KIT KAT

I’m having a blogging break for a little while as I’m very busy at the moment.
I’ll leave you to view some of my images though until I get back.

In Search Of Scotland’s Reindeer

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?

The Jubilee Cairn

Summit trig and Jubilee Cairn

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.

Reindeer in the distance

Descending quickly I make my way over towards them, hoping they would remain there.

The Coronation Monument

At the monument and my first sight now of the herd.

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.

Reindeer are very docile animals and it was such an amazing sight to get so close to them.

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

2011 Video review

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;

33 Grahams
2 Corbetts
1 Munro

Distance walked 528km
Ascent – 75,765 ft

2011 Images of the Year

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;

Lightning flashes around the ash plume of the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano chain near Entrelagos, Chile.
Carlos Gutierrez/REUTERS

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

Brutus, a 5.5m saltwater crocodile, gives a boatload of tourists a moment they’ll never forget on the Adelaide River.
Katrina Bridgeford

A fisherman arranges a net as his wife paddles their boat in the waters of the Periyar river on the outskirts of the southern Indian city of Kochi on 5 January.Sivaram V/REUTERS

A boy swims along the algae-filled coastline of Qingdao, Shandong province, China.
Reuters

Mithun, 11, carries soil at a laterite brick mine in Ratnagiri district. He is paid two Indian rupees per brick and carries an average of 100 bricks out of the mine each day.
Danish Siddiqui/REUTERS

Space shuttle Endeavour lands at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Joe Skipper/REUTERS

Fans leave condolence notes in memory of Steve Jobs at the Apple store on in San Francisco, California.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Antigovernment protesters in Pearl Square in Manama, Bahrain, on Feb. 20.
Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

A girl stands in front of a damaged home on the eastern outskirts of Tripoli on March 25.
Moises Saman for The New York Times

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

Specialist Michael Miller, age 23 from Melbourne, Florida, sat at the feet of Sergeant Quintana, silent, with a glassy haunted stare.Adam Ferguson—VII for TIME

A girl in isolation for radiation screening looks at her dog through a window in Nihonmatsu, Japan, following the massive earthquake and tsunami.
Yuriko Nakao/REUTERS

Shuttle launch. May 16, 2011
Stefanie Gordon—AP

Love Your Job
Edmond Terakopian

A woman jumps from a burning building during the London riots in August.Amy Weston

A U.S. Army soldier takes five with an Afghan boy during a patrol in Pul-e Alam, a town in Logar province, eastern Afghanistan.
Umit Bektas/Reuters

The tall ship Alexander von Humboldt cuts through waves and weather during Kieler Woche.
Eduard Bopp

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)

MSN 2011 in pictures
NYTimes
Life
Time
Huffington Post
Buzzfeed
As Seen From Space

WRC Wales

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.

Sandwood Bay

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.

Spending a night or more wild-camping here is the best way to experience Sandwood.

The beach is backed by many large dunes,

and spectacular rock formations/colours.

Am Buachaille – (The Shepherd) is the sea stack at the southern end of the Bay.

During stormy weather, Sandwood becomes even more atmospheric.

Plenty to see and do here; fishing, camping, exploring, photography, hiking onwards to Cape Wrath,

or just relaxing.

The sunsets are different every night.

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.

Inspiration

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.

Be inspired;

Steve McCurry: A Retrospective from Leica Camera on Vimeo.

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