Stepping Back in Time at House of Dun

Last week, my family and I headed up to St Cyrus, near Montrose for a well earned holiday. It was our first time in this area and I can say, we weren’t disappointed. It’s a very beautiful part of the Scottish coastline with stunning views and a crazy amount of stately homes and castles as well as a huge amount of history going back thousands of years.

St Cyrus beach from the cliff path.

There’s so much to see and do in this area and it’s ideal for a short break away.
Whilst on holiday, we visited House of Dun, near Montrose. This Georgian house is one of magnificence and grandeur and we’ll worth a visit.

View of the stable block and way in.

It was designed by William Adam and it was completed in 1743 to replace the draughty old tower house of the Erskine’s.

Rear view looking over the Montrose Basin.

The Erskine’s had lived on this land from the 1300’s up to 1980 when the house and it’s belongings were bequeathed to the National Trust for Scotland.

Courtyard view to the west of the house. The white building in the middle was a larder.
Entrance into the courtyard.

 I’ll not pretend to know the history of this house or family so I’ll leave it there, you can find plenty of information online if you’re interested.

The walled garden joined to the east of the house.
Rear view looking down to the Montrose Basin.

If you’ve not been here before, I’d highly recommend a visit. A guided tour of the house takes about 45 minutes or so then you’ve got the fantastic grounds to explore, all the way down to the Montrose Basin. If you take your time and wander down the many paths you’ll be sure to come across some really interesting things to see. As well as the house with all of its magnificent artwork, there’s two walled gardens, an ice house, cemetery and more. It’s a really great day out!

One of the falls on the woodland walk.
The family mausoleum.

Below, is a selection of images taken inside the house whilst on the tour. The tour guides were great, especially Louisa who plays the part of the Lady of the House, Violet Jacob. They’re dressed in period costumes and tell you the story of the house and the family, they helped to make it a really great day out. They were knowledgeable too, my kids asked questions as did I and a few other guests also. My only complaint, I wanted to go round again and take my time to admire the amazing furniture and artworks and photograph things at my leisure. Not much of a complaint though is it?

As always, thank you for taking the time to read this. Feel free to share it far and wide and if you’re in the area, stop by for a visit, you won’t be disappointed, it’s well worth the money!

All the best, Paul.

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.

On a Cold & Frosty Morning.

Blantyre Park Farm Woodlands_9There is nothing quite like photographing on a cold and frosty morning, literally nothing like it, as its bloody freezing!

One morning last week I sat in work looking out of the window and everything was slowly being whitewashed, there was a freezing fog, low cloud cover and a light dusting of snow. As I was working late there was no possibility of photography however I vowed on my day of I was heading out.

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I chose a little known place nearby, situated at the back of Hamilton and Blantyre, I say little known as unless you live locally or work in the area most people aren’t aware of these paths. Most of this area was once farms and vast fields now we have a Technology Park, a university and many, many houses. Of course there are still fields and farms but far fewer than ever before.

Not far from the hamlet of Auchentibber sat the farm known as Blantyre Park, now mostly gone and covered over by the new houses at West Craigs. However, you may be surprised to know that there are still plenty of the old farm tracks remaining, certainly enough for a great walk. You can enter either from West Craigs or from the Technology Park, there are a few paths and the walks can be done in a circular. You can choose to follow the few miles of paths or like me, head into the trees and follow the route of the Red Burn up to Park Road. The Red Burn runs through a deep cleft in the landscape and makes for some lovely scenery. Unfortunately there is the usual dumping of rubbish and random barrels along the way however it’s still beautiful, especially as the sun rises through it.

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You can see from my pictures that I had all sorts of light to play with, from bright sunlight, to dull and dingy to almost ethereal, there are so many different looks to my photographs that you would think I visited over multiple days.

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You will find a few other walks in this area, so if you fancy making it a longer walk you do have a few choices. You can stop at the recently refurbished Auchentibber War Memorial or you could head along the behind the building known as Browns Land and walk up to Dykehead Woods where you will not only get great views over Hamilton but you can see the old Lime Kiln.

Thanks for reading, below are some more images taken on the day.

Paul

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

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.

Detour

The sunsets recently have been beautiful, some of the best that I’ve seen in a long time. Each night as I look out of my front window I think, I need to get out and capture one of these.

I’m always full of good intentions.

So last night, there I was heading to the supermarket for some things​ when I saw the sun setting. It was stunning, the best one that I’ve seen recently, I had to get a picture of it.

So I quickly turned the car round and headed off to slightly higher ground in the hope of a quick pic or two. I didn’t have my DSLR with me and didn’t have time to head home for it so armed with my mobile I parked up on a country lane and took a few quick shots before it disappeared behind Dechmont Hill.

Had I my camera and tripod and had I planned in advance I could definitely have got better pictures However I am more than happy with how these came out, especially the first one.

Time poor 

Clyde walkway, Bothwell Castle.

Click the picture to download the Clyde walkway leaflet for Bothwell.

Aside from my family, there are three things in my life that I feel extremely passionate about, photography, walking and history. Any one of the three can cause me to lose hours from my day.

Kype Water, Sandford.

Clyde walkway, Bothwell Castle.

Regardless of the weather there is nothing I enjoy more than to be out wandering around the countryside. Generally before any adventuring, you’ll find me pouring over old maps and looking for historical information about the area that I plan to visit. I love finding relics from the past, old ruins, abandoned buildings, monuments, graveyards, that sort of thing. These all make for fantastic subject matter in my photographs and that allows me to combine all my favourite pastimes into one trip out.

Graves, Lanercost Priory.

However like most people these days I am time poor. I like to think I’m a family person and always put their needs first (my family may disagree!) but then I find that my hobbies take a back seat. Between work, a wife and 3 children I struggle, struggle to find both motivation and the time to squeeze in much else. However since February this year I’ve been making an effort to get out at least one day a week even if it’s only for a couple of hours. When I’m out it’s mainly been for a walk, anything from a few miles to as much as 8 depending on where I go and how much time I have. Believe it or not I don’t normally take my camera with me, mainly due to time constraints, however I always have my phone.

View of Carnwath Church and St Mary’s Aisle.

Inside St Mary’s Aisle, Carnwath.

On most of my jaunts my focus is walking, generally it’s around some old historic estate trying to find any remains. I may not have my camera but I always try to take some photos on my phone. Not only does this provide me with a record for the future, it allows me to share what I have found with others online.

Taken near Culter Fell.

My photography has definitely taken a back seat over this last 6 months. It’s not that I’ve given up on it or lost interest, it’s just I don’t have time to spend on it along with everything else, and exercise has definitely been more of a priority. I am hoping now the mornings and the nights are lighter that I can fit in some proper photography between now and September but only time will tell.

Inside the summer house at Dumfries House Estate.

As I previously mentioned in another post, it amazes me how good mobile phone cameras have become. Some of the photographs I have taken whilst walking have turned out really good and I find now that I am enjoying using my phone more and more for photography.

Waterfall, Kelburn Castle.

My phone is the Huawei P9, it has a dual lens camera co-engineered with Leica with one dedicated lens for monochrome. The results are fantastic, the quality is way above any previous phone I’ve owned or used, it allows manual control and shoots in DNG RAW format. As I said, I’ve had this with me on my travels and I’ve taken pictures on each trip. What your seeing on this page is some of my favourite pictures over the last few months, all taken on my phone and edited from RAW using Snapseed.

Mausoleum, Lowther Castle.

We nearly all have a phone and it’s generally never far from us, I’d encourage you all to think about what you like and start taking some pictures, you don’t need the biggest or best camera to make a good photo. Remember, a photo is recorded by the camera but it’s taken by the person holding it.

Hermitage Castle, Newcastleton.

The Wider View. 

Well it happened again! Once more I’ve fallen into a lull and I’ve been neglecting my photography. The reason? Well, part of its time, part of it’s the stress of being a parent, a husband and working full time too. How do other people manage and still fit in a social life?

Anyway, I recently had the pleasure of spending a Sunday touring about the Scottish Borders. What a fantastic area to explore and I hardly even scraped the surface! There are so many ruins to explore, there’s iron age and bronze age hill forts, old churches, beautiful old cemetries and the scenery, well its just as beautiful as up north and just as dramatic in places too.

Now I was out with a decent sized group of people and was constantly feeling like I was holding everyone back while I stopped for photos but the views, they were amazing. The snow covered hills and the grand houses, the autumn lanes….. I was in my element. Now I’m not going to bore everyone with all my poorly shot snaps however I did do something I’ve never done before. I took multiple pictures and stitched them together into a panoramic. I hadn’t planned to and it was done quickly and off the cuff, however I was pleasantly surprised with the results.  And now, well I’ve found a new mistress and I can’t wait to do more!  I only took 4 of them however one is just blurry and dull so it’s been consigned to the back of the hard drive never to see the light of day. These 3 I am happy with, especially for 1st attempts.
Thanks

Paul

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 “Wild Life” of Photography

This post is a little late, 6 months late to be exact.
Back in October 2015, I spent a long weekend up at Inverness. Whilst there I spent the day at the Highland Wildlife Park near Kingussie.

It’s a really great place to spend a day, one of the most enjoyable zoos I’ve had the pleasure to visit. You’ll find a great selection of animals there and as well as a safari drive through.

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The Ever elusive Wolverine. I must have spent the better part of an hour trying for a picture.

I decided in advance it would make sense to take a long lens with me of which I have 2. The one I chose was my Pentax 75-300mm F4.5 lens. I’ve previously used this lens and I’ve found that it’s auto focus is not quite what it should be. It never seems give a sharp picture and for that reason I’ve rarely used it. However I felt being at a wildlife park that I was going to need my longest lens which is this one, so I gave it another chance. I switched off auto focus and used manual only and by taking my time I managed to get some decent snaps. One thing I learned was that by using the long lens and manual focus, I was able to almost get rid of the cages and mesh surrounding the animals. You’ll still see some slightly blurry lines across some of the pictures where I couldn’t quite focus the cages out however in general I’m reasonably happy with how they turned out. Using the lens for the day has given me the confidence to do so again, although I’ll be keeping it on manual.

I’ve picked a small selection of my favourite pictures to show you, I do hope you enjoy them.
Paul

Snowy Owl

P.S. If you ever decide to visit make sure you head up to the picnic spot at the top of the hill near the entrance, the view from there is spectacular.

View from the picnic area

Click on the photos below if you want the full size image.

 

Snow Leopard
I got a little to close to its cage and it took um-bridge and pounced towards me. I ended up going backwards onto my rear!

 

 

 

Photo Opportunities & Walks, in and Around Lanarkshire

Updated on the 10th of May 2021

Anyone who knows me will know that I love the outdoors, I love exploring and finding places to walk and to take photographs. I’m always on the lookout for new places to explore and capture and I am happy to share my knowledge with others in the hope they can benefit from it too. So, that’s what this post is all about, I’ve put together a list of some places that I’ve enjoyed going to for my photography however there are a few places that I have not yet visited. I have researched these sites and they’ve been added to my list of locations to visit as I’m confident they offer great local opportunities. I have listed all of the locations on the Google map below, clicking on the location will give you some information about the site. I have split the map into photo locations and walks so it’s easier to select which one you want, you can filter the options by clicking the square symbol with the arrow on the top left of the map.

If anyone reading this wishes to contribute to the list please feel free to drop a comment. However please leave a description and Google Maps coordinates so it’s easy for others to find.

Lastly I would like to ask anyone who visits any of these sites that you show respect and please do not enter the buildings as some are in a bad way and can be dangerous. Also some are privately owned like Cambusnethan and Eastend and their owners do not want anyone entering the buildings.
If you wish to get in contact regarding anything within this post on please feel free to email me at questions@viewthroughthelens.co.uk

Well I hope after reading this you find somewhere worth exploring and photographing. If you do please feel free to let me know how it went, would you recommend the sites I’ve chosen? If you want to link any pictures you’ve taken into the comments then please do.

Thanks very much for reading, hope you find something of interest.
Paul

Below you will find some websites that I find are a great help when I’m looking for places to visit. I’ve mentioned a few times about looking at old maps before heading to some of these sites so you can get an idea of what once was there and what may still be. I would normally look up pictures on Instagram and Flickr as well as a Google search. It helps you give you an idea of what you may want to capture.

For old maps I use the National Library of Scotland, it’s free and has extensive coverage and the maps can be overlaid. http://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=5&lat=56.0000&lon=-4.0000&layers=1

I also get a lot of ideas from a Facebook groups I am part of. The main ones are “Lost Houses of Clyde Valley”. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1475717922681828/ and “Castles, Mansions and Historic Houses of Scotland”. https://www.facebook.com/groups/642086055910658/permalink/803741759745086/

There is also the excellent “Blantyre Project”. http://www.blantyreproject.com/

RAW Around the Ages. A Day at Loch Leven.

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Before I start, I’ll apologise for the lower resolution images used on this post. In this trip out I used only my mobile phone (LG G2) for photos. I recently unlocked my phone and have since installed a custom camera that allows manual settings and Adobe DNG RAW files. So all photos were taken as RAW then edited using Snapseed on my phone. I was curious to see how far I could push my phone and what image details could be recovered when editing. It’s certainly not going to replace my DSLR however most of the photos came out better than I expected especially the ones with blown out sky. Anyway, there ok viewed on a tablet or phone but not so good on a laptop or PC.

Now moving on to my lovely walk around the loch.

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Last weekend my wife and I had our annual night of freedom from the kids. We booked into the Green Hotel in Kinross for a night and were very much looking forward our day and a half of peace and quiet. After a nice afternoon at the hotel and a lovely meal that night we were well relaxed and rested. We had decided we would go walking the following day but had not decided where and spent some time looking at various places to visit. However, we finally decided that we had Loch Leven at our door so we should use it.

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This is Loch Leven in Perth and Kinross, the fresh water one, not to be confused with the sea loch up on the west coast of Scotland near the village of Glencoe. The loch has a heritage trail that you can walk round, its just over 13 miles (21km) in length and is fairly flat and easy to walk. It is a very pleasant walk although, it is a long walk if you do it all.

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There are plenty of benches to rest upon, I’d say you’ll find one every 10 minutes or so and there is some lovely spots for picnics too. The benches are lovely, they all have a phrase or saying carved into them, I really should have taken a picture of one of them. You don’t have to walk the full 13 miles, there are various points you may stop at and enjoy the view as well as a few places you can stop for a quick refreshment.

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We chose to walk it all and stop at Vane Farm, its an RSPB site with a nice little cafe where we refuelled with cake and coffee. image

If you start at Kinross and walk around clockwise it’s about 9 miles to Vane Farm. There’s a tunnel that goes under the road, you walk down the steps and it’s only 2 minutes on the other side. You can drive here and park up then take a walk around the reserve from here also. image

It’s a busy place, lots of walkers, joggers and cyclists however I was very impressed with how little rubbish there was laying around and there was not much dog mess either. The council are doing a good job of keeping it clean and tidy.
It has some beautiful view points and you have good views of the islands in the loch. There are 7 islands visible these days although this was not always the case, prior to the loch being drained it covered a far wider area and there were only a couple of islands visible.

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Loch Leven Castle sits on one of the islands, this was where Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner in 1567. It can be reached by ferry at certain times of the year and is managed by Historic Scotland. Unfortunately due to it being a good distance away and with me using only my mobile I have no decent pictures of the castle, sorry. There is also St Serfs Inch which is the largest of the islands and was once the home of a monastic sect and had a priory built on it. The history of this area goes back a long way. Loch Leven is an RSPB nature reserve and a site of special scientific interest.

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If your in the area and are looking for a relaxing walk then I would recommend it. The whole walk is estimated to take around 5 to 6 hours depending on fitness however it can be walked quicker, we managed it in just over 4 hours, this was with a coffee stop included. As I said though you can shorten the walk if you wish and there is decent public transport options to help you with that.
If after reading this you feel the need to explore the area and decide to stay a night or 2 my review of the Green Hotel is on TripAdvisor from 27th February. All reviews for this hotel can be found here http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/194060?m=19905

As always, thanks for reading.
Paul

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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An Atmosphere to Remember

IMGP5997_1Last year I was lucky enough to experience the most wonderful atmosphere in and around Glasgow.

Let me start by saying that I have almost no interest in watching anything sport like. Sport is something that I do wish I enjoyed more however I am 36 and have never found any love of watching any sport and I certainly dislike the politics and rivalries that fall in line with it.

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However….the Commonwealth Games, well that was something I enjoyed a lot more than I ever expected. Maybe it was because it was happening so close to me, maybe it was the buzz and all the positive vibes and emotions. Either way it was a pleasure watching it and photographing what little I could. For anyone who spent some time at any of the stadiums or who visited Glasgow Green you will know exactly what I am meaning, it was an electrifying atmosphere that became contagious.

IMGP6216My family and I spent a few days at Glasgow Green and loved it, so many people, all happy and no trouble, the sun even shined for most of it! Just a lovely time. I have to say though, so many fantastic people volunteered to help out and they helped make the games what it was. I can honestly say that I am disappointed I saw so little of it live and wish I had volunteered, however seeing some, well, it’s better than none. My family were more fortunate than I and managed to see more of it however I did manage the final of the men’s road race and even with some rain it was great.

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You really need to give these guys some credit, the distances they have to cycle, the courses and terrain and the especially the inconsistent Scottish weather! I did think it was a little funny though looking at the difference in physique as some were so small and skinny looking, others large and well muscled, you would have thought they may have a disadvantage being heavier.

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We managed to make it back into Glasgow later in the year for the Commonwealth winners parade through Glasgow.

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It was so busy though it was a struggle to get into a decent spot for pictures.

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I also (stupidly) thought that using my manual 50mm lens would be a super idea as its pretty sharp. In hindsight, my autofocus zoom lens that is less sharp would probably have done a better job! Oh well, always the next Commonwealth games :-/

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I know it was a while back and this site was mainly for anything up coming that I do, however I hope you don’t mind me posting some of these pictures as it was just such a lovely experience and I wanted to share what little I had of it.

Again if you have made it this far down, thank you, thank you very much.

Paul

One Miserable Morning

I’ve made a decision to go out walking every 2nd Saturday morning (it’s my day off). Yesterday was that Saturday.
5:40am, up and out the door. Grey clouds and heavy rain, a real miserable morning to be doing anything. A quick look at the weather and over towards Edinburgh seemed dry (for the time being anyway). I drove over in that direction and headed towards Blackness Castle. I knew I wasn’t going to get any clear shots of the Forth bridges

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and I knew it would be windy and cold, as long as it wasn’t pouring down with rain I could live with this compromise. Well as you can guess, it rained! I was there less than 10 minutes and what little light there was vanished, the clouds got darker and the rain poured!

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I had driven 40 minutes so regardless of weather I went at it. My camera is a Pentax K-X, not waterproof and neither are my lenses so I was being very careful, no long exposures no slow shutter speeds. Just a quick snap before it got soaked!

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I was lucky enough that the tide was out so I managed to get some shots from out on the rather pebbly (and slippy) beach. Which was helpful as I had decided to only use my 50mm yesterday morning, I thought it would make my morning more interesting.

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I found this carved into one of the rocks out on the beach. (below)

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Well after a very wet 45 minutes I decided to get back into the car and have coffee and some chocolate. It was not the morning I had planned and the majority of my pictures were very dull but hey that’s how it goes sometimes. Let’s hope the next trip out in 2 weeks is better!

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Thanks for reading,

Paul

Forth and Clyde Canal – Auchinstarry Marina

Recently I found myself in Cumbernauld with a couple of hours to kill and little to do. Fortunately I had my camera in the boot of my car. This was not a planned outing and I had no idea where to go locally so I went a short drive. Only 5 minutes away I found this little marina with a couple dozen boats and barges. I parked up and took a walk and managed after some trial and error to get a few decent pictures.

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The light was a real variable, it just would not sit still and kept changing. One minute I had bright sunlight and it reflected off everything then the next dark cloud, it really could not make up its mind. Fortunately I only had the smallest amount of rain to contend with.

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In the above picture you can see the cloud coming in off the Campsie Fells.

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I think regardless of how the weather may be this is a lovely little place to stop as there is so much colour to be had from the boats and barges and on a clear day the view in the distance is nice, well from certain angles.

There is a car park and some nice walks into the forest and up onto a nearby hill. It’s quite a busy little place but not to busy that your photos will be spoiled.

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Below I have attached a couple of shots I liked, mainly due to the bright colours.

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After my colourful barges I took a short walk into the trees behind the canal and took a few different pictures. I quite liked the silhouetted ones with the sun poking through the trees.

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I can see me making another trip out here in the future, as there is so many other photos waiting to be taken. I think though I will be needing a lot longer than a couple of hours to get the most from it.

Well, there we go, my first proper post, the first of many I hope. I have enjoyed photographing the boats and barges so I think this will be added to my list of themes / projects. As I manage more outings I will endeavour to keep this page going and get a sample of each trip uploaded.

I have added my album from the day to Flickr. There is a few more photos on there, some of the barges, some not. So if anyone wishes they can.

http://flic.kr/s/aHsk91gAfy

Thanks,

Paul