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.

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 lent 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 TrĂ igh 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!

March 31, 2010


At the bottom of the Rhinns of Islay, the southwestern tip of that Scottish island, is the village of Portnahaven.There you'll find a great little pub called An Tigh Seinnse. Small in size but big in atmosphere, and the food and drink are good too. One can sit outside and view the boats bobbing and the seals basking in the harbour.

The entrance is a nondescript white painted wooden door. It's a double door, but often only one half is open, leaving a space no wider than the average pair of shoulders. Entering on a sunny Islay day (yes, Scotland is often sunny and bright - don't look so shocked) into the subdued light of the hallway feels like entering the home of Bilbo. Don't get me wrong, I like hobbits, at least I'm sure I would if I met one, which I haven't...well, you know what I mean. Cosy comfort. One of the things I found attractive was the floor. Reminded me of Morocco. Quite fine tile work which surprised me to find in a small Hebridean pub.

March 24, 2010

over the falls

North of Oban, on the west coast of mainland Scotland, can be found the Falls of Lora. That's them at the bottom of the first photograph. Not what you expected? The falls are actually a tidal race which becomes a huge set of rapids as the waters of Loch Etive, which you are looking east towards in the first image, flow at low tide into the Firth of Lorn, which you are looking west towards in the second image. The flow reverses when the tide comes in. Both these photographs are taken in opposite directions from atop the Connel Bridge which spans the falls. As you may have guessed it's slack tide, or close to it.

The falls offer some fun playboating in a kayak. Not that I did, but you can if you sign on with Seafreedom Kayak. They operate out of a great B&B in Connel called Strumhor. You can see the falls while having coffee in their front sunroom.

Just goes to show that expectations can be deceiving, especially when you travel. Keep an open mind.

March 14, 2010

red phonebooths

With the advent of wireless communication and ensuing prevalence of cell phones in the world, I suspect the phonebooth is on the road to oblivion. I love the image of the red phonebooth. Not only do they appeal to me visually, but they also seem to me to be heavily laden with story. History and culture nestle deep in the crackled paint of their exterior, lives lived and shared over thin copper wires. In rural Scotland one can find them on the most unlikely of street corners.

I got thinking about all this after reading a post on Armin Grewe's www.islayblog.com that indicated Google Streetview had come to the Scottish island of Islay, and that one of the views he found interesting was along the road featuring the red phonebooth near Carnduncan. I thought it would be fun to show a few of the photographs I've taken of these icons, including this one near Carnduncan...

...on Skye, near Carbost, just down the road from the Talisker distillery.

...on Barra, one of the southernmost of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

March 11, 2010

just had to share this...

Though Spring can be fickle and melodramatic with her entrance, today was a memorable scene to open the play of seasons.

Snow and cold is the Winter norm in most of Canada, and the past three months here where I live have not disappointed, though there comes a time when we feel the need for change. The last few days have been unseasonably warm, temperatures not quite in the teens yet, but nipping at the heels. I sat outside after work for the first time, so that says a lot. The sky was just starting to lose the brilliant cloudless blue it had been all day, the air was warm but still fresh with the memory of winter's chill drifting off the snow, the single malt gold in my glass...then the wow. A distant sound high in the fading sky makes my skin tingle - the Tundra Swans are returning north. The distinct honking voice, higher in pitch than our ubiquitous Canada Geese, makes me look up. In a minute they come into view, hundreds of large white birds flying together in a V shaped ribbon spreading across the sky overhead, glowing in the almost setting sun.

Harbingers of Spring, but we all know here that the weather can still turn nasty and envelop us in the last snows of Winter. It's quite a sight, though. I have no photograph - your mind's eye will have to do.

March 8, 2010

slightly bizarre

Barra, one of the southernmost of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, has an unusual airport. The landing strip is the beach, so flights can only come and go at low tide. It is the only beach runway in the world which handles scheduled airline traffic. We were lucky enough to catch some spectacular light when this Twin Otter was taking off. I suspect the runway is also the only one in the world where dogs catch frizbees and people fly kites and dig for cockles between flights.

March 4, 2010

the Oa

The Oa is the southwest part of the island of Islay, Scotland. It's somewhat remote, and quite beautiful. The wind was blowing hard the day I visited the American Monument down on the coast (which is just barely visible on the extreme right horizon in this photograph).

I felt bad for these cyclists, not because of the wind, but because they kept pulling over to let me pass on the singletrack road. This happened more than once - I'd drive by them,  stop for another photograph, they'd pedal by me, I'd drive by them...sorry folks.

February 27, 2010


Many places in the northern hemisphere have been experiencing some pretty severe and unusual winter weather this year. Changing climate. The world seems to be wasting too much time on squabbling about laying blame for such and not enough on finding ways to effectively adapt to the changes that are happening now and surely will be in the future. Temperature fluctuations aside, it has never made sense to me why we accept the defiling of our land, air, and water with substances that degrade their quality in large degrees.

And what, you may very well ask, does any of this have to do with the photo? Just thought you'd like to see some winter in a positive light, so to speak. February, my dog, out my front door.

February 24, 2010

Laphroaig stills

I must confess that my initial attraction to Scotland was the result of being interested in single malt whisky. I've made quite a few trips there since 2001, and visited quite a few distilleries. Although all Scotch is made with the same ingredients of malted barley, water, and yeast, "cooked" in copper and aged in oak, it never ceases to amaze me how different the end product from each distillery can be.

Scotland, of course, is much more than whisky, and the place has stolen my heart with her beauty and interest. This photograph is from the distillery of one of my favourite whiskies, Laphroaig, on my favourite island of Islay. The stillman is tending to the spirit safe, where the first sight of the new make spirit coming from the stills can be had...the beginning of a long process of making single malt whisky which can take anywhere from three years up to 40, 50, even 60 years (the latter being very rarified stuff!).

February 23, 2010

Port Charlotte

I highly recommend the Port Charlotte Youth Hostel should you ever visit Islay, one of the Inner Hebridean islands of western Scotland. The windows of the lounge and kitchen look directly out onto Loch Indaal. This photograph is from the beach just below the hostel during my stay last September. I was lucky enough to catch the rising sun one morning while stumbling to the bathroom and cursing a small bladder (oh, sorry, too much information?).

February 21, 2010

The plan with this blog is to share a few photographs with people. Forgive me if a few thoughts and opinions sneak in. The images come from Scotland, some from Canada. Maybe I'll revisit a few from the archives. I've been photographing for quite a few years, so the well is deep. I hope to augment the photos in this blog with those on my page at 500px on a regular basis. However, as realities go, it will more than likely be irregular.

Should you appreciate my sense of aesthetic, I hope you'll visit again.