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Islay: Lord of the Isles

By |2020-02-22T12:09:22+00:00February 11th, 2020|Categories: Featured Gallery, Portfolio Galleries|Tags: , , , , , , |



Islay: Lord of the Isles | Documentary and Landscape Photography

Islay is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland with a rich history, diverse landscape and plenty of whisky distilleries. For over 400 years Islay was the centre for the Lordship of the Isles. At their height, the Lords of the Isles were the greatest landowners and most powerful lords in Britain after the Kings of England and Scotland.

The journey to Islay involves a long, but beautiful drive through the Highlands, followed by a fabulous (depending on the weather you get) 1 hr 45 minutes ferry trip from the terminal at Kennacraig. The route is a busy one with many visitors heading to Islay intent on experiencing the nine distilleries (more are in development) that offer tours and tastings. I wanted to experience a bit of everything… including the distilleries.

Lordship of the Isles

Historically Islay was at the centre of Hebrides life for centuries. The Lord of the isles were based at Finlaggan, a remote location set on an island where the Lord of the Isles ruled over vast territory that included most of Hebridean isles and even in later years included Ross. Successive Lords of the Isles fiercely asserted their independence from Scotland, acting as kings of their territories well into the 15th century.

By the 15th century James IV of Scotland. had decided that he want to take the lands, titles from John MacDonald II, the Lord of the Isles at that time. John had made an alliance with Edward IV, the king of England, in 1493. The Scottish crown finally decided to remove a thorn from its side. The title of Lord of the Isles was taken, along with ancestral lands and estates, as a royal title and is currently held by Prince Charles.

Finlaggan

The visit to Finlaggan came with a problem to overcome. Lots of water. The previous week before my visit had seen Islay get huge amounts of rain which had saturated the ground around Loch Finlaggan flooding the pathway down to the island. Definitely a job for some wellington boots. The only issue was I didn’t have any. I could either look at Finlaggan from a distance or get wet. Plan B then. Drastic measures which resulted in me wading out in my walking boots and jeans. Certainly not the first time I’ve got my feet wet for a photograph!

The images from Finlaggan are among my favourites from the trip. The location had a serenity to it along with the beautiful scenery and the historic importance of the site. As with many historic sites signs of modern life like the visitor centre and local farms are present. I made the decision to try and use the ruins to block out anything in the landscape that ‘ruined’ the ancient ‘atmosphere’ of Finlaggan.

The Whisky Island

While a wonderful landscape and rich Scottish history may appeal to some of us, arguably the biggest draw to the island is whisky with nine active distilleries receiving a huge number of tourists and whisky enthusiasts each year. Each distillery has its own character and every tour has its own unique experience. Tastings are particularly popular with each distillery providing different levels to suit entry-level through to the whisky connoisseur.

Visiting Jura

With a day remaining it was time to take a look at Jura. The tantalising close landscape of the small neighbouring island to Islay draws you in and fortunately there is a regular ferry service taking a surprising number of passengers back and forth. The waters between the island can run fast during tidal movements as the water rushes through the narrow channel.

Although Jura has a wonderful landscape to explore, another big pull to the island is the small whisky distillery that produces Jura whisky.

Related Galleries

The photographs in this gallery form part of the Scotland: Lowlands, Highlands and Islands project.

My 2015 Edinburgh photography called ‘The Two Towns’ can be found HERE

The Edinburgh: Seven Hills project can be found HERE

Photography Prints

If you would like to purchase a print then the Richard Flint Photography RedBubble store has a wide range of images available.

Framed prints, canvas prints, art boards, metal prints, acrylic block plus lots more can be found on the RedBubble store HERE.

Caught by the Tide Photo Zine Released

By |2019-07-07T18:14:34+01:00July 8th, 2019|Categories: News|Tags: , , , , , |

Lost Running Shoe – Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk – September 2016

Photo Zine Released

I’m pleased to announce that the photo zine ‘Caught by the Tide’ has been released and can now be purchased from Blurb for £5.29 + P&P.

This is the first book released since Sea, Sky, Sand and Street in 2011.

Purchase ‘Caught by the Tide’


Click here to go to the Blurb purchase page


Zine Details

The twenty-four-page magazine has a total of nineteen images taken in Norfolk in 2016. The photographs were taken during a final family holiday with my mother that year.

The images conclude a trilogy of mobile-based photography shot in the English county over a number of years starting in 2009.

The Zine Website Page

The web page giving some background details about the photography plus links to purchase the zine can be found HERE.

From the Archive: Mist, Music and Memories

By |2019-06-26T11:08:12+01:00June 25th, 2019|Categories: The Test Strip Photoblog|Tags: , , , , , |

For this month’s From the Archive post, we head back to Norfolk in 2009 where the weather was almost as surprising as the news.

Mist, Music and Memories

Today marks the tenth anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death and the memories came flooding back. Where I was and what I was doing all come back to me with it all beginning the news of Jackson’s death. I’m not really a fan but as a child of the eighties, Michael’s music was a big part of my childhood and teenage years.

In June 2009 I was in Norfolk on a rather lovely farm campsite. After a very sticky morning run through the humid air, I remembered a tweet I’d seen before going to bed saying Jackson had been hurt and was in the hospital. It was when I checked the next morning that I found out via Twitter that Michael Jackson had died.

I was relatively new to Twitter in 2009 so that was the first time that social media had informed me of a major news story before the more traditional channels.

New Nokia

The tweet had been viewed on my first smartphone – The Nokia 5800. The phone itself was great with decent features for the time and a Carl Zeiss lens on the camera. Not so great was the Symbian operating system that must count as one of the worst operating systems I’ve ever had the pleasure to encounter. Smart it was not. It wasn’t that intuitive either.

Nevertheless, the 3.2 Megapixels camera was pretty good and provided a good introduction to smartphone photography. Sadly there wasn’t much in the way of photography apps for Symbian though. I’d have to wait for the iPhone to get my hands on some good photography apps.

[Video] Boats moored at high tide – Blakeney, Norfolk 2009

Weather Cycle

Probably the most memorable aspect from ten years ago was the weather. Norfolk has a very diverse range of weather but the changes followed the same pattern for around ten days. You had absolutely no need to listen to a forecast. The fog coming in and out reminded me of the classic 1978 John Carpenter film ‘The Fog’ where a ghostly fog would roll in from the sea.

The mornings would start off very humid and misty with the sea fret remaining in place until late afternoon. On an evening a storm would arrive that would clear the air and then the cycle would start again with mist arriving back for the morning again. You could almost set your watch to it.

Blakeney Pic

The image at the top of the post was taken in the late evening at Blakeney after a storm had cleared away the mist. The light and moody cloud in the background give an indication that the mist was starting to build up again. The humidity would build overnight and by the morning you felt like you could cut the air with a knife.

Blakeney is a charming village on the north Norfolk coastline that is incredibly popular with tourists. The car park is usually always pretty busy but Blakeney provides plenty of space to unwind. A walk along by the river Glaven always helps to recharge the batteries.

The eerie sea fret at Cromer Pier, Norfolk 2009

Ten Years On

A decade on and the images show their technological age – though not as much as the video does. No High definition. The camera sensor was only 3.2 megapixels and in low light, the results weren’t great. In good light, though the camera produced good results.

The Carl Zeiss lens was superb though and something I missed when I moved onto the iPhone in 2012. The Zeiss lens was as sharp as a tack and it let enough light in to photograph most scenes. Twinned with a good camera sensor I think it would have been a formidable combination.

Back in 2009, I was just starting to use social media. I’d started using Twitter in January of that year and was feeling my way. It was exciting. Ten years later and my social media has grown to include Instagram. Now though I have periods of abstention to avoid burnout.

In 2015 the Norfolk 2009 images were added to Instagram as a way of archiving these early mobile images. The images can be viewed HERE

Border Blue Sky

By |2019-05-17T13:13:59+01:00May 17th, 2019|Categories: The Test Strip Photoblog|Tags: , , , , , , |

East Coast railway train crossing the Royal Border Bridge at Berwick Upon Tweed in Northumberland.
East Coast railway train crossing the Royal Border Bridge at Berwick Upon Tweed in Northumberland.

It was a quick hop, skip and a jump over the Scottish border last weekend with blue skies high above. The weather couldn’t have been any better. It was far removed from the mist and rain of Edinburgh a few weeks before.

The last time I’d visited the borders was in 1992. That visit was part of a family holiday that achieved legendary status. In 15 days we visited various locations in Northumberland, moved into the border areas of Scotland and then finished the holiday in the Lake District. None of it had been planned.

Some twenty-seven years later I found myself travelling back along that same road heading north.

St Abbs (twinned with New Asgard)

A last minute booking found a rather nice old coach house near St Abbs, a beautiful Scottish fishing village. Just recently the harbour in St Abbs was seen in the Avengers Endgame movie as New Asgard – Thor’s new home. It looks and feels a lot like visiting a Cornish fishing village, especially if the weather is favourable.

St Abbs is a well-known location to divers. A boat full of divers were heading out as we arrived. Suddenly the alarm went for the lifeboat. Men dashed down to the lifeboat station, the doors opened and the lifeboat was lowered down to the water. Everything became clearer a few minutes later. Another diving boat came into shore at speed and it was only as it got closer that you could see someone on the deck performing CPR. Sadly a diver had got into trouble and had to be taken away by ambulance.

St Abbs may have been in a Hollywood movie but top billing had to go to the weather. Blue skies with occasional clouds floating by made the weekend feel more like August rather than May. The light was just perfect and reminded me of the quality of light you get in Cornwall. I was only away for the weekend but it felt more like five or six days. It’s always good to recharge the old batteries.

Bass Rock

Further up the coast is Bass Rock, a huge domineering piece of rock that was a prison at one point in its history. The photograph of the rock was taken from the impressive Tantallon Castle. It took some time for the ship to get into the frame as it made its way to the port at Leith.

At first, I thought there were small marks were debris on the camera sensor. Only later, when I was viewing the image in Photoshop, did I realise it was hundreds of birds in the air around the rock. The rock is home to over 150,000 gannets as well as shags, guillemots, razorbills and seals.

The lighthouse is built on what remains of a castle but the key role that the rock had during the 16th and 17th century was that of a prison. James I of Scotland sent his political enemies to the rock during the 15th century and later covenanter martyrs were sent there after Cromwell’s invasion of Scotland in the 1650s. These days the only residents are the birds.

Bass Rock - a bird colony, a site for a lighthouse and, in the past, a prison.
Bass Rock – a bird colony, a site for a lighthouse and, in the past, a prison.

By the River Tweed

Berwick Upon Tweed is a town I’ve passed through on the train quite often, but my last actual visit was in 1992. Where do the years go?

The River Tweed runs through the town and the three bridges crossing the river are iconic. The Royal Border Bridge is a very impressive piece of architecture dating from the 1840s. The railway bridge is so well engineered and constructed that very little adjustment has been needed for it to handle the heavier, modern trains. The only repair work required by the bridge took place in the mid-1990s. A nice recent addition (2009) is a lighting system that can illuminate the bridge in a variety of colours.

The photograph at the top of the post was taken along the fantastic riverside path running next to the River Tweed. The viewpoint for photographing the bridge and trains crossing was perfect.

Up and Away

With the weekend over it was back to base. The plan is to have more quick weekend visits to other areas close at hand. Spur of the moment type trips. Lindisfarne, Kielder forest and more Scottish border locations are just a short drive away.

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