In Aberdeen, I spent all week attending meetings during the day and wandering the city at night looking for places to grab some dinner. On this last day in Scotland, I sat in a meeting, staring impatiently at the clock on the wall, watching the remainder of the day slip away. Finally, the meeting was over and I thought I was free and clear to run. Nope. As most meetings go, they tend to lead to these sort of “straggler meetings” where a few people remain behind to go into more detail on those issues that would put the previous meeting’s attendees into a coma. Such was the case here and a further two hours were spent hashing out the remaining tedium. Since I was in Scotland for work, I couldn’t complain. As soon as this final meeting was over, I ran around the room shaking hands, bidding farewell to everyone and then fled for the nearest taxi. . My flight home was leaving at 3am the next morning.
Earlier in the week I had been told that 20 or so miles south of Aberdeen was the small coastal town of Stonehaven.
Stonehaven’s Harbor and shoreline.
A few miles’ walk from this town is the ancient Dunnottar Castle that perches atop a cliff, sharply jutting out into the North Sea. I was advised by a local that the most scenic way to get to it was to walk from the harbor in Stonehaven, up a steep path to the top of the cliffs along the coast, and follow it south for two miles. It was this advice that led me along one of the most gorgeous walks I’ve ever experienced. What follows are the images I managed to get from my ravenous shooting spree inside the few hours I had to try to capture this desperately beautiful country. Here we go…
Along the path from town up to the top of the seaside cliffs was section of stone wall. In it there was a door that appeared to go nowhere. Having spent all week sitting on my butt, it felt really good to get outside on a hard walk to get the blood pumping.
The path eventually leveled out at the top of the cliffs; blue sea on the left and fields of green and gold on the right. The cool wind blowing through acres of grain and wildflowers, interspersed with the sound of crashing waves, was the soundtrack to this evening’s walk.
A distant view of Dunnottar Castle. Every step I took gave twenty more things to photograph but I was a little bit hurried by the fact that the castle would soon be closed to visitors. Growing up in Germany, I’ve seen plenty of castles but never in such a setting. I kept a steady pace, figuring I could shoot more relaxed later on the way back to town. Scotland, being so far north, doesn’t get dark in the summer until after midnight. I had already accepted the fact that I would be traveling the next day on very little sleep as I had every intention to remain here for as long as I could – a worthwhile compromise.
Typical weather here, it would go from bright and sunny to dark and stormy in a matter of minutes. The fast-moving clouds had the light on these landscapes constantly transforming making it even more fun and interesting to shoot.
This is Stonehaven’s War Memorial, built in 1923.
The slopes along the cliffs were decorated with a vast assortment of wildflowers. Along this part, a blanket of white flowers emerged, creating a natural frame around the edge of this scene.
I didn’t have a lens with me that was wider than 35mm so to get around that I used multiple, portrait orientation photos to capture vast landscapes like this. What you do lose with this setup is the greater depth of field you would naturally have with a wider focal length lens. I had the aperture set to f/16 (where diffraction starts to rear its ugly head) and set focus at hyper focal distance
I could have spent the whole evening just enjoying the sound and spectacle of wind blowing across these fields of grain stalks.
Dunnottar Castle, or what remains of it. I arrived with only 30 minutes remaining before it closed. As quickly as I could, I explored the 3.5 acre grounds, shooting as much as I could in such a limited amount of time.
A few minutes after closing, the staff at the castle politely ran me off. From there I wandered down a trail to the rocky shoreline at the base of the castle. I really like this next shot. The sun cut a hole in the clouds and strong backlit these flowers growing on these moss and algae-covered rocks. The dark green background is the cliff side in shadow. The stems of the flower had a very fine hair which lit up in the sun, leaving a trace-outline appearance to them. This was shot using that Olympus 85-250mm I had picked up in Houston before leaving for Scotland.
Many stairs later, I was back up on top of the cliffs and following a very narrow path that ran along the very edge of the cliff on the outside of a fenced field. This walk took me further south of the castle which opened up some new views of the landscape.
In this shot you can see the castle and the War Memorial.
As the sun sank lower, the clouds grew darker and scattered their rain over distant fields.
Hey! It’s me. A brief chat with a bicyclist who had paused for a break, led to our exchanging the favor of a smartphone photo.
On my way back to Stonehaven, a dark cloud settled over the mound of the War Memorial. Every so often, I would catch a light drizzle of rain.
The evening on these gorgeous seaside cliffs concluded with the waning glow of warm sunlight across these summer fields. Breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful.
Returning to where I started, I took a taxi from the harbor in Stonehaven and returned to my hotel in Aberdeen. I managed to get in a 3 hour nap before leaving for the airport. Travel day was a very long and weary mix of flights and layovers but it was so worth it to have not passed up the opportunity to get out of the city to explore one of the most beautiful places on Earth. God willing, I will go back. Next time, I hope it is with my wife and kids.