I'm never sure whether this is a blog with photographs or a photoblog with commentary. Does "photoblog" even exist in the common lexicon anymore? Suffice to say I'm just a nobody, as much as anybody else is, with nothing to say, as much as anybody else does.
Should you wish to see more of my photowork, please follow the link in the sidebar. And if you happen to be intrigued by single malt whisky, take a peek at www.whiskydistilleries.blogspot.com...or not.

February 28, 2021


What's in this desire to publish a blog? Is it ego? Partly. Probably mostly.

It's also like a clothesline. An airing out of the laundry, allowing one to see the rips and tears and missed spots in the light of day. A self critique, an effort to see all the flaws and improvements which could be made, a fine tuning of both one's thoughts and aesthetic. Words written and photographs published become static waypoints in a dynamic journey, assertions to be analysed and argued and changed if and when necessary. The trick is to not see them as or allow them to become endpoints.



November 11, 2012

February 28, 2012

gilt by association

Fascinating, the power of the nose. How a smell can evoke arbitrary memories when the aroma was a subtle part of some past experience. It's like your iPod on shuffle - you never know where you're going to go.

I use the occasional piece of coal in my woodburning stove during the colder parts of our Canadian winter. As it burns with an even and gentle flame, the heat takes the chill from the air, the smell takes me back to Scotland. September.  A roaring coal fire pubside in Port Ellen's White Hart Hotel, scorching my back and burning away the shiver of an Islay night ravaged by the tail end of an Atlantic hurricane which stranded many on either side of the ferry link the island relies upon as part of its life's blood.

The memory is like gold, precious and permanent.

boats in the harbour, Port Ellen, Islay
boats in the harbour, Port Ellen, Islay, Scotland

window and wall in Port Ellen, Islay

window in Port Ellen, Islay, Scotland

the harbour lighthouse in Port Ellen, Islay

Carraig Fhada, the lighthouse in Port Ellen, Islay, Scotland

April 3, 2011


Libya and the concept of Responsibility to Protect, championed by Canada, have been quite prominent in our news. I'm not going to wade into the pros and cons of this specific conflict, neither am I getting into the R2P concept itself, but it has gotten me thinking about the idea of responsibility in general.

Seems to me that one of the reasons there is so much controversy about what's happening in Libya (and what is or isn't happening in the neighbourhood) is because we've lost sight of the meaning of responsibility. Abdication (it's not my fault) and litigation (it's your fault) have replaced the understanding and acceptance of the consequences of our actions. So some pseudo-christian pastor in Florida can burn a religious text without thinking or caring how it might negatively, if inadvertently, affect other people (such as getting them killed).

Humans have large brains for a reason, in order to reason...let's use them a little more.

So, you ask, what about the photographs? I'm having a hard time coming up with some connection to any pix in my repertoire so I'll let you make your own connections. Come for the pix get the rant for free, come for the rant get the pix for free (sounds like a Knopfler/Dire Straits line...).

green train, red star 
window, yellow stripe, red star on green...

March 21, 2011


Just watched a clip on TV about the horrendous devastation and human tragedy in Japan. Then comes a commercial for a cream to solve the problem of facial wrinkles...I have to shake my head.

On a lighter note, happy Spring! The Tundra Swans are returning where I live here in Canada. Must be about a year ago that I blogged on this heralding of Spring. The thrill of hearing their distinct calls from high in a cloudless blue March sky still brings a smile. Here are a couple pix of my dog taken a little over a week ago. When I look out my window today, the ground is virtually snow free. Ain't nature grand.

snow laden branches, the dog says "what?!"

March 8, 2011


It is relatively easy to take impressive photographs of landscapes which take the breath away - the monument of the Rocky mountains when the sun and the clouds are just right (see the definition of "awful"), the brilliance of white in the buildings perched high above the cobalt Mediterranean of Rhodos - just point and shoot pretty much anywhere and you're guaranteed to capture something of the grandeur. Anybody can do it, to which travel photo albums around the world can attest. Don't get me wrong, the obvious beauty captured in such photographs has merit, the pleasure of viewing no doubt having some relation to endorphins and the like.

I suppose this is the superficial nature of the iconic - pictures taken by everyone of the visually appealing. The truly brilliant photograph, however, is created by the desire to see beyond the impressive, beyond the grandeur. To distill the image down to some sort of gestalt precisely contained within the edges of the photographic frame. Like taking something apart and reassembling it to the same functionality but with half the moving parts. And this process is not as easy. I can spend hours looking at things just to get the image "just right", only to find upon later inspection that it's "just OK". Happens all the time. That's why you have to have fun in the process, and not merely from the product.

two of the many rocks on Saligo beach, Islay

the Paps of Jura from Bunnahabbhain Distillery, Islay

along the shoreline by Castlebay, Barra

February 1, 2011


Why does the word awful not mean "full of awe", which is the perpetual state we should all strive to attain. Oh, wait, it does...Check out these entries from Dictionary.com:
1. extremely bad; unpleasant; ugly: awful paintings; an awful job.
2. inspiring fear; dreadful; terrible: an awful noise.
3. solemnly impressive; inspiring awe: the awful majesty of alpine peaks.
4. full of awe; reverential.
5. extremely dangerous, risky, injurious, etc.: That was an awful fall she had. He took an awful chance by driving here so fast.
6. Informal . very; extremely: He did an awful good job of painting the barn. It's awful hot in here.
—Usage note
Although some object to any use of awful or awfully in any sense not connected with a feeling of awe, both have been used in other senses for several centuries. Awful and awfully as adverbial intensifiers — awful(ly) hot; awful(ly) cold — appear in the early 19th century, following much the same pattern as horribly and dreadfully. As an adverb awful is less formal in tone than awfully. In the sense “inspiring awe or fear” awesome has largely replaced awful.

I don't know of any other word with two valid yet almost diametrically opposed meanings.

So I feel awful that I haven't shared anything with you for the last few weeks, but I've been awfully busy adding photos to my webalbums.

another photo of the lighthouse in Port Charlotte, one of my favourite subjects on the Scottish island of Islay...you'll probably see many iterations on this theme, both mine and others

the Sound of Islay, looking toward Jura from Port Askaig

the port of Ullapool, Scotland, where the ferry leaves for Stornoway on the Outer Hebridean island of Lewis

Loch Seaforth from Bowglass, the land border between the Outer Hebridean islands of Harris and Lewis, Scotland. It's an unusual geographic division, being just a river instead of the expected open water strait between two islands

November 14, 2010

on beauty

Two things bring me to this post, the synergy of two separate interviews I hear on CBC Radio (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation - a jewel in the crown of public broadcasting in my view).

Harvard history professor Jill Lepore talks about her book "The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle Over American History". The author comments that she can vehemently disagree with someone yet still like them as a person, unlike the state of affairs in the American political arena where disrespect runs rampant. Nasty confrontational politics is becoming the norm here in Canada as well, as it is everywhere else in the world I suppose.

Johnny Reid, a Canadian musician born in Scotland, talks about the genesis of his song "Today I'm Gonna Try and Change the World". One day he sees his son off to school bidding him to go and change the world, and gets to thinking it somewhat presumptuous when there are things in his own life which could be done to accomplish the same thing.

And I get to thinking about respect and changing the world...and maybe how it all relates to why I take photographs, or perhaps more appropriately the desire for others to see them. And it is "take" as opposed to "make", for the most part. I shoot what I see in the world around me, with post-processing attempting only to overcome the failings of the photographic medium, to bring the image closer in line with what and how my eyes have seen. Can the fostering of respect bring about positive change, can exposure to the beauty of the world around us germinate respect for that world and lead to the changing of that world for the better?
...Can't hurt.

three swimmers in Lamlash, Arran


heather on the Ard overlooking Port Ellen, Islay

the iconic lighthouse at Port Charlotte, Islay...and my dad

November 11, 2010

this is not mine, but apt for today...
War does not decide who is right, just who is left.

October 19, 2010

on the road again

Thinking about my last entry...Why roads? The visual, of course, lines which draw the eye and entice it to follow. An abrupt linear counterpoint to the chaos that is landscape. The draw is not unlike, I suppose, that which attracts people to travel the road itself. A journey, the mystery of where it may lead, of what may lie round the next bend.

just out of Feolin Ferry, Jura

a Skye Road

the road to Bunnahabhain, Islay

Kildalton, Islay

Vatersay, one of the Outer Hebridean islands of Scotland

along Loch Harport, Skye

The last is a photo from the east coast of Harris, another of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. A landscape with a peculiarly attractive desolation. Apparently it was a proxy for the planet Jupiter in Kubrick's film "2001: a Space Odyssey". Maybe that's why I find Harris so appealing - the film is one of my alltime favourites. I remember seeing it with my dad when it was first released, one of the first wide screen epic films. And here I find myself travelling with my father again, on a journey through the same landscape. Full circle, another line.

October 11, 2010

on the road

In Canada, at least, motorcyclists acknowledge each other with a wave as they speed past in opposite directions. The left hand drifts out as if to grasp the wind, to grasp the unspoken greeting flung from a complete stranger on the road.

A similar thing happens on the Scottish island of Islay, only it's the car drivers who greet each other. A small wave or a lift of the fingers from the steering wheel an automotive tip of the hat. It comes as a bit of a surprise to the uninitiated, but soon feels natural, feels right, feels human. The road becomes a conduit of people, with their own private lives and histories and secrets, instead of just metal tonnage hurtling along a stretch of hard asphalt. Hurtling still happens, but the momentary eye contact with the driver on the other side of the road is somehow comforting.

A few photos for you from my trip to Scotland this September.

The high road on Islay, between Port Ellen and Bridgend. A very fun single track road, of which there are many in Scotland.

The much photographed gate at the top of Shore Street in Portnahaven, Islay. Another example of the iconic

The not so much photographed bottom of Shore Street in Portnahaven, Islay 

Looking east along the road called The String, just above Brodick on Arran

July 21, 2010

still here

Understanding that I've broken one of the cardinal rules of blogging - post on a regular basis lest your audience thinks you've dropped off the face of the earth - I'm here to tell you that I am, indeed, still alive and well. My time just happens to be somewhat consumed by my job during the summer. We run a kids camp and I barely have time to get my email let alone put enough thought into blog posts in order to make them interesting and worthwhile. So let it be known that their frequency may not be to both our liking, but please don't go away!

Our summer camp is horseback riding and animal oriented, so I'll leave you with a few pix of animals. I'm always attracted to images of horses, and for some reason I tend to have a few shots of cows in my repertoire. And of course my dog.

my dog at camp, early morning

Lochmaddy, on the Scottish West Hebridean island of North Uist

a beachcowmer on Barra, another of Scotlands Western Hebrides

grazing on the Scottish island of Islay

June 26, 2010

more train

Let me just say that I'm not a Harry Potter junkie. I enjoy the movies but that's as far as it goes. Why this initial disclaimer? Read on.
During one of our Scottish trips, dad and I went to Glenfinnan in the Western Highlands of Scotland. At the head of Loch Shiel, it is well known as the seminal site of the Jacobite Revolution, the place where Bonnie Prince Charlie landed in 1745 and started gathering supporters in his attempt to claim the thrones of Scotland and England. To Harry Potter film buffs, it is the location of the viaduct over which the Hogwarts Express chugs on its way to Hogwarts School of Wizards.

I was unaware of either of these particular fames when we stayed at the delightful Prince's House Hotel. What drew my interest when we arrived was this incredibly beautiful and imposing structure that I just had to photograph. I spent a hugely enjoyable day roaming around and about the 21 arches which make up this bridging of the River Finnan. Designed by Robert McAlpine (aka "Concrete Bob" - what a great nickname!) in 1901, it spans 1000 feet and soars 100 feet into the air. Yeah, who wouldn't want to explore such a thing. While tramping through the fields above the viaduct I came across this broom just lying there in the brown autumn grass. No joke. I suspect it was a prop left behind from the filming. Unfortunately, it doesn't fly. Or maybe I just don't know the right incantation...

June 9, 2010


...is it?

May 25, 2010

salt of the earth

While visiting some wonderful friends on the south island of New Zealand they loaned me their car (see, I told you they were wonderful) to do a little sightseeing. Heading down the road to partake in a winery tour (alas, New Zealand no longer had a whisky distillery at the time) I happened across Dominion Salt Limited at Lake Grassmere. Now, a saltworks is not the first thing you would tend to put on your list of places to visit when you travel half way round the globe, but how could you resist the attraction of such aesthetic possibilities?

May 7, 2010


I'm wondering about the nature of the iconic. At least the visual, as there certainly can be other expressions of the concept - Neil Young's voice, the feel of a baby's cheek, the aroma of peat smoke. Recognizable, though bestowed with as many evocations or interpretations as there are people sharing the experience. Indeed, meaning comes from personal experience, but it's the common identification I'm talking about.

I read a few Scottish blogs, mostly about the island of Islay, and especially like to see other peoples' images and how they photograph the same things to which I find myself attracted. Take this tree, along the road north to Bunnahabhain on Islay. I've seen several photographs of the same tree, each one a different perspective, but the same tree nonetheless. Why this one?

April 20, 2010


Red phonebooths again. At least in the abstract. I've talked about my penchant for red phonebooths before, and their metaphysical attraction. The visual attraction is a little more universal, that is it tends to inform anything which imposes itself upon my visual cortex, anything I see.

The redness acts as punctuation in the grammar of landscape, or just plain scape if you like...landscape being anywhere your eyes land. It's an exclamation point which focusses my attention on the design aspect of a particular window into my physical environment, the lay of that particular land. The image is there somewhere, I just have to find the right frame. And red is not the only culprit. I'm thinking that the primary colours hold the most power, but I suspect the more attractive aspect is the brilliance. Shine on you crazy diamond.

I like boats as well as red phonebooths, and there's often lots of colour to play with in the harbour. So, colour it is this time.

April 10, 2010


Dad and I started visiting Scotland together in 2001. I would choose distilleries I thought would be fun to tour, and dad would have fun planning our itinerary. As I've said before, our trips weren't just focussed on whisky, and in 2008 we took the ferry to Lewis, the largest of the Outer Hebrides. Never having been there before, or knowing much about the island, dad chose a B&B on the west coast which sounded remote and kind of cool. It was situated overlooking Tràigh Uig, the Uig Sands, which become an incredibly beautiful and vast beach when the tide goes out. The B&B was called Suainaval. Well, actually, it still is called Suainaval, and you need to stay there if you ever grace the shores of Lewis. And you need to walk on the beach...

In 1831, uncovered by the shifting sands, a collection of chessmen carved from walrus tusk was discovered nearby. They are thought to be Norse in origin from the 12th century. Why they were hidden there is still a mystery. Unexpected treasure.

Along the road to the beach can be found a large carved replica of the king chessman sculpted by Stephen Hayward. Not to be outdone, the kids at Suainaval have created their own homage in stones...

And speaking of unexpected treasure, unbeknownst to us until we got to Suainaval, there just so happens to be a distillery not far down the road. Abhainn Dearg is relatively new, the first distillery on Lewis in almost 170 years. Treasure indeed!