in layman’s terms, the room myself and the kids are not allowed in with food or drink. It’s a mesmerising image with such detail I could spend every day looking at it, and if you every get the chance to purchase one of Paul’s images then do not hesitate, they are even better in the flesh, with their texture and detail far superior to that, that you see online.
So I’m done. Another My Ordinary Month of life and photography thrust upon you poor souls. If you made it this far in this blog you have great skills of endurance and patience, perfect for landscape photography. But all kidding and my self depreciation aside, thank you for giving up your time in reading this blog, and those that have followed the previous threads both in MOM and MOW, I cannot thank you enough for the support, with the views and comments always appreciated and very reassuring that I’m not just talking to myself, even though I would still be happy doing that. Looking ahead to MOM #5 and June, it’s not so bright. There might be some less than average attempts of street photography which tells it’s own story of the conditions and opportunities that might be available. Just as well it’s the holiday period.
So until next months entry, thank you, take care and if this weather keeps up, have a whisky. Cheers.