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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.

New Edinburgh Photos for Book

By |2019-04-26T18:43:03+01:00April 26th, 2019|Categories: News|Tags: , , , , , |

The Piper’s Audience – Lawnmarket, Edinburgh

The final images for the Seven Hills book were shot during a visit to a very wet Edinburgh in early April. I got wet and the camera got very wet too. A worrying moment was had when a bit of water poured out of the front of my 35mm lens. Fortunately, it was water from the front of the filter rather than inside the lens. The rain just added that extra challenge.

The street photography images shot that day fill in a few gaps with regard to geography and subject matter. Overall I’m rather pleased with what I got during my short time there. The level of tourists meant that I could work pretty much without being noticed. Everyone had a camera! The only concern was making sure the camera and lens were dried regularly.

A favourite shot from the day is The Piper’s Audience taken along the Royal Mile at Lawnmarket. I’d taken some shots earlier but found them unusable due to rainwater on the filter. After removing the filter I went back a couple of minutes later to grab the image seen above. The line of people, most of whom seem to be taking or checking a photograph, tell their own story.

The book now goes into the final stages of adding and editing text. I am tempted to slightly delay the release of the book until November. This new date would fit in easier with work plans plus it would also mark four years since the book’s first images were shot in November 2015.

Photography Books in Development

By |2019-07-21T20:41:05+01:00February 25th, 2019|Categories: News|Tags: , , , , , , |

Two Books

It’s been a while since I released a photography book with my first book Sea, Sky, Sand and Street’ coming out way back in 2011. Since then there have been a couple of books in the works about Norfolk and Scotland (and they still remain works in progress!) however, recently I decided that 2019 was going to have a book release. No! Let’s make that two book releases!

Unfortunately, I injured my back at the end of January which has affected my mobility and also been incredibly painful. Fortunately, I’m over the worst and starting to recover, but it will probably take a few more weeks of rest to get to the stage where I can go running my eight-mile route again.

Two Towns

I’ve always like to get something positive out of a bad situation so I’ve decided to create a couple of photography books looking at two recent projects set in Edinburgh. The first book will contain images from ‘The Two Townsproject shot on an iPhone around Edinburgh in November 2015.

The Two Towns photography was pretty raw and improvised but I liked the strong visual style of the images. That project also has fond memories for me as it was the last trip away I had with both my parents. Sadly within just over a year of the images being taken, my mother died from cancer after a tough six month battle with the disease. The Two Towns book will be dedicated to my Mum.

Seven Hills

The second book uses the recent colour images of the last couple of years shot in Edinburgh using a regular camera. The photographs have been edited for the book, however, a trip to Edinburgh is planned for late April this year, so a few more images will be shot especially for the book during that visit. I’ll also take another look through the colour images shot in 2015.

The release dates for both books is still to be decided but I’d like book one to be released by June with the second arriving slightly later in the year. The images have been edited and the layouts are largely in place for The Two Towns. The next task is finishing the text that I intend spending some time getting right. I’m intentionally keeping the design of the books very simple.

Classic Photography Books

Both books will contain a maximum of 80 pages with captioning on the left page and the image on the right. A classic photography book style. After a long gap from making books, I don’t want to over-complicate the design process. So far I’m pleased with the clean layout designs and how the photography appears on the pages.

The books will available via Blurb in eBook, softcover and hardback editions.

More news and details coming soon.

From the Archive: Veil of Mist

By |2018-11-28T15:02:31+01:00November 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.

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