I was asked by the Annandale High School (AHS) Director of student Activities (DSA) to take photos of other 2017 Fall sports besides field hockey. I am always looking for opportunities to learn, especially in new environments, so I agreed to give it my best, and cover whatever events my work and travel schedule would allow.
Varsity volleyball was my first opportunity, so this blog entry is an attempt to capture what I learned from the few games I was able to shoot.
2017 was the second season that I’ve shot photos for the Annandale High School (AHS) Girls Varsity Field Hockey team. It is always a challenge taking action photos in low light, but unlike lacrosse, where players have to keep their heads up, and the ball is rarely on the ground, field hockey forces the players to be looking downward most of the time when they have the ball. That puts shadows on their faces, which makes proper exposure even more difficult. But it is what it is. And a photographer can compensate somewhat by getting as low as possible for his shots. This season, I did what I had to do.
Sometimes you need to do things that are easy, things that will allow you to continue to develop your skills in an environment that is not overly challenging. So, I’m obviously not talking about running around carrying a stick on a field that is filled with other people running around carrying sticks, with everyone trying to smack a tiny ball through defenders and into a goal. That’s hard. That’s real hard! I’m talking about taking action photos in actual daylight. Due to scheduling, that’s not possible for the Annandale High School varsity field hockey team. They play at night, on a field that doesn’t have professional quality lighting. But the JV, they play during daylight! Sometimes they play in strong sun! My camera likes strong sun! The high contrast helps it focus much better. All those pixels fill up with photons without having to leave the shutter open so long that you can’t capture fast action without blurring.
So, because sometimes I need things that are easy. This season, I attempted to shoot the JV field hockey games.
The 2017 Kinsley Family Reunion was held July 7-9, 2017 in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania. This biennial reunion celebrates the descendants of John Kinsley and Catherine Quinn, who immigrated from County Wexford, Ireland in the 1830’s, and settled in north-central Pennsylvania, in what was referred to as The Irish Settlement. My wife and son are counted among those descendants.
This photo was taken on Main Street in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, just as the crowd of about 60 attendees, hailing from as far away as California, were in the process of assembling in front of the Wyalusing Hotel for the reunion photo.
Every year, the residents of Chapel Square West, and many former residents and visitors, come together to celebrate the birth of our country on Indepence Day. The festivities include a parade down Epinard Court, reciting of our Pledge of Allegiance, a picnic, games for the young and old, and fireworks as the light starts to fade. Sometimes we even get a police escort for our parade, but we won’t go into that.
This photo shows how we decorate our bicycles with ribbons, and our faces with smiles, as we honor our country.
On Saturday, June 3rd, 2017, our friend Kenny was celebrating his 50th birthday by hosting his own concert at the IOTA Club and Cafe in Arlington, Virginia. The concert involved performances from five bands, and Kenny was the drummer for every one of them. These were the five bands that Kenny played in between high school and the present day.
What an idea! What a blast! And of course, as a photographer, what can I learn from it?
Patty’s Camino Francés adventure during September-October 2016 got us hooked on long distance hiking. At the end of that trip, we were having drinks on the patio of the Hotel Playa de Estorde in Cee, Spain, when we struck up a conversation with a couple of guys who had also just finished the Camino de Santiago Compostela. One of them, whose name was Kent, was from Scotland, and so I asked him, “What is the best hike in Scotland, and when is the best time of year to do it?”. He said that the best hike in Scotland is from Glasgow, north to Fort William, along the 96-mile West Highland Way (WHW), and the best time to do it is before the last week in May, because that’s when the midges come out. With further conversation, it was clear to me that this guy knew what he was talking about. And so we filed this away, and started musing about our next adventure.
This post is the first of 18 (in forward chronological order) that together describe the trip we took to Scotland in the late spring of 2017, and which included our hike along the WHW. In these posts you will find details and lessons learned regarding the photographic and travel aspects of our trip. Many of the photos in these posts simply provide a photographic record. Those which I consider to be some artistic quality will be included in the Portfolio section of this website, in this case under the category Travel.
The featured image for this post shows the view looking northwest from the West Highland Way (WHW) on the eastern face of Meall a’ Bhuiridh (‘Hill of the Bellowing of Stags’), in the Scottish Highlands, on approach to the village of Kingshouse (approximately 1-1/4 miles off towards the right, and 210 ft below). Kingshouse took its name after British troops were billeted there following the Battle of Culloden, which took place on April 16, 1746, on Culloden Moor, near Inverness. It was at the Battle of Culloden that 1500-2000 Jacobites and approximately 300 British troops lost their lives in the Jacobites’ failed attempt to return the House of Stuart to the British crown after the death of Queen Anne. Kingshouse was our final destination for the hiking portion of this trip, 24 miles short of the WHW terminus at Fort William.
The foreground shows a WHW marker post standing in a field of dormant heather. The symbol on the post is that of a thistle flower within a hexagon. The prickly purple thistle was adopted as the Emblem of Scotland during the rein of Alexander III (1249 -1286). Legend has it that an Army of King Haakon of Norway, intent on conquering the Scots, had landed at the Coast of Largs at night to surprise the sleeping Scottish Clansmen. In order to move more stealthily under the cover of darkness, the Norsemen removed their footwear. As they drew near to the Scots, one of Haakon’s men stepped on a thistle and shrieked out in pain, alerting the Clansmen of the advancing Norsemen, and allowing them to seize the day.
In the center of this photo, at distance, is Glen Coe (valley of the River Coe), which is considered one of the most spectacular and beautiful places in Scotland. Twelve miles down the glen lies Glencoe village at Loch Leven, site of the February 1692 Massacre of Glencoe, where 38 men from Clan Donald were killed by their British military guests, and another 40 women and children died of exposure after their homes were burned. This action was based on the perceived delay in the clan’s taking an oath of allegiance to the King of England in return for pardon for their role in the Jacobite uprising (Leaders of the British troops were ultimately punished.). Glen Coe was formed by a retreating ice age glacier, leaving the entrance flanked by Buachaille Etive Mor (‘The Great Herdsman of Etive’, summit at 3,353 ft) on the left, which the Scottish Mountaineering Club lists as one of Scotland’s 282 ‘munros’, or mountain summits over 3,000 ft, and the Aonach Eagach ridge on the right.
I give you all this detail to illustrate that, even a photo as simple as this may have an epic story to tell. As a photographer, my challenge is to stimulate you to explore such images, and to tickle your curiosity as to the story that lies behind them. Enjoy my attempts at doing so.
On Saturday, May 6th, we took an evening flight from Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) to Newark International Airport (EWR), and then from there we had an overnight connection to Edinburgh, Scotland.
The featured photo for this post is just the Edinburgh sign at the airport. I guess we were pretty excited, because we ended up with the same photo from about six different angles.
We spent our first day in Edinburgh touring the city by bus and on foot. We settled into a great hotel, we had a great meal, and we had a nice walk to top it off.
The featured image shows the entrance to Edinburgh Castle at dusk.
This post describes our experiences on Monday, May 8th, our first full day in Edinburgh. Our activities included a guided bike tour around the city, with frequent stops that allowed me to take some nice photos of the spectacular scenery.
This photo was taken at the first stop on our tour, the courtyard of what was originally a 16th century inn, just outside the walled city of Edinburgh. Patty insisted that I take the photo. I think she wanted to make sure that I captured all things ‘quaint’.
On Tuesday, May 9th, we planned that Bo would drive us all to Saint Andrews, about 1.5 hours to the northwest of Edinburgh, to see the ruins of Saint Andrews Cathedral. It turned out to be one of those ‘postcard’ days, as the posted photos will show.
The featured photo shows the view looking west from the top of what is now referred to as Rule’s Tower, which is the only section that remains of one of at least three Roman Catholic churches that had been built on the site of Saint Andrews Cathedral. The first church was founded by the King of the Picts in the 8th century, at around the time that legend says that Saint Rule (also known as Saint Regulus) brought relics of the apostle Saint Andrew to Scotland from Patras in Greece, where he had been crucified. The apostle Andrew was adopted as the patron saint of the Picts, and later of Scotland. The saltire, or X-shaped cross that adorns the Scottish flag, which is believed to be the oldest flag in Europe, is the symbol of Saint Andrew, because it is said that he chose to be crucified on an X-shaped cross, because he felt he wasn’t worthy to die in the same manner as Christ Jesus.
The second church, built around 1130, was the Church of Saint Regulus, of which this tower was a part, and which was retained during the construction of the third church, Saint Andrews Cathedral. Construction began on the cathedral in 1158, and it was consecrated in 1318 in the presence of King Robert I (Robert the Bruce). The Cathedral of Saint Andrew was looted in 1559, during the early stages of the Scottish Reformation, and it fell into disuse starting in 1561, after Catholic mass was outlawed in Scotland. At 391 feet long, it was for some time the largest church to have been built in Scotland
In the distance lies the city of Saint Andrews, with the University of Saint Andrews on the far right.
Day 5 (Wednesday, May 10th) was our last day in Edinburgh. Patty and I would be taking a train to Glasgow that afternoon to get ready to start hiking the next day. Bo and Peggy would stay one more night, and then take a taxi north to meet us for lunch on our second day on the trail. But before all that, there would be a full day of interesting discoveries in Edinburgh . . .
This photo shows the north side of Craigmillar Castle, from the trail that leads through the town of Craigmillar, and on to Duddingston Village.
On Thursday, May 11th, Patty and I set out by train from Glasgow to Milngavie, the starting point for the West Highland Way.
The photo below shows what we were seeing along the first section of the trail. Bluebells. Bluebells everywhere.
It’s Friday, May 12th, and we are hiking to Loch Lomond!
This photo shows the view looking south/southwest towards Loch Lomond from the southwest slope of Conic Hill. Near the center, you can see boats moored just offshore from the village of Balmaha, where we will meet Bo and Peggy for lunch, before hiking north along the shore to Saillochy, the destination for our second day of hiking.
The eighth day of our trip had to be the most challenging.
This photo, looking south on the West Highland Way, looks oh so innocent. But note that there are actually two trails, one coming straight down the hill (the one we didn’t take), and one coming up from the shoreline on the right (the one we did take). We intended to take the ‘high road’, but we ended up taking the ‘low road’.
Yes, we took a sightseeing cruise on Loch Lomond, but it was really just to get to the east side, where there was a road that would take us north. Looking back at the photos, its hard to believe that they were all taken the same day.
The featured photo is of another moored sightseeing boat, like the one we took. The photo was taken at the pier at Tarbet, where we landed.
Monday, May 15th – just another day strolling through history.
Seven hundred years later, it doesn’t look like much, but this structure was built in 1318 as the Priory of Saint Fillan, to honor an evangelical monk who came to Scotland about 650 years before that, to help bring Christianity to the Picts and Scots. In the process, he united them, and helped them form a country.
On Tuesday, May 16th, Bo, Peggy, Patty, and I would hike the 7 miles from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy. From there, Bo and Peggy would go straight to our B&B, which was off the trail in Glencoe, while Patty and I would continue on an additional 3 miles to Inveroran. From Inveroran we would take a taxi to meet them at Glencoe.
There were scattered showers in the forecast, and the trail to Bridge of Orchy would provide no shelter. It also provided some of the most beautiful scenery of our trip, equally matched to our drive through Glen Coe.
This photo shows Patty on our way down to Inveroran, which is the small group of houses on the right.
Wednesday, May 17th was our last day hiking the West Highland Way, 10 miles through open wilderness, 1,699 feet of ascent, and 1,436 feet of descent. Stopping 24 miles short of the finish is a good excuse to come back.
This photo shows …
My wife is incredibly creative. I had no idea when I married her, but especially after we started having kids, she started getting into creating photo albums and scrapbooks, then watercolors and other paints, some pottery and mosaics, and then more recently, she’s been making stamped and cut-paper greeting cards. The designs and color schemes are amazing. Yesterday she asked me to take a photo of her greeting cards, so she could send it with an email to our community association, as a reminder for a mini craft show that she, and three other friends, were putting on at our house this weekend. I wanted the photos to look nice, so I pulled out some equipment and went to work.
This was a three-day online class that was presented free by CreativeLive during its live recording on April 5-7, 2017.
I was able to shoot 4 games during the 2017 season. Its always fun to watch the kids from this school go up against some of the toughest competition in the county. They’re typically out-manned, but they always maintain a good attitude and give it their best. Sometimes they come out on top.
In photography, I have to deal with the ever-present temptation to over-commit myself. But when the sun is shining and I have camera in hand, I just can’t resist. I took the photos in this post while waiting for one of the varsity games to start. I gave them to the coach, and I posted them on the Annandale Atoms website. I hope the JV kids have them handy when they consider going out for varsity next year.