A visit to Teesside wouldn't be complete without a walk with my good friend Ian. Castle Eden Dene "Fantastic natural history and only 30 mins away" read the email. A departure from our usual moorland trek, this place is strange but fascinating. The first thing that struck me was the bird song which sounded all around us in this amazing woodland. Unusual plants, birdlife, natural features alongside man made structures including an impressive rail viaduct and a tunnel - pitch black, the first time we had needed a torch on one of our walks. I just wish I had taken a tripod and more photographs!
There can be no greater contrast than that between the landscape of Durness Teesside. However, both have their own merits. My twice a year visits to my former hometown provide an opportunity to meet up with Tracey, a talented photographer who's work exceeds her estimation. This time, we managed a long overdue visit to the Infinity Bridge at Stockton-on-Tees.
Teesside has a proud tradition of steel production and bridge building. The company my Dad worked for was responsible for the building of some iconic bridges around the globe including the Sydney Harbour Bridge (on which he worked) the Tyne Bridge, the Forth Road Bridge and the Victoria Falls Bridge in Zimbabwe.
The Infinity Bridge is a more recent crossing of the River Tees and it's reassuring that the skills are still available locally to create something of such immense beauty. This amazing structure spans 120 metres and has two continuous arches which give it graceful, organic appearance. This was the first time I had visited the Infinity Bridge but Im sure it will not be the last.
A stunning day. The sun already noticeably lower in the clear blue sky and not a breath of wind. After far too long writing reports on the computer, a perfect day for a venture out with the camera.
My old friend Alan shared many of his favourite places with me and Loch a Mhuilinn a few miles South of Scourie was one of the best. This little known nature reserve includes a footpath which was once the main road alongside a small loch. Now nature has reclaimed it but here and there are to be seen clues to it's past including several 'passing place' signs.
Today I saw more butterflies than I have seen all Summer. The turning colours of the bracken brought a splash of gold to the landscape amongst the grasses and heathers in what could only be described as a riot of colour. Visitors to the gallery often ask what filters I use if any. I'm sure this image will be attracting many more enquiries.
This is a magical place and well worth a visit if you're planning a trip to the area.
My digital SLR is a little heavy to take mountain biking but the capabilities of my little Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10 never cease to surprise me. The metering managed a decent job of a really difficult mid-day high contrast scene. It's also a tenth of the weight of my SLR.
Update - this photograph has been printed in the October edition of Mountain Biking UK magazine
The Red Route, Carbisdale mountain bike trails
Durness is an amazing place to live and work but it's remoteness makes a city holiday quite appealing. And so we decided to combine a city break with a visit to a country which has been on our wish list for some time. Reykjavik is a great city. Clean, friendly, and bursting with culture. I became fascinated by some of the built environment, in particular the contrast between old and new. I found myself returning several times to The Harpa Opera and Conference Centre and the Halgrimskirkja, an amazing church said to be designed to represent the geology of Iceland but also resembling a 1950s spaceship. It was fascinating to observe people's interactions both of these iconic buildings. There are few cities I have visited which I have wanted to return to but I know Reykjavik will be one of them.
We pass this spectacular waterfall each time we leave Durness and it never fails to please. Despite being easily accessible (with care) from the road, it is extremely difficult to photograph and I'm yet to discover a composition which I am completely satisfied with. On this cold day in March however, the sight was too much of a temptation to resist and so armed with tripod I descended between snow showers and managed to negotiate the half frozen burn to try a few new vantage points. The green and orange highlights are a natural feature which I would be interested to know more about and no, they have not been exaggerated in photoshop! All in all, a very satisfying hour or so.
The best camera in the world is the one you have with you. So goes the saying and it's so true. Today a walk on Balnakeil Beach presented the Big House in all it's splendour. Perched on it's outcrop of rock, this is a truly imposing building. It is thought that a building has stood here since the 12th century with links to the Bishop of Caithness and later, the chiefs of Clan Mackay. Age old stories tell of a secret passage between the house and Balnakeil Church dug by monks.
One thing was clear today, the mood called for a monochrome image. For once, I had the best camera in the world at my disposal.
Anybody that knows me will tell you that I'm not a morning person. That's a bit of a disadvantage when some of the best light is to be experienced in the early hours. A phone call from a friend on the way out of the village alerted me to some amazing light and low hanging mist - "get yourself out there" was the suggestion, and a good one it was too.
The light was truly amazing, the mist clinging to the hills filtering the sunlight and bathing the Kyle of Durness in the most beautiful soft light. The light and mist were constantly changing as a gentle breeze moved things along making composition challenging and metering more so.
As is often the case, my Virgo characteristics of over-analysis and concentration on detail meant that I didn't quite capture the image I was hoping for, however, this image of Grudie was a welcome consolation.
Back at the gallery in time for coffee, the image on-screen had a similar quality to that of a watercolour painting. Working with this thought, this became one of the very rare occasions when I have decided to soften the image slightly to emphasise the simplicity of the composition.
A very satisfying session - I must work on this morning thing!