Archive for the ‘Austin Taylor Photography’ Category

A walk to Da Lang Ayre, Shetland

10 September, 2020

Short version (long version below)

Start and finish
Collafirth Hill
Difficulty  Mostly “moderately challenging” but very challenging over crumbly and steep terrain for a small part
Distance From Collafirth Hill to Lang Ayre via the summit of Ronas Hill is 6.75km, according to my GPS.
Time needed 6-8 hours depending on your fitness and how long you linger at points of interest
Total Ascent  About 570m.

Weather forecast mostly sunny with light wind and that’s what we got, temperature about 12°.

Fairly easy going from Collafirth Hill, around the flanks of Roga Field and Midfield, and then over Grud Burn before the 100m or so of steeper ascent over the last ½ km to the summit.  Very rocky classic fellfield terrain with photogenic formations, colours and rare plants and insects.  Outstanding views of the whole of Shetland from the summit.

Easy going gently downhill NW to Burn of Monius though the terrain steepens sharply here, and a rope has been affixed, so one can hang on over the steep and crumbly final 50 metres or so.

Wow!  Lang Ayre is epic, an all-engulfing assault on the senses that must be experienced to be believed.  The walk from one end to the other and back to the start is over 4km.

The climb back up the rope and along the lower reaches of the stream needs care but isn’t difficult.  Climbing out of the gorge is hard work and this is followed by a slog back up the slopes of Ronas Hill.  It’s then easy going back to Collafirth Hill.


A walk to Da Lang Ayre – Long Version
It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post but a much, much longer period has passed since I last set eyes on Lang Ayre.  But last week my friend Jill and I had an epic day out there on one of the most amazing days of weather of late summer.  I had been meaning to go there and spend time on the beach for years but finding the right combination of time and weather had eluded me, even though I’ve set out that way a number of times, the most recent earlier this summer when, already over the summit of Ronas Hill, the weather suddenly turned and low cloud appeared from nowhere and then descended.  The back of Ronas Hill is not the place to be in such conditions so I retreated.

Most people set out from Collafirth Hill, as we did, which means the first 200m of elevation is done in the car, but beware, the track up the hill has some nasty potholes that merge in places on the lower slopes!  If you’re thinking of taking on this challenge this is what you need to know.

How difficult is it?  This depends on your age and fitness but most folk seem to describe it as “moderately challenging”.  But I would describe the scramble back up the steep ravine from Lang Ayre as “tough, frequent stops required” – but I’ve never liked steep terrain and it’s only that hard for about half an hour.  However, as we’ll see, a short section has a handy rope to hang on to, because it’s steep and crumbly, and we both found that helpful.
How far is it?  From Collafirth Hill to Lang Ayre via the summit of Ronas Hill is 6.75km, according to my GPS.  However, we walked a further 3.7km on the beach, (and we probably missed a good half mile or so to the north end).  So, by the time we got back to the car we’d walked 16.9km in total.
How long will it take?  We took just over 8 hours; but we spent half an hour at the top of Ronas Hill, and over 2 hours at Da Lang Ayre.  On the other hand, if you’re young and fit and don’t want to marvel at the epic beach formations, cliffs and stacks for hours, you could probably get there and back in 5 hours – but you would have completely missed the point of this walk.
Total Ascent?  About 570m.

Back to our walk.  This day the forecast promised great weather for the day and we were lucky because it turned out even better than we had hoped and, apart from a few scudding clouds, we had almost wall-to-wall sunshine with a gentle southerly breeze to keep us cool when climbing uphill.


I’ve been up Ronas Hill many times; I’ve enjoyed the view alone, with family and with friends.  I’ve been nearly blown over in the wind and more than once encountered sudden mist or low cloud.  I’ve been up on mid-summer “night” but not been fortunate enough to see both mid-summer sunset and sunrise on the same night, despite hoping to tick that one off for about 20 years!  It can be a bit of a trudge in places where the peat is hagged but it’s fairly easy going from Collafirth Hill, around the flanks of Roga Field and Midfield, and then over Grud Burn before the 100m or so of steeper ascent over the last ½ km to the summit.  It gets noticeably rocky here and stopping often on the way up to admire the classic fellfield terrain with its photogenic formations and colours, as well as the rare and beautiful (if tiny) plants and insects should not be missed in the rush for the top.


Once at the top we spent some time admiring the view, posing for a photo, and signing the visitors’ book before heading off roughly north-west towards Lang Ayre.  But what a view!  This day visibility was outstanding and, from the summit of Ronas Hill, we could see clearly Scantips on Fitful Head (over 80km south), the Noup of Noss, Foula, Papa Stour, Yell, Unst and even Muckle Flugga!  Remarkably, Fair Isle (about 120km) was also visible though, to be fair, I only identified it later, on my photographs; I couldn’t discern it with my naked eye at the time.


Most of the next hour was easy going gently downhill with Mountain Hare and Bonxies for company but as we approached the lower reaches of the Burn of Monius the terrain steepened sharply and we had to pick our route carefully, but the steep valley is a delight, with stunning views opening up as we neared the bottom.  As I mentioned, a rope has been affixed, so one can hang on over the steep and crumbly final 50 metres or so.  This isn’t too bad and if you’re fit enough to have reached here it will present no problem – but check my photo to see if this might cause issues for you.

Wow!  Lang Ayre is variously described as “epic”, “remote”, “my favourite place”, the “most amazing place in Shetland” and given many other accolades by those who make it here.  All of these are fully justified, but it’s truly an all-engulfing assault on the senses that also includes the sounds; the scale of the beach and cliffs; and the colours and textures of the rocks, the cliffs, the sand and the water.  After over 2 hours there I was still part in awe, part in shock and partly still in compete wonderment of how this place truly can be.


We walked to the far south-west end of the beach before setting out for the other end where the sun was shining during our visit – most of the southern half of the beach was in shade at this time.  The beach is mostly pebbly and stony though there are large sandy sections.  There are some substantial areas that are fairly level, but some sections are so steeply stepped that I wondered how it is possible for the pebbles to simply hang there as if glued together.  Certainly, strolling over 2 miles of mostly pebbly, often shifting ground becomes tiring so allow plenty of time to enjoy it all but, even then, you’ll be enchanted to go back, I’ve no doubt.  We didn’t make to the north-west end, but we weren’t worried by this – better to leave something new to explore next time!

The time had come to head back and climbing back up the rope and along the lower reaches of the stream was the easy bit; I found climbing out of the gorge hard work and I’ve never been a hill climber so I found it a slog almost all the way back up the slopes of Ronas Hill.  However, we didn’t go back to the summit; rather, we skirted round the side at the 350m contour, but even then it took about 90 minutes from sea level to the small loch at the head of Grud Burn, between Ronas Hill and Mid Field that signalled the start of our gradual descent back down to Collafirth Hill.

PhotoWild! with Shetland Nature Festival

24 July, 2018

 

How would you like to have a great day out around Sumburgh Head while improving your photography at the same time?  Well, you’ve got a great chance with me THIS SATURDAY 28 JULY in association with the Shetland Nature Festival.

From the Nature Festival Programme:
Come on a PhotoWild! workshop with Austin Taylor around Sumburgh Head and take some photographs you’ll treasure. By the end of the day you’ll know how to control exposure, how to focus for better effect, how to create landscapes you’ll be proud of and learn to work with fast moving subjects. Suitable for all including beginners and all types of Digital Cameras are welcome. However, you’ll get the most out of the day with a Digital SLR, a Bridge or a Mirrorless camera.

A few more details:
Lunch and entry to Sumburgh Lighthouse Visitor Centre included
The plan for the day is to meet in the café for half an hour quick refresher of camera controls and then drive to Sumburgh Hotel.  From there we will make our way along the west coast taking in spectacular views of the Lighthouse and coastline along the way; we will get to the café for lunch, probably not around 1 PM. We will then spend some time photographing the birds around the RSPB Reserve and visiting the lighthouse exhibits. Depending on the weather and group’s wishes we could then either continue back to the vehicle(s) at Sumburgh Hotel via the east coast route over Compass Head or simply stay around the lighthouse and the Reserve, practising our photography on the many subjects there.  If the weather is initially unfavourable we could instead spend time around the Visitor Centre until it improves and then walk either coast.  Going all the way round would give the most variety but would probably cut out the indoor stuff.

For more details about what to bring, please visit this page: http://www.austintaylorphotography.com/what-to-bring.html

For more details about all my photo workshops, visit this page: http://www.austintaylorphotography.com/photo-training.html

To Book PhotoWild! at Sumburgh Head, please go to the Little Box Office/sat

Total Lunar Eclipse of 28 July 2018 (estimated)

23 July, 2018

This Friday, 27 July 2018 we have a chance to see a Total Lunar Eclipse though, from Lerwick the event will be more than half over before the Moon even rises here. Add to that the fact that the Sun sets after the Moon rises and it will be a real challenge to view or image the phenomenon in Shetland at all! Our best chance will be towards the end of totality about half way through the “blue hour” (the hour after sunset). Below are the timings for those that wish to try to see the so called “blood moon”.

All timings are for Lerwick in British Summer Time (BST). To convert to Universal Time (UT), also known as GMT, deduct 1 hour.

(Total Eclipse begins 20:30)
(Maximum Eclipse 21:21)

Moonrise 21:39
(Sunset 21:49)
Total Eclipse ends 22:13
Partial Eclipse ends 23:19
Penumbral Eclipse ends 00:28 (28/7/2018)

Excitingly, Mars lies 5° below the Moon, unfortunately rising (at 22:51 BST) sometime after totality ends, while Saturn lies roughly 31° west of the Moon, having risen at 19:58 BST. But you’ll need clear skies fairly close to the horizon as Mars only rises to about 4° at its highest point.

Here’s a photo I took of the total lunar eclipse of 21 December 2010 that may give an idea of what the Moon might look like if the sky is clear. But it may not even be this visible.

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Highland Challenge – Result!

11 April, 2017

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I’m a member of Islesburgh Photographic Club (and Facebook page ) and the Club enters a number of competitions with other clubs up and down the country throughout the year, having 2- and 3-way contests with them. Islesburgh usually does quite well, occasionally winning, which is a measure of the talent among the members. Once a year we enter 10 images into the Highland Challenge, which is a major battle involving 9 clubs across the Highlands and Islands and the judging took place a couple of weeks ago. Islesburgh came second, which is a great achievement and up from 3rd-equal last year and 6th the previous year – steady progress!

Last year I was very pleased to be overall winner of the Highland Challenge with my image of aurora at Wadbister, which you can see here. That was very satisfying, especially the Ffordes (FB) gift voucher that accompanied the trophy! That image took a lot of effort, both in the capture (I took it about 3 AM, having waited for just the right amount of pre-dawn light) and in the processing (it’s quite a complex stitched panorama). However, this year I won first prize in the Monochrome Digital Image section with this image of Hazel. This was particularly satisfying for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s black and white and I don’t often do black and white portraits, though it’s a style I very much like. Secondly, I was very much intending the finished image to be square right from the time I initially set it up and am pleased with the final composition. The light, Hazel’s expression and stance and all the other details that make the image work are all key elements of the image but there’s an element of luck in that the catch-light in the hair just caught on a stray breeze at exactly the right moment. Finally, this is one of my favourite images and, unlike some others which I really like but will be replaced by newer favourites, I think this will remain one of my favourites for a long time, mainly because I still think “wow, I created that stunning image of Hazel” every time I see it.

And here’s me receiving my trophy and certificate from Sidney, of Islesburgh Photographic Club… 🙂
https://www.facebook.com/IslesburghPhotographicClub/photos/a.222857797826556.43677.219533081492361/1166067316838928/?type=3&theater

Hogmany at Mareel

2 February, 2017

Just a (rather belated!) post of some photos from the Hogmanay event at Mareel. From early evening on New Year’s Eve through to the early hours of New Year’s Day local band Fiddler’s Bid led a wide range of talented artistes in a musical extravaganza that was as good a Hogmany party as I’ve been to in many a year. It was something new for Shetland and really made the most of this fantastic venue – everyone I’ve spoken to since has said what a great time it was. I know many folk were disappointed at not being there, in fact many were kicking themselves at not having bought tickets!

There was also music in the 1920s-themed cafe-bar while the venue’s two cinema screens played classic American concert films. We had a brilliant time and I’d like to say a big thanks to all the performers, staff at Mareel and sound & lighting crew who all put in such a tremendous effort. A truly great spree to kick off 2017!

Autumn Birds day

9 September, 2014

I can hardly believe that it’s 4½ years since the last time I went on a birding day out with Paul Harvey from the Shetland Biological Records Centre – I thought it was just a year or two ago! With Paul was Rory Tallack (one of the Rangers) and a group of about a dozen folk keen to see and learn more about autumn birds in Shetland.

Well this past Sunday was an awful day of rain and wind, quite a contrast to the day before, which had been glorious and warm sunshine all day. So our hopes were not that high and we set out generally looking for larger birds and those less likely to “hide” in such poor weather. We weren’t disappointed though and saw a good number of bird species – about the same as is usually seen on these courses that are generally held a couple of times a year. That we saw so many species is down to Paul’s ability to see and identify birds when most of the rest of us can hardly even see through the rain on the minibus windows.

So, unlike the post from 4½ years ago, the photos in this post are very poor and I’m just posting a few record shots of some of the more unusual species we saw. In fact, most of these are firsts for me, including the Kestrel which isn’t common in Shetland and, whilst I’ve seen it many times on the UK mainland, I don’t recall ever seeing one in Shetland before. So, given these are mostly new to me it was such a shame the rain prevented any decent photos, but I think it’s still worth posting them, not least to show the good work of the Shetland Biological Records Centre in running these courses.

You’ll see a couple of photos are not birds – we were very lucky to see a pod of 20+ porpoises at Scousburgh and they were very active, allowing good views.

Stuck for something to do at the weekend in Shetland? Not sure I believe you.

21 May, 2013

Just a quick round up of what I got up to at the weekend!  First, I got an exclusive preview of the Artisan Academy Exhibition of selected work of 3rd year Shetland College students of contemporary textiles at the Böd of Gremista. And by “exclusive”, I mean just me – before the other press or the private view. That was a good thing though because the Böd is so small that with the crowds expected at the opening, photographing the exhibits would have been difficult. I shall post more photos of the exhibition later.

I went back on the Saturday for the official opening to invited guests and snapped a few more photographs, mostly of the artists and guests, as you can see below.

Later on that evening I went along to an absorbing talk at the Shetland Museum entitled “From Kennemerland to Mary Rose” by Christopher Dobbs. Fantastic stuff for anyone interested in maritime archaeology and underwater finds, divers, historians and anyone just interested in the maritime history of Shetland and elsewhere. Dobbs also gave a fascinating account of the raising and restoration of the Mary Rose in the Solent, including giving the audience an insight into the new Mary Rose museum, due to open to the public on 31 May. The Shetland Museum was packed with more folk than had ever attended one of these lectures and some extra chairs and the stairs had to be used to accommodate everyone!

Sunday morning and I had a quick whizz round the boat show – not that I’m a boaty sort of person, but all those bright colours and beautiful shapes are highly attractive to a photographer! I was particularly taken with some of the older boats, including the 19th century Ann, but also a number of “Shetland model” boats outside dating to the early 20th century and with their history and owners listed.

For more info on the Ann see here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.517678974945272.1073741828.381349481911556&type=1

Sunday turned out to be a bit misty in town but we were headed west and, once over into Tresta it turned out to be the best day of the year so far – we took in the sun (me behind factor 30!) and admired the local scenes, wildlife and kayakers. Coming back, the last photo clearly shows that the misty low cloud was still at the same point that we had left it 5 hours earlier.

DSC_7661Jack Hardy alongside a painting of him and Claire Saunders Smith by Jennifer Hutchison

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Government legalises copyright theft of yours and my photographs

30 April, 2013

This legislation means that photographers and illustrators alike will see their artworks legally taken and used for another’s own gain. Perhaps by the likes of big companies who can well afford to pay. Perhaps in ways or by companies that you would not be happy with.

Professional photographer? This will hit your income.
Amateur photographer? Want to see your photos advertising some new product?

Why does all this matter? Well, you own the copyright to every photo you create but as soon as you post it online or send it to anyone by email, there’s a good chance it will become separated from any information that identifies you as the copyright owner. At this point it becomes know as an orphan work and The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 says it can be used by anyone, for free, so long as they can show they looked for the owner. How likely are they to find you among all the billions of images posted every day?

There’s a great blog post with more details here:
http://photothisandthat.co.uk/2013/04/29/is-the-uk-government-trying-to-kill-of-photographers/

You can sign the petition here:
http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/49422

You should write to your MP:
http://www.parliament.uk/about/contacting/mp/
http://www.writetothem.com/?keyword=write%20to%20your%20mp&creativeid=605235399&gclid=COGRzrnH87YCFdDJtAodsxgAjw

DO IT NOW! The Act has received Royal Assent but Regulations still need to be made.

Not in the UK? It applies to you too!

Is Professional Nikon DX dead?

16 April, 2013

I’m not sure I agree with Nikon’s understanding of the pro DSLR market by only having FX cameras in its current range and feel that it is irritating a lot of people by dumbing down its DX range. I also wonder why it only has 2 current pro bodies, the D800 and D4. If you doubt that there remains strong demand for a pro DX body check out the price graph for the D300s over the past 2 years, since Jan 2011 here. In the UK this has remained at around £1000 until the time of writing (April 2013).  I bought mine in Jan 2011 second hand for £800 in mint condition with just 2000 actuations and the current second hand value for one in a similar condition remains at least £700.  ALL other Nikon bodies, both pro and consumer have seen substantial price falls over the same period and most other available Nikon bodies now are much newer than the D300s which should be heading towards obsolescence if one considers the average lifespan of a DSLR – the D300 arrived in 2007 and the D300s in 2009!

Pine Grosbeak, Collafirth, 7 Feb 2013The D7100 isn’t the answer for me, key aspects are size and weight (for balance with pro lenses), CF card compatibility (they’re faster and easier to work with, both in the field with gloves and more reliable in card readers), incomplete weather sealing in a less robust body, smaller buffer, fundamentally different menu system and control layout based on the needs of a different type of user (e.g. one who doesn’t need to do everything instinctively in the dark or whilst not taking your eye off your subject).  The D4 is not cost effective and far too big for me.  The D800 has now become my default camera – but 36MP is far too much for most of the photography that I do (though it’s incredibly useful in some specific cases) and I use the DX mode a lot.  The D800 overall gives me great flexibility but it’s simply not as good for action and wildlife as the D300s, mostly due to the much slower frame rate and relatively slow buffer clearing, even in DX mode.  I’ve missed fleeting moments waiting for the buffer to clear even though I use a Lexar 800x CF card, as opposed to a 400x card in the D300s.  And don’t even think about chimping if you’ve just filled the buffer, you could wait for what seems like a minute or more for the green light to go out and while it’s on, reviewing is a painful experience.

It’s not even that I have many DX lenses – I have a total of 2 – and most of the lenses I use on the D300s are FX because they meet my needs better.  But the D300s doesn’t measure up to modern Nikon DSLR standards in terms of noise, movie quality and would benefit from onboard GPS and WiFi.  It also would benefit from better (faster, more responsive and more accurate) follow focus ability, a modern sensor with more MP and wider sensitivity range and a much better live-view mode – the facility on the D300s is very clunky.  Oh, and a faster image processor and/ or bigger buffer would be nice.

Finally, the competition from Canon – the 7D is newer than the D300s but it still hasn’t been replaced, despite the rumours of a MkII.  Perhaps neither of them will be and the lines will be dead?  For me I don’t see either the D7100 or D600 as a viable replacement for the D300s and will continue using it as long as I can.  The discussion on whether a pro-build DX DSLR is viable or will ever come will go on for another year or two at least – one reason to remain hopeful is to consider that 4 years elapsed between the launch of the D100 and the D200!

And the birds returned… in pairs!

3 May, 2012

For some reason there has been a shortage of birds in my garden these past few weeks, in spite of there being the usual supply of food for them. I had been wondering if hiding cats had been putting them off because there were plenty of birds in the neighbourhood and folk were telling of all sorts of interesting finds (see the Nature in Shetland site for details of recent birds).

Well I was delighted to find a pair of siskins and a pair of bramblings in my garden this evening, among the sparrows. Except the original pair of bramblings later turned out to be at least 6! Here are a few photos.