The Cromdale Grahams are a couple of hills close to home. They are known primarily for their history, which saw the Battle of Cromdale take place here. They’re also known as having 2 quite large monuments on the summit. One to celebrate the coronation of Queen Alexandra and King Edward VII, and the other to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. The hills are now though becoming more well known as a place to spot Scotland’s wild reindeer herd.
I had waited some considerable time for a high pressure system to come this way over the winter. Tackling these 2 hills at any other time of the year is hard going. Between the 2 hills lie 6.5 km of bog and peat hags. I wanted solid ground underfoot and good winter light during the day to photograph the reindeer – if they made an appearance.
Starting very early in the morning from the village of Cromdale, I hoped to be up on top by sunrise. A good path leads up to the Piper’s Stone, and from there the going turns rough.
Ascending steeply through knee high heather toward the ridge, I spot 2 reindeer some distance from, and ascending parallel with me, albeit a lot quicker. I increased my pace hoping to catch up with them on top. The light was slowly turning purple, pink and then orange as the sun was nearing its rise.
Were the 2 reindeer going to be in view?
Would I be able to get some worthwhile images, after I had carried the weight of my professional camera gear up here for this day?
I arrive at the summit just as the sun rises behind the Cairngorms and casts a golden glow all around. Looking back I spot movement in the distance near to the Coronation Cairn. It’s the Reindeer.
Descending quickly I make my way over towards them, hoping they would remain there.
The rest of my walk lies beyond the reindeer and to the far end of this hill in the centre of the image. The Corbett of Ben Rinnes is on the right.
I spent quite some time around them taking photos before I finally managed to pull myself away. I still had a fair distance to hike yet, but it was difficult to leave this scene behind me. Leave I did though, and as I made my way over the frozen ground to the next Graham some 5km in the distance yet, the sound of the red grouse accompanied me.
Near to the summit of this hill I come across another, smaller herd of reindeer, and I very happily begin snapping away again.
Very reluctantly, I pack up and retrace my steps for the long descent back to the van. As I reach the road the sun is almost setting and this glorious winter day is almost at an end.
For further information on Scotland’s Reindeer, click Cairngorm Reindeer
When I first started this blog earlier this year, the main aim was to have an online record of my hill days that I could share with my children and friends and reminisce over when Im old and grey! I mainly used Walkhighlands website in the past for compiling trip reports into the hills, but wanted a more stylish and personal log of my adventures. Somehow the initial aim has been sidetracked somewhat, mainly due to severe lack of time, so here I present a short video containing a collection of images from this past years trips to the hills.
PS – How many hills can you name?
stats for the year;
Distance walked 528km
Ascent – 75,765 ft
It’s that time of year when various media outlets publish their lists of the best photographs from 2011. The following images are my personal favourites from their lists;
Wild horses are herded down from the mountains for the annual Rapa das Bestas (shearing of the beasts) festival in Sabucedo, Spain. Hundreds of wild horses are rounded up from the mountains and directed into the outdoor pen to be trimmed and marked.
Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Crowds rehearsed in Juba in preparation for South Sudan’s independence ceremonies. After decades of guerrilla struggles and two million lives lost, the Republic of South Sudan officially split from the north on July 9 and became Africa’s 54th country.
Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Shuttle launch. May 16, 2011
The links below contain many more images deemed to be some of the best from this past year.
(Disclaimer – some of you may find some of the images unsettling/disturbing)
Rally GB was once again the final round of the WRC this year and looked set to be the closest finish to the season in a long time. Scottish rally photography was where I began honing my skills as a photographer several years ago now, and photographing the WRC has to be the pinnacle of motorsport photography. Usually this event is a bit of a drab affair for photographers, with very little, good natural light available, and I have many images from this event in the past which look decidedly average – technically perfect, but nothing you would want to hang on your wall. So it was with great delight that this years event coincided with some fantastic weather which this country experienced in early November.
Hidden away in the far north west corner of Scotland, there is a beach. This beach is consistently voted amongst the very top beaches in the UK to visit. To get here however, involves a very, very long drive (amongst some of the best scenery Scotland has to offer), followed by a 5 mile hike across open moorland.
The hike itself is very straightforward. There is a good track most of the way, although it can be quite wet and muddy in a few places, as it passes directly next to several hill lochs. As you approach the bay, rounding the headland you are rewarded with a stunning view of Sandwood below you. The pounding of the waves crashing along this mile long stretch of beach drifts up to you, and you cannot stop yourself from smiling as you begin the descent to explore this awe inspiring place.
A highly recommended place to visit. Despite the remoteness, this beach still attracts quite a few tourists, but as the Bay is so large, the feeling of space and isolation is not diminished.
There are a few photographers whom I admire and that inspire me, and then there are a couple of photographers whom I greatly admire and that really inspire me. This video showcases the work of one of these greats. Steve McCurry.