Archive for the ‘Shetland Landscape’ 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

Milky Way at St Ninian’s tombolo and over Ireland, Shetland

4 October, 2016
I thought I’d missed the best chance to photograph the Milky Way on Sunday night, which had been exceptionally clear and wind free, whereas Monday evening had turned cloudy and there was a strong wind. But later on the sky cleared for about an hour so I thought I’d try my luck. So I headed out to St Ninian’s, which I thought would provide a nice environment for the photos. These are both composite images; one vertical, one horizontal. I was lucky with both images; for the first one I was surprised by a car that happened to drive down the track shining its light over the tombolo. Initially I was a little put out, with my darkness all gone just as I was about to take the first photo of the composition. But then I saw the beauty of the whole tombolo lit up just for a few moments, long enough for me to take the first image, creating an amazing illuminated foreground. The image with the aurora and Milky Way was quite lucky too – the aurora had been good in Shetland for the past few days but it wasn’t expected this night. However, as I was taking my photos looking south, I kept checking to the north and could see a faint glow developing; then the aurora brightened, just long enough to create the second image. http://bit.ly/1lzUb8j

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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Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Mars, the Moon and Mirrie Dancers too!

2 March, 2012

What an amazing night! After a few days of muggy, misty, cloudy and damp conditions, the forecast was for a clear night, the temperature perhaps getting down to freezing. I began looking forward to taking some photographs of some planets, perhaps some star trails and other possibilities. After much thought I decided to head out to Burra because I wanted some interest in the landscape and I knew just the place to get some domestic lights and streetlights as well as some nice areas of sea that I hoped the quarter moon would illuminate. But before I left home I was pleased to see Mercury above the hill at the back of us. Later, I also had a good view of Mars in the opposite direction, its distinctive red colour making it an easy sight.

Wow, I was not to be disappointed at my chosen spot in Burra! Not only did the moon help to illuminate the sea and the landscape but I could also see Foula on one set of photographs. That was the set that I hope will make a nice timelapse of Venus and Jupiter. But, more than all that, no sooner than I was there but I could sense the aurora and, as my eyes adapted I could see it too. So I set up my other camera facing over Lang Sound and was delighted to get some nice aurora shots and a cool green reflection in the Sound. As you can see it was mostly the auroral oval but there were also some beams and rays and a very brief period where the oval folded into a curtain. I also now see on some of the photos that there were some overhead forms too, though I didn’t notice at the time. As you can see, the lights were not very strong tonight and, of course, the camera sees much than the human eye but they still inspire me and I’m really glad I was in a great position to see them – I never tire of seeing the mirrie dancers.

December events and views

30 December, 2011

Some landscape shots taken this month, together with a couple of flash mobs for good luck! First, are 4 shots of the Moon and Jupiter from early in the month. Next, a couple of snow scenes in Lerwick, followed by the Moon, partially eclipsed. A sunset and the Moon again, this time just before dawn, are followed by the Sandyburn Singers, who “flash mobbed” the Toll Clock shopping centre, and shoppers rushing to get their Christmas shopping completed just before Christmas. The calm before the storm at St Ninian’s and Breiwick are followed by another “flash mob” of young people from all over Shetland putting on a dance act at the Market Cross on the last late night shopping night before Christmas. Christmas Day raged a wild storm that caused some damage throughout the Isles, this garden was wrecked at our friends’ house in Nederdale. Off over to Burra for the next and all but the last photo. A rope at Meal, follwed by the sea washing over the coast at Lottra Minn and the Kame of the Riven Noup. Last one is the sun, showing (from L-R) sunspots 1389, 1388 1386 and 1384.