Spot of sunlight on Slackdhu Crags

With the unpromising weather forecast this weekend, we changed our minds and took a wander across Muirhouse Muir instead of venturing further afield as intended. We started off  at the lay-by on the A81, about a mile South of Strathblane, and headed through the delightful little Nature Reserve and along Loch Ardinning to the Muir.

The circular walk over the Muir is on of my favourite walks in and around Glasgow and always makes for a great afternoon walk with superb scenery all around from the Kilpatrick Hills to the West, the Arrochar Alps and Ben Lomond to the North and Drumgoyne, the Campsies and Kilsyth Hills to the North and East. To top it all, the walk circles not just through a varied mixtures of moorland, but also through Scots pine and broad leaf forests with little lochs, pools and peat black streams in abundance.

The afternoon turned out to be dreich, lacking the scattered showers and spells of sunshine as predicted. It stayed dry all afternoon, with a very heavy and often very dark and brooding cloud base. The sun was notable for it’s absence with only two extremely brief, very localised appearances. So much for the weather forecast!

Thankfully, we were in the right location coming down from the Muir to Loch Ardinning when a spot of sunshine travelled swiftly from West to East, providing a brief opportunity to capture the spot hitting the Campsies above Dunblane and below the Slackdhu Crags under a very dark and brooding sky.

I am very pleased with the unexpected photo, warranting an framed enlargement or even a print on canvas.

Lonely Scots pine on the muir

It had been quite a while since we had a wander out over Muirhouse Muir, but on Sunday we decided to head there instead of going further afield due to the weather forecast as you may already have read in my previous post: Spot of sunlight on Slackdhu Crags.

We did not just venture out on the Muir, but took time to get to one of my favourite photographic spots on the Muir, located in the dip behind the rise from Loch Ardinning and flanked by the central heights with the cairn to the East and the forest at Craigmaddie burn to the South.

When following the path circling round the dip, through the forest and up to the cairn, this Scots pine (and it’s substantial neighbouring bushy tree) will look boring and unpromising, but venturing of the path into the dip and closer to the two trees presents wonderful opportunities.

The Scots pine can easily be singled out from varying angles (to get rid of the uninspiring bush) with fantastic backdrops of Drumgoyne, the Campsies and/or Ben Lomond. On Sunday, it was overcast with dark skies and limited visibility, so it proved to be a great opportunity for a monochrome image with a backdrop of Drumgoyne and brooding skies above.

These are some of the images from my archive showing the same location at varying angles at different times of the year throughout the past 11 years.

The first shot was taken on Sunday.

The second shot, taken on film in 2003 shows the absolutely wonderful tree stump as well as the ‘lonely’ Scots pine with the adjacent bush.

The third shot taken in 2008 shows the same view, with the bush now doubled in height and the ‘long gone’ tree stump. Today this bush is doubled in height again.

The last three shots show the Scots pine isolated from the uninspiring bush from different angles and at different times of the year taken between 2009 and 2013.

Sunshine and snowstorms

On a day of snow showers and sun, we headed up to Loch Ardinning and Muirhouse Muir to walk to the cairn on the Muir. When driving up through Milngavie, it became very dark and grey. Shortly after, the snow hit us. We drove on, as the day had been a mixture of snow and sun, hoping it would shortly clear up again for our intended walk.

We parked at the weir at Loch Ardinning and waited for about ten minutes in the car until the snow wore off before heading along the path beside the loch.It wasn’t long before we were walking in glorious sunshine. With Lola mooching through the high grasses, we were admiring the views to Drumgoyne and Arthur’s seat with a fresh covering of snow.

We reached the cairn and after a brief rest, headed back. As you can see in my previous post, the snow storm started to approach us fast shortly after leaving the cairn. Thankfully, when the snow hit us, we already had past the turn and had the strong wind behind us for the walk back to the loch and the car.

Not just cold and miserable, the horizontal snow across the loch was nearly a white out.

Walking back in the snow storm didn’t stop Lola from venturing of the path and running through the undergrowth and high grasses in search for phantom voles and rabbits. We marched on to the dry comfort and warmth of the waiting car.

Snow storm approaching

While out on Muirhouse Muir in glorious sunshine, black clouds started to roll in from the North East. Shortly after we could see a wall of heavy snow fall rolling down the Kilsyth Hills, filling Glen Glazert in minutes and heading our way fast.

We swiftly headed back from the cairn on the Muir to the Loch while admiring the dramatic view unfolding literally in front of our eyes. I only stopped twice to take a few shots.

I’m chuffed with capturing the dramatic sky, as from the moment we spotted the black clouds to the snow hitting us was around 5 minutes.

The first three are from a sequence of two shots taken while on still on the high ground, obviously the first two being a monochrome and colour version of the same image. The third giving more of a 20:20 view. The last shot was taken while part way down towards the loch, just before the snow hit us.

A sgor and a Scots pine

I have never lost my passion for black and white landscapes, but had lost my way a bit with my own images. Since going digital, I have never really got the hang of converting my own shots to black and white. Yes, I got a few good ones over the years, but I never seem to achieve the desired and satisfied results.

Now I have got myself a licence of Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2 plugin to Lightroom, I am finally achieving the desired results that I was wishing for and consequently have found my spark back.

I am slowly going through my back catalogue and re-converting some mediocre black and white images with surprisingly good results.

The highlight so fare, without a doubt, has been the above image of Sgorr Dhearg taken from the North end of Glencoe Loch in November 2010. I am not only chuffed with this new version when viewed on the computer, but I am actually over the moon with a large print on Da Vince heavy fiber paper. The framed and mounted print is just superb.

Originally, I made several attempts to convert the below shot of a lonely Scots pine on Muirhouse Muir. These were either flat, lacking depth and contrast or had loss of detail in the Scots pine’s needles. Without any sweat, at the first attempt, I got the desired result using Silver Efex Pro.

So anyone who is into black and white photography, must check out Silver Efex Pro.

A wander onto Muirhouse Muir

After several weeks of more or less continuous rain, the weather appeared to change during the morning to a dry day with a low winter sun. So I decided to head up to Loch Ardinning after lunch to seek some photographic opportunities and for Lola to be able to run and mooch on the moors.

On arrival, it looked like we got there too late. The last bit of mist was lifting off the loch and a light rain started when we parked the car. With the rain and more dark clouds looming, I choose not to take my precious Sanderson.

The winter sun was already very low, and the loch was already in the shade, so we pressed on and headed out to Muirhouse Muir onto higher ground. The autumn colours of the trees and bracken in the late sun light was absolutely stunning. While Lola got the scent of rabbits and was busy mooching, I managed to get a few of shots of the autumn colours, further enhanced by the rainbow, before the sun went down too far and the bracken ended up in the shade.

Further up the moors we got some spectacular views towards the Kilsyth Hills, with the faint rainbow and mist in the glen providing spectacular views. The sun was setting very fast, so we headed back to Loch Ardinning for some sunsets across the loch. The contrast between the bright sky and the shade moor and loch was phenomenal, so I ended up taking some of the shots below using both a 4 stop and a 2 stop natural density graduated filter.

Once the sun was gone and the sky turned grey, Lola and I headed back to the car. We must plan better and leave earlier the next time, as the short outing was just a little bit too rushed, and golden opportunities were missed. Then again, how can you plan for an afternoon out in the sun when the weather forecast predicts snow fall.

Creative white balance

Deliberately using incorrect ‘camera’ setting can sometimes give you a more pleasing or more interesting image than one taken with the correct camera settings. I think the term ‘accidentally on purpose’ nicely describes this form of technique that is somewhere in the grey area between creative camera use and user error.

Here is one example of using white balance creatively. In this image, exhibited in the bog entry entitled A Wander onto the Moor, I have set the white balance to tungsten, producing a warm result that would be similar to a ‘correctly’ taken image with a blue sky overhead reflecting in the ice. The simplicity of just the ice, the faintest of blue/magenta tones with the shadows really makes this image. The correctly taken image with the white balance set to auto is cold and lifeless.

A wander onto the moor

What a difference a week of thawing makes. Last week we were walking in winter wonderland in freezing temperatures, now there’s hardly any snow and ice left. The well trodden paths of stamped down snow have turned inot a sheet of very slippery ice. Apart from these icy paths and the frozen loch and little pools in the moors, all the snow has gone. Even Drumgoyne, the Campsies and Kiltsyth hills have little snow left on them. It even felt like the start of spring, no need to zip your jacket up with temperatures touching double figures.

The going was very slow due to the icy paths, so we walked along the loch, out up on the moors to the viewpoint overlooking Strathblane, the Campsies and the Kilsyth Hills. Especially, the views to the Kilsyth Hills were stunning with the late evening sun throwing it’s golden and red light onto these hills with a blanket of dark cloud cover.

Lola got the scent of something and scampered down into a little craggy gully. We followed her, deciding to explore this little gully. It’s always nice to venture of the main path and doddle around. That’s when you see the beauty and hidden gems often missed when running past. The gully concealed ice pillars along its rocy sides and lots of lychen including bright red patches entangled in the heather.

A short walk in distance, but quite long in time. On the way back, Lola made friends with a Portugese waterdog and they ran ragged until exhaustion overcame them. A nice outing after all on a dreich day.

Ne’erday’s walk

Happy New Year to everyone.

Ne’ersday, the start of another new year. I can’t believe how quick 2009 has gone though.

The big question for most people seem to be what to call this year, is it twenty-ten or two-thousand-and-ten. A close second in popularity is the mandatory New Year diet. Who cares, and being still groggy from perhaps a wee bit too much wine on Hogmanay, I really, really don’t care.

After brunch, Lola and I drove up to Loch Ardinning for a wander around the Loch and across the moor, and an attempt to clear my head. Lynn decided that staying the afternoon on the settee was a better option, so stayed at home. The afternoon looked very promising with fairly clear skies and a crispness in the air. The recent snow fall and the continuous below zero temperatures would hopefully provide good photographic opportunities.

I have never seen it so busy at Loch Ardinning, with all the lay by’s overflowing with parked cars and people all over the place. Luckily someone had just left so we got a parking space right in font of the entrance gate. Lots of Ne’ersday walkers on the gravel path along the Loch, so plenty of other dogs for Lola to have a ball with. Thankfully, most people stayed to the circular gravel path beside the loch, so when we headed up onto the moor, there were only serious walkers left. We spoke to a couple who said they went to nearby Mugdock, but were forced to go elsewhere as Mugdock was heaving with cars and people.

The views across the Loch and moor towards Drumgoyne were spectacular with a lonely Scot’s pine providing a nice contrast to the snow covered moor and hills. Ice and running water in Craigmaddie Burn provided great opportunities for intimate landscape photography. Unfortunately, I spotted the start of a pink sky across the mountains in the distance, so decided to move on for a quick traverse across the moor to the cairn at the highest point. Fortunately, this turned out to be the right decision, as the pink sky and late evening sun brushing the Arrochar Alps and Ben Lomond provided a rare opportunity to freeze this spectacular view.

With the sun gone, temperatures started to plummet rapidly, so we quickly headed back down to the loch and back to the car. The journey home turned out to be at snails pace, bumper to bumper. But the walk had been well worth it.

A very wet walk at Loch Ardinning

After Sunday lunch Lola and I headed up to loch Ardinning for a nice long walk along the loch, across Muirhouse Muir and along the Craigmaddie burn. In my bag I had spanking new natural density graduates that I hoped to give a test drive with a bright sky contrasting with the Campsies and Drumgoyne. Unfortunately, the clouds were very dark and grey so this plan fell through at the first hurdle.

We wandered past the loch, full to the brim with water, but empty in respect of water fowl. The swans, geese and ducks that usually litter the surface must be at neighboring Mugdock Loch hoping for bread from the hordes of Sunday afternoon visitors. At the turning point of the circular walk through this little nature reserve, we crossed the fence and ventered out onto the moor. Lola was in her element, roaming through the wet grass and black mud chasing imaginary rabbits and mice.

As usual, the view back across the loch towards Drumgoyne provided a wonderful vista, but not spectecular enough to set my tripod up. I took a shot handheld which turned out very well considering I had pushed the ISO up to 800 and slowed the shutter speed down to 1/40 to get a resonable aperture and consequently, a resonably large depth of field. We continued our walk uphill towards the tree line along the old dyke.

It has actually been a very long time since I had been to this part of the moor. I looked for the famous dead tree of one of my most successful shots: lonely tree on the moor. It was sad to see that only a little stump was left standing, so a repeat of the one taken on black and white film using my digital SLR was gone with the wind.

We had to backtrack and follow the main walking route, as the stepping stones halfway along the dyke were not even visible due to the swollen stream. We reached Craigmaddie burn and saw two photographers at the first waterfall. It turned out to be a pro giving a lesson in the field on how to shoot a waterfall with milky white water. I was surprised where they were. The first waterfall is not the best as there is a big pine laying across the pool in front of the waterfall and spoiling the shot.

Lola and I wandered up to the second waterfall which, although a little smaller, is much nicer. The weather was not good, but I am pleased at how the couple of shots have come out. No price winners though. Lola was getting impatient and started to run around the tripod, so we packed up and continued our walk to the cairn and then back to the Loch. Rain started to fall, so the camera was safely in the rucksack. We got back to the car just in time before the rain started to lass down horizontally. Happily homewards to a hot shower and a hot tea.