Mugdock bluebells

On our regular walk at Mugdock, Lola and I decided to divert and go through the woods up the hill along a very narrow trail rather than our usual walk along the loch. And a good choice it was, as the wooded area, completely out of view from the main path below was carpeted with bluebells.

Moved by the sunset

This afternoon was the third time this week that Lola and I headed into Mugdock Wood for a wander and hopefully some photography of the devastation of fallen trees. Even after a week of cleanup, it still amazes me how much damage the last gales have caused in the city and the country side. I have never seen so much devastation and so many trees (and chimneys!) blown over.

On all three wanders, after an otherwise dry day, the rain started as soon as we left the car and headed along the tracks into the woods. Today, we retraced our steps from our previous wander, walking down the hill to the Allander Water and following the Wet Highland Way for half a mile or so.

The intention was to retake some shots (with the tripod this time) of a piece of bright red and orange bark that had fallen into a mossy hole in a broken tree. While Lola was running with a collie through the undergrowth I mounted the camera on the tripod and set about shooting the striking piece of bark.

Unfortunately, we started off too late and the light was gone, so with the combination of very long shutter times and dogs thumping past the tripod standing on very soft undergrowth, the results were a tad disappointing.

The rain started to get worse so we headed back and up the hill, where we got another photo opportunity, as the sky started to turn purple and red with the setting sun. Along our trek up the hill, I took quite a few shots of the silhouette of the birch trees against the colourful sky, both with a ‘steady’ camera and intentional camera movements.

Must go back soon, hoping that the striking piece of bark is still there and that third time is lucky.

Spring details

As promised in my previous blog entry Life is a blur here are a few intimate landscape images, or visual poetry if I may plagerise Colin Prior, from our Sunday afternoon’s wander through Mugdock Wood. I love this time of the year, with lovely detail and colours in young budding plants and flowers. The main image of a tiny purple pine cone offset by the young green needles is my favourite.

Life is a blur

After a glorious Saturday spent mostly reading the third novel in Stieg Larson’s Millenium trillogy in the sun in our garden, Sunday morning was a bit of a let down with heavy clouds and the odd light shower. So we decided to head into the woods for a wander off the beaten track after lunch. We had hoped for fields of blue, but unfortunately, the bluebells in Scotland appear to be out at least a week later than the England bluebells shown in glory on the web by others in the past week.

Thankfully the weather had improved quite a bit, so we ended up wandering through the woods with a mixture of sun and cloud. We started of from Drumclog Car Park, but headed due North across tracks through the woods rather than following the main track to the West. On reaching the edge of the woods, where the ground dips down to the swampy grass fields, we headed West, but when the opportunity came, we crossed the fields to the other side, crossing little streams meandering through the fields.

On reaching the path that leads down from Mugdock Castle to the West highland Way, just above the old gamekeepers cottage, we followed this well paved path down to the West Highland Way and Allander Water. A welcome opportunity for Lola to have a paddle in the river before heading back up along the tracks through the woods and back to the car park.

The light was wonderful and provided good opportunities for landscape photography. The images of the afternoon ranged from landscapes (vistas) to visual poetry (intimate landscapes) and abstract photography. In the absence of enough bluebells for a typical blue landscape image, I decided to experiment and make the most of the few bluebells in bloom. Using a slow shutter speed and moving the camera downwards while pressing the shutter button, I created some pleasing abstract results.

I used the same technique to take some abstract images of flowering broom and birches framed by fresh green grasses. I am pleased with the results, especially the mian image of the birches. The last image included is a reject, where I failed to get the camera movement and pressing of the shutter button coordinated. hopefully this will give you an impression of the few bluebells amongst the green grasses that form the basis of the abstract bluebell images.

A future blog entry will likely include the landscape and visual poetry images from this delightful wander.

A run in the woods

We drove up to Mugdock Wood for some fresh air and to let Lola tire herself out. Both a bit fragile and tired, partly down to a bit too much Rioja on Saturday night and partly down to the time of the year and the ‘wear and tear’ of work. We really need a holiday to recharge the batteries. The weather wasn’t great, very dull and grey with the odd flurry of snow. So my lack of inspiration was matched by my bland surroundings.

I decided to put my 100mm macro lens on the camera and restrict myself to look for ‘intimate’ images in the landscape, forcing myself to move around to compose rather than being lazy with the usual zoom. Very frustrating to start with, as I wanted to switch to my wide angle zoom on various occasions, but I persevered. Halfway through the walk, I started to think I would return without taking a single image.

But the approach paid off well as you can (hopefully) see from this set of images. Not only did I start to see opportunities in the chaotic forests for close ups, I also started to experiment with small apertures and shallow depth of field of the lens. Although I had the tripod with me, I happily took all these images handheld at ISO 800 and shutter speeds of 1/30 or thereabouts, certainly testing Canon’s acclaimed four stop Image Stabiliser to it’s full.

This is the first time I’ve really tried this lens in the field, and wow, I’m well impressed. Not only does it deliver outstanding images in the ‘studio’ for macro photography of jewellery (the main reason for buying this lens in the first place), it is proving to produce very sharp intimate landscapes and, more surprisingly, very sharp action shots. I’m bowled over how well the autofocus snapped on instantly with these two grab shots of Lola at full speed.

Sun on the moors

Having a lazy weekend after a very busy week, so we headed up to Mugdock for a Sunday afternoon wander (and to tire Lola out). Not really in the mood for photography, in fact not in the mood for very much at all.

It was a crisp, cold day with a winter sun making the walk very pleasant instead of bitterly cold.

We walked a longish circle starting along the Loch to the Castle, then across the swamp up to the high moors, passed the quarry and back to the Loch past the big, magnificent, solitary oak. As always, Lola was in her element, especially on the moors, running ragged, playing with sticks and finding ‘imaginary’ mice in the grasses everywhere.

I only took a few images, but I’m pleased with how they turned out.

A wander in the woods

Sunday morning turned out to be the start of another dreich, uninspiring day. Even Lola was unhappy going the distance to the corner shop to get the Sunday papers and the usual Morton rolls for breakfast. In the afternoon, we drove up to Drumclog for some fresh air and a wander in the woods.

We ventured onto the small tracks through the forest from the moment we left the car park, but headed slightly further North than usual and meandered along the edge of the valley South of Mugdock Castle. A wonderful bit of forest left to grow natuarlly and wild with views across the valley dominated by wonderful purple colours of bare trees. A mixture of old oak trees and chaotic skinny birches domiate this part of the forest, offering plenty of photographic opportunities. I could kick myself for leaving the tripod behind, as the light was mostly too dim to take images handheld, even at 1/15 second with the use of image stabilisation.

On reaching the West Highland Way, we headed North following the tracks along the Allander Water rather than the busy path. Lola was in her element, running with other dogs through the undergrowth, chasing sticks and paddling in the shallows of the river. I took some images of the waterfall, but due to the lack of a tripod I could not slow the shutterspeed down enough to get the falls turning into a lovely milky substance. Alas, there’ll be a next time.

Mugdock Castle

The castle grounds are worthwhile exploring, especially the area between the castle and the loch. There you can find fascinating old trees.

Insert 360 degree virtual reality of the castle.


On Saturday afternoon Lola and I dropped Lynn off in town, giving us a couple of hours before we had to pick her up again. As it was a glorious crisp day with blue skies we headed up to Mugdock for a wander around the Loch, castle, woods and moors. Some images from the castle, including a virtual reality taken in the walled garden, will be the subject of my next blog.

Our lazy afternoon’s wander took us along the loch to the castle and back more or less the same way, spending most of the time to wander of the path, exploring the loch side and the castle gardens. The loch was covered in ice with a topping of recent snow. A pity, as the blue skies and the absence of any wind would have given wonderful reflections otherwise. On the way back to the car park, we wandered of the main path and explored a little peaty stream.

The reflections in the stream were absolutely magnificent with a wealth of opportunities for good images. Unfortunately, time was running out, as we could not leave Lynn waiting. So no time to get the tripod out to take advantage of this beautiful spot, so I only managed to take the images below handheld. As you can see, the black peaty water, some spots of patterend ice, reflections of trees and blue sky, and stones piercing through the surface would have provided many opportunities for intimate landscapes.

As the weather forecast for Sunday was the same, would could always come back and spend more time on this spot. We did come back the next day at about the same time, but there were no reflections, probably due to a hazier sky, raised water levels and slightly faster moving water. A spot to remember for a future visit when the conditions are right.

Upside down reflections

A comment on flickr in response to the original image image suggested that I flip it upside down. Below are the two images, the original and one rotated 180 degrees. Use the popup slide show to compare the two version and decide for yourself which one is best.

In my view, the upside down version works well. It is debatable though which one is really the upside down one.

Snow in the woods

To build up an appetite and burn off some calories before Christmas dinner, we decided to go for a forest walk. We drove up to Drumclog car park beside the Milngavie reservoirs and headed into Mugdock Wood for a long walk that includes a stretch of the West Highland Way. From the car park, we walked along the main path until the first sharp bend and then ventured into the forest following tracks meandering through the dense forest and alongside the valley to the North.
After a long and winding journey, we eventually reached the West Highland Way and wandered South along this walker’s equivalent of a motorway. It was not as busy as usual, but still plenty of walkers about, with and without dogs. Maybe most people did not want to miss the Queen’s speech. So fun and a few chases through the undergrowth for Lola with her newly found four legged friends. When we reached the main cross roads of walking routes, we headed left, back up hill towards Drumclog.
The scenery throughout the walk was fantastic and photogenetic, although it was bitterly cold and the light was very dim. I am very pleased with quite a few of the shots I took during the walk, so you will find more than the usual below. The first half was all about trees and closeups, and the second half was more about vistas.
Although I had the tripod with me, I took most shots handheld with the camera set at ISO 800, still providing me with enough light to ensure a sufficient depth of field. The quality of images taken with my 5D Mk II at ISO 800 again proved to be exceptional in terms of image quality, even when inspecting these at full resolution. I find that, provided shots are exposed correctly and do not require recovering of shadow detail during post processing, shooting at ISO 800 does not jeopardise image quality.

Winter wonderland at Mugdock

After a play in the garden and the back lane, followed by a nice Sunday lunch, we headed up to Mugdock for a good long afternoon’s walk. There was a fair amount of snow about, but not as much as we expected, especially compared to heavy snowfall in other parts of the country. The loch was completely frozen over, with a nice, uninterrupted covering of snow on top. What a contrast to last week’s atmospheric frosty and misty weather, as the shot of the crannoch taken on both walks clearly shows.

Lola was running around through the grasses and chasing other dogs as well as being chased by other dogs. She really loves the snow and was in her element. Surprisingly, she seemed to appreciate her coat and, even though it was a fair bit too large, she was not restricted in her movements and ran ragged as usual.

On reaching the castle we headed out further across the crest of the hill before dropping down to the ruins of Craigend Castle. Towards the end of the hill, there are ruins of World War II anti-aircraft gun batteries. Not the prettiest ruins in the world, to the contrary, but with the brooding snow sky behind it, they made for a nice atmospheric shot.

Overall, it was a pretty dark and grim afternoon, and the light was extremely poor for photography. Still managed to get a few decent shots though.

And that was the first time ever we have been up to Mugdock with our Lola, when a shower afterwards to wash of black mud was not needed.