Thursday, 18 February 2010

Scotland day 2.

Second full day at Scotland, still in and around Braemar. Hoping for better shots of what we already had, and hopefully more.

Red Grouse, which we discovered were more obliging in the morning.

Note the red flash over the eye of the male Grouse. when alarmed it stands out quite a lot.

I had forgotten about these birds over the many years since I chased them around the Yorkshire moors. They are quite amusing little characters with their stumpy legs and little podgy bodies. Reminds me of something.......ah yes, me.

So next on the menu, more Hare. A different location, still within a short drive from Braemar. The first of these two hares must have been giving us a chance, no way we could miss this one really.

This second one was making it a little harder but still reasonably easy to see.

We found these red deer wandering down from the hills.

These following Stags were looking a bit worse for wear, they have obviously had a hard winter.

Still magnificent creatures though.

The second night we stayed at the Braemar Lodge Hotel, Not quite as good as the Fife Arms, in my humble opinion. Thirty five pounds for bed and breakfast and although very clean the bedroom, a single, was not as comfortable as the Fife and the shower head desperately needed replacing as it leaked something awful. The menu for the evening meal was varied but expensive. so we didn't eat there. Breakfast was nice the next morning though.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Forest Rally

Despite having a cold and not feeling my best it was out into the Forest of Dean this Saturday just passed for what used to be called the Wyedean Stages, the first BTRDA rally of the year. I have been following the rally for over ten yrs now and it never fails to deliver. This year there was lots of drama as the drivers pushed their cars to the limits on stages which for a nice change were not covered with snow.

I want to start this post with a little humour. The car below came around a corner on the first of the two serridge stages, unfortunately the driver lost it a bit and ended up "off roading".
Not very amusing I hear you say.
But take a look at one of his sponsors, could he have been trying to drum up clients?

There were a number of "offs" during the rally the worst of which halted the Speech house stage for quite some time. The driver of car 305 had to be transported off the rally by the rescue ambulance. I believe he was not injured too badly and hope he recovers quickly. the amazing capabilities of these vehicles in accidents should never be underestimated. These may look like road cars but the roll bars fitted internally are there for a very good reason. Form the side the vehicle doesn't look too bad.
But then take a look from the back, the point of impact.
The rear end is pushed in by a good two feet, It truly is amazing that both driver and co-driver got out of this relatively unscathed.
That aside there was a good days racing and below are a few of the many action shots I tried to capture in very often dull conditions.

Andy Burton is usually a high place finisher in his Peugeot Cosworth but this year he failed to finish due to engine problems.
Nik Eslmore, the local previous winner only managed third this year In his Mitsubishi.
Hugh Hunter finished 2nd in his Ford Focus.
This years winner was Steve Perez from Chesterfield in his Ford Focus.

I had a great day, made all the better by the company of my brother Alan and my son Lee.
Thanks to everyone involved in the rally, not only the racing folk but also the very many safety officials who all volunteer their services for free.
As always click the pics for bigger versions.

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.