Independent Canadian book publishers working in Dominica, W.I. specializing in coffee table books of architectural treasures and lush gardens. We also promote fine artistic photography. This blog contains unofficial reports and comments from our various trips, photo sessions, and jobs – an unofficial scrapbook of our travels, explorations and photo-related work. See “about” for more.

Posts tagged ‘glasgow’

Photographing the Isle of Skye, Scotland (part 1)

There are just a few passengers on the ferry from Mallaig, a fishing port on the mainland, to Armadale on the Isle of Skye. Most travellers prefer the more convenient option of reaching Skye – by car and taking the Skye Bridge, opened in 1995. From the ferry deck, the island looks beautiful and mysterious with the Cuillins, its highest mountains, enshrouded in mist. The ferry deposits us in a village near the end of Sleat peninsula, a place of lush vegetation and dense forests nowhere else to be found on the island.

So! We’ve arrived on Skye! Wow, what a beautiful trip that was! First – the fantastic West Highland Train from Glasgow to Mallaig, then a short but beautiful ferry hop, and a local bus to Portree, the island’s capital town.

Long distance call, anyone?

Once again it turned out that our thorough research on-line ahead of the trip paid off. Our car rental exceeded our expectations and simply is the finest car rental we’ve ever experienced! We booked our car on line with a company from Portree called M2 Motors. Not only did they offer the best deal on Skye, but their car hire service made our visit easier and nicer.

Portree – harbour area

How was it so? After a long flight, train trip, ferry, and a bus ride to the town of Portree, we were really tired, ready to crash. Add to it 8 hours of time zone difference, and you can understand we were simply  cooked. I expected car rental procedures to take half an hour or more.  To our surprise, our car was delivered to the bus station where we were met by a charming gentleman. He showed us the car, gave us the keys – and presto – after just quick formalities, off we went to our rented cottage!  To even greater surprise, we were told to simply drop off the car in the same place on our way home. Simple? Yes, very much so. And, to make it even nicer – when we were already getting off to Glasgow on our way back – the company manager popped in to the bus station, just to thank us for our business, and to wish us a good journey home! Wow! At 7am! Just to say “hi”! And did I mention – the little, peppy Renault was just perfect for what we wanted?

Early morning view at the Storr

M2 Motors made us feel more welcome on Skye, same as our nice host who rented us a tiny but nice Dunyre self-catering cottage. Yes, that was another lucky thing. Perfectly fitted for two or three persons, offering a fantastic view towards the Storr, modern equipment, internet, and an excellent price, Dunyre is run by very helpful and pleasant hosts who made our stay truly enjoyable. Yes, I know – this sounds like a “plug” – but both above businesses honestly deserve very highly to be known to the public for their above-average service. And if you happen to plan to visit Skye and Portree, then this may be a useful info for you.

Ok then, let’s get back to our story. You can find an astonishing variety of scenery on Skye. The Black Cuillins is the most spectacular mountain range with dark, jagged volcanic peaks. In the Trotternish Penninsula there is another ridge called Quirang, full of dramatic pinnacles and gullies. The ridge rises to its highest point at the summit at the Storr –  where years of erosion formed a distinctive pinnacle, the rock needle visible from a long distance: The Old Man of Storr. Between the ranges, undulated hills interpenetrate in a gentle way embellished by moors and cascading brooks. All that scenery is surrounded by extraordinary picturesque coastline, a smorgasbord of bays, hidden lochs, caves, tidal islands, massive cliffs and waterfalls.

Kilt Rock waterfall

What is making Skye’s scenery even more breathtaking is the extraordinary luminous quality of light. It creates a delicate chiaroscuro, a gentle transition between dark and light. It also helps the colours to be more saturated. Skye is situated rather far north; in December, winter nights last almost 18 hours, the 4 hours long nights in June are never totally black, they remain in a kind of twilight. 

Well, I had to stop the car sometimes every 100 meters! Views along the north east shore are nothing short of amazing. Just out of Portree – you get the view over the Storr formation. Morning light made it a spectacular photographic feast. Every hundred yards the view changed, with densely saturated colours of moors, rocks, cloudy sky, glens and tiny lakes. Skye is a photographer’s paradise! No wonder quite a number of celebrated photographers actually live there!
Next we arrived at Kilt Rock with the famous waterfall pouring down from a cliff straight into the sea. While the view of the waterfall itself is restricted by tight access to the shore, it is nonetheless spectacular and worth stopping your car. (If you plan to photograph it, try to be there in the morning, because around noon you will lose the direct sun on the water, which makes for sparkly and vivid display.)

rock landmarks (inuksuit)

After passing a few villages and stopping our car for a quick photo another dozen times, we came near to Quirang – another amazing area. Past the Quirang and Flodigarry, the very northern tip of Skye welcomed us with open views of the sea, and quite unexpectedly, with a display of rock landmarks (inuksuit) created by visitors over many years. 
Next, we went to Uig, driving a single-lane, winding road looking down at this small town connecting the northern isles via local ferry. A short drive from there, and we arrived at another stunning destination. One of the best examples of the more intimate scenery – The Fairy Glen, is a magical miniature landscape (obviously made by the magic of the fairies!) made up of grassy, cone-shaped hills and pockets of bizarrely  twisted bonsai-like trees.

Trees at the Fairy Glen

This tiny oasis stands among much higher hills and mountains like a land of garden gnomes. Perhaps the combination of awe-inspiring nature (sought by the Romantic artists as an experience of the Sublime), and of pastoral, more gentle landscape, is what makes Skye so truly exceptional. What an unexpected delight!
We returned to Portree tired and happy, and with plenty of photographs. For next day, we decided to go see the Old Man of Storr and the Neist Point Lighthouse – but this is another story, for another time…

One of many old croft cottages


Please stay tuned for more from Skye – coming soon!
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Next parts linked here:  part 2
Thank you for stopping by.

Commentary: Margaret Gajek and Derek Galon
Photographs: Derek Galon (please respect copyright)

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West Highland Train – Glasgow to Mallaig, Scotland

Early morning photo from the train. Just out of Glasgow.

By any measure our trip to the Isle of Skye in Scotland was absolutely fantastic!
Although it was already late October, weather was summer-like. And of course people in Scotland – as always – were helpful and friendly. Not only did we take all the photographs for our client, but also did some extra sightseeing, ending up having lots of additional photos, as well as amazing memories.
While the whole trip was just over one week long, it was packed with memorable moments and activities. Therefore we decided to split our post into several separate parts, in order to share our memories with you in the best possible way.

Dark clouds add drama to green hills.

So here is the first part – the journey from Glasgow to Mallaig:
When we boarded the West Highland Train in Glasgow early in the morning, we didn’t expect such a spectacular journey ahead of us. We knew that West Highland Line was voted one of the best scenic train journeys in the world, but nothing prepared us for that fantastically picturesque delight.

views are getting better and better…

The view from the train starts to be interesting almost immediately after leaving the station. The train runs parallel to the River Clyde along its north bank. After that the landscape opens wide. The line continues to wind its way through glens, alongside lochs, across moors, climbing up the mountains. It goes through scarcely populated areas before reaching Rannoch Moor, a vast upland wilderness. Scenery changes as in a kaleidoscope. Stations’ names become more Gaelic sounding; we are now in the heart of the Highlands.

Constantly on alert – I had only couple of seconds from seeing this, to taking this photo.

The morning sky becomes light blue and sunny, all colours of the landscape are saturated after the rain. We are glued to the windows determined not to miss anything; one blink of an eye and the view will be lost forever. We enter “the Horse Shoe Curve”- instead of crossing the broad valley, the train makes a big, spectacular bend over the neighbouring hillsides. Next, for some people on the train comes the biggest attraction: the Glenfinnan Viaduct, the biggest bridge on the line, featured in the “Harry Potter” films.

Near Rannoch train station

For us, the highlight of this trip comes next, past Fort William: the incredibly picturesque Loch Eilt, studded with tiny islands with towering trees. After crossing several viaducts and tunnels, we can already catch a glimpse of the sea. Our journey ends in Mallaig, a fishing port and a gateway to the north-west islands.

the Glenfinnan Viaduct – recognize it from Harry Potter?

The whole 264 km journey takes over 5 hours, but we felt like watching an incredibly fascinating 2- hour movie. If not for the train, it would be otherwise impossible to see such a stunning variety of Scottish landscape in such a short time. West Highland Line was built over the period of almost 40 years starting from 1863.

Beautiful Loch Eilt with dozens of tiny islands

The latest extension – from Fort William to Mallaig – was opened in April 1901. Since then, the train gives a chance to experience one of the most memorable rail journeys in the world.

We plan to take a ferry from Mallaig to one of the biggest Scottish islands, the Isle of Skye. For us, the West Highland Train is only the beginning.

ruins of a  house on a moor

Thank you for reading, please SHARE with friends, and if you like it – click FOLLOW to get notified when next parts are posted.
Story – Margaret Gajek, author of multi-awarded books Exotic Gardens of the Eastern Caribbean and Tropical Homes of the Eastern Caribbean
Photography – Derek Galon (please respect copyright).

Until next time, cheers!
Derek

GLASGOW NECROPOLIS

When I did my latest post yesterday, sharing with you photos from our Scotland trip last May – I left out one particular part of it. I did it for a reason – I thought this specific part of our trip would make a great stand-alone, separate post.

Glasgow Cathedral – Necropolis

We both love Glasgow, it has such fine character. Every time we travel via Glasgow, we try to explore it some more. Glasgow Cathedral is one of my most favourite places. But when we went there last May – the Cathedral was closed, and we decided to go explore the huge old cemetery behind it.
It is beautifully located over a green hill, overlooking large part of the city. Old architecture of it is quite spectacular, and if you like places like that – you can walk there for hours.

It dates back to Victorian times, and it’s design was selected in a way of competition, with the first prize  of… 50 British Pounds. Now, close to the top of the hill you can see tombs of influential people, artists and politicians alike. (Google “Glasgow Necropolis” to find much more info, or check Friends of Glasgow Necropolis web site.)

At the entrance, you are welcomed by large sign “NECROPOLIS”. Darkened by age grave stones give this place unique character, and I could not resist photographing it for  hours…
As the path goes higher and higher, to the most spectacular old tombs at the top, you are dazzled by the sheer size of that land, and rich architecture of old graves and tombs. You feel respect to the place, fascination, also sensing the eery beauty this cemetery possess.
Necropolis’ dark character, quiet majesty, but also a slight creepiness of these dark monuments bring to mind photography noire, perhaps also the goth style. Surely, dense green colour of grass makes it quite vivid all together – but what if photographs are edited as black and white?

 I created series called Necropolis, and edited all of it’s photographs in such way that they are 90% black and white, having only 10% of colour in them. All photos were bracketed and later fusioned for more aggressive textures of all monuments and stones.

At first I was a bit upset at the cathedral keeper, for him closing on that day some half an hour earlier than he should. But after taking all these Necropolis photos and exploring it – I found it actually good luck. With the cathedral open regular hours – I would not wander behind it, and would not discover the Necropolis.

I hope you like these photographs, some of them are available as art prints at the Gallery Vibrante – photo art gallery co-op offering quality art at low prices. Check them out there in larger sizes.
And – as always – if you like this post, SHARE it, and FOLLOW our blog to get all next posts in your email.

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Derek

All photos copyright Derek Galon, Ozone Zone Books. Please respect it.
Assistance – Margaret Gajek (author of Tropical Homes of the Eastern Caribbean and other books.)

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Charles Rennie Mackintosh – The House For An Art Lover, Glasgow, Scotland

While visiting Scotland last May, we wanted to see the newest jewel of architecture designed by legendary architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  Margaret, being an art historian with decades of fascination with Mackintosh’ works, did put it high on our priority list for our trip. As many of you know, we are interested not only in gardens, but also in fine architecture. Our award-winning book Tropical Homes of the Eastern Caribbean  can be the best proof of that. In our book we concentrated on tropical styles, but our interests in architecture go far behind that, and include works by the master of  Arts and Crafts period – Charles Rennie Mackintosh.


Several amazing projects created in Glasgow and area by Charles Rennie Mackintosh are well known to visitors from all around the world. The House For an Art lover, however, is a rather new addition to his landmarks’ collection. In 1901 the design of House for an Art Lover won an international award for a modern architecture concept. Oddly enough, this fine design spent almost hundred years in the drawer, until it was put to life by dedicated Mackintosh experts just in recent decades. It was not only built using original plans, but parts of the design had to be actually created and added, as many details were not complete on the winning draft.

The work done on this house rings true to Mackintosh masterpieces and it was fantastic to see it. It is set in a beautiful park and garden. Every detail is made with real consideration to the Mackintosh’ style, and it is hard to imagine it was built recently and not by Mackintosh’ own team. Perhaps the decorative gesso panels in dining room stand out as slightly less authentic looking, perhaps done by a heavier hand. But it would be really difficult to design and create them with the same masterly perfection as amazing gesso works by Mackintosh or his wife, Margaret MacDonald. All in all, this is an amazing place to visit and to enjoy yet another Mackintosh masterpiece.
There is lots of info about the property on-line, therefore I will not repeat what is already known and said. I just would like to share with you a few photographs I took. I hope you enjoy. And – thank you to all dedicated people behind this project for making it happen. Let this precious jewel sparkle for many, many years to come.
Visit the House on-line for more info:  http://www.houseforanartlover.co.uk
And, as always – if you like this post, please share it with your friends.
Thank you, stay tuned!
Derek


All photographs copyright Derek Galon, Ozone Zone Books.
No usage without written authorization.
Text by Margaret Gajek and Derek Galon, 

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