Tony McLean's East Yorkshire Wildlife Diary

Wildlife photography in East Yorkshire

The Isle of Arran

Red Deer in Lochranza, originally uploaded by Tony McLean.

Well, I’ve just returned from a few days holiday on the Isle of Arran. The weather wasn’t exactly clement but at least by visiting in late September, I managed to avoid the dreaded midges! I hadn’t visited the island for almost ten years but I was very pleased to see that it hadn’t succumbed to the developers. I stayed in my favourite place, Lochranza. This small village is on the northern tip of the island and is complete with its own derelict castle, sea-loch and distillery. Lochranza doesn’t have street lights and for me, that it is one of the most attractive aspects of the place. However, it does mean that a trip to the local Lochranza Hotel, for an evening meal and a beer or two, is often an adventure in itself.

I managed to get accommodation at the wonderful Castlekirk B&B, run by a good friend, fabulous cook, and ceramic artist, Vicki Hudson. I used to run photographic printing courses at her place in the late nineties and I don’t know why I haven’t retuned since. Vicki’s breakfasts are mouth-watering and I am sure that my already rotund frame has become a little more spherical during my short stay. Vicki’s parents and sister Sue, were also visiting and it was a real treat to be able to spend an afternoon fishing for mackerel on her partner John’s small fishing boat together with her father, Maurice.

Maurice is a spritely man in his late eighties whose knowledge and skill as a fisherman definitely put me to shame. John (also a fine artist and overall polymath) is a river warden on the island and his comprehensive knowledge of the local wildlife helped me to get some great images. I managed to get some good photos of King’s cave from the boat and it not only saved me a long walk from the car park, but enabled me to photograph this stunning attraction from a rare and unusual view point.

The Isle of Arran is often cited as a Scotland in miniature. I agree—it certainly has just about everything for both the wildlife and landscape photographer. The village of Lochranza is beautiful and isolated with fabulous scenery. The local red deer are plentiful and very co-operative. At dusk, they can often be found wandering through the village with plenty of opportunities for a great photograph, even with a relatively small lens (I used my 70-200 zoom for many of my photographs). At low tide, grey seals can be discovered basking on the granite rocks on the shore and kestrels, rock pipits and other shore-birds can also be viewed.

With some mild persuasion from Vicki, I am considering running a few wildlife photographic courses on Arran in 2011. Nothing too adventurous—maybe an introduction to wildlife photography in an around Lochranza. There will be plenty of opportunities to photograph the local red deer and grey seals and with a bit of luck, the odd raptor as well. Participants will be able to use my equipment including my 500 mm Nikkor f4 VR lens and D3 and D300 cameras. Instruction will be aimed at a beginner or intermediate level with some tuition on post-processing using Photoshop during the evenings. This is only a germ of an idea at present and I could only manage to instruct two or three participants at any one time. Anyway, if you are interested, then please leave a comment or send me a message through Flickr. – Tony McLean

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