A little over a week ago I returned home from a family trip to Scotland. I had been offered so many times in years past to go, but each time I turned it down. What a mistake I wish I could undo. What an unbelievably beautiful country. If it's not the scenery, it's the history. If it's not the history, it's the people. Really, it's all of those things and much more. As this is a photography blog primarily, I'll try to stay somewhat on topic, but definitely not 100%.
This being my first trip off of this continent, it became clear within minutes of getting out of the airport that this is a country with history. Sure, you hear things from stories, movies and the history books, but for me at least, it doesn't mean nearly as much as seeing it and being there. Whether you're talking to the cabby who takes you to your hotel or just walking with adventure in your head, it's everywhere.
Football (aka soccer here) is a way of life, and your allegiance tells a story about who you are. Those who follow it are intimately aware of why, and are passionate about their team, and good for them. You do have to be somewhat careful about your allegiances when in the company of strangers though. Being a Celtic supporter in a Rangers pub could lead to some pretty interesting "talk", but enough on that. I respect anyone who is passionate about their team. That may or may not include TML.
Our trip to Scotland the Brave consisted largely of bus tours to different places with lots of historic and beautiful views. I think the one that will stay with me the longest was our visit to Loch Lomond and the Highlands. I'll be honest, before getting on the plane, I didn't really know what a loch was, or rather, if they're any different from lakes, ponds, or something in between. Well, in short, lochs are lakes for anyone else who is equally uninformed.
Driving is an interesting sport to say the least. Being a little too chicken to rent a car myself, it was an eye-opener to be in the bus while the driver navigated those narrow roads at break-neck speeds as cars and motorcycles whizzed by in the other land on the "wrong" side of the road. Okay, perhaps a bit dramatic.. maybe not. The roads really are noticeably narrower and "soft shoulder"? What's that? Hedges that come to the roads edge are the order of the day, or else grasses that are 6-8" above the road surface. We did see one car go up on it when a car drifted into the oncoming lane.. Anyway.. as you can see, the loch was quite beautiful and the clouds gave us something to watch out for as the day went on
The highlands were a very nice treat and a great education into the history of Scotland. Unlike Canada, it's history goes back many, many hundreds of years. There were two things in particular I appreciated. One was the trail network throughout where hikers may elect to travel by foot for as long as you could ever want, stopping to sleep where you choose and then continuing on when ready. The second was obviously the views in every direction. This particular site was of three peaks. With the purple heather in bloom, it added a really nice, but subtle contrast.
I wish I had had a way to document where I was when I shot many of my photos - I really don't know or remember anything about this one, but it caught my attention for obvious reasons. I'm toying with picking up a white board and writing a short note and snapping a shot to preface each new group of photos as I capture them. Either way, there's no escaping the beauty here.
I was very excited that one of our tours would take us past Doune Castle - one of those used in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Besides being just a stunning view, I immediately wanted to go home and watch the movie for the umteenth time. In keeping with the movie a little bit, I felt it was only right to display this shot with a slight purple hue to add some mood. I think it works.
While Glasgow was our home base for the first four days, we later moved on to Edinburgh to explore further. Having a couple of free days to play with, we enjoyed the use of on-and-off buses to explore and get to know the city a little more. Above was a shot of a random street that caught my eye. Very tastefully put together and very clean.
As our bus wound its way around, we took a few moments to pause as the base of Edinburgh castle, which, for me was a great opportunity to survey the area and see just how unbreachable the castle would be from this direction. Make no mistake, castles were often placed with great care to it's defence in mind. Getting up this cliff face with any sort of force would be impossible, meaning attack could only really come from one direction.
Another tour took us by Melrose Abbey - A portion of which was completed in the 1100's. From home, someone telling me that would typically elicits next to no feeling, but standing there, where so many had stood before over 900 years is a real eye-opener. It is also the home of the heart of Robert the Bruce who's storied past really deserves reading by anyone who is interested. I'll give you a hint though - forget what you saw in Braveheart. Way to go Hollywood. For me, the only way to display a shot like this is in black and white. In a place this old, colour just doesn't do it justice.
Should I not have done that? Well, no. As I found out a moment after shooting this test shot, I was informed quite directly that photography is not allowed inside Rosslyn Chapel. Curiously, I asked later how one would go about obtaining permission and I was advised it was simply not allowed during their regular visiting hours as it interferes with other guests and their fear of the use of flash photography. Fair enough. I am still quite happy that I managed to get this shot. While I generally do respect rules, I did shoot a few more while there a) when it was clear that I wouldn't be noticed and b) when it wouldn't interfere with others.
In a place as beautiful as this, built in the 1400's, you can't help but be taken away by the craftsmanship that went into the sculptures, the columns, the high arching ceilings and of course, the stained glass. Should I ever return, I will absolutely make a plan for each place and make arrangements for photography. I was advised that with permission, it is possible to be there on your own and shoot to your heart's content.
Evidently, as one of the locations used in The DaVinci Code, staff indicated that since the movie was made, they have little difficulty maintaining the property as it went from being somewhat little-known to one of the more famous landmarks in the country. Way to go Dan Brown!
I really don't have anything to say about this one. Standing before this memorial is simply a testament to the importance of those remembered here with such a beautiful and elaborate monument.
Once again, I find myself unable to remember where this was. All that matters though is that it was beautiful and very peaceful - once you got there following a rather steep climb!
The Wallace Monument, as seen from Stirling Castle is a tribute to William Wallace, one of Scotland's heroes in the fight against the English. Whatever you saw in the movie Braveheart is quite questionable. The real history of Mr. Wallace is best read from research as the Hollywood version is so riddled with inaccuracies, it is difficult to enjoy now.
Unfortunately, on the day of our visit to Stirling, the sky was full of humidity leaving less than ideal conditions. Through the magic of photoshop and some time in the chair, I think I've really come to like this shot.
This visit to Scotland included visits to so many beautiful and historic sites but also to several cemeteries. I have seen mausoleums, crosses, monuments, headstones and carvings in all shapes and sizes, but of them all, I think this stone was my favourite. Commissioned by Captain John Gray for his parents, this one was found in a cemetery in Edinburgh and I'm very happy that it was pointed out to me.
There are literally hundreds of other shots I took during my time here, but these are some of my favourites. I hope you enjoyed looking as much as I did shooting. If you visit my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/maxxamoriginals, I'm sure I will probably post more as my editing goes on.
Thanks for visiting!