Posts Tagged Winter
The “Blisters of burst” photo-blog of my walk along the 116 miles of the Fife Coastal Path. This time it is the six mile section between Burntisland to the “Lang-toon” Kirkcaldy.
This was a “daftie” walk, I just took the fancy to go and I went, giving little thought as to how I was going to get back, better I suppose, to travel in hope than not to travel at all.
The overall aim was to keep the distance down to a manageable figure this time rather than push myself too hard and do myself a mischief.
The car was parked up at the free car park just off the Links, on road to the Beacon swimming pool. From here it is a matter of following Lammerlaws Road over the railway bridge and down to the water.
There is a building here that has been intriguing me for some time, it is at the foot of the railway bridge and is currently being used by a diving company called the “Dive Bunker.”
Usually wartime buildings were built to a standard pattern, you wanted a building to do this job, then you went to a standard set of plans and constructed it but this one is unique.
The overall impression is the building’s strength, it is heavily reinforced with concrete and has a concrete blast shield in front of the back door (edge on to the right of the bunker), it even has a tall concrete chimney!
My guess is some sort of command post.
The Fife Coastal Path (FCP) then follows the coast along the esplanade for a short distance and all the way around the shore line in the picture above.
That line of black along the shore isn’t sea weed, it is made up of small fragments of coal washed up on the beach.
At the end of the esplanade, the FCP passes through a set of gates to a building that was once a beach tea room with wonderful ironwork outside.
Things get interesting at this point. The FCP really can not get any more literal than the next stage, it really is a coastal path, which when the tide is out is along the beach and when the tide is in and impassable, the alternative route is along the A921. There are also two ominously titled “escape routes” under the railway, to use if you are in danger of getting stuck. This escape is not a call the RNLI, life or death, stuck on cliffs sort of thing, the railway embankment is steep and it may be possible to traverse to an escape point but going by the black tide mark on the embankment this place can get some impressively high tides so go canny and use the head.
Anyway, today was just after high tide, so it wasn’t going to get any worse so I decided to go along the high crumbling embankment to the first escape point and re-evaluate the way forward. You can see the beach getting progressively narrower the farther you go along the embankment.
There seemed to be a passable route along rocks, so I went on, along the narrow strip of rocks towards Pettycur Bay, where the shore got larger and larger, opening out into a large promentary and the path problems became non-existent.
It should be noted that the second escape point involves walking through a culvert for a small burn under the railway and the tunnel gets progressively lower.
Not far from the second escape point, by the roadside is a memorial, erected to King Alexander III who, fell off his horse and died near here 1286.
If the tide is low you will notice a good number of poles sticking out of the sand, these were anti-glider landing posts, erected here during the last war. The beach opens out as you get near to Pettycur Bay.
The cockle shell encrusted shore makes for great walking, so make the most of it.
The coast narrows as you head towards the caravan site on the escarpment above, but don’t be fooled into thinking that the path climbs uphill, that is a private path for the caravan site.
Looking back along the beach at Pettycur Bay to an oil rig in the Firth.
The FCP continues along the immediate shore among the rocks and grass. It is not too bad going.
It will end at a small sandy shore before going up onto the promenade leading to the small harbour.
Stomping the beach back
About half way along the pier is a small hut built into the wall, which looks out of place among the row of wooden sheds. This was a WW1 searchlight or Defence Electric Lights and was part of the Kinghorn gun battery.
There is a rusty iron capstan at the end of the pier, which has seen better days.
Go back to the esplanade and follow the FCP up the road for a short distance, where you will see another searchlight in the garden of a block of modern flats. (It can just be seen in the second searchlight picture above.) The generator building for the searchlights was in one of the white buildings across the road and now converted to houses.
Follow the pavement up the hill and the way becomes less interesting, the broken glass on top of a wall or two reminds us how much things have changed. Razor Wire seems much more humane. On investigation I think this is part of the WW1 battery. A little bit beyond this is a small private lane heading down to the shore, there was a WW1 gun emplacement here, although nothing now remains.
I was puzzled by a row of nine square windows set into a wall, just before Alexander III Street, there were WW1 defensive loopholes for riflemen to fire through, which is interesting as they must have considered an invasion to be a threat.
The FCP is signposted to the right and you head down a short lane to a number of footpaths. It’s not important which path you take so long as you head down towards the Lifeboat station at the foot of the promenade.
Just beyond here is a white house with the name PROVIDENCE HOUSE, 1923. Being provident five years after the war to end all wars ended seemed like a good idea to me. I don’t know what it was but it’s a grand name for any house.
The path then turns away from the harbour going directly uphill, under the railway before turning right going through a children’s play park, then under the railway onto a narrow whinstone path sandwiched between the caravan site and the railway.
At the end of the caravan site, the path opens out to the right with good views of the Firth and it is like this all the way to Kirkcaldy. The one good thing about this path is it not tarred and so easier going on the feet, it may be muddy in places and there may be the occasional “dog egg” or two but it is a whole lot better than walking on a hard pavement
Nothing much happens for a while, you will pass close to the Linton Court houses on the left but keep on going, at one point, at the top of a hill, the path gets very close to the railway, this marks the beginning of the end as you start to loose height, heading down towards the shore, Seafield Tower and Kirkcaldy.
This ruined medieval tower house dates to the 16th century. It is badly crumbling and has been fenced off. Nothing much to see really…. in saying that I did see a Grey Seal on one of the rocks just off shore.
The rocks here shows great fault lines, you can imaging the coal seams trapped in between the layers of rock.
There is an absolutely huge but ruined concrete breakwater here and I don’t know what its purpose was. Unless it was something to do with the domed culvert taking water from underground out to sea, perhaps it was a little dirty maybe polluted as it left the Seafield Pit, which was on the hill above and now all housing.
The path eventually comes to a carpark then continues over the grass for a short period before going through an access gate and right heading alongside the Morrisons Supermarket to the main road. I grabbed some lunch here. There was no way that I was going to take a photo of a supermarket, even I have standards!
Turn right and follow the road towards the water. You will pass a controversial sculpture made from a large piece of driftwood with thousands of rusty nails hammered into it.
Over a small bridge and turn right onto which looks like a wide road alongside the burn, around the car park and onto the promenade. This has recently been updated to improve the flood defences here, some fairly spectacular waves have been known to break over the sea wall here.
About half way along the promenade is a memorial stone, the promenade was built between 1922 and 1923 to provide employment during the Great Depression.
I stopped my walk along the FCP a short while later, opposite a multi-storey car park at mile 35 and headed into town to get the train back to Burntisland. The route to the station passes right by the bus station, so of you prefer, look for stance 13, bus 7, which will take you back. The train from Platform 1, took nine minutes although I did wait 20 minutes on the train, on top of the slow and ponderous walk up to the station.
I took the scenic route back through Burntisland, stopping off at the unique in Scotland square section Burntisland Parish Church. It’s a one way straight up from here.
Anyway, that’s all from me and this section of the Fife Coastal Path but there’s one thing for sure….
Another installment in my “Blisters of burst” blog from the Fife Coastal Path (FCP). This time, I over done things, with what turned out to be a 14 miles walk… Put it like this, if I was the USS Enterprise: I would have dropped out of warp drive by Dalgety Bay. On impulse power by Braefoot Bay and down on batteries by Aberdour… needing some Red Bull Dilithium flavour to get me back to my car at Ferrytoll.
The plan was to park the car at the Park and Ride at Ferrytoll, walk down to North Queensferry (1 mile), then walk the 9 miles to Aberdour with the option of three more miles, to Burntisland and get the bus back. Well that’s the plan anyway,
Setting off from Ferrytoll I was looking for the Admiralty Stone that I had seen on previous visits. These stones marked the boundaries of the MoD properties. They seem to date from before WW2 maybe even earlier, anyway Ferrytoll is being drastically modernised and the stone has been removed and placed on a palate and not only that but there’s another stone. Both are marked with an anchor symbol with numbers, 6 and 7 with arrows on the top denoting the direction of the boundaries. No doubt they will placed in a suitable location when all the work is done.
My route to North Queensferry was an easy one although not a pretty one alongside the A90 approach to the Forth Road Bridge. It’s a shared used footpath with bicycles, that’s all fair and well except for the “roadie” who came up behind me, nearly putting himself in the weeds rather than shout or even slow down as he approached. Lets say that I insulted his parentage and likened him to a part of a female anatomy…
At the foot of the Bridge is the commemoration stone, unveiled by HM Queen, September 1964 when she opened the Road Bridge. Hell the Bridge is almost as old as I am!
Just beyond the stone, a set of steps leads down to the road and the FCP. I followed my nose, which led down to the river and a new vantage point for me under the bridge. I set the camera on panorama mode to get all three crossings: Rail, Road and the new Queensferry Crossing in the one picture.
I found an interesting piece of carved stone behind a wall, it was just lying there!
Down at the old pier I discovered the site of the old railway that took foot passengers off the ferry. A similar railway operated from Port Arthur (at the opposite end of South Queensferry) on the south bank and is now a footpath. The cutting for the line on the northern side has been filled in and houses are built upon it, although the tunnel under the hill must still be there, the railway line joined the main line at Inverkeithing. The line was later re-used for the naval base at Rosyth.
At the foot of the hill where the road is closest to the river is the house with the sundial on the wall. It and it’s neighbour dates to the 1700s.
On the opposite side of the road is a public right of way, follow the steps down to Willie’s Well. There’s a plaque dating to 1937, although the well is a lot older than that. The well was once lit but now it is on need of some restoration.
Following the road right to its end at the original Town Pier and the old lighthouse, which was open. The entry free was a donation. The stairs are narrow but the view is interesting. I never realised that the funny thing on top of the cupola was actually a chinmey.
There’s something that cries out “39 Steps” to me every time I see the Albert Hotel and the Railway Bridge, although the hotel had no part in the film. It must have seen a lot of comings and goings in its time.
North Queensferry is absolutely knee deep in history and you can get seriously distracted with all the nooks and crannies, such as Post Office Lane. I think the post office was in the building which is now a restaurant. The smell from the all day breakfast was tempting, VERY tempting.
Backtracking to the Fife Coastal Path is the Lions Head Well from the lions head on the fountain head. It has some interesting iron work set into the wall beyond. One motif looks like a couple having an argument or fight.
The path goes up the side of Carlingnose Point under the Rail Bridge, as it does there is a set of seven brass plaques set into the wall looking like they were made by local school children.
Farther on up there is a good view of the Rail Bridge.
There’s a small air raid shelter just off the path slowly surrendering to the brambles and local scallywags.
Over the other side of the Forth is the oil terminal at Hound Point, the ships engine could be plainly heard across the Firth.
There is a quarry at the top of the point, with tie-downs for barrage balloons set into the quarry floor, they lie to the left of the path.
A tree at the base of the escarpment has a plaque remembering a 10 year old dog.
The view from here is quite good, overlooking a ruined pier according to an information board, constructed for the Army during WW1 for landing supplies and ammunition. One source has this as a pier for a mining station.
The path makes its way down towards the shore along the army road passing what was the head of the Army pier and it eventually comes to Port Laing, a sandy bay, quite out of place with the rest of Carlingnose Point.
There are three houses here. There is a small memorial plaque set into the concrete near the northernost house commemorating the sacrifice of Lt.George Paton, who gave his life to save his men when a grenade was badly thrown, June 1916. One source states that this area was a WW1 seaplane base.
The path becomes a rough road as it makes its way towards the neck of the small bay at Inverkeithing and eventually passes behind RM Recycling. Many a famous ship met its end here. They haven’t broke a ship in years most of it’s business comes from other metal recycling.
My eye was caught by a small concrete hut partially buried in the trees on the opposite the scrapyard, it looks very much like emplacements and magazine lockers for a light anti-aircraft battery.
The FCP continues on the footpath up to a large building on the left, which was dormitory accommodation for Rosyth Workers. Under the railway bridge and up to the main road, which was for many years the Great North Road from the Queensferry to all points north. Turn right and head up the hill to Inverkeithing. There are some interesting buildings in the town, one notable one is at the top of the hill being part of a 15th Century Franciscan Friary, head for the small gate behind the Friary close to the Inverkeithing Civic Center, where the extensive ruins can be seen at the foot of the garden.
You pass by the front of The Half Crown Public House with a plaque commemorating Samuel Greg, who lived here at one time and became an Admiral in the Russian Navy.
The town’s Mercat Cross can be seen just beyond the Friary, it is one of Scotland’s oldest Mercat Crosses, dating to the late 1300s.
Thomson’s Lodging is a yellow lime stone washed house just down the hill from the cross with an interesting lintel above the doorway.
The inscription is in Old Scots.
The Tolbooth Tower and Town House is at the foot of the road.
Turn right and head down hill for a short distance. You will cross a disused railway, which was where the line from North Queensferry tied into the main line. Before you turn right, look down the hill, there is a small stone pillar which marked the eastern gate of the town’s wall.
The FCP follows the road down towards the shore passing a Doocot that’s been converted to a house, the addition of the semi-circular extension for a spiral staircase is a nice homage to Scots architecture of the time.
The path goes along the front of houses then around the back of the Stevedore business to Prestonhill Quarry, which described before.
The tarred path continues to St. David’s Bay the last part of the Dalgety Bay housing development. In olden days it was a coaling port, supplied by a horse drawn wagon way from the Fife hinterland around Crossgates.
There now follows a dreary three miles or so as the FCP makes its way past the town it is true the route is punctuated by a good number of interesting places but it’s no fun plodding by the houses.
The FCP comes to a small promontory with a WW1 gun emplacement at Downing Point There were two 4.7inch guns mounted on promontory with a fire control point between them. The name J CODY 1915 is written into the cement at the top of the pillar. There is also a concrete datum point set into the top with which looks like thumb prints in the cement.
Two searchlights were sited at the far end of the point, now marked with what looks like a channel or submarine cable marker.
The camp for the battery was in the woods and now built over by the houses.
You will see the cupola of the Mortuary chapel of the Earls of Moray, dating to 1731. The way to the chapel is not marked, either follow the FCP along the high hedge, turning left at the top or turn left before the hedge and there is a path through the houses beyond.
The houses here are expensive but look dire with their yellow bricks, which are totally out of place and more in keeping with the leafy suburbs of a major English town than a Fife new town.
The FCP passes in front of the wings of the old Donibristle House the centre piece beyond is a modern reconstruction. You can walk up to the beautiful ironwork between the Wings then re-join the FCP by the stairs down to the harbour.
You can walk past or through the Dalgety Bay Yacht Club to arrive at the old Stables for Donibristle House. I chose to walk along the shore with its softer grass compared to the hard pavement.
You will have by this point seen the Danger Radiation Signs around this part of the shoreline. Radioactive particles have said to have originated from the Radium used to paint the dials on aircraft instruments, dumped from the RN Aircraft Yard at Donibristle a little way up the hill from the bay. Either way Radiation Bay is quite an extensive contaminated area and will probably never be cleaned up.
The path does through some woodland by the shore before heading inland and up a slight hill to St.Bridget’s Church, which dates to around 1200 although the buildings are 18th century. The church served the Dalgety village which had disappeared by 1836. I left the exploration of the church for another day as it was the playground of some children.
The FCP now heads away inland up the hill before turning right onto an avenue which goes all the way to Aberdour, passing the Braefoot Bay Marine Terminal, where I recognised the wail of the B-C-01 compressors, signifying that all is well with my pension fund.
The FCP goes under the access road with some interesting murals. It’s a good idea to go under and not across the road. The guys come belting up the hill and get little notice of anyone crossing…. 30 years worth of experience talking here!
The FCP passes by St.Colm House and makes its way along Beech Avenue.
Past the golf course.
To Aberdour, passing through what’s left of a pair of iron gates, turning right onto the main street, where I stopped for lunch at the Aberdour Hotel where I had a nice long rest and a fairly enjoyable meal.
To be honest, I was footsore by now and it wasn’t a great idea to continue on to Burntisland but I did. My pace had dropped considerably and I was more or less hobbling along.
There was a nice Georgian enamelled post box sign by the post office in front of the hotel.
Aberdour Castle is worth exploring if you have the time, there’s a path by the train station.
Anyway I followed the FCP as it turned right, off the main street down to the Firth to a nice wee beach and the 18th century pier by the boat club.
The path clings to the side of a hill as it makes its way to Hawkcraig Point. It meets the road and then double backs on itself climbing up the hill by way of rough stone steps.
However it’s well worth making the short diversion to the point. There’s a nice seafood restaurant here and the site of a WW1 seaplane base, of which noting survives. It is thought that a hangar existed on the grass in front of the house.
The path up the hill will take you to the top and great views over the Firth. The path descends down a long set of steps towards two curious red and white painted pillars. They puzzled me until I worked it out that when seen from the Firth they will be in alignment when entering the channel for the Barefoot Marine Terminal.
The area around here was the site of HMS Tarlair and was used for hydrophone research during WW1, nothing remains but the bases of a few huts.
There is a curious structure built on the rocks looks like the base of a hut but it’s use is beyond me.
The FCP then follows a road and numerous car parks to the Silver Sands. You can get a bite to eat here if you are that way inclined. I hobbled on past the restaurant to the far end of the park and the path to Burntisland.
Years ago, when I cycled this way and it was a muddy track and now it is tarred in the flat sections and a good whinstone path in the uppy and doony parts.
It’s nice and pleasant walking along by the shore until the way goes under the railway into the woods.
The trains will pass quite frequently breaking the monotony of the path. A small cave is up in the trees but I was too tired to go scrambling up the steep incline to go investigate. Maybe another day.
The path passes a quaint waterfall encrusted with lime deposits making an interesting sight.
There is a small harbour to the right, with a derelict boatshed with the title Kinghorn Yacht Services, strange as it is no where near Kinghorn. The harbour was built in the early 1800s to ship lime from a quarries farther uphill.
There must have been a bridge over the railway to a loading point or siding, however only the foundations still survive.
The skyline is dominated by a radio mast that carries the signal from Radio Forth, the original location for this mast was close to the Braefoot Gas Terminal, moved for safety reasons. Warning signs about the radiation danger are fixed to the fence. There’s nothing like being cooked to music.
The last time I was on this path it was a red muddy mess, there was an aluminium works to the left, and the bauxite ore got washed down hill and onto the path. Everything in Burntisland seemed to be red, however the works closed down and the site is now used for houses and we have a fine path to follow into Burntisland.
I put the camera away at this point as it had started to rain at this point, growing steadily heavier as I made my way up the hill to the right and down along the high street.
I hobbled as far as the car park at the far end of the street, which will be my starting point for the next stage.
All that was left for me to do was hobble back, almost all the way along the High Street to a bus stop where I caught the No.7 bus back to Inverkeithing. Planning failed as this bus did not go to Ferrytoll leaving me with another mile to walk to where my car was parked.
All in, and I really was all in, I must have walked 14 miles and to be honest it was too much. However that’s the first 29 miles of the FCP completed and …
The weather was pure dreich, one of those days that’s totally uninspiring for photography and I badly needed a dose of Photo-Therapy, it was also an excuse to try out the revised workflow for my photos, so off I went into the dreichness in search for something to photograph.
Plan A was to catch up on a couple of places that I missed last week on the walk between Kincardine to North Queensferry, that was until I got stopped by the police…. well it was a rolling road block and I didn’t fancy following behind their slow moving convoy, so off I went in the opposite direction, following Plan B instead.
Inverkeithing was the nearest anything so I headed down to the shore to have a look at the old Prestonhill Quarry as it may be a candidate for a future photo one day.
I parked in a small car park just off Preston Crescent, very handy for the Fife Coastal Path (FCP). The FCP goes behind a busy Stevedore warehouse and no sooner had I went around the warehouse than I bumped into one of my former managers, whom I hadn’t seen since he retired many years before me- small world indeed.
The activity was all down to the unloading of the MV Hav Marlin a 1990 ton general cargo ship. I reset the aspect ratio from square to landscape format because I would have not been able to go back far enough to get the whole ship in the picture, having made one exception, I thought that I may as well use colour as well. Here she is in all her glory.
The trim is well down at the bow, it looks like the mooring line is also a bit on the tight side. Most of the cargo is at the front, which may explain the bow down trim.
Just beyond the jetty is the now abandoned Prestonhill Quarry. It had a conveyor belt loading system to put rock straight onto a ship. All of the shore side of the pier has disappeared, There is an interesting concrete structure beside the pier, reminds me of a Japanese shrine
See what I mean?
The quarry rock face was the next point of interest, kind of interesting fissures… well I think so.
The quarry was the scene of a recent tragedy when in 2015 an 18 year old boy drowned following an ice bucket challenge that went wrong. The typical knee-jerk reaction by the grown-ups was to fence the quarry off…. and two years later, the fence gates are wide open…. and someone has knicked the fencing!
Doesn’t look like the CCTV camera mounted on the lamp post opposite is working then?
There was another cargo ship making its way into the harbour at Inverkeithing, bound for the RM Metals pier. Many a famous ship has ended her days at that pier, nowadays the main business is scrap car recycling.
It’s a very tight channel and the MV Luhnau, 2450 tons was making slow headway to berth. That’s the old Prestonhill Pier in the foreground. I just could not resist a wee scramble up the edge of the quarry for a better view.
The path up to the vantage point is… interesting if not a little jaggy in places.
So there we have it. The photo-therapy went well, and I’m pleased with the way the photos turned out. I hope you agree.
So all I have left to do now is find a spot of nicer weather, stick the boots on and go for a donner along the Fife Coastal Path, but there’s one thing for sure….
This is the second part of my “blisters of burst” walk from Torryburn to North Queensferry, covering the stage between Charlestown to North Queensferry along the 116 miles of the Fife Coastal Path, from Kincardine to Newburgh.
One thing that have done and should have done it long before now, was to buy the official Fife Coastal Path (FCP) map, so I now have a better idea of where I should be going and more importantly the distances I will be covering as the map is marked off in miles for the hard of thinking like me to understand. To buy the map, I made a special trip over to the offices of the Fife Coast and Countryside Trust, located at the Harbourmasters House, Dysart, bought from the princely sum of £6.95p. It can also be bought on-line from the Trusts’ web site.
A lunch of fish and chips at the Elgin Hotel hit the spot for me and so did the rest, which was what I badly needed. Plan A, the original plan was to call it quits here and get a bus back to the car at Torryburn, however I was feeling so good and it wasn’t such a bad day that I decided to walk some more to Ferry Toll and get a bus to Dunfermline and then back Torryburn, well that was the plan anyway.
The hotel is perched on top of an escarpment overlooking the Forth, out of sight at the bottom of this escarpment are a number of huge lime kilns right next to the harbour. There’s a public footpath in front of the hotel that leads down to the harbour and I missed it. To be honest I wasn’t that bothered as I had been there before with my darlin’ and was quite content to walk on towards Limekilns village instead. The kilns are worth seeing and it’s sad that the FCP does not take them in as part of the route.
I keep on thinking that this place must have been like Hell on earth with the kilns belching out non-stop clouds of noxious fumes.
The FCP follows the main road down a slight cobbled road to the water, it’s unusual to see a cobbled road and this one is in fine condition as usually they have been dug up by utiity contractors and badly re-laid but this one is perfect. There’s a pub at the bottom of this hill, just by the war memorial that has public toilets available if you need to go and thinking about it there’s toilets just past the Elgin Hotel as well. The first toilets that I have really noticed on the walk.
There is a small semi-ruined pier opposite the pub with a wooden mast leaning over at a precarious angle, plans are underway to restore this old pier and I wish them well with their enterprise. There has been a good number of ruined piers along the way but it should not be too surprising as in the days of old, sea transport was the way to get about and far easier considering the primitive state of the early roads, especially when there are heavy, bulk items like Lime to shift.
There is a wooden bench on the old pier and normally I don’t bother too much but my eye was drawn to this one because of the flowers that were placed upon it, a new plaque had been fixed to it, remembering Amy Simpson 1997-2016. Nineteen years old, my heart grieves for her family as one thing that I do know is that parents are never meant to bury their children.
It is all too easy to follow the Limekilns promenade and miss out walking along the old road through the village. Make the time to go by the old main street as there are lots of examples of old Scots architecture that’s worth seeing, including the old Co-Op, which has been turned into an Hotel and Bistro and the Kings Cellar. It’s up a small side street on the left. According to Wikipedia, the Kings Cellar…” a large and mysterious property existence of which can be traced back to 1362. It has served many different purposes throughout its long life, notably as a store house, a school, a library and a chapel. It is currently employed as a Freemasons Lodge and is generally not open to the public.”
Cross the road at the end of the main street following the FCP along the shore for a short distance before making a left turn up a lane then turning right, which will take you to the boat club.I fought a running battle with this Oyster Catcher, trying to get this silhouette shot with another set of God Rays in the background
You can go straight on instead of going up the lane but it gets a bit precarious to the water at times. Anyway walk past the Scout hut to a gate with a sign warning you not to stand on the Gambions… and if you didn’t know what those are, it’s those metal basket things that are stuffed with stones and used to prop up the footpath. That’s all fair and good but it would be even better to get down to the shore without having to stand on the Gambions in the first place but there’s no provision for that.
Old Rosyth Parish Church.
Anyway the muddy path continues past the houses and will eventually come to the ruined Old Rosyth Parish Church.I have to marvel at the huge piece of toadying gratitude expressed by someone for being allowed to bury their dear here. Definitely a sign of times past.
“The inhabitants of Limekilns and Charlestown are again called upon to record their gratitude to the Right Hon. THOMAS BRUCE Earl of Elgin and Kincardine for his lordships second generous gift of a piece of ground as a burial place for them and their posterity. The ground on the south was granted in 1812, on the north 1827.”
The church itself is in a precarious condition, being partially fenced off.
There’s the grave of a Rosyth Admiral here, he died of natural causes and was buried here. Admiral Sir Frederick Tower Hamilton KCB GCVO born 1856 died 1917.
There is a metal style over the churchyard wall here, I never noticed this on my first visit, so I just had to give it a try, either way back through the gate or over the style you end up on the path and start heading up the hill.
Ever since I left the Elgin Hotel I was aware of a big sounding marine diesel engine ruining somewhere and it turned out to be the new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth currently being built at Roysth, the closer you go to it the loader it became and then quiet imperceptibly as I climbed up the hill the sound died away.
I got talking with a fellow walker, which took my mind off my sore feet and the hill itself going up in jig-time and I never noticed the noise again until I was entering Rosyth a mile or so later on.
Anyway the path climbs up the hill away from the coast to meet the A985 for a miles walk along this busy road before turning right onto a path leading into Rosyth. I was tempted to turn right a lot sooner and follow the road past the HMS Caledonia and then into Rosyth, they both end up at the same place and it would get you away from the main road. Otherwise the path goes around the back of an industrial estate, past a five a side pitch to go down hill alongside a road to turn left past some shops.
Things at this point get a little hazy as signposting isn’t too great. After passing the shops you are walking towards a large roundabout, then crossing two roads before the roundabout, turning left onto Ferry Toll Road, walking past a modern office block with what looks like to me a bio-hazard signs on the metal fence, I think it’s something to do with the Port of Rosyth but I can’t help thinking bio-hazard. The road climbs slightly and the path gets hazy once again as you are directed though a gate in this fence onto a footpath alongside the office car park.
I found a massive tie-down block just beside this path in the woods, it was used to anchor either a large aerial wire or as I suspect a WW2 barrage balloon.
The path seems to split with one branch to the left going off into the trees signposted Rosyth heritage Trail and nothing for the FCP. Remain on the footpath going down hill for a short distance before turning left along side another fence to where, near the bottom you will pass the Doocot for Rosyth Castle, which should be dead in front of you. A 16th century bespoke hotel with room for 1,500 doos (pigeons.)
The FCP again gets hazy. Turn left. To the left hand side of this road is one of the biggest demolitions jobs in Europe, which is coming to an end after years of demolition work. It was a huge steel reinforced concrete fuel storage tank for the naval base and a number of smaller steel fuel tanks. A set of column caps have been placed alongside the road like some weird modern art sculptures but mainly to stop the tinkers from parking their caravans on the waste ground beyond. You can look over the fence and see the enormity of this once mighty tank farm as you walk along.
Cross the road, just before the roundabout and follow the road to the right keeping close to the water. The air gets a bit rich here with a near by sewage farm and the large reed beds to the right but it soon passes. The road comes up to the new Forth Crossing.
Follow the road underneath the motorway and up a hill passing the Bridges Hilton hotel to start the final descent into North Queensferry.
The path will take you underneath the current Forth Road Bridge, I could not resist stopping for a photo.
You will cross over a side road to what was the turn off for the ferry to South Queensferry and continue down the footpath to the water. A nice sundial is set high in a house opposite. There’s a cafe and a pub here and I could have sworn there was a shop in the village as I needed a drink of something and maybe some chocolate therapy but it wasn’t to be but more importantly I was heading for the Deep Sea World car park to where my darlin’ was waiting for me to whisk me off my aching feet back to my car at Torryburn.
It turns out that today’s stage was 12 miles long, completing the first 17 miles of the FCP but there’s one thing for sure…..
The next instalment of my blisters of bust walking trip along the Fife Coastal Path,(FCP) from Torryburn to North Queensferry.
My intention was to walk the five miles to Limekilns where I planned to catch a bus to Dunfermline and another back to my starting point.
Photography wise I slightly altered my settings so as not have such dark shadows. It was still my intention to shoot in square JPEG format however a technical issue with key wording the JPEGs and I have went back to the RAW format pictures, converted to the Fuji Monochrome with the yellow filter simulation but I would be a fool to ignore the Develop Module.
My car was left in a small car park on the shores of the Forth and its a no brainer to follow the path along the track between the houses and the shore.
The track passes by a house with an unusual wall, it is topped with large lumps of what looks like the by-product of a furnace. I dare say it would be uncomfortable to climb over that wall.
However, the path becomes a beautiful tarred track. The going was so good and I was enjoying myself so much that I missed a signpost directing me to the left, going up the hill past the ruined ,old Torryburn Parish Church and along to Bullions. As it happened I got a few piccies along the way.
I thought this was clump of ivy was heart shaped until I realised that it’s a Christmas carol all in one picture. I’ll let you figure out which one…
This is where I went wrong… and I’ve got the photo to prove it!
Out on the sticky mud flats, looking towards Crombie Point.
The tarred cycle track passes by some interesting houses, including this one, a 17th century Lairds house with lots of crow step gables.
The cycle path ends at Crombie point, which seems to have been a fishing port at one time.
The outside stairs with the living accommodation above the boat shed, the attached barns to the houses.It must have been a busy port at one time, going by the size of the ruined jetty at the foot of the road.
The FCP goes up the hill passing a stone platform used in the days of old for getting onto a horse.
The path makes a sharp detour at Crombie Point to avoid the Defence Munitions depot at Crombie. The depot was established in 1916 as a munition store for the fleet at nearby Rosyth and latterly holds stores for the Air Force as well.
Is a small farming community made even smaller by the row of empty farm labourers cottages by the roadside.
Make the most of this quiet country road as it makes its way up he hill as you are heading for a busy road.
Having the time to take in the views gets you thinking, here is a small dead-end country road with the detritus from MacDonald’s scattered here and there along the way. The thing is it is miles away from the nearest restaurant. What a messy bunch we are. I am sure there is a university thesis in the generation and distribution of litter. It is not just MacDonalds that are at fault, Costa, Starbucks and Subway are also noticeable.
You come up to the A985 for the short walk to Crombie Village. The sign, a walker need to look out for is half way down the pole to the right.
If you want, the journey can be shortened by continuing to walk along the footpath beside the road, if you want a quieter life, follow the FCP to the right at the old school and up the hill, the FCP goes around the houses before returning to rejoin the main road. The old disused parish church and the now closed local shop are half way around the houses.
There is now two miles for walking alongside the road, not pleasurable but it has to be endured before turning right, then sharp left to follow the track into the Bromhall Estate.
You cross a railway line that should have been removed years ago, it goes down to Charleston and then a branch line goes off to DM Crombie, although nothing has gone this way in years.
Even the odd MacDonalds detritus here.
The track makes its way up a short hill and down on a beautifully paved track going through the workings of a quarry.
A little farther on to the left is a modern day lime kiln. Once upon a time this whole area was a major producer of lime for the building trade, essential for lime mortar and for agricultural uses as well.
The Bruce Family at Broomhall, direct descendants of King Robert the Bruce, who operated the lime business were generous benefactors establishing a school for the workers children. This was the village school until falling numbers forced its closure. A curious little archway in front of the doors.
They also built a granary a little farther on, which became a drill hall and is now the village shop.
A model village laid out around a large village green and little bit beyond the shop was my stopping point for lunch and more importantly a rest.
On reflection there does not seem to be many places along the way to sit and rest for a while. No handy big boulders or fallen trees nothing.
Having reached my initial destination I decided to carry on and get some more, which concludes this first part of the Torryburn to North Queensferry section of the FCB… but there’s one thing for sure…
It was one of those days, I needed to get out of the house and more than anything I needed some exercise. That killo I lost last week was found all too easily.
I have been thinking about walking the Fife Coastal Path, I’ll shorten it to FCP, for some time now, well ever since I retired, which was nearly two years ago now, so a quick glance at the Traveline web site this morning was enough to confirm that I could get back to my starting point in Kincardine by bus, so it was rucksack packed, boots on and I was off.
The Fife Coastal Path follows the coast line of the “Kingdom” of Fife from Kincardine (on Forth) to Newburgh (on Tay), passing Rosyth, Inverkeithing, Kirkcaldy, Leven, out to Fife Ness, St Andrews, Tayport along the way. All in, it’s 117 miles long. This section from Kincardine to Torryburn accounts for approx 5 1/2 miles or 9km of it.
I took my Fuji X-Pro1 along with me and as an experiment, I decided to set my camera to record high contrast JPEG along with my usual RAW images. Critically, the shadows are a bit too deep for my liking and I’ll modify that for further photos. However I did have what photographers would call a happy accident in that when I came to edit the JPEGs in Photoshop, the crop came up, not as my usual free aspect ratio crop but a square aspect ratio and it seemed to fit so all the photos from today are square crops. I may even modify the camera settings just to do square crops, for future walks as this reminds me of the old 120 film cameras and their square prints.
Usually I would take the photos in RAW mode and process them into monochome later but this time I decided to work purely with the in-camera processed JPEGs, although I still have the RAWs if I needed them. I’m happy with the results.
I parked the car in the Park and Ride car park in Kincardine, which curiously does not have a bus stop. From here it is a short walk down towards the river and the start of the FCP.
The path heads towards the Forth in the background. You then should walk along a path close to the new road but this section was closed off and the alternative was to walk along a muddy well rutted road alongside the railway heading towards the Longannet power station in the distance.
I became aware of a number of supports for what once supported a pipe rack running alongside this track, the only reason I could think for them would be to carry slurry from the old and long demolished Kincardine Power Station to the ash lagoons at Low Valleyfield. Certainly, whoever decomissioned the pipeline was a methodical person as the nuts holding the saddle clamps were put back onto the studs which stick out of the concrete pipe supports. My kind of guy.
Harking back to my days as a Power Station “Tiffie” (Instrument Technician on Sundays)… The coal was pulverised in mills, into a fine powder (PFA, pulverised fuel ash and horrible stuff to deal with) where it was fired into the boiler under pressure and burnt, Creating heat, making steam, turning the turbines and the alternator to make electricity. The ash was then collected, mixed with water and pumped out to settling ponds or lagoons where the water would gradually drain/evapourate and the ash would be left behind. The Lagoons at Low Valleyfield are testament to this form of disposal. So these concrete pipe supports carried the pipes that contained the PFA slurry out to the Lagoons.
The way ahead is dominated by the now closed down Longannet Power Station, giving me a few creative photographic opportunities in the process.
I wondered why the railway line wasn’t fenced off and then I realised there was a dirty great big ditch between me and the railway line, there was one crossing point, which was totally open, going up onto the line and a look at the rails was enough to confirm that this line had not been used in a long while (the top of the rails were rusty and not polished metal.) It did give me a great view of the old Kincardine Road Bridge, which in its day was the largest turntable bridge in Europe. It was decomissioned in 2008, no longer opening for river traffic that once went up river to Alloa.
The path heads to the power station then makes its way around what was the coal storage area becoming at one point very wet indeed. You finally reach the power station gatehouse and then are left to work out that you should turn left, heading away from the power station to the Culross Road. The sign outside the station was intriguing…
The small white sign curiously gives the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, SEPA, permit number along with the statement that a power station is a 24/7 operation. Really?
The “Gannet” was a workhorse of the Scottish electrical generation for years, it’s 660MW turbines ran for years until European air quality regulations caught up with it and it became cost prohibitive to run. The station was supplied from the mining complex below having the longest underground conveyor belt in Europe. The Longannet Complex was the last deep mine (Castlebridge) in Scotland before serious flooding forced it closure.
You will be pleased to know that’s the last photo you’ll see from me of the Power station and perhaps the best of the bunch.
About half way around the power station I noticed this by the roadside, just why this wall was built up like this is anyone’s guess, my guess is a milestone that’s been removed, although I didn’t see any more on my travels.
The FCP leaves the roadside and continues along the railway alongside the shore of the Forth, becoming more pleasurable in the process as it heads towards Culross.
I have passed this was a good number of times on the road, which is just in front of this house and never noticed this salt water reed bed. It was cut off from the Forth when the Caledonian Alloa to Dunfermline railway line was opened in 1906. Latterly it carried coal to Longannet Power Station and now nothing much passes this way.
The path runs arrow straight beside the railway as you enter Culross.
The old pier is in the distance. You come to a small car park on the outskirts of Culross with this massive anchor on display
I’m not sure why this monster of an anchor is here, it has a massive fluke and must have been used for a large vessel at one time. It stands beside a disused ice house, one of two along the FCP, the other being at Tentsmuir Forest.
There is another anchor, in a children’s play park beyond the ice house, with a spectacularly bent fluke, I would love to know just how a piece of metal this large got bent like this.
The old Culross Pier is a little bit beyond the ice house and is one of the few places where you can cross the railway to get to the shore. The walk out to the small “island” at the end is not for the faint hearted as there is only a handrail on one side of the walkway.
It is worth the walk as you get one last look at the power station with Dunimarle Castle on the hill.
I made a choice that my stomach regretted, instead of deviating off the path for something to eat in Culross, I decided to walk along the quaintly titled Culross Promenade, which is a Right of Way. The advantage is you are nearer the coast as you don’t have to look over the railway, the disadvantage is the path is a uneven and a bit muddy in places with the offerings from a number of inconsiderate dog owners to contend with.
The FCP itself runs on the landward side of the railway, so you don’t miss much by going this way.
There is a choice at the end of the Promenade path. The FCP crosses the railway to join the Promenade path and continues straight on, while a longer route follows the coast to go around the lagoons to rejoin the FCP at Low Valleyfield. The now land-locked Preston Island is at the far end of the lagoons and is worth visiting. Please note. I believe that the path continues around the lagoons, it did not when I visited the island a good number of years ago. I must recheck.
Anyway, the FCP continues along the railway and away from the road for a mile or so before crossing the line by bridge at Low Valleyfield.
You can continue all the way down the ramp or take the stairs and turn left to continue the FCP on the landward side of the railway.
The FCP now continues on the roadside footpath, there are stickers, on the lamp posts suggesting that you cross over to the other side of the road but you have to cross back anyway and you would miss the small memorial to the Low Valleyfield Colliery, 1908 to 1978 if you do.
The pit had a notable disaster when thirty five men lost their lives on 28th October 1939, due to an underground explosion. There is a memorial to the victims at nearby High Valleyfield.
The road crosses over the Bluther Burns at Newmills, where I crossed to the other side of the new bridge with it’s concrete balustrades to see an older bridge nestling among the trees.
I walked on a little farther along the road following the FCP to Low Torry, (which is almost Torryburn) where I caught a bus back to Kincardine.
A word to the unknowing, I had a bus pass by me and could not figure out why it didn’t stop until I realised if you want a bus to stop you must hold out you hand to signal to the driver to stop… I’ll not make that mistake again!
All in all it took me two and a half hours to get this far… but there’s one thing for sure….
I used to enjoy walking, having done a few long distance walks in the past and much to my shame I let my general fitness slide over the years. I eventually wore out my big clumping walking boots, not heather bashing on the high peaks but walking the dog along a country lane.
At the beginning of the week, I took a daftie and splashed out on a new pair of boots, which were duly christened with a walk on Wednesday up Bishop Hill, where one step led to another and before I knew it I had walked the length of the Bishop paying my respects to Carlin’ Maggie along the way.
The way up Bishop Hill is to park in the Portmoak Parish Church car park, but not on a Sunday morning when it is used by the congregation, then walk the short distance towards Scotlandwell to reach the path to Kilmagad Wood, which leads to the top of the Bishop.
This part of the path forms part of the Michael Bruce Way, which joins the parish burial ground, where he is buried to Kinnesswood, where he was born. Bruce was a local poet, who died at a young age.
Following the path up into the trees, it makes a left turn where you start to get some lovely views over to the Loch. There’s a scenic spot in the Community Woodland with a seat, where it is worth taking in the view from there. Otherwise, turn right and start heading up the hill.
The path here climbs steadily upwards and I was reminded of a hillwalking saying that my friends and I used to use, that we were “stopping to take in the views,” when in fact were were knackered and needed to rest!
The view as you climb upwards is worth taking in.
There is a fellowship on the hills, one tends to be a lot more friendlier in the great outdoors than anywhere else. I was just thinking that it would be nice to have some human interest in this scene and along comes another hillwalker, who duly obliged.
Chatting is also another way of having a fly break from the climb, although one can bleather too much and start cooling down… and that’s a hint to get moving again.
Shortly after this point you break out of the wood and onto the open hillside. The white golf ball of the weather radar pokes its head above the trees as you climb up to the top of Bishop Hill.
Near the top is one of the old quarries with a stone built entrance way. It must have served a useful purpose although what I do not know.
The last time that I walked up Bishop Hill was to join a friend who was photographing the gliders from nearby Portmoak, where were flying back and forth along the ridge in order to get some height. It’s fantastic to see the gliders so close, flying overhead with just the wind whistling to announce their presence.
I went with just one lens on my Fuji X-Pro1 camera. The 27mm (50mm equivalent) gives roughly the same field of view as the human eye does, so I was unable to zoom in and get closer pictures but it is not about the aircraft, it is about where the aircraft is that matters.
You get a great view of Kinnesswood from up on The Bishop, you seem to be looking directly down on to the houses.
I got carried away with myself and eventually walked along the entire length of Bishop Hill, passing close to Carlin’ Maggie, which is the name of a local rock formation. I did not take any photos as by that time the light had gone and it was time to get off the hill.
The wind had remained steadily on “Baltic” all morning and I was fair chilled, the clouds were dumping some rain over on the Cleish Hills, so that was my cue to get off the hill.
My last photo, was actually taken on the way up but seems appropriate to finish with, the same glider heading towards the landing field.
It just cried out to be a monochrome. Mossmorran is steaming away at the left hand side of the picture (I could have been working…) with the Forth Bridges and the Pentland Hills in the distance.
Well that’s all from me but there’s one thing for sure…
The Lightning Preservation Groups’ (LPG) Bruntingthorpe night shoot has been on my list of “Roundtoits” for ages. If it wasn’t my shift pattern it was the weather and if it wasn’t that it was other commitments, so this year I decided to grab the bull by the whatsits and go. Come rain, hail or shine I was going!
Arriving at Bruntingthorpe was an eye opener, the security gate does not take any prisoners with spikes that rise out of the ground to burst types both going in and out. Double barriers make life interesting, it was just like being back at work, except fore the lack of razor-wire. I had heard stories about the guards here but I have to say the ones that I met were a decent bunch.
The LPG hold two evening photo shoots, they had one where the aircraft engines were running last November and the one last weekend where it was just a static photo shoot with the aircraft and re-enactors. My only experience with re-enactors had been with the lawn-ornaments at Duxford, whose primary duty was to a) pose like a leek and b) get in the way of photographers who did not want then in their photos.
Funny how they always want to play wartime Americans, hardly anyone wants to dress up as a wartime Brit. Almost like fantasy role playing going on there.
Anyway I have to say that the LPG re-enactors were in and they were out of the shots in good time and considering they had to hold their poses, they were very good at what they did.
The proceedings started during the late afternoon with the doors of the former Wattisham QRA, Quick Reaction Alert hangar being opened and the two Lightning F.6s available for photographs inside with the Lightning F.3 outside.
There then followed a briefing giving a run down on the nights proceedings and a vain call that when you got your shot to move out of the way so others could get theirs… oh I do like a joke.
There was also a reminder that we should not get in each others way and if one does transgress then just chill, likewise if your tripod gets accidentally kicked in the dark then chill again, which is easier said than done.
The two Lightning F.6s in the QRA shed.
If you are interested in the technical side of things I was using a Canon 1DX and a heavy Manfrotto tripod, which was just as well as the wind was strong that night and blew over the lighter Fuji X-Pro1 the day after.
Normally I would have used a cable release to activate the shutter but the gusty wind would have blown it about causing camera shake so I just used the cameras internal two second timer, which done the job. Manual white balance was done from time to time using the Colour Checker Passport, (I have a thing about colour casts from artificial lights and do my best to minimise them.)
The tripod carry strap was removed to prevent it flapping about in the wind and the camera strap was secured by a Velcro strap to stop it flapping about in the wind. I normally have this on the tripod leg that points forward, it is yellow and is easily seen in the dark, also useful for securing the cable release. (It’s a useful aid when operating in total darkness, when you need to know where the adjusters are without using to a torch, which destroys ones night vision.)
My camera has a built in level, otherwise I would have used a spirit level fitted to the camera hot shoe.
The 1DX also has a shutter that closes off the eyepiece for long exposures, useful for stopping light from getting to the sensor, otherwise I would have used a flattened out piece of Blu-Tak over the eyepiece.
The lens used, in case you are interested was the 24-105mm zoom.
I decided to try something different with the day time shots and go for some long exposures using a ten stop Neutral Density filter that I happened to have in my car. The idea was to blur the clouds or even better streak them, with a side benefit of blurring out the off photographer or car that strayed through my shot. The exposure times were in the region of 20 to 30 seconds, with my main consideration in exposing to the right.
This was the first time that I had tried long exposures on aircraft, although I always meant to at some point and I have to say the results were mixed. The swaying trees do make your head hurt after a while and the clouds were too tightly packed to give a proper effect. I really should have done a white balance or a colour profile but there was no where that I could set the card up where it would not get blown away in the wind. The pictures put me in mind of the Lens Baby narrow depth of field type of photos, I’ve been thinking about one of them for ages but I am still unsure about it.
By the way there are hundreds of 15 plate Nissan Cash-Cows here, some around the Comet and Nimrod are up on axle stands.
These shots were taken to give you a flavour of my fellow photographers and represent a third to a half of the photographers around that day.
The aircraft were pulled out of the hangar, moved about and put back in, this F.6 was my least photographed aircraft.
Night time cometh and we get down to business
Things started to get chaotic. The organiser wanted to wet the apron in front of the QRA hangar and a fire appliance was brought into action. However the message of what he wanted up to do was totally lost on the wind. Hardly anyone moved while the dousing was going on and the water did not lie for long so the effect was lost. Just what he wanted to do with the floodlight was lost on me, except that it was shining directly where I was standing. I managed to get this shot when someone moved to let me in.
The F.3 was towed out into the dark, a spot of light painting from some of the photographers gave this shot.
This one was lit by the flood-light.I have to admit that I have a soft spot for the old Lightning F.3, which for may years was at Leuchars. I’m glad that she went to a good home.
The purpose of the yellow channel that the nose wheel sits in was explained to us in that the Lightning nose wheel had a bit of slack, which was the last thing any pilot would want to have when they come barreling out of the hangar on a QRA alert. Oh to see one of these girls take off and climb straight up like a rat up the proverbial drainpipe.
These were the only two re-enactor shots that I took, not bad but the intake blank is still on!
It pays to keep ones eye open for other possibilities, only myself and another photographer saw this one and by the time we had finished there were others behind us patiently waiting. Sorry guys but neither of us knew you were there. I saw this right at the end of the shoot, an almost full moon with the clouds streaking across the sky. Timing was needed so the moon would not burn out the sky.
An interesting photo bomb was made by one enterprising photographer who attached red lights legs of his tripod. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Personally I don’t think it is such a good idea in the long run, although I have felt the need for a dim light to show where my tripod is when I leave it in the dark during the long exposures but three is over kill and the red light could possibly find it way in through the eye-piece onto the sensor. Perhaps one shining directly downwards may be a better idea, at least then you could see what’s at your feet if you dropped anything.
I made an effort to reduce the colour cast from the fluorescent lights with the first shot, the red light trails was just to show the red lights.
Everything must come to an end and we started to drift off towards our cars, however I could not believe that I was the only one that thought to shoot the gate guards at night, a triple whammy!
It’s behind you…
Always look over your shoulder, as there is often more interesting photos to be found. I missed a Guppy skyline shot because I could not focus properly in such low light conditions. This was the best that I was able to get of the Comet, which was a lot nearer. Again, I could not believe that no one else thought to try their luck at the other aircraft around.
Anyway I must give my appreciation to the organiser, who photo-bombed one of my shots, he’s not blue in real life honestly! My thanks to everyone who made the night-shoot possible.
These night shoots tend to be a bit of a scrum, this one was no different. Some lucky photographers found good spots and stayed there denying others their shots but that’s life. Spreading the scenarios out between three locations would have forced everyone to move rather than concentrating everything at the QRA shed. Difficult to do in practice with the number of cars around but not impossible.
I don’t know why the Cold War Jets do not have their own night shoot, I would love to photograph their aircraft in the dark. However as it is, that would be a dangerous proposition as it has lots of hazards for the unwary… even in daytime.
There were a few passing cars driving right past the Lightnings, which made life interesting including a couple of sexy sports cars. It pays to keep ones guard up at night.
One needs to be a bit more savvy as to what is going on, the old hands knew what shots were coming up and camped out waiting for them. I need to do Colour Checker Passport profiles for the artificial lights, easier said than done. Bump up the ISO for the re-enactor shots to minimise movement. Wear warmer clothing and a hat that would keep my ears warm in the wind. The final item was I developed a workflow to quickly set up a shot on the tripod, framing and focusing the shot with the leveling done at the end, I don’t know why this never occurred to me before.
Anyway that’s all from the LPG Bruntingthorpe night-shoot, I hope that you enjoyed reading this blog and it will inspire you to have a go yourself, as the money does go to a worthy cause.
But there’s one thing for sure….
Perhaps things could have been done better….
I have had a love hate relationship with Adobe Lightroom ever since it started way back in 2007. The hate came in after V2, love came back around V3 and got hooked into the Cloud last year with V4. It is no secret that Lightroom is a memory hungry , it’s “bloated” program that needs a rewrite and hate is coming back once again.
Lightroom has never quite gone smoothly for me, I went through a period when from time to time it actually corrupted some of my RAW images, fortunately it only corrupted Adobe’s version of it, it was OK when viewed on Canons’ DPP program and I had a massive problem last year with a catalogue problem, which was only cured when I purchased a new computer.
Anyway, I have been spending some time recently watching a number of training videos on Lynda.com (I can recommend them) and one in particular, Color Correction in Adobe Camera Raw by
The RAW conversion engine in LR is the same in ACR, that is true, the sliders are the same but not the bells and whistles. Admittedly LR is great for organising and meta tagging photos but as I have discovered it has limitations as far as colour correction goes and colour correction is important to me.
The other thing is that ACR and LR are supposed to have a top to bottom workflow, that is you start at the top with the Temperature, Tint, Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks before finishing with the Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation.
I have been following this workflow for a while, after all it made sense and then came the day that I watched that fateful Lynda video, when the established workflow was called into question, perhaps things could be done better…
The clue was in the Histogram at the top of the page. It was so obvious that when you hover the mouse cursor over the Histogram to see the magic words, Blacks, Shadows, Exposure, Highlights and Whites and the equivalent zone was slightly highlighted. These zones are based on the tonal values; the darkest tones are your Blacks, the next set is called the three-quarters tones, these are your Shadows, the mid-tones are the Exposure, the quarter tones are the Highlights and lastly the brightest tones are the Whites.
So all this time I have been using the Exposure slider in totally the wrong way, it is not for adjusting the overall image exposure, it is for adjusting the image mid-tones instead. No wonder the histogram would start compacting and crashing upwards when it neared the right hand side of the Histogram and no wonder I was losing image contrast!
The New Workflow
The new workflow is to crop first, no use in editing parts of the picture that you will never see, then to deal with the high tones first by adjusting the Whites, followed by the low tones by adjusting the Blacks. Holding down the Alt key, while adjusting the sliders will allow you to see where the clipped tones are. Of course you will have to decide, what is acceptable as a spectral highlight and what is acceptable is a clipped highlight. So long as they are not too large then Spectral Highlights are left alone. With that done, you can address mid-tones by adjusting the Exposure slider and the Shadows and Highlights to suit.
Contrast, Clarity and Vibrance adjustments are a matter of personal taste.
So perhaps things can be done better and to that end I am going to try using Adobe Bridge and ACR to do the RAW conversions although I will have to import into LR and assign metatags and keywords as they believe it or not are also important.
So going back to Monday nights night shoot…
I reworked the final four light trails, applying the new workflow with some colour correction and noise reduction, to come up with this image.
It is much better than the original,
You will notice that I have also cropped it better, more or less following my notes for a future night shoot from the same location. The cars’ light trail at the bottom, were cloned out as they were a distracting element. I’m more happy with it now although to be really honest, the magenta cast at the top of the picture kind of spoils the overall picture. Unfortunately but none of my dirty Photoshop tricks could do much to negate this.
Something for next time
If you cast your mind back to the earlier blog post, you will recall what the secret of light trail photography is – movement, so looking closely you will see two distinctive phases of the take off. The initial get into the air stage and a climbing turn as they come over the Forth.
Perhaps getting down to the river and concentrating on the area between Cramond and Inchcolm Island may be an idea for a future night shoot, although I will have to find a location that masks out the lights of the Braefoot terminal.
That gives me an idea….. but there’s one thing for sure….
Nothing is easy, if it were easy then everybody would be doing it, so any success is a reward in itself.
It’s the same with aircraft night photography, most pictures are failures, trial and error forms a major part of ones workflow and last nights shoot was no exception but I have come away from the shoot that bit more knowledgeable, so that when I return the next time I will have a much better chance of succeeding.
The clocks have gone back and we are now plunging headfirst into winter. The long dark winter nights are a boon for night photographers in general, and for me as I don’t have to stay up to late for it to get dark enough to shoot. Being a morning person, I rise early so I can turn this to my advantage and shoot in the morning and to be honest I prefer it for another reason that I will go into later.
If you want to give this night photography lark a bash what equipment should you have?
Apart from a camera, the next most important thing is a tripod. A good sturdy one is essential, otherwise you are wasting your time with night photography. The next most important thing for me is a cable release, so that I can fire the shutter without touching the camera avoiding a source of camera shake.
A torch is another essential, although I prefer to work as much in the dark as possible saving my night vision. Head torches are nice, even ones with red LEDs to save your night vision but I don’t use one preferring to save my night vision, although they do come in handy when you need to work with both hands. I used the small LED torch last night that I keep in my camera bag for such occasions even then. the light was heavily shielded by my fingers, so only a small part of the light escaped. Only enough for me to see the timer on the top LCD screen on my camera and nothing more.
During long exposures, you need to avoid stray light entering into the back of the camera through the eye piece. My camera has a shield that I can lower blocking off the eye piece. If your camera does not have one, a flattened out blob of Blu-tak placed over the eye piece will do the job just as well.
A hot-shoe spirit level is another handy item. My camera has an internal level, otherwise I would be using one. Horizons are hard to see at night, and if you can do anything in camera which will save you time in post production, then it is worth doing.
The last item is a timer of some kind. For a while I used to use a proper stop watch, which was good, then an Interalometer and I would have been using it last night had I been able to find it! So my main source of timing was done with the timer on the top LCD panel of my camera and or with my iPhone. I much prefer the camera timer.
The most important item that is hardly ever stated in night aircraft photography is planning. Hardly any of my night shots are done without some form of planning beforehand. The most important reason is safety. Things are very different at night. An area that you would consider safe in daylight may not be so in darkness. I shoot alone, so where I go is very important. Rough ground and dodgy ground are no-go areas at night, well in the evenings anyway. I actually feel much safer at 6AM that I do at 6PM because most scallywags are asleep come the morning, well that’s my theory. So scout your location out in the daylight first. That’s what I was doing yesterday afternoon on the south bank of the River Forth.
I would have gone there had it not for the unforeseen circumstance of the flare at Mossmorran being lit. It’s one thing shooting with the light of a full moon but another thing looking into a massive flame. So Plan A was shelved for another day and Plan B at Burntisland had to be used.
Another aspect to planning is knowing where the aircraft will be. I have studied the arrival and departure charts for airports to see where the routes are and to give last night as an example, 06 departures from Edinburgh will either go straight out or most will turn over the river then head west along the north bank of the Forth. So I already knew where they would be before I set up the camera to take the first picture.
We now get to the less glamorous part, the theory.
You need to be able to understand the relationship between shutter speed (time), aperture (how much light) and ISO (sensitivity) to get the best out of night photography. From planning and observation, under normal conditions aircraft at Edinburgh will be spaced two minutes apart and what I wanted was a single light trail, so two minutes was going to be my desired exposure time. To this end I eventually selected 100 ISO for the camera sensitivity. The next part was selecting an aperture so that I would get enough light to capture the aircraft but not so much that I would over expose the whole shot and loose the light trail.
You need to be able to think in terms if increasing and decreasing, halving and doubling exposures, you can not rely on the camera doing anything for you.
Final items to consider, before you start to press the shutter button, despite all the technology that is built into a camera, the best thing to do when night shooting is to use manual exposure and focus. You need to be in full control of the exposure, so manually setting the shutter speed, aperture and ISO is a must. Also, the last thing that you want to happen when you press the shutter button is for the camera to refocus, so your lens must be set to manual focus and if your lens (or camera) has image stabilisation, then turn this off too. You won’t be the first person that has ruined an entire nights worth of shooting because you forgot to turn the image stabilisation off.
Manually focusing has its own problems. If you are lucky, you may be able to auto focus on a light and then lock the focus off. I was unable to do this last night and failed miserably when I forgot the lesson of my last night shoot and that was to bring a pair of reading glasses with me.
NOTE – I will give the exposure details but they are only for example, they will most likely not work for your camera.
Time to check the focus. To start with, I set the camera to 30 seconds as it is the longest exposure time, merely a quick and dirty way of getting started.
My lack of reading glasses lost this shot, it’s out of focus. More squinting to come up with this.
At this point I decided to go wider to 24mm and recompose. You will note how much mess the ship going up river makes of the exposure. It forms the dominant element in the scene, taking your attention away from the subject, which is the aircraft light trail.
This is a test shot, I have went down to 100 ISO and halved the sensitivity and the amount of light.
Another test shot same settings, refined the focus a little more.
Changing from 30 seconds shutter speed, to Bulb Mode, increasing the exposure time to a target time of 100 seconds. This increases the exposure one and a half times, 120 seconds would be the next full stop of exposure. The 100 seconds, was an arbitrary figure and precise exposure times are no longer important when you go past 60 seconds so a few seconds either side will not make that much difference.
This is where the Intervalometer comes into its own, as you can use it to set long exposure times, without needing to refer to a timer or a stop watch.
This one is much better we are getting there
The first successful shot. You will notice that I have caught an aircraft landing as well as departing. The light trail of the departing aircraft stops short of the right hand frame, so I need to do something about that.
(With hindsight I should have concentrated on this exposure but if you don’t make mistakes then you will never learn.)
A test shot and a double Doh! Reduced the exposure time slightly and decreased the aperture to f/11. I should have increased the exposure time instead of decreasing it. What was I saying about knowing about the halving and doubling of things?
Caught a light trail of a departing aircraft but no overall change.
The two minute exposure time, overall the shot is under exposed but I am happy.
Another departing aircraft, Next,
Things went quiet, so I tried placing a white balance device that I have over the lens and going for a test shot. My intention was to see if I could null out the yellow cast from the clouds, (in Lightroom) however I aborted this as another aircraft departed, Next,
This is what I want. Next,
Again on the right track, Next,
This one went straight out and I was unsure where the edge of the frame was, so I lengthened the exposure to compensate.
This was the final shot, I felt that I had done enough from this location and it was time to move on, however by this time it was past 9PM and not worth doing anymore, so I called it a night and headed home.
The last shot leads me on to another point. It is beneficial to know where the edges of the cameras frames are. On reflection, I should have noted that the Hillend ski lift to the left is a prominent marker and from there the lights of Burntisland bottom left. The three towers of the new Forth Crossing bridge are unmissable markers to the right. Knowing where the top frame is important, helpful and damn near impossible to guess. Sometimes I lower the torch, while looking through the viewfinder so see where it comes into view and then note a prominent landmark where the edge of the frame will be.
The end results
So out of fourteen exposures, I only had only four usable light trails.
These were imported into Lightroom for post processing work. The White balance is usually the first thing that I correct as it will nullify the yellow light on the clouds. The standard trick to to manually select 3400 or 3200 Kelvin. You can do this in camera and I would have done it had I remembered, it’s not a problem when you shoot RAWs.
In the end I ended up sampling the gable end of the house in the foreground, which worked out at 2400 Kelvin and I liked the look, so I kept it.
I am re-evaluating my Lightroom workflow and doing things slightly different to my normal workflow. Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw has a top to bottom work pattern, however the new workflow is not in sequence. (Workflow – the way in which things are done with a particular program) and did not touch the Exposure slider at all, adjusting the Whites up from the 3/4 tone to the mid tone region and bring the Blacks up to reduce the amount of clipped tones, the Highlights were brought down to -100 and a little increase in the Shadows. I also made Clarity and Vibrance adjustments.
The other thing that I done was to apply a “stored” custom colour profile that I had made at night for another shoot. It made a small improvement to the overall colour.
Considering myself as an amateur photographer rather than someone who photographs aircraft and that has allowed me to broaden my horizons, venturing into astro-photography, photographing the stars and making light trails, so I imported the four pictures into a program called Startrails and combined all four into one, which was my ultimate goal of the evening.
It picked up a little bit of a magenta colour cast but I’m happy with the overall result.
And now I am going to divulge a secret. The way to get the best out of light trail photography in general is to photograph movement. An aircraft flying in a straight line does not make for an interesting light trail photo but add movement into the mix and you will have a more interesting end result.
This is where planning and observation really pays off.
Having divulged the secret, I will now tell you the downside of night photography, out of all that work, unless you have differing light trails you can only effectively use one photo from the shoot because the next one is the same as the first, which is the same as the next and viewers turn away very quickly from uninteresting repetitious photographs.
It also helps if you are able to think on your feet and make decisions quickly. If something is not working out then change it until it works better. In this case you only have two minutes between departing aircraft to do something differently.
At the end of the day, you have to be able to learn lessons and come back with a better idea of how to improve things. My lessons learned were :-
1) That straight out departures are a dead loss
2) That aircraft all more or less turn at the same place (Planning and observation.)
3) That clouds kill the second part of the light trail.
What to do is recompose and zoom in. Easier said than done but if you look closely you will see two red lights on the far shore to the left of where they turn, it may be Corstorphine Hill, so the next time I shoot from here that will be my reference point for the left hand frame. The Forth Crossing is too good not to use, although I may just crop that out, staying slightly to the left of the lit towers. The Burntisland Road at the bottom will form the bottom reference point allowing me more sky to play with.
Lastly, try and re-shoot when there is less clouds in the sky, which is easier said than done.
Now to this end I have make some notes, which I can refer to later. I keep notes on my phone, which has Microsoft OneNote installed. My note has the starting exposure settings of 100 ISO, 120 seconds at f/16, (Less clouds will mean less light so I may have to increase the aperture to f/8 but trial and error) and the following sketch.
From this I will have my frame lines and reference points, even the red and green channel markers, all of which form a good starting point for another and hopefully more successful night shoot. But there’s one thing for sure….
Before you pack your camera away at the end of the shoot REMEMBER so set it back to normal daytime use. The number of times that I have picked up the camera to use it following a night shoot and found something important to be switched off or changed is not real.
Also, if it is cold outside during the shoot, pack the camera away in the bag and when bringing it indoors, WAIT an hour or so for the contents to slowly warm up, otherwise everything will be coated in condensation. You could remove the memory cards before hand… but remember to insert a fresh one!