Friday, September 26, 2014


The Great Glen from the A9, the main north-south road in Scotland.
The edge of the Highland on the way to Aberfeldy.

Why are you back in Scotland?  Haven’t you seen enough?  No, we haven’t seen it all yet.  And this trip is proving that we are correct about not seeing it all yet.  We are traveling in familiar areas, but we are finding (discovering) new things.  In this post I’ll tell you about two places that we’ve passed dozens of times and never stopped at--one is a tourist attraction that we thought would be hokey but isn’t, and the other is a golf course we thought would be boring but isn’t.  I’ll end with some of our favorite photos so far from this trip.
Pallas's Cat from Central Asia.
       First, we have passed by the Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig, between Kingussie and Aviemore in the Cairngorm National Park, every time we’ve stayed in Aviemore (the Highlands) and that’s about 15 times.  We thought it was similar to the safari park in central Scotland that’s rather dreadful.  
The head of a male Capercaillie, the largest of the grouse family and very endangered--only about 200 are left in the wild.
Since we had time, we decided to give it a go.  We found out that the park opened in 1972 and along with the Edinburgh Zoo is run by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.  The 200 acre facility houses 40 different species of cold climate animal, most of which are endangered, and contains about 200 individual animals.  
The Scottish Wildcat, about the size of a very large house cat.
There are a couple of drive-thru areas (the safari park concept) and several walking trails, as well as three cafes, a gift shop, and picnic areas.
Some kind of goose, but I couldn't find out what kind.
The park participates in two different levels of breeding programs, the most important being the breeding of European Endangered species.  We are no experts, but to us the animals all seemed well cared for.

The second of our finds was a golf course we’d driven by several times and thought it looked rather unexciting.  
Anne tee's off on the 7th hole at Muir of Ord.  The hole's name is Braid, the favorite of the designer.
But since we were in the area and had played most of the other courses nearby we thought we’d stop at Muir of Ord Golf Course in Muir of Ord, a little northwest of Inverness.  When I booked the course I found out it was designed by James Braid, 
The tiny green at the 3rd at Muir of Ord, only about 14 paces across.
a famous Scottish designer of more than 400 golf courses.  We like Braid’s design work so suddenly had higher hopes about Muir of Ord.  The course designed in 1875 was anything but uninteresting.  It has some challenging holes and is in good shape.  
A downhill par three at Muir of Ord, backed by lovely farmland.
Definitely not easy, Muir of Ord GC was fun to play and we came off the course wishing we’d played it before.  It will be one of the courses we’ll go back to when in the area.
Besides these two “finds” we keep discovering other new things in familiar places and some of those will be in DISCOVERING SCOTLAND (Part Two).  Until the next post here are some of our photo favorites from this trip. 
Clava Cairns, tombs from about 4000 BC.
We also serve who wait for our masters outside the tearoom.
Two standing stones at Clava Cairns with the road in between.
The River Luineag in the Cairngorm National Park.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fall 2014: Scotland

       Since arriving in Scotland on September 8 we have enjoyed some lovely weather and played five rounds of golf already.  What we haven't had time for is much touring; therefore, not much photography.  Our trip will get more visually interesting after next week when we head to the Highlands and then the far northwest corner of Scotland and out to the Isle of Skye.  In the meantime, here are a few items to share--with a few photos of interest.

Ryder Cup Flag Raising

       St Fillans GC, where we are members, has received some money from the local promoters for the Ryder Cup matches between the US team and the European team (held at Gleneagles GC later in the month).  Some of the money was used for two new flag poles for the club.  I was there the day after the poles were installed and the club manager, Gordon, asked me to represent the American team while he represented the European team.  This was the first flag raising on the new poles.  

After our mini ceremony I went down to the local bookmaker shop, Ladbroook, and placed a £40 pound wager on the Americans to win at 7/4 odds.  Go USA!
Doors, Perth

Shrooms on the Golf Course

Photo Rant

In Canmore, Alberta, Canada we wandered into a photographer’s gallery to look at his photos.  They were quite good.  His very nice images were mostly wildlife and landscapes well-mounted and framed.  But along with the photos on the wall and in the display cases were signs: “No Digital or Photoshop Images,” “All Images from Film,” “No Digital Used.”
I have a problem with this “elitist” attitude.  Digital in today’s photography is not a dirty word.  Photoshop should not be either.  To make an implied claim that images are better because they come from film, rather than memory, is a false claim.  The “film is better” claim comes from the assumption that it is more natural or realistic than images from digital.  Wrong.  
The images in this particular photographer’s gallery are manipulated images just as images which come from a digital memory chip.  How are film and digital photographs manipulated?  First, the photographer chooses which film to use.  Kodak, Fuji, Ilford and other brands have individual reproduction characteristics.  Some are softer, some more contrasty, some shift to the blue.  Kodachrome has a different color profile from Ektachrome--both from Kodak.
Image by Ansel Adams

Second, most photographers (film and digital) use filters (UV, polarizer, neutral density, etc.) on their lenses which change, enhance, or distort natural colors.
Image by Edward Weston

Third, digital photographs are manipulated on computers with special programs, such as Photoshop which some professionals such as Annie Liebowitz have called “today’s darkroom.”  Film is also manipulated in the darkroom through developing, use of filters, burning and dodging to change light values.  Photographers like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston spent hours working in the the darkroom to get their prints to turn out just the way they wanted--not necessarily to simulate the reality of the scene.  That’s photographic manipulation.
Too much manipulation?
Granted, all manipulative techniques can be overdone or abused, but that’s what art is about.  And some art we love and some we hate.  Don’t let a photographer play the “Purer than Thou” card just because they choose to use the medium of film rather than digital memory.  
Pony, Comrie Village

Window, Burleigh Castle

YES/NO, The Scottish Election

September 18 is the VOTE--an historic day.  That’s the day Scotland votes for independence or to remain a part of the United Kingdom.  A YES vote will start a eightteen month propcess ending with Scotland being the world’s newest nation--the first nation established since the breakup of Yugoslavia.   But according to the NO campaign, a YES will be the beginning of a severe recession (the D-word has even been used) in Scotland and perhaps all of the UK.  For myself, a Scotophile, the lead up to the vote has been quite interesting.  As a former debate and argumentation teacher the campaigns have been a study in propaganda/persuasion techniques.
The YES campaign literature relies heavily upon emotional appeal--remember Mel Gibson’s William Wallace (Braveheart) yelling “Freedom!” as his entrails are ripped out.  Plenty of stories and anecdotes about how a YES vote will save my aged mother from the ravages of London’s money policies.  These are mixed with arguments of 
The YES campaign at a Crieff street market.
“could...would...should” become “will” with a YES vote without much in the way of real plans to accomplish goals.
The NO campaign which is far less vocal--although getting more so as the polls tighten--spouts London policy, London economists, and London politicos which, of course, are given very little credibility except by those who believe the 300 year old union should remain intact. 
A NO campaigner happy with the latest polls.
The NO campaign presents evidence from business and banks with very little thought given to the emotional intensity of those seeking dis-union.
One very astute young lady we know summed up the debate this way: “My heart says to vote YES, but my head tells me to vote NO.  I don’t know what I’m going to do.” My own take on the election campaigns  is that they have already become divisive and that Scotland will take a long time to recover from which ever way the vote goes.

Vale of Leven GC, Alexandria

We had lunch in Scotland's oldest licensed pub, The Clachan Inn, Drymen.