From the Designers' DarkroomSubscribe Now

Angels’ Pool – A Place that Only Exists Through the Eyes of Time

It’s almost dusk and I can feel the sun on my face as the last light fades into the horizon. The forceful breeze off the Pacific creates crashing waves on the jagged shore where I stand.

The wind’s whisper in my ear suggests to me there’s more to Mother Nature’s story here. She says to me… there is a small cove where angels go to play. And where they go, mere mortals cannot survive because of the treacherous rock formations and crashing tide. It’s called Angels’ Pool and it exists only through the eyes of time.

Treacherous rocks surround a small cove where angels play as the remaining golden light fades into the horizon.

Scotland Revealed: Isle of Mull and Iona

Before I jump into the Isle of Mull tour experience and since this is the first blog post of the New Year, Happy New Year everyone. I hope you’re all off to a great start in 2013!

I wanted to share a quick blog post about Bowman’s Tours departing from Oban, Scotland. We opted for touring the Isle of Mull and Iona which departs from the beautiful Oban Bay. After almost missing the tour ferry, which was docked on the other side of the bay from our bed and breakfast, we were finally off with the wind at our back. This tour took the majority of the day so plan for that; and make sure to bring a rain coat just in case.

The tour begins with a scenic ferry ride to the Isle of Mull; once there, you basically board a tour bus and let your guide navigate on a single-lane, two-way traffic road. They have a saying in Mull: you don’t drive on the road, you drive on what’s left of the road. Apparently, road maintenance is a difficult task to keep up with here.

The bus tour was nice, but I would have much rather brought the car aboard the ferry and explored Mull at my own pace. Lesson learned.

I will say this, though… our tour guide was great and he provided us with fantastic explanations of Mull’s history, life on the isle, and local wildlife in the area. I was pleased to see seals along the coast and some very interesting trees.

Mussels at Martyrs Bay Restaurant in Iona

Mussels are popular in Iona and Mull; so much so that it’s a popular trade to catch them for a living. Martyrs Bay Restaurant right near the dock offers these locally caught mussels in a garlic and wine sauce that will tingle your tastebuds and make you savor every bite. The portion was large and not too expensive either. Wish I had a picture…

Also, not too far from the dock is a pretty little beach area.

Isle of Iona - Scotland, UK

Inverness, Highlands, and a Torrential Downpour While Driving on a Twisty Road

Good times were had by all on our way to Inverness, the capital city of the Highlands in Scotland. I’m not really one to enjoy driving in the rain while it’s dark outside; even more so when I’m in an unknown area. This is one of those trips that got the best of me here… I needed tack sharp concentration on the long, twisty roads because the windshield wipers couldn’t keep up with the buckets of rain these storm clouds were dropping. Let’s just say I’m glad this ride is done with and behind me.

Scottish Calm (Scottish Highlands Calm Before the Storm)

Before the weather turned into a giant mess, the clouds swirled viscously around the greenery and I found this juxtaposed tree in a scene that really does a great job of displaying the Scottish Highland’s grandeur. It was particularly difficult to keep the camera dry enough to salvage the shot, but I managed. Patience and persistence…

Scottish Highlands Calm Before the Storm

Edradour Distillery and Whisky Trails

Edradour Distillery is known as Scotland’s smallest whisky distillery, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s not worth the visit. This place is the real deal and in my Scotland experience, Edradour gives the best whisky tour out of the few I visited. I say this because the master distillers know their whisky, will correct your misconceptions (if you have any), and go out of their way to please your taste buds. I enjoyed Edradour’s tour, but the real treat comes afterward.

Contrary to what you might read on Trip Advisor or the other travel review sites, their tasting room cost (cash bar) is disclosed up front before your tour tickets are purchased and it’s made crystal clear that additional whisky can be purchased for a modest fee after the tour. Some people complain that it’s not free anymore… well, I will happily fork over a few pounds for a dram (or three) from a fine selection of whisky that can’t be found anywhere else.

Not only does Edradour have a fantastic whisky selection, this distillery is the only one I visited in Scotland that allowed us to sample “The Angel’s Share,” which is defined as the percentage of evaporated whisky in the air during the casking period that’s been left for the angels to enjoy.

“The Angel’s Share” in the warehouse is enough to get you wobbly!

Whisky Trails

We opted to take the “whisky walk” to the Edradour Distillery. Unfortunately, we had to skip Blair Athol’s tour because tickets were sold out. Rick Steve’s “whisky walk” suggestion to hit these back-to-back left us hanging. So, in order to avoid the wasted trip to Edradour, we called ahead to make sure there were openings.

We’re good to go. The “Edradour Walk” was underway… wait, where are the trail markings? Yeah… it took a little while to get the hang of things, but we finally found our way to the Black Spout, which is a medium sized waterfall on the way to the distillery.

The trail markings were great up to the point “Edradour Walk” disappeared. We were faced to make a choice at a fork in the trail with different, but similar colored arrows; if I remember correctly, there was a yellow arrow with a white circle and a green arrow with a clear circle.

We made the wrong decision and instead of getting to the distillery, we trudged through really high grass that had not been cut in months. We were also in the middle of a midge gathering. Don’t breathe… carbon dioxide only attracts more of these annoying bugs. No, must… stop. Whisky Trails is born.

A scenic vantage point on the way to the Edradour Distillery in Pitlochry, Scotland

*** For those of you interested, I found the “distillery,” which was actually hidden in a neighbor’s basement. No, that’s not true, but I did think I found it and proceeded to ask the gentleman out front gardening if I had finally made it to Edradour. He smiled, then led me through his private entryway to an unmarked road pointing in the direction to go. ***

Driving in Scotland and 12 Miles to Mallaig

Where to begin… well, driving in Scotland is a challenging experience, that’s for sure! At least for an American…

Driving in the UK is the complete opposite to what we’re accustomed to. The driver seat is on the right of the car and the cars drive on the left side of the road. So when you have oncoming traffic, cars whizz by you on your right, a sensation that I haven’t felt since acquiring my driving permit years ago.

Okay, that bit is tough at first in its own right, but that’s not the only challenge here. If I’m not completely in shock already, the roads outside modern cities are extremely winding and narrow. Eek! I cringed at the sight of oncoming traffic on more than one occasion, but I will say this… once you acclimate yourself for a day or two, driving in Scotland is like wearing an old hat; it just feels right! Ah, I meant left. Sorry for the bad joke…

We toured the country in what was essentially a clockwise circle that originated in Glasgow and worked our way north and west till we reached Inverness. We had fantastic opportunities to see the Highlands and their breathtaking views along the way. Rain clouds loomed and were never too far from sight; that’s okay because rain is beautiful in Scotland. It has this way of amplifying color–especially the greens.

12 Miles to Mallaig

The Highlands are truly beautiful and worth seeing firsthand if the opportunity presents itself. The scenery changed dramatically from flat land to jagged rocks and huge green rolling hills (I may be a little off with that statement because I had my eyes glued to the road in total concentration for a lot of the drive).

We were on our way to the Mallaig ferry when I spotted a patch of Fox Glove overlooking a loch with green landmass in the distance (that’s a lake for you westerners). I don’t remember too many of the location details, only that we were "12 Miles to Mallaig."

A dynamic landscape that depicts foxglove and yellow flowers in the foreground and a loch with green islands all under an overcast and moody sky.

The Artist Proofing Process and Autumn Water

Printing large allows the artist to detect color profiling anomalies from monitor to printer in addition to unveiling every detail possible. I’m a stickler for adhering to a rigorous artist proofing process to ensure that my art is reproduced to my standards and I will not tolerate imperfections. In addition, each proof is thoroughly inspected and will be reprinted till the final version meets my vision.

Autumn Water

Autumn Water proof one makes it way into an exotic frame mounted with 8-ply matting and museum quality glass. My art really must be seen in person to appreciate the contrast, tone, saturation, and luminescence. Water glistens and flows when viewed from different angles and lifelike tree textures pop out of the exotic frame.

Thomas M Thurston crouches beside a 24x36 artist proof of Autumn Waters.

Subtle Variations – The Calling

I posted a landscape shot of a local park covered in fog titled Weeping Dream a few days ago. It’s those subtle variations in camera location that can drastically change a photograph; I mean, I must have moved my tripod three to four inches to the right to get this starburst light. It doesn’t sound like much, but it really does create a different mood by moving just one step over.

Ok so this example is relatively far away from our subject matter and four inches makes a pretty substantial difference – imagine getting close up to something and moving four inches… chances are, you wouldn’t even be photographing the same subject anymore! So, a general rule is that the closer you get to your subject (think macro photography), the more your composition will change by making subtle variations in camera location.

The Calling

These two photographs are similar in so many ways, but to me, they’re also very different. I honestly cannot even choose between the two and pick a winner so The Calling deserves its place in my portfolio as well.

I love how the light starbursts through the tree limbs and calls out for attention. It’s dreamy and euphoric almost as if you’ve sniffed some fairy dust and drifted to this dreamscape. Everything flows and you feel The Calling from a higher power…

A dimly lit park with weeping willow trees and dense fog.  A starburst of light emits through the tree limbs.  The Calling is from a higher power...

Camera Phones & Office Sunset

It was a Friday afternoon and I was working on a project at the office, but also fully aware that the sun was setting; a view from the window gave it away that I was in for a treat on the walk to my car. I didn’t have my camera rig with me, but fortunately technology has advanced to the point that you can carry a high quality point-and-shoot wherever you go. Which cameras should you use in a pinch?

Use Your iPhone or Whatever You Have Readily Available

My iPhone 4S works double duty as my backup and my always-on-hand camera. A few minor level adjustments and noise cleanup in post really helps add depth and clarity to any image. While the iPhone isn’t a full frame sensor with professional control, it isn’t meant to be. It’s the device that gets you the shot when you need to travel light or simply forget to bring your rig with you. And for that duty alone, it’s priceless. Kudos to Apple for constantly evolving the camera hardware inside their devices!

Office Sunset

I’m pleased that I was able to take five minutes, compose, adjust the exposure directly on the screen, and fire one precise shot. This office sunset certainly was beautiful and I am forever grateful that high quality cameras are available on phones; otherwise I would have never had the opportunity to capture this beautiful sunset!

A gnarly tree hugs the right frame with branches covering the top allowing the office parking lot sunset to be framed between these two elements.

365 Project – Day 3 – New Perspective

2012 brings new perspective, a fresh light, and a newfound hope for the future. Today’s photo is taken from a new perspective, which I hope gives a new appreciation from an ordinary vantage point.

If you’re heading in the right direction with your hopes and dreams, keep going; otherwise, try to see life from a new perspective and change it for 2012. I find that a dream board helps keep your desires at the center of your world; always remember that a dream written down is a goal with a deadline.

It was a beautiful January 1st, 2012. The weather was sunny and the temperature was in the 50’s most of the day with a bit of rain in the evening. Reflecting back on 2011, I am grateful for a supportive family, a great group of friends, and the most amazing girlfriend anyone can ask for. 2011 left behind great memories and lots of change; it’s time to move forward and make 2012 even better.

Best wishes.

A tree trunk in the warm sun frames the left edge of the photograph with an out-of-focus tree, pond, and evergreen branches to the right and behind.

365 Project – Day 2 – Pussy Willow Sunset

I scrambled home just in time to catch the sunset. I didn’t have much of an idea for the shot today, but I did know the sunset was going to be a key element in the frame. Time was of the essence and I needed to move – and fast.

On the short walk through the local woods, I stumbled upon a pussy willow patch in the vegetation mix. I find inspiration in the little things, so choosing a pussy willow as my main subject was a natural decision for me. One particularly useful lighting concept was employed here. It’s called “dragging the shutter” and in simple terms allows you to change the mood of your shot. I’ll explain this lighting concept in detail in a follow-up post.

A group of pussy willows watch the sunset