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wildlife

The Cairngorms In late spring

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The Cairngorms In late spring

Late spring in the Cairngorms is a great time to wander. The snow patches add more drama to the scene and cool spring air makes very pleasant walking. At the end of April I was in Aviemore so decided to wander up to the plateau from the ski centre. Going up to 1141, the clouds were low with poor visibility and really cold wind chill. 30 minutes later the cloud lifted and the sun came out and I was treated to an excellent day. I went all over the place and up to Ben Macdui for views into the Lairig Ghru.

Ben Macdui Snow Bunting

Ben Macdui Snow Bunting

Views from Ben Macdui down in the Lairig Ghru

Views from Ben Macdui down in the Lairig Ghru

I walked between the small snow patches to look into the lochs from above and views from different angles. I walked along the west side of the plateau just above the Lairig Ghru and found a couple of new camping spots for a later date. Views to Cairn Toul (from the Gaelic Càrn an t-Sabhail, 'Hill of the barn'), Sgòr an Lochain Uaine (peak of the little green loch, also known as Angels Peak) and the big Braeriach (Am Bràigh Riabhach, ‘the grey upper part’) were excellent. I could see the ice still covering the lip of the green lochain and the longest lying snow patches in the Garbh Choire Mòr looked quite small for late April. As I walked along the side of the plateau I could see some Ptarmigan sheltering amongst the boulders. 

Loch A’an

Loch A’an

I was surprised by the lack of snow, especially down at the Pools of Dee which was bare. I’d be passing there a couple of weeks later on my first Lairig Ghru trip of the year. Having no snow makes that section easier to contend with...

The Pool of Dee

The Pool of Dee

On the way down to the van I had an encounter and great conversation with the local reindeer, topping off what had been a fantastic day. 

Resident Cairngorm reindeer

Resident Cairngorm reindeer

Later that week I had the pleasure of guiding a group out of Linn o’ Dee to Beinn Bhreac (speckled hill) then on to Beinn a' Chaorainn (hill of the rowan tree) in what can only be described as damp conditions! We had a good day though, first two Munros for some of the group, a great achievement for them!  

Having fun in the snow patches, no dangers at the bottom!

Having fun in the snow patches, no dangers at the bottom!

Happy faces!

Happy faces!

May began with a trip up the Glenshee west Munros with my brother on an excellent visibility day, highlight being the white tailed eagle!  

Views from

Views from

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Then the day after I guided a repeat client up Lochnagar. Another memorable day as I’ve never seen the loch so still, perfectly reflecting the corrie and snow patches. The air was so still at the top too, the only noises to be heard being birdsong and running water. We strolled over the White Mounth and down to Dubh Loch for lunch on the beach. By this time the wind was picking up and heavy rain came on. 

The stags were in the valley as we returned back to the car, happy and fulfilled with our day.  

White Mounth Ptarmigan

White Mounth Ptarmigan

Dubh Loch

Dubh Loch

Forward a week and winter returned! Some of the heaviest snow we’ve seen all winter. The plateau is white again and the bare Pools of Dee in the Lairig Ghru are filled with snow only a few days before my planned guided walk which is now rescheduled! I walked up to the Munro Beinn Bhreac to gauge conditions and wet snow met me at 700m followed by blizzards all the way to the top. Late spring can still surprise!

Beinn Bhreac winter returns

Beinn Bhreac winter returns

Blog by Garry, lead guide at Hillgoers.

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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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Capturing the Moment – Wildlife of 2017

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Capturing the Moment – Wildlife of 2017

Capturing the moments – wildlife of 2017

As a hillgoer, you soon become familiar with the usual wildlife suspects and where to stumble across them. The Ptarmigan sheltering amongst the rocks, the deer just round the next bend, the dippers following you down a stream and so on. I’ve had a few occasions where I’ll turn a corner to see a perched eagle spot me, take off and soar away before I can take my lens cap off, so frustrating and fantastic at the same time. Capturing the moment for me is mainly luck, not skill, just being in the right place at the right time. I never take a tripod and most of my photos are taken on my phone. Next year I’m planning to take the tripod and have my wee digital camera easily within reach, not tucked away in my bag!

The days of film development are gone for most but I’m definitely developing my camera skills, mainly thanks to a network of superb photographers out there, giving advice and humorous criticism. 2018 will be another year of development and I’ll be taking a larger lens with me too, the extra weight in my bag will hopefully be compensated by some quality wildlife snaps. I’ll just have to reduce weight elsewhere, a new light weight bag perhaps or leave my hipflask at home on those overnight trips….

The photos below are a sample of my wildlife pics from 2017. I’ll be taking more camera clubs out next year, learn from the experts!

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