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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.

Happy May Showers and Leaf Drops

With the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend upon us, make sure you realize its significance and pay tribute to our troops of past and present. Here’s to hoping these past few days of May showers are behind us for this coming weekend.

Leaf Drops

I found this leaf about a month ago after a torrential downpour in front of my home and managed to successfully block off traffic to get this shot.

Water droplets from a torrential downpour sit on an oval leaf laying on the pavement.

My Artistic Approach & Fire Road Flare

I recently updated my artist statement and suggest you read through it to understand more about my artistic approach, where I find inspiration, and how I add an emotional dimension into each fine art photograph.

Fire Road Flare

The Tourne in Boonton, New Jersey has wide, sweeping, fire road trails that get you to its peak. With the sun low in the sky, I opted to explore the fire road before dark; I was glad I had the time to see this gorgeous glow because the sunset was lackluster that day. Flare was inevitable here, but it only serves to enhance the golden tones along the rocky trail.

Also, notice the left side of the trail; you can see a patch of moss I photographed up close in an earlier blog post.

A gravel road leading up to the peak of the Tourne in Boonton, NJ is lit up with golden sunlight.

Hiking at the Tourne – Sunkissed Moss Variation

The Tourne in Boonton, NJ is a great place to hike, bike, or enjoy a lazy day in the field with your dog. You can even get a quick game of baseball in if you’re into that sort of thing. Anyway, onto the trails…

I’ve been going to the Tourne sporadically for a few years now; the wide foot trails are great for hiking if you have kids and the twisty singletrack is gobs of fun for mountain biking. Cycle Craft in Parsippany actually does a weekly ride here (I think they meet on Wednesdays during the warmer months), but check with the store for exact details. Yep, that’s on my to-do list as well.

Sunkissed Moss Variation

Nature can be kinda boring during the colder months; scenery is grey and blah, and just doesn’t do much for me. That is until you find the right light.

It’s really remarkable how a bit of glowing sunlight low in the sky transforms nature. I was out scouting for a sunset location on one of the foot paths and stumbled upon some green moss. This stuff was actually glowing…

Moss on the side of a foot trail glows because it is kissed with golden sunlight.

Pine Trees and Snow Days

New Jersey is having an extremely dry 2012 winter with only a few dustings to date. I’m convinced the snow this winter is going to come with a vengeance late in the season. By late in the season, I mean it’s going to come so late that I’ll be sitting on the beach in June, then BAM, the next day is a full-on blizzard with lots of snow accumulation.

Probably not. Sorry for exaggerating…

I’m just hopeful that I will get to see a few more snow crusted pine trees and revel in a snow day.

This next snow photo is from the same snow storm I captured the snow covered branch.

White snow tops a pine tree branch in the middle of January.

Bathroom Renovations and Sunflower Fields

We’re in the last stages of a quick bathroom spruce up. We’ve already spackled, primed, painted (the color is called slightly aqua), wired up the vanity, installed the medicine cabinet, and mounted the towel hardware – the only few remaining details are to print a few photos, hang said photos, and run a few beads of caulk to seal up the sink and tub. It’s almost a job well done; reno photo coming soon.

Sunflower Fields Forever

I’m on a roll with rediscovering old photos from 2011 that were initially on the Do Not Show list. I’m not sure how I managed to let Sunflower Fields Forever slip through, but I’m constantly refining my workflow. Sifting and sorting gets better and more efficient each time I download a memory card. Note to self, keep being hard on yourself and really scrutinize your work; your photos will thank you later.

A sunflower maze path down the center of the frame is surrounded by sunflowers right and left with high noon light and blue skies with rays of light passing through a few clouds.

Post Processing and Sunflower Petals

Post processing photographs is synonymous with a master cook using salt in a gourmet dish. You need it as part of your workflow to help achieve your vision and more importantly, to grow as a photographer and artist.

I’m not just talking about modifying saturation, color balance, or contrast. I’m not even suggesting that you need to churn your photos through a HDR processor every single time. What I am suggesting, though, is to scrutinize your composition.

Crop That Photo Till You Drop

Chop it up, change the aspect ratio, and make sure you come away with at least five different variations of your original photograph. By completing this exercise, you will gain an understanding of how to approach your subjects from newly appreciated angles. You will also begin to possess a deeper creative mindset and that my friends, is the point I want to drive home.

The more you do in post with composition, the more you will develop your creative mind.

Sunflower Petals

I was digging through my photo library and wanted to find a photo that lacked focus and punch; I came across a photo series from last year of a Sunflower maze and knew this was the album to search. I remember feeling a bit disappointed with the outcome of this shoot.

Ah, always revisit your photos… you might surprise yourself. Speaking of surprising myself, I followed my own advice on post processing and chopped up the composition till I found a new angle that really added focus and depth. Intuition kicked in and I came away with a crop that I know I’ll be using for new work.

A sunflower is a sunflower is a sunflower until you chop off three quarters of the sunflower petals and let your viewer use his or her imagination to fill in the blanks. I did exactly that with the crop I’m sharing with you today.

A quarter of a sunflower fans out its petals from the bottom left of the frame while the rest of the scene blurs into beautiful yellow and green bokeh.

Lens Flare – Woodsy Sunrise

I usually try to keep lens flare to a minimum by using a lens hood, but sometimes there’s no avoiding it. Certain lighting angles can bounce sunlight around inside your lens causing crazy looking aberrations. You will know it’s lens flare if you see large circles of light that progressively get smaller (or vice versa).

Those little artifacts can add polish to your photo, though.

Woodsy Sunrise

I have a hard time waking up early and this causes me to miss the spectacular sunrises we have around here. Older folks with sunrise driven internal body clocks constantly remind me that the sunrise from today was beautiful. Swirls of red, orange, and golden tones poked through a cloud and created a beam to the ground. Thanks for that. Now I’m jealous.

I mustered up whatever energy I had to get out of bed early and beat the sun to my location. I got lucky and set up as the sun was poking at the horizon.

This is Woodsy Sunrise.

A golden glow emanates through the trees and highlights moss and leaves.

Sunkissed Strawlike Grass

It has been a crazy week and I haven’t had enough time with a camera in my hand. You know how it goes… lots to do and not enough time to do it so it’s just a picture for today of sunkissed strawlike grass.

I took this photo without paying much attention to "textbook" rules… it’s blown out and a bit soft, but that intent is exactly what makes it airy and ethereal and that is what I love about it. Heck, it’s even pretty much straight out of the camera.

Tall strawlike grass blows in the wind glowing from the low angle of the sun.

Macro Photography – Lichen Branch

They say the devil is in the details, and those details can be captured with macro photography. Macro photography allows you to capture a world that goes otherwise unnoticed in a place where bigger usually equates to better. Getting closer to a subject can open your eyes to a hidden world populated with new colors, textures, and forms, which in my humble opinion is a photographer’s dream; we’re always looking to be different and to explore the unknown.

I’m always searching for new perspectives, and looking through a camera lens allows me to see the world in a completely new way. Our vision is approximately the same as a 50mm lens mounted on a full-frame camera, so we can replicate what we see with the naked eye using this lens, or we can completely alter our field of view by introducing wide angle or telephoto lenses.

Macro photography holds a special place in my heart because it allows you to literally see your subject from inches away – I sometimes feel as if I’m looking through a microscope, but I’m reminded that it’s just a 1:1 representation of the subject after looking at the focus ring on the lens.

You’ll need some photography equipment to do this right. For starters, a macro lens is a necessity. Then, you’ll want to invest in a tripod and a remote trigger release. You should also be familiar with how to focus your camera manually because the autofocus system is going to hunt for a focus point when you’re this close. You want absolute control of this, so manual it is.

Another recommendation, if you can swing it, is a macro focusing slide for your tripod; this allows you to make very small adjustments in both x and y coordinates to get the best focus. You can find phenomenal tripods and accessories over at Really Right Stuff; a little warning though… this stuff is expensive, but the quality is top of the line and it will last a lifetime.

Lichen Branch

Lichen is a really unique type of fungus that comes in different shapes and colors; it primarily grows on tree branches, limbs, rocks, and soil. It’s interesting that some lichen are used to assess regional air pollution as a few of the lichen species are sensitive to pollution and may die if exposed to it.

This particular lichen species is white and was found on a dead tree branch at the park. I love how macro photography blows the background completely out of focus here.

A dead tree branch filled with white lichen fills the frame with a blurred grassy background.