Eilean Donan Castle is one of my favourite castles in Scotland , mainly because of the stunning location and ample photo opportunities . My picture of the castle at night is an HDR photo which is now available as a screensaver. The castle can be photographed from 3 sides . Eilean Donan means Island of Donan ( a religious figure from the 12 th century ). Eilean Donan was Clan MacKenzie’s most important stronghold from the 13th Century until it was destroyed in 1719 by 3 English frigates attacking the Spanish garrison .
Robert the Bruce was given refuge in Eilean Donan Castle by John MacKenzie, Second of Kintail when he was being hunted by the English at the beginning of the fourteenth century. Above the entrance to the castle there is a Gaelic inscription which translates as : As long as there is a MacRae inside, there will never be a Fraser outside. Inside the courtyard is the famous Murchison Stone with an inscription about John Murchison of Auchtertyre who was killed in the Battle of Sherrifmuir in 1715. In the upper floor inside the castle there are six bedrooms named Loch Alsh,Loch Long, Eilean Donan, Ballimore, Loch Duich and Conchra. There is also a panel with the names of the constables ( guardians ) of the castle carved on it. Eilean Donan Castle was originally built in 1220 and owned by the MacKenzies of Kintail. The MacRae Clan who settled in the area came from the Beauly Firth where they had protected the Clan Fraser.They acted as bodyguards to the MacKenzie chiefs. Although there was a number of disputes, the MacKenzies held Eilean Donan right up until until the 16th century. The MacRaes first became Constables of the Castle in 1511 with a lot of control over the surrounding area. A feud between the MacKenzies and the McLeods of Dunvegan, over the disputed claims of Donald Gorm MacDonald to the title of Lord of the Isles, came to a head when he attacked the Castle with 50 galleys. He was shot and killed by Duncan MacRae with a single arrow. The Castle was garrisoned by Government troops but later retaken by the Jacobites before the Battle of Sheriffmuir.
Scotland is in the middle of the longest cold spell for 40 years . NASA has released a satellite image of Scotland and it is totally white.While this is causing problems for many people , as photographers it is an opportunity for us to get some great pictures. On Thursday I went up to Blackmount and Glencoe. It was the first time I have ever seen Blackmount totally covered in snow . The loch was frozen over and it was a total whiteout. Further up the road I stopped at Buachaille Etive Mor to take some pictures. As soon as I got out of the car I felt the bitter cold . I walked towards the mountain to take some pictures and within 3 or 4 minutes the tips of my fingers were numb. I quickly took some pictures and headed straight back to the car.The temperature must have been sub-zero. I continued along the A84 to Glencoe . Unfortunately the sun was behind the paps of Glencoe by the time I reached it and it wasn’t ideal for pictures. I took a couple of shots and headed back to Blackmount because I knew there were more pictures to be had there. As soon as you got off the road the snow was about a foot deep. The sun was shining and the landscape looked like a winter wonderland. I took quite a lot of pictures including a set of 4 which I am going to put together for a panoramic image in Photoshop. I also recorded some video of the scene . This is probably the best I have seen the Highlands in the snow for about 2 years[poll id=”1″]
I have just added a new HDR landscapes gallery to the website . HDR means High Dynamic Range . This is an image created from a set of 3 pictures which combines the contrast levels and the range of tones into one image . HDR images are great fun to make and they can turn out in a number of different ways depending on how you process the images . I use Photomatix software to create HDR images , although some photographers prefer to use Photoshop . The first step is to combine the 3 pictures . You then use tone mapping to process the image into an HDR picture . I have been using Photomatix for a couple of years and it is an excellent program. A couple of months ago I bought the HDRI Handbook by Christian Bloch and it gives a very comprehensive guide to the software you can use and the different approaches of a selection of photographers . It mentions Artizen software which I have downloaded but I haven’t had a chance to use it yet . The pictures I have teken are in the Highlands around Blackmount and Glencoe . HDR landscapes
I have just added a new gallery of free pictures which can be sent direct to a mobile phone . The pictures are of Eilean Donan Castle , Glencoe , Buachaille Etive Mor and Blackmount in the Scottish Highlands .
A fresh Commons row has broken out over the financing of the new Forth Bridge . Holyrood is proceeding with plans to build the crossing but there have been doubts about how the estimated £2.3bn price tag will be met. The Scottish Government has made it clear it was prepared to pay from its own budget. However, a spokesman added that given the scale and unique nature of the project, it had approached the UK Government for the flexibility to spread the payment over a longer period. Treasury Financial Secretary Stephen Timms said the UK Government had offered “flexibility” but funding for the crossing was a devolved matter. This flexibility does not involve any extra money or help with spreading the cost of the project over a long period . Liberal Democrat Willie Rennie asked ministers “When will the government come forward with real new money to help pay for this bridge?” Mr Timms said: “Funding is a devolved decision, it is a matter for the Scottish Executive to determine. “We have offered flexibility to help within the economic framework applying to the UK as a whole and I hope that flexibility will allow this project to proceed.” English MP Bob Marris then angrily intervened, asking: “Could you assure me the government will hold firm? Scotland already gets shedloads of money under the Barnett Formula. “They are entitled to raise their own taxes and this government should stand firm against this bridge where they want even more money.” Mr Timms told him he had made a “forceful point” . A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The position has been made clear in the Scottish Parliament on many occasions – the Scottish Government will deliver a new Forth crossing on time and on budget using our own resources by 2016 at a cost of between £1.7bn to £2.3bn. “However, given the scale and unique nature of the project, we have approached the UK Government for the flexibility to spread the payment over a longer period. “The reality is that the Treasury response involves no additional resources. “The need for Scotland to have full control over its own resources, and the ability to borrow in the same way as other governments, has never been more evident.”