A photographic adventure to the Scottish Highlands accompanied, undoubtedly, by rain and midges. How will I cope, where will I get to, how much water and midge activity will I be able to take? Follow me to find out!
  • Day14

    That was Scotland 2018

    August 30, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    That’s it then - the end of the Scotland 2018 adventure and it was as predicted with plenty of falling water from the skies and all those pesky midges of course.

    It’s never possible to predict how a trip will pan out and this one has been no exception. The weather has at times been disappointing with heavy low cloud making it hard for Rob to capture the images he was hoping for. This doesn’t make the trip a disaster or failure, it simply means the images he took were not as expected. It would have been brilliant to have better or more dramatic lighting but you get what you’re given.

    Lessons can always be learned and the main one is not to go to Skye in August. It’s simply overrun with tourists and there were a couple of occasions, particularly at the Fairy Pools, which were impossible for photography simply because too many people were there. August is not so good for midges either, but Rob was prepared for that and the measures he took were effective ... Avon Skin So Soft does work. The camping experience worked extremely well too (Rob will be doing this again) and managing power, charging the phone and camera batteries etc etc, away from mains electricity worked to perfection. Though Rob felt he stalled a few times, unsure what to do due to weather constraints and plans needing to be changed, overall it was a great trip. He felt some time was wasted but it was a holiday as well and there’s no crime in taking time out to reflect or simply to enjoy the landscape you become part of and there were many moments to be treasured.

    In terms of photography, the aim was to return with about a dozen photographs to be proud of which amounts to around one for each day of the trip. All being well, when Rob has had time to view his photos on the computer, that aim will be met.

    The photographs in this footprint are from Rob’s Canon camera and have been processed on the computer after he got home. The first is one of the photos taken of Dunstanburgh castle and this one is in focus even though it may not look pin-sharp once it’s uploaded to this blog. It was taken a little earlier than the one you’ve seen already when there was more light on the headland and castle ruins. It’s basically the same shot though.

    The second photo was taken on Skye just across the road from the campsite. It’s was almost dark when Rob took this and that’s the feeling he’s tried to capture. The moon hangs low over the Cuillins, casting its reflections into the river as the last rays of daylight fade away and the land becomes bathed in a gentle blue light. Soon the night will take the last of the colour from the landscape and the moment will be gone.


    I hope everyone who’s been following this trip has enjoyed the journey with me and that the photos I’ve posted and the diary I’ve written have been interesting as well as amusing in places, for that was my intention. Thanks in particular to Richard Valsler who has meticulously commented on the daily posts (you need a medal) but it is difficult to tell if anyone is following along even though I know there’s been a fair number of you. Thank you.

    Someone asked why I do this. I started the FindPengins blogs with my friend Tony during the first trip to Iceland in 2016 and really enjoyed ending the day reflecting on what had been done and also using my phone to capture the journey along the way. I enjoy it because it makes me appreciate more what I’ve been doing and the places I’ve been, and I enjoy it in the hope I will bring something of interest to other people’s lives as well.

    So thanks again to everyone who’ve made it this far .... there will undoubtedly be another trip soon.

    I wonder where it’ll be. Rob
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  • Day13

    The Final Photo Shoot

    August 29, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☁️ 13 °C

    It seemed fitting that the final photo opportunity of the trip might be to catch a sunrise from Whitby pier. The weather forecast wasn’t hugely promising, as seemed to be the case for the entire two weeks, but there was a slight chance the cloud may lift around the time of the sunrise at 6.02am.

    Rob set the alarm and was leaving Goathland, having woken himself up with a coffee, at 4.35am so he could park the car and get to the pier for around 5am. It was still dark when he arrived but it is a pleasant time of the morning. It was dry and there were just a few people going about their business and all, without exception, said ‘Good morning’ as they passed. Rob chose his location and set up the camera and tripod then waited in the hope the right light would appear.

    At 5.30 fishermen started to arrive to try their luck from the end of the pier and everyone wished everyone else success with catching fish or capturing a sunrise. Fishing is way more successful it seems because the light never came and the clouds never parted but Rob still took photos and was hopeful he’d get a nice black & white image from the ones he took. Once again, Rob found it very calming being there with his camera whilst enjoying the ambience around him, but at 6.15 it was clear there was to be no spectacular sunrise and Rob packed his gear to leave. The fishermen had been busy though and one of them showed Rob the three good sized mackerel he’d caught, which was impressive for such a relatively short time.

    As Rob walked down the pier he met a fellow photographer who’d tried his luck as well. They chatted for ages about photography, photographic clubs, competition judges and compared cameras etc. That’s all pretty boring stuff for the average human but in those early hours there were two people exchanging thoughts and ideas and enjoying the moment. It was a lovely way to end that last photo shoot and who’d think that taking your camera for a walk was a worthwhile pastime ... and there’s no need for small plastic bags and a pooper scooper either.
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  • Day12

    Whitby Abbey

    August 28, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    There are 199 steps that take you from the town up to the headland where the ruins of Whitby Abbey stand next to St Mary’s a Church where Dracula is supposed to be buried. Dracula is a work of fiction of course but it doesn’t stop everyone searching the graveyard to find his grave. This can take a very long time because not only are there loads of gravestones, but many of them are seriously weathered so it’s difficult or impossible to read who lies there, but there is a grave near the entrance to the cemetery which you can see in the fourth photo of this footprint. It has a skull and crossbones on it and some believe this is where Dracula lies. Others believe it’s the grave of a pirate and others still think the symbol is simply the trademark of one of the stone masons of the time. Which is correct? You must decide.

    Surprisingly there weren’t so many people around here but that may be because it was quite late in the day. There was an ice cream van next to the entrance to the Abbey and Rob just couldn’t resist the opportunity for a ‘99’. The red sauce included isn’t the usual stuff you get elsewhere because here you get asked if you’d like Dracula’s blood on your cone. The answer has to be ‘Yes’ of course.

    The rest of the evening was spent in Whitby culminating with an Indian meal then back to a Goathland. Tomorrow would be an early start and Rob had already sussed out the car park charges in readiness - free until 9am.
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  • Day12

    The Boat Leaves in Two Minutes

    August 28, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    There were no plans for the rest of the day other than to spend some time in Whitby. It was a very long time since Rob had been there so he was looking forward to seeing it again. The cafe was somewhere in the upper part of the town so to get to the harbour there was a maze of tiny streets and passageways to explore then, all of a sudden, you pop out at harbour level to merge with a sea of people walking in all directions. It was holiday weekend of course and the weather quite reasonable so the tourist areas of the town were very busy indeed. What happened next came as a bit of an unplanned surprise because as Rob and his friend were walking along the harbour they were attracted to a twenty minute boat ride for only £3 and this seemed quite a bargain. They paid their passage and stepped aboard and Rob immediately started talking like a pirate and walking with a limp, which of course is compulsory when boarding any sea faring vessel. It was strange though, not Rob limping and talking like a pirate, because he simply couldn’t find a main brace to splice but he wasn’t going to let a little thing like that spoil the adventure.

    Twenty minutes later, and as advertised, the boat arrived back having left the harbour, sailed around a buoy and travelled back from hence it came. It was a pleasant enough trip in very calm seas and gave a great view back to the harbour and immediate coastline. Whitby Abbey really dominates the skyline and it was easy to see why it’s such an iconic feature of the area. Rob didn’t see a whale though, other than a few sitting on the boat who’d clearly consumed rather too many portions of Whitby fish ‘n chips.
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  • Day12

    Walking to Whitby

    August 28, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    After a relaxed start it was time to go walking so boots were fitted and a small bag packed with a waterproof jacket and a blackcurrant Ribena in case of emergency ... other blackcurrant flavoured drinks are available of course! The weather forecast was good so there was no need to take much.

    The first photo in this footprint is at Sleights and is of the fish ladder there. This is an intriguing place, as one stands on what appears to be the over-engineered and substantial foot bridge, where there was absolutely no sign of a fish, salmon or otherwise, and a notable lack of anything which can even remotely be called a ladder. At least at the Damn and Fish Ladder at Pitlochry (apologies for the bad language there) there were some concrete things, but here it appeared to only be a few random stones. It was a peaceful and pleasant enough scene however, not far from a railway crossing, and would be really interesting in the salmon fish ladder climbing season.

    The walk continued over styles and through gates with a goodly amount of chatting, interspersed with sections of ‘putting the world to rights’ and a sprinkling of ‘If I was a Prime Minister ...’ which, of course, is complete nonsense because the world doesn’t work as easily as everyone thinks it does. It especially doesn’t work the way a Trump thinks it does, but enough said about all that.

    Soon the first sighting of Whitby Abbey came into view then shortly afterwards, preceded by the distant sound of a whistle, one of the steam trains passed through which was a splendid sight with the steam puffing upwards, the drivers giving a wave and the passengers just sitting there giving no response. Clearly this train was the Old Grumps Express or maybe it was just too tedious having to respond to every Tom, Dick and Harriot who wave at the train like idiots.

    Finally, having been unsure at one point if it was the right or left path, the intrepid walkers arrived in Whitby where the first priority was to find a really nice cafe for coffee and cake. That mission was easily accomplished and it really was a lovely cafe even though Rob had no idea where it was. Definitely Whitby somewhere, he was certain of that!
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  • Day12

    Harry Potter at Goathland

    August 28, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    Bamburgh castle was one of the locations used in the Harry Potter films and so too was the railway station at Goathland in North Yorkshire, which is where Rob’s friends live ... in Goathland that is, not at the railway station.

    The journey down was quite straightforward other than a massive delay due to roadworks at one point though there was no-one working of course, as it was a Bank Holiday, but everyone had to suffer all the same. Goathland was packed with tourists as Rob arrived and although it may be nice to think everyone was there waiting for him to arrive (he can clearly be quite deluded at times) they were there to see the station, ride the steam train or visit the locations in the village which were used in the TV series ‘Heartbeat’, which is not a programme Rob watched so it was difficult to see what all the fuss was about. They all looked happy though.

    After coffee and home-made cake they went for a walk around the area, including visiting the station of course, then came home for the evening. Tomorrow there is more walking planned ending in Whitby. Should be good.
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  • Day10

    St Mary's Lighthouse, Whitley Bay

    August 26, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    There was one location in Whitley Bay Rob had in mind for a photo opportunity: St Mary’s Lighthouse. It’s built on a small island just offshore (yes, if it wasn’t offshore it wouldn’t be an island) and is connected by a road which gets submerged at high tide (yes, that’s a causeway ... stop trying to be clever!) When Rob arrived the tide was on the way out and there was a gathering of people standing there waiting for the waters to subside, which they did after around 20 minutes or so. Amazingly, the rain stopped too so Rob had a bit of a scout around looking for a suitable composition then went and got the camera gear from the car. The conditions were nowhere near ideal but as this may well be the last photo opportunity of the trip, it had to be done. No photos were taken though.

    Just as Rob was setting up and thinking it probably wasn’t going to be all that rewarding, a local man arrived and started to chat. He had his two dogs and his Nikon camera, just in case, and he agreed the lighting was somewhat boring. They chatted for quite a while about photography and the local area and about how he’s always up at 5am and loves taking his dogs and camera for walk in those early hours. At this point Rob wished he was a morning person!

    Afterwards, Rob packed up and left and had driven about four miles back towards where he was staying when the light suddenly changed. It was 20 minutes to sunset so he quickly turned around and headed back to the lighthouse but by the time he got there the light had changed again. He grabbed the camera and tripod in any case just to see what he could get and by now it was a pleasant evening so why not? Once again it was almost dark when he left but hopefully he got a result ... it won’t be the best photo in the world, probably not even a keeper but once again it was great being there as the light faded. There is just something about photography that relaxes the mind and all your worries and concerns evaporate away as you concentrate on the moment. Rob was so pleased the day ended like this.

    Tomorrow he goes to North Yorkshire to stay with his friends for a couple of nights and on Tuesday maybe a day out walking. He’ll have his phone with him of course but maybe not the camera, though he might, so there may yet be another instalment before this trip draws to a close.
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  • Day10

    Blyth and Whitley Bay

    August 26, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    The weather today was most likely the same as everywhere else in the UK ... yuk! It started dull and cloudy then the rain set in for the day assisted by a cold wind, so it didn’t matter if Rob went north or south because neither would bring better weather. Rob went south.

    The day, then, was one of exploration and mostly spent in the car but with the odd excursion to look at a view (misty and dull) or to simply stretch his legs. It didn’t look as though any form of photography would be done today.

    Let’s say it was just the weather conditions today, but Rob’s impression of the coastal resorts south of Ashington was reminiscent of Bilston or Heathtown but by the sea. This may be immensely unfair but the area did have that ‘tired old holiday town’ feel about it. At one point road signs (proudly) announced ‘Battleship Wharf’ which sounded exciting and worth a visit, but it turned out to be a derelict dock area. Clearly this area was a hive of activity years ago. Ashington was a serious coal mining town and there are numerous dockyards which clearly haven’t been used for a long time.

    Blythe is proud of its multi-coloured beach huts and includes them on its town signs. They’re also a recommended photographic feature but they are actually no more than ten huts in a row and just didn’t look special today. Rob took a snapshot as you can see, but Blyth’s huts would have really benefited from blue sky and sun. There’s what looks like a lovely pier there too but it was too cold and windy to find the enthusiasm to go and explore it. Or maybe Rob’s just a wimp: Blyth has a team of young beach lifesavers who patrol the beach front wearing red tee shirts and they seemed happy to wear only those tee shirts and shorts. Makes you shiver just thinking about it.

    The best place visited today was Whitley Bay which surprised Rob when he saw a pavilion style building on the sea front which, as you can see from one of the photos, is compared to the Taj Mahal. Clearly the people of Whitley Bay have fertile imaginations, or maybe it’s just the council trying to be cool, but it’s an impressive looking building all the same.

    Whitley Bay definitely had a more up-market feel to it and it is apparently very busy when the weather is good, but it wasn’t today. There’s still the traditional English seaside town features - amusements arcades, chip shops, small fun fair, usual shops etc, but there are also some nice places for coffee and/or snacks which are more refined. All car parks are pay and display which immediately tells you this is where the people come. North of here all the signs advise that ‘Parking is Free All Day’ which when translated means ‘Please park here we need the tourism’.

    Still no photography though and by 5pm Rob was somewhat bored.
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  • Day9

    Embleton Bay

    August 25, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 9 °C

    You have a real treat today because Rob has transferred a photo from his ‘real’ camera so you can see what he didn’t manage to achieve. The main picture of this footprint is actually taken towards the end of the day and in one of the other photos you can see exactly where he took it, though in the phone shot the sun was a little higher so there’s more light on the castle ruins. The main photo however was set up to be an almost seven minute exposure to get that soft look in the sky. Due to the way that’s taken it actually takes fourteen minutes to capture so this was very much a final opportunity because the light would be completely gone afterwards. So, after a fourteen minute wait the result looked great on the back of the camera but when Rob checked he found it wasn’t in focus: Damn and Fish Ladder! These things happen, though they shouldn’t of course, but you get the idea and as long as you don’t look too closely it’s kind of okay ... and it wasn’t the best of the light in any case. :-(

    The day had started with Rob seriously oversleeping which was a bit of a surprise as he wasn’t all that tired at bedtime. During breakfast he confirmed the weather for the day (excellent) though that was pretty obvious given the sky was almost clear blue on the way in. It didn’t stay that way for long but there was plenty of sunshine and pleasant temperatures right through the day. If only it’d been like this in Scotland, it was really nice.

    Having confirmed visiting details with Rob’s friends in North Yorkshire, where he’s staying for a couple of nights on the way home, he headed north back towards Bamburgh to look for photo opportunities along that area of the coast, with the aim to be in Embleton Bay around tea time to hopefully catch the evening light around Dunstanburgh Castle.

    Most of his time today was mooching around on beaches so he hasn’t bored you with those photos. It was a relaxing time though with no pressure on where to be or what to do except knowing where he needed to be around 6pm and he’d already chosen exactly where he would be parking the car. And so it was.

    It was still bright and sunny when he arrived at Embleton and though there were a few people around it was really quiet given it was a holiday weekend, though it was getting towards tea time so maybe they'd all simply gone home. Sunset was around 8.15pm so again Rob spent time looking for compositions as the tide receded. He’s not sure he got anything worth showing but somehow all of a sudden it was 7.30. He spent a little time chatting with a young couple from Newcastle which isn’t all that far away of course. The girlfriend was patiently waiting for her boyfriend to take his shot then the talk went photography, cameras and places they’d like to go. Looks like Iceland gets two more tourists at some point as that’s a location they’d already placed on their list.

    In the end it was a late finish and almost completely dark when Rob got back to the car. A bright star guided Rob to a McDonald's for his evening meal though it didn’t turn out to be much of a religious experience and he even almost enjoyed it. The star was actually Mars, by the way, and there was an impressive full moon too.

    Tomorrow is the last day of the trip with the forecast rainy, the same as pretty much everywhere it seems, so a quiet day in store perhaps? Rob will have the camera gear with him and is sure to capture something but who knows what that will be.

    (In case you’re wondering, the evening shoot wasn’t a disaster because there are other photos which were okay.)
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  • Day8

    Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland

    August 24, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    It has to be said that the journey down from Pitlochry was uneventful and somewhat boring. The first bit isn’t so bad but as you go further south you leave the mountains behind and the roads become more substantial. Rob had already joined the main A9 route yesterday evening and it’s the A9 he followed to Edinburgh where the A1 continues south to England. The A9, like the A1 afterwards, is a mixture of dual carriageway sections interspersed with good two lane roads but the road planners in Scotland clearly operate on logic not of this world. The dual carriageways are fine, being a limit of 70mph as you’d expect. The normal road sections are then 60mph, also as you’d expect, except that for some unfathomable reason there is a trial speed limit of 50mph for lorries. There are a lot of lorries, so it means no-one can ever reach 60 as it’s near-nigh impossible to overtake a lorry on that road. Oh, and the roads are religiously monitored with average speed cameras. Furthermore, there are sections reduced to 30mph for roadworks that don’t exist and electronic information signs saying things like “Are your eyes fit for driving” and “Soft tyres waste fuel” which, of course, everyone is so grateful for. Rob was hoping to see more useful signs such as “Do not eat yellow snow”, “Keep windows open while vaping”, or the fact everyone forgets “Do not sleep and drive”, not forgetting the extremely informative “Hats keep bald heads warm”. Anyway, eventually Rob arrived at Bamburgh in the hope of getting a coastal castle photo.

    Weather-wise it was as predicted with plenty of sun around, stormy clouds and showers. No hint of thunder though, but it all looked promising to get Bamburgh castle lit by the sun with dark storm clouds as a backdrop set on a sandy beach with tall grasses for decoration. Success? No!

    When he arrived, Rob took the phone photos first because they’re quick to do and if he doesn’t do that he can forget to take the photos for you to see, which is what happened a few times in Iceland. So what happened then? Well, you can see those dark clouds in the photos but just as Rob had the composition he wanted and was ready the clouds obscured the sun and within five minutes the rain was hammering down on the car window. Rob sat in the car for over half an hour as it got darker and wetter, then he left to go to find where he was staying for the next three nights.

    No photographs today then and now Rob is starting to get a little disheartened. Tomorrow’s forecast is sunny with clouds and no rain, but on Sunday it’s supposed to rain all day. It would therefore be really good if tomorrow turns out to be a successful photography day. The aim is to get some coastal shots, including a castle, or patterns in the rocks or sands. “Tomorrow is a new day” ... there must be a sign for that.
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