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.

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

Braidwood house
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

New Lanark
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.

Wolverine
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!

 

 

 

An Early Rise

On Saturday I managed my first trip out alone with the camera in quite some time. I was aiming to catch the sunrise however I slept in a little and almost missed it.

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I had decided the night before that I would go to Blackhill. It’s one of the highest hills in the area and commands splendid views of Clyde Valley and further. It’s a National Trust site but freely open to anyone who wants to join the cows and sheep and take the short walk to the top.

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Unfortunately I had picked a very hazy morning, it limited my view and it was only as I packed my tripod away the haze began to clear. I could see Ben Lomond in the distance as well as the Ochil and Campsie Hills. On a clear day you can see Goatfell on Arran and the Cobbler too. It’s a beautiful place to stop and admire the world, its clear to see why people have been coming here for over 1000 years. The hill is home to a Bronze Age burial cairn and was once the site of a large Iron Age fort. If you follow the path up the hill you can see the defensive ditch and the opening in the middle just to the left of the stile. Anyway here’s a few photos I managed in the haze. I haven’t done many sunrise or sunset shots before, I like my bed to much and at night can’t be bothered going out once I’m settled in. However I’m reasonably happy with my results, they could be better and I’m sure they will be with practice.

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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.