Wednesday 15 December 2010
.....To the Harrier Jump Jet. This special plane has today flown it's last operational flights for the British Military forces. It was only a few years ago that this plane was a regular on the air-show circuit, wowing the crowds and making small children cry and dogs bark with the phenomenal roar and downdraft as it went into a hover. It was always forgiven though when it "took a bow" at the end of the display, and its ability to do something (vertical take-off, and that hover) which is usually associated with a helicopter rather than fixed wing aircraft made it extra special.
Saturday 4 December 2010
Thought I ought to get back to this again - as I've said before I love using the 50mm lens, it's just getting around to using it that I have an issue with. Then I pick it up, pop it on the front of the camera (works better that way round) and it's as though its never been gathering dust in the bag. I have to start thinking - really thinking - about composing shots and how to get exactly the picture I want. Sometimes I have to re-think the shot I thought I was going to take as it simply doesn't work for the fixed length of the lens - that's a tricky one as my photography head doesn't like admitting that a shot isn't possible.
The shot above was another one taken for the photography challenge I'm doing online with a group of friends. The theme was "Something architectural" and although I guess paving slabs aren't strictly speaking "Architecture" I was wandering round town with my camera and "that" lens, and saw the array of different shapes, sizes and coloured slabs and decided I liked how it looked. The challenges are good fun so far - we're seeing some excellent shots coming from people who had been at great pains to tell us all that they weren't very good at taking pictures - so far the evidence is disproving this! From a personal perspective I'm finding it a real kick-start to thinking about photography again and just plain picking up the camera and using it.
Friday 19 November 2010
I possibly wouldn't have even noticed it had it not been for the photo challenge I'm currently taking part in - which is going extremely well. It's fantastic seeing a whole group of people actually making use of their cameras and thinking about the shots they are taking far, far more than they usually would. The results being produced are great too - I think it would be fair to say that most of the participants have a far better eye for a shot than they think they have.
Oh, it should be mentioned that I originally had an altogether different idea for my shot for this week's challenge (which was "up close & personal" by the way) but I might now have to have a go at that another time instead. For the time being though, have another spiders web...
Sunday 14 November 2010
In spite of it being fairly close to us, we'd never before been to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford. When we realised a while ago that the admission could be paid for using ClubCard Deals vouchers we decided that it would make a good frugal day out, and chose today as our day to visit based on all the exhibits being open as it is remembrance Sunday. (The majority of the time through the winter some areas are closed off - the admission fee drops slightly to take account of this). To our surprise on arriving we were told that admission today was free, so the vouchers have gone back on the shelf for use elsewhere! The museum was holding its own remembrance service which we attended, and the shot above was taken as we left the building afterwards.
I'm currently taking part in a photographic challenge on an online community I'm a member of - it was borne from a number of people complaining that they didn't use their cameras enough, something which I really identified with, so I suggested that we got together and made a concerted effort to put that right. From a personal perspective I should probably use it as an incentive to post here more often - oddly enough it isn't a problem when we're in the hebrides, but once back in real life any number of lame excuses can come along and stand in the way of me simply taking, processing and posting a shot. Annoying, isn't it!
Saturday 16 October 2010
For some reason this evening I fancied playing around with some holiday pictures - I kind of expected to go through and find some I'd not processed before, but instead I found myself re-processing the one above. The deposit confirmation for the cottage has arrived now, and it is always at this point that thoughts start turning to heading back. The RET scheme has been confirmed for an additional year on its trial period, which is good for us as it halves the costs of the ferry fares to, and from Lochamaddy, and there is also some talk of relief on fuel duty in the islands - to the tune of 5p per litre. This would by no means make fuel over there the same price as on the mainland, but it would certainly go some way to bringing costs down.
Wednesday 22 September 2010
Last weekend we went to the North Norfolk Railway 1940's weekend. We were up in Sheringham last year when it was on, and decided to go back this time around and check out properly what was going on. The first thing to mention is that an awful lot of people dress up and get seriously into their roles at these events, and the second is that the whole thing spills over onto the streets of Sheringham as well as within the environment of the railway. This year even the shops in Sheringham high street got into the spirit of the event with shop staff dressed up, appropriate window displays and even "wartime menus" at a couple of the canteens. Flypasts from a hurricane and a lancaster added to the atmosphere, but above all what really "made it" was the care and attention lavished on the event by the re-enactors, both in terms of their outfits, and the way they really made you feel you were "in their world"
The shot above was taken at Weybourne Station - proud Father about to put his newly joined-up daughter on the train maybe? Who knows, but what is definate is the immaculate way both are turned out. The other people in the background also being dressed appropriately helps, one ongoing problem was the encroachment of the 21st century into shots via carrier bags, digital cameras, and even iPod earphones!
Wednesday 15 September 2010
....of the summer, and with it the airshow season. I've not seen so much of the Reds this season as I would have liked - just the three displays at Eastbourne, Dartmouth & Duxford - but as ever they were outstanding on all three occasions. Of the three displays Dartmouth was by far the most special - it always is, not least because I have now got into the habit of climbing up the big hill behind the town and shooting from there - it gives a totally different viewpoint on the display as a whole - at times you're looking down on the action, and at others the trademark red Hawks seem to be coming right at you!
I went into the display season this year wanting to do more shots where the Reds' smoke trails were as much a feature of the shots as the planes themselves - having been caught a couple of times now with extremely bland skies, or the sort of conditions that make capturing the "Red" in the "Red Arrows" close to impossible, I felt that this would be a good trick to master as it would potentially enable me to come away with even those sort of displays with shots to be pleased with. What do you think - has it worked?
Saturday 19 June 2010
I felt it was about time this had a makeover. Needless to say, I now wish I'd saved a screen-grab of the old layout and design to compare with the changes I've made. *sighs* Oh well, should have planned better!
This pic is another Eden Project one - and is also the shot I currently have as the wallpaper on my iPod Touch. At this stage of the week I'd usually throw up a speedway picture but frankly after the piss-poor performance last night I can't be bothered! A flower is FAR more likely to put a smile on my face right now...
Thursday 3 June 2010
Meet "WEEE Man" - he lives at the Eden Project and is constructed almost entirely from things which would otherwise be in landfill sites. Look carefully - view the larger version of the shot if you need to, and see how many different electrical items or parts thereof you can see. It took us a while to realise that the teeth are computer mice - clever eh?!
One thing which is becoming abundantly clear to most of the population now is that we simply have to stop throwing stuff in the direction of landfill.This is something which the residents of the Hebrides have already realised - when you have an environment like that the very last thing you want to do is fill it with rubbish so they are already incredibly good at recycling, most households have multiple bins and even those in the most remote areas have at least a recycling bin and a general waste bin, plus "kitchen caddy" for food waste. Newspapers are used as fire-building material and other paper waste is burnt. Fruit and veg trimmings go for compost. Bottle, can & plastic banks are used religiously by the islanders and very few would dream of just throwing these items away. Something as simple as taking your own bags to the supermarket can make a real difference so remember to check your "bag for life" stash is in the car...better still, why not start a collection of super-cool reusable jute, hessian or cotton bags and use those instead - cared for properly and repaired if needed these truly could be bags "for life".
Friday 16 April 2010
I finally got to my first speedway of the season last night. Due to a combination of the trackworks at Ipswich being delayed by the bad winter weather, and Easter falling slightly earlier this year, I missed our first three meetings. Usually I get one or two in before scarpering to the Hebrides - this year I had to be content with Press Day until we got back. Last night saw the Eastbourne Eagles visiting, and the night ended with a narrow win for the Witches. The new track is excellent - and from my point of viewstill a brilliant place for photos, although inevitably it will take a bit of time to get fully used to it. All in all it was great to be back and see everyone again - lots of news (gossip!) to catch up on too!
Monday 12 April 2010
The journey home passed off uneventfully I am pleased to say, and we're now settling back into normal life back here. I was still off work today though as there were the normal returning from holiday things to get done, so having done them, I decided to head over the the Amwell Nature reserve where there is a hide with feeders right next to it. Nothing particularly exciting to be seen although others at the reserve were getting excited about a pair of Greylag geese....and some Redshanks! I didn't quite have the heart to point out that, where I've been for the last fortnight there is such a serious problem with the Greylags that there is now an open season on shooting them......felt that might not go down too well, if I'm honest!
Friday 9 April 2010
...from the Hebrides for now. Today has been the usual last day of running around buying foodie bits to take back with us. Oatcakes, Salar Salmon , Hebridean Smokehouse Pate and also some of their hot smoked salmon, and Scallops from Kallin Shellfish - all delicious. We have in mind to do a "smoked Salmon tasting" for some friends in due course as we now have three different types of the hot smoked salmon and it will be interesting to see how they compare.
It's now time to get things packed up and sorted out, whilst enjoying the last of the fantastic views and general peace and loveliness. As I type this I am sitting looking out to my right at the view above - although it looks completely different at this time of day. There are Common Gulls, Lapwings, Greylag Geese and Oystercatchers in view on the small headland you can see sticking out into the Loch, and occasionally a Buzzard passes by. What you would think of on the mainland as quite a strong wind is blowing (over here it's just classified as a breeze) but it's not enough to be a problem. The fire is laid ready for tonight and once we're packed up we will head out for a meal, on to the pub for a last beer with Alastair & Elisabeth, then back here to make the most of the final few hours.
Next one from me will be from home......
Thursday 8 April 2010
You may know I have a bit of a thing for quirky signs. I like ridiculous pictorial ones (somewhere not too far from here there is a "Beware of the Hens" sign complete with a picture of a madly flapping hen!) and I also know of a "Cats - please take care". When we were here last year I blogged "Caution - Disabled driver!" if I remember correctly. I also like those which, like the one above, are trying to make a serious point, but thanks to poor use of the English language, say something different to that which was intended. (I may well have blogged the one seen by the side of the A1 at a closed for refurbishment petrol station which said "Very slow contractors working") The one above is a firm favourite and has been for many years now - I live in hope of one day seeing someone attempt to carry out the instruction contained in it. I'm sure one of these days someone at Caledonian MacBrayne will realise the mistake, and it will be corrected, until then though we will continue to snigger each time we board one of their ferries and spot the sign!
Wednesday 7 April 2010
So just a quick post tonight to go with the pic above which is as you can probably see, a Gannet. I was trying to take shots of these diving earlier on - but got nothing to show for it but a "splash" so you'll have to do with this one flying instead.
Up at 5.30am this morning to get to Berneray for a 7.15am ferry across the Sound of Harris - weather beautiful.
Got to Stornoway, got the new tyre for the car, learnt how the spare tyre is MEANT to be put back in place (show it who's boss!), very nice helpful chap, and the tyre cost less than it might well have done on the mainland so full marks to Lewis Tyre Services.
Visited the butchers, bought Black, white and fruit puddings, and a Haggis.
Visited Tesco (yes, I know!) and bought various delicious bits and bobs from the Stag Bakery range of produce - local to Stornoway and absolutely wonderful. Also Some Scottish bottled beers.
Visited the Stornoway Fish Smokers and bought kippers, cheese (yes Mum, I DID get one for you too!) and some of their smoked salmon to try.
Ambled back down through Lewis and Harris and got the ferry back. Weather atrocious.
Were royally fed by Alastair and Elisabeth back at the Westford - bless them! Chilli and rice - delicious!
Home now and going to bed - I'm shattered! More tomorrow!
Tuesday 6 April 2010
Another on a theme I've explored before, today. It does fascinate me, up here, the way perfectly respectable looking dwellings seem to just get abandoned by folk. Sometimes it's understandable - they are upgrading to a place with better facilities, more often than not right next door to the house they are leaving, but this one is just, well, abandoned. You wonder what has happened to make the people just walk away - perhaps it was someone living alone who died, with nobody who wanted to make use of the property to leave it to. Some - like this one - appear structurally sound, whilst others are nothing more than the remains of some walls and possibly a chimney still standing defiantly. One not so far from here is the perfect shell of a house - four walls, chimneys, and two dormer windows standing proud, but the roof and interior walls completely missing. Sometimes they are close enough to the road that you can risk a poke around - others, like this, lay some way back off the road and to go any closer would be intrusive, even if to all intents and purposes the house is now unloved by anyone else.
Tomorrow is our annual shopping trip to the bright lights and big city that is Stornoway. The early ferry beckons and a late-ish return here tomorrow may mean no post on here tomorrow. We'll see though.
Monday 5 April 2010
Firstly, apologies for the pun. I'm afraid it simply had to be done though.
I can honestly say I would not have liked to have been on board MV Hebrides when she sailed from Lochmaddy earlier today - the wind was blowing so strongly that out on the headland where this was taken from it was difficult to stand up against it - indeed this shot (taken with the 300mm lens) was only possible thanks to Ben shielding the worst of the wind and the IS on the lens working away..... The ferry made all of her sailings today though although she was an hour and 15 minutes late when she finally returned to Lochmaddy to her berth for the night - it must have been an incredibly long day for the crew. The freight ferry is cancelled again tonight for the second night on the trot, and sailings between Berneray (to the North of here) and Harris (which is the alternative route for freight, allowing them to then cross to the mainland from Lochmaddy) were suspended from just after lunchtime so the Co-ops will be low on stock tomorrow. Such is Island life though - since the collapse of Highland Airways the folk on Lewis are getting their newspapers across on the early ferry - meaning that the papers aren't getting to the shops until mid afternoon at the earliest. They're not happy about this, and vast piles of papers are being left unsold.
The wind is still howling about now - although less so than a couple of hours ago when it peaked. It's still hard enough now though to make the glass in the (double glazed) windows bow slightly, and I'd guess we may have lost a few more slats of fence in the morning.
Sunday 4 April 2010
We usually make our middle Sunday here a lazy day - the islanders mostly still consider Sunday very much a day of rest and we've always felt that it's a good thing to respect this and not go charging about all over the place. Accordingly, this morning started with a bit of a lie in, before a slow start to the day via several cups of tea and some sitting outside in the Sunshine. Alasdair popped by, firstly to warn us of the forecast for very high winds tomorrow (indeed, they are already battering the cottage as we speak, and the overnight freight ferry from Stornoway - Ullapool is already cancelled with, I suspect, more cancellations to follow on that front) and secondly to give us the new corner storage rack for the bathroom which needed putting together and fitting. We had a bit of chat with him before he went off to see to the sheep and we settled down to the job of first re-stringing the clothes line and secondly, building that storage rack. A light lunch followed before we headed off just a few miles up the road to the island of Baleshare to see if we could find a beach for a bit of an amble along.....
Beachcombing up here can be great fun, and very absorbing, with all sorts of odds and ends being washed up - today though we found a mass of broken stoneware and pottery - all from around the start of the 20th century we think, so not that old but interesting nonetheless. More usefully however, we found plentiful signs of the presence of cockles, so Ben went back to the car for the buckets and a rake and we settled down to some foraging. They were not quite so easy to find as in our usual more favoured spot, but we still managed to collect enough to form the basis of a nice dinner tomorrow night.
Better news still is that Alastair and Elisabeth are back from England and the pub was open this evening.
ps - additional photos from this trip are going onto my Flickr album - the link is to the right of this page.
Saturday 3 April 2010
The cottage above is at South Glendale, South Uist. All over the place here there are these homes which have just been left to decay - many of them seemingly still in very good condition at the point at which the owners moved on. In a lot of cases you can see "house history" - the ruins of an old blackhouse, next to that a more modern whitehouse, then a 1920's - 1950's style building, then in many cases a more modern bungalow or "one and a half storey" house. See above for a good example of one of the above - it's peculiar mainly to Scotland I think. This is another case of a subject telling me what treatment it wanted - (Nick, I thought you might enjoy this one as I know you like your mono shots!) although the corrugated iron roof was once painted in red most of the colour has flaked away leaving very little colour in the building itself.
At the point of taking this shot I had quite startlingly wet feet - on the walk we had just completed I had managed to go into a peat-bog up to the knees, and the problem with very waterproof walking boots is their reluctance to let water out, once it has got in. Squelch. My boots are now sitting in the kitchen drying........
Friday 2 April 2010
...in size, at any rate! From the majesty of yesterday's Sea Eagle, todays offering is somewhat smaller and - dare I say it? - cuter. These are Ringed Plovers - and these particular Ringed Plovers can be found at the Balranald RSPB reserve which is where we have been this afternoon. It's a fantastic place - there is a circular walk you can do taking several hours which encompasses all the different habitats you find up here from rocky coastline to white sandy beaches, all backed by "Machair" which is a fertile sandy grassland particular to the Hebrides. Today we settled for a walk up the track and onto the beach, before settling down on our favourite rocky outcrop to see which birds would come closer. After a while of just sitting quietly they tend to forget that you're something to be scared of, and as a result you get them behaving naturally up quite close. The reserve is known for Corn Buntings - in decline elsewhere in the UK thanks to the destruction of their habitats they are thriving up here in the Hebrides - at one stage earlier on we were watching 10 or 12 of them at once, not more than 10 - 15 yards away from us. Fantastic stuff!
Thursday 1 April 2010
I had my blog photo for today all settled in my mind - knew which shot I was going to use almost as soon as I'd taken it, and had even started piecing together ideas for the text in my mind. We'd been for a walk on Berneray - walked on the beach, seen some birds, then climbed a hill for some superb views of the island - plus across to Harris, Skye and the Mainland. We'd narrowly escaped being soaked by a heavy hailstorm by taking shelter under a ledge of rock, and had thoroughly enjoyed a nice afternoon out in (hailstorms notwithstanding) glorious sunshine, so what better picture to put up than a lovely landscape, bright blue sky and lovely white clouds......? Then the chap above flew overhead and those plans all went straight out of the window. We are currently waiting on confirmation on whether it is in fact a Golden, or a young White Tailed Eagle, whichever it was though it was truly massive, and flew above us closely enough that we could practically feel the downdraught!
Wednesday 31 March 2010
Another day of wild weather - today to add to the high winds we have been experiencing snow and hail, sometimes together. The combined effect has been like regularly having our faces shot-blasted at close range - I believe that in America people probably pay for that sort of treatment....
The shot above is of The Old Pier at Loch Skipport - I'm sure I've featured this before - it's one of our favourite spots on the Islands and we always make a point of visiting. I had a feeling when taking this shot that it was going to end up in Black & White but as sometimes happens the shot had other ideas and refused point-blank to have it's colour removed. Loch Skipport is a strangely evocative place - you can still catch echoes of what a busy, bustling place it once was - steamers called there up until the 1950's after which Lochboisdale at the Southern end of the Island (South Uist) replaced it in the itineraries. The pier was apparently originally built to accommodate the arrival of Queen Victoria when she visited the Island.
Tuesday 30 March 2010
.....the picture today isn't actually from today. Instead, I give you this Oystercatcher from yesterday. Best description I've ever heard of these is that "it looks like a magpie, carrying a carrot" - no arguing with that, really, is there?!
We went to bed last night with the wind blowing so hard it was turning the bathroom extractor fan in reverse direction - meaning that cold air was flooding into the bathroom....not ideal. We awoke this morning to more of the same, only partnered with some squally rain as well just for good measure. We did venture out, but stayed in the car most of the time, getting out only when necessary (shop for groceries, lunch at our favourite cafe) and the cameras have been left here all day, meaning no photos at all. Our ferries from the mainland have run as normal today, but Stornoway/Ullapool have had cancellations, and no boats have run from here to Harris, or from Eriskay to Barra, all day. Barra in fact has had no service at all as their ferries from the mainland were also cancelled. There was nearly no post at all on here today as we were without power for several hours earlier on....thankfully it was fixed and we are now fully lit up and internetted once again!
Normal service may be resumed tomorrow -on the other hand, and looking at the weather forecast - it may not.
Monday 29 March 2010
This shot was taken first thing this morning from the cottage. It's not unusual here that the first thing I do in the morning, before even having a cup of tea, is to dash outside with the camera to capture the view as it is then, right at that moment. From a photographic point of view you'd struggle to find better light anywhere than up here - the air is so clean that colours appear brighter and even in overcast, cloudy weather, the scenery is fantastic.
This panoramic shot was created in Canon's PhotoStitch software - part of an excellent software package that comes free with Canon's D-SLR cameras. Since the demise of the wonderful (free!) Rawshooter Essentials I use Canon's Digital Photo Professional all the time as my RAW file converter. It takes some getting used to - you really need to actually sit down and learn it rather than just trying to pick it up as you go along, but once I had got to grips with it I was hugely impressed with how good it is.
The washing machine will be repaired tomorrow, we are told. Marvellous news as, if I am honest, hand-washing Ben's not-so-smalls didn't feature particularly highly on my list of "things to do on holiday"
Sunday 28 March 2010
We'd always intended to do a beach walk today - it makes such a nice start to the break and there is something very calming about it....the weather today was anything but calm though! We walked out along the beach at Malaclete - just across from the deserted island of Vallay which we visited for the first time last year - it looks as though the house has taken a battering from the winter storms and lost some more roof......weather and tides dependant we may make it across again this year to take a closer look.
At the far end of the beach we walked on was a raised area of dunes which we crossed - and on the opposite side we found crashing waves and an extremely strong blast of wind, plus this peculiar tangle of discarded rope, nets and buoys - something about the colours of it really appealed and the shot you see above is exactly as composed in camera - no cropping required on this one. My original plan was to take all the colour out of the background simply leaving the bright colours of the tangle to do their thing, but on getting it on screen back here it was easy to see just how little colour there was elsewhere in the scene, making it (in my view at least) unecessary.
The wind has changed direction tonight, making our roaring peat fire a necessity rather than a luxury.
Saturday 27 March 2010
As I write we are cosily settled into Tigh Alasdair - the fire is lit and we have beer...what more could we want? The wind is blowing, but it's hitting the back wall of the cottage at the moment - the one with no windows or doors, so we can barely hear it, just feel its vibrations from time to time.
Thanks to the ferry timetables having just switched to the summer schedules, we had this morning free to look around Skye....once we had found somewhere to put a new headlamp bulb in my poor long-suffering Clio - thanks to a lapse in concentration on the part of the driver of a 40' artic at Hamilton Services yesterday, she found herself getting her third impact from a truck in her short life.....thankfully this was rather less destructive than the first two - as this one reversed into us square on - his under-run bar into our bumper - both components did their job perfectly and the only damage proved to be a blown headlamp bulb on the Clio (presumably suffering from shock?!) and a lorry driver with sore ears after I had bawled him out for carelessness! A bit of me is slightly relieved if I'm honest - they do say these things come in threes after all and if so, that is hopefully my ration!
Back to Skye then - those of you who know your British geography will recognise the famous Storr rock formations in the shot above. There are lots of these strange rock pinnacles around the main one, but the "Old Man" is the one that everyone is familar with. It's certainly a very peculiar landscape, but that's something that Skye seems to specialise in.
Tuesday 23 March 2010
Saturday 20 March 2010
This is the view we see from the front windows of the cottage - it is a view I associate particularly with washing the dishes - something which can take a surprisingly long time when you have that sort of landscape in front of you as a distraction - but also with the fantastic hebridean light at dawn and dusk as it changes dramatically depending on the time of day, and the weather conditions. We've watched otters playing in the Loch, and eagles circling over the hills opposite. The hills, by the way, are Eaval on the right, and Burrival on the left with the funny little lump on the top. Ben harbours dreams of climbing both, I don't.
Friday 26 February 2010
OK - this is to prove a point. I've long commented on how clear the Hebridean waters are, rhapsodised over the marvellous clarity of the waves, and generally sung the praises of pollution free waters. Here is the proof. If you look carefully, you'll notice that the seaweed in this shot is floating - that's because it was taken looking directly down through water.
So - you believe me now?!
Sunday 21 February 2010
It was the London Chinese New Year Celebrations today, and as ever it was a great day out. The overwheming impressions all day are of colour, aroma, and the broad smiles on the faces of those involved in the celebrations. Everywhere you look there are stalls selling good-luck trinkets, childrens toys, and all manner of foodstuffs from "Dragons Beard Candy" (Kind of like a very fine angel-hair sort of stuff) to the more standard sort of egg fried rice and sweet & sour chicken (Can anyone guess what we had for lunch?!). The other thing you see everywhere are the chinese lanterns in the picture above. In past years they have been pretty much all red (traditionally a symbol of good luck in china) however this year they varied dramatically in colour - including these pink and green ones!
Saturday 20 February 2010
Sorting through last year's holiday photos I came across almost a whole days worth I'd never remembered to process. The shot above was one of them, and one of the first I set to processing as there was just something I liked about it. Quite often I come across a shot that really grabs me at thumbnail size, but almost as often it stops grabbing me quite so forcefully when I get it into PhotoShop and start playing. This one continued to grab, I'm pleased to say, so here it is. Luskentyre Beach, Harris. Possibly one of the most beautiful places you could imagine.
Monday 15 February 2010
And just the incentive I need to start posting on here again - Easter is looming and, more to the point, I am finally trying to get to grips with Canon's "Digital Photo Professional" software. I have also finally got around to installing HDRSoft's excellent Photomatix pro HDR software onto the laptop, and will be aiming to do a bit more practise with it before we head back to the Hebrides.
The shot above was taken on the way back last year - we crossed from Kylerhea on Skye to Glenelg on the mainland on the "little ferry", and this view was just a few miles up the road from the jetty at Glenelg. I think this year's plan involves heading straight back over the Skye bridge and then taking a short diversion to go and take a look at the Falkirk Wheel, although no doubt we will judge it on the day depending on weather.