Undeterred from my abortive maiden voyage across Loch Insh (actually I was very much deterred but that would detract from the story), I set off again with the whooper swans in my crosshairs. In the evening it was flat calm with some subtle sunset reflections; in the morning it wasn’t!
Truth be told, I love whooper swans (I don’t normally like to admit a preference for any species) and it has always been a dream of mine to photograph them in both their wintering grounds and up in Iceland where these particular birds breed. I’d actually pencilled it in to my 2014 diary – how organised is that? I can do 4 years hence, I just can’t do next week. I had envisaged a rather splendid book and an equally splendid exhibition don’t you know. Imagine my horror then when a splendid Italian photographer – Stefano Unterthiner – and his splendid wife, last year beat me to the splendid idea. And what’s more, did a splendid job! You can order Stefano’s splendid book at www.stefanounterthiner.com.
I do know however that Stefano doesn’t own a hide nearly as splendid as mine. And even if he did, it wouldn’t be as splendidly waterlogged.
Ballhead mount: check. Chest waders: check. Hide frame: check. Hide cover: check. Waterproof: check. Camera: check. Capability to carry all of aforementioned: s**t!
And so it was I staggered through the wood yesterday in knee-deep snow, laden with…well, about half of everything I own. It was snowing and by god I was going to get some pictures: Pictures of whooper swans in a blizzard, oh yes. But there are blizzards and blizzards and in some blizzards it’s so blizzardous you can’t actually see your subject (which I always find helpful). Good conditions to set off in a floating hide. Not.
After 30 minutes and several waves having engulfed the camera, I conceded my ambition had exceeded what was realistic. If it wasn’t for the fact that the water was cold and I therefore knew its source was from the waterfall now cascading over my waders, I might have been forgiven for suspecting premature incontinence. Abandon ship and head for port before a Mayday was necessary. To be fair I had got close to the swans (not easy in this part of the world) but it was nigh on impossible to conquer the force 9 gale sweeping across the ocean that is Loch Insh. OK more of a stiff breeze but still damned difficult.
Undeterred I wandered the forest in my very handsome waders looking like some Arctic Andy Pandy still hellbent on getting some snowy images before the onset of spring. It’s fair to say that if you don’t like monochromatic pictures, the Cairngorms was not the place for you yesterday and you probably shouldn’t read on. But I do and so I persevered in my squelchy pants (I did succumb to ditching the waders) and held out long enough to grab a few PLNs (Pleasant Little Numbers).
The rewards nowhere near justified the effort but the pain of sitting at home and wondering ‘what if…’ would have been much more excrutiating. And besides, another life lesson had been learned – I’ll know better next time. If you believe that…
Has another year really passed by? A full 12 months? Are we really staring down the barrel of another bellyfull of ritualistic over-consumption? It would seem so.
I’ve had a tricky few days – snowed out from home (rather than snowed in); freezing diesel and ailing parents on my mind. Against this backdrop I set off today to use my camera – it sometimes seems like a real novelty! Gingerly picking my way down ice-laden Glenfeshie, I met a neighbour who stopped to pass the time of day. “Have you done it all?” she enquired. “Done it all?” I asked. “Christmas!” she beamed. I politely avoided a response but later, whilst standing behind my tripod trying to make the most of this wonderful scene, I reflected on what my neighbour meant by ‘it all’.
I’m 48 next month and if I live until 100, I’ll never understand modern Christmas. By ‘it all’ I hoped she meant giving thought to relaxation; reflecting on a prosperous and varied life and looking forward to spending time with those I don’t normally spend time with. But I don’t think she did mean that, and the queue outside Tesco’s car park tonight would suggest not either.