That was 2017

Another 25,000 pictures taken. One camera retired. One new camera bought. 365 more pictures of the day. 12 more pictures of the month. 36 blog posts (including this one).

Eight trips to Shetland.  60 nights in various hotels, guest houses, conferences centres and on boats.  33 additional Ordnance Survey maps bought as part of my Scottish Landranger project.

A rather more geographically limited year than some of the recent ones.  The farthest west I got was about 12W (somewhere in the pack ice off the Greenland coast), the farthest east was the Russian mining colony at Pyramiden on Svalbard at 16E.  These two extremes weren’t actually very far apart and both were close to my northern-most point of the year at almost 79N (somewhere around the west coast of Svalbard).  

Alongside these snowy extremes, I think my southern-most point this year (51N) was probably one of the terminal buildings at Gatwick airport.

12 Pictures of the Month.

January - Cold clear morning, University of Warwick Arden conference centre
February - stampede Shetland-style, Quendale
March - Let’s Not Be Stupid, Warwick-style
April - North Sea Coast, Jutland, Denmark 
May - Bear Necessities, off the Greenland coast
June - Polar Outpost, Pyramiden, Svalbard
July - Puffin Time, Sumburgh Head, Shetland
August - Orca, Sumburgh Head, Shetland
September - Autumn Calm, West Voe of Sumburgh, Shetland
October - Wild Seas, Scat Ness, Shetland 
November - Golden Hour, Quendale Bay, Shetland
December - The Old Ways, Shotover, Oxford

Snow Day, December 2017

I guess the relative infrequency of decent snow in Oxfordshire makes the days when it does turn up a bit special.    A proper layer of snow has near-magical transformational properties.  The sound is different, the light is different, the scenery is different, even the people are different.

There's lots of physics about in the transformation of the sound and the light - the light bounces around more and the sound bounces around less.  The scenery is cleaned up - both the pretty bits and the unsightly bits are hidden by a layer of fresh crisp snow - and it is all (at least briefly) special.  And the people - just walking up the street there are more smiles and hellos than usual - maybe it's just that everyone needs to slow up a bit but maybe the snow lets a little bit of optimism shine through.

Whatever the reasons for the transformation - the snow provides a splendid reason to be out and about with a camera.

Freezing Saddles, London Road, Headington, Oxford

Bury Knowle Park, Headington, Oxford

Under Construction, Bury Knowle Park, Headington, Oxford

Shotover Lanes, Oxford

There are more pictures from the Headington Snow Day in a Flickr Album.

National Tree Week 2017

My daily photographs over the last seven days have all been (as far as I could manage it) tree themed - they've ranged from Weisdale on Shetland to central London via Coventry and Oxford - about 700 miles as the puffin flies.

Day 1 - Weisdale - see there are trees on Shetland

Day 2 - But not many at the south end of Shetland - but the waves patterns do look a bit like a Christmas tree

Day 3 - Autumn colours at the University of Warwick campus

Day 4 - University of Warwick Christmas Tree

Day 5 - Early sunlight on the Warwick campus

Day 6 - Bury Knowle Park, Headington Oxford

Day 7 - Decorated trees on Oxford Street in central London

Braving the elements, Shetland, November 2017

Over the last few months I’ve been very lucky with the Shetland weather - I’ve managed to fit in trips between the storms.  This time, although the storms weren’t enough to earn names from the Met Office, there has certainly been enough wind to disrupt the Northlink schedules and to force passing ships to search for shelter.

On dry land getting out and about with a camera has involved a little bit of planning and a little bit of luck.  

The planning at this time of year is about remembering just how few daylight hours there are (typically sunrise just after 8:15 followed swiftly by sunset, just after 15:00) and the luck, this weekend at least, involved not getting caught in too many hail showers.  I don’t have any particular dislike of hail but when combined with 40 mph winds it does have a tendency to sting.  The 40 mph winds also make it feel rather colder than the thermometer suggests - wind chill makes a balmy 6 or 7C feel more like 0 or 1C - which certainly warrants layering up along with wearing both hat and gloves.

As is my usual pattern on these shorter forays north, I’ve spent time at my regular spots - around Sumburgh Head (which is even better when the cafe is open!), around Scat Ness and on West Voe and Quendale beaches.  I’ve been trying to put together a collection of Scat Ness images so I was  trying to find one or two new angles to go with the regular favourite locations - not sure I’ve yet got all the pictures I want but it’s good to have more to add to the set. 

The other extra I added in this time was a trip north to Weisdale to see the trees - this is (apparently) National Tree Week, so it seemed like a good idea to take a few pictures to counter the ‘there are no trees on Shetland’ message.  There are trees, but they are often in quite small clumps and are sometimes significantly smaller than their Scottish-mainland relatives.

Scat Ness



Black and White Challenge

I was challenged to take/post seven black and white images - with no words, no pets and no people.

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7

Wind & Waves, Shetland October 2017

I was promised wind and waves.  

Blustery, showery westerlies getting quite wild, before swinging round to become northerlies - with clearer skies and rapidly falling temperatures.   The plus side was that might mean some decent waves and perhaps even sunshine to light them up.  

And so it was.

There are occasional times on Shetland when the weather just doesn’t encourage you out of the house, but more often than not the answer is just to layer-up and head out - safe in the knowledge that even if the walk down the beach is a bit like being sand-blasted you know that the walk back will be good (and probably pretty quick).

When the weather is moving through rapidly you’ve always got the possibility that you get ‘milky’ seas with spectacular waves - and there are a number of vantage points on Scat Ness that let you get into just the right place to have the cliffs and waves lit up by the low autumn sun. And if you look back northwards along Scat Ness you might get a glimpse of a rainbow warning you that the next shower is just about to arrive. 

Scat Ness Waves meet the Sky

Rain Shower Approaching

Quendale Beach is my local beach and seems to have changed every time I walk it.  Several of the south-end Shetland beaches seem to be prone to transformation.  I’ve seen this regularly over the years as vast quantities of sand get shifted up and down the beach by each big storm.  On short timescales the most obvious changes on Quendale are to the two streams that flow across Quendale links behind the beach - sometimes they flow straight down the beach into the waves, at other times that meander extravagantly up and down the beach en-route to the sea. 

I’ve reading recently about the little settlement of Broo that used to sit on Quendale links behind the beach - this was apparently a thriving community for many years up until the middle of the 17th Century when the beach changed shape and started dumping sand over the fields around the settlement.  Apparently for a few years the community attempted to clear the sand away so that they could go on farming, but eventually they had to concede to the sand and wind and move away from the links.   Once you’ve heard this story it’s hard not to reflect on it when you’re watching the sand blow around the beach. 

Quendale Beach

Sand Trails behind the pebbles

Back in August I was able to round off a Shetland weekend standing on the cliffs at Sumburgh Head watching a pair of orca power their way south towards Fair Isle.  

This time I had the bonus of spotting a white-tailed sea eagle fly past as I sat watching the planes and helicopters fly in and out of the little airport at Sumburgh.

Sumburgh Airport

White-tailed Sea Eagle

There is also a Flickr album with some more pictures from the weekend.

National Map Reading Week

It's always good to find a theme for my daily photographs - I realised that despite not having any serious travel/outdoors plans for National Map Reading Week (16th - 22nd October), I could at least strive for a cartographic theme for the week.