Archive for the ‘Shetland General Photography’ Category


31 August, 2011

This is a rather belated post for June, with a few photos. I’ve been really busy these past summer months so not had much chance to post photos or update the blog due to various trips south, the Tall Ships visit, very busy with my photography business and, well, just summer stuff. It’s perhaps a good thing that I’ve spent less time in Shetland than I usually do this summer because the weather has been pretty poor here this year. I achieved a few firsts for me this June, including my first trip out to Uyea, where I walsked out one fine day with my daughter. On the way I managed to get a couple of good photos of a Dunlin and, later in the month got my first decent photo of a Shetland bumblebee – though, of course, I’ve seen many of these. I also saw some noctilucent clouds and we visited Unst, where I managed to photograph Muness castle in the sunshine – almost another first!

Also in June we headed south to a wedding of some good friends in Devon and while there captured images of dipper, water boatmen and dunnock; I had previously not photographed any of these before. I’ve also included photos of a few other animals and birds, not all of them wild and some that we saw whilst at the Eden Project.

Mammatus clouds

19 May, 2011

These photos are of mammatus clouds that are, apparently, often seen after a thunderstorm. We seldom get them here, possibly because we don’t often get thunderstorms and I don’t remember seeing clouds like this before in real life. There had just been thunder, according to a friend living locally but it was by chance that I looked out the window and said out loud to myself: “wow!” I’ve been hoping to see mammatus clouds for a long time – I’ve seen photos of them and they looked a good subject to photograph! But I think I was lucky because the ones I saw seem to be really good – partly because they were lit by a low sun, which emphasised their appearance. But they were moving quickly across the sky and within 10 minutes they had gone!

Sunny day in the Bonnie Isle (Whalsay)

10 May, 2011

As those of you in Shetland will know, Whalsay is known as the Bonnie Isle and I went there today, for 2 reasons. Firstly, I am attending a craft fair there in a few days’ time and I wanted to update my stock of images – it’s quite some time since I had been to Whalsay and the forecast was good. Secondly, I’ve been so busy in April that I didn’t even have time for a blog post so I decided to take a few days off and I love roaming the countryside at this time of year – well any time of year, really!

So there you have it – a short blog post especially for those readers who like short blog posts. I would just add that I was delighted to see group of red admiral butterflies at Whalsay Kirk – not what I’d call a swarm, but quite a few, nonetheless. The other photos are some of the views I captured.

Crescent Moon and Jupiter at dusk over Trondra, Shetland

8 February, 2011

I’ve been trying for a nice conjuction at dusk for some time, the last one being a couple of years ago. Shetland is a small island group and our weather is very changeable – it’s often either completely cloudy or cloudy for that brief time between sunset and darkness. It’s been a bit frustrating and I’ve missed a few good conjunctions and other events, including the recent partial solar eclipse (that time at sunrise).

Yesterday was a case in point; I got splendid views of the Moon and Jupiter side by side  –  but only after the sky had gone completely black. Tonight I thought the same was going to happen, there was thick cloud and a heavy rain shower developed as dusk descended so it went quite dark. But I was determined to see this one because Jupiter is now heading away from view over the next month or two and it was due to be directly beneath a rather nice crescent moon. So I drove a few miles out of town, firstly south and then west as I spotted a lighter area of sky then a break in the clouds where I found some clearer skies over Burra and Trondra. The drive was worth it because I got splendid views in the end and was able to frame the conjunction with some accompanying artificial lights too – car lights across Trondra bridge, a few houses and navigation lights reflecting nicely on the sea. I was pleased with the shots I got but it was quite windy so, even though I have a good solid tripod there was some movement evident in some of the closeup shots so I had to discard them. Here’s a representative selection of photos.

Horizontal Eclipse

14 January, 2011

Apologies for the lateness of this post, I went down with flu later on in the evening of this day and didn’t fully recover until well into the New Year!

The alarm went off at 5AM and I awoke to full moonlight streaming through the bedroom window; “fantastic”, I thought – and more than I dared hope for after the past 3 weeks of snow! It was the morning of 21 December 2010 and a very special morning because, not only was it the day of the solstice but also, a total lunar eclipse was due to happen.  Such combinations of events are rare indeed; the last time a lunar eclipse occurred on the winter solstice was 21 December 1638 – over 400 years ago! I had planned for the event without much hope of seeing it, for a number of reasons. Firstly, winter here in Shetland can bring some very changeable weather and it’s very difficult to forecast clear skies (or any kind of skies) with certainty. Secondly, the eclipse was due to occur as the moon set – this fact meant that cloud, haze or fog on the horizon was a possibility, even if the rest of the sky were to be clear. Thirdly, further snow overnight could have restricted my ability to travel to my favoured location and restricted how much of the event I could have seen because I needed to go a reasonable distance to get an uninterrupted view to the west/ north-west, where the moon would be. On the positive side, Shetland had the potential to offer some of the best views in the UK. This is because its northerly location means that sunrise is later here than further south meaning darker views of the moon that could be lost in daylight much sooner elsewhere. In fact, the moon wasn’t due to set here until just about the end of totality, after sunrise at just after 9AM. A lunar eclipse that occurs when the sun is above the horizon is known as a horizontal eclipse, though sunrise would be obscured from my view by a low hill.

There had been a further slight fall overnight and I considered my options carefully since I only have a two-wheel drive car and the roads wouldn’t have been cleared by the time I needed to be at my proposed vantage point. I decided to set out and see how far I got, laden down with photo gear, as usual. I travelled to Trondra, in some places doing no more than 20 mph but I made it and looked for a place to stop. I needed to park at my viewing site so I had the car as a refuge from the cold, but that meant pulling onto the verge, something I hadn’t previously thought about. The verge was about a foot deep in snow but I managed to pull off into a previous vehicle’s tracks but as soon as I stopped I realised I wouldn’t get out again without a struggle – more of that later.

Despite my early start it was 6:30AM when I parked, the eclipse was due to start in 2 minutes! The sky was still clear and the moon was stunningly bright against a black sky. I set up as quickly as I could but I couldn’t take my first photo until 6:35AM, by which time the earth’s shadow had taken a noticeable “bite” out of the Moon. It was cold and the snow crunched underfoot but all the activity of setting up, marvelling at the event and taking photos kept my mind off the cold for quite a while. I took a series of photos and when the shadow reached part way across the Moon and the redness started to appear I adjusted the exposure and it began to clearly show on the LCD screen. I took a few photos of the general scene showing the increasingly red Moon hanging in the sky over a very cold and blue pre-dawn landscape. I was most impressed to catch a red glow on the water below the partially eclipsed Moon – though this faded as the Moon dimmed and daylight began to approach.

Whilst it was still dark a big white van pulled up alongside, the driver concerned for my wellbeing. Turned out it was my friend Frank and we chatted for a few moments about what was going on. In passing I said I would have great difficulty getting off the road verge; no worries he said, take this shovel and get it back to me later – I was so glad he did because in my excitement earlier I’d forgotten mine. Amazing – where else could this happen?

Strangely, I had considerable difficulty getting a sharp focus, but the reason became apparent later and shouldn’t have caught me out. The lenses were fogging slightly, even though they were cooled by this time. The reason for this became apparent when I was packing up and I noticed hoar frost had formed on the barrel of the telephoto lens – it’s metal, whereas the other lens I was using is plastic. Because it was dark until shortly before I packed up, I didn’t see the ice forming! I learned a salutary lesson there and shall remember to use a cover for the lens and camera – the irony is that I had one sat in the camera bag!

Totality occurred at about 7:40AM and the Moon was still readily visible at this time, though by now the sky was dark blue with approaching dawn. I continued to take photos, though by this time I was getting cold and had to resort to sitting in the car with the engine running to keep warm! I had hoped to continue taking photos of the Moon until it set and the continuing clear skies led me to think that might be possible. However, by mid-totality (about 8:15AM) the rising sun and increasing daylight overwhelmed the Moon, which was very dim and barely visible. I managed photos until just before mid-totality but by 8:15AM I could no longer find it in the viewfinder and could only just make it out with my eyes.

I decided to pack up and it was at this point I noticed the frost on my lens. I dried it off and packed the camera and lens combination in an airtight plastic bag to prevent condensation as it warmed up. Getting out of the deep snow on the road verge was a challenge and I was really grateful for the shovel! I dug channels to the road but, even so, I had to rock the car back and forth to get enough momentum to get out. I also had to deepen my channels a bit more but eventually got out!

A short while later, I photographed the sunrise (though it had been up for nearly half an hour by then and, in the early afternoon, a fantastic sunset again over Trondra. That time there were hordes of snappers out. Quite an achievement to capture both sunrise and sunset on the same day in midwinter in Shetland, even more amazing on the same day as a lunar eclipse!

‘Vyeshch’ a Textile Installation by Hilary Seatter

14 May, 2010

вау! (Russian for wow!) You must see this. Make your way to the Museum and Archives, pass it and head round to the far end of the Pier Store because you’re in for a treat. As well as (apparently) a rather special coffee machine, that Hilary tells me can’t be had “for love nor money” there is a marvellous and mysterious collection of large scale silk panels. These panels are hanging in groups together such that they appear layered one on another, but – better yet – are transparent so that the bottom one can be seen to create an impression of depth.

Hilary explains “the title ‘Vyeshch’ is a Russian word that means ‘thing’ or ‘object’: a thing with soul, something infused with personality through its history and its personal meaning”. Inspired by and developed from a series of pinhole camera imagery of her coffee machine Hilary has created visual and audio works which play with your senses.

Go and see it soon so that you have time to go again before it finishes on 12 June.

Best Aurora for 2 years

12 April, 2010

After a tip off I went hunting aurora tonight – I have to get out of town because of the light pollution if I want the best experience so I headed north to a few favourite sites. I got a few photos and enjoyed seeing the aurora again after such a long wait but cloud began to roll in and I thought that would end the display. But as I headed back into town I thought it seemed to be getting stronger again and hoped it might even be bright enough for some in town shots. Sure enough it continued to brighten at silly hours o’clock but I was ready to take a few shots I’ve wanted to get (or improve upon previous attempts) for a while. So here’s just a taster and hopefully I will post more tomorrow. But I might not go to bed even yet because since I got home it’s got really exciting with streaks, flashes, shooting ars and rays; it’s now highly active but not yet a storm. It’s also just green in colour – so far I haven’t been able to discern any other colours.

Star trails

9 April, 2010

This winter has gone too quickly. I had high hopes of getting some new star trails photos this year but here we are in April with proper darkness now only available for less than 2 weeks! I’ve had a few attempts this winter but every time I’ve had the time (if you know what I mean) it’s been cloudy or raining and every time it’s been crystal clear I’ve been otherwise occupied. So I’ve only got a couple of attempts this year and I’m going to have to wait another year for another serious attempt.

In the meantime, here are a couple of versions that I took the other night. As so often is the case it started off clear (though seeing wasn’t perfect with some very thin high cloud) so I set the camera up and left it. Unfortunately after only about 45 minutes or so cloud began to roll in, little scuds at first then bigger blotches. It soon became clear (!) that there would be no more startrails, because the stars were disappearing, so I brought the camera in and downloaded the images. Here are the results, one with all the clouds and the other with some clouds removed – in that one you might just see a satellite streak.

Despite the clouds I think both are quite pleasing results in their own way. What do you think?

At Last! A clear view of Venus and Mercury.

5 April, 2010

I was particularly keen to get some photos of the conjunction of Venus and Mercury happening at the moment but every day after sunset has either been wet and miserable or, at the very least, thick cloud. But yesterday showed promise, with a clearing sky in the afternoon and little wind. In between rebuilding a couple of computers I kept my eye on the sky as things continued to improve. Alas, as late afternoon turned into early evening, thickening cloud rolled into the west and my heart sank as I thought that this was going to be yet another astronomical delight denied to me by the weather. This winter has seen more than it’s fair share of those! Undaunted, and having reviewed various weather and satellite websites, I thought there might be a chance of clearing skies (or at least views between clouds) if I headed west and south.

As I drove south it remained cloudy for quite some time then a few glints of the setting sun appeared and my hopes rose. I decided to try the view from the Ward of Scousburgh, the highest place in the south Mainland; once there the sky began to clear and, as I watched, Venus became visible, first with the binoculars then with my unaided eyes. It was perhaps another 20 minutes or so before I found fainter Mercury just barely visible with the binoculars. There were still quite a few clouds around, thick clouds low on the horizon, high clouds covering large areas of the sky and various clouds in between. I waited anxiously, hoping the two planets would remain visible long enough to get some photos. Eventually I took a few photos with the telephoto lens showing Mercury just 3° away from Venus but at a very slightly higher level

With a few shots on the card I felt confident enough to try another location at a lower altitude so as to add some landscape features for scale and character; the sky was still hit and miss, with large areas of cloud around but it was as good as it was likely to get – the forecast for the next few days was pretty poor with extensive rain showers starting the next day. Coming down off the hill there are superb views of the beach at Scousburgh and I stopped there for a few photos, with some good results. But what I had really been hoping for with this conjunction was to get a photo of the planets together with the Auld Chapel at Dunrossness, still illuminated as part of the Mirrie Dancers winter illuminations, so I headed there – though without much hope as I could see from Vanlop that the area west of the Chapel.

As I pulled up I could see both Venus and Mercury, both free of cloud but thick cloud was moving in from the south – the Chapel was still illuminated, as I’d hoped, now just bet into position! I walked up the hill and positioned my kit and shot off a few images – I managed to get both planets and the Chapel in shot, just before the two planets dipped into the horizon cloud, not to be seen again – or so I thought. My last shots of the night were at Spiggie beach – a sudden, last minute inspiration took me there. I knew the alignment would be perfect but didn’t hold out much hope of seeing the planets because they had already gone below the horizon cloud and because it was getting to the time when both would set – in fact it was nearly 10 PM by this time. As luck would have it, both planets shone through gaps in the cloud just long enough for me to get a couple of photos, the last one just 6 minutes before Venus set below the horizon. This all rounded off a more successful night than I could have hoped for and that was a real bonus given the conditions earlier. As it happened the night became fully clear for the next few hours before clouding over with the rain coming in the next day, as forecast. Here are some of the images I captured.

The last Snowdrops? And passionate frogs

24 March, 2010

Well, the Mirrie Dancers project is all done so I can get on with some other stuff. One of this winter’s projects included getting some decent photos of snowdrops – first find them! A quick request and a few folk told me about good displays. The very first I saw were in the first few days of February – in between snowfalls – just a small collection of delicate plants braving the winter and I got one photo of an emerging flower that I am pleased with.

Then we had more snow and travel was curtailed again for a while but a couple of weeks later and a site in Lerwick had a magnificent display. Again I managed to get a nice image, as well as getting cold and muddy from lying on the ground. Just about to go out to another site and then we had more snow again – that took us into March (I think). Well, right up to date and last weekend I got probably the last snowdrops of the year. These were fully open, many even past their best but this location provided good opportunities to photograph them from underneath. See what you think.

Other photos over the past few weeks included the bearded seal in Yell Sound where, at my third attempt, I managed to get a nice shot of him in the water. To round off this little collection of photos here’s a couple of frogs I saw on Sunday – a nice shot for the first day of spring I think.