A Portrait of Hamish

This rather impressive looking chap is Hamish, or if you want to use his full title – Hamish McKay Denovan. This shot was taken and uploaded to Instagram but also shared on Twitter via MobyPicture. This portrait of Hamish is the most viewed image I’ve had recently on a social network and the retweeting of the photo started almost instantaneously.

Mountainous landscapes of Glen Coe… meh! Scottish castles and lochs…. meh! A picture of a Highland cow…. yay!!! Why some images take on a life of their own after release onto the net, while others do not, is the reason why photography, and how we view and consume images, is so fascinating. Some photographs just hit the right audience and surprisingly Highland cattle appear to have quite a following out there on the internet. One re-tweet even came from a Highland cow who claimed he was a relative! 🙂

As regular followers of the blog may already know, this summer saw me start using Instagram, the photo social network app that allows you to add filters and upload images. The real test for any social network service is how the user engages with it, and Instagram, while it looks relatively limited in usefulness, is actually quite adaptable as a publishing platform. It’s fast, convenient and can be used in any number of ways. How you use the service is pretty much up to you and the variety of use is quite amazing. Family albums, celebrity worship, photojournalism, fine art photography, magazines, news channels and more can all to be found on Instagram. If you think that it’s all about pictures of feet or cats (there is a bit of that of course) then you’d be wrong. Instagram has a very varied user base with a broad range of photography to follow.

Distribution seems to be key for Instagram’s success, even though the filters usually get all the headlines. The photography is uploaded to the same place making it easy for others to view and follow the work of a specific photographer. You can quickly develop an audience that’s all on one website, able to view your work in one place but with the added benefit of also spreading the message outside of the Instagram family using Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr. For me, and it seems for Hipstamatic too,  that is where the the real strength of the Instagram network lies. Although I only upload images taken with my iPhone to Instagram, a number of photographer upload images shot on other cameras. Many photographers seem to use other photo apps to get their images and then upload to their Instagram account. Instagram is, at its core, just a very simple photo blog that’s easy to follow and publish to, with the added benefit of being extremely portable on your mobile phone. No wonder photographers, and especially photojournalists, love it!

So as you can see i have gone from a sceptic to a fan. Last month, in Scotland, I found Instagram a very useful tool for simple sharing what I saw. Often I would shot using just the iPhone’s camera app, then later tweak the images in Snapseed and publish to Instagram. The process worked really well and I’ll certainly be doing something similar again on the next trip up there in 2013.

Recently a great series of blog posts came out detailing the confused situation at Hipstamatic and how they view Instagram. It makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in the photo app/photo social network business.

The articles can be found HERE

Check out my Scotland and Skye Instagram images HERE

Home from the Glens

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It’s been over a week since i got back from my little trip up north and i still miss the mountains and lochs of the Highlands. My only conciliation is that i’m currently planning my return next year. The week i had up in the Highlands just went so fast. Far TOO fast for my liking so I’ll be staying two weeks next year.

Photography wise, the Highlands has lots to offer. If you are a landscape photographer then a trip there is a must. The history combined with the landscape offer the photographer plenty of scope for image making, but you need time for the weather and light to be right. Coming through Glencoe you could see the unique lighting that the mountain ranges produce. Light and shadow mix together to produce an extremely dramatic experience, yet within a minute (or even seconds) the whole show has moved on to be replaced with mist, rain or a mix of both. No wonder it was recently used as a location by the 007 film crew.  Glencoe really does take the breath away, not only through its dramatic geography but also its connection to a tragic event . Somehow the mountains convey the drama of the geography and the history of Scotland at the same time.

Like the Highlands, Skye gets into your blood. It was my first visit and i left wanting more. I’d seen just some elements of what Skye has to offer which includes travel to the Western isles. A trip to Harris or Lewis is high on the agenda for next year. I love travelling by ship anyway, so the prospect of travelling across the sea to Harris is just thrilling. This year’s trip was a kind of reconnaissance just to see what was there. I now have an idea of what the Highlands and Skye especially has to offer. Probably the biggest draw is the detached feel of the place. It did feel like an escape and i like that feeling. Probably the biggest example of that sense of freedom was the ferry waiting to leave for the Isle of Harris. The whole ship, like most ships do, became one big symbol of freedom, escape and adventure. Next year i will be aboard 🙂

The move down south went OK, but after having the Highlands as a backdrop, i found adjusting to the area around Dumfries tricky. I left the Highlands with a heavy heart and to be honest Dumfries didn’t quite push all my buttons. If the weeks had been vice versus then maybe Dumfries would have worked. The Highlands are basically a tough act to follow. One Dumfries shop keeper asked about where I’d been and i got the reply ‘oh we have it all here!’ Er no you don’t. The second week turned out to be a holiday week rather than a photography week. Enjoyable but I barely shot a roll of film the whole week. In fact i came back with just under half the film i took, with virtually all of the shot film being taken in…. yes, you guessed right! The place that begins with H.

Back to the Borders

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The only problem with going away to a place is having to leave it. Yesterday was the day to pack (reluctantly) and head south for Dumfries. I wanted to stay in the Highlands longer, explore further, take more photos but time had finally run out. It may take me time to adjust to a scenery without the high Misty mountains and lochs though.

So it was with a heavy heart that I headed down the southern Scotland for the second week. On the route south I passed the impressive Commando memorial at Spean Bridge. The statue features WW2 Commando figures facing towards the mountains that they trained in.

The memorial also has a remembrance section that sadly reflects the more recent Commando casualties from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Return

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Thursday turned out to be a bit of a washout. High winds and a driving rain made just going out a challenge let alone taking any photographs. Fortunately today was much better so it was in the direction of Skye that I headed, traveling up to Uig located in the north west corner of the isle.

Skye has been a beautiful place to visit, so much so that I intend staying there for seven days next year. Wherever you seem to look, Skye offers a new experience or view. Sadly I’ll be leaving the Highlands tomorrow to go down to the Dumfries area of Scotland. With hindsight I should have thought about staying longer in this area when booking the cottages but you should always leave a place with a feeling of wanting more. Anyway a stay around the Highlands and Skye is definitely planned for 2013. The first thing to do when I get back home is start planning next year’s visit.

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One other benefit of staying on Skye would be the opening up of new areas to explore like the Isle of Harris etc. Day trips could be planned using the ferry services. It’s something to work out for next year but seeing the ferry loading and setting off today, I was REALLY tempted to go aboard and sail away. I quite fancy taking a sea journey.

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Traveling about, a photographer needs to be able to move quietly and quickly, without drawing attention to their presence. I thought maybe using this camper van covered in a tartan camouflage might be a good way of doing that 🙂

Darker Skyes

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The light today was fantastic as I went around the roads of Skye. To say that the isle is beautiful would be an understatement. I even managed to see a couple of sea eagles soaring their way around the skies of Skye. Big and beautiful, these magnificent creatures were well worth taking a break to watch them glide and soar.

As for the photo,well that fits perfectly into the blog name. The stone featured in the image was put there in 2000 to mark the millennium so it isn’t as old as it first appears. Personally I think the Duirinish Stone was the perfect way to mark the millennium in this part of the world. It kept things simple and in tune with the Isle.

It’s an impressive stone that reflects Skye’s ancient past beautifully. The old world still resonates strongly through Skye. You can feel it as you travel around.