Moving between fixed and fluid creative states

I made this photo of Stac Pollaidh (pronounced Stack Polly) last October during an exceptionally windy day. I've known of this location at the end of the loch for some time, having first spotted it many years ago on a week long workshop with a group. I was drawn to the criss-crossed lines in the foreground rock, and knew that if I could be here when the conditions were right, then I might get what I envisaged in my mind's eye.

I've stuck with the same film type for years now because I love it, and because I know it well. You could say this is part of my structured approach to creativity.

I've stuck with the same film type for years now because I love it, and because I know it well. You could say this is part of my structured approach to creativity.

I've found over the years of repeatedly going back to places, I learn how the landscape works. I begin to understand where the light is coming from and where to be at sunrise and sunset, but I also get to know some of the more intimate details of the locations I visit - the criss-crossed features of the foreground rocks in the above picture is a perfect example of that.

Continuing from my previous post, I think it's important to keep things fluid. I love to go for a wander and to find things by chance, or to encounter something where there was no pre-visualisation involved. It's very freeing to work with what you're given. But there is also value in researching places and building up knowledge of locations too. I like both approaches and tend to move between fluid and fixed states all the time.

I think my personality has dual sides: in some ways I prefer to be structured while in others I prefer to be fluid. For example, i'm very structured with my technical process. I've used the same film stock for many years now, and I never deviate from it. I am also very wary of changing even the smallest of things in my workflow, because I believe it could have far reaching consequences that I'm unable to comprehend until much later. But I also like to be very fluid - I prefer not to pre-visualise a scene, often going for what feels right at the time. This is not just in what I choose to shoot while on location, but also in how I edit the work. I like to keep an open mind in this regard as I may find later when I come to review the photographs that I see something different or new in them. 

So I think to be creative, we need to be able to move between these two states of being fluid and fixed. Being fluid allows us to find new things and find inspiration, while being fixed allows us to shape them - to give our ideas structure and to see them through to completion.

The skill however, is in knowing which state to be in, and when :-)

I like to try out my shots in black and white sometimes. They may be better in monochrome, but even if they aren't, I maybe notice new things about the image when viewed with the colour removed. It allows me to free up what I'm doing and I think this is perhaps a fluid aspect to my creativity.

I like to try out my shots in black and white sometimes. They may be better in monochrome, but even if they aren't, I maybe notice new things about the image when viewed with the colour removed. It allows me to free up what I'm doing and I think this is perhaps a fluid aspect to my creativity.

Subliminal Inspiration

When I turned 12 years old, I found music for the first time in my life. Up until that moment, I had been an arty kid who spent a lot of his time drawing and painting. The arts I guess had always featured largely in my future.

OMD-Organisation

One of the bands that I got into at the age of 12, was OMD. Initially attracted by the pop singles they produced, I found this album to be completely opposite to what I had imagined. It was dark, atmospheric, inspired by the sounds of Joy Division more than pop. I loved it as soon as I heard it and it opened up my mind to the possibilities of atmosphere in music. This is not the OMD of chart success that we all know, it is a brooding album and I think it's perhaps their best. If you like dark brooding electronica, then try 'Statues' on this album.

Anyway, the album was released in 1980. I've grown up with it and I've never tired of it. Sure sometimes there has been many years between listens, but I still come back to it from time to time to get re-acquainted with the teenage me.

Tonight I'm listening to it and I'm looking at the cover, and I can't help wondering if that cover has been more influential for me than I had ever considered before. The photograph, I had assumed, was of Glencoe for a long time. It encapsulates everything that is moody and dark about Scotland.

Since I got into photography, I've always been attracted to mood and atmosphere. I think I'm a product of the environment I've grown up in. With parents from the north east of Scotland (Sutherland) I've spent most of my free time up there on holidays and I think the landscape has always rubbed off on me, even if I didn't really know it at the time.

Looking at this album cover (which is not of Glencoe, but somewhere else that I know really well - can you guess where?), It strikes me that my love for atmosphere in music seeped through into my photography. The stage was set when I was a teenager so it seems.

Popular culture influences us in many ways. I'm sure the photograph on the cover of OMD's Organisation album has played a much bigger part in my development as a creative person, than I can ever know. Maybe there is a similar album cover in your collection which has had a similar impression on you?

Half concealed, half revealed

I love it when inclement weather hides part of the landscape. Rain clouds came in today and hid most of the isle of Rum (the land mass you can see on the horizon) from view. For most of the morning it wasn't visible to us, and just as we were getting ready to depart for lunch, it decided to start showing itself to us.Tràigh a' Bhìgeil

 

This is a digital file from the little Lumix GX1 camera with the 12-35 panasonic zoom lens. As I explained a while ago, I got this system for my workshops, so I could help explain compositional ideas to participants. As you may also know, I am really a film shooter and everything on this site has been captured with film.

It's nice to have such a little camera with me to illustrate and work on sketches. The thing is though, this kind of image is not one to go back to repeat (ideally, I would go back with my film camera to get this shot). The inclement weather provided a unique opportunity. As too, did the tides. My group spent a bit of time last night discussing how a landscape changes over a week. At the start of the week we had high tides, so many of the features of the landscape were hidden from us. I personally feel this is a good thing, as most beaches can be too busy with too many rocks competing for your attention. Towards the end of the week, the tide is lower and we are now finding other areas of the beach that we did not see on day one.

With this particular image, we ventured here at high tide. There is a lot of redundant rocks and kelp hidden under the water, which allowed this 'curve' to stand out. Normally, it wouldn't present itself as a possible composition option because of the 'noise' around it. But also, I feel this image wouldn't have presented itself because of the rain shower that managed to completely hide Rum on the horizon, and for a brief moment, revealed it to me.

Isle of Eigg, Lummix GX1 Style

This week i'm on the isle of Eigg with a group. We were out this morning shooting on Laig bay.Eigg-September-2013

 

I've got my little Lummix GX1 system with 12-35 Panasonic lens and Lee Seven5 filter system with me, mainly for illustrative purposes. I made this little shot just before we headed back to the guesthouse for breakfast. I deliberately used a 3 stop hard grad on the top 1/4 area of the frame (to intentionally get a lot of burn-in into the image, and I composed it square at the time too (the Lummix is one of very few cameras that allows you to change aspect ratio - something I feel ALL cameras should offer as a matter of course). Aspect ratios are vitally important to how we see, compose and how we find images in the landscape, in the first place.

Anyway, I really wish I knew how to make the colours in digital 'sing' like my Velvia images do, but I've never been able to achieve it. I personally feel it's just not possible right now with the capture mediums as they are right now. But that's my own personal feeling and I know many will not agree with me. So I decided to opt for a black and white interpretation of the isle of Rum here, with a beach littered with evenly distributed kelp.

A matter of 'flow'

One of the things I love about square aspect-ratio right now, is it's ability to help project the 'graphic' elements within the frame.

I found these dark sand lines - from a river outflow on Lagg bay on the Isle of Eigg during last April's workshop there. I was showing others how they act as a beautiful lead in, so long as we could distill it down to the most elegant sections of the 'fingers' - i.e, not have too much of them in. I felt I wanted to get closer, but as you'll see if you look at the final image in this post - that didn't quite happen when I tried the same shot with the Hasselblad 40 mm lens. So I think this 50mm version works the best.

But this image is really about reading from right to left I feel. Let's now look at an image shot from up on Pescado island, on the Bolivian Altiplano Salar de Uyuni....

My eye walks into the frame from the bottom left and then up to the mid far right. Your eye may walk the scene differently, as I've discovered during my workshops that everyone has a different way of interpreting images.

While we were on Pescado island, I was really drawn to the colour of the sky, and it's so hard to get a nice shot of the cactus, when Jezz, on the trip pointed to what was happening behind us, I could sense that I should use the curve in the foreground to lead up into the frame. It was also a great opportunity to show the cactus on Pescado island too (so that made me very happy).

And returning back to Eigg, I loved the arc in the sky - that red cloud banding across the landscape like a vignette, it helps keep my eye inside the frame. I feel a flow between the cloud and the dark sand bars in the foreground, each guiding my eye back towards the horizon, while the isle of Rum sits nestled in between the space between cloud and sand pattern.

I often see my compositions like that. There has to be a sense of flow to the objects and the tonal relationships as they work together, hopefully to produce a nice image or two.

Harris

This week I almost sold my Hasselblad kit. It's caused me so much grief, but I think when I consider how hold it is - over 20 years old, It's just really needing a good service!

I think what's swayed me from dumping the entire outfit, is that the compositions I'm doing in square are very enjoyable to make, and I think it's led me to do thing that are a little bit different from how I would approach a landscape with a 4x5 aspect ratio camera.

This is a big talking point on my workshops. I detest the 35mm 3:2 aspect ratio. It's far too letter box, and either too narrow and wide (landscape), or too tall and thin (portrait mode). I love 4x5 because it works so well for distributing objects around the frame. I've said it here before - the Mamiya 7 camera is not a 6x7 camera - it is a 6x7.5 camera - so the aspect ratio is exactly that of a 4x5 camera.

But square... ahhh, I love it. Although it is not for every single composition and I sometimes find myself grappling with a particular location because I know it can't work, won't work with the aspect ratio of the camera I have in my hands: which goes back to what I've been saying for a long while - walking around with a dodgy aspect ratio is going to kill your compositions. I believe that many of us, if we were given a 4x5 or 6x6 aspect ratio to work with, would do so much better in our compositions.

Well I'm rambling now. I really intended to show you the above shot of Harris, it is one of the first images I made on this beach, before I reached what I felt was my ultimate composition:

I just find myself never stopping at one composition on a location. I'm aware there are always other ways to view the same story, different points of view of the same scene. But I do love the first image you see in this post. I think it's ok to have many different views of the same scene, some that are more dramatic than others, and to love them all.

St. Kilda

From the main isle Hirta, that makes up the group of islands known as St. Kilda, this images was made looking out towards Boreray, Stac Lee & Stac an Armin.

I visited St. Kilda in May of this year.

Due to the low cloud that would hug the island for days, and the nesting Skua's, we couldn't actually get anywhere much. The wind and low visibility made for an impossible trip to the other side of the island (it's also amazingly very steep). But I think it was the birds that scared me the most. They attack you by diving right towards your field of vision with claws out in front. It's a very menacing pose and a good defence mechanism for keeping predators away from their nests.

Myself and my friend managed to get to this spot however, which isn't far away from the small Historic Scotland camp site (yes, there's a camp site there - shhhhh, I didn't tell you!). There's a very obvious dip that I found. It's not until today that I've noticed it's almost an exact compositional version of Joe Cornish' image (page 72) of his beautiful book 'Scotland's Coast'. I think this is interesting because I'm wondering if the reason I made this was a response to a subconsious memory of his image, or because it's one of the very few opportunities in this area of Hirta to make good compositions? I know for certain that I did not set up to copy - I much prefer to go to a location and find my own interpretation, but sometimes there isn't much of a choice, and certain landscapes dictate 'tripod-hole-syndrome'. So apologies Joe for making a similar shot - it was not my intention :-)

I've wanted to come here for a very long time. It is a fascinating place and my friend Chris had been reading up about the entire history before we got there!

Happy holiday memories (I still have dreams of my scalp sailing away in the claws of a very large bird).

Looking for the essence (part 5)

There's this fabulous little canyon on the Isle of Eigg with a waterfall at the back. I take my students on my Eigg workshop to this location, even though it fits only one person at a time because as much as the location is extremely limited (you can't really move much), you'd think there's only really one shot to be made in here. But last September, I 'captured' Iain on my workshop in here. I'd been trying to catch up with Iain, but felt he was a little too shy to spend time with me. So I managed to corner him in this little canyon and we spent maybe 20 minutes working on a shot similar to this one (my shot was taken after Iain had finished making his).

I loved my little 20 minutes with Iain here, because it was one of those moments where there's really something to impart. A very clear message can be reached.

We started off by making very general images of the canyon but I'd noticed that further inside there was this beautiful sandy coloured warm looking rock. It seemed to be shouting out to me - 'I'm here - take a picture of me!'. The reason why it stood out so much was that it's colour was very much outside the palette of every other rock there. I felt it would make a very strong compositional element - it would be the focal point of the shot if we used it correctly.

I know that Iain got a lot out of this little bit of time together as he thanked me and said it had been really useful. I was just so delighted that on all my times in this little canyon, a golden rock had surfaced and was so much there on it's own, it was a great feature (or device) to use in a composition.

I think Iain had said to me that he hadn't noticed it when we'd gone into the canyon, but it was, for me, perhaps the one thing that jumped out. I think there are two lessons here - exploring a location, even one as tiny as this can help you find things you never saw upon first encounter, and your final images may be stronger as a result. The second lesson is perhaps to realise that repeating the same location on different trips may yield new insights, new finds. I've certainly never seen that stand-out rock before.

I think I've taught myself over the years to think about 'separation'. Looking for objects in a scene that have a presence, either because of the light that is being cast upon them, or more unusually, because their colour makes them stand out a bit more.

I'm looking forward to going back to Eigg this September.

Storm over the isle of Rum

Back to that 'essence' topic again. As I work through the bunch of transparencies lying around, i'm aware that I just seem to be interested in those which impart a sense of mood and that have an 'elemental' aspect to them.

I do a couple of workshops on the Isle of Eigg each year, because I feel it's a great place to study the same landscape time and time again.

What I've noticed over the last three years of visiting Eigg, is how the light changes so rapidly there. Mood and drama come and go so quickly. It's very hard to impart that with a wide angle lens sometimes. The isle of Rum is a big presence on the landscape and often the mood and changing light happens in and around the Cuillin ridges of this mountainous island. I've just never really managed to capture it because it's so easy to go wide angle all the time.

Well this shot was a deliberate effort on my part to look beyond the immediate beach, and take advantage of the rain in the distance.

Rain is a beautiful thing. It's atmospheric properties can't be overstated I feel. Rain can be used to veil subjects - to conceal them, turning them into opaque tones of mystery.

They have a saying on the isle of Eigg.

"If you can't see Rum, it's because it's raining, and if you can, it's because it's not raining - yet'.

That's one of the many reasons why I love Scotland's landscape. It's moody, it's changeable, it makes for surprising gifts in the way of fleeting light. It's also a challenge at times, and when things do conspire to provide a beautiful moment, the moment is more enjoyable because you know, deep down, that it's rare and something to be absorbed and enjoyed greatly.

Music and Images

Once upon a time, I lived and breathed writing music and, I always felt that if I were forced to define myself, I'd have said I was a musician.

Please click on the image to play the podcast

Things change, and over the past decade, I've had to accept that a life in music is not for me. It seems that Photography was always there, sitting in the side lines, waiting for me to sit up and listen. So these days, I now fully accept that photography chose me, and not me it.

But I'm still deeply passionate about music, and I listen to it all the time, whether it's with my Sennheizer HD-25 DJ headphones, or through some of my home hi-fi. Music is the background to my life. So I've been thinking for a while, that i'd love to do a project that could incorporate my first love in a more prominent way.

As some of you know, I have a podcast available on iTunes, and this has been a great outlet for me to use my musical abilities, to set a backdrop for my own music. It's been a lot of fun to do.

But i've been thinking of something a little grander in scale. I would, for instance, love to pay music back. Whereas music has been the backdrop to my life, then would it be so strange to think of putting together an event where my images of Scotland become the backdrop to some of the music that I love?

It's very early days.... and I may be speaking out of turn here. But for the past few months I've been thinking of putting on a show where I invite some of the most contemporary Scots musicians to play their music with my own photography as a backdrop. I'd seriously love to do it, and I've begun talks with a particular outfit that I'm very keen on. It may not happen, but I've discovered over the past few years that an idea can become something real. My book, for instance, was once just an abstract thought. A dream. But with a bit of focus and attention, dreams can become real.

I just mention this all to you, because, despite the reality that if anything comes of this, it will take a year or two at the very least to get funding and organise it properly, the main message is that you should follow what inspires you. For me, inspiration for my creativity (I make no distinction towards photography, as I feel that as a creative person, the medium can change over time), can come from anywhere. I deeply love music, and there are some very contemporary musicians in the Scottish Folk scene that I'm particularly drawn to. They summarise for me, the moods and the feelings I have for my own back yard.

Maybe it's time to put those feelings to good use.

Last day of Skye Workshop

This post was written on the last day of my last workshop this year. I never got round to finishing it, but since I've just scanned the image below, I feel it's fitting to include the posting, post event, post posting if you like. --

Today is the last day of my last workshop of 2010, and I can't help but feel rather reflective about this year and just how it's gone.

It's been a bit of an amazing year for me. I've done quite a lot of workshops, I've met a load of really nice people on my trips and I feel I've expanded my life in a direction that I never really thought I'd go.

One thing that has been incredibly inspiring is just how positive a lot of the participants can be. They want to get out there, to experience the landscape and will do anything in their power to get to a workshop - even if the weather here in the UK is trying its very hardest to make sure the trip doesn't go ahead. I've also had a lot of encouragement from participants who believe in what I do, and for that, I can only thank them.

So I end today's last workshop with an image from Elgol. I spent a bit of time with Simon trying to express how using a rock in the foreground of a wide-angle shot will not work by using any old rock. What we use or choose to put into our frame should be elegant, have some form of symmetry to it, or as Simon says, it should be a 'pretty rock'. I think it just has to be 'special'. So we spent a bit of time with what I felt was a 'special' rock and I used it to compose the shot you see above of the Cuilins of Skye - only the second time in my life that I've seen them with snow on them.

End of season Workshop

I'm on the isle of Skye right now, half way through a workshop and we're having some terrific weather. Which is in some ways, surprising to most people here in the UK because England is mostly buried under some of the worst snow and blizzard conditions we've had for a long time, and Scotland, particularly the east coast, is inundated with terrible weather too.

But Skye and the north west, has got off lightly and things here are really great. We've had some beautiful mornings, and we even ventured up to the Storr yesterday evening for sunset. The main image is by Simon on the workshop. We've had some long distances to cover as Skye is a *big* island, but we've managed to get to Elgol and a few other nice locations on time for sunrise each morning.

I think it's interesting that winter often gives the best light here in Scotland, but for some reason, we seem incapable of dealing with any thickness of snow that comes our way. It's surprising really as Switzerland, Germany, etc, treat this kind of weather as the usual and everything continues as usual.

I'd like to finish this posting by saying how much of a terrific year I've had running the workshops. It's fitting to find that Outdoor Photography magazine here in the UK have chosen one of my Skye images to adorn the cover of their Christmas edition, while I finish off the year with my last workshop on Skye too. I feel this is a nice way to have closure on the year and it makes me feel encouraged about the year ahead.

The Drongs, Shetland

I was up in the Shetlands a few weeks ago. Jon, one of my participants from a workshop last year kindly showed me around for a few days and then left me with his car. Which was very kind of him.While driving past the Drongs on several trips, I found them just too far away to make a picture of, but in my mind's eye, I visualised the image you see here. This all came about because I parked Jon's car  and hiked in to the tip of a peninsula. Being high up, I was able to get this shot - it's a 6x7 image, shot in portrait mode and the top part of the sky cropped. I shot it with my most powerful telephoto for my Mamiya 7II - a 150mm lens, which equates to 75mm for full frame 35mm shooters. I'd like to get the 210 lens for the Mamiya again, but feel it would make the entire outfit I own much more of a drag to carry around. I had to return to using a tiny LowePro bag with just the Mamiya and three lenses in it because the airplane flight was very restrictive in what I could take. It's been a revelation going back to such a small bag and very little to carry.

There's some amazing scenery on the Shetlands and Jon has been suggesting I come back in winter time, which I'd love to do as I find winter light my favourite kind of light, but this shot's got some special light too - I think it was made around 9pm.

Outer Hebrides

Last year I spent a week on the isle of Harris. I didn't quite make it to Barra, Eriskay, Berneray or the Uists. So this May, I will be heading out there for a few weeks to photograph the islands I missed out on last year.

I've travelled a lot. I've been to many countries and many exotic landscapes around the world. It's been an incredible journey. If anything, what I've learned is a deeper appreciation for my own country. Scotland is incredible.

I feel that my own photographic projects for the next year at least, are going to be Scotland centric. I know that this trip to the Hebrides is only one of many to come over the next few years. There's simply so much to my own country and I can't wait to get out there.

If you want to join me, I'm conducting a photographic workshop on Harris at the end of May. More details here.

Skye Portfolio

Well, I know this must seem like I'm pumping out the photos at the moment, but it's not often like that for me.

Skye Portfolio

Part of the Storr

So to get to the chase, here is a new portfolio from Skye.

There are often spells of what seem like 'inactivity' to others, but for me, it's actually the opposite - if you're seeing me on the blog a lot, it's because I'm not out shooting! And if you don't hear from me on my blog for a while - it's because, well, you know - I'm out there practicing what we all love to do when we get some time.

I was up in Skye about a week ago for 3 or 4 days. I'd booked another trusty camper van for the trip, and almost didn't go. So bad were the weather warnings and advice not to leave home unless it is absolutely necessary. So I went!

The weather was pretty mild, but the landscape was still arctic. For those of you know know Skye well, the river at Sligachan had around seven inches of ice on it. I wasn't quite sure sometimes if I was standing on the ice or firm ground while roaming with my camera.

Skye Workshop

So you won't be surprised that I'm now offering a workshop to Skye for this December (3-8). This trip is strictly limited to 4 people as I thought it would be nice to do a much more intimate group size. The hotel we will be staying at is not far away from the Storr, and caters for 5 people max.

As I type, it looks like there is now currently only 1 space left on this trip, so if you're interested in coming, email me for more details.

The Storr, Skye

I've just begun to process my images from my trip to Skye last week. It's strange to be back in Edinburgh, with the weather being very damp, grey and cold, instead of clear blue skies, crisp dry conditions and lots of snow.

The Storr, Skye

Ok, so this is (part of) the famous Storr situated at the far northern tip of Skye. I had to use crampons and four season walking boots to get up here because the snow was so deep and icy in places too. This shot was taken in the evening. The sun in the winter is practically south, so as it turns out, being here in the morning or evening has pretty much the same effect - shooting into the sun. I got here a little bit late in the morning (trudging through snow waist deep in places, it robbed me of my time), so I didn't really have much of a chance to survey the landscape and make some good decisions. So I resolved to come back in the evening to shoot, now that I knew how difficult the terrain was to get around, and had already picked out a few spots for the evening shoot.

I've only processed a handful of images at the moment, but some of the films show some pretty crazy colours, courtesy of a polarizer used in a landscape where the ground is white and the sky is dark.... when you see the images I'm sure you're going to think I did something very strange to them.

Hope you enjoy this photo of the Storr.

Skye

I've just been spending the last week on the isle of Skye, again in a trusty camper van. Cuilins from the bay of Elgol (Jan 2004)

There is something quite liberating about a camper van. It means you can stop anywhere and be there for sunrise, or sunset, and if the weather isn't working in your favour, then you can always pop on the kettle and have a nice cup of tea (I'm British, that's what us British people do - we love boiled water in copious quantities).

Having said all that, I find spending a week or so, anywhere, on my own - a bit too much. So this time I brought a pile of Audio books. Some were great (thanks Bill Bryson for your humour and company).

So what was Skye like this January?

Well, I parked below the magnificent Storr landscape and trekked up there early one morning. I did however have to use crampons and four season walking boots to get there. Icy, perhaps three feet of snow in places, it was hard going, but well worth getting there.

The only issue I have with Skye is that it's simply too big an island. I did around 700 miles all in, and I'm knackered. Happy, but knackered. I've shot in some of the most bizarre winter conditions we've had here in the Uk for over 30 years... and I'm curious to see how the pictures turn out.

The trip started in Glencoe a week ago, and it was -15 there in the morning.... I was out taking pictures in snow drifts for about one hour, perfectly happy, but when I returned to the car, I met another photographer and we got chatting. Well, he got chatting, I got mumbling.... my face was so numb, I'd lost any coordination of it - it was just like I'd been to the dentist!

I'm looking forward to a bath when I get home, and then I'll work on my images from Skye.

Isle of Arran Portfolio

I've just uploaded a new portfolio of images from the Isle of Arran. Pirate Bay

Perhaps my most simplest of compositions yet. I do feel that conducting the workshops, has led me to understand a bit better 'why' I make images the way I do. I think this is good and bad. Good from the point of view that I can improve upon my compositions a bit better, but it's perhaps a bit bad in that being consciously aware of why I make decisions in the field could perhaps lead to being contrived. I hope not.

Workshop news & other stories

Isle of Harris Workshop
I'm just back from the isle of Harris, in the far north of Scotland, where I've been conducting a workshop for the past four days.

It's been a great adventure for the group and myself and I've really enjoyed the company (thanks Dudley, Jim, Kevin Lynne, Peter & Stuart).
The UK has been battered by severe weather conditions with extreme rain and wind. For some reason, the far north west of the country managed to avoid most of the terrifying weather. On Harris we had a lot of dramatic and changeable light, very worthy of a photograph (or twenty). Sure we had our fair share of rain too, but overall, we were able to shoot in some amazing locations with really inspiring light.
This trip has made me more convinced that there is no such thing as 'bad weather' and I've just ordered a 'storm jacket' for my trusty Mamiya 7II camera. It's well used to getting wet, but I thought it would perhaps help in shielding the ND Grad filters from the rain a little bit more.
Isle of Arran
I spent a week on the isle of Arran doing some further research for some photographic workshops I intend to do here in 2010. I always prefer to put money back into the local communities when I can, so I stayed at the Kilmory Bunk house which turned out to be a great place to base a workshop in. So I'm in the process of working out final details for two workshops here in 2010 (I also have Asynt and Skye in the pipeline too).
Don't you think it looks like a snake? slithering into the water?
Pirate Bay - a special place on Arran.
Apple
As excited as I was that Apple were looking at my work, my portfolio was returned to me recently. No reply from them, so I had to e-mail to ask if I was in the running. Sadly, I didn't make the grade, but a good friend of mine (Hi Darren!), pointed out that at least - I'm now on their radar, so perhaps someday, they'll use my images. Time will tell.
BBC Radio Scotland
If all goes well, I will be meeting up with Mark Stevens from BBC Radio Scotland's 'Out of Doors' radio program in Asynt during December for a wee chat with the intention of our ramblings being broadcast sometime later on in the month. I'll let you know if / when this is broadcast - so you can tune in.
Island Hopping
I feel the future for me is a Scottish one. As much as I have traveled extensively over the past decade, I'm finding that my own back yard has so much potential for photography that I've just firmed up dates for an outer Hebridean tour this January. Courtesy of a camper van, I'll be heading onto the islands for two weeks with my camera and trusty iPod for company, to make some winter photographs.
Scotland is my home, and I only really found out just how wonderful it was by traveling abroad. Being away has given me a new set of eyes and I feel this is where I'm going to focus my efforts on for the time being...... Where Scotland is concerned, I feel I've only just begun.

Orkney

I'm in in the Orkney's at the moment. A cluster of little islands just at the tip of the north east of Scotland. I came here about 2 months ago, but the wind was so extreme here that it was hard to stand up in. So I'm back.

The downside about coming back at this time of year is not the dreaded midge (mosquito), but the dreaded tourist ;-)

I was able a few months ago to get some nice photographs of the Ring of Brodgar (pictured) and a suitable long exposure to mark the movement of the clouds over the landscape.

Last night was entertaining though. I went back to the stone circle to photograph it and met two scientists who were on holiday. They had dowsing rods with them and were busy walking up and down the area noting where there were dowsing lines. If you've not heard about this phenomenon, then check out google for it. I'm a bit skeptical about most things, but I tried it - and it worked!

I'm off to Hoy today to go and photograph the old man of Hoy and also the fantastic beach at Rackwick. Weather is very murky, but hey - that's the beauty of Scottish weather - it's always changing and often moody.