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Belladrum Fun (with children)

Belladrum 2017

One of our many adventures this summer was attending Belladrum: a small music festival (about 18000-19000 people) in the highlands of Scotland. Billed as a festival for all ages, with a great, friendly atmosphere we had high, possibly unrealistic expectations for it. Now before I go on, a caveat: a lot of the issues I'm going to jest about here are to do with the fact that we were there with a 3 year old and a 6 year old. Anywhere you go with that age group is going to be a challenge. You could arrange a holiday which involved flying on a pink sparkly unicorn to minecraft island where you ate nothing but ice cream and it would still be a massive challenge. Somehow though, every trip turns into childbirth. We forget about the massive challenges and plough on booking new adventures and seeking out the elixir of children holidays. 

Belladrum 2017

We left Aberdeen on Thursday morning, keen to arrive at the festival before lunchtime and avoid the worst of the traffic. It definitely took longer than normal but was relatively painless. Arrived to lovely weather, got a great camping spot, set up the awning and had some lunch. WINNING. 

Belladrum 2017

Mid afternoon we headed down to the festival site itself. First impressions were great. A walled garden area with a myriad of activities for kids including circus skills and an old fashioned swing boat as well as art installations, stalls, a small music stage and plenty of other things we never got round to seeing properly. This was one area that we initially thought we would spend a lot of time in but the lure of the fairground type activities in the main site was too big for the kids. Oh yeah, you know when you are younger and go to a festival and spend a fortune on booze. Well the money you save on booze as an adult attending a festival with kids is completely trumped by the money you spend on kids activities. There was a merry go round, bouncy castles, zorbing, trampolining, ice-skating, dodgems and a helter skelter. Oh and you know how l mentioned it was a music festival? Turns out our kids had absolutely no interest in the music bit and would have been quite happy traversing from one pricey fairground ride to the next. Even though they are young, we had just assumed that the excitement of live music would thrill them and start their music loving journey. We were wrong. There were lots of free activities for kids as well: cinema, theatre shows, yoga, dancing lessons, puppetry. Our kids showed less than zero interest in the free activities, preferring instead to wail for each new pricey fairground activity they came across. LOSING.

Belladrum 2017
Belladrum 2017

We wandered through art installations and hay bales, stages and performances trying to get our bearings. One of the great things about the festival was the fantastic variety and quality of food on offer. Is there another festival where food options include: oysters, mussels, cullen skink, crispy haddock in a wrap with salad and basil pesto mayonnaise, venison burgers, halloumi wraps, hot garlic bread, chick pea curry, wood fired pizza, ice-cream, milkshakes, fresh fruit smoothies and waffles with an array of toppings? One other thing that l thought was great was there was a pop up co-op on site. We could get groceries here which helped with fussy kids and also meant we were loaded up for the drive back home. WINNING.

Belladrum 2017
Belladrum 2017

That evening we managed to catch our first band: First Aid Kit. Woot. I'm a big fan and was over the moon that they were one of the few bands we managed to see over the weekend. They played at the Garden Stage - a big open area on multiple levels with lots of places to sit/ stand/ retreat to with kids. We stayed near the back, on the hillside. No sooner had the band started than our oldest announced that he needed the toilet. Hubs took one for the team and made the 20-25min round trip to the toilet. This wouldn't normally take so long but the band had just started and there was a huge flow of people to get through to get away from and back into the stage venue. First Aid Kit finished a fantastic set (checking out their tour schedule now) and we looked hopefully at the kids to see whether they might last a little longer to see the start of Sister Sledge. It was a resolute no. Fair enough after such long day but aagh, it was tough returning to our camper van with some amazing disco sounds echoing out of the main stage. This set sounded amazing and is the band I'm most disappointed about not seeing.  WINNING&LOSING.

Belladrum 2017
Belladrum 2017

They really aren't kidding when they sell this as a festival for all the ages. Babies right up to OAP's were there enjoying themselves. Some families were clearly Belladrum veterans and came prepared with mini homes on wheels for kids to rest in. These carts came with blankets, a mini shelter pod, snacks and fairy lights. A number of people got married over the weekend at the Belladrum Temple. No fear of mud on a white dress from these festival goers. We felt very safe the whole time we were there. It really did have a lovely, welcoming vibe. WINNING.

The next morning we woke up to rain. With no means of checking the weather due to a lack of signal, we kept our fingers crossed for a brief rain shower but it was anything but. The rain kept up the whole day into the early evening making for some interesting mud bath conditions. We headed down to the main festival site in the afternoon. Most people were huddled into the tents enjoying the bands but our kids just wanted to partake in kids activities. We made the mistake of letting the kids go on the covered bouncy castle. The covered bouncy castle was no match for the Scottish weather and the kids came out drenched. A rather wet and soggy walk back to the van to dry out and have a little nap and we woke up refreshed, ready to head down to see Feeder on the main stage. LOSING. 

Belladrum 2017

The rain had stopped by this time but the path to the festival site was on the treacherous side of muddy. Our wellies (which we wore the whole wknd, don't bother bringing any nice shoes) coped well though l kept a firm grip on my 3 year old's hand fearing an actual mud bath. Feeder are fantastic live. Our 3 year old actually rocked out to this band (the only time this weekend we saw any real interest from either of our kids in the music).  We even managed to stay for the first half  of the headline act that night: The Pretenders. I was really impressed with the festival line-up. WINNING.

Belladrum 2017

After a great night's sleep we woke to sunshine. We enjoyed our breakfast outside and spoke at length about how wonderful music festivals would be if you had guaranteed sunshine for their duration. 

We headed down to the site for more festival fun including my 3rd go on the merry go round. The hubs and l thought the kids would love Danny Macaskill's Drop and Roll tour (if you don't know who he is check out this video which shows off just some of his immense biking skills https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQ_IQS3VKjA). To get a spot we had to be there 35 mins before the performance started. Things kinda fell down a bit here. Our son has additional needs (Autism) and struggles with waiting and sensory overload. Some people thought we were mad to take him to a festival and in lots of ways, they were right. But we've always been keen to open the door to as many experiences for him as possible, with safeguards and some planning involved. In this instance it meant lots of breaks and sensory activities (of which there was an abundance given all the kid friendly activities), his ear defenders to minimise the noise overload and avoiding long queues for things. There was no way of avoiding the queueing here. In order to get a spot, you had to be there early and from then on the crowd started filling out behind us and there was lots of jostling and pushing. Basically an autism nightmare. We managed to get him to the start of the performance but by then he had reached overload and couldn't relax to enjoy it and l had to remove him from the situation and find a quiet spot for a break. I'm not sure there is any way around this but it was a real shame to miss a chunk of the show. Oh and hidden disabilities make for lots of staring and whispers. On the whole, this seemed to be quite a welcoming festival for disabilities. I'm not sure how friendly the mud was but we saw plenty of people there with a range of physical disabilities who looked to be really enjoying themselves. I think a couple of little additions could help make this even friendlier for those with high functioning autism who want to experience a festival. 

Can you see the Belladrum heart in the clouds?

Can you see the Belladrum heart in the clouds?

Whilst we enjoyed some fantastic food from The Seafood Shack (normally based in Ullapool and an absolute must if you are in the area), the kids enjoyed some bouncing in the zorbs. The guys running this must have lost a fair few pounds over the weekend running up and down the hill bouncing kids inside. This was my son's absolute favourite thing of the whole MUSIC festival. 

We headed back to the van and the kids rested whilst we packed up our awning and clothes. We had decided to set off on Saturday night instead of Sunday morning fearing that there may well be chaos with a multitude of campervans all trying to leave at the same time up the same waterlogged dirt track. We headed back down to the site to catch the last headliners managing to see both Birdy and KT Tunstall (born to perform, she created a real buzz about the place) before both the kids and us decided to get going. 

With the kids all snuggled up in their chairs and a Harry Potter audiobook on the radio we headed down the road pleased to have survived. Lots of funny family memories for the memory bank, a van full of mud and glitter and a resolution to return again. The question is do we have the energy to do it all again with the kids................

Belladrum 2017

In summer

Never did get round to sharing some of our family summer holiday pictures from last year. We toured around Scotland in our VW camper van and had an amazing time (as long as you don't mention that one day where the weather was so stinking bad that we were stuck in the van all day long. Thank goodness for IPADs). We visited Ardnamurchan, Arisaig and the Isle of Skye. Roll on more crazy family adventures this year and apologies as this is post is image heavy. 

Scotland
Scotland
Scotland
Scotland
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Summer Scotland
Summer Scotland
Summer Scotland
Summer Scotland
Summer Scotland
Summer Scotland
Summer Scotland
Summer Scotland
Summer Scotland
Summer Scotland
Summer Scotland
Summer Scotland
Summer Scotland
Summer Scotland
Summer Scotland
Summer Scotland
Summer Scotland
Summer Scotland

World Environment Day

World Environment Day

I've always been vaguely environmentally aware. Which in reality means that I agreed with all the principles but didn't put a lot of them into practice. Having children motivated me to learn more but although I endeavoured to make better choices, sometimes the sheer exhaustion of early parenthood meant the easier choice won. 

2 things have lit a fire under me recently.

The first: Donald Trump. Effectively the most powerful man in politics, he has the power to make an incredible difference to our world and the issue of climate change. Instead he prioritises profits over wellbeing with actions such as pulling out of the Paris Agreement, slashing funding for environmental programmes and appointing a climate change denier to the most important environmental role in the US: Head of the Environmental Protection Agency.  

The second is more local. Scotland has seen a surge of tourists in the last few years. Initiatives such as the development of the NC500 route, the popularity of Outlander and the promotion of Scotland as a tourist destination through Instagram have aided this increase. Scotland deserves all the plaudits. It truly is one of the most beautiful areas of this world and somewhere l believe everyone should try and visit at least once in their lifetime. However, this recent increase hasn't been without its issues. As a photographer who spends a reasonable amount of time outdoors in Scotland, l am witnessing an increasing disregard for our environment. This is a trend that is being reflected throughout the country and is being highlighted by a number of photographers, outdoor enthusiasts and national organisations such as Keep Scotland Beautiful who have identified that " for the first time in ten years, Scotland’s local environmental quality is in decline".

Rubbish tossed into the landscape or left piled up next to overflowing bins, the ground charred by home-made fires or in worse case scenarios left irreparably damaged by out of control fires, erosion to the land and damage to flora caused by people straying from official paths, cigarette butts and the disposable bbq's and bottles left on the beaches and wild campsites. It is devastating to witness. 

World Environment Day

It's prompted me to look at what l can do to improve things. An overwhelming task when viewed on an individual level but collectively can make a huge difference.  As a family we are making changes including leasing an electric car, teaching our children to love and respect nature, starting to grow our own vegetables, carrying litter pick up materials when we go out travelling to collect and appropriately dispose of other's rubbish, reducing our meat consumption and avoiding flying whenever possible (helped by me fear of flying). 

Collectively, a number of influential Scottish Instagram users are using their voice to say enough is enough. From highlighting problem areas and raising awareness to working with national organisations such as the John Muir Trust, there is a passion behind this movement that we hope will lead to positive change and help protect and enhance this beautiful country. 

It's an overwhelming task with no easy solutions but that doesn't give us an excuse to not try. If you want to help, you might find these links helpful:

The John Muir Trust is a conservation charity dedicated to protecting our wild places https://www.johnmuirtrust.org

Keep Scotland Beautiful is the organisation tasked with "leading the way on improving Scotland’s environment, tackling a wide range of environmental issues, from reducing the amount of litter on our streets to cutting the carbon emissions that threaten our planet.

For advice on your rights and responsibilities in the Scottish Outdoors please check out http://www.outdooraccess-scotland.com/

There is so much more that can be written about the topic of the environment and sustainable tourism. I hope to write a regular series on this with helpful links, guides and updates. Please let me know if there are any valuable resources or organisations out there that you think will be useful to include. 

#WorldEnvironmentDay

World Environment Day

Monday thoughts

It's been a fortnight of devastation in the UK. I have a long list of jobs to do but my thoughts come back to Eilidh MacLeod and her family who will be burying her today. There are so many stories that stick with you through these unimaginable events but Eilidh's has particular resonance because of my connection to the Western Isles. A trip off the islands is always exciting but a trip away with your best friend to see your pop idol? The outfit planning, the make up, the whatsapp conversations with friends at home........... That first flush of adulthood flushed away in an act of devastating horror. 

Her family have shown incredible dignity and strength these last two weeks. The undeniable support from their community in Barra and further afield will no doubt have helped.

I'm trying to channel that frustrating impotence you feel in a situation like this. I'm going to dance a little bit harder, sing a little bit harder and grab more opportunities and each time l do, I'll think of Eilidh and her love for life and music. Forever young and vibrant: may she rest in peace.

 

 

The bonny banks of Loch Lomond

I had the pleasure of meeting this family, all the way over from America, for a photoshoot at Loch Lomond. Just days before the shoot, it was snowing heavily. l tried to prepare them and gave advice about layers and keeping warm. Imagine all of our surprise when the day dawned bright, beautiful and sunny. One of those summer days in Scotland that we can never predict. So sunny in fact that we couldn't reward the kids with an ice-cream at the end of the shoot because the shop had completely sold out. 

Photoshoot Scotland
Photoshoot Scotland
Photoshoot Scotland
Photoshoot Scotland
Photoshoot Scotland
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Photoshoot Scotland
Photoshoot Scotland
Photoshoot Scotland
Photoshoot Scotland
Photoshoot Scotland
Photoshoot Scotland
Photoshoot Scotland
Photoshoot Scotland

How to survive in a camper van for 2 weeks as a family of 4

Campervan life isn't for everyone. If you prefer fully inclusive holidays with kids clubs, a spa and lots of beach time, then you probably aren't going to thrive in a campervan. But if hiking boots, a wet suit and waterproofs form part of your wardrobe, this could be your ideal family holiday. 

I've always lusted after a vintage VW Campervan. It inspires a huge sense of nostalgia amongst its fans. An emblem of simpler times and sunny days. We got our van (still unnamed) 2.5 years ago and have spent many happy days and nights with her since. The kids love her. Only Disneyland could compete for their attention. 

Campervan Scotland
VW Campervan

Our very first trip was to the banks of Loch Morlich for the night. With it being our first time, we had no idea how to organise and pack/ unpack efficiently. It was a late night by the time we got all the beds made up and everything tidied away. Our return journey descended into disaster when we snapped our clutch cable coming over the Lecht (the highest road in Britain) and were stuck at the top in a howling gale for 7 hours. But much as that sounds miserable (and in a car it would have been), we actually had a great time. We could make ourselves a cup of tea or a snack whenever we wanted, the kids had space to move around, we had plenty of warm blankets and even an IPAD for watching films. We've had a couple of breakdowns since, one self-inflicted and one due to issues relating to the age of the van. With each one we gain more mechanical knowledge and skills and whilst not ideal, it's part and parcel of owning a vintage vehicle and a risk that we are willing to take for the joy we get travelling and camping in it. Many modern camper vans don't have this to contend with but if you are thinking of buying an old van, be prepared to gain some new mechanical skills.

VW Campervan
VW Campervan

Having spent a great deal of time as a family of four in ours, we have a good idea about what makes for a successful road trip. Here's our recommendations (with a number of weather related items due to the fact that we have no control over the Scottish weather).

1. An awning. Particularly for trips of 3 or more days. Not sure this would be strictly necessary in warmer climes but in Scotland we can sometimes see days of unrelenting rain. It's great to have the extra space to dry off in, play in and store belongings. We have one similar to this: http://www.justkampers.com/camper-van-motorhome-and-camping-accessories/awnings-sun-canopies/motorhome-awnings/vango-airaway-kela-iii-2017-low-cloud-grey-driveaway-awning.html It takes hardly any time to put up and even less time to put away. 

2. Leveller ramps. If you are parking on an uneven ground, this helps make the camper level ensuring a better night sleep for everyone. 

3. Waterproofs. I've mentioned the weather already. Sometimes we have glorious days. Ones that take your breath away and there is no better place to be in the world. Crystal clear, sparkling waters, the freshest seafood, the best viewpoints and scenery. Summer utopia. More often than not, we have quite average days. Overcast, lukewarm temperatures, nothing too offensive either way. But sometimes we have drookit days. The rain is never-ending, the skies dark and grey and a dampness permeates everything. You are going to get cabin fever pretty quickly in a small camper van. Better to have the right gear on you and make an adventure of it. Kids love nothing better than being given free reign in a large puddle. 

Campervan Scotland
Campervan Scotland

4. A small activity bag. l make up a bag for each of them with travel activities and games that l have usually sourced from pinterest. They also select a few toys to take and we always carry a ball and a bucket and spade for the beach. 

5. Similar bedtimes. Give up any notion of getting a couple of hours to yourself in the evening. It just doesn't happen. Instead accept that the kids will be going to bed a bit later and you a bit earlier. A bit more sleep is required to handle the rigours of 24/7 van life with children anyway. 

VW Campervan
VW Campervan

6. Route planning around kids activities. If the kids are unhappy, you are unhappy. To have a successful campervan holiday you need to plan around kid hotspots such as parks, swimming pools, the dreaded play barns (emergency rain back ups only) etc. We usually try and build a big, kid friendly activity in every two days. Sweetie shops and ice creams are a hit any day. 

7.  Get creative. Our kids are 6 and 3 and have climbed several big hills with us. If you say you are going for a walk, be prepared to hear several hours of complaints. Instead sell it as a kid friendly adventure. A gruffalo hunt, a fairy adventure, a search for giants. Incorporate elements of the landscape into the adventure, make a treasure map, bring lots of little snacks and stop frequently. Look for the most adventurous (but safe) way to get to the top. Our kids despise a nice, safe mud free path. Stick in lots of uneven steps, some bouldering and a few muddy bogs and they are in their element. 

8. A heater. We have a little heater in the van and it makes those occasional frosty or just cold and damp mornings infinitely better. We snuggle up and get toasty whilst a pot of tea brews. Perfection. 

9. IPAD - A lifesaver for longer road trips or particularly sustained rainy periods. We load ours up with films, make a snug and snack up. 

Campervanning Scotland

One last thing: Responsibility. It's never too early to install a sense of responsibility for the environment in your children. We've witnessed plenty of questionable tourist behaviour from littering to unsafe driving. Life lessons for our kids include picking up other people's litter and an education in why we do that. We want them to be environmentally conscious campers who "take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints"

Campervan Scotland

Spring refresh

I've not picked up my camera much lately, except for work. A long grey winter eroded some of my enthusiasm for it. But l've found that as with most things, a little absence makes the heart grow fonder. I'm pushing myself to photograph close to home, a place that l tend to struggle with inspiration and as a result, I feel myself growing and learning so much from it.  

Chasing sunsets

He likes to chase sunsets with me. 

NuArt Aberdeen 2017

In recent years, Aberdeen, a city best known for its granite and its oil industry, has turned into a bit of a creative hub. New and exciting events appear on the festival line-up every year creating an exciting buzz around the city centre. One of the most inspiring to take place this year is NUART which showcases street art from a variety of artists around some of the more 'tired' areas of the city. I finally got the chance to go out and see some of the art this weekend and was blown away. Compelling portraits, storytelling and splashes of colour on an otherwise grey veneer. Even more inspiring was the range of people taking a walkabout throughout the city to explore and appreciate these artworks. Showing that street art is one of the most accessible forms of artistry out there, this event appealed to a wide range of people across society. I'm excited to see this return to the city in future years. 

NUART ABERDEEN
NUART Aberdeen
nuart aberdeen
NUART ABERDEEN
NUART ABERDEEN
nuart aberdeen
NUART ABERDEEN
NUART ABERDEEN
NUART ABERDEEN
NUART ABERDEEN
NUART ABERDEEN
NUART ABERDEEN

Isle of Harris

We visited family in the Outer Hebrides this Easter holidays. No trip there is complete without taking in the wonders of Harris. The landscape is truly breath-taking. Wild, rugged and peppered with dusky white beaches. We spent nights observing the stars and days avoiding rain showers and exploring the jagged and beautiful coastline. We met a resident who had hitch-hiked up to Harris 40yrs ago and never left. I can see why. It's a creative lover's paradise. A trip there will soothe your soul and help you slow down. 

Isle of Harris
Isle of Harris
Isle of Harris
Isle of Harris
Isle of Harris
Isle of Harris Camping
Isle of Harris
Isle of Harris
Isle of Harris
Isle of Harris
Isle of Harris
Isle of Harris
Isle of Harris
Isle of Harris
Isle of Harris

Campervan Tales

We've had her for two years but l don't share nearly enough pictures of her. Here's just some that I have taken over that time. 

The minimalist image

The minimalist image

I've been trying to embrace the 'slow-living' movement and simplify life a bit more. It seems to be a big trend just now with many extolling the virtues of concepts such as the capsule wardrobe, the Hygge lifestyle or the small house movement.  My version of it is about simplification. Less clutter and plastic, more experiences. Less flights away, more staycations. Less social media, more socialising.  

This gradual shift towards a lower maintenance lifestyle now seems to have infused itself into my photography and I'm hankering after more simplicity there too. Reviewing my images from last year, l'm struck by how busy they are. My style definitely isn't minimalist but I'm going to push myself to explore this concept this year. 

Having studied some of my favourite 'minimalist artists and images, I've come up with some guidelines to help: 

  • Simplify. Take the time to see what is in the frame. Exclude anything that isn't necessary. Less is more.
  • Utilise negative space help isolate and draw attention towards my subject.
  • Create a sense of distance and scale by backing up.
  • Subjects that seem particularly suited to minimalist landscape photography include lone trees, seascapes and snowscapes.

Inspiration will come from some of my favourite magazines including Cereal, my favourite photographers who l feel lean towards a more minimalist photography style (including James Wright and Finn Beales) and the accompanying soundtrack will likely be made up of songs from First Aid Kit and Tom Odell. 

I'd love to hear any if you have any hints or tips or know of any artists that you think are great at this type of photography. 

My favourite Scottish reads

Hebrides, Peter May

Hebrides, Peter May (Photographs - David Wilson)

It's a photographic love letter to the Hebrides. Stunning imagery, personal anecdotes and a history of the island and its people. This is a book l return to time and time again. It captures the colour and feel of the islands perfectly. It's a moodboard of inspiration for photographers and once viewed you will feel compelled to make your own pilgrimage to the islands. 

The Scottish Bothy Bible

Cool Camping Scotland, Keith Didcock, Andy Stothert, Robin McKelvie & Jenny McKelvie

Scotland has some of the finest camping sites in the world. We've done our fair share of wild camping, still do, but nowadays we like to pre-plan some of our trips with a bit more comfort in mind. Always on the lookout for a unique and scenic spot, this is our starting point. This book looks more at the overall experience rather than just 5* facilities. Mountains, sea-scapes, sunsets, home-cooking, art courses, traditional music. There's a campsite for every interest. Along with handy hints like where the nearest pub is or what to do if it's rainy. Buy this if you want to find a unique location to stay in Scotland. 

The Scottish Bothy Bible, Geoff Allan

As above but for the more rough and ready of us. Not my husband's cup of tea, he prefers van-life. But this newly released book has me dreaming of mountain adventures and long nights spent in front of an open fire nursing a wee dram. Bothies have a special place in the hearts of outdoor enthusiasts. Basic accommodation, often in the most scenic and remote of locations, which provide shelter for anyone who needs them. How very Scottish! The book is broken down into categories such as bothies for beginners and families, romantic bothies, best bothies for solitude and best for history and legends. If you are after a Scottish adventure, this might be the guide to fire you up. 

The Living Mountain, Nan Shepherd

The Living Mountain, Nan Shepherd

This book has justifiably earned cult status. l simply cannot do justice to it with my own words. If you love mountains, have spent any time in the Cairngorm mountain range or love fantastic writing, you must get this book. The prose is spellbinding. Here is someone who enjoyed mountains not just for the challenge of reaching the top, but as an exercise in absorbing all of our surroundings and the impact nature and the wild has on us. She makes it all feel magical. 

Between the Sunset and the Sea, A view of 16 British Mountains, Simon Ingram

Still making my way through this and although it's not specifically Scottish, I've included it here because it makes lots of references to Scottish mountains.  This is a chunky and engaging read by another author who has the unique ability to capture special details about a place that others just don't see. It goes some way to explaining why mountains have such appeal for some people. It's written by a mountain lover for mountain lovers. Get ready to read about some of your favourite climbs in a new light or to be inspired to finally climb one of the mountains that he so evocatively describes. 

An Illustrated Treasure of Scottish Mythical Creatures

An Illustrated Treasure of Scottish Mythical Creatures, Theresa Breslin, Kate Leiper

Enchanting bedtime reading for children filled with Scottish folklore about creatures such as the Loch Ness monster (affectionately known as Nessie), selkies (seals that take a human form), kelpies, giants and much more. A storybook that both me and my kids love to read again and again. 

 

VW Van Life

l thought you might like a little tour inside our little camper van. Officially she's a 1977 Bay Window T2. Unofficially she's my third baby. We got her two years ago and since then have been on multiple family adventures with her. It's such a great way to get about Scotland and she turns lots of heads. 

This is her from the outside. 

VW Van Life

And here's some interior pictures (mostly). She's can sleep 5 in theory, but you definitely couldn't fit 5 adults in at once. We get along just fine with the four of us. We sleep in the fold out bed in the back, it's quite roomy. The kids sleep either in the hammock over the front cab or the bed up top (it's chillier up there). We have heating, a cooker, a sink and a fridge. We take some movies for rainy days (but drying clothes can be problematic if we have a run of bad weather) and lots of teabags because there is nothing in life that can't be solved with a cup of tea. If you are hankering after one, just do it. You are likely to expand your mechanical knowledge (lemons into lemonade) but you will make memories that will last forever. My kids love her and we'd be hard pushed to find another holiday that would compete (Disney excluded). 

 

 

 

5 things to consider when planning a photography trip to Scotland

5 things to consider when planning a photography trip to Scotland

The weather

Scotland's weather is infamous. Never mind 4 seasons in one day, you can get 4 seasons in an hour. The saying goes, if you don't like the weather, wait 5 mins. It's what makes the photographic opportunities so immense. The landscape is never quite the same from one hour to the next. Make sure you are prepared for the weather and bring adequate waterproofs for you and your camera. Or do what I do when the weather gets bad which is leave your camera in the car and use your mobile phone instead. The lens is smaller and easier to protect and it's much cheaper to buy weatherproof covers for the phone than it is for the DSLR. Check out this article for some phone camera tips. Alternatively, as above, wait 5 minutes. 

The road conditions and lack of 'stopping places'

Scotland is full of stop and get out of the car vistas. Unfortunately it's not full of stop and get out of the car parking places (same goes for 'rest stops', get used to alfresco peeing). Some places have lots, some don't. Some are passing places so you can't stop for any length of time. Find a safe place to stop, get your fitbit on and chalk up some steps. Due to the overwhelming urge to stop and take some pictures, you will find that journeys take much longer than expected. Also bear in mind, a highland mile is quite different to a 'normal mile". Well, not really, but check out this article for more information. 

The season

Each season in Scotland has its merits and drawbacks. Come in Spring and you will see an entirely different landscape to that of Autumn. It's part of what makes this place so captivating. Here's a breakdown of what to expect in each season.

Spring. The long dark nights are fading fast. Green is reappearing, spring-time bulbs are flowering. Although there may still be some snow on the hills, colour starts returning to the landscape. 

Summer. Vibrant greens, excessive foliage, long days that mean photography adventures can continue late into the evening. During the day, the sun is too high and direct to obtain much photographic wise but evenings can be delicious with beautiful, soft lighting, long, lazy sunsets, amazing seafood and lots of local festivals. Come late summer/ early Autumn and the hillsides will be tinged purple with Scottish heather.  If you are visiting a popular tourist area, you might want to leave it until another season to avoid the throngs of tourists (or just get up earlier/ go later to the most popular attractions.  

Autumn. My favourite season. The landscape changes hugely over the course of a few weeks. The lurid greens of summer give way to yellows, reds and burnt orange. Crisp, clear days create perfect photography conditions and if you are lucky all this colour might combine with a dusting of snow on the hills. 

Winter. My second favourite season. Could even be my first if it didn't go on so long. When the sun is out, it's golden hour all day long. Sunrise and sunset times are convenient for those who don't like getting up early/ staying up late. When the snow comes, it transforms the landscape into something quite magical. 

Tourist season

A season all of its own. Some places in Scotland get very busy at certain times. Hit the popular spots, like the Isle of Skye or Edinburgh, in summer and you are going to have to compete with a throng of tourists to get your picture. (I personally love Skye in Autumn and Winter. Beautiful light and empty landscapes). But you don't have to go far to move away from the throng. Choose a guide who will take you off the beaten track or do it yourself. Hire a car, take a picnic and get lost. It will probably lead to your most memorable images.

Your return trip

It can't be done in one trip. Not even a fraction of it. This might be a small country but it is big on cinematic and captivating landscapes and buzzing, vibrant cities. I live here, travel around the country regularly and still haven't seen a fraction of it. You will want to return. 

 

Lazy Sundays - December

Ok it's a bit late but in my defence - December with kids which also includes one of the kids birthdays!

This year l failed miserably again. No time was carved out for crafty activities and Christmas bakes with the kids. Instead it was a rolling procession of parties, outings, recitals, plays and other  such events that mean my kids have an infinitely better social life than me.  

I take a picture of our tree every year. We picked it up on sale in Costco a few years back. It's like a shopping centre sized tree but I love it. Of course once we have put it up and decorated it, we have no energy to do Christmas decorating anywhere else. 

Lazy Sundays - December

I had great plans for a series of Christmas themed images with the kids. But my oldest will not indulge me at all and the youngest never stays still. Still l got a few. Tip - give them something to focus on. In this instance, her favourite book.

Lazy Sundays December

Here she is with one of her favourite Christmas presents. 

20161230-K04C8401.jpg

Checking for wrinkles.

Lazy Sundays December

Her first nativity. Everything about it was adorable and l almost cried. 

Lazy Sundays December

Somebody turned 6. So big. 

Lazy Sundays December

We had a small Christmas themed party. Gingerbread houses, hot chocolate and The Polar Express. 

Lazy Sundays - December
Lazy Sundays December
Lazy Sundays December

I try and take the same picture next to the Christmas tree every year. It's all fine and well until l look back at the old ones and start getting emotional about how quickly it's all passing. 

Lazy Sundays December
Lazy Sundays December

Between Christmas and New Year we got a bit more time to ourselves. We decided to decorate a tree with edible decorations for the wildlife. 

Lazy Sundays December
Lazy Sundays December
Lazy Sundays December
Lazy Sundays December

Heres our other 'baby' all decorated for Christmas. 

Lazy Sundays December

On New Year's Eve we started a new tradition. Every time something amazing or funny happens to one of us this year, we will write it down and keep it in this memory jar. Hopefully it will be full of happy and fun memories to reminisce over next New Year's Eve. 

Lazy Sundays December
Lazy Sundays December

January Wedding - Aberdeen

I started off the year shooting an intimate wedding ceremony. It's an absolute privilege to shoot someone's wedding service. It's one of the most important and memorable days in anyone's life and l love to get to be part of it. The wedding took place in the Grant Room at Marishal College in Aberdeen. It was beautiful and touching and fantastic start to married life for Ian and Alex. 

Wedding Grant Room Marischal College Aberdeen
Wedding Grant Room Marischal College Aberdeen
Wedding Grant Room Marischal College Aberdeen
Wedding Grant Room Marischal College Aberdeen
Wedding Grant room Marischal College Aberdeen
Wedding Grant Room Marshall college Aberdeen
Wedding Grant Room Aberdeen Marischal College
Wedding Grant Room Marischal College Aberdeen
Wedding Grant Room Marischal College Aberdeen
Wedding Grant Room Marischal College Aberdeen
Wedding Grant Room Marischal College Aberdeen
Wedding Grant Room Marischal College Aberdeen
Wedding Grant Room Marischal College Aberdeen
Wedding Grant Room Marischal College Aberdeen
Wedding Grant Room Marischal College Aberdeen
Wedding Grant Room Marischal College Aberdeen
Wedding Grant room Marischal College Aberdeen
Wedding Grant Room Marischal College Aberdeen
Wedding Grant Room Aberdeen Marischal College Aberdeen
Wedding Grant Room Marischal College Aberdeen
Wedding Grant Room Marischal College Aberdeen