We have the wandering bug.  When we are on vacation, and especially when we are traveling by ourselves, we tend to explore places that are not always in the mainstream, and we will sometimes do so during seasons and under conditions that might not even be considered favorable for visiting.  We just do it!  Experiencing the unexpected brings with it an additional element of surprise, and an excitement and a joy, that at the end of the day elevates the vacation experience to a different level.  Witness our recent trip to Carson City in Nevada.

We have been quite fortunate to travel far and wide in recent years. For the purposes of this blog I will focus on some lesser-known places that the wanderlust took us to during our trip to Scotland in 2016. We visited at the tail end of the winter season, but the cold weather and the occasional rain did not stop us from enjoying our adventures.

Here we are on the bed of the River Garry at Killiecrankie.  The bed of the river is, for good reasons, not an advertised tourist destination. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese pictures were taken at a remote location on the Isle of Skye where we stayed overnight.  It was getting towards sunset when we walked through open fields and the countryside to a stand of trees next to a mountain ridge.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was raining steadily when we got to Rodel at the southern tip of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was a storm underway by the time we got to Hushinish at the southwest corner of the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides.  The kids had to climb the far hill in the wind and rain, with only the sheep keeping them company, to try to get a glimpse of the Atlantic.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is Dun Carloway Broch.  It is thought to have been a fortification during roman times.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI wandered the streets of Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides early one morning before the town came to life.  There is a different perspective of a place that you get when you do something like this.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe hit the northernmost tip of the Outer Herbrides where we wandered through the fields along the cliffs beside the ocean towards the Butt of Lewis lighthouse.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABack on the mainland we hiked the hill behind the town of Ullapool, the place where we were staying at for the night.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATowards the end of the trip we drove along the remote northern coastline of mainland Scotland from Durness to John O’Groats.  There were many places where we were the only ones present!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can expect the unexpected when the wanderlust hits!


Weekly Photo Challenge: Earth

A visit to Death Valley reminds you of the complexity of the natural processes that form this Earth.  This picture of Artist’s Palette, taken as the sun was setting, shows what is possible.  You get a fusion of many different colors all in one place that is quite hard to imagine.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(According to the article in Wikipedia – These colors are caused by the oxidation of different metals (iron compounds produce red, pink and yellow, decomposition of tuff-derived mica produces green, and manganese produces purple).)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Atop

As a family that likes to spend time outdoors walking and hiking in the midst of nature, we frequently find ourselves atop different natural formations during many of our outings.  Here are some pictures taken during a  vacation in Scotland.  This first shot is atop a small hillock in Pentland Hills, just outside of Edinburgh.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This cow was observing us from atop another of the hills in the park.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA climb up yet another of the hillsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfound us atop a peak with a cairn.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe following picture is of us atop Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome of us feel the urge to explore any and all random hilltops that appear within our field of view. So it was that, while we were at Hushinish in the Outer Hebrides, and in the midst of gale force winds and pouring rain, the kids clambered atop a hillock that we sighted in the distance in order to see what lay beyond.  (Can you see them in the picture below?) The effort awarded them an unobstructed view of the Atlantic Ocean through the storm.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd this was the view of the North Sea from atop a cliff near the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse at the northern tip of the Outer Hebrides.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe climbed a hill behind the town of Ullapool on the western coast of mainland Scotland.  It was a long way to the top.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe got a view of Loch Achall (which had been hidden from view so far) from atop the hill.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a picture of Loch Broom and the town of Ullapool from the hilltop.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe picture below includes The Minch, the strait that separates the mainland from the Outer Herbrides.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, here is a picture of us atop a cliff at Durness, along the northern coast of mainland Scotland.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is almost always a thrill when one looks out over the distance from atop natural formations.

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Good Match

The outdoors and us!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made it to Sugarloaf Mountain once again this weekend and did roughly the same distance on the trails as last weekend.  It was quite cold this time, and quite a change after the balmy weather that we experienced during the previous hike.  Winter has returned!

See other interpretations of the theme here.


The subject of this week’s photo challenge is the word “Shadow“.  I have taken the liberty of addressing this topic in the plural.  I find that shadows are an essential element to the character of many of the pictures I take, especially in nature.  Here are some typical examples. I suspect that these pictures would look rather bland without the play of light and shadows on the ground.img_7103OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPerhaps some of these pictures could also be appropriate for a topic like “shade”.img_7116OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then there are these pictures that are perhaps closer to the expected interpretation. This is the shadow of the aircraft I took the picture from.img_2577A beach at sunset offers the opportunity to tackle a distorted shadow or two in a picture.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI like the picture below because it illustrates different aspects of the shadow, all in one shot.  You can have a shadow, have your features be framed by your own shadow, or be in the shadows.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitude

These are times of greater turmoil and chaos than usual, unleashed by the worst instincts of man in arguably the most powerful and influential nation on this earth at this time.  Perhaps we could all use some time of solitude to reconnect with the earth and our common roots, to try to find a way to our own real inner peace, and a way beyond the path of greed, hate, confrontation, and destruction that we appear to have currently set ourselves upon.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAimg_4382img_8479OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Weekly Photo Challenge: Graceful

Gracefulness is in the eye of the beholder.  It is a rather loose term that describes a feeling that is evoked, and people might have different opinions in this regard.  From a visual perspective, I feel that gracefulness is usually associated with beauty that looks natural and blends with the surroundings. It could evoke a sense of effortless strength, a lightness of being, and perhaps even quiet dignity.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe find gracefulness in both the still form or in movement.  The nature of the motion looks graceful to me in the following picture. img_5977An object that is not necessarily graceful in its stillness can become graceful when it begins to move.  While experiencing grace in movement requires you to actually see the movement, it is possible to imagine the gracefulness of the motion from the nature of a still picture.  A think a pelican gliding over the water looks graceful.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis somewhat awkward looking great blue heron looks graceful to me when it begins to fly.  The motion of its wings is (relatively) slow and smooth, and the bird seems to be taking flight effortlessly.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA But sometimes, the still image can trick you.  I think the baby in the picture below, although cute, is not very graceful in its movement in real life.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have observed that still objects can look graceful from a certain visual perspective and perhaps not so much so from other points-of-view.  The nature of the picture and the circumstances of the picture can enhance the feeling of gracefulness.  There was a lot of construction going on around the Gateway Arch in St. Louis when we visited.  Even though the arch looks stunning regardless of the surroundings,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAit gracefulness was truly revealed to me only from this particular point-of-view.  (Like I said, gracefulness is in the eye of the beholder!)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABridges can look graceful, especially those of the suspension type.  To me both the Sydney harbor bridge (which is actually a through arch bridge) and Sydney Opera House look graceful in this picture against the skyline at this time of the evening.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA There is something in the outlines of these structures that makes them seem even more graceful before the evening lights are turned on.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASeeing more details of the structures can have a different impact on you.   I think the bridge still looks graceful from this perspective.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANot sure if this is still true of the opera house in this picture taken from the bridge.P6271493.jpg

I am sure there are different opinions and thoughts on this topic.  There is no way to be really objective about it.