Sunday, 14 February 2010

Scotland for the Brave

Short notice, very little planning, just the ticket for a trip to Scotland. Chris Grady and I have mooted a trip for a while but never discussed the technicalities. So it wasnt confirmed that we were going until Sat 6th Feb and we left at 7am on Sun 7th.

I very much wish that Scotland were nearer I'd go more often, but as it isn't I was determined to enjoy it and make the most of it and now I can say that I did, very much.

It really was a case of Scotland for the brave, it was cold and unpredictable weatherwise. The wind on the tops of the hills/mountains was bitter, even wrapped up it was only bearable for a few minutes at a time. Lower down on the moors and relatively flat areas the snow never seemed far away so although the wind was gone the conditions were still challenging. The photography was very challenging as well, the dull weather combined with the bright snow made it very difficult, for me, to get the right exposure and aperture values. I struggled through it though and I hope you will agree that I have some good results.

We had arrived too late for any photography so did a quick recce of the area we intended to visit first. We then dropped into Braemar and spent our first night at the Fife Arms Hotel. Our 30 pounds gave us dinner, bed and breakfast and a double room each. I wish we had thought about it a bit more and booked in advance. The Fife Arms was definately the best accomodation we had and had we booked we could have had an even better deal than that which we got. Unfortunately a tribe of school kids arriving the next day meant that the hotel couldn't fit us in. The hotel was clean, the bed a dream, the shower to die for and the food wasn't half bad either.

Its been a very long time since I'd seen Grouse. Occasionally in my days in the army back in the early 80's I would volunteer for sessions as a beater for the officers shoots. It was good exercise and a days work guaranteed 20 pounds in the kitty at the end of it. On those occasions I mostly only saw fleeting views of the back end of grouse as they disappeared away from me. Trying to photograph them was our first challenge. It took me a little while to get to grips with things but I managed a few decent shots. This is an example.

Smaller and if anything more difficult to get right were a small flock of Snow Buntings. There was a flock of 3o or so. This male was well blinged up, he had four rings on his legs, two on each. Now I know that there are reasons for ringing birds but I'm not a fan, never have been and never will be. It just doesn't look right.

Our main target for the first day were Mountain Hare. Both Chris and I had never photographed them before and we weren't expecting an easy ride. Thanks to Chris's eagle eye we found one that was not too high up the side of a mountain. I thought that this was going to be the only chance we would get so I suggested to Chris that we try to stalk it one at a time, it was only fair that Chris got first go, he was doing all the driving and, if I'm honest, I didn't want to mess up any chance in my usual clumsy manner by falling over or having a sneezing fit at the wrong moment. This was a view of Mountain Hare that we got used to by the end of the first two days.

Did we get any shots? I'll tell you in my next post.

I thought Chris fitted in well with the flora and fauna in his camo gear. He might stand out in this pic but believe me when he was hunkered down amongst the heather it was hard to spot him up the hill. This is him chasing the first hare we saw. It was a case of move a bit, wait a bit. The heather and the rocks made movement very dodgy, and occasionally when you thought you were putting your foot down on solid ground it was just a drift of snow and you were up to your knees.

Day one was complete and three species had been seen and photographed.

As usual click for bigger pics.

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