Landscape and wildlife photography - venues, cameras and the know-how!

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Landscape and wildlife photography - venues, cameras and the know-how!

I sometimes take two cameras into the hills with me, I suppose if you count my emergency phone then three! My wee Canon EOS-M has interchangeable lenses which is great for some wildlife pics and I also have an adapter that means it can take almost any lens. It’s a great little camera but my one regret is it has no viewfinder eyepiece, so looking at the screen on bright days is useless. The newer version has a viewfinder, I can’t justify it though! The 200mm lens is good enough for my wildlife shots as I’m usually close enough anyway and with the other group kit I take in my bag, this camera and lens is heavy enough for me! 

 Ptarmigan 200mm lens  

Ptarmigan 200mm lens  

I’ve also found out the Canon can also be used to carry water and still be used after it dries out. OK, this is not recommended but did happen to me during a guided tour of the coliseum, me being guided for a change and completely forgetting to look after my kit! (We bailed after 20mins of torrential rain and cold wind..) 

 Views from Sgòr Mòr 

Views from Sgòr Mòr 

Frustratingly landscape photos are sometimes better on my IPhone which is fine as it makes it so quick and easy to share. I must take hundreds of photos so I guess I’m getting better at framing the shot and knowing what works. My Canon is good in low light conditions or for night shots, the phone is just not up to the task. I’ve been lucky to snap Aurora shots and weather ones too. 

 Hopeman beach storms

Hopeman beach storms

 Aurora in my garden

Aurora in my garden

My shots are mostly luck though....don’t ask me to explain an ISO or F number...but I could probably give enough advice to get you going! Luckily I have some friends that pass on tips and they will be joining me for a photography workshop next month as we head to the loch of Lochnagar for some landscape and hopefully wildlife photography. The #IGERSAberdeen team will be on hand to give advice and explain correctly how to take those perfect shots. I’ll be in the background with my IPhone taking snaps and trying to look as though I know what I’m doing! I will be able to point out the interesting features though and take them to an amazing place. If you’d like to join this walk get in touch, you can reserve a place here.  

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Ben Macdui and the Cairngorm Plateau

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Ben Macdui and the Cairngorm Plateau

There are a few ways to approach the summit of Scotland's second highest mountain, Ben Macdui.  The walk from Linn o' Dee, near Braemar, was recently voted as one of the best in Britain. I also like to approach from the Aviemore side, starting at the ski centre gives more time to explore the vast plateau of the Cairngorms. 

 Ben Macdui summit

Ben Macdui summit

Either way you go, if you look closely, you'll be sure to see some rare wildlife and fascinating mountain flora. The views from the top of Ben Macdui can be vast on a good day. A short walk from the summit and you can peer into the Lairig Ghru and watch the river Dee start it's journey to the sea, passing the door of Corrour Bothy and heading down Glen Dee.

 Mountain Bike heading down into the Lairig!

Mountain Bike heading down into the Lairig!

Nothing compares to strolling over a high plateau. As Nan Shepherd said, "these hills hold astonishment for me. There is no getting accustomed to them".  This is so true.  Anyone that's been on the Cairngorm plateau, the true summit of the hill, knows how it feels to walk up there.  On a summer's day you can wander over the soft woolly fringe moss and skip over the slabs of granite, looking down into the lochs and drink the fresh spring water from the burns. In winter, the hills turn to mountains and they can be unforgiving, not a place for the untrained.  Even a summer's day can be brutal, so pick your day carefully and know how to navigate if you go alone. 

If you'd like to join me on a guided walk of the Cairngorm plateau please get in touch.

 Looking down into Loch A'an

Looking down into Loch A'an

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My favourite compass

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My favourite compass

This week has been all about the compass, running a Silver National Navigation Award course. My first ever compass was given to me by my Granda when I was probably 10 years old, I’m not 100% sure if it belonged to him or his dad but know he used it in the war. It has our surname scratched onto the brass case, I guess there must have been quite a few of these instruments issued out to the soldiers. 

 My favourite compass

My favourite compass

Today the compass has moved on but the principles are still the same, there’s a needle that points to north, or south if you’re down under. That simple concept of aligning your map with the needle is the fundamental concept of navigation, and most of the time you can align your map without it, just looking at the ground features around you. Once you’ve done that, you should be able to walk off in the required direction. Mappa Mundi, the “cloth of the world” now just a map, was not always drawn with north at the top, east was once at the top of the map. Back then, circa 700 years ago, the navigator knew that map orientation was essential, in some ways it’s a shame our maps today have north at the top...and most of the text on the map is written as it is, drawing the reader to hold the map in a certain way. The map should be held pointing in the direction you’re traveling in, if you can do that, you’ve set your map and your compass needle should agree with you.

 Checking the map

Checking the map

As time moves on, maps and compass will change but it’s a basic concept that will remain forever. Will they be replaced by technology? GPS is advancing too but a simple compass and a map is more reliable than any gadget currently and costs much less. If you look after them you can hand them down battery free to your grandchildren, like my Granda Hamish.

 Taking in the views

Taking in the views

If you’d like some navigation tuition get in touch.

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