April A-Z: Y is for Years Ago

Years agoโ€ฆ or rather centuries agoโ€ฆ actually a couple of millennia ago (around 300 BC or thereabouts), Iron Age people built a hill fort on the crown of what is now Craig Phadrig hill (literally Patrickโ€™s Rock) on the western outskirts of Inverness, and then at some point apparently burned it when it went out of use, effectively fusing the rocky ramparts together.

According to history (or maybe just heresay, who knows) the site was used again as a stronghold much later in the 6th Century by the Pictish King Brude, at around the same time he was supposedly converted to Christianity by St Columba.

All thatโ€™s left of it today is an oval perimeter earthwork of vitrified rocks lying solid underneath the grassy soil, but the flat top of the hill is still an impressive vantage point for miles around โ€“ or at least it would be if there werenโ€™t so many tall trees blocking the view! There is a well-maintained forest path all the way up to the hill fort, but it gets a bit steep at times towards the top โ€“ I really enjoyed my walk, though, and it certainly got my heart-rate going for some proper aerobic exercise.

I see the tree-covered hillside of Craig Phadrig every morning when I open my bedroom curtains, so after wracking my brains all month to work out what to do for a โ€˜Yโ€™ post this year I finally decided some photographs of what remains of the old half-hidden hill fort at the top would perhaps make a good โ€˜Y is for Years Agoโ€™ piece of ancient history from before there was even an Inverness!

For this year’s A-Z I’m going to take you on a photographic tour of My Inverness, Past and Present. I grew up in the local area, I went to school here and brought up my three children here, but I moved away to London for 18 years before returning home for good at the end of last summer.

P.S. My initial plan for my A-Z posts has necessarily been curtailed somewhat due to the current coronavirus pandemic, but we’ll get through the alphabet one way or another, however creative my use of subjects may have to be – so thank you for visiting Inverness with me, and I hope you enjoy our trip!

Lockdown Meltdown Averted

This morning I had a bit of a lockdown meltdown threatening – it’s been five weeks today – so I took myself off for a walk in the woods nearby. Yes, I know I live in a town but it’s close to home so I walked there first (uphill all the way), then had my walk in the woods, then walked home again (downhill all the way) and felt so much better afterwards.

Walking in nature always makes me feel rejuvenated somehow, so the earthy forest smells and the everyday woodland sounds and the dusty feel of well-trodden hard-packed ground beneath my feet today worked wonders, releasing the tension in my body and amazingly even putting the slightest hint of a relaxed smile on my face ๐Ÿ™‚

Weekly Smile

Plum Blossom

This is our first spring in our new house, so it’s such fun seeing what appears next in the garden.

There are two very old plum trees that seriously look like they need to be cut down – there are clear signs of disease quite low down and several large branches have broken off completely over the winter, leaving sharp jagged edges of rotten wood pointing accusingly like bony fingers peeking out from ragged-edged sleeves. And yet… look at the beautiful blossom these gnarled old plum trees have produced, delicate and new, offering the promise of a bumper crop of fruit this autumn regardless of age.

So perhaps instead I’ll try simply pruning the deadwood and diseased branches away, and let the rest flourish on into the future after all… ๐Ÿ™‚

Flower of the Day

Wandering and Pondering

Whenever I have difficult things in life to contemplate, I always like to go for a walk, preferably in nature. Wandering and pondering is how I like to think of it, my little calming ritual I carry with me everywhere.

The rhythmic beat of walking soothes me, the solidity of the earth beneath my feet grounds me, the fresh air revives me and the seasonal continuity of trees and flowers and water and sky and the way everything blends together to create the vastness of our beautiful landscape helps keep me sane in an increasingly mad world.

And I like to take my camera with me when I walk, so usually when I see something particularly beautiful-to-me that captures my attention I like to stop and photograph it. Maybe a different perspective, or the movement of water, or the way the light catches something is all it takes…

And so I usually return from my walk refreshed in body and mind, ready to face whatever difficulties lie ahead, until the next time… ๐Ÿ™‚

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Contemplate

Christmas Tree Decorations

Putting up a proper Christmas tree this year has been a real treat for me. I know it’s just artificial, but it’s still more of a tree than we’ve ever had before! Our fake tree is about 4ft high and is comfortably adorned with the few choice decorations we brought with us from our tiny flat in London, plus a few extra baubles donated by my eldest daughter.

As we used to put out only a few small bits and pieces every year, just to mark the season, our motley crew of Christmas tree people have only ever sat on the sideboard before, so it’s hopefully a real treat for them to be on a tree too! The miniature (empty) Tabasco bottles are a nod to my husband’s Cajun heritage, and actually came from the Tabasco factory at Avery Island, Louisiana, and make a fun home-made addition to our little collection.

So this week’s smile comes courtesy of our wooden jiggly reindeer, our felt gingerbread man, our knitted robin, our eclectic collection of various jingle bells, our Merry Christmas sign, our Tabasco bottles, and our smiley little fairy, taking her place on top of a tree at long last! ๐Ÿ™‚

Weekly Smile

Weekly Prompts: Holday Treats

Experimenting with Movement

So Fandango’s One Word Challenge today is ‘Movement’, and I decided to go out for a walk with my camera to see if I could capture any movement – it still feels odd having spent years teaching myself how not to have camera shake or fuzzy movement, to then deliberately create it in a shot. I was initially thinking people, or cars, or buses zooming along the road. But it’s hot and sunny and bright and not really long exposure weather, and anyway as I’ve never really got the hang of sucessfully using my ND filter I gave up on that idea.

Instead I went for a walk in the local woods, where there’s always a bit of shade to be had, lots of dark and light, and played about for a bit experimenting in taking oddly moving pictures of trees – obviously the trees don’t move, but with the right settings a bit of camera trickery can provide the motion! Aperture priority, aperture closed down ( experimenting with different levels), ISO fixed at 160 (lowest my camera can do), and plenty of deliberate camera movement on my part.

To start with I tried my usual zoom bursts, holding the camera steady and zooming the lens from wide to tele, but they looked quite boring; then I tried holding the lens steady and moving the camera instead; then moving the entire camera and lens in a circle; then up and down; then back and forth; and finally in any odd shape I fancied. Overall I tried minimal abstraction (so the grass and trees are still reasonably recognisable), maximum abstraction (where it’s all just random green fuzz) and an in between, neither-one-nor-the-other kind of melting-forest dream-state effect.

I took loads, so here are some of my favourites in all three categories:

Slight movement…

Melting Forest…

Completely abstract…

So altogether I’ve ended up with some very different views of my usual walk through the woods, and perhaps cheekily have also created a rather different take on Nancy’s Photo A Week Challenge prompt of ‘View’ – what fun I’ve had with this today! ๐Ÿ™‚

Unusual Perspective

Cee’s Black & White Challenge this week asks us to take a photo with a different perspective than usual.

Last summer we had a (thankfully well-contained) wildfire on our local green space here, Wanstead Flats in East London. A while afterwards I went for a walk there and took some experimental shots (in colour) of some of the blackened and burned tree trunks lying around – several large old trees had previously been cut down and the charcoal-edged logs still sat exactly where they had been sitting before the fire. The resulting photographs seemed quite disappointing, just dull and dark and boring, so sadly I’d done nothing with them.

But for this particular challenge I had the idea of resurrecting and inverting some of these shots (changing them from positive to negative) and then greyscaling the resulting abstract images – and here they are! Definitely (for me) an unusual perspective of boring old blackened and burned logs ๐Ÿ™‚