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View from my house

The view east in front of my house, "Taigh Na Bruaich", taken around 6 o'clock one March morning

13th December 2013

My brain can't cope with Christmas any more. I fully intended to have all my Christmas cards sent out before December arrived, but to date I've given cards only to family and to friends who were visiting over the past few days. Please, in future could we do Christmas only for even-numbered years?!

My car was fixed in time to get me to Ayrshire for our pre-Christmas family get-together. While there I searched for, and found, a replacement for my ageing Audi. I should be picking up the new car sometime before Christmas.Of course, this has all just added to the stress at this time of year.

While in Ayrshire at the start of December, I took the opportunity to visit Clydeside in Glasgow with my camera. This is a wonderfully photogenic area and I've been keen to have a go at it since seeing some awesome photos from there. Sadly, the best day for weather was still pretty windy, so the reflections in the Clyde were nowhere near as good as I''ve seen. There were also some good viewpoints which were inaccessible due to repairs and building works, and the two main buildings were not lit up nicely as I've seen them at other times.

Nevertheless, it was well worth a visit and I think I managed to get a half-decent set of images from my visit. I want to go back and try again when it's dead calm and the Hydro and SECC (Armadillo) are better lit.

I've put a few more of these on my Flickr site.

Glasgow Clydeside
Glasgow - Squinty Bridge

Over the past few days I've had a long-standing friend, Michael, his wife, Rona, and step-daughter, Fiona, staying with me in Skye. It's been an interesting few days. Poor Michael has got himself embroiled in some very bitter politics in Scottish Archery. We were close rivals and, about 35 years ago, made our Scottish Team debut at the same time. Michael went on, a long time later, to spend 7 years as President of the Scottish Archery Association and is now co-owner of MRM Archery, a company helping to promote and teach archery. He is about as experienced, knowledgeable, and determined as anyone in the sport in Scotland and, given a fair chance, I am convinced he will get things back on track, even though it was not his idea to become involved. His phone has been red-hot during his visit here and I know he has lost a lot of sleep because of the appalling accusations and behaviour from the outgoing executives. I wish him luck.

29th November 2013

I've been doing a little more exploring locally for photographic locations. In all honesty it's hard to go any distance without finding something with potential. I've been looking at waterfalls and streams around Torrin (between me and Elgol) but I've been cursing the weather forecasters who have been saying we'd have a nice day, moving it back and forth, and then when the day eventually arrives, it's not as rubbish. Pah! It's so, so frustrating. I want just the right light, and for it to coincide with just the right tide, at Elgol but it's not happening. Not yet. It will though.

I've now added a new skill to my repertoire - I fixed my immersion heater! I followed advice on-line, ordered a new thermostat (18" long which fits inside a part of the heating element) and when it arrived in the post, I fitted it. That fixed the problem and cost me around a tenner. Job done!

On the downside, and it's a potentially big one, my car is sick. It lost all power driving home from badminton last night, which could be the air mass meter (a common problem in Audis and VWs) but until I get it to the garage and find out for sure, it's a worry. It could be something more sinister. Even if it is the air mass meter, they cost over £100 for the part, which is little more than a wire in a plastic housing. What a rip-off. I could have done without this when I was planning a visit to Ayrshire for a family get-together.

To finish on a more positive note, I've added some more images to my Flickr site so if you're interested, please have a browse of that, and if you've got a Flickr account then do please leave me some comments! (Thank you for yours Terry.).

9th November 2013,

Sorry for my "absence" throughout October, and thank you for your concern to those who got in touch because you were worried about me. Everything has been fine, I've just been busy with several things and have found it hard to find time to sit down and write. I'm watching the Federer - Del Potro tennis match on TV so I'll multi-task with the laptop during that.

I don't really have any outstanding news. All has been pretty much routine - a bit of photography, a bit of fixing up of things around the house, one or two visitors, and a lot of looking out the windows at the rain!

One highlight for me in the past month has been replacing the railings along my upstairs landing. Although solid, the old railings were too low (800mm high when modern buiilding regulations state a 900mm minimum) and 150mm between the spindles (building regs state that a 100mm diamater sphere must not be able to pass between them). The bits I bought for this ages ago have been lying dormant along one edge of the twin bedroom, as anyone who has been here may have noticed, but I was nervous about tackling this job as I had to be sure the new railings would be as solid as the old ones. I don't want them collapsing if someone leans on them! Happily, I've now put the new railings in place and everything feels robust. Of course, in keeping with the rest of the house, nothing was "square" and I've had to tweak things to fit. I'm still not quite finished. The handrail down the stairs will be the last thing I fit once I've figured out how best to do it. I've had to make the upright spindles down the stairs removable as space is cramped and they have to come out to allow for furniture or mattresses to be moved. It's all been like having a jigsaw puzzle without the box lid, and the pieces don't actually fit together anyway until you trim bits off. I'm sure a joiner could have done this in a day or two but it's taken me two weeks, and it's probably going to take me as long again to get it painted. (I HAVE started.)

Just 10 minutes into the tennis and already the umpire has TWICE had to tell the crowd, "No flash photography". This is a pet hate of mine. Why can't the compact camera manufacturers make the flash much harder to operate instead of it kicking in when people don't even know it's doing it? If you know anyone with a compact camera (or phone) who is going to a sports event, can you PLEASE tell them to set the flash to OFF. All a built-in flash will do is to light up the backs of people heads for about 10 feet in front and annoy everyone else, specifically the players. And me.

Stairs

Overnight we've had a good sprinkling of snow on the mountains so we've got a little of that beautiful winter scenery back. I'm looking forward to getting out with the camera. It's not that I haven't been recently: please take a look at my Flickr site if you haven't before. I have been making more use of it of late.

snow!

Footnote: the umpire had to ask AT LEAST THREE MORE TIMES for no flash photography. Please, if you're at an event like this and someone near you has a compact camera that's flashing, tell them. They're probably not even aware it's happening. If we don't take control of this, what's likely to happen is that event organisers will ban photography, stopping us (the keen, responsible photographers) while those with camera phones will doubtless continue to take sneak shots.

 

28th September 2013

Phew, another month has just flashed by. I've been busy, as usual, though this time with a mixture of fixing stuff around the house and garden, and preparing for and running a workshop. Sue, from Manchester, has gone home not just with some good images but with a lot more skills and understanding than she had a week earlier. Her very kind comment in my visitors' book reads:

"Spent 4 days with David and enjoyed every minute. David made me feel totally at ease in his house. The photographic sessions were fantastic and David's enthusiasm never waned. I have taken a great leap in my photographic skills. Thank you David!"

(I like reviews like that one!!!)

Part of Sue's workshop was to visit a location under the Skye Bridge because I'd seen a very graphic image taken from that spot. I liked it so much that I felt it worth having a go at myself. Normally I'd suss it all out before a workshop but I'd shown Sue the image and she was keen to give it a go, so we tried it out, and I think quite successfully. If you're unkind you'll accuse me of copying someone else's shot. If you're kinder, you'll say that we were inspired by what we'd seen.

Yesterday a friend here on Skye took me up to the Coire Lagan, a picturesque spot on one of the main routes up into the Black Cuillin mountains. I shall have to go back as we climbed into the cloud base! Visibility once there ranged from a few yards to a few hundred yards, though we occasionally got a glimpse back down to the beach at Glenbrittle. On our route back we crossed that beach and I now have a new favourite spot for "sand pattern" photos. Pictures of all this will follow shortly.

I've been saddened to hear about the death of another former clubmate at the Exmouth Photo Group, Keith Stephenson. Keith was one of the members when I joined the group,and wasn't a lot older than me, so the news was a bit of a shock . He had suffered an illness for quite some time but, typical of Keith, hardly ever mentioned it to anyone, and we all thought he was making a recovery.

Sorry that this entry is lacking photos but I've had a busy spell, with one thing and another, and just haven't found the time to prepare any for this. I have another workshop coming up and I need to prepare for that.

4th September 2013

I've been quiet on here for a while, mostly because I've been down in Ayrshire for the lead-up to my nephew Stuart's wedding! He and his wife, Rebecca, were married at Culzean Castle last Saturday. (Culzean is pronounced, "Cu" - as in "up" - "lane" with the emphasis on the "lane".) It was an awesome day at a truly awesome location. I was there as a guest, NOT as a photographer - I don't do weddings! - but obviously was snapping away anyway, largely just getting record shots and capturing the odd moment. Another guest of Stuart & Rebecca's, Polly, is a professional photographer and she's captured a lot of the details and more artistic views. The wedding photographer, meanwhile, was working like a Trojan and from the few words I had with him while looking at one of the images on his camera, I'm certain he's done a brilliant job.

Please click on the photo (right) for more of my castle and wedding photos.

Culzean Castle wedding photos link

21st August 2013

This evening I attended a presentation of photography by Takeshi Shikama, given to the South Skye Camera Club. Takeshi is currently a resident artist at Sabhal Mor Ostaig, the Gaelic College on Skye, which is where we joined him for the evening. His wife charmingly translated for us and looked extremely embarrassed when someone reminded her of a bottle of whisky she'd won in a raffle the night before! She's won two raffles on Skye and claims she's never won any before, so she thinks Skye must be lucky for her.

Takeshi's photographs are printed on wafer-thin hand-made "Gampi" paper with a coat of light-sensitive platinum / palladium chemical which produces the image after the original large format negative has been used in several earlier stages. You didn't follow that? Neither did I - suffice to say it's complicated and expensive! Producing each print is a work of art in itself, and no two will be exactly the same.

Takeshi Shikama
Scottish mainland

His photographs are dark but full of very fine detail and capture the essence of forests, a subject about which he is now passionate.

As you may have noticed in the photo above, Takeshi had to compete for our interest with the magnificent scenery through the windows behind him. As he finished his presentation, pink light from the setting sun was catching the clouds over the mainland and I had to nip out and do what I could to catch the scene. A low band of cloud and a boat on the water helped me along a bit. Imagine having this scenery while you're at college. How does anyone work or study there without being distracted by it?!

Takeshi leaves at the end of September but he hopes to see us again before he goes to give us a flavour of what he's been working on while here on Skye.

 

16th August 2013

garden
garden
 
August has not brought me much good weather so far. However, in spite of this, I've been spending time in the garden and it's starting to shape up. The new little wall is now complete and a new step is well on its way. I've dug up loads of old uneven concrete and have spread some more of the gravel. All that has helped a lot with making things look tidier.. The barbecue is actually just a pile of bricks at the moment. I've stacked them in place to get an idea of how it will be (and how I'm going to build it) but that's all so far, apart from the solid base they're standing on of course.

It's not long now till my nephew and his fiancée get married at Culzean Castle in Ayrshire. It should be spectacular and I'm looking forward to it., though not half as much as they must be! We're due to play golf on the morning of the wedding. Now that's style!

I have workshops booked for late September and early October. By then the daylight hours will be shorter and so should make photography a little more sociable! The autumn, winter, and spring are all great times for photography on Skye, with winter having that added bonus of providing low level light throughout the daylight hours - the sun never really gets high enough to give that harsh, midday light.

1st August 2013

Good grief, August already. I'm only just getting used to the idea that it's summer.

I thought I'd put up some before and after shots as I've been making a bit of progress outside. I'm starting the long job of tidying up around the edges and have been having fun with the powerful hammer drill / chisel I got at Christmas (not a gift, just something I picked up from a tool store while visiting civilisation).

Yesterday I dug up the old path to the shed which was made of cracked pink concrete slabs. Yuck. I plan to extend the gravel over where the path was and build steps on either side of the gravel to give me easy access to the shed. I'm also tidying up the right edge of the old foundations. I might try my bricklaying again along that edge to create a low, neat wall as an edging for the gravel.

At the far end i've laid a few old paving slabs as a base for a brick barbecue. If the brick barbecue doesn't get built, at least it's a nice sheltered spot for the bird table.

Before after 1
before after 2

The rendering I've had done should go a long way to solving the damp issues and not just to making the house look a lot better. The old render was a truly horrible mess. The only problem with the new stuff is that when I whitewash it, the rest of the house is going to look really dull and mucky. I don't particularly want to have to whitewash the whole house, not yet anyway. We'll see how things go.

There's still a fair bit of new render I've not yet whitewashed but I plan to leave it at least another week or two.

I can't tell you how much happier it has made me to see this job done. I'm also now feeling hopeful that I've added quite a lot of value to the house, hopefully a lot more than I've been spending on it.

 

At the front of the house, things are shaping up nicely. The old, very uninviting and, let's face it, dangerous approach to the front door is now looking a lot more welcoming but I've still got a long list of things to do here - concrete edging, pointing between the coping stones, paint the coping and cap stones, and dig out all the weeds (again).

I'd like to put a few planters around the front garden. A tub with a small bush and flowers might work well on the gravel by the front door, or maybe what my neighbours a couple of doors down have done would work. They've got an interesting piece of driftwood with red flowers growing on or around it. I've not seen close up what they've done but it's a nice idea. In the larger area at the front there are some old tree stumps sticking up through the gravel. I couldn't remove them, but I've been thinking that I could build a planter over each. Once planted out these would brighten the place up a bit while disguising the stumps underneath.

I'd like to replace the front door with something a little grander. I don't mean a big oak studded door from a castle, just something that's better than what I've got now. However, it would be an expensive nicety so it will probably have to wait a while.

Across the road is still a mess, and I'm afraid it's going to have to stay that way until I've dealt with other higher priorities. The big pile of gravel left over from what I've already spread will probably all get used. I've certainly got a few places earmarked for it. Down the slope to the river is very overgrown at the moment and pretty inaccessible. However, when I last spoke with my neighbour, Alan, I discovered he was thinking along the same lines as me, that it would be great to put in a path along the river side. In fact,, he was thinking bigger than me, hoping that several of us might be able to work together on this and share a path down there. Anyway, it's an idea I'm keeping in mind.

before after 3

 

29th July 2013

In case anyone is interested, this is where my house sits within the local landscape, with Broadford Bay down to the right..

Oh yeah, and I found those ammonites I was looking for. They're bigger than dinner plates!
ammonites

My house

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I'm making some progress with the kitchen cupboard I've been building as well as whitewashing some of the new rendering and digging up the edge of the foundations of the old building behind the house in an effort to tidy things up. The stone chips were a big step towards making everything more presentable but it's all still very untidy around the edges. At the rate I'm going, and with the weather forecast for the next week, it's going to remain untidy for a while yet! I'm finding out that chipping out old concrete blocks is hard, tiring work. I'm not exactly sure what I'm doing: I'm sort of making it up as I go but I do know I'm going to need a fair bit of concrete and I'll probably be building more walls. Anyone got a cement mixer they don't need?!

26th July 2013

The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted a bit of a change to my website! What happened was that I tried, and liked, a new way of generating my photo galleries but I couldn't get them to match the rest of my site. So, if the peg doesn't fit the hole, cut the hole to fit the peg. With that in mind, I've brought the rest of the site more in line with the generated galleries. It's not a perfect match but it's close enough to feel "integrated". I've also now made the galleries appear in new browser tabs because there was no way to go back to the previous level without paging backwards through all the images you'd viewed: far easier just to close the tab and carry on where you were. Websites evolve, so don't be surprised if you see it change again.

I've also added a lot more photographs from Kate & Geoff who visited me in June, so please check those out under my "Guests' Galleries".

Boat wreck, Heast Boat wreck, Heast

This afternoon I set out in search of an old boat wreck I've seen photos of, and without too much difficulty I found it. I timed my search to coincide with low tide, that having priority over the light to be honest, and so didn't expect to get any worthwhile shots in the afternoon light. However, it wasn't too bad and I got some nice clouds to help give a bit of mood to the images. It's a bit squelchy underfoot there but it was well worth getting my socks a little wet to get up close and personal with the old wreck.

On my way home I took a diversion to look for a large fossil ammonite I'd also seen photographed, not far from my home. However, I was unable to find that. I did find a poor example of the same type of fossil but the one I've seen photographed is truly stunning. I shall have to find it another day.

 

Loch Coruisk

Last Saturday I visited Loch Coruisk with the South Skye Camera Club. Actually there were just four of us from the club but the rest missed a scorching summer's day out. It's a stunning location with the inland loch surrounded by mountains, and a short river (the shortest in Europe, so we were told by the Misty Isle boat crew) running to the sea. We were there at about the worst time of day for photography (early afternoon) but it was still worth a climb of nearly 500 feet in hot sun to reach a stunning viewpoint. The Misty Isle boat owners were very helpful and informative and I'll certainly sail with them again.

This is an area I would like to revisit but with a tent so I can stay overnight and catch the sunrise. I'm keeping one eye on the weather forecast! I now have a lightweight 1-man tent and a tiny, lightwieght sleeping bag, so I should have room in the backpack for a fair bit of camera equipment

A couple of weeks earlier the camera club had an evening out at Ord, a quiet little "out of the way" settlement on the Sleat peninsula. One of the SSCC members, Rob, lives next door to the old steading (right) and he kindly gave us a bit of a tour of Ord, followed by drinks on the beach to watch the sun setting. Then, just as people were heading home, a young lad turned up with his restored tractor (all his own work) and so I couldn't resist a wide-angle shot of that. Thanks to Rob's informative tour, I now have a couple more spots to explore and perhaps take visiting photographers, but more about that another time.

The South Skye Camera Club is barely a few months old but I've already made some great contacts and have found some interesting places I might not otherwise have found, or at least not for a long time.

Ord Steading
Ord Sunset Ord Tractor

19th July 2013

Oops, I inadvertantly deleted this entry and now I can't remember what it said!

It must have been to praise local lad, Joe, for his re-rendering job on the back wall of my house (and the wall I built at the front). As you can see in the photo, I shall need to whitewash the new render (I have to wait about 4 weeks before I can do that) but even as it is, it looks a whole lot better than it was, and not just because of the blue sky (though it helps).

This is a job I've been keen to have done for ages now so it's a relief to put a line through that "to-do" list item. Some lead flashing and a drainpipe still need to be put back but that should happen soon.

House fix

13th July 2013

Bla bheinn waterfall
Bla Bheinn Waterfall

Today I was supposed to meet my friends Gill & Brian when they stopped in to see me for lunch on their drive back south to Devon after visiting family in the Highlands. Unfortunately, I got my days mixed up and, thinking they were dropping by in the next day or two, headed out with a local friend to find a waterfall she'd seen in a photograph. I'm gutted at missing Gill & Brian, and letting them down, to say nothing of depriving them of their lunch! What a twit I am. On the up-side, at least I now know where to find this spectacular cascading waterfall.

Over the past few days a local builder, Joe, has done a wonderful job of re-rendering part of the rear wall of the house and rough-casting the wall I built at the front. It will be a few weeks before I can whitewash it all so it blends in but even now it's looking a lot better than it was. More importantly, it should provide proper protection against the elements. Joe is due back on Monday, weather permitting, to finish off a couple of minor bits and remove his scaffolding and other gear. Pictures will follow after that as I'm too impatient to wait until I've painted it!

While Joe has been working here, I've been tied to the house and so took advantage of the glorious weather and finally finished off the garden clearance. There's still a lot of tidying around the edges and attention to detail needed, but at least I've now got rid of the last of the tall weeds, reeds, and grass in the back garden. All the kneeling down I've done to dig out grass and weeds from under bushes has left my knee feeling very sore (an old skiing injury).

I also found out this week that my neighbour, Alan, has been thinking along the same lines as me about trying to put in some kind of access down to the river on the other side of the road. He thinks it would be nice if several of us could use a shared path, which sounds good to me. I suspect it'll be quite a while before we make any progress with that though.

8th July 2013

For the past couple of weeks I've been spending a lot of time - too much, if I'm honest - watching Wimbledon. The weather here (since the official start of summer!) has been horrible and so it was all the excuse I needed. I am, of course, absolutely tickled pink about Andy Murray winning!!!

The weather forecast for the next few days is much better so I hope I'll get out with the camera. I also have a builder due to replace the rendering on the back wall of the house this week. It will be nice to get that done at long last.

25th June 2013

Today was a little different! My friend Sheila's sister, Julia, arrived for a drive around Skye in her Morgan. (She's in the Highlands for a few days with 9 other Morgan owners.) It was certainly a different, and fun, way to see the island. What amazed me most was how many times people, young and old, stopped to look at the car, or to photograph it with or without us in it.

We zipped up past the Old Man of Storr, up over the Quiraing, into the Fairy Glen, back down through Portree and then across to Carbost for a quick visit to the Talisker Whisky distillery. Don't worry, neither of us imbibed! (Well, no more than a thimble-full sample of their 18 year old malt.)

Morgan view
Julia's Morgan
Julia's Morgan

 

Red deer

Red deer

This handsome young chap has been visiting recently. Around 6pm yesterday I spotted him munching on the Rowan trees behind my house, and around 11pm the night before he and a lady friend were grazing along the roadside at the front of my house. The photo above is him at the edge of my parking bay. I consider it a real privilege to see wild animals approahing so closely, albeit warily.

Well, it makes a change from watching the sheep I suppose...

21st June 2013

Officially it's the first day of summer, and the longest day, and what do we get? Incessant drizzle. Ugh! So much for my idea to see how many rounds of golf I an fit into our 18 hours (or more) of daylight. (I think my brain might be expecting more than my body will tolerate these days anyway.)

Friends Di & Chris started their 2 day drive back home to Kent this morning. It was brilliant catching up with them. I can hardly believe it was 30 years ago that I attended winter archery training at Crystal Palace, organised by Di. We visited the otter hide overlooking the ferry crossing between Glenelg and Kylerhea but although we saw a dozen or more seals, we didn't see any otters. Poor Di is suffering from back pains as well as sciatica, so we didn't stay that long. However, the hide's sightings book shows that otters and white tailed sea eagles had been seen most days so I might spend some more time there myself. Unfortunately it's unlikely that any decent photos will be forthcoming (public hides often don't provide the best photo opportunities) so it would simply be for the joy of seeing them..

Photographically I've done nothing of note in the past week except receive a variable ND filter in the post. I must try it out soon to see if it's any good. However, Kate, one of my guests here in early June, has sent me one of the otter photos she got on her last day here, so please check it out on her gallery page. I'm extremely envious and plan to stake out the area where Kate saw it next chance I get.

17th June 2013

I've just heard the sad news from Exmouth that an old friend of mine from the photo group there, John Douglas, passed away this morning. I heard a short time ago that John had been diagnosed with cancer and was in hospital with pneumonia, and so I have been dreading this news. John always greeted me with a big warm smile and my enduring memory of him will be the cheerful twinkle in his eye and the kindness he and his wife Kay always heaped upon me - I never did figure out what I'd done to earn it. Now I feel so far away and helpless but that pales into insignificance compared to how poor Kay must be feeling. My thoughts are with her and their family.

13th June 2013

From early this month I've had guests staying with me on a photo workshop and then an extended stay to continue their photography on and around Skye, so I've had little time to keep my blog up to date. For the first week we had glorious, sunny weather, though photographically that brought its own difficulties. Whilst holidaymakers might love the midday sunshine, it is pretty useless for us photographers. Also, with it now being so close to the longest day, the sun rises around 4.30am and sets about 10.30pm, so those "golden hours" are at extreme times. In all honesty we'd be better to start our photographic day in the evening, stay up until the sunrise, and then head home to bed to sleep during the day. This is what a totally dedicated landscape photographer will do but I need to temper this to suit the needs of my guests, and for this week we've not really tried for the good morning light, concentrating more on the other end of the day.

Here are some of my photos from the past week or so...

Flower
Flower in the Rocks
Skye Bridge sunset
Sunset under the Skye Bridge
Neist Point
Neist Point
Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle
Sunset over the Hebrides
Sunset over the Hebrides

31st May 2013

We had a lovely cloudless day yesterday. Then, as the evening arrived, a few light clouds started to appear. A good sunset looked certain so off I went in search of it. I was not disappointed. So, for my friend Annette whose "significant" birthday it is today, here are a couple of photos showing the sun going down as your day approached. Enjoy! (Modesty forbids me from saying WHICH birthday Annette is celebrating!)

Badicaul sunset 1
Badicaul sunset 2

28th May 2013

Where have the last 2 weeks gone? I'm struggling to remember what's kept me occupied though I know I've been far from idle. I've papered the kitchen ceiling, I've built a seat in the porch so people can sit to remove their boots, I've played in a badminton competition and hurt my elbow, though by the time I got to bed it was my shoulder that ached and kept me awake half the night (all better now!), I've dug out all the grass and weeds in a flower bed that was too much to tackle last year, and I've had my friend from school-days, Alan, here with his brother, David, for the best part of a week. In four days they reached the summits of eight Munros (Scottish mountains over 3,000ft), and in far from easy conditions as they needed ice-axes, crampons, and ropes for a lot of the time. I was impressed but will NOT be following in their footsteps!

The sheep have gone. I spotted one lying dead in the middle of some scrubland across the road and was concerned that it might be our Fluffy. However, when the farmer turned up to bury it, old Fluffy appeared and stood watching intently from a safe distance, so the old survivor is still going. Her companion with the lamb was nowhere to be seen (but was not the dead one). I think the farmer has now caught them all and taken them back home.

However, as the sheep depart the deer are moving in. I've seen them across the road a couple of times and one grazed just a few feet from my back garden fence. I've also had a large influx of siskins and lesser redpolls at my bird feeder, and have had an occasional appearance from goldfinches and greenfinches.

Stop press: the red deer (right) has just walked along the road past my house in broad daylight!

red deer
Red deer at my garden fence
siskin
Siskin
Lesser Redpoll
Lesser redpoll

This weekend my sister came up with a car-load of plants for me from her garden and we spent two long, hard days, planting them as well as rearranging all the daffodils that sprang up around the garden this spring. We think one small silver birch she brought is a seedling from her own silver birch, which in turn was a seedling from our Mum's, so we felt some sentimentality planting it in my garden. We also visited the Duncraig Garden Centre over by Plockton to get a variety of heathers for the garden. It's looking a lot more "looked after" now and should improve even more as it matures, though there's still a fair bit I need to tackle with a strimmer!

I'm also now tackling the middle upstairs bedroom which is desperately in need of a few fixes and decoration. I'm not doing anything major - no moving or replacing of walls (yet) - but it still takes time to sort out some of the sockets and light switches which need to be slightly relocated. The floorboards also need attention to stop them making horrible squeaky noises.

Next week I have a couple of photographers from Essex coming up for a workshop and staying on for a few more days, and then almost immediately after that I've got friends Diane and Chris up from Kent for a visit. It's all go!

As I was writing this I had the French Open Tennis on the TV, with Djokovic playing Goffin. All through that match I was hoping that someone would stuff a sock into the gob of the irritating load-mouth in the crowd who was shouting out tunelessly after every single point. He sounded drunk. I pity those spectators who were sitting anywhere near him. Let's hope he doesn't get in for any more matches.

10th May 2013

Mo & Sarah left on Tuesday and guess what? The sun came out! It was so unfair on them, after getting so much rain while they were here, but at least they got great weather for travelling. We still got out to see the sights and we certainly got some good photos when the opportunities were there. A misty shot of the Old Man of Storr was NOT one of these. We couldn't even see it as we drove past! Anyway, I thought I'd put some more of my photos from their visit on here for everyone to see.

Talisker Sand
Sand at Talisker Bay

Mo
Mo photographing waves

Gesto Farm
Gesto Farm buildings
Lone Tree
Lone Tree, Loch Slapin
Crashing Waves
Stormy Sea at Elgol
Abandoned Church
Abandoned Church, Tarskavaig
Abandoned Boat
Abandoned Boat, Toskavaig
Plockton
Plockton
Mo at rest
Mo resting

I think maybe I tired Mo out! With some crazy manipulations I turned these drab scenes into more colourful images. They'll definitely not be to everyone's taste but it fills a rainy evening trying it out, and sometimes the results can be interesting.

Sarah and Mo enjoyed their visit to Plockton even if it didn't provide any first class images on this occasion, and I had the best mug of hot chocolate of the week in the cafe there!

Lamb
Too cute
Cow & calf
Mother and calf
Peekaboo
Peekaboo!

The last day with Mo & Sarah turned into "animal day". Looking out at the weather in the morning, we really didn't expect to get out at all. However, the sky brightened a bit and so we set off on a quest to find some highland cattle to photograph. I'd recently noticed them with calves and thought this might be worth looking for.

Some low cloud along Loch Sligachan gave us reason to stop there for a panorama shot.

Loch Sligachan
Loch Sligachan

Following that we visited the Kilchrist churchyard and were rewarded with the sight of it full of sheep and their lambs - quite odd, seeing them all around the old gravestones.

The rain began again and so we figured it would be a good time to pop back to the house and work on the photos while watching the end of the World Snooker Championships - at Mo & Sarah's request, honest!

A day or two after Mo & Sarah left I got a beautiful sunny evening followed by an even better morning, and so I visited a nearby ruined manse to try shooting there in different lights.

Ruined manse, evening light
Ruined manse, evening light
Ruined manse, morning light
Ruined manse, morning light
Willow Warbler
Willow Warbler, adding to the dawn chorus
Loch Kilchrist
Morning light over Loch Kilchrist

Finally, a word of warning: don't turn your back on Skye's lambs... they are Ninjas!

Ninja lambs

4th May 2013

Mo
Mo getting some stormy weather shots

Friends Mo & Sarah from Exmouth arrived last Tuesday for some photography around Skye. They had lovely weather on the drive up and for their first day here, but since then it's been pretty miserable - cold, wet, windy. Still, we've been out on all but one day and have got some worthwhile photos. Today we visited a stormy Elgol, quite a contrast from the sunny Fairy Pools in Glen Brittle on Wednesday.

The forecast for the next few days is still not good. We'll just need to work a little harder and put up with some dampness to get more good images. The poor weather has allowed us to spend more time indoors, sharpening Mo's image processing skills and watching the World Snooker Championship which, fortunately, Mo and Sarah want to see too.

I'm enjoying seeing Mo produce some lovely images and I hope she'll have success with them. I'm hoping Sarah will produce a painting or two from what she's seen, sketched, and photographed and maybe even send me photos of her sketches or paintings for my site. That would be cool.

Fairy Pools
Fairy Pools, Glen Brittle

26th April 2013

Recently I heard the news that the lady who lived here before me has died. Those of you who have been following my tale will realise that she was the subject of the liferent agreement that caused me so much concern about 10 months ago. As I knew it would, the news has left me with mixed emotions. Whilst I'm relieved that any remaining doubt, however small, about the legal right of occupancy of my home is now over, I do feel bad at feeling any sort of relief over someone's passing. Having said that, she had advanced Alzheimer's Disease and had no real life as we know it. I've not actually been informed officially (as I had requested to be) but heard from neighbours and had it confirmed by a sympathy card sent to her son at this address.

Today I learned that my friend Fiona's husband, Steve, died last August. I was shocked at the news as I really had no idea. My sister & I stayed with Fiona and Steve in their home for a few days when we visited South Africa in 2009. They were very kind and helpful to us and I regret that I've never been in a position to repay their kindness. Maybe sometime Fiona will fancy a drop of about 30 degrees in temperature and will visit me on Skye.

On a happier note, this Sunday will be Bob Ladbrook's 80th birthday. Bob is my friend Annette's dad and he and his wife, Marian, were very kind to me during my time in Exmouth. I'm sorry I'll miss the celebrations but I'm sure Bob will have an interesting day. (I know what Annette has lined up for him!) It's hard to believe Bob will be 80 - he's got such a young attitude and is certainly not what you'd expect an 80 year old to be!

Back here on Skye, the old pink concrete slabs I lifted from the front of the house have now found a new home. Riet & Piet (who gave me their old kitchen flooring) know a lady who can make some use of them, so they picked them up last night. It's nice not having 30-odd slabs leaning against walls and cluttering up my garden any more. That's one more small step to getting the place looking more presentable. Inside, I've just been tidying up a few bits: the skirting board around the new flooring in the upstairs en-suite is now fitted and mostly painted; the frame around a door in the kitchen is back on the wall, and mostly painted; the lounge door has had a fresh coat of paint, and so the list goes on. I'm now wondering if I really need to make and fit doors to the new cupboard in the kitchen. It might look okay without the doors and that might encourage me not to use it just as a cupboard where I can throw things and close the doors on them! I still need to make and fit a door on the under-stair cupboard, which has been without a door since I moved in.

This is the weekend of the Knoydart Music Festival. I had planned to go over to Inverie for that and to meet up with my friends Michael, Rona, and Alice. Alice's daughter, Jacqui, lives in Inverie and is one of the main festival organisers. However, I cannot justify the expense at this time, even though it would be an interesting challenge to photograph events there. Perhaps if they do it again in another 2 years I'll manage to go then. It's a sell-out so at least I don't feel I've let anyone down by being unable to support it.

20th April 2013

Late last week I finally got this new version of my website live! I'm still tweaking it though, most recently adding photos from Sheila and John in my "guests' galleries". John has a particularly fine set of "sand pattern" photos from Talisker Bay where the sand is a mix of black and gold. It's a great location for this sort of abstract photography.

I've got Mo & Sarah with me soon for a few days and then in mid-May I hope an old school friend, Alan, will be here, possibly with his brother. They're keen "munro baggers" and Skye has 12 of those. Alan has 3 of them under his belt and hopes to tick off a few more. It'll be great to see Alan again after so many years.

Meanwhile there's no shortage of things for me to do here. I've been building a cupboard in the kitchen, pretty much making it up as I go, and I've got to figure out how best to finish it off and make and hang a pair of doors. I must be a half-decent photographer because it looks better in the photo (left) than it does in real life! Decoration upstairs has come to a halt but I'll need to get that middle bedroom cleared out and spruced up soon.

Today I had a decent bout of exercise - 4 hours of badminton up in Portree. My muscles are suffering a bit now but maybe I just need a good night's sleep!

Cupboard

12th April 2013

With my little flurry of photography last week, visits from friends and family around Easter, and working towards getting this new version of my site ready to go live, the house has been a bit neglected recently. There's still a lot I need to do and one eyesore in particular has been annoying me, namely the mess at the top of the stairs where all the old electrical gubbings were. Because of the fuse box, meter, etc. being over a doorway, that doorway was very low (about 170cm). Part of my thinking in moving all these electrical bits was to let me raise the top of the doorway, and that's what I'm now doing.

doorway
doorway

Thank you to my local builders' merchants for giving me a 3m strip of wooden facing plate that was a cast-off and full of knots, plus some plywood packaging to pack it out as they had no mouldings that matched the thickness of my old ones. As a result, I've raised the top of the doorway for virtually no material cost. They'd worked out the cost as £2.82 but as I only had a £20 note with me they suggested I should just move it out the door and make it disappear :o)

With any luck, when all the filler is in and I've painted it, there will be very little sign that it's been altered. Two more things in the photos above will also need attention though. First, the access that had to be cut into the roof-space needs to be tidied up. As it's now there, I might as well make it a proper access point, so I'll need to figure out just how to do that. On the other side of the doorway (the photo on the right) I need to box in the electrical bits & bobs to make it all neat and tidy.

I've been driving myself half mad in the evenings, trawling through "camera club" websites to collect contact details so that, in due course, I can let them know I'm here and looking for their custom, There are hundreds of clubs around the country, and most have websites. These vary enormously in design and quality. Looking through them has been an interesting exercise, one I would suggest any prospective web designer tries. Some sites are very impressive. Others are, frankly, hideous, with colour schemes and layouts that make your eyes hurt. Some sites make it remarkably easy for visitors to find contact details, while others leave you with the impression that the club really does not want to be contacted at all. I have even found a couple of sites that have NO contact details whatsoever. Why do they bother to have a website at all? Through all this I've come to realise how important a website is because I've found myself forming an opinion (whether right or wrong) of each club based on its site.

Okay, it's US Masters weekend and I've got a nice bottle of port - DO NOT DISTURB!!!!!!!!! smiley

6th April 2013

As I write this I'm hearing a weird noise I've heard only one other time on Skye so far this year - rain pattering on the windows! To be fair, Skye does need some rain: apart from anything else, most of the waterfalls have been down to a trickle!

It's been another busy week for me but with no reportable progress on the house. I do have some other equally important tasks that need to be done though. Over Easter I had my sister, her husband, David, and their two dogs staying with me. Unfortunately, David was not well, with headaches, shivers, aches and pains amongst his afflictions, and he had to spend a large part of his visit in bed or just sitting in the sun lounge reading. During their stay, Jack (the German Shepherd) woke Morag up at 5am one day to let him out to relieve himself, and with there now being 4 sheep roaming around Balck Park and nothing to stop Jack leaving my garden, Morag thought it wise to take him out for a short walk on a lead. She was rewarded with the sight of a large red deer stag grazing by the river across the road from my house. One bark from Jack, though, and it was off!

After Morag, David, and the dogs returned to Troon I spent a couple of days working on my website as I need to get this "live" very soon. I've been working largely on improving my gallery pages and carefully going through the detailed wording elsewhere. Then, on Friday, I began a couple of days of hard photography - hard on my feet anyway. With the spell of glorious weather we'd been having I was keen to explore one of the local walks, from Kilmarie to the bay at Camasunary and beyond.

The track was laid by the army in 1968 to improve emergency access to Camasunary Bay where there is one house and a bothy. From there various paths lead off to some fantastic, but potentially dangerous walking country. This is not an area I would tackle when there's any danger of the weather closing in. However, the forecast was good so off I went. When I reached Camasunary, a walk of a little over an hour, I looked around the bothy and then pressed on towards Loch Coruisk, rounding the point and walking down the side of Loch Scavaig. It's not a very obvious path and I think that for much of the time I was following sheep trails! About 3½ hours after leaving the car, and remembering that I'd have to walk all the way back again, I decided I'd gone far enough. I'd not reached the head of Loch Scavaig where a very short walk gets you to Loch Coruisk, but I could just see it. There's also a rock formation just beyond where I got to with the slightly scary name of "Bad Step", and I felt this may be a step too far for me this time. Still, the scenery was truly stunning. Maybe next time I'll just take the boat trip to the head of Loch Scavaig!
Loch ScavaigHead of Loch Scavaig

By the time I got home, about 8 hours after setting out, I was shattered and was tempted just to fall into bed. Following a quick pizza in front of the TV, I drifted off to sleep where I sat, and then headed for bed around 9pm (largely because I was due up again around 4am). However, I was distracted by the PC on the way and ended up emailing until about 10.30pm - stupid of me!

So why up at 4am? Well, members of the Great Glen Camera Club based at Fort Augustus had arranged a "field trip" to Skye and had invited members of the newly formed South Skye Camera Club to join them. It seems I was the only SSCC member mad enough to get up that early! I met Ian MacLeod of the GGCC in the dark at at the foot of the walk up to the Old Man of Storr and we set off up the path to try to reach it before sunrise. Other members had started off a little sooner but when Ian saw my car headlights in the distance, he waited for me as it hadn't quite reached the agreed meeting time.

The walk up in the dark was fun, even though leaving us a wee bit short of breath, and it wasn't long before the light levels increased and our eyes adapted so we could see just enough to walk without the aid of a torch. We caught up with the rest of the group and then spread out to try several quite varied positions for the sunrise at 6.30am.

Storr Sunrise
Storr Sunrise
Waterfall
Waterfall near the Storr

The position I'd chosen, along with a couple of the GGCC members, turned out not to be as good as I'd hoped, and so I'll have to do this again sometime! However, it was a pretty sight and perhaps I'll be able to make something of the shots I got. The one above is probably the best of them.

After about an hour we returned to the car park by the road and set off towards Portree, stopping at a small but beautifully formed waterfall, still within sight of the "Old Man". You can just see it in the photo (left) sticking up like a tiny thorn below the left end of the cloud formation. I shall certainly be taking people there for some photography.

We moved on to Portree for a few more photos and breakfast in a cafe, then headed down to Sligachan for some exploring there. Unfortunately the cloud cover had increased and the photography wasn't spectacular but we had fun.

We then headed out to Struan and the Oronsay Peninsula which has a tidal causeway, and did some more walking and exploring. On the way we passed a spot overlooking a farmstead which is a popular photographic location, and somewhere I'd been keen to find, so that was a bonus. However, the light was all wrong so I'll need to revisit that at a more appropriate time of day.

Our last stop was to see a friend of one of the GGCC members, Jon Pear, an excellent photographer now living on Skye who has just opened a small tearoom with his wife, "The Wee Tea Room and Photographic Gallery" near Carbost. I'd seen the signs for this when taking my friends from Devon to Talisker Bay, and I wish now that we'd stopped in there. Jon and his wife treated us royally and both the refreshments and the photos were a joy. I thoroughly recommend a visit to them if you're in the vicinty. It looks like just a private house so watch out carefully for it.

So ended a couple of very tiring but highly enjoyable days of photography. When you see Skye in conditions like this, it's hard to imagine a more photogenic place to be.

26th March 2013

If you've been wondering why I've not been updating my news from Skye recently, it's because I've been so busy getting my kitchen largely rebuilt before a visit from some old friends from the Glasgow area. Alice, one of Britain's, and even Europe's, best target archers in her day, and Michael, who made his debut for the senior Scottish Team at the same time as I did (way back in 1979!!!), and who was my club-mate, practice partner, and arch-rival for many years, have been here for a couple of days to chew my ear about getting this photo workshop business off the ground. Oh yeah, they also kindly brought up a small chest freezer from my sister (as it fis in the back of Michael's car) and provided much needed extra pairs of hands to put in a tight-fitting kitchen cupboard. Michael also picked up a powerful torch for me in East Kilbride, the same type that my Devon friends brought and used very successfully to do some "painting with light" photography. (See the last photo in my previous post.) This is something I intend to develop and bring into my photo workshops here.

Happily, the kitchen is starting to look less like a shell - no bare brick walls, cupboards now mostly refitted, etc. - and so the house is starting to feel more complete. In fact, Alice & Michael think it's good enough already for me to have people stay pretty much immediately. I guess that depends on expectations, and they'd been expecting the house to be a building site! (Perhaps I'd painted them a darker picture of it than was the truth.)

My new business cards and car door stickers were ordered tonight so I can start getting my name out there. Very soon I'll be pushing to get this version of my website "public" and start spreading the word that I'm open for business. Please don't jump the gun, thinking that you're doing me a favour! I'll let you know when I'm ready. (I still have important things to put in place - and in spite of what Alice & Michael think, it's my opinion that I still have some crucial things to do around the house.)

Alice & Michael leave in the morning and then on Friday I have my sister and her husband coming up for the Easter weekend with their two dogs, so no rest for the me for a while! (And Fluffy had better watch out with Jack, the German Shepherd, here. I'm really not quite sure what he'll do if he comes face to face with a sheep.)

business card

15th March 2013

Day three of Sheila, Ann, and John's visit dawned with a little sunshine and caught us unawares as the forecast was for 100% cloud cover. Oh well, lesson learnt, don't believe anything you read in a weather forecast. Ann was the first up and outside with her camera to catch that morning's version of the view above - different clouds of course.

The day soon turned back to being overcast and we had no choice but to search out yet more "dull day" photos. We began at the Cill Chriosd (Kilchrist) churchyard where we found pattern and texture images which could be used in image enhancements at a later time.

Lichen
Among the lichens I spotted this pattern. If that's not a teddy bear then I'm not a big kid at heart.

 

Loch Cill Chriosd
Loch Cill Chriosd will generally provide an interesting image or two.

Ruined manse

Nearby is an old ruined manse which photographs well in all sorts of weather, and I suspect I'll be visiting this often as a consequence. The limestone outcrops are quite weird.

On the path back we had a higher viewpoiint of Loch Cill Chriosd. A tiny island with a couple of trees, reflections, moody backgrounds, foreground trees - all of these could be combined to produce many different images. On the right is one of several I tried.

Loch Cill Chriosd
Elgol

We carried on along the road which leads to Elgol. In better weather the view to the Black Cuillin mountains is spectacular but on days like this there's little more than a hint of them. The best I could manage here was a simple composition of the red boat anchored off the pier with the misty peaks beyond.

While there we ran into a member of the Paisley Colour Photographic Club, David Dalziel, who was on Skye for a few days. If you check out his website, I'm sure you'll agree with us that he is an excellent photographer. Ann had already found his website by the time I'd got to the end of the email I got from him that evening!

There was little more we could do at Elgol so we hit the road back to Broadford. On the way we'd spotted a few old buildings that merited a closer look so we stopped at the best of them. When I say best, I don't mean decoratively! It was in a pretty dangerous state, with the upstairs doing its best to come downstairs. The old couch still in what we guessed had been the lounge was a bonus. I've chosen to use a "painterly" effect on my image but I'm sure it could be treated in many ways.

 

John was on his look-out duties and spotted a lone tree which we could isolate against a misty mountain scene, so we stopped and found our preferred shooting positions.

wrecked cottage
lone tree

misty mountains

I feel that these two images work well. They're certainly better than I would have expected to get on such a dull, cloudy day. In fact, we all felt we'd got something worthwhile throughout the day. But the day was not over. We nipped back home to put the dinner on and then out again to revisit the Cill Chriosd churchyard - another reason we'd gone there earlier...

We'd chosen the churchyard as our venue for some "painting with light".

I've converted one to monochrome but the colour versions are just as eerie. While there was still some light on the sky, we got a lovely blue colour but it soon turned to black. Timing, therefore, is crucial to get just what you want. We certainly had fun playing around with the torch to light up parts of the graveyard, trees, and the old ruined church, and I hope we didn't cause nightmares for any passing motorists.

I plan to get one of these powerful torches and give this technique the practice it needs. Plus, it's another way of keeping my visitors entertained - or petrified! (Perhaps I'll find somewhere other than a churchyard for them to try this.)

paintnig with light

 

10th March 2013

On day two of Sheila, Ann, and John's visit we got up early, very early, hoping for a sunrise where we were going. We drove to the Quiraing and didn't get one. So far as I know, nor did anyone else on Skye. Such is the life of a photographer. Undaunted, we went off in search of something else.

workshop

"Something else" is what we got. The Fairy Glen (left and below) is very strange: a large landscape in miniature. It was used as a backdrop in the film "Stardust". The pond (or lochan) was sometimes mirror smooth for us, sometimes rippled, but made for some good reflection shots. In the panorama below you can see our gang at the right where we got most of our better shots.

workshop

We drove around the northern tip of the Trotternish Peninsula back to Staffin where we stopped for refreshments and admired the scenery we weren't photographing because the light was so poor. Afterward we nipped down to the jetty in Staffin and then on to the viewpoint for the waterfall at Kilt Rock (right). We all had a go at photographing the fulmars circling around below, and mostly failing. We all agreed that they were hard to photograph in spite of being relatively slow in flight. I think John ended up with the best effort.

workshop

workshop
workshop

Driving south again, we passed the Old Man of Storr, which we could barely see in the cloud and mist. We still figured it would be worth a shot or two and stopped in a couple of likely spots.

workshop

We then parked in Portree to eat our sandwiches before going off in search of a beach Ann had seen in a photo. We knew it was on a road somewhere just south of Portree.

workshop

We found the beach but decided against the walk down to it as it didn't seem worth the effort in the weather, but I'll check out this location again next time I'm up there. The post box (left) is just where the footpath to the beach begins so I should find it again quite easily.

workshop

So, no beach but we did spot some interesting old buildings on the way, and as we had to go back on he same road, we stopped to photograph the best one of these.

We each tried different angles and picked out details, and I've even tried giving one shot the Orton effect, which sort of makes a broken down old barn look a bit cute and cuddly. Hmmm, maybe I should try it on myself...

workshop

workshop

So, day two managed to be even cloudier than day one. With two weeks of almost constant sunshine before my visitors arrived, I couldn't help but think how unlucky they'd been but, on the other hand, we'd still got several pretty good shots each day and I was gaining confidence that I would be able to handle this sort of weather in future workshops.

workshop

9th March 2013

Sheila, Ann, and John left for their drive back to Devon yesterday. Sensibly, they stopped overnight around half way back.

it's been great having them here. The weather could have been a lot kinder to us and a lot more inspiring for photography but, in spite of the grey skies, we got out each day and found worthwhile images. At least it didn't rain much. It has actually been a very good exercise for me, understanding what and where to photograph when the light is not what we might prefer, finding beauty and interest where some people would consider everything to be drab and dreary. As a "dry run" for the workshops I'll be running it has been extremely useful. John has also spotted a couple of "photographers' trees" which I have no doubt will turn up in my workshops.

I'll give you a taster of our first day with more photos to add to the three I posted last time...

We hadn't driven far before John spotted some smoke curling gently up from a cottage's chimney so we pulled over at the first safe spot and everyone got their first image from the visit. Theirs are better than mine, which I'm blaming on me letting them get set up before I dragged my own equipment out of the boot of the car.

From there we drove on through ever worsening low cloud to Glen Brittle.

workshop 1
Luib, Loch Ainort

workshop 2
Glen Brittle
workshop 3
Glen Brittle
workshop 4
Loch Harport
workshop 5
Talisker Bay

There was only so much we could do at Glen Brittle, given the weather, so we moved on to Talisker Bay, stopping at Loch Harport along the way. As always, Talisker Bay gave us a good variety of photo opportunities and, tiring as the walk there can be, it proved worth the effort.

workshop 6
Talisker Bay

These two shots show the contrast in the scenery from one side of the bay to the other, and of course a contrast in the way the images have been treated in the computer afterwards.

The contrasting black and gold sand, the tides, and the streams running off the land all combine to create a little bit of magic for photographers.

workshop 8
Talisker Bay

workshop 7
Talisker Bay
workshop 9
Twisty road to Talisker Bay

Even the single track road to Talisker Bay has plenty of interest, winding its way through some interesting scenery and past some dilapidated structures. I've seen birds of prey along that stretch too (smaller than buzzards, larger than kestrels) but so far haven't identified what they were.

workshop 10
Black Cuillin from Sligachan

As we reached the Sligachan turning, the sun shone briefly and we managed some mountain shots before the short drive back home for dinner and a swift check through our day's photos.

We had another four days of photography after this. The sun made a brief appearance on one morning and that was about it. Nevertheless, we got lots more worthwhile photography done, though we failed completely to get something from the Quirang.

My thanks to Sheila and Ann for their very able handling of most of the food duties and putting up with my kitchen's current state of disarray (not the cooking area though, that's fine), and to John for his look-out duties and keen eye while we drove around Skye.

3rd March 2013

Today was the first day out with Sheila, Ann, and John, and in spite of some very unpromising low cloud, mist, and drizzle which made walking up the trail to the Fairy Pools in Glen Brittle pretty pointless, we had a successsful day. We explored farther along Glen Brittle (a second river with waterfalls and pools) and found a suspension bridge that Ann wasn't at all happy at crossing but which Sheila all but ran over. Talk about fearless! A very tiring afternoon at Talisker Bay followed, where I discovered I'd lost my Cokin P filter holder and circular polarizer filter at some point (probably in Glen Brittle), and I also felt very disheartened by the images we were getting at Talisker. However, upon getting home, it seems that Talisker Bay again came up trumps as the images look a lot better on the computer than on the camera's view screen. John in particular has some extremely good sand pattern shots, which Talisker Bay provides with its mix of black and gold sand.
Talisker Bay

On the way back home we just had to stop at Sligachan where the nearby mountain, Glamaig, seemed to have a shroud of gold leaf over its summit as the setting sun's rays caught it. The image below might look unreal but it really did look like this. So, all in all, a it's been a successful start to the week.

Glamaig

Talisker Bay

 

1st March 2013

I know February is a short month, but March already?! Two more days and my visitors will be here. I hope they've been having a good time in Yorkshire. It's a pity they weren't here for this week or last as the forecast for next week is largely overcast rather than the wall-to-wall sunshine we've been having. Still, I'm sure we'll make the most of what we get.

Scottish and Southern Energy have been here today to move the last bits of the electrics from the old position at the top of the stairs, over a low doorway, to their new location where I can box them in, and leaving me the opportunity to raise the top of the doorway. This is the last of the major electrical work and will allow me to get on with decorating the upstairs hallway. What a relief to see the last of the old electrics removed or relocated. I can box in the new stuff so it's completely out of sight and away from inquisitive hands of any younger visitors to my house. There's still a lot to do but that's one more thing ticked off the list.

26th February 2013

I had a haircut on Monday. Almost wish I hadn't - now my head feels cold!

The flooring is down in the en-suite off the twin room now. I'm pretty pleased with it, especially as it cost me nothing other than the saw blades it blunted. That stuff is hard! It's most certainly an improvement. I've replaced the skirting boards but they've still to be painted, and the room needs to be properly decorated but it's a good start. I'll leave it now until after my Devon friends have been here.
floor
pathway

With the glorious sunshine we're having, I thought I'd better get something done outside so I put some paving stones down as a path through the gravel at my front door. There's still a lot of finishing off to be done but it will have to wait for the longer, warmer days. It's getting slowly closer to what I want though.

I reckon I've got enough flooring left over to do the en-suite off my own bedroom as well, so that'll be a job for a future day. I'm concentrating on the 3 upstairs bedrooms first, then the kitchen where I've pulled it apart, then the dining room, lounge, hall, and a few other bits and pieces. For some of it I'll maybe have to content myself with slapping on some fresh paint until I have time to do a proper job.

I'm looking forward to Sheila, Ann, and John from the Exmouth Photo Group staying here next week, and particularly getting out for some serious photography with them. I just hope the weather continues to be kind for us. I've still not seen any sign of an aurora. Maybe next week?

21st February 2013

Just when I think I know what I'm doing, I go off on another tangent. Some very nice neighbours down the road, Riet & Piet (a Dutch couple), have just redecorated their kitchen. When Piet mentioned they'd replaced the flooring I asked what he was doing with the old stuff (as it had looked pretty good to me) and he said he was just going to take it up to the dump in Portree but if I wanted any then I should take all I needed. So, that's what I've done. I've got new flooring and Piet's been saved a trip to Portree. Now, I thought it was a wood-effect vinyl but it turns out it's wood laminate flooring so suddenly I've got a new skill to learn, and quickly as I've got it earmarked for the en-suite room off the twin bedroom which Sheila and Ann will be sharing about 10 days from now. My fingers are crossed here!

Earlier I was talking with my next door neighbour, Chrissie, and she says that the sheep (remember Fluffy?) is a ewe and for at least the last 3 years she has left the flock around this time and grazed around our houses. She has stayed until just before lambing when she has returned to the flock. She's quite wary of us humans but obviously likes it enough around here to put up with us.

Last night I popped outside around midnight to take another look at the sky, as it's so clear at the moment and there's speculation of aurora activity any time now. As I approached the fence at the end of my garden I heard a rustling in the grass beyond, followed by a loud "barking" noise. It sent a shiver down my spine, I can tell you. I'm pretty sure it was a red deer, and Chrissie had also mentioned that she'd had a hind looking at her through her window the other day, so they're out there watching us!

19th, February 2013

Isn't it strange how things can go quiet for a few days and then everything happens at once? Today has been one of those busier days. To begin with, the bedroom carpet was fitted as planned this morning, the room having been ready for the best part of a week now. This has now allowed me to start clearing out the next room I want to decorate, which was full of dismantled furniture from the newly decorated bedroom. This evening I rebuilt the wardrobe and bunk beds which are now back where I want them. As you can see, I stopped short at actually putting any bedding on the mattresses. I felt I'd done enough for one day. (I suppose I should mention that I fell asleep on the couch after eating my dinner.)

Bedroom 4

Bedroom 4

While the carpet was being fitted, I was on-line, researching photo locations for a visit in early March by some of my photographer friends from Devon. (By the way John, you can feel some relief about your room (above) now that it's got all its walls and is habitable again.)

Today's weather has been truly extraordinary. There was not a single cloud in the sky all day and not a breath of wind. How different from the 60mph+ winds a couple of weeks ago. I turned down an invitation to play golf in what was ideal golfing weather - in February for goodness sake - as I wanted to check out some nearby locations for their photographic potential and I thought it would be nice to do it in the sunshine. The photo (left) looking across Broadford Bay at dusk isn't anything special but it does at least show the clear sky and the water looking more like a mill pond than the sea. While there I met a lady out walking her dog who, like me, has recently moved to Skye. She expressed just what I was feeling: it's difficult to look at this place and take in the fact that I'm actually living here. Now all I have to do is do it photographic justice!

Broadford Bay

10th February 2013

The decoration of this smallest bedroom is almost complete now. In contrast to the ceiling, I'm very pleased with my wallpapering of the walls. This room has taken so long because of replacing most of a wall and all of the skirting boards, as well as fitting a new wash hand basin. I can't wait to get the new carpet fitted so I can move the furniture back in and start to empty the next bedroom for re-decoration.

It has not been without its pain. Working low down on skirting boards (fitting and painting them) and wallpapering has taken its toll on my right knee. An old skiing injury has been aggravated. Working on the ceiling hurts my neck. So, don't be surprised if the next room to be decorated is done only around chest height :o)

It was my birthday last week and I spent most of it decorating, though I fitted in some golf in the two following days. I did have time off for badminton on my birthday and treated the club members to some home made fudge. It seemed to go down very well!

Bedroom 4

I heard some sad news from my friends Mike & Linda today about their dog, Sid, who had to be put down this morning. Some of you may remember that I dog-sat for Mike and Linda a couple of years ago, looking after Sid while they were away in America for a few weeks. He was a huge, powerful Rottweiller but a happy and friendly dog without an once of nastiness in him. Poor Sid had cancer and the bone in one leg was almost eaten away by it. I know Mike and Linda are terribly upset at losing Sid but they should remember what a great life he had with them.

On a happier note, I've got back in touch with an old friend from my early days at L&M in Exeter. I worked with Pete Cochrane for a few years and his keen sense of humour was one of the things that made working there so much fun. I sold Pete my first set of golf clubs (apart from the wedge which I hung on to). I'd had them since I was a teenager, and I was amazed to discover that he still has them. They're probably worth something now as antiques! Pete left L&M about 20 years ago to move up to a new job in Edinburgh and I lost touch with him then. Thanks to the miracles of modern social networking sites, we're back in touch and, who knows, one day that Ben Sayers wedge, which I still have, might be reunited with the rest of the set.

3rd February 2013

Yesterday I didn't include a photo and I felt guilty, so here's one for you. Don't you just love Skye? There's a free grass-cutting service! This solitary sheep has been grazing along the verges of our road and today decided the grass in my garden was a little too tempting to pass by.
Say hello to "Fluffy"

When I wrote yesterday about papering the ceiling it was before I had tried pasting the anaglypta paper over the lining paper. This has proved to be even more frustrating. I've discovered a whole new level of hate for papering ceilings! The pieces I eventually got to stay in place looked awful but thankfully they look much better today now that they've dried out and the ripples have shrunk till it's pretty much flat. I'm not happy with some aspects of it, and I've still got the last (most awkward) piece to hang, but will have to do. I'm hoping a coat of emulsion will leave it looking as I want. After this, the walls should be easy!

Sheep

2nd February 2013

I seem to have been plastering and papering for a solid week. I realise I'm very slow and where some decorators would do a whole room in a day or two, it'll take me weeks. In my defence, pretty much everything in the bedroom I'm tackling is off-square or has awkward corners and angles - it's the hardest room I've ever tried to paper - and a lot of preparatory work was needed. The ceiling, for example, was far from flat and level. One part seemed to have had a piece of plasterboard put in that didn't even come close to fitting level with the rest. I didn't feel up to replacing another ceiling just yet so I've built up plaster in parts of the ceiling to level it out as far as I reasonably can, all of which took time to dry out of course. In the past few days I've been papering the ceiling. I now know I don't enjoy papering ceilings! However, I'm getting better at it, which is just as well as I'm only putting up lining paper at this stage and will need to do it all again with the anaglypta paper. The same goes for the walls. Thankfully I've finished putting on all of the lining paper in the room and can start with the proper wallpaper now.

The weather has been pretty horrendous recently, with high winds battering the island. It's certainly been a good time to work indoors! Today we had a little respite and so I got outside for a bit of a change and removed the remnants of a breeze-block wall to allow me to extend the gravel at the back of the house up to an old stone wall instead of the edge of the old extension. It looks so much neater now, and I'll soon be able to spread the gravel most of the way round the house. There's still a lot of tidying up around the edges to be done, but it's slowly coming together.

Sorry I've no photos this time. I'll take some of the bedroom once it's done.

24th January 2013

On Tuesday I went to check out carpets for bedroom 4 at the Harris Home Furnishing showroom up in Edinbane. They certainly have a bewildering selection of samples. With so many I was bound to find something suitable. In fact, after finding one I liked, it turned out there was an "end of roll" piece that was large enough for the room so it's heading my way in February to be fitted. HHF also deal in furniture and I was able to order a single mattress for my other bunk bed, to arrive with the carpet and save me delivery costs: so, it was a worthwhile day.

Although the light was failing as I left Edinbane, I was a long way towards Neist Point, somewhere I've been meaning to visit, and so it made sense to do a little exploring. I got there just as the sun set, and didn't really have time to look around much but at least I now know the way, and with a little bit of processing I was able to create the image on the right from a very ordinary "record" shot. Mid-summer sunsets could provide some interesting lighting here. The landscape is pretty awesome and deserves to be well explored for some interesting angles. On a day like Tuesday, though, it pays to wrap up warmly. The icy wind almost ripped the skin off my face!

Light switch
Today the sink and vanity unit arrived to join the taps I got earlier in the week, Clive, the plumber, will be here tomorrow to fit it all. The new wall now has lining paper on it and I'm busily preparing the rest of the room. The ceiling was very uneven in one corner and I'm doing what I can to level it out. There was also a light switch that had to move half an inch to the right. "Why on Earth..." do I hear you ask? Well, it was cut into the doorframe and that was irritating me. If I didn't move it before decorating, I'd be stuck with it. It turned out to be one of the easier fixes I've had to do, though I've still to do the repairs around it, as you can see in the photo.


Neist Point
Neist Point

20th January 2013

Where's January going? Well, the last 11 days of it I've been pretty busy with gravel distribution and the rebuilding of a bedroom wall, as you can see below. The gravel is now in most of the places I want it and there's plenty left for the remaining places. It's certainly made the house look a lot more presentable, even though there are a lot of rough edges to tend to.
new wall

The rebuilt plasterboard wall is feeling pretty firm and the new sockets are in and working - quite a change from how it was when I moved in. Now it needs to be decorated. A new sink and vanity unit should be delivered during the coming week and my plumber is primed to be here the following day to fit it. I should try to get to a carpet supplier during this week too and get that organised as the room needs a new carpet and underlay.

I've also been going around the house, replacing the remaining light switches and sockets with new ones to match the nice ones my electrician has put in. There aren't too many more of these left to do.

There's still a long way to go but it's encouraging to have some visible progress instead of just doing repairs and preparation, and to have reached a point when I can actually begin to decorate one of the rooms.

I've got friends from the Exmouth Photo Group due here for the first week of March and I've got that bedroom earmarked for one of them to use, so having a deadline is spurring me on a bit. I also have friends from Glasgow, Michael and Rona, hoping to visit me sometime during February, which I'm looking forward to.

Although I've not got any table tennis organised here yet, I've been asked if I'll run a small competition between the various local youth clubs, to be held in Broadford this year. There may only be a couple of entrants or there might be more, I don't know yet, but it should be interesting to do and I'll get to see how good or bad the local kids are. It's not till the middle of March so I've said I'd do it.

11th January 2013

I know it's only one day since my last post but today has been one of those days. No, not one of those bad days, one of those good days, one of those days when things just seem to go well. They're rare so I thought I'd better record it.

It didn't start on a positive note when my plumber asked if he could put off his visit till Monday as he's suffering from a trapped nerve. It was no problem for me and I was more concerned for Clive and the pain he must be in. A short time later, though, my stone chips arrived! The large pile weighs 13 tonnes and is occupying one end of my private parking bay. It's an expensive parking deterrent.

During the wetter (and darker) parts of the day I've been working on the bedroom wall (see 8th January), trying to fix the wooden battens more securely to the stone wall. My first two attempts earlier in the week resulted in lumps of wall falling off - not an encouraging start. However, I'm drilling deeper and using bigger screws and rawlplugs now, and this seems to be working fine. This evening I put in some insulation and fixed up the first new piece of plasterboard. It's progress at last! Over the weekend I plan to figure out how best to line the old fireplace recess.

 

Stone chip mountain
Stone chip mountain - Skye Marble
Tidier garden

I spent the drier parts of the day with my trusty wheelbarrow, moving stone chips into the unsightly area I've been preparing for them at the rear of the house. There is still a lot of work required to tidy up all around this but it's really starting to look much more presentable. During the summer months this spot is a sun trap so it should be a pleasant place to sit when the midgies aren't rife. It's a bit of a landmark for me to get this looking relatively neat and tidy as it's been a concern since I viewed the house last April.

Thirty-six wheelbarrow-loads were enough to cover the site of the old extension. I'll probably put more down to make it a deeper layer but first I'll see how far my 13 tonnes will spread, as I've got quite a few places to lay them around the house. The approach to the front door is one, and all of the paved part of the front garden is another. (I've already lifted all the old pink concrete slabs from there.) I didn't put much of a dent in the pile of chips in the parking bay so I'm hopeful they'll go far

I met the new neighbours two doors down. They moved in just after I drove south for Christmas. Coincidentally, they'd had a pile of stone chips delivered today as well so we had a bit of a contest going to clear them. He won (but my pile was much bigger). Coincidentally it turns out he is originally from Glasgow, and coincidentally he and his wife moved here from the West Country! It's a funny old world.

Finally, I got my car back today with everything fixed and a bill that was considerably smaller than I'd been fearing, so I'll be able to eat next week :o)

We all need days like this. I just wish they'd happen more often.

 

10th January 2013

switch

Safe & Sound

In case anyone was concerned that I might electrocute myself because of having a light switch hanging out of the wall by its wires, don't worry, I've fixed it! All credit to Jewson's: when I bought another plastic box I idly mentioned what had happened and they gave me the replacement free of charge. Okay, it costs less than £1 but it was still a nice gesture. Oh, and I got my plasterboard sheets yesterday too. Now I just need to figure out how to fix the timber batten framework to the wall more securely.

The car went in for service and MOT today. I knew it would fail on a couple of sidelight bulbs which weren't working, and I suspected that the front passenger door not opening from the outside would be an issue (it is, since a new regulation introduced last year apparently). There was also one brake caliper binding (not really a surprise to me as I'd noticed the brakes squealing occasionally). So, the car was kept in overnight and I'm hoping the parts needed will arrive tomorrow. If not, they'll free up the caliper and I'll pick the car up and take it back one day next week. We're hoping the problem with the passenger door lock is just a simple mechanical one but I'm fearful of it being something more sinister. I could do without the worry or the expense, frankly.

Tomorrow I've got the plumber due in to look at the sinks in the bedrooms - one has been disconnected, another completely removed but there's still some pipework under the floor. If that is still in working order then I can fit a new sink and vanity unit in the smallest bedroom so all bedrooms will have a minimum of a sink and shaver socket & light...

....and my stone chips are due to arrive at about 10am!

8th January 2013

I can't believe I've been back for almost a week already. That's probably because I've spent a large proportion of it asleep, getting rid of the cold I brought back with me. I must compliment Night Nurse on its ability to knock me out! The weather has also been very depressing since my return, being constant rain and wind, though at least not too cold. Today we saw the sun for the first time in ages and the forecast for the next couple of days is quite pleasant. That should help to lift the spirits.

Why are the simplest of jobs never as simple as you expect? I decided to replace all the older light switches and sockets with ones that match the newly fitted ones, buying all the new bits while in Ayrshire over Christmas..They have nice curves and soft edges and are really far more pleasant to use: no more painful fingers when groping for light switches in the dark. So, simple job, just whip off the old ones and put on the new ones. Well, it should have been that simple but no. For example, one light switch was fixed, with wood screws, into the V-lined wall behind the plsterboard. (For those who aren't familiar with them, V-lined walls are the traditional tongue and groove wooden internal walls in Scottish houses of this age. Here they've been covered over by plasterboard.) I had to cut out the old wood to make room for the plastic box that sits behind the face-plate. I managed that okay but when I screwed the face-plate on, the screws wouldn't go into the bits that hold everything in place. It's so fiddly. Eventually one did go in - and cross-threaded. It then wouldn't come out again, the threaded brass collar just spinning around inside the plastic, so I spent half a day making a hole in the wall and then trying to take things apart again. I now have a light switch dangling by its wires until I can get another box to go into the wall to hold it. Grrrrrrrrrrr.......

At least the new smoke alarms have gone up without much fuss. I've just got the heat sensor one to put in the kitchen and one for my own bedroom and that's another job I can cross off the list.

Upstairs, I've removed all of the plasterboard to reveal the framework of battens which is no longer secured to the stone wall behind it - hence the moving wall. This has also revealed a small disused fireplace. I'm very tempted to make this into either a small recessed cupboard or maybe just an open recess with a shelf. I'll almost certainly have the bunk beds in this room and they'll have to go against that wall, so an open recess with a shelf might work well as a little place for the person in the lower bunk to put a book or an alarm clock, maybe even a small lamp. It's quite a small room so finding this potential extra space is a bonus and it would be a shame not to use it.

The plasterboard has been bought - I'm just waiting for it to be delivered. As the delivery is free, I can't really complain that I'm not sure exactly when I'll get it but it should be here by the end of the week.

Wall

I'm still waiting to hear about the stone chips. I'll call the quarry again soon to try to get a date for delivery or this could go on for ages. I need to remember I'm living on Skye and things don't happen with any urgency.

This week I've discovered that I'm now possibly one of three lads from my year at Eastwood High School in Glasgow to be resident on Skye. I heard from another old schoolfriend, Lesley Baddon, that Scott Henderson has been living here for the past couple of decades, and I've tracked him down but not yet spoken with or met him. Bizarrely, I found out last night that a young lad I play badminton with every week is his nephew! The other name from my past is John Murray. My cousin David knew him from primary school days, and I knew him from our secondary school days at Woodfarm and Eastwood, and played golf with him then. David's Christmas card told me that John is now a dentist in Portree so perhaps we'll manage a game of golf again sometime. With news of my old school friends spreading all around the globe (Lesley, for example, is in New Zealand), who'd have thought three of us would wind up on Skye? Not me!

3rd January 2013

I'm stuffed!

I sincerely hope you've all enjoyed a lovely Christmas and Hogmanay, coughs and runny noses notwithstanding. Sadly, Santa's elves have been too busy over the past couple of weeks to have fixed up my house for me in my absence.

As I drove from Skye to Troon before Christmas, shortly after turning off the A87 on to the A82 I saw a car in front of me spin off the road. It must have been a pretty scary moment car's driver, who was shaken but fortunately not hurt. From my viewpoint he didn't appear to have done anything stupid. I guess he simply didn't see that a patch of the road ahead was icier than the rest and he slipped into the opposite verge before being spun around and narrowly avoiding a somersault. I was a bit shocked myself to find my feet slipping on the road surface when I got out of my car. It makes you think a little harder about winter driving conditons and how those four small patches of rubber sit between us and disaster.

This year I had the chance to go with my sister and brother-in-law to visit my nephew, Stuart, and his fiancee, Rebecca, down in deepest, darkest, wettest Sussex, and to meet some of Rebecca's family over Christmas. As it happened, I managed to squeeze in a visit to see some old friends from my Croydon days, Dudley & Trixie, who now live in Eastbourne just 8 miles from Stu & Rebecca.

We could have done without the 11 hour drive each way between Troon and Sussex. The irony of me travelling to the south of England for Christmas after 32 years of going in the opposite direction was NOT lost on me, but it was worth the effort. My sincere thanks to Stu & Rebecca for their hospitality. Oh, by the way, for anyone who doesn't know, my nephew is a chef, and a damned good one, hence my opening comment (which was not a reference to my recent cold bug).


Stu & Rebecca's home, Appletree Cottage
wall
Shaky wall

While in the Ayrshire / Glasgow area I took the opportunity to do some shopping for a few bits and pieces that are difficult or expensive to get on Skye, and I had about half of B&Q in the back of my car for the drive home. (We don't have a B&Q store here.) I now have enough wallpaper and paint to keep me busy for a couple of months. However, I've got a couple of plasterboard walls to replace first. Each of the two end bedrooms has, shall we say, a very mobile wall, and so I need to replace the timber framework that is supposed to hold the plasterboard firmly in place. Should be fun. I've also got 6 new smoke or heat alarms to fit around the house.

I must praise Platinum Building Chemicals. They happily refunded me about £130 for some steel plates I'd bought from them but not used. They've been absolutely brilliant and could not have been more helpful.

I returned to find that the wind had blown away the groundtex sheeting I laid at the back of the house. Clearly the rocks I'd used to keep it in place weren't enough! (I'd noticed the forecast in my absence showing gusts of up to 60mph.) Fortunately it was all still there, albeit not where I left it, and it's a little frayed around some edges, but I've got it back in place now and am adding more rocks to hold it there until the stone chips are delivered.

Just before Christmas I received news that the Registers for Scotland (the Scottish government body that handles land and house ownership) have decided to remove all mention of the liferent from my property documents now that it's been shown that it is virtually impossible for it to be used, and that there's now an indemnity policy in place to cover that remote possibility. It has taken a long time to get here but at least I am now able to move on without any concerns should I need to sell the house or take out a loan, which would have been problematic with a liferent agreement still mentioned on the documents.

If you're wondering where all my previous stuff is, don't panic - all my news from 2012 is now on a separate page. Just click on the "2012" link on the left to get there if you want to look back at anything.

© David McHutchison (Deemacphotos)
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