Monthly Archives: August 2015

A helping paw

Mary has just finished a delightful little suitcase, constructed out of paper filled with tiny books.  This is now wending its way to Flora, our grandaughter for her 11th birthday.   Mary likes to keep a record of her craftwork and she asked me to photograph the case.

The light was good in the conservatory so I placed the case on the sofa and started to take the pictures.   But I had help.  Poppy wanted to lend a paw.   Indeed she seemed quite pleased with herself.   Was she saying, “Do you like MY craft work?”


The end of the road

The weather was terrible yesterday  for our journey back home from the Cromarty Firth – rain all the way.   But the sun was out again this morning as I went out for an early walk with the dogs.   What a surprise we got.   A road had been cut through the long grass in the field and we were able to walk a lot further that usual.   Lily’s coat gets very wet in long grass, and I loose Poppy completely – she Is so small.  But this morning despite the wet grass we were able to walk right to where the road ends in a sea of mud.   It made a great picture against the morning sun and the wind turbine at Uppermill Farm turning slowly in the breeze.




Evening View

One of the (many) joys of staying at Craigievar on the Cromarty Firth is the constantly changing view from the windows at the front of the house.   At low tide at dawn there are wild birds dabbling on the sand banks exposed by the receding tide.  In the full sun, the water sparkles.  In the rain, the laid-up oil rigs stand out against a grey background.  But perhaps the most spectacular of all are the dramatic, yet subtle colours in the sky after sunset.

Last night I was out in the garden with camera and tripod and caught this wonderful sky.



Rushing Water

I love the Fairy Glen at Rosemarkie.  The path meanders through the narrow gorge with mature ash trees and the burn gurgling by.  After the rain the burn was in spate, brackish water rushing past.   I managed to get a picture of some ash leaves.   It was quite a challenge since I did not have a tripod with me and I had to hope I could keep the camera still enough to blur the water and still capture the leaves crisply in focus.


The Polly Wolly Experience

The beach here at Shoremill on the Cromarty Firth is constantly changing, no more so than yesterday when we discovered a little river blocking the route of our morning walk;  the day before there had just been a trickle of water.   It’s not really surprising though, after a day of torrential rain.  The main road itself was flooded and water rushed down from the hill behind the house and onto the beach gouging out channels in the sand.

Best of all for the dogs was the water pouring out of the drain in the sea wall.   This required serious barking.


Two bedraggled but happy dogs returned to the house as we all took courage and crossed our new little river.

Oh yes….the Polly Wolly reference.   A song we used to sing at Scout camp fires, which traces it roots to the 19th century minstrel shows,  Polly Wolly Doodle.   There is a line that came to mind:  “We came to a river and we couldn’t get across….”


There are dolphins in the firth

Many years ago we had a holiday on the West Coast at a wonderful place called Rahoy.  As part of the deal we had the use of a little boat with an outboard motor and I was in my element messing about on the water. One of the things we enjoyed doing s going up the loch to watch the seals basking on the rocks.   I remember writing about the experience… started, “There were seals in the loch…..”

Yesterday I was able to get photographic proof that there are dolphins in the Cromarty Firth. We were sitting on a bench enjoying a picnic and watching the world go by.  We had a clear view out to sea through the Sutors, where the Cromarty Firth flows into the North Sea.   We watched as the dolphin watching boat buzzed out of the harbour on its daily trip and I could hardly believe my eyes as it was soon surrounded by bottlenose dolphins….well at least four!   I rushed back to the car for my camera and was able to snap a few pictures of dolphins in the distance.   Not great pictures, but my first ever of wild dolphins, including one as they swam past the legs of the Sedco 714 oil rig parked off North Sutor.


The skies have it

Mary once commented to me how interesting are the skies we have in Scotland.  We had flown back home after a holiday abroad, where all we could see was blue sky.  Our Scottish skies are wonderful and varied.   As I write this morning, I am looking out of the window at the Cromarty Firth.  The water is a bright blue, the oil rigs parked in the firth are brightly illuminated in the sun, the sky is blue and there are white clouds drifting past.

Yesterday there was a lot more cloud cover, making spectacular dramatic skies. At times the sun would peek through, or there would be the streaks of rain showers  on the distant hills.   Little wonder yesterday’s pictures focussed on skies.

And it all started at dawn.  I took the picture through the window, looking east towards Nigg as the sun came up.   Yes the skies have it!


Cromarty dawn


Looking west towards Invergordon


A sea of wild flowers on the shore


A surprise at the Sutors

“They will be ready in 15mintues,” he said.   Just time to let the dogs stretch their legs and have a look out to sea.  We had driven up to Cromarty to spend a week here in one of our favourite places.  I had ordered our pizzas and walked along the beach.   What a surprise to see an oil rig moored off the North Sutor at the mouth of the Cromarty Firth.  A subsequent search on the internet identified it as Transocean’s Sedco 714 semi-submersible platform.

I have taken quite a few photographs in this area on previous visits to Cromarty but this is the first time I have seen a rig here.  Mind you, there are more rigs parked in the firth just now, many more than when we were last here last autumn.  I wonder if the down turn in the North Sea oil industry is to blame?

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Feeding off the thistle

I have been looking at thistles recently.  There seem to be more about in the fields than I remember from previous years.   The bright tuft of purple at the top make them an ideal subject for a photograph.   I had an abortive attempt at a thistle picture a week or so ago with thistles providing the foreground to a landscape of the hills of Angus in early evening sunshine after a day of rain……but my thistle were out of focus.

The main difficulty with thistle is the spikes!   it is not so easy to push one flower out of the way to get the right composition.  An evening walk by the burn gave me easy access to this flower and when I looked at the result I saw I had captured some tiny beetles too, feeding off the thistle.


Alternative Selfie

I notice that the grass had been cut today in the bonfire field, as I call it.  it is a small piece of land bounded on two sides by burns by Station Road, and the Hatton Mill on the other two. This is where the bonfire takes place in November each year. It is very rough wet ground, with the weeds (wild flowers?) growing high –  not the place where I usually walk the dogs.  But tonight was different.

The sun was low in the sky behind the Mill and as we wandered over the cut grass I noticed an unusual pattern: long shadows of the Mill and me.  I usually try to make sure that my shadow is not in any of the pictures I take, but tonight was different.   So I shot an “alternative selfie” of my shadow and the distinctive hat which adorns the top of the Mill.


Stalking the geraniums

I have a few pots of geraniums on top of a little wall in our garden.  When we discovered Poppy’s jumping ability we decided this would be the easiest way to stop her jumping up and making an escape over the wall.

Over the past few days I have been trying to find the right location for a self portrait photograph to submit to a camera magazine.  it is amazingly difficult to get everything right in the camera when you are in the front of the lens yourself.  In the end, this is the photograph I submitted yesterday.   To get it I had to kneel down behind the wall so my head was in the right position…but it was too low down when I knelt on the ground.  A few cushions made the difference and there I am pretending I am about to photograph the geraniums.


Pure White

The everlasting sweet pea is now in bloom at our front door.   I am always amazed at how tall it grows.  I keep thinking that the support I put in place each year will surely be high enough, but no.  As I was about to find a stake and tie it up again, I decided that I should take a picture of one of the heads against the early morning sun.   The drops of water caught the light beautifully and you can see the flower in all its glory.


Self Portrait

I am working on a project just now to take a self portrait.   it is the current assignment for Camera School Creative in Practical Photography magazine.  I have been finding it quite difficult to do, and have been much happier taking pictures of dogs.   But the deadline is getting very close.

My problem is getting everything just right in the viewfinder while you are in front of the camera and not behind it!   And the tutors on the course say – no editing of the picture on the computer:  get it right in the camera.

Here is one of last night’s efforts, but I could not get away from hiding behind a dog  – if you think you can hid behind such a little dog as Poppy.  The real secret to this picture is Mary appearing in the garden and standing behind the camera.  Poppy looked straight at her.   Snap!