More Scenery Than Time

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.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

 

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

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.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

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.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

 

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

 

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

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.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

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.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

 

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

 

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

This is Stonehaven’s War Memorial, built in 1923.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Olympus OM Zuiko MC Auto-Zoom 85-250mm f/5

 

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

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.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

 

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

 

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

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

 

I could have spent the whole evening just enjoying the sound and spectacle of wind blowing across these fields of grain stalks.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

 

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

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.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

 

Sony A7RmkII w/ Olympus OM Zuiko MC Auto-Zoom 85-250mm f/5

 

Sony A7RmkII w/ Olympus OM Zuiko MC Auto-Zoom 85-250mm f/5

 

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

 

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

 

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

 

Sony A7RmkII w/ Olympus OM Zuiko MC Auto-Zoom 85-250mm f/5

 

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

 

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

 

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)
Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

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.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Olympus OM Zuiko MC Auto-Zoom 85-250mm f/5

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.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

As the sun sank lower, the clouds grew darker and scattered their rain over distant fields.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

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.

iPhone 7+

 

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

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.

iPhone 7+

The evening on these gorgeous seaside cliffs concluded with the waning glow of warm sunlight across these summer fields.  Breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful.

Sony A7RmkII w/ Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen)

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.

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23 thoughts on “More Scenery Than Time

  1. Thank you for the kind words. I think Scotland is one of those places where you could walk around just blindly firing the shutter and you’d come away with good photos. Unbelievably beautiful place!

    Cheers,

    Tom

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tom! You shaved yer’ beard!!!
    What an amazing place.. you must have legs like a mule with all the hiking you do!
    As I was browsing the pictures, I was trying to imagine life there- back when the castle was new, vibrant… how different their lives were from ours today.
    Mind boggling!

    Like

  3. Hi Wes,

    So good to hear from you! I did shave the beard :(. My next project is on a well that has potential for some nasty gas which requires being able to mask-up. Life or beard? Beard had to go.
    It’s funny, the same mental exercise you went through, looking at the photos, I was doing the same thing while I was there. The original founder of that location sure had an eye for beauty! I think I’d be content to live at that location in just a yurt. Seriously, one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever been. Now I just need to figure out how to move to Scotland.

    All the best my friend,

    Tom

    Like

  4. Hi Mrs. Grayson! I’m so glad you enjoyed the photos. I can’t wait for the day when I’m able to take Jen there; some mighty fine hand-in-hand walks to be had in that beautiful countryside.

    Tommy

    Like

  5. Aloha Tom,

    These are memorable photos taken with Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro lens and with your awesome sense of beauty and your technique. For me, these photos will be the benchmark and reference when using the same lens. Thank you for posting them.

    By the way, how do you take a wider picture with multiple of portrait orientation photos? Do you stitch them later?

    Jon Yamazaki

    Like

  6. Hi Jon,

    Good to hear from you, and I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. Every time I use this old Minolta 35-70mm I come away even more impressed with its performance. In the full resolution images, the sharpness at all focal lengths is just so impressive. At the widest focal length of 35mm, it is almost completely free of distortion which is quite rare on zoom lenses of this era. As far as your question regarding the multiple portrait orientation images: I will shoot 4-6 images across the scene I want to capture, leaving about 25-50% overlap in each image. Later, in Photoshop, I will use the photo-merge function to stitch the images together into one. It’s the same process as making a panorama but I’ll often do this just to get a wider field of view from the lens I have with me. You can do this with any lens and the effect will look different with whatever focal length you’re using. For example, you can use a 135mm f/2.8 which really separates the subject from the background and by shooting multiple frames around the subject you can get a look that otherwise wouldn’t be possible with a wide-angle lens. You get the best of both – narrow depth of field with a wide field of view.

    I hope this answers your question. If you’d like to know more, just let me know and I’ll be happy to help.

    Cheers,

    Tom

    Like

  7. I think this is your best post. Almost all photos are breathtaking.

    Have you ever used Canon FD 35-105 f/3.5 macro?
    How is it compared with minolta used in this post?

    Thank you. Looking forward for your next post

    Like

  8. Hi Topang,

    Thanks for your kind support of this new post. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the photos. Regarding your question about Canon’s 35-105mm, I’ve never used that lens before. The only FD lens I’ve owned was the 85mm f/1.2 SSC. I’ll have to look into this 35-105mm; that is a very practical focal range. If I can find one, I’ll have to post a review comparing it to the Minolta 35-70mm.

    Cheers,

    Tom

    Like

  9. Thanks, Dunja. I’m glad you enjoyed the post! The only that could have made that evening even better would have been to have my family there with me.

    Tom

    Like

  10. Hi Danny,

    Thank you for the kind words. I’m so glad you enjoyed them and I hope you find some other fun and interesting things to relax to on OutFor30.

    Cheers,

    Tom Leonard

    Like

  11. Hello Richard, thanks for sharing your thoughts with me. Scotland was an amazing place to visit. It is definitely one of the most photogenic places I’ve ever been.

    Cheers,

    Tom Leonard

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hello Tom, I sure am enjoying reading about your travels and lenses today! These images of Scotland are truly breathtaking. Is there a tripod in that backpack of yours or are you shooting these hand-held? Does the A7Rii with its IS really make sharp hand-held images possible?
    Thanks!
    Lorna

    Like

  13. Hi Lorna,

    In answer to your question: I no longer travel with a tripod. Since I upgraded from the A7R to the A7RII, I’ve not had a need for one; the image stabilization really is that good. After I upgraded from the original A7 to the A7R, I found that I had to have a tripod to get really sharp images. The unforgiving resolving power of the A7R’s 36MP sensor made any kind of movement an issue. When I got the A7RII with its even higher resolution sensor, I figured it’d be even harder to get sharp images. I’m happy to tell you that with its stellar, sensor-based IS I have no problem getting perfectly sharp images without a tripod. I love being able to have this modern feature across the whole range of my old lenses!

    Cheers,

    Tom Leonard

    Like

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