Saturday, 21 June 2014

It ends with a death and a hot dog (Days 153 - 162)

Day 153 - Pladda
I never tire of this view and am constantly amazed by how it changes with weather (and different lenses).  On a calm day it can be really peaceful.

Day 154 - Air guitar
Today I did a quick portrait session on the beach for a friend.  It was lovely and sunny with a nice breeze.  I loved the more candid pictures of her playing naturally and had to laugh as this looks like she's playing 'air guitar' - maybe a glimpse into the future?
Day 155 - White foxglove
 Today I had a land rover photo safari arranged with the Arran Rangers and we travelled into Glen Rosa.  Despite being overcast we got some great shots and found a beautiful white foxglove, gold-ringed dragonflies, orchids and much more.  Looking forward to the next one in August.
Day 156 - Portrait of Cameroon
 I don't do many portrait sessions and I think some of that is because the 'British' are a bit reticent about having their pictures taken.  No so with the Cameroonians who visited Arran this week. They were more than happy to pose, and in fact queued to get a chance of being photographed. Many were in traditional dress and they played the drums and generally had great fun, the full colourful album can be seen here.
Day 157 - Crumpled wings
Back to my more usual habitat of flora and fauna and I came across a crumpled gold-ringed dragonfly on a footpath but it was still alive, so I gently lifted it and removed some 'debris' from its wings and held it against a fern stalk.  It grabbed on and shook its wings and seemed to be happier, so I left it alone in the hope it would recover.
Day 158 - Evening flowers
Monday evening and it was beautiful light for the start of some 'drop in' evening sessions which I am running through the summer.  Tonight we walked up to the lochan at Dyemill and practiced some close up skills as well as a couple of landscapes.  Anyone interested in evening sessions just needs to get in touch.
Day 159 - Hot hot hot
This evening it was far too hot to do a 5km run (first one in about 18 months) but that's what I did.  Why you may ask - well I'm signed up for the first 5km Gate to Gate fun run next week at Brodick Castle and I needed the practice.  I had to have a dip in the sea straight afterwards.
Day 160 - Light 
It's still hot and as I sat in my sunchair in the garden I couldn't help but notice the light shining through one of my plants.  Felling lazy (probably due to last nights run), I decided that would do for today's image and I'm actually quite pleased with it.
Day 161 - Dead Kettle
Today my kettle died.  The electrics went off so I tried the usual changing the fuse with my fingers crossed that this would not work (and it didn't). Strange you may think that I would be happy about the demise of my kettle.  Well yes in some ways; I loved the bright red enamel, apart from the fact it chipped badly around the lid.  I loved that it boiled quickly but not to the extent I needed ear defenders when it was turned on and I couldn't boil the kettle and answer the phone or even listen to music. I always overfilled it as I couldn't read the measure and it was heavy.  So it was a love hate relationship which is now over and I have a new see through kettle!
Day 162 - Resting in the shade
I am taking the full blame for the current heatwave on two counts, firstly I had a new wood burning stove fitted and second I have a new running harness for Watson.  Both require a bit of 'cool' to be tested.  But yesterday I found a lovely shaded forest path to test out the harness, and it had a couple of steams with pools for the dog along the way.  Watson seemed less sure of his new harness but ran really well with stops for a quick swim in the pools.  Strangely he pulls more on his lead than in the harness but I'm sure he'll take to cani-cross.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Loch Muick, Scotland

Views in Glen Muick
Loch Muick sits on the Balmoral Estate and is a great area for walking at a low level.  The area is protected and has woodland, loch and mountain flora and fauna.  Snow can be seen on the mountains until early summer reminding everyone of the need for care if hiking upwards!
The day I visited I truly had the 4 season experience with sunshine and snow within a matter of minutes!  The drive to the Loch is down a beautiful narrow road (single track in places) with fabulous views and deer clearly on view.  A large car park marks the start of the walk (and I was thankful for having the £1 coins required).
A path circumnavigates the whole loch and is very easy for the most part.  A little rocky at the farthest end of the loch but still easy.  I enjoyed numerous birds along the way who were busy singing for mates and preparing for nesting.
But it really was the views that captured my attention (especially when the black clouds loomed overhead). But for those who like buildings you walk directly past Glas-allt Shiel House, a retreat build and used by Queen Victoria.  Now sadly boarded up.
The walk, although easy shouldn't be underestimated as it is just short of 8 miles long and there is a detour up to some waterfalls that can be taken near the House.  Unfortunately I gave this a miss as I knew the distance already planned was going to be enough for one of my dogs (not all dogs can run all day)!

We stopped for a picnic half way round at a point when the sun was shining and just sat for a while. Before making the last push back to the car park where the deer were wandering around!
A full route description can be found on the Walk the highlands site, along with other walks in the area.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

The Cameroon comes to Arran

Yesterday a group of lovely people from the  Cameroonian Association came to visit Arran.  I know little about the Cameroon other than it is on the African continent - a place I have travelled to many times - but I do know it has British and French connections as it was a French Republic before being split between Britain and France after WWI before it gained independence in around 1960.
Cameroon have a team in the World Cup but have lost their first match to Mexico, and the odds on them winning are 2000/1!!
But what did I observe about the people who visited Arran?  Firstly, that they wanted their photographs taken, they actually queued and were keen to see what I had taken on the screen.
They were colourful and proud of their national style of dress - I have to admit to loving the colours and hair styles (I always wears black and tie my hair back into a clip).
They were keen to dance, sing and bang the drums. The smaller children loved the playground, and the teenagers paddled in the sea (screeching as the cold water hit their feet).
And they were interested in us and our environment.  COAST had laid on touchy/feely tanks full of sea creatures and they all were keen to have a look.
But mostly they were a large family group, from babes in arms, teenagers and the older generation they all engaged with each other and us.  They were a happy friendly group and I hope they go away with some happy memories of the Island.
The full album of photo's can be found here. (Arran in Focus facebook page).

Thursday, 12 June 2014

From chicks to otters (Days 143 - 152)

Day 143 - Herring Gull on Pladda
After baking in the sunshine on Day 142 (fortunately for the wedding goers), Sunday saw torrential rain and temperatures plummet - just the day to spend on the little Isle of Pladda with a few university students.  For those who don't know, Pladda is uninhabited and only reached by boat.  However, this is a privileged position where I get access to breeding birds and one not to be missed.
Day 144 - Anything is worth a try in the battle of the midges!
Monday is supposed to be a little quieter now that the collage course I was teaching on has finished but it seemed as frantic as ever - maybe because my Mums coming later in the week and the house is in a bit of a mess - remember the lovely wood burning stove (Day 133), well it had to come out again along with the fireplace.  But I did go shopping and bought some yeast - not for baking - I'm going to make some midge catchers.
Day 145 - Liz - looking good while I took some light readings.
Tuesday and a job photographing Ian and Liz from the Lamlash Bay Hotel. Liz was very relaxed as I took some light readings before the real thing.
Day 146 - Out of the hatch pops a little chick
The chicks are hatching at the Dougarie Estate and are so cute.  There seem to be chicks around everywhere at the moment and the pebbled beaches are alive with the different stages of breeding.
Day 147 - Guillemots nesting above Kings Cave
A quick jaunt along the coast today before picking up Mum from the ferry and having a closer look at the black guillemots nesting above the Kings Caves.  Occasionally visitors report they have seen penguins on Arran - I'm pretty sure this is what they have seen as they can waddle along in a quite upright position and for a 'non' birdy person it may look very much like a penguin!
Day 148 - Mum resting on an ornate bench in Brodick Castle Gardens
Today, I spent the day with Mum and we had a lovely time in the sunshine going around Brodick Castle gardens and enjoying lunch on the Castle terrace.  There are many amazing and unusual plants to be found along with the Bavarian summerhouse.
Day 149- The fireplace - now residing in the shed.
The predicted storm arrived today and we had planned for it, with a quick trip out in the morning before the rain arrived.  What I didn't plan for was more problems with the stove and water seemed to be tracking down the chimney and running off the top of it! Anyone need a lovely wooden fireplace?
Day 150 - Highland Cattle
The storm was short lived and we managed another lovely walk today - I'm enjoying a few days off - with a picnic in the bag.  I have to say the picnic included a cake - another plus of Mum coming.
Day 151 - Another bucket this time for the kitchen ceiling!
I got an unexpected shower today after swiping what I thought was a bit of dust stuck to the ceiling in the kitchen, with a tea towel. The swipe released the pressure building up above and released a small chunk of plaster along with a bucket full of water!  I clearly had a leak. Emergency plumber called and all sorted now. Thank goodness the plasterer hasn't come to finish off the stove yet.
Day 152 - An otter stays long enough for me to get a shot (only because I had the camera to hand).
And today I saw and photographed an otter.  These beautiful creatures have been a bit elusive lately so I was really pleased to see it - not so pleased that an Oyster Catcher let it know of my presence!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Balmoral Castle - Home to the Royal Family

Balmoral Castle from the drive
Balmoral Castle is only open from April to July each year, due the the Royal Family being in residence, and a few weeks ago I was staying near by so I thought I'd pop along and have a look.  It's really geared up for tourists, providing a little bus from the ticket office to the main entrance where audio guides can be collected to take around with you.  I meandered around the grounds following the route and exploring the gardens (working on the principle I'd soon be moved on if I strayed somewhere I shouldn't)!
Ornate greenhouse
The larger glass houses couldn't be entered but seemed to be full of flowers and these are used in the Castle when the family are in residence.  Gardeners may be pleased to note that the Queen also has greenfly on her plants!
The Deer Larder
The Balmoral Estate is still a fully working enterprise with deer to be managed, salmon fishing on the river and a few holiday cottages available for rent. Not to forget the huge enterprise of being a visitor attraction as part of the Victorian Heritage Trail in Royal Deeside. 
Bluebells in the wooded areas beyond the arches
Wandering under arches that were yet to bloom and passed a shed with a grass top, the delightful Garden Cottage with ornate chimney pots can be explored.
Garden Cottage
I did like the Garden Cottage which had been used as a hospital in the past, and here I could peer through the windows and admire the furnishings and grandeur of how the other half lives!  Around the back of the cottage are the water gardens - an area that seemed devoid of other visitors!
Chimney pots on Garden Cottage
The Castle is a fairly stunning building and I would have loved to have a look inside but only the ballroom was open to visitors and this is full of displays on the Royals.  No photography is allowed inside for security reasons! But a small sunken square formal garden provided a nice photograph (everyone walked around the top) but no signs said I couldn't go in it.
Part of the formal gardens in front of the Castle
Finally I made my way back to the entrance, not stopping at the shop or cafe (something I regretted later) before heading down to the Old Royal Ballater Station for a peek!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Another mixed bag (Day 134 - 143)

Another instalment in my 365 project has seen me considering subjects for Black and White that I would never have contemplated before. Not all of them work and if it wasn't for my commercial jobs I think I would seriously be craving more colour.
Day 134 - Scouting the route for the land rover photo safari in Glen Rosa
The week has swapped between needing filters to flippers as the strong sunlight cast dark shadows and midday was not ideal for delicate subjects.  But the cloud looked stunning in bright blue skies (ok so it comes out grey in this project). Glen Rosa is always beautiful whatever the weather and I'm looking forward to doing a land rover safari with the rangers on the 13th June.
Day 135 - Full day family workshop to celebrate a birthday, went to see the seals at Kildonan
Day 135 and the planning for a surprise workshop for a 40th birthday arrived.  All the family came (well four of them) and we had a great day around the island.  The weather forecast had been abysmal but in the end we had sunshine all day.
Day 136 - Carved and cut leaves in the Glade at Brodick Castle
Sunday the 25th and I had a job for Creative Scotland to photograph the work of Karen Rann, Artist in Residence at Brodick Castle. As 2pm approached so did the black skies and it wasn't long before thunder rumbled and lightening flashed.  The guests still arrived and sipped the bubbly whilst sheltering under trees (I'm not sure this is actually advisable in thunder storms).  But the storm passed and we listened to Sara Maitland read her story and enjoyed the tranquillity of the Glade.
Day 137 - No time for tea
It's late and I was still working.  I hadn't done my photo of the day as I was still editing.  I was hungry and tired but couldn't be bothered to cook.  Beer and chocolate seemed the ideal solution to all of my needs!
Day 138 - Laura trying to avoid the camera
Running night and a hot and sticky run through trails with a quite horrible hill at the end - just slow enough for the midges to gather - I swear I could hear them sniggering at the thought of us stopping for the warm down! It was a fast warm down, virtually impossible to do with the swarms that gathered and we all quickly departed.
Day 139 - Watson after a cool down in the river
Watson has decided its spring, that means he is no longer listening to me but looking for mischief!  Usually in the form of pheasant that seem to be abundant wherever we walk.  Even the tennis ball pales to insignificance if a bird runs in front of him.  Determined to tire him out, a walk up the Iorsa River with the ball thrower seemed to do the trick.
Day 140 - Lady Jean Fforde
Is it rude to discuss a Lady's age?  I really don't think so when it is a matter of record and it is in admirable terms.  Lady Jean is still working away, aged 93, signing her book Castles to Catastrophes and selling her paintings. The book signing held at Strabane was well attended.
Day 141 - Lighthouse at Ardrossan Harbour
 A quick dash over to the mainland to give Watson a try out at cani-cross.  This is where a proper running/pulling harness is used to exercise the dog and owner.  It's hard work but lots of fun and he really took to the harness and enjoyed working.  I'm sure there will be photo's of this to follow at some time but I really can't master the harness and a camera at the same time just yet!
Day 142 - Mr & Mrs MacHale
Working on the sidelines at Altachorvie during Katy and Paddy's wedding I couldn't resist a snap of the lovely couple.  The day was beautifully sunny which matched the pale yellow bridesmaid dresses and bouquets. A lovely relaxed day and I wish them lots of luck for the future.