A wash to rocks


A cold crisp day dawned on the Moray Firth today. With the frost still on the ground but the sun poking through, it looked like could become a good day to explore some of the rocks along the coast, and to experiment with long exposures.

Not to be disappointed, I had planned a trip to include the chance to photograph one of the coastal fishing villages for my stock photos too, and that was my first stop.

The sky was blue with barely a whisper of a cloud anywhere for most of the morning, and Burghead delighted with no less than five seals playing and feeding in the harbour and harbour mouth:

With the stock photos under my belt it was time to drive further east and make a return visit to Bow Fiddle Rock. Bow Fiddle Rock sits less than 100 metres out to sea from the shore, at the bottom of a fairly steep descent from the village of Portknockie perched on the cliff above. This position means that in winter, the sun does not reach to the shoreline, or actually very far into this spot at all. It doesn’t illuminate all of the rock, just part of the Bow, and definitely doesn’t reach into where you have to get down to take the photos!

It was, as ever, very very cold, but at least this time it wasn’t windy. I was grateful for the medium wide leg positions of the Gitzo tripod which enable long exposures whilst retaining the steadiest position on the heavily pebbled beach. This changes with the tides and was also generously covered in nice slippery frost covered kelp.


I have a slight obsession with Bow Fiddle at the moment, purely because it is such a challenge to photograph. There are thousands of images of it, and to create something new is very difficult. The cold and quite dark conditions of the best viewpoint, and the low sun of winter also make it very challenging, but photography is at it’s best when it challenges you. You cannot be lazy, you have to think, and you have to make that extra effort.

I think todays effort was definitely worth it, and the massive increase in large stones which formed new sculptured beach descents to the sea provided a challenge to ones balance, but importantly, they provided a new perspective and a great lead-in line.

The hugely high contrast (of several stops) made getting the balance between the areas in the sun, the sky, and the shadow areas very difficult and required multiple metering’s and calculations. I had to use a 0.9stop grad as well as the 10stop long exposure filter to get enough balance between the shore and sky, and then to calculate the exposure time. The joy of digital is that you can review the first image and make adjustments. In the days of film, which I remember well, the calculations were more critical and you would really be shooting blind.

Bow Fiddle is made from North East Scotland’s famous pink granite, and where lit by the low sun, contrasted in colour most fabulously with the cold blueness of the pebbles, sea, and sky.

Wandering about the cliffs above, mainly to warm up in the week sun, also gave the main image from today’s blog (top). Perching somewhat precariously on the top of the cliff and overlooking the rocks below, I sought to create an image from a viewpoint often neglected in favour of the more famous formation. I was pleased with the result, especially with the golden glow coming from another triangular formation out further into the Firth giving an interest burst of warmer pale colouration.

Again, the multi position of the Gitzo provided a brilliant solution to enable me to get the shot, and I was pleased to have remembered my Multimat Seat Pad to kneel on. Cheap, lightweight, and collapsible, every photographer should have one. I use mine for sitting on, its original intention of course, but also for kneeling, and for putting gear on when changing filters or lenses.

All in all, it was good day. Even my missing keys turned up.




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