Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Gone fishing - Isle of Arran. Scotland year of food & drink.

It’s the year of Scotland food & drink & I've had the privilege of photographing some fantastic food products on the Isle of Arran, from exquisite restaurant plates, succulent cuts of meat and some fine fish.  But I also got the chance to see where some of the local produce comes from, specifically seafood, courtesy of Creelers of Arran.  The quality of the product reflects the state of our coast, for which some credit has to go to COAST & Howard Wood who has just won the Goldman Environmental Prize for Europe.
The 'Julie-Anne' Owned by Tim James of Creelers
It has to be said that the stunning blue skies and flat calm seas are not the conditions the fishermen are used to but I put in a special request so that my camera wouldn't get ‘sprayed’ on as conditions would be difficult enough – have you seen the size of these small creel boats – and no sign of a bar for my 6 o'clock g & t!
Heading out to the 'pots' looking back towards Holy Isle.
But maybe I should start with what a ‘Creel’ is?  Often referred to as ‘pots’, these are a passive form of fishing (i.e. you don’t have to be there when the fish are caught).  And it’s a big industry in Scotland, according to the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation it supports more jobs around the coast of Scotland than any other type of fishery. 
Checking the pots for the catch
So back to the Creel.  Traditionally it’s a wicker basket, but nowadays made of net, which is baited and left on the seabed with the hope that a lobster, crab or prawn will enter for food and get trapped until the creel is retrieved.  This type of fishing is sustainable and selective.
Brown crab clings to the inside of the pot
Only the target catch is retained, the by-catch (those just in the pots for a free lunch and unwanted) are returned to the sea unharmed. It also means that smaller, young or ‘berried’ (the term for the eggs) female lobsters can be returned. 
These urchins were returned to the sea after their moment in front of the camera
At this early time of the year, all the lobster are too small / young or berried, but there was still plenty of viable ‘catch’, with crabs, langoustine and squab lobster (resembles a bug more than a lobster!).
Small lobster gently returned to the sea unharmed.
Largely the 'by catch' seemed to be small crabs, which were shaken over the side, sometimes to awaiting gulls, which collected around the boat.
Small crabs are trapped within the pot when taking advantage of a free lunch
The catch is separated on the boat with the large crabs going into a bucket and the langoustine into special segmented trays. 
Brown crabs 
Depending on the target catch, creels are baited with fresh fish or salted fish.  Fresh for the crabs and lobster, salted for the prawns. 
Bait is placed into a cage within the pot.
The buoys mark where the pots are and there can be many pots on one line.  How the fishermen know which belong to them, I guess comes with experience, as several lines were out within very close distances.
Looking back towards Brodick before the pots are dropped.
Each pot is brought up, empties, re baited and then put onto the back of the boat until the line is finished, and then they are all returned to either the same place, or moved to a better fishing ground. 
Moving to the next fishing ground in the evening sun.
The evening chilled and we moved across the bay to the prawn pots.  The first thing that struck me was the vibrant colour of the langoustine as the were brought up. These chappies were destined for the dinner plate in Creelers Restaurant. 
Gently emptying the prawn pots. 
Each langoustine (prawn) was placed into it's own section of tray to keep them in pristine condition and as with the previous pots, all by catch was returned to the sea.  
Prawn escapes from its holding cell!
All pots empties and baited, they were flung back at high speed (no wonder fishing is dangerous), along the seabed.
Creel leaves the boat in a greater hurry than it got in.
The evening done, I took advantage of the sun setting with the seagulls scavenging for discarded bait to take some scenic shots.
Seagulls gather for the discarded bait.
 A big thanks to Creelers of Arran, and other food producers on the island for providing us with such fantastic food, not just for Scotland's year of food and drink, but every year. 

Other links that may be of interest:-
Creelers of Arran
Visit Scotland - Food & drink 
Taste of Arran
Visit Arran - Food & Drink

Friday, 9 January 2015

From the other side (Day 365)

Yes the final day has come and I have reached the end of the project and felt I should really do something a bit different.  So I moved to the other side of the camera for a self portrait session. When doing portrait / family / wedding sessions I frequently have clients concerned as they don't like to be photographed and are 'shy' of the lens.  Well so am I.  The camera can be unforgiving, all those grey hairs and wrinkles, fluff on the jumper etc. etc.   So to celebrate all those that I have cajoled into smiley poses, double clicked for the blinkers and generally had a laugh with to get the picture, I present myself unedited wrinkles and all.
As for the 365 project - I'm both happy and sad it's finished.  At times it has been frustrating as I haven't had an image that I felt was good enough to publish, but have published it anyway to achieve the final goal.
Yes at times I felt like giving up, but I am stubborn and know I would have regretted it.  So I invented more challenges, like the last couple of weeks using my mobile or compact.
The worst part was having a great colour image that just did not translate into black and white.  However, I do think it has helped my photography and in some cases black and white surpassed my expectations.  It also brought back a lot of memories of when I did my original photography training with a rolls of film and a twin lens mamiya.
 But now I move on and know that after a couple of weeks I'll be looking for another project.  Not sure what it'll be next time.  Any suggestions welcome.
 Maybe I'll go back to using film.  Maybe I'll try photographing a beards.  Whatever it is, it will be a shorter project than 365 days.  But I'm glad I did it.
I'm now off to get a large G & T and I'll raise my glass to my dad for the inspiration for the project.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Totally unsatisfactory penultimate installment! (Days 354 - 364)

Now by totally unsatisfactory I am talking about the standard of the photographs in this instalment.  I decided to shake up the last couple of week by not using my usual camera and instead using my mobile phone (a new experience for me), a compact or a bridge camera.  It turned out to be a combination of frustration and fun - lots of missed opportunities but a freedom of travelling light. So the offerings are detailed in the captions.
Day 354 - Selfie on the mobile when out running (cani cross) in thick ice - not mastered getting the dog to look at the camera.
Day 355 - Bridge camera on a mountain walk up Goatfell in lovely sunny conditions with plenty of snow near the summit.
Day 356 - Bridge camera - stormy with lots of light reflecting so frustrated at not having a polarizing filter. But I got some good atmospheric images.
Day 357 - Bridge camera - again not bad considering I didn't have a tripod or a filter.
Day 358 - So happy I wasn't subjecting my main camera to these conditions!  Wow it was wild.
Day 359 - Trying to work out how to actually use my mobile phone camera and not doing very well.  There was actually a fantastic moon rising but the camera just wasn't up to it - frustrating - but then my phone only cost £70 and there are great cameras on some mobiles.
Day 360 - Proper camera day.  Out to capture birds but the weather didn't play ball, although I managed a quick snap of this shelduck which is the first record of its return this year after migrating.
Day 361 - A snap on the beach.  The storms are washing up lots of debris, including skeletons of various mammals. 
Day 362 - Mobile - Actually a great photo (in colour) of one of the brightest rainbows I've ever seen.  Shame the quality of the image prevents me from doing much with it.
Day 363 - Foul weather and I took this from the car - feeling lazy today.
Day 363 - No idea what happened with this one taken on my mobile - the image is distorted and I really can't get the hang of using my mobile, I prefer the compact if I can't carry anything bigger.