Skyes the Limit

The island of Skye is a bucket list location for so many people, myself included and this summer I was fortunate enough to visit this magestic place.

Primarily, I’m a landscape photographer so you can imagine my excitement, however, when I’m out exploring with the family I find proper photography quite difficult, by the time I’ve got the tripod set up, chosen my lens, sorted my filters, everyone has walked off without me and I’m left playing catchup! Over the years, I’ve learned that I need to just photograph on the go and I take many of my images off the cuff. Our family trip to Skye was no different.

We travelled all over the island and managed to fit in most of the usual tourist locations. I took far too many photographs but, to be fair, that’s what I expected to happen, what I didn’t expect, was to take 95% of them on my mobile phone.

My phone is the Huawei P30 Pro, it has a great camera and I’ve taken many good images with it but at the end of the day, it can’t compare to a DSLR or a mirrorless camera….or can it??

The answer is ‘no’, of course it can’t, however, I’ve found that by stitching many phone images together, it’s possible to create a much more detailed image with higher resolution and the purpose of this post is to show off a few of those stitched images. Now, normally a panoramic image has a ratio of 2:1 or larger and many people tend to crop the image to a ratio of 16:9, however, my crops are, well, a bit random. I’ve kept them large to fit in what I wanted to fit in so it makes some of them a little abnormal in size but these images are for me, so that makes it okay.

Stitching panoramic images together isn’t anything new, landscape photographers do it all the time but normally with more professional gear and lots of planning. All of these images, except the one labelled “Pentax DSLR”, were taken on my phone, handheld. Some were from our walks on Skye and others were taken on the drive up.

Once I’ve got my images, I use an app called ‘Bimostitch’ to blend them all. As I said, they’re never going to compete with a proper DSLR pano but I will say, I was impressed with how they turned out. To give you some idea of the difference, normally a phone image comes out between 6MB and 10MB in size, with really good lighting I can get closer to 15MB, when stitching the images together, I’m often getting between 30MB and 50MB. Although size isn’t supposed to matter, in this case, it definitely does as there is more detail to be had. The first image below shows a comparison between a 12MB phone image and a 38MB stitched image. As I stated above, they’re not DSLR quality images, but for sharing on social media, they’ll do just fine. I’ve found myself to be using my phone more and more for photos, I’ve even been printing some and the majority look great. Am I ready to give up my camera’s yet? No, definitely not, however, I am loving the convenience of having a powerful phone camera in my pocket wherever I go.

Take a look at the images below, see what you think and maybe give it a go too.

Remember, you can click on each image to see it in full screen, if you’re on a mobile phone though, you may want to rotate it so it’s in landscape.

Take care,

Paul

The image on the left is the stitched 38mb photo, the right is the 12mb. Although the stitched one is still lacking detail in places, it’s significantly better than the singular image. You’ll also notice the difference in the sky, this is a result of Bimostitch trying to balance the exposure of each image.

The Three Sisters, Glencoe.
Part of the Trotternish Ridge.
The Fairy Pools on a rather dull day.
The Quiraing. Taken from just beyond the carpark.
Loch Leven, Glencoe.
Pap of Glencoe.
Old Man of Storr.
Eilean Donan.
Portree from Penifiler. – Pentax DSLR Image
This has a lot more detail in it and it’s almost 90MB in size. You can see people’s houses and gardens when zoomed right in.

Exploring Taymouth Castle

In 2017, I had the privilege of receiving an invite to attend a private group tour of the magnificent Taymouth Castle. All doors were open, no restrictions made and photos were allowed anywhere we chose, how could I possibly say no! Well of course I didn’t, I spent nearly the whole day there and what a magnificent day it was!

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View from the front ©

This symbol of luxury and wealth is situated about a mile to the east of Kenmore on Loch Tay. The current building was built in the 19th century however it rests on the cellars of the older Balloch Castle which was built in 1552.

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The tower, built on top of the original castle ©

The lands of Taymouth or Balloch Castle as it was once known was the home of Clan Campbell for many centuries and remained in their ownership up until 1922. As you may know, the Campbells are one of Scotlands most notorious Clans with many a story told and many a battle fought. There have been records of them since at least the 13th century however their origins apparently go back much further, back to the time of the Britons of Strathclyde. They have always been a clan with ambition and one rarely crossed without consequence, they have been involved in more battles than I have time to write about and have helped end many a rival clans ambitions, sometimes even ending the clan itself. There was a time they owned land from the east coast to the west coast, land that formed a belt across Scotland which meant they knew the movements of anyone crossing through and you can be sure you only crossed the Campbells lands if they let you. They were a clan of means and they knew it and with the ability to raise an army numbering in the thousands they had little to fear.

Continue reading “Exploring Taymouth Castle”

Eastend House.

Autumn is definitely my most favourite season, the crisp air and the vibrant colours stir emotions like no other season does. It may be colder and there’s less daylight however in my opinion it’s the best time to be out walking and exploring.

In fairness, I’ve missed most of this Autumn, a lack of time and if I am honest with myself, a lack of enthusiasm too. However last Sunday I was up and out early, determined to catch something of this most vibrant season before it goes again for another year.

The Carmichael Estate is one of my most favourite places to go and wander, it’s large, it’s beautiful and it is bursting at the seams with history. I have been there a few times before over the years however I have only photographed part of it and that was in the day’s when I kept my camera on “AUTO” having no idea how to use it. This time I ventured to an area that I have no photos of at all, the grounds of Eastend house.

I parked at the estates farm shop and walked down to the house, it’s not far, a 10 minute walk, no more than 15 minutes if you dally. It’s an easy walk and flat, starting off on a tarmac road and changing to a muddy track after the lodge house. You walk along what once would have been a lovely driveway into the property, with mature trees and large bright green bushes.

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Grand Avenue ©

I arrived just after the sun had come up, it was still climbing and casting the most magnificent glow into the woods, bathing everything in a golden light. The colours were fantastic, everything was over saturated and vibrant, the different shades of red and yellow leaves became more of a rusty-red and orange, it was a beautiful morning to be out and it definitely took me more than 15 minutes to make it to the house.

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Walking up the drive ©

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After photographing the drive and some trees I moved on, heading to the walled garden. The wall itself is still intact however there is nothing to be seen inside, it’s just overgrown grass punctuated here and there with some trees and bushes. I can’t say I spent much time there, I had a quick look and moved on.

At this stage let me point out that there are various holiday cottages for rent throughout the Carmichael Estate and you will come across a couple of them over in this area. I would ask that if you choose to explore this area please be conscientious of anyone who may be staying here and grant them some privacy.

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The house itself is situated right next to the walled garden and can be approached from both the front or rear, you will also find the coach house and stables not far from the house.

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South view of Eastend House ©

The house although beautiful is in a bad way, windows have gone, walls are cracking, stones are missing and inside the floors have collapsed. It’s in a very bad state of repair and I would not recommend entering the house. It’s dangerous and you would be risking your life, the owner also has CCTV installed and does not take kindly to anyone attempting to enter the property. For the record, I have never ventured inside Eastend however you can see the damage just from looking through windows. There are pictures online and videos on YouTube should you wish to see inside.

Not far from the house is a lovely pond and another cottage. It was so serene that I had to stop and take it in. Some birds, the tricking of water and the occasional rustling of leaves was all that was to be heard, absolute bliss.

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The pond ©

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Cottage for hire next to the pond ©

It was an odd little spot, the trees on one side of the pond were all Autumnal yet the side where the cottage sat was nearly all green with frost covering everything, both sides in complete contrast with each other.

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Alternative view of the pond facing south west ©

It was a bitterly cold morning, minus 3 degrees so after a short break I walked around the coach house area then snapped a couple of pictures of the front of Eastend then headed back to the car. It always amazes me that in every picture of the front door to Eastend House the blue door is punchy and bright, it’s as though it refuses to give in and be like the rest of the house.

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The front view of Eastend with the bright blue door ©

If you haven’t visited the Carmichael Estate before then I would highly recommend it, there are two ruined houses, lots of cottages and plenty of lovely places to walk, you can easily lose a day here. Let me also add that there is a small farm shop where you park, a wax museum detailing the history of the area and a lovely little tea room you can visit.

I will hopefully head back down here again soon and take some pictures of the rest of the estate to share with you all.

Paul.

© As always, all images subject to copyright and cannot be used or shared without prior permission.

A Little Grain is Good for the Soul

You may, or may not remember I previously wrote a post titled “Death of the Point and Shoot”. I was essentially saying why do we need pocket cameras anymore when we all carry mobile phones that are capable of taking such good photos.

Well it may surprise you to learn that I have recently not only dug out my old point and shoot but I have purchased a few others also. Your probably thinking “Really? Why?” Well let me enlighten you further.

When I say point and shoot, its a 22-year-old, 35mm film point and shoot. If my memory serves me well I received this as a 16th birthday present from a family member and used it little. I took it on a few holidays here and there but I never had much use out of it as I held no real interest in photography back then. However when I recently came across it again I purchased a battery and some cheap film and set about using it.

It’s a whole different world using one of these and my kids can’t grasp it at all. Every shot I fire off I get asked “can I see it?” Even my wife is asking me “why use it, you have a proper camera, whats the point?”, “you do realise there is a cost to shooting film?”. However they don’t get it, it’s the simplicity, the fact I have almost no control over the shot so I need to take my time. I need to think each shot through and take into account the light and composition because if I get it wrong I will have wasted a shot and it will cost me more money. Shooting 35mm slows me down, I find it more relaxing and it’s enjoyable.

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Now this is all new to me, my previous excursion into 35mm film 20 odd years ago was nothing more than a point and click exercise with little thought put into any photo. As this is a new adventure I did not want to spend any real money on film so after a quick Google search I found that I can buy camera film at …..wait for it…..Poundland! And guess what, it’s only a £1!! Bargain.

Ok, so it’s not Kodak Ektar, it won’t win me any awards but it will (hopefully) allow me to learn without breaking the bank, film isn’t cheap you know.

Current selection

After stocking up on the cheap and extremely over saturated AGFA Vista Plus 200 I started to stock up on 35mm point and shoots. Again I hear the “why” however considering I now own 7 and they have all cost me less than £15 combined I don’t feel that I have wasted my money. I have a couple of lovely Pentax zoom lens cameras in perfect condition, a couple of older fixed focus Olympus, Kodak and Vivitar cameras and my original Canon SureShot 60 Zoom.

It will be a while before I’ve got around to using them all, however as I use each I will share the pictures with you on here. At the moment it’s all over saturated AGFA Vista film that I’ve shot however I have just received a roll of Kodak Professional T-MAX 400 ASA which I have been told is one of the best possible black and white films to have. I can’t wait to use it however I’m waiting for the right day, preferably bright with lots of shadows, I’ll also need to decide what camera to use. I am also currently shooting a roll of Kodak Advantix APS film that expired 11 years ago, I’m curious to see how that turns out.

Once all of the cameras have been played around with and I feel that I have more of an idea of whats required when shooting film I will purchase an SLR or Rangefinder, I haven’t decided which yet.

Now this doesn’t mean the end of digital for me, far from it, (although I did recently sell my DSLR with a selection of lenses) no, I plan to still shoot digital and I’ve recently acquired a Pentax K50.

So for now I’ll leave you with a selection of pictures recently shot using my Canon Sureshot 60 Zoom. They’re not great but for my first foray I’m happy.

Paul

© As always, all images subject to copyright and cannot be used or shared without prior permission.

A World Without Colour

When looking through my galleries on Instagram, Flickr or Google+ you’ll see a pattern emerge. My pictures are mainly landscape, sometimes with old churches, castles or houses included but landscape all the same. There is another common recurring theme, the vast majority of my pictures are in colour. Colour always seems easier, it is after all how we see the world and in landscape the different colours of the different seasons is quite often what makes the photo. However, for anyone who has seen an old black and white picture or a modern-day black and white or even infrared photo you will notice that they quite often carry more detail, they make certain aspects stand out more and they can create a stronger sense of emotion. In a way there simpler, stripped back and naked and they allow you to focus on whats important in an image without the distraction of colour. So over the last 6 months or so almost all my trips out have resulted in a proportion of my shots being specifically aimed at black and white photography. It’s been about trying to change my perception, to see the world in contrast and tones, looking for light and shadows and aiming to pull as much detail as possible from each shot. Recently I’ve set up 2 new Instagram accounts, “world_without_colour” and “upclznpersonal”, both are aimed at black and white photography although the latter is more street and portraiture, both areas I plan on expanding on in the future. If you’re an Instagrammer please feel to take a look at either account and drop me a message to let me know what you think, I’m always looking for feedback.

Below I’ve added  some of my favourite shots taken in black and white so far, some on my camera, some from my mobile. I hope you like them.

Paul

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Inside the Royal Yacht Britannia

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Braidwood House, Lanarkshire

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West Lodge, Mauldslie Estate

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New Lanark

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Glengavel Reservoir

Dunfermline Abbey
Dunfermline Abbey

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New Lanark

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Old Mill Lade, Boghead, Lanarkshire

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Inside Inchcolm Abbey

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The ceiling inside Hamilton Mausoleum

The Festival

For years now I’ve been saying that I will go to the Edinburgh Festival, every year I say it. Do I go? Well no, never or at least I haven’t been in the last 12 years, that was until last year when I finally managed to fit it in. Although it was quite a while back that I was last there I have to say the memory of it has always stuck with me, for anyone who has only experienced it once you will know what I mean. The atmosphere is electrifying and contagious, you feel that you have no choice but to smile and laugh and get involved in everything that’s going on around you. The streets are packed and there is so much going on that it’s nigh impossible to take it all in. Regardless of where you look there are performers placed strategically everywhere, various singers, dancers, jugglers, sword swallowers, there’s people dressed in all manner of costumes and garb from all different periods. It’s downright amazing what you see and at times a little overwhelming as you just don’t know where to look first, afraid if you face the wrong way you will miss something.

I had always planned to go in alone or with a photographer friend of mine however as plans do, they change. It became a family event and my wife and my 3 children accompanied me and we all made a day of it.

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My children loved it, they had seen nothing like it and they couldn’t get over the fact everyone was in a costume of sorts, they also could not understand why someone dresses as a statue and does not move for an hour, to be honest, neither do I :-/

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The whole day flew in and other than our hunt to find somewhere to eat that wasn’t queued right out of the door it was a great day.

It’s amazing that people travel from all over the world to experience the festival, and to take part in it. Below is a gentleman who hardly spoke English and had travelled over from China to be part of the festival. He juggled blocks and balanced them which sounds fairly rubbish however it was worth the 25 minutes we had to wait while he stretched himself and got ready for his performance.

One of the things I enjoyed the most was the music. There was musicians and bands all over the place, some playing acoustically, some not. There was metal and rock, bagpipes and ballads, country and pan pipes too, it was a veritable symphony of a hundred different instruments coming at you from all different angles. It was great!

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There is some really talented people out there and its a pleasure to hear and see something that you would not normally show an interest in. I find that it completely opens up your senses and gives you a sense of joy when you see so many people enjoying themselves and having fun, as I said, it’s contagious.

This guy was one of my favourites, half of the time the bubbles didn’t materialize, but when they did they were amazing. It’s the look on his face that makes it for me, it looks like he has just done it for the first time and amazed himself. I also felt the skeletal gentleman adds to the picture, it’s as though he just waiting for it to pop!Edinburgh Festival 2015-0005

If you’ve never been before or like me it’s just been a long time I would encourage you to go in 2016, you won’t regret it and you will have the memory forever.

Well as always, I thank you for reading through my post, I hope to see you back for the next one. Any comments, drop them below.

Thanks, Paul.

Chloes Baptism

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Its been a long while now since I posted, far too long in fact. So much has happened since my last post, so many days out, places visited and tales to tell. Where to start really.

Well I felt a good place to start would be my nieces christening, as this site was supposed to be about me improving my skills and my photography journey and this was the 1st time I had taken photos for anyone other than me.

Chloe is an adorable little girl, she’s 5 years old, fairly quiet with a really cheeky grin and has a knack for getting messy! My sister made the decision last year she wanted Chloe to be christened and had it all arranged fairly quickly. I offered to take my camera to capture the moment for them.

Now, I am a landscape lover, an admirer of architecture, there’s nothing better than a sky full of cloud and some hills to shoot or a ruined castle begging me to record it’s slow demise. Family, friends, people in general, not really my cup of tea. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to do portrait and events, it’s just, it’s someone’s day, “what if I muck it up”. However, I suppose confidence is all part of the journey.

So what you see here is some of the photos taken on that educational day. I only used my 50mm lens and all pictures were taken either on “manual” or “aperture priority”. I have only included a selection of photos taken on the day as I have not spoken with everyone who was there and have not gained permission to display their photos online.

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A Walk Through History

First of all let me apologise as its been weeks between posts, I just can’t seem to find the time to keep this site going, however I am determined I’m not giving up. Most weekends I have been out somewhere and I do have photos to post. I think though I am going to have to start taking pictures in JPEG instead of RAW as this is mainly what holds me up, I never seem to get time to process them!

Anyway enough of my apologetic whining!

So, a few months back I stumbled upon a reference online to a castle I had never heard of, Torwood. After some reading up I found that it’s not to far a drive and that there was not only the ruin of a castle but the ruin of broch also, known as Tappoch broch. For those who do not know of brochs they area very old fortified dwellings once common in Scotland and Ireland, around 2000 – 3000 years old. Needless to say the 1st chance I had I took a trip over.

It did start as a rather dreary morning however it brightened quickly and turned out to be a splendid day albeit a little to bright for pictures as you’ll see, a few burnt out skies! We found a small layby just after the village of Torwood and parked up. There is a rather nice walk up the hill through some forest by a disused mine and quarry. Had it not been raining I would have a great 1st picture to show. The quarry is flooded and there has to be hundreds of old tyres floating in it. However there was a few ducks all swimming around between the tyres not seeming to mind the horrible looking water. It would have been an interesting shot. Now it’s not to long a walk from the car to the broch, maybe a mile, mile and half although it’s all uphill however it doesn’t take to long. It’s a nice enough walk through the forest however it’s not any different from any other, nothing special to see, although I’ll mention that this was once a royal forest used for hunting and for timber.

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Once you reach the broch its a little underwhelming as it’s just an overgrown hill, until you get near to the crown of the hill that is. As you get closer you see the stonework, the ditch surrounding it and the stairs going into it.

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Its walls can’t be more than maybe 7 feet at their highest but there is enough left to see that this was once quite large with thick defensible walls.

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Standing on the hill with the trees cleared away it would have looked quite imposing I would imagine. At this point it was about 7am and the sun was getting higher and the clouds were clearing away although it was a little chilly. We stayed there for about an hour or so, got some pictures, went exploring then moved on further up the hill towards the castle. The walk from there to the castle again could be no more than a mile and its a fairly easy walk, a slight incline then a slight decline and it levels out.

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You come onto a gravel road that leads to the castle and some house near by, you get a great view from here across rolling fields. In the distance you can see the Falkirk Wheel.

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Just of to the side of the road thee is a path and you get a nice side view of the castle from there.

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A view from the road

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Falkirk Wheel in the distance

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The castle is now only a shadow of its former self with only one building still standing, however any castle enthusiast can see that this castle was once much larger with a central courtyard and high walls on all sides, it’s a real shame only this small part now exists. The castle is a ruin and is not accessible, I believe it’s privately owned.

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Entrance road to the castle

There is not much shade around the castle and the sun was bright at this point so as you can see I managed to get the sky blown out a little in a couple of shots. Now had I not plans for later that day I would have liked to explore around the area some more as it looks as though there was more places for a wonder and I am sure more photos to be had however it just means another trip some point later in the year, hopefully!

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We didn’t head back the same way, we followed the road down by the houses presuming it would bring us out in Torwood village, which it did.It was a pleasant tree-lined avenue with lots of daffodils lining the way.

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The walk back was all downhill and in a straight line, it took about 20 minutes and that was with me stopping to take a couple of pictures.

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Now as luck would have it, we made it back to the car, packed our gear in the boot and as it closed it began to rain, then pour. I love those days when the weather is on your side!

Now I have purposely not written about the history of the two sites, I would have been here all day! I would encourage anyone who may be interested in either site to a take a trip over and explore and there is info online for both sites too should you wish read up. I will say though, One thing I found interesting was, the day started with the walk up to the broch which is around 2500 years old, then we came to the castle that is around 450 years old and then the last part of the walk took us to the modern-day village, which is very modern in places with a lot of houses built this century. Hence the title of my post as it was a walk through the ages.

As always, let me thank you for reading through and again I apologise for the length of time it takes me to get things updated.

Paul

The Water Horse

A couple of weeks back on a smashing sunny day we took a trip out towards Falkirk. We had planned for a while to go visit the Kelpies and finally managed to find the time. Now these horses have to be one of the most photographed landmarks in Scotland recently, everyone has a pic or two, mainly at night, you can’t go onto Facebook or Instagram without seeing pictures of them. However I struggled a bit, I was using my 50mm 1.8 lens and that’s probably not the best of lens for something so large and dominating however I did manage a couple of shots from slightly different perspectives. If I am honest, there okay but none are what I wanted. I think I need another trip out, one with no children and lots of time to allow me to frame the shot better. Anyway here they are, the few shots I managed and did not delete!

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A Change in the Weather

Well this last few weeks the weather seems to have been all over the place. It wasn’t to long ago we managed 3 seasons in one day! All of a sudden though we have some sunshine and warmth, good old Scottish shorts and t-shirt weather (10°+!).

So, it was only the 2nd day of the easter holidays and I was already getting moans and groans of “I’m bored”, “I’ve nothing to do”. So I packed a picnic, myself and the 3 tiny terrors into the car and went to Barons Haugh Nature Reserve on the outskirts of Motherwell. It’s a lovely place for a walk, situated in a large estate with lots of hidden corners to explore.

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The weather held up, there was a bit of a chill wind at times however in general it was a very pleasant walk.

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We found a nice corner that gave a good view of the River Clyde and set out our lunch.

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My picnic packing skills must be fairly decent as a few swans appeared and decided to join us for some sandwiches.

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We were out for a good 5 hours and only made it half way round (children are so slow!) however we did manage a not too shabby 5 mile walk, not bad for 3 kids under 10. I will say though, trying to watch a one year old and also take photos is not as easy as it sounds. Every time I pulled the camera out he was off! His brothers were not much better!

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Seen as I am supposed to be improving on my very limited photography skills I decided to only use my Pentax 50mm lens, no zoom except my feet. Most of our walk was trees and riverside with little to look at other that swans, ducks and birds and reeds. However on the way back up to the car we did manage a short stop at the old cemetery.

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It’s in a poor state, very overgrown and a lot of damage to the grave stones.

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It’s a real shame however it also grants it some character. I’d love to have seen this place in its hay day as there was once a church also that sadly nothing remains of.

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Well as always, thank you for taking the time to read through and I hope you liked the photos. If your in the area and have never been I would recommend Barons Haugh.
I’ve been a little behind with my editing however I will aim to get my next post on soon as possible. I’ve been out a bit recently and have more to share.

Thanks again,
Paul

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