The Test Strip Photoblog

The Test Strip Photoblog


The Test Strip Photoblog is the mini-blog for richardflintphoto.com featuring new and archive photography, mobile images, experimental photography and more.

From the Archive: Veil of Mist

By |2018-11-28T15:02:31+00:00November 28th, 2018|Categories: The Test Strip Photoblog|Tags: , , , , , , |

Not so much a black Friday as a grey Saturday for today’s image.

This photo was taken on a misty, rainy and grey Saturday at Eilean Donan Castle in the Highlands of Scotland. Not exactly the usual sort for weather for good photography.  But that was my first atmospheric visit to the iconic Scottish castle back in 2012. The dark weather seemed to add some magic to the occasion.

I was staying in Dornie so was able to walk down to the castle that evening. The rain had follow the car up through most of the Highlands and kept up throughout the evening. Walking down to Eilean Donan castle, there was nobody around apart from a couple of wet and tired backpackers looking for a campsite. Sadly i wasn’t able to help them.

The image was taken on an iPhone with a little bit of tweaking in Snapseed to add some contrast.

The whole Eilean Donan experience really starts at Glen Shiel, some eight or nine miles from Dornie. The mountains tower above the road as the road heads towards Dornie and the castle. The A87 route itself follows an old military road built by General Wade in the early part of the 18th century to create better access to the Highlands for the Army to maintain order.

 The A87 road, surely one of the best roads in Britain, had wound its way alongside Loch Duich with a veil of rainy mist gradually falling back. As the car travelled around a bend, the castle suddenly appeared through the mist. It was a timeless moment that felt like a scene from a movie. A perfect introduction enhanced by the poor but atmospheric weather. Just a shame i didn’t have a dash cam!


Eilean Donan featured in BBC TV identity slot from 1997 -2002

Eilean Donan ranks among my favourite places. It has a tranquillity about it along with a rich history – although the castle is not quite as old as it first appears. Over the years the iconic castle has been in a number of films including James Bond – The World is Not Enough and, one of my favourite films, Highlander. It was probably the castle’s scenes in Highlander that made me want to visit Eilean Donan. For a number of years the castle also featured in a BBC TV identity slot from 1997 -2002.

From the Archive: Final Frames

By |2018-09-28T16:45:02+00:00September 28th, 2018|Categories: The Test Strip Photoblog|Tags: , , , , |

This image is one of the final frames shot during a project documenting the Territorial Army – renamed the Army Reserve in 2014 . I was just about to get a lift back to the Squadron’s HQ when i saw this scene of an AK assault rifle hung on the back of an army truck. Two or three frames were quickly shot, a few words exchanged with some of the soldiers and i was back in an Army Land Rover heading back to the HQ.

Over twenty years later, the image remains a favourite. For me, it sums up the subtle blend of military and civilian life in the Territorial Army.  The dented stainless steel Boots flask placed next to an assault rifle seems slightly out of place. It’s an object more likely to be taken to a picnic or to the work place than the battlefield. Ironically, after photographing helicopters flying overhead, troops dashing around and engaging insurgents hidden in the trees, it’s the peaceful tone of the still life image that appeals to me most.

In the years since the image was shot, the Territorial army faced an uncertain future only to find a new lease of life in the post 9/11 world. T.A soldiers served in Afghanistan and Iraq, and are increasingly taking on a bigger role with the British Army as consecutive UK governments attempt to ‘balance’ already financially strained defence budgets. Rather than reduce the army reserve, it now looks as though the plan is to expand the reservist numbers and their role within the Army.

Revisiting the image for this post, i came across a rather nice 16×12 print of the image made by my own hand in a darkroom many years ago. It’s now hanging on a wall in my house. The Territorial army project might be over twenty years old, but it remains a benchmark for my work as a photographer. It’s certainly a project i’d really like to revisit again.

The photography project Territorial Army can be found at https://www.richardflintphoto.com/portfolio/territorial-army/

From the Archive: The Climbing Photographer

By |2018-08-17T22:03:38+00:00August 17th, 2018|Categories: The Test Strip Photoblog|Tags: , , , , , , |

A man climbing on a gate and fence to photograph two highland cows  at Trossachs Wollen Mill, Kilmahog near Callander in Perthshire, Scotland

After the rather serious tone of last month’s archive post, i thought this month would have a little photo humour from 2013. The photograph, shot using an iPhone 3GS, is of an over keen photographer trying to get a clear shot of Hamish the Highland Bull. His discarded walking stick rests against the fence.

This photo was taken at the Trossachs Wollen Mill in Kilmahog near Callander, Perthshire during a trip up to the Highlands of Scotland in September 2013. The rather adventurous photographer was part of a coach tour and had decided that a bit of elevation was needed to get a good shot of Hamish the Highland bull. It took him a few, rather unsteady attempts, to finally get himself in place but he eventually got his photos. The advantages of climbing up didn’t actually appear that great to me.

The town of Callander is worth mentioning. The small Scottish town is on the eastern gateway to the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park and on the edge of the Highlands. Callander is often referred to as ‘the gateway to the Highlands’. As such it’s a popular town, busy with tourists either visiting Callander or making their way to the Highlands. I stayed overnight in 2014 and had an enjoyable but brief explore down by the River Teith. After Callander, you start the atmospheric climb up into the mountains of the Highlands.

A group of people looking at a Highland cow at Trossachs Wollen Mill, Kilmahog near Callander in Perthshire, Scotland
Not Hamish! A Highland cow with fans – Trossach Wollen Mill at Kilmahog, Scotland

A mile up the road from Callander,  the Trossachs Wollen Mill provides another welcome rest stop oasis for the weary traveller. Whether heading to or coming back from the Highlands, it’s used by coach tours, cars and bikers alike. It’s perfectly placed as a stop to stretch the legs, get some food and plan the next part of your journey. The Woollon Mill features a very busy restaurant and excellent gift shop packed full of Scottish souvenirs. The headline act, however, has to be the very popular, hairy and iconic highland cattle.

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Hamish the Highland cow

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Hamish the Highland bull was undoubtedly the star and most likely, the most photographed bull on the planet! He’d even pose for you! Seeing coach tours of people trying to photograph the superstar bull was funny, if slightly surreal experience. The lengths that people would go to always surprised me – the climbing photographer being a good example! When you think about it, there must be thousands of photographs of Hamish all over the world!

Sadly Hamish died in 2014 at the very grand age of almost 23. He was, apparently, the oldest bull in the UK and the second oldest in the world. The average lifespan is around 14 years. The Trossachs Wollen Mill’s other Highland cattle, Honey and Hamish Dubh, a black Highland Bull, carry on the good work.

From the Archive: Walking the Dog

By |2018-07-19T11:27:36+00:00July 17th, 2018|Categories: The Test Strip Photoblog|Tags: , , , , , , |

A couple walking their dog on the beach near Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk, UK

This is an image from 2016 but only just been recently added to the Norfolk gallery. Just viewing this photograph puts me back in a year that i’d rather forget, though that feeling is starting to fade with the passage of time.

Nearly two years ago, I ended up going on an unplanned trip to Norfolk for a week. My mother, who’d been diagnosed with terminal cancer just a few months before, had wanted one last final family holiday even though her own health was failing at a terrifying pace. We all needed a break after the months of bad news stacked on bad news. No silver lining had appeared. No miracle was going to occur. Emotionally we were all exhausted. Burnt out.

With hindsight we should have made the decision to holiday a lot earlier, but the chemotherapy and other hospital visits had made the possibility of getting away impossible. With the chemotherapy cancelled due to my mother’s weak health, the opportunity arose to take that holiday at the end of September 2016. Very quickly we made the decision to go to Norfolk and, as it happened, we made it just in the nick of time. Within a week or two of our return my mother would be incapable of travelling anywhere.

The ‘holiday’ took place in September 2016 and went better than I could have imagined. The change of scene did us all good even though my mother didn’t have the physical strength to get about that much. Norfolk had been an old family holiday favourite so it was a friendly and familiar place. Best of all, the travel distances involved were not huge. It was an escape, if only just a partial one, that enabled us all to relax us a little bit.

Sand blowing over the beach near Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk

I’d visited the beach near Burnham Overy Staithe on numerous occasions and taken one or two good images there including the photo of the man walking along the beach (carrying his boots) in a thick sea fret. Happy memories. To get there you have to walk along a winding path, probably about a couple of miles from the harbour car park at Burnham Overy Staithe. On a calm late summer evening, it’s a great way to enjoy the view, listen to the sounds of the Norfolk coast and soak up some fresh sea air. Peace. Bliss. Escape.

A strong but warm wind blew across the beach which seemed to blow all the worries away. The strong wind didn’t deter other visitors from enjoying the beach and it was those people that i concentrated the camera on. Photography is a great therapy. It can provide a purpose and an mental distraction just when you most need it. The instinctive mental process of looking for photos blocked out any other thoughts. I see a shot. One couple were particularly enjoying the vast expanse of space, their dog energetically chasing a thrown bright red ball again and again across the sand.

Chasing the red ball - a dog runs after a thrown red ball on a beach near Burnham Overy Staither, Norfolk, UK
Chasing the red ball – Norfolk Beach

The wind was incredibly strong and did cause some problems keeping the camera steady, but the light was bright so i did have a wide variety of shutter speeds to choose from. One thing i did want to capture was the movement of the fast moving sand so i tended to keep the shutter speed as low as i dare – around 1/80s @ f/22 for the top dog walking image, moving up to 1/250s @ f/11 for the lower red ball image.

The dog walkers were among the last pictures taken on the beach before i walked the couple of miles back to the car park.

The camera was a Nikon D3 using a 80-200mm Nikon f2.8 lens.

More images from the Norfolk project can be found HERE

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