Bracken Birches Beaches and Boulders

February 05, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

2014-01-15-beach-0284-EditGarvie BayGarvie Bay, North West Scotland Apart from spectacular mountains, moorlands and glens, Scotlands coastline is also a great place to find photographic inspiration. Access usually means a walk across moorland to reach the sea and Garvie Bay is no exception. On the southern edge of Enard Bay this quiet and secluded beach shows signs of the ferocity of the Scottish weather. Exposed to the northwest, wind driven waves have thrown pink sandstone boulders up onto the beach. At the back of the beach away from the sea is a barricade of large stones, covered in moss and lichen, but closer to the sea the stones are bare, graded into size with smaller stones being thrown further up the beach, larger ones remaining closer to the waters edge. One characteristic is common to the all. The action of the pounding waves forces the rocks to grind together, an abrasive mixture of water and sand polishing the stones until they are all smooth and rounded.

2014-01-15-beach-0270-EditPolished Stones, Garvie Bay.Sea polished boulders, rocks and stones on the beach at Garvie Bay, North West Scotland.

The beach is covered in these smooth, rounded, pink stones of varying sizes, only the occasional bluish or pale orange stones add a little colour contrast. But they are few and far between, maybe  these rocks are softer and wear away faster.

Perhaps that is why the sand on the beach is a pale greyish white and not pink.

2014-01-15-beach-0268-EditPatterned Pebble.Small patterned stone on the beach at Garvie Bay, North West Scotland













The colours and shapes are fantastic, I want to get close in but still retain some depth of field. The 17mm lens is ideal for this, it has the ability to focus almost down to the front of the lens, in fact I have to be careful not to scrape the the bulbous front element on the stones. I need to get closer than my tripod will allow, so I hand hold the camera while lying out flat across the stones, not the most comfortable of places to lie down but it allows me to frame the image I'm after. A stripy pink and grey stone has caught my eye. It looks like a miniature version of some alien planet from an undiscovered far off solar system. I try to capture it in the context of its surroundings, surrounded by the other stones, the sand and sea, the clouds and mountains in the background. Am I the first person to ever see this stone? I may be the last person to see it, the next high tide may rearrange the pebbles and it might end up buried and never be seen again. I'm tempted to pick it up afterwards and put it I'm my pocket, but I resist. If we all picked up pretty stones every time we went to the beach they would soon be none left, I leave it for someone else to discover.

Winter BirchesBirch trees on the bank of the Kirkaig River, North West Scottish Highlands


A similar colour to the rocks on the beach are the twigs on the birch trees.

Bare of leaves, the white trunks and branches divide upwards until at the tips, pinkish purple twigs sprout. Virtually all the trees here are birches, they line the banks of the River Kirkaig  and dot the landscape in clumps of varying sizes. Although devoid of foliage it is amazing how much colour they bring to this winter landscape.

On closer inspection, more colour becomes apparent. Pure clean air promotes the growth of lichen on the trunks and branches, pale blue green, with shades of red and orange from new bark.

The trees are thin and supple, evolved to withstand the frequent raging gales of the Scottish weather, but the are not completely immune. Down at ground level, amongst the bracken, I find broken branches, limbs lost to the wind. Some have laid there for many years, their nutrients slowly being absorbed back into the ground, others are more recent, still looking clean and fresh.

All have interesting detail and warrant a closer look.



2014-01-12-Inverpolly-0009Decaying Birch BranchMosses and lichen slowly consume a fallen birch branch, North West Scottish Highlands 2014-01-12-Inverpolly-0046Broken Birch in BrackenBroken birch branch resplendent with lichen lies on a bed of bracken, North West Scottish Highlands

When the weather is not co-operating and photographs of grand vistas across miles of mountains and moorland are not possible, it is useful to take the time to look up close at the landscape itself. By concentrating on certain elements one can see how they fit into the environment as a whole. They also make for great photographic subjects, in fact a great many photographers specialise in nothing more than getting up close.

Macro photography is not my speciality, but still I like to get in close and look to capture the detail, perhaps I might have to invest in a close up lens, or some extension tubes.

Click on any of the images to go to the gallery where more images of a similar type are available to view.



These photographs were taken on a photographic course run by Garry Brannigan of River to Ridge. More details of Garry's work and course can be found by clicking here.


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