Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art: Blog en-us (C)Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art [email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) Fri, 22 Mar 2024 06:08:00 GMT Fri, 22 Mar 2024 06:08:00 GMT Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art: Blog 80 120 Starsky & Hutch - 21st Century Environmental Explorers Storm Noah was surging through that night as I sat in dim candlelight listening to the rain lashing against the windows and the wind skirled around the house. It was strangely peaceful. I felt safe, warm and secure.

Whilst idly roaming through my phone apps a post on a Facebook community page I follow immediately caught my eye. A travelling visitor who had taken shelter for the night in the local football ground stand, was getting grief for some local unworthy youths. Teenagers with nothing better to do than throw planks of wood at his tent as he cowered in the dark with his best friend Starsky, a rescue dog he picked up in 2017 whilst travelling though Portugal and is now his travelling companion.

His post was a cry for help to the community.

Starsky and Hutch mobileStarsky and Hutch mobileMartins own photo he used on his Facebook page

“I have walked 34.000km across 21countries and cycled 35.000km across 16 to highlight what we are doing to our environment. 757 schools I have given talks in. I have come to your town on the way to Wales.
Now camping out in the stand at the football ground because of the heavy rain so far the kids have thrown at us a large traffic cone and 2 planks of wood. - Martin Hutchinson and Starsky in Google for more information”

I read many well meaning posts from others who were also reading his post saying how the community wasn’t a bad place and sorry he was having issues. But then I thought about it some more. Was he safe?

So at 10:30pm on a stormy, very wet and windy night, I donned my cagoule and headed out to find him.

Emotions were running high as to what I might do if said teenagers were still there. My anger was building. My muscles stiffing. Ready for anything.

When I arrived at the stadium it was silent and pitch dark. As I entered and crossed the flat rows of wooden seating I thought I could make out a dark shape on the opposite side of the players tunnel midway. Stepping carefully over the tunnel gap (and a six or seven foot drop), I found what looked like a tent but it was still hard to make out.

“Martin are you there?” I think I called.

“yes” came the reply.

“Are you OK?”

I got to the tent opening and sitting back inside was our intrepid traveller unsure of my approach. The dog lay still and so I shone my phone camera torche inside the tent and there he was crouched inside. I snapped a quick photo, then pointing the light back on me, introduced myself.

_20230412_215519_20230412_215519Martin in his tent with bycicle and his dog Starky on the night I located him

Satisfied that he and his companion were OK I exchanged my contact number and Facebook profile and said to let me know in the morning how he had got on. I had offered to bring him home with me but he didn’t want to get all his gear soaked and was for the time being anyway, dry and settled.

With that in mind I set back into the dismal night of wind and rain. By the time I arrived home, I was soaking wet but relieved that I had not left a stranger to the whims of our local welcoming party.

Ignorance is everywhere today. Had they bothered to ask who he was, he could have told them his amazing story and offered them something more than the banal attitude they held. Something about overcoming adversity, finding strength in oneself and the courage to live a life unfettered by convention. Surely that would have peaked their interest? But no, planks of wood, a traffic cone and some hurled abuse was all they had to offer.

Next morning I got a call. Martin had survived the night. A local woman had brought him porridge and hot coffee and he was already online thanking the community for their good wishes. I invited him for coffee and he arrived later that morning in his amazing bicycle that carries Starsky and him under partial cover as they pedaled through the tarmac universe of Europe and now Britain together.

It was late morning when he arrived so I asked if he was hungry. We didn’t have much in the house to offer but I rustled up an omelette with cheese and pastrami, some toast and coffee which he seemed to enjoy as he cleared his plate and began to tell me more about himself and his canine companion.

20230412_MG_4167- Starsky-and-Hutch_5D20230412_MG_4167- Starsky-and-Hutch_5DEnjoying a warm meal for lunch

20230412_MG_4161- Starsky-and-Hutch_5D20230412_MG_4161- Starsky-and-Hutch_5DMartin with Starsky by his side. 20230412_MG_4172- Starsky-and-Hutch_5D20230412_MG_4172- Starsky-and-Hutch_5DStarsky the rescue dog Martin acquired in Portugal in 2015 and has accomanied him ever since. 20230412_MG_4171- Starsky-and-Hutch_5D20230412_MG_4171- Starsky-and-Hutch_5D 20230412_MG_4175- Starsky-and-Hutch_5D20230412_MG_4175- Starsky-and-Hutch_5DOn a World Environment Tour 2008-2030

I had messaged my local pub (St Ronan's Hotel) to see if he could use their beer garden to camp the following night which Derek had readily agreed to, but by morning the local camp site had offered him a stay in one of their pods. So that was that and I said to let me know when he got settled and I’d pop back down to see him and take a few more photos. The idea being to see if the local press might print up something about him as he passed through our locality.

I received a call later in the afternoon and drove down to the campsite where he was staying, ‘Tweedside Caravan Park’ where the owners had gifted him a two-man pod free of charge for the night. It’s an act of generosity like this that differentiates between the worthy and the unworthy souls that inhabit our world today. Everywhere it seems we see the stark division between those who protect and save lives and those who destroy and persecute, just because they can. 20230412_MG_4188- Starsky-and-Hutch_5D20230412_MG_4188- Starsky-and-Hutch_5DTweedside Caravan Park

20230412_MG_4184- Starsky-and-Hutch_5D20230412_MG_4184- Starsky-and-Hutch_5DOne of the pods where Starsky & Hutch spent the night out of the rain.

20230412_MG_4180- Starsky-and-Hutch_5D20230412_MG_4180- Starsky-and-Hutch_5D

I got the chance to talk with Martin more deeply for a couple of hours and what you see on the road with all the baggage is in stark contrast to the simplicity of thought and the personal freedom just to be.

At 62, Martin has been travelling and exploring the world for over forty years since his late teens, the past 17 walking and more recently cycling. He has surveyed the world not through the selective lenses of glossy brochures or carefully edited marketing, but by objective reality and direct experience. Fate had a different path in store for him and so he never married his first love and though proficient in maths, never completed his academic career, eventually acquiring skill as a carpenter which has held him in good stead throughout his life and travels.

His family genealogy connects him locally to Wales on his father side and to Manchester where he was raised, but interestingly, also to Indian Royalty through his mother’s line. He has seen the loss of close family to illness and mental health issues; been chased and attacked by armed gangs in south America; worked as a carpenter craftsman on yacht refits for the wealthy in yards from Australia to Hong Kong, and even amassed enough money in time to own two yachts of his own both of which he had to leave behind to attend to a variety of family bereavements and events back home.

Martin also worked on the initial stages of the building of a new three-mast clipper-style wooden ship, The Tenacious, a project run by The Jubilee Sailing Trust based in Southhampton, to be built in part by and have inclusion for disabled people. Funding for it began in 1993 and she was completed in 2000, so we should definitely add sailing to cycling and walking as his preferred modes of transport.                              (see

To end this piece all I can say is Martin is very happy, enjoys the simple life and yet it would be wrong to see him as a mis-fit, climate activist or tree-hugger. He is engaging, communicative, intelligent and passionate about raising awareness of the damage we are doing to our planet, whether it be the simple act of litter dropping on our roadside verges (Scotland has a worse record than India per head of population!!) and coastline beaches, or tackling more complex issues concerning corporate irresponsibility. Any publicity he receives is only to help him carry on with his Life Mission to report what environmental issues he finds and keep him motivated.

So keep following your star Martin, whether in this life or the next, to wherever it leads you. It’s been my pleasure to have crossed your path as we sojourn through life.

20230412_MG_4173- Starsky-and-Hutch_5D20230412_MG_4173- Starsky-and-Hutch_5D

Follow Martin on


[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) campaign companion dog environment environmental Europe litter Martin Hutchinson plastic pollution speaker Starsky travel waste world Thu, 13 Apr 2023 17:19:25 GMT
ITV Borders feature on Border Life ITV Borders Feature-Border LifeITV Borders Feature-Border Life aired on 11th of February 2022Local photographer Graham Riddell being interviewd by jouralist Sandy McCracken, Producer & On Screen Journalist with ITV Border at Megget reservoir, in the Ettrick Valley in the Scottish Borders.

Feature starts at 13mins 28 seconds in


It isn't every day you receive an email from a media news company asking if you would be interested in being featured in an up and coming TV show.

So it was back in October 2021 when journalist and online producer Sandy McCracken, got in touch about a feature he was producing on photographers within the region. I am perhaps better known for my Landscape & Nature imagery and he was keen to film me out on location at one of my favourite spots.

I chose Megget Reservoir in the Ettrick Valley here in the Scottish Borders as it lies between Talla Water & reservoir and St Mary's Loch which is a happy hunting ground for me, though my shooting is by camera and lens, not rifle.

We duly met up at Cappercluech on the banks of St Mary's Loch and drove up to the reservoir to film. I have to say, I am a complete novice when it comes to being on the other side of the lens and so, with Sandy's careful instructions, I followed his lead to answer his questions as best I could. It is an interesting process this film-making business! Since we were still under Covid restrictions we had to keep a safe distance between us and travel separately. So that was three car journeys (Sandy, his cameraman and me), when one would otherwise have sufficed in normal times.

Megget Reservoir was built in 1983 and is the largest earth damn construction in Scotland and a magnificent feat of engineering. It captures its precious cargo from the Tweedsmuir Hills and has a controlled release back to St Mary's Loch via the Megget Water. The damn feeds, by way of underground pipes through the hills, other receiving dams along the route which store the water supply for Edinburgh.

Photography is about Light. How it interacts with matter whether the landscape, human or other form. 

In landscape photography, the 'quality' of the light is determined by the time of day, weather patterns and the harsh contrast of direct overhead sun. For these reasons, photographers are often heading to locations at unsociable hours in the very early morning, late afternoon or evening, to catch the low contrast light of dawn and dusk in particular. At those times, creative opportunities can be explored to great dramatic effect.

As I mention in my piece, I am not your usual landscape photographer. With a background in graphic design, my eye is often drawn to how the light creates shapes, forms and colours other than specifically views. It is not to say I don't take these too, it's just my style is perhaps more open to interpretation of what I see around me from an artistic perspective, where the image resonates with me and sometimes is therefore more abstract or at least, less definitive of location.

My art photography, as I call it, feeds my creative impulse and engagement with nature. It is what I love most about the photographic medium. It also is my source of work for Stock Images, Wall Art projects, Greetings cards, Desk calendar and more.

It is harder being a photographer today, but I do not bemoan the advance of technology, as it was through Digital, that I first got into commercial opportunities when I first started out on my own in 2004. Today, many phone cameras are more capable that those early compacts that preceded them and have unleashed enormous creative expression for millions more with apps and filters too.

I still shoot only Stills on digital SLR's and have not followed so many other photographers into drones or video, preferring the single, silent second when an image was taken.

Below are a few images from the programme and my archive. All my images are available to purchase as Stock images for commercial projects, or wall art for the discerning buyer.

I do hope you enjoy them and please do leave a comment or contact me with any requests you may have.

©Graham Riddell Photography

March 2022


The Long and Winding Road to Fruid_0055_7D2The Long and Winding Road to Fruid_0055_7D2I'd never been before in all the twenty-four years I have lived in the Borders and yet have passed the road end to Fruid reservoir many times.
Almost about to repeat my mistake I hesitated before deciding to follow the narrow single track road up.
As it curved and undulated towards its inevitable destination, I was glad no other traffic, especially lorries, were joining me.
Looking back from the top of the road at the damn head where the Fruid water is again released from its incarceration, I got a better impression of just how tortuous this road actually is as it twists and turns, weaving almost in parallel to the now narrowed river Tweed rising to its source.

Fire over Ice_2043_localFire over Ice_2043_localJust after the sun set behind the icy hills of the Southern Uplands, in that magical moment when the sky suddenly and briefly flares up. Track through Autumn_0858Track through Autumn_0858A farmtrack winds its way over a hillside through trees now turning in autumn colour. Peace and Tranquillity by Stobo Castle_0792Peace and Tranquillity by Stobo Castle_0792Stobo Castle Health Spa from across the pond. Stobo, Scottish Borders.

Tweed Valley Location
Tweed Valley Sunrise_9466Tweed Valley Sunrise_9466The sun rises over Pirn Craig, Innerleithen on a frost and misty morning in May 2011 Double Rainbow below Orchard Rig_1574Double Rainbow below Orchard Rig_1574Double rainbow forming on the western outskirts of Innerleithen, Scottish Borders during a sudden squall Standing Still by the Loch_0018Standing Still by the Loch_0018A wee trip down to the magical St Mary's Loch. She never fails to deliver. Here a fisherman stands in perfect harmony with the stillness of the loch and its perfect reflections.

Link to ITV Hub page



[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) 2022 blog Border Life Ettrick Valley feature February Graham Riddell Graham Riddell Photography ITV News media Megget Reservoir news programme photographers photography programme region Scotland Scottish Borders tv Wed, 02 Mar 2022 18:25:39 GMT
Such a Perfect Day - at Traquair House 20210901_MG_5375_5D- local20210901_MG_5375_5D- localThe river Tweed from Traquair Bank looking over to Innerleithen and Lee Pen in the distance.

I have been suffering a bit lately with my health.

Recurring back, neck and shoulder muscle pain resulting in various visits to the hospital to have my heart checked over including fitting a 24 hour heart monitor to investigate an irregular heart beat. I've had palpitations, missed beats, and even times when I though it might actually stop and not restart until, boom, back online again!

Fair to say I have been overindulging this past eighteen months, trying to ignore the insane media circus obsession of endless Covid reports from every conceivable angle known to man. If only they (the Media) were as good at covering the many other local and world events, perhaps we could be better prepared and not mugged by another Media Attack when 'out of the blue' another crisis hits!

We have become a 'Reactionary Society', fighting endless media storms, some partly avoidable, through crass ignorance of the world around us and the political failure to 'do the right thing', rather than make the most convenient, economic and most profitable investment choice. The Global Financial Elite rule the world, conjuring credit from thin air, for us to pay back. Big Corporates are their devotees and loyal subjects who ensure we remain indebted. We are far from free. Wealth is an illusion shared by the few.

Increasingly we live in a controlled information vacuum, only getting the big-hitter headlines as new disasters break out. We are told only what we need to know, not what we need to know!

Global Media News is itself like a virus. It belongs to the same strain of infection.

It spreads selective, adrenalin-fuelled anxiety, faster than the current California/Russian/Greek forest fires that have ravaged the planet of its tinder-dry forests which seem to burn forever and yet fails to ask why there are no large firebreaks to stop them from spreading so quickly?

It pours out cascades of misery like the torrential downpours that crash down from the heavens overcoming our poorly managed drainage systems and fails to ask why our dismal land management (continuing to build on flood planes and destroying areas of land banks close to rivers) don't put ecology at the head of their decisions to help protect the open fields, trees and vegetation that all help soak up water, nor do they investigate local planning authorities about their preferences in favour of more bitumen and concrete where more water lies and can't run-off, over the natural habitat and ecology where so many of our natural local species are being driven towards extinction.

Or it erupts into panic when millions of people flee for their very lives through war and tyranny with alarmist headlines that are frankly bordering on Xenophobic, but doesn't ask the harder questions about our involvement in those countries nor report its progress of them until the sh*t hits the fan (again), so sealing the fate of millions and refusing to help them escape their misery to 'safety' to a land where we so badly need foreign helpers to take on the jobs we are unwilling, unprepared, or have staffing shortages to do.

"The next virus Covid variant has been identified" - Boo!!

"An earth destroying asteroid has been found" - run (where?)!!

"Billionaires head for Mars" - last one out shut the door.

"The Russians are coming" - break out the vodka!!

To politicians at home and abroad I ask, where is the foresight, planning and critical thinking? Where is the leadership? Where is the Hope for a better world? And to the media, Where is the Truth and can you find it and report it? Policy is made on what the People know to be true but lies and cover-ups are everywhere and politicians are getting an easy ride as the Media Baron vampires suck on the neck of more attractive sensationalism.

Man's management of the planet is undoubtably in question, however as long as those in powerful positions are getting paid handsomely (many at our expense) and are largely unaffected by reality as these are other peoples' problems which will ever-be for an other day. But those problems are quickly becoming our problems and increasing by the day, helped by Corporate Media's failure to reveal and National Government's stealth and policy of redacted information. Now the chickens are coming home to roost.

My Ostrich Philosophy of beer glass, wine bottle or whisky decanter is an unsafe haven I know. I share it amongst other struggling souls with whom I have a common bond, we're all trying to navigate through this theatre of apocalyptic gloom and get to another day, a brighter day, like today.

For the few days I have rested-up as much as possible (can do this when you are self employed though no-one pays you for it) avoiding my three main crutches, and so on the 1st of September, the meteorological start of autumn (the season of blissful decay), the skies had cleared completely, blue and endless, still pure and free from the scars of a thousand jet trails. The warm sunshine beckoned me from my bed and with my camera in hand, I visited a local landmark and visitor attraction for some much needed Nature Therapy.

Traquair House is reputedly the oldest, continually inhabited, country house in Scotland (over 900 years!) Its lands once extended far into the surrounding landscape and was a base for Royalty to enjoy, with its rich pickings for hunting in its surrounding abundant forests and woodlands, full of wild deer and boar etc.. and is now where the town I now live in sits. But even that great estate has shrunk to more modest proportions having over the years released lands to regional forestry and housing developers adding further to the growing fir-tree plantations our region is abundant in and the increasing population as more commuters from the City become attracted to 'the country', some to pursue an insatiable modern appetite for mountain biking which our area has become so popular, in addition to the more traditional pursuits like  walking, fishing, pony trekking and general recreation.

The House still retains access to some stunning scenery on the banks of the river Tweed. The river was diverted several centuries ago to prevent the risk of flooding the house (foresight!) however, new housing developments and river course modifications (to protect them) could, cause the old course to reroute herself in time when the water table inevitably rises during seasonal surges.

I'll leave an a more positive note with some images from my walk around the grounds at Traquair House and encourage you to come and visit sometime and experience for yourself where I am sure you will be made most welcome. It's a place of history and legend, as magical as it is impressive with its champaign-glass lawn, bear gates, brewery, ancient yew trees, beech maze and courtyard garden & cafe where I enjoyed coffee and cake.

A little piece of peace in a violent world.

20210901_MG_5280_5D- local20210901_MG_5280_5D- local 20210901_MG_5283_5D- local20210901_MG_5283_5D- local 20210901_MG_5289_5D- local20210901_MG_5289_5D- local 20210901_MG_5392_5D- local20210901_MG_5392_5D- local

20210901_MG_5325_5D- local20210901_MG_5325_5D- local 20210901_MG_5351_5D- local20210901_MG_5351_5D- local 20210901_MG_5356_5D- local20210901_MG_5356_5D- local 20210901_MG_5359_5D- local20210901_MG_5359_5D- local 20210901_MG_5364_5D- local20210901_MG_5364_5D- local 20210901_MG_5375_5D- local20210901_MG_5375_5D- local

20210901_MG_5404_5D- local20210901_MG_5404_5D- local 20210901_MG_5416_5D- local20210901_MG_5416_5D- local 20210901_MG_5417_5D- local20210901_MG_5417_5D- local 20210901_MG_5418_5D- local20210901_MG_5418_5D- local


[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) blog escape health landscape leisure mental health nature photography river Tweed scotland scottish borders tourism Traquair House visit Scottish Borders well being Fri, 03 Sep 2021 09:34:28 GMT
One Woman and her Dogs Julie with her dog BanJulie and Ban   Julie with her dog BanJulie and Ban

Julie with her dog Ban

What has a woman born in an industrial town have in common with estate owners, farmers and sheep?

At first sight it might seem unlikely but there is so much more to Julie Hill’s DNA than her soft northern accent and town upbringing. Whilst Julie’s mother had settled in the town of Scunthorpe and sought to raise the young Julie there, her grandparents and great grandparents were in fact farmers and it was only through a twist of fate, that Julie’s ancestral pedigree was derailed after the untimely death of her great grandfather in an industrial accident at an engineering works in Scunthorpe, where he had gone to support the war effort, leaving the farm he was raised on to his other two brothers and so the link to the land was broken.

But the country blood runs thick through her veins and so when just a teenager, Julie had the opportunity to move to Cambridge to work with horses on a farm. They also reared sheep and her remarkable journey with dogs began after an accidental birth of the farm bitch. Julie kept one of the pups and her interest to train was awoken after realising the potential it had as a working dog. Joining the East Anglia sheepdog club she took on the task of trying to train the young collie. Meg was a natural worker and very keen, but also difficult to control. 

It was through these early experiences that eventually led Julie to develop her own unique method of training and communicating with sheepdogs, which she terms 'The Natural Way’, and was the catalyst to a string of firsts and successes in Sheepdog Trials both nationally and internationally. In 2014 Julie wrote and published her acclaimed book by the same title, which today is a highly respected training reference book amongst her peers and dog owners world-wide wishing to follow her teaching methods.

Julie Hill's book -The Natural WayCover of Julie's book The Natural Way

Julie's book - The Natural Way 

Julie came to Scotland in 1988 with several sheepdog trials successes already to her credit and worked on many sheep farms in the north of Scotland before working for Sciberscross Sheep Club which was run by ten crofters in Rogart. There she single-handedly managed over a thousand sheep across 8,000 acres of tough highland hillside. For the past sixteen years, Julie has been the tenant farmer and shepherd on the Carcant Estate at Heriot in the Scottish Borders, where she manages over five hundred sheep and runs her dog training business, Neth Hill Border Collies. She became Scottish National Champion in 2014.

Neth Hill Border Collies Julie and Ban outside Neth Hill Border Collies farm croft.

Julie and Ban outside Neth Hill Border Collies farm croft. 

Julie’s training method involves understanding the pack mentality of dogs and in particular her beloved Border Collies and how they communicate to exert control, maintaining a bond in unison with them by deploying her Pressure/Release technique - the language of the dog - to transfer her presence and energy to them and they in turn to the flock.

Julie Hill and flockBringing the flock down from the far end of the field

Bringing the flock down from the far end of the field

Dog dividing the flockSplitting the flock

Dividing the flock

Julie working three dogsIsolating one sheep to receive an injection whilst working three dogs

Isolating one sheep to receive an injection whilst working three dogs

Going for the hookJulie acts swiftly to hook her sheep for treatment.

Julie acts swiftly to hook her sheep for treatment.

Now to turn it overBy hook or by crook, Julie captures the sheep needing treatment.

By hook or by crook, Julie captures the sheep needing treatment.

Julie administers injectionInjection given.

Julie administers injection

Whilst Julie’s achievements are remarkable, her quiet but assured demeanour projects and instills confidence in those that work with her whether they be estate owners, farmers or dog handlers. She would also be the first to acknowledge her dogs, largely bred and raised by her, in teaching her their ways and thus allowing her to communicate with them as one of them - their pack leader.



Below is a list of the many achievements Julie has amassed with her Border Collies over her sparkling four-decades long career. She has acquired almost Guru status internationally in what is largely a male driven profession, and is still the first and only woman in over 115 years, to be crowned ISDS Supreme International Champion since its inception in 1906 and joins a very rare breed (male or female), to have won both the Supreme, and Brace, International Championships.

Julie HillJulie with some of her flock at Heriot

Julie with some of her flock at Heriot

But it would be most remiss of me to fail to mention some of those who's natural instincts and abilities she has worked so closely with over the her forty year career - her dogs. Ban (pictured with Julie) - Sid, Jiggs, Kep (three generations together in the back of the truck) and Moss (pictured below) who she won the Supreme International Championship with in 1996 and was her inspiration and teacher of a ‘new way’, have all, in their own way, been essential to Julie's success and share in it with her.

Julie with flock and dogsJulie with Jiggs and Kep

Julie with Jiggs and Kep

moss3-editMoss newspaper cuttingMoss who help Julie to success in 1996 to become Supreme International Champion

Moss who help Julie to success in 1996 to become Supreme International Champion

Julie and dogs heading to workOn the way to work down the farm track

On the way to work down the farm track

Julie Hill gives instruction(L-R) Sid, Kep and Jiggs receiving instructions

(L-R) Sid, Kep and Jiggs receiving instructions

Julie and her dogs(L-R) Sid, Jiggs and Kep with their boss

(L-R) Sid, Jiggs and Kep with their boss

My visit to Julie’s farm and business at Neth Hill Border Collies was a privilege and I gleaned a great insight into the working minds of shepherd and dogs and maybe a few sheep too.

My thanks for her time to allow me to explore and record part of her intriguing story and to include her in my ‘People of the Valley' project.

Graham Riddell

18h April 2021

Link to Julies web site

Link to buy Julie’s book

List of Achievements 

  • 2017 Scottish National Brace Champion
  • 2016 Scottish National Brace - runner up
  • 2016 Supreme International Brace Championship 
  • 2014: Scottish National Champion
  • 2013: International Brace Champion
  • 2013: Scottish National Brace Champion
  • 2012: Scottish National Brace Champion
  • 2011: World Trial – represented Scotland
  • 2006: International – winner of qualifier
  • 2006: Supreme International Champion – runner up
  • 2006: International Farmer’s Champion
  • 2006: Scottish National – runner up
  • 2005: Scottish National Brace Champion
  • 2002: World Trial -placed 7th
  • 1996: Scottish National Driving Champion
  • 1996: Supreme International Champion
  • 1992: Scottish National Brace Champions
  • 1992: International Brace – runners up
  • 1992: Champion of Champions – winner
  • 1992: Grampian TV. Sheepdog trials – winner
  • 1991: Scottish National Brace Champions
  • 1991: Scottish National Champion
  • 1991: National Farmer’s Champion
  • 1990: BBC “One Man and his Dog” – runner up
  • 1989: International Championship – winner qualifier round
  • 1989: International Shepherd’s Champion
  • 1989: International Supreme – 8th overall


[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) author book Border Collies Carcant champion dog training dogs Heriot hill farm International Brace Champion ISDS Supreme International Champion Julie Hill Neth Hill Border Collies Scottish Borders Scottish National Champion sheep dog trainer sheepdog trainer shepherd teaching The Natural Way woman Sun, 18 Apr 2021 14:28:10 GMT
Sacred Spaces Chester Hill Pines_2750_localChester Hill Pines_2750_local Everyone deserves a little peace and sanctuary.

Unable to explore further afield, I am making the most of revisiting past walks and places and discovering new ones.

There's a small wood at the top of a local hill that features in many of my photographic works. The reason is simple. I look directly on to them and they are just too irresistible. In almost twenty-five years (May 2021) I have never made it up there until this week.

Many years ago when my son was about six or seven, we had headed up but were forced to turn back as he was quite asthmatic then and the hill was just too much for him. Well he's a grown man now and I was sitting in the house myself when the urge to go there impressed upon me the deep desire to finally make the trip.

After a short climb of about forty minutes I eventually found myself realising that this was no ordinary wood I had from the distance revered. On approaching them I was impressed with the stillness and silence coupled with the feeling of being in a hallowed scared space.

Nature is as poignant as any Cathedral or religious temple and I can fully appreciate those who say that for them, Nature is where they feel closest to God.

Nature's Monolith_2737_landscape copyNature's Monolith_2737_landscape copy

Revelling in the special atmosphere and breathing it in, l felt compelled to 'ask for permission' to enter. The single sheep track I was following appeared to only circumnavigate the perimeter of a crumbling stone dyke that surrounded the wood and which didn't appear to go through it.

Being in such places it is vital to take a few moments to absorb the energy and record its vibrations into the very depth of our souls. The feeling of being present in an undisturbed space then a sudden chilling westerly wind that stirred up after I had seen all I needed to see, was I felt, a subtle hint that it was time to leave.

Do you have somewhere special that you revere in Nature?

I hope so, and I hope you will also be a guardian for our planet as it badly needs our prayers.

Scots Pines on Chester Hill_2735_local copyScots Pines on Chester Hill_2735_local copy


Chester Hill Scots Pine Wood

Graham J Riddell

18th March 2021


[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) holy Landscape Pine sacred Scots Scottish trees wood woodlands Thu, 18 Mar 2021 17:58:49 GMT
Cold Water Swim or Cold Feet? 20201119__MG_0022_7D220201119__MG_0022_7D2Lesley and Jacquie from the Scottish Borders

The water is deceptively cold at this time of year, around 4° on a chilly morning in early November 2020 and from the warm comfort of the car, looked so inviting and beautiful, yet you would definitely think twice about going for a dip!

Water that cold can be extremely dangerous to the unwary and will definitely steal your breath away and numb you to your core. So why do it?

For these two lovely ladies, it's a weekly routine all year round. For them it is more than a challenge. It has become a way of life. Jacquie has been doing this since she was a youngster when as a child she swam in fresh water rivers as she couldn't afford to go to the local swimming pool. Her friend and fellow swimmer Lesley, only took cold water swimming up recently following a dark period of ill-health and the accumulating pressures of living a challenging, 'full-on' existence for several years, both in her personal and business life, then along came the added impact of Covid-19 and lockdown.

20201119__MG_0011_7D220201119__MG_0011_7D2Entering the Loch of the Lowes

Having embarked on a photography tour around my favourite places here in the Scottish Borders, during one of the rare sunnier days during a prolonged bout of miserable cloud and rain lasting several weeks through October, I had snapped them as they were just entering the water at the Loch of the Lowes, a favourite picnic spot on the tortuous A708 road between Moffat and Selkirk at St Mary's Loch where I had stopped to take in the view.

I decided to make something more of this opportunity and so rather than simply taking the shot and moving on, I felt compelled to take a few more and perhaps, if the chance arose, even speak to them.

As I watched their progress into the cold depths, I was impressed with their composure. Not the breathless yelps, gasping to catch their breath, but a measured calm and happy delight, like dolphins, gracefully at home in their weightless world. Soon they were returning back towards shore after 'acclimatising' to their bone-chilling aquatic environment. This was my opportunity and so I asked them how it was.

"Great" and "very refreshing" without a single expletive being uttered!

20201119__MG_0027_7D220201119__MG_0027_7D2Swimming in the Loch of the Lowes

I feel that if I am taking your picture without your consent then it is only right I explain why and so revealed that I was in fact a professional photographer and would they mind me taking a few more shots of them which they readily agreed to. From this encounter I learned a little more about their reasons for taking these weekly icy dips and how much healthier they both have felt through the pandemic. It seems to be a kind of drug this cold water swimming thing, that creates a need to those who indulge themselves in it, perhaps even a craving. For them though, it s a very genuine therapy against life's darker stimuli and influences.

Rather than disturbing the intrepid duo any further, I gave them my card and said I would post the pictures online through my Facebook page where they could see and also copy them, which I subsequently did on my return home later in the day.

These girls were an inspiration to me and were happy to pose for a quick trophy photo before heading back into the chilly depths one last time which was where I left them, bathing in the late morning sunshine, impressing upon me their sheer joy of life.

Surly that's the lesson here. Life is to be celebrated, fully and unashamedly!


[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) blog cold water swimming Graham Riddell Photography health how to journalism leisure and recreation Loch of the Lowes mental health photography scottish borders story vitality wellbeing write Tue, 24 Nov 2020 11:56:33 GMT
The Hedge-cutter that wasn't Graeme-Walker_Hedhe Layer_0940Graeme-Walker_Hedhe Layer_0940Specialist Traditional Hedgelayer, Greme Walker from Kelso.

I met a really interesting man when out for my walk today along the Railway Path between Innerleithen and Glenormiston.

I saw lots of hedges cut down and wondered why - but I needn't have worried.

Graeme Walker, from Kelso, is a rare breed of Specialist Traditional Hedgelayer and he explained to me what the method involved.

Once these old rural skills were the norm, before mixed landowners, following larger estates land sell-offs, started using modern machinery to trim hedges.

By cutting the trunks of each plant in a precisely acute angle near their bases and laying the hedge trunks down but not dissecting them completely, the hedge undergrowth thickens and creates a more effective wind-break which also provides much better habitat for wildlife.

It was great to see these traditional skills being employed here and I told him about my sister, Dianne Smith from Fintry, Stirlingshire, who headed-up a Rural Skills Course for Scottish Secondary Schools in liaison with the Scottish Parliament, prior to her retirement in 2017, through her school at Balfron where she taught kids with special needs.

Graeme had several axes and a wooden mallet for tools, but also uses a chainsaw when needed.

So if like me you think it a shame if you see hedges laid down this way, then rest assured that they are in expert hands.

Hedge Layer Tools_0944Hedge Layer Tools_0944 Hedge Layer Tools_0943Hedge Layer Tools_0943


[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) Borders craft craftsman cutting ecology environment green hedgelayer hedge-layer hedges history Innerleithen land management Path Railway rural Scottish skills trimming wood woodman Wed, 28 Oct 2020 17:04:09 GMT
Turning a Crisis into a Creative Opportunity Orbe-Globe-EclipseOrbe-Globe-Eclipse compositePhotoshop Secrets > Girl & Globe

Having seen my commercial/corporate work evaporate in March and with no sign of a return yet, I decided to try and upgrade my Photoshop skills in photo retouching, editing and compositing (for creative applications).

The opportunity arose early in lock-down with a special offer to buy a complete course for a knocked-down price from California based Rikard Rodin of Zeven Design and his NUCLY photoshop training brand.

It took me almost a month to gather the enthusiasm and commitment to begin, and so after a couple of false starts with my own copy of PS (CS5), I soon realised that it just wasn't going to cut the mustard and allow me to follow the video lessons more intuitively with same tools. So I overcame my reluctance and resistance to sign up with Adobe CC and at least had the same or similar tools to begin.

With no work coming in, I have had plenty time to tackle these projects and work on my creative side albeit under the control of the guide projects and to be honest it will be a little more time before I have the mindset and skills to take a project forward entirely on my own.

So what have I been learning? Some of the simpler things I already knew, but getting chucked in at the deep end also brought some scary moments fuelled with frustration, exasperation and ultimately, triumph.

Layer compositing, masking, special effects, colour grading, skin retouching and more to date, are accumulatively, slowly adding to my knowledge and expertise.

Below are some of the projects I have completed. These are a complete departure from what I normally show, but at least you will get the idea. The complexity behind the scenes is I suppose like the proverbial swan graciously floating on the calm river, whilst its feet paddle away furiously.

I hope you enjoy these recreations from the mind of the master Rikard.

majestic-spirit-animal_compmajestic-spirit-animal_compGetting Started with Photoshop

Majestic Animal composite

Butterfly Girl_compButterfly Girl_compPhotoshop for Photographers >

Butterfly Girl
the-good-chef-poster-finalthe-good-chef-poster-finalPhotoshop for Photographers >

The Good Chef poster project

Girl-with-Tattoo-Movie-PosterGirl-with-Tattoo-Movie-PosterPhotoshop for Photographers >

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo poster

model-layla-Retouch-aftermodel-layla-Retouch-afterPhotoshop for Photographers >

Portrait Retouching (after)

panoramas-01-Panopanoramas-01-PanoPhotoshop for Photographers >

Panorama composite

ascension-compositeascension-compositePhotoshop Secrets > Ascension

See my project folder as it develops and is added to here: NUCLY Photoshop Training Projects


[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) 2020 adobe art blog composite covid-19 creation creative creativity crisis digital health how to layers lock-down masks pandemic photo-editing photography photoshop scottish borders skills virus Tue, 30 Jun 2020 17:00:44 GMT
Rainbow Valley - Scottish Borders Double Rainbow below Orchard Rig_1574Double Rainbow below Orchard Rig_1574Double rainbow forming on the western outskirts of Innerleithen, Scottish Borders during a sudden squall The Tweed Valley area between Cardrona and Walkerburn in the Scottish Borders has a unique weather feature.

With an east/west lay the sun is predominately in the southern aspect and this creates perfect conditions for observing rainbows whenever they form. Often this is in the spring and autumn months when we tend to get more changeable weather with heavy showers followed by intermittent bursts of sunshine but not especially so.

The above picture is unusual in that the rainbow was formed in the early morning as a squall rolled in. Caught in the morning sunshine, I managed to shoot a few frames of a double rainbow hitting the landscape before droplets of rain started covering my lens, followed by a heavy shower as threatened by the ominous dark clouds gathering above. This shot was featured in the METRO newspaper and also as part of a feature I submitted to BBC South Scotland Online page in March 2012 about the phenomenon.

The other photos below were taken in the afternoons when the sun was in the west and so the above image is especially unique.

Hill Fort RainbowHill Fort RainbowThis Iron Age site and Roman Hill Fort location is crowned by a single rainbow as a passing shower is illuminated from behind. Taken from Caerlee Hill, Innerleithen. Scottish Borders.

Double Rainbow over InnerleithenDouble Rainbow over InnerleithenA double rainbow arcs over Innerleithen and the Tweed Valley across to Walkerburn. Scottish Borders.

Rainbow over WalkerburnRainbow over WalkerburnThe river Tweed winds its way down the Tweed Valley between Innerleithen and Walkerburn as a heavy shower passes overhead. The sun lights up the landscape creating a wonderful rainbow over Walkerburn. Scottish Borders, May 2007 Rainbow's RestRainbow's RestA single rainbow drops to earth over Traquair in the Scottish Borders.

Traquair Rainbow_3309Traquair Rainbow_3309Another spectacular rainbow over the Southern Upland Way at Traquair. Scottish Borders. Rainbow Sky_9095Rainbow Sky_9095A rainbow emerges from the clouds Steeple RadianceSteeple RadianceA rainbow collides with Pirn Craig above St James, RC church steeple, Innerleithen, Scottish Borders Forest Fire_3268Forest Fire_3268A rainbow falls into the forest Spectral LightSpectral LightRainbow in a stormy evening sky Horses in Rainbow Field_2211Horses in Rainbow Field_2211Two horses in coats beneath a rainbow at Glentress in the Scottish Borders Go NowGo NowA crow flies through the rainbow

I hope you enjoyed seeing some of the amazing rainbows that develop here. All these images are from my stock and are available for purchase

[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) atmosphere blue color colors colour colours green indigo light nature orange phenomena purple rainbow Rainbow Valley rainbows red Scotland Scottish Borders spectral light spectrum Tweed Valley uk ultra-violet yellow Tue, 09 Jun 2020 15:20:41 GMT
Dr John Laidlaw FRCP, Abstract Painter & Artist 2007-05-03 IMG_31422007-05-03 IMG_3142Original artworks by Dr john Laidlaw from Peebles.

I first met Dr John Laidlaw in the late spring of 2007.

He was looking for a photographer to archive his collection of paintings which he had at his home in Peebles. We agreed a fee and I headed over to see him a few days later. I remember my back was giving me grief again and so my mobility wasn’t at its best, however I managed pack my gear and tripod and drive over.

On arriving, I was greeted at the door by an elderly gentleman dressed neatly in a teal coloured shirt and slightly loose-fitting light brown corduroys held up by a pair of blue braces, who welcomed me in and introduced me to his wife Mary. We then had a look at his collection displayed on several of the walls in different downstairs rooms and hallway, before escorting me through to the kitchen and into his back garden where lay his artist studio.

2007-05-03 IMG_31752007-05-03 IMG_3175Original artworks by Dr john Laidlaw from Peebles.

The purpose-built extension to the main house projected into the garden and we entered from a side door on the longest wall where there were several large windows. The windows Dr Laidlaw explained faced north, an important direction as any painter or artist worth their salt will tell you. This is because the light is more constant and non-directional, since the sun doesn’t cross its horizon, providing a constant ‘light’ throughout the day.

I decided there and then that this was where I would photograph his collection and we began setting up an area on the eastern back wall adjoining the house where we could hang each picture to be photographed under the constant natural light.

Paintings, particularly framed paintings, can pose a bit of a challenge if glass is used as it acts like a mirror, reflecting light and anything before it. I was fortunate though that the majority of his works were framed without glass and so my job was made that bit easier. I still prefer to photograph artworks this way - under natural light.

I was amazed at what I found there in his collection which he had amassed over the past seventy years. As I am someone who was more artistic than academic at school, I could readily appreciate the complex shapes and colours he used in what were overall, pure abstract works.

2007-05-03 IMG_31662007-05-03 IMG_3166Original artworks by Dr john Laidlaw from Peebles.

Dr Laidlaw as I said earlier was an elderly gentleman,. At eighty seven, balding on top with strong grey moustache, he had a slightly mischievous twinkle yet critical look in his eyes. You got the impression he was evaluating you.

Though frail, he was still able to move about quite well, perhaps better than I with my crocked back as we manoeuvred pictures from one location or other in the house to the studio for photographing. It was through this process, I was able to strike up a conversation and get to know him a little better.

2007-05-03 IMG_31912007-05-03 IMG_3191Dr John Laidlaw FRCP with the early painting he did in his youth which ended his art career when his teacher took a knife to it. John gave up art and pursued medicine instead. Uncannily, the subject looks rather like him as he was when I met him.

Following a long and distinguished career as a neurologist specialising in the field of epilepsy, Dr Laidlaw, a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh since 1947, had retired to Peebles with his wife Mary in 1999 where, encouraged by her, he took up his passion again for abstract painting. He was largely self taught and in his early years associated with other artists including William Johnstone from Denholm.

Dr Laidlaw’s career got off to a jumpy start when as a student, he decided his future lay in becoming a painter and indeed left the renowned Winchester College (where he had done 'very well') to do just that, however after one of his teachers took a palette knife to his portrait composition, which looks uncannily like him in old age, he decided that was a step too far and promptly left, turning his attention to study medicine instead. This life changing event was a loss to the art world but a definite gain to the neurological field of epilepsy.

2007-05-03 IMG_31882007-05-03 IMG_3188Dr John Laidlaw FRCP. The early painting he did in his youth which ended his art career when his teacher took a palette knife to it. John gave up art and pursued medicine instead. Uncannily, the subject looks rather like him as he was when I met him.

It is interesting that he chose to specialise in epilepsy and one wonders what kind of brain he possessed to create such imaginative and beautifully colourful abstracts. For me there is also a suggestion of surrealist influences.

2007-05-03 IMG_31472007-05-03 IMG_3147Original artworks by Dr john Laidlaw from Peebles. 2007-05-03 IMG_31512007-05-03 IMG_3151Original artworks by Dr john Laidlaw from Peebles. 2007-05-03 IMG_31772007-05-03 IMG_3177Original artworks by Dr john Laidlaw from Peebles.

At that time I was working freelance for two lifestyle regional magazines and I managed to get him published in Border Life magazine (issue 53 Autumn 2007). The article expressed his lifelong dream to have his works exhibited before he passed and I was delighted to learn that a venue in Peebles had fulfilled his wish later that year after reading the article.

Dr Laidlaw passed away peacefully in the summer of 2009.


Note: I have a gallery of his works on display at this link in Client Galleries > Artists > Painters


Graham J Riddell


Dr John Laidlaw_BL-article-coverDr John Laidlaw_BL-article-cover Dr John Laidlaw_BL-article-P15Dr John Laidlaw_BL-article-P15 Dr John Laidlaw_BL-article-P16Dr John Laidlaw_BL-article-P16








[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) abstract painter artist born 4th May 1920 died 30th June 2009 Dr. John Patrick Laidlaw FRCP epilepsy Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh neurologist Peebles Scottish Artists Scottish Borders Fri, 27 Mar 2020 17:40:08 GMT
Why Project X ? WHY PROJECT X ?


NB - This article has since been published in The Big Photo eZine, February 2020, edition 37

Article images above are taken from In Search of Soul project.

"A camera is merely a black box with a hole in it to let light in, capturing light frequencies.

Human beings are similar, being receptors of vibrations and frequencies but also emit them (radiance, sound, perceptions).

The black box does not think whereas the human 'feels' thoughts. It is often said that somewhere in each of us lies the Soul - a hard to define concept. We know that a camera has no soul and yet it can record emotion, so in photography terms, the soul must lie within the photographer's perception and engagement with reality.
One should be able to 'feel' a photographic image at a deep level thus making the connection with the perceiver’s emotions and engaging its being.
My quest here is to find the 'Soul' in photography, not the camera, but the Universal connection which engages awareness into One principle.

The Principle of the Soul."

Why should you photograph personal projects even when working as a freelance photographer?

Working in the photography industry as a freelance can be a little like being an actor or artist. There is no guarantee of work today or tomorrow and yesterday’s work was well, yesterday. Past glories are no guarantee of future success, however they do create a visible trail of your work that enables others see the direction of your artistic journey and expression.

Photography is after all a creative process and whilst there are many photographers out there who’s phones never stop ringing and are constantly in demand, this heavenly utopia is not true for everyone.

There are slack times, dead times and certainly some down times!

This is where having or pursuing personal projects is vitally important. Not only do they keep you engaged in the photographic process, they give you an opportunity to EXPLORE!

Paid commissions for clients are to deliver what they want. Personal projects are your opportunity to challenge yourself.

I write about these experiences in my Blogs and also reveal some of them in my Personal Project section of my web site. Anything that takes my eye is fair game. Sometimes its an historical location with a great back story to explore and good old Wikipedia is a great place to fact-check as are any related sites associated with the project you are exploring, other times it is about someone I admire or find interesting. All give one the opportunity to try different techniques from Landscapes to Portraits and everything in between.

I currently have one such project which I started several years ago called ‘People of the Valley’ where I explore the people who live and work in and around the Tweed Valley here in the Scottish Borders where I have lived since 1996.

In it I interview and photograph people I find interesting, quirky or unique (sometimes all three) and with their permission I add them to my small hall of fame. Some are artists, others musicians, one a man of God, another an eighty-year old motorcyclist with an impressive enduro record from the sixties. 

The magic of projects like these are in the people you meet and the places you visit and eventually I hope to run this as an exhibition to tell their stories to a wider public and also to let them see the fruits of my work about them.

So what are the boundaries you need to set and how does one go about preparing a project. Really there is no difference between conducting a project for a client or yourself. Here’s a brief guide or reminder:-

  1. Create a name or title for your project that defines it.

  2. Select the people and/or locations you want to work with.

  3. If collaborating with others, build a team around you who possess the missing or supportive skills you don’t have or want support for and establish a consensus on what the roles of responsibility are and what will be shared between you.

  4. Ask permissions of those you want to photograph and if appropriate, ask them to sign a model release or if minors, seek parental, or guardian consent.

  5. Define clearly the purpose of your project and communicate the background about it showing examples or links for new prospects and team members to see as may be appropriate.

  6. Agree any fees (if required) in advance and seek permissions for land or buildings you may want to feature if not publicly accessible. Note some public buildings are forbidden or require a property releases or written consent (particularly Public or Government held, or if on private land).

  7. Make appointments and stick to them.

  8. Make sure you have the contact information of everyone involved.

  9. Show up. 

  10. Be courteous, patient and respectful of the time, particularly if visiting people in their workplace or homes.

Preparing your own project gives you a focus to your work. It could for example be to capture details of the landscape, or visiting locations at particular times of day, or interviewing people you are featuring and then communicating that information back to them for approval before publishing.

Whatever you decide to do, have fun and share it with those who may be most interested, particularly if for the people you photograph.


Graham Riddell

7th January 2020





Web Site Home Page

BLOG Posts

Personal Projects

Behance Portfolio

Facebook Page


Twitter Feed






[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) art basic photography blog how to nature personal projects photography photography projects portfolio projects Scotland Tue, 07 Jan 2020 17:04:07 GMT
Reaching for the Sun I first met Kathy Stewart, as she was then, in 2015 at a local festival at Traquair House where she was performing with her fellow band members, the Frequent Flyers.

I took a quick portrait head shot of her and asked if I could add her to my photography project, ‘People of the Valley’. Thankfully she said yes and from that developed a mutual friendship where Kathy trusted me with the responsibility of photographing her for a forth-coming album ‘Almost Home’.

Following the death of her husband, Andy Stewart, (of Silly Wizard fame) in 2015, Kathy remarried in Sept 2016 to Ken Kennedy in September 2016 and become Kathy Stewart-Kennedy. Having previously viewed my work when I was exhibiting in Peebles Kathy was eager to use a new image of mine which she had seen on my 2016 desk calendar at a local hairdresser in Peebles. That led to a photo-shoot at Stobo and Dreva here in the Borders just outside Peebles, where we quite literally ‘caught the rainbow’ and that shot became her album cover whilst the calendar image was used inside. See Album Design.

Roll on to August this year 2019, when Kathy contacted me about a new song she had just written 'Reaching for the Sun' which was due for release. It had a fairly heavy, dark theme about child abuse in a church care environment and being a loyal fan of my work, Kathy remembered my black and white images from an evocative project I am still developing, entitled ‘In Search of Soul’ which she felt some of those images would work well as a moodscape for a promotional video she wanted to produce.

I had produced and delivered a similar project for local band Mills from Galashiels a few years previously, aided by my son who did the video mix and so I agreed to give it a go, though I am not a video production expert, I sought to fulfil her creative thought process and artistic vision, without the aid of my more talented son (and his programs and skills!).

Working as part of a music collaboration with Kathy were fellow musicians Iain Fraser (viola and violin), Dave Gray (guitar) and Murray Charters on percussion, with Dave Gray also adding his production skills as sound engineer, for her record company StickyBox Records. Kathy commissioned me to blend the song with my pictures (collaborations like this I love), as she felt they would be perfect for setting the right mood and emotions for such a sensitive subject.

The result is a visually spiritual melody with Kathy’s haunting lyrics intertwined with my darker mood images with more aspirational ones offering release and salvation for those so adversely affected. Each are timed to reinforce the song’s lyrics about times past, yet which, sadly, are still relevant today.

Reaching for the Sun_MED HD_1280x720Kathy Stewart-Kennedy's new song put together with images from my Soul album. Created by me

Graham Riddell, Aug 2019




[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) abuse black and White children dark Dave Gray emotive graphic guitar Iain Fraser Kathy Stewart-Kennedy Murray Charters percussion photographic photography production Reaching for the Sun song Soul strong video viola violin Thu, 29 Aug 2019 14:46:14 GMT
Eco-House on the Hill eco-house-5D-9164eco-house-5D-9164Purpose built eco-house built on the Passivhaus or Passive-House methodology requires little additional heating, relying on sunlight and body heat. Photo: ©Graham Riddell Photography High on a hill over-looking the stunning Tweed Valley in the Scottish Borders, sits a remarkable open and spacious building that harvests energy from the surrounding elements, maintaining a constant and even temperature throughout primarily from natural sunlight and radiated body heat from its occupants.

Built in 2010 on land bought from the Forestry Commission, the house became a larger project than the original barn ruin the clients were planning on converting. They employed the skills of a firm of specialist green architects, Gaia Group in Edinburgh who quickly realised the site had more potential and the seeds of a larger project were sown. By utilising a more elevated position than the existing structure, the architects envisioned a unique project, one that would push to the limits of what could be achieved for building an environmentally sound, ecologically friendly, three-bedroom home.

Recommending the Brettstapel concept (after German engineer Julius Natterer), where only wooden dowels are used throughout the construction, avoiding the need for any nails or glue, they could build a Passive House or 'passivhaus' with exceptional airtight properties where most of its heating is generated from the natural elements and body heat of its occupants. The interior climate is evenly circulated by a mechanical heating and ventilation system (MVHR) that draws air into the structure and circulates it throughout before returning the air back outside. In winter some additional internal heating is required (such as a log burner) to heat the incoming cold air which then heats the cold air coming in when it is returned after the recycle process of approximately three hours.

The required standards of construction for such a building are therefore far superior to conventional building methods utilising perfectly sealed, pre-fabricated sections manufactured in Austria and then transported to the site for a six-week construction window. 

The clients were sold on the concept and readily agreed to create not only a beautiful home, but an architectural icon which would go on to win the Scottish Homes award for Architectural Excellence in 2012 and achieved level six in the government's code for sustainable homes – the highest rating there is for energy efficiency.  

eco-house-5D-9130eco-house-5D-9130The South facing orientation of the house ensures maximum light for solar capture. Photo: ©Graham Riddell Photography eco-house-5D-9162eco-house-5D-9162West side elevation looking down over the Tweed Valley with walkway from top floor to the outside and the solar nature panels on the roof.

eco-house-5D-9157eco-house-5D-9157The main drive leads up to the North facing entrance. Photo: ©Graham Riddell Photography Occupied since 2011, the owners have to date enjoyed idyllic peace and tranquillity and whilst there were a few initial snags with their hot water storage from the innovative rooftop solar panels, they have otherwise lived trouble-free. The exterior cladding is constructed from untreated European larch, secured from sustainable local forests which when installed were more of an alarming orange colour but which have thankfully settled down to a weathered 'silver' grey and now blends stealthily into the surrounding hillside. The walls are almost a foot thick (250mm) and filled with wood fibre and resin insulation which provides exceptional protection from the elements. The stone work is from local quarries and adds aesthetically to the natural-elements of the design, breaking up the essentially wooden structure to provide contrast and texture to the overall appearance and which blends the entire house back into the surrounding landscape.

The orientation of the building is south facing, ensuring maximum exposure to natural daylight where the roof's solar panel system and the triple glazed windows can perform at their optimum.

eco-house-5D-9145eco-house-5D-9145South-facing patio and balcony provide ample space for outside relaxation. Photo: ©Graham Riddell Photography Internally, the living environment is bright and spacious with high quality finishes throughout. The hand-made doors are almost twice the thickness of standard doors and the triple glazed windows seal the elements from the outside. Large areas of glass throughout the design, especially on the south-facing side, ensure heat is transferred into the building, acting like a heater. If too much heat is generated, it can be controlled by electrically controlled external blinds which unlike internal blinds, prevent any heat from entering.

eco-house-7D-9170eco-house-7D-9170Heavy, thick oak and spalted beech doors (downstairs), ash and birch upstairs. provide highly effective sound proofing and insulation. Photo: Graham Riddell Photography eco-house-7D-9170eco-house-7D-9170Triple Glazing for extra insulation. The ample living space is located downstairs whilst the bedrooms and bathrooms are on the upper floor where extended views out over the landscape can be enjoyed. All interior walls are made from locally sourced European larch, the floors in oak and larch were fitted by local tradesmen. The furnishing detailing was supplied by Ancrum based Real Wood Studios where the sumptuous feel and look of their work adds greatly to the wholly natural effect.

eco-house-7D-9162eco-house-7D-9162Hand crafted cupboard doors supplied by Real Wood Studios, Ancrum. Photo: Graham Riddell Photography eco-house-7D-9164eco-house-7D-9164Free-floating oak and larch flooring planks are secured with batons and screws. First and foremost, this building is a home. The light and airy feel throughout the interior affords spacious living which is as relaxing as it is appealing. All the rooms have clay-based wall sections which help to control humidity and prevent condensation. They also prevent monotony by adding areas of contrast to the rich wooden interior. The main hall and open plan kitchen have a solid base of Caithness slate, whilst the rest of the house in decked throughout with free-floating oak and larch boards that are secured in place by secured batons, screwed down to hold everything snugly in place. The abundance of insulation under the roof and below ground is over a metre in depth and the walls are about 250mm thick, ensuring heat is retained and the cold cannot penetrate.

eco-house-5D-9115-6eco-house-5D-9115-6Open plan hall with lounge (left) and kitchen leading off. The stairs, and two further study rooms at the rear of shot. Photo: ©Graham Riddell Photography eco-house-5D-9123-24eco-house-5D-9123-24Large lounge area with white clay wall sections and wood burning stove. Photo: ©Graham Riddell Photography eco-house-5D-9119-21eco-house-5D-9119-21Open plan kitchen/diner leads onto patio and has utility at rear. Photo: ©Graham Riddell Photography eco-house-5D-9126eco-house-5D-9126Staircase leads to the upper floor with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a seating area overlooking the balcony. Photo: ©Graham Riddell Photography

eco-house-7D-9158eco-house-7D-9158Seating area overlooking the balcony and towards bedroom. Photo: ©Graham Riddell Photography eco-house-5D-9127-29eco-house-5D-9127-29Example bedroom clad in larch wood with views over the valley below. Photo: ©Graham Riddell Photography My overall impression of this magnificent property was one of awe. From the quality feel of the internal fittings to the enviable location in a beautiful part of the Scottish Borders where homes like these should feel welcome. It was as far from the creeping housing estate mentality which is becoming so prevalent in our border towns, as new developments bring city housing estates to our rural landscapes.

It would be great to see more empathic design which embraces the beauty of the natural area by featuring more elements taken from this iconic example.



Graham Riddell

June 2019



[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) brettstapel eco-home eco-house ecological efficient environmental green green energy Innerleithen insulated landscape natural nature passive-house passivhaus Plummerswood power purpose-built Scottish Borders solar triple-glazed Mon, 24 Jun 2019 15:03:49 GMT
Self Evident Art Yesterday, Tuesday 18th June 2019, I decided to get myself out of the house and visit something cultural.

I had seen adverts for the photography exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh showing works by Robert Mapplethorpe, Diane Arbus and Francesca Woodman in the Artist Rooms there.

It was sad to learn all three had tragic ends to their lives but fascinating to explore the visions and ideologies they left behind. Both Diane Arbus and the younger Francesca Woodman took their own lives whilst Roberts Mapplethorpe succumbed to AIDS.

For those who have never visited the Portrait Gallery in Queen Street, it really is a treasure, both architecturally and representationally of prominant Scottish historical figures, and so I, like so many others visiting, took a few moments to explore some photography options whilst there.

20190618-_MG_134020190618-_MG_1340Light streams through the arched windows onto the main stairs leading up from the central hall of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.

As I was heading up the stairs to the Artist Rooms where the exhibition was I was struck by the light filtering through stair windows and could not resist the temptation to photograph an atmospheric composition of light, shadow and texture.

From above there is a balcony that overlooks the grand hall below from all four sides and is richly decorated with figures from history in a beautiful mural that covers all sides. Looking over, I was struck with the colours of the lights, observing the interplay of the light and shadow when a woman in a red top walked into my view to complete the composition.

20190618-_MG_134820190618-_MG_1348Looking down on the main hall from the upper balcony when the lady in red enters a side door, complimenting the red hanging lights.

The Artist Rooms are located on the upper floors and I soon found myself in the exhibition I was seeking. There is always a kind of reverence in galleries touching almost on religious, spiritual and meditative peace.

Inside as I walked around, there seemed so many options to create images from the setting and so I stealthily took a few shots and created my own art from theirs.

20190618-_MG_134320190618-_MG_1343The Artist Room housing the photography exhibition 'Self Evidence' with works by Francesca Woodman, Diane Arbus, and Robert Mapplethorpe. Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh. Runs until 20th October 2019. 20190618-_MG_134620190618-_MG_1346A visitor studies the works on the wall and unwittingly becomes the subject of my image. In the Artist Rooms, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.

If you would like to know more about the gallery or its exhibitions, then do visit their web site. Here's a link below to the exhibition 'Self Evidence' which runs until the 20th October 2019.

Self Evidence - Photography Exhibition


©Graham Riddell Photography



[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) Diane Arbus Edinburgh Francesca Woodman photography exhibition Robert Mapplethorpe Scotland Scottish National Portrait Gallery UK Thu, 20 Jun 2019 10:24:32 GMT
Don't Shoot Yourself It's good to let people know what you look like and updating your profile photo can help to keep your business contacts up to date.

A friendly face can make all the difference as to how contacts and prospects respond to you or your business culture and whilst there is a trend to take more selfies on iPhones and tablets etc, for the sake of consistency, it is often better to have a photographer take them for you.

It can be tempting to emphasise looks by sexing it up, and whilst this may be great for personal use, it just might not be the right image to project for business. If you look too serious, or even as though you have just been mugged, or startled like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an-coming car, the viewer will pick up on this immediately.

This shot of Rachel was taken on location at an awards event she was helping organise and we took a few moments before things got too busy to shoot a quick headshot for her profile photo.

Shot under natural light the simplicity of the image works well for her and shot on a full-frame digital SLR at 160mm at f3.2, I was able to blur out the background whilst keeping her eyes sharp. No fancy tricks with software, just an honest portrait in her working environment.

This was great for a one-off, but for a staff shoot, controlling the light would be another option to provide more consistency across a range of staff as may be needed to provide a similar look throughout and if wearing corporate colours, consistency of style.

I work with individuals and companies to supply corporate images for their business that best suits their particular style i.e. corporate, business-like or relaxed and informal.

So don't shoot yourself, call in a photographer


Head Shots Link


[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) business cheerful corporate girl headshots identity marketing photography portrait scotland smiling staff woman worker Sat, 30 Mar 2019 10:45:10 GMT
Red Alert at Traquair Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0323Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0323Terry Glancy at the open shaft that leads down fifteen feet to the nuclear bunker below. Traquair, Scottish Borders, Scotland, UK. Build in 1958 as a main hub of three within a larger grid network covering the Bordrs up to Edinburgh. Those of you who remember the Cold War post WW11, will remember the very real threat of a war to truly ‘end all wars’ as the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962 brought America and the then USSR (today’s Russia) to the brink of Armageddon. It was averted only when the US President Kennedy agreed to President Khrushchev’s offer to remove all the Soviet’s nuclear missiles on the condition that the US did not invade Cuba. Fortunately for us, the agreement held and sense prevailed.

Had such an exchange taken place, Britain was already prepared (as far as anyone could be), with a network of nuclear bunkers, strategically placed around its Isles.

It therefor came as a bit of a surprise to me recently, to learn about a nuclear monitoring station bunker within close range from where I live.

A contact Facebook group ‘Attack Warning Red, Scottish Borders’ had posted online about an unusual event showing the harrowing 1984 docudrama film “Threads’ about a nuclear war and its effects on the city of Sheffield, England, and was showing it to a small group of intrepid souls later that month in a renovated nuclear bunker facility locally.

This I thought was too good an opportunity to miss and to follow-up on and I decided it would make a great addition to my  ‘People of the Valley’ project and a write-up on my website Blog post.

So it was that I came to meet Terry Glancy, an international IT consultant from Walkerburn, on a wet afternoon on 22nd March 2019.

Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0321Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0321What does the future hold?

Terry had bought the bunker from the previous owner, John Letham, who acquired it in 2003, and was now residing in the Philippines. He had originally intended to convert it into a quirky holiday home however those plans fell through and so in stepped Terry who saw an advert in the Scotsman newspaper, 26th May 2018 edition. ‘Yours for £20,000: Cold War bunker with potential to become quirky holiday home’ and bought it the following month. 

Since then, Terry has been cleaning up the place which was left in almost time-capsule condition with an original table, canvas folding chair, teapot, cooking pot and kettle, chemical toilet, original fuse box, a zinc and an enamel pail (bucket), and cluster map showing the locations of other sites in the network.

The original flaky, external green paint has been repainted white and the floor inside matt black. The walls were lined at some point to provide more insulation and the floor had a rubber membrane applied to keep the cold damp from rising.

Built in 1958 on land acquired by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) from Traquair Estate, as a nuclear monitoring post for the Royal Observation Core (ROC) to check radiation fall-out in the event of a nuclear war, the bunker was linked to a series of cluster cells each feeding information back to HQ in Edinburgh. If the main line went down then the master bunker would communicate over radio frequency. Designed as a two-man base, the prospects would not have been favourable for either of them in a hot war situation.

Entrance is from a fifteen foot vertical shaft with a steel ladder which at the bottom has two rooms leading off it and there is a hand water pump to extract residual water from the floor. One room is more of a cupboard and may have housed the chemical toilet, and would have been used as a decontamination room. The other larger room was where the main operations would have been conducted from. It was connected to the outside world via a direct telephone line and in fact, British Telecom (BT) had also previously owned the site for a potential aerial mast but this became surplus to requirements.

Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0313Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0313A vertical shaft fifteen feet deep with steel ladder drops down form the entrance point above.

Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0308Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0308If water did seep into the structure, this hand pump would have been used to pump it out. A vertical shaft fifteen feet deep with steel ladder drops down form the entrance point above.

When inside, I discovered some of the more chilling artefacts from the nuclear age. On the inside of the main room. next to the door, were two bottles. One contained Sodium Chloride (for decontamination washing) and the other alarmingly labelled 'Emergency Eye Wash'. At the far end of the room was a light shaft with a steel sliding door containing a mirror which acted rather like a periscope. The steel door though was to be closed in the event of fall-out being present!

Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0285Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0285Chemicals used for washing down contamination and emergency eye wash in the event of exposure to radiation fallout. Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0289Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0289Graphic descriptions of the bunker layout underground and atomic test photos for reference.
The original folding canvas chair sat in front of the wall table and on the wall in front were drawings and pictures showing the facility design plan and atomic explosions (in case you never saw one!) and a map showing the clusters of bunkers in the Forth and Borders areas. The images reminded me of my childhood growing up in the Nuclear Age as I too had many photographs of test explosions on my wall and a small cupboard into which I escaped the world, into my secret bunker!

Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0297Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0297Cluster map showing the locations of other cells within the network

Terry allows a gentle sense of humour to preside over the otherwise austere facility with his large brown Teddy for company, whilst there were some welcome original kitchen stove appliances comprising a large steel teapot, a cooking pot, a small kettle and some all-important cleaning bleach. Clearly what ever happened outside in Cold War days, a brew was essential.

Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0290Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0290large steel tea pot, cooking pot and kettle with cleaning powder. On the wall next to the door was where the main fuse box was located (still the original) and below it a battery from which power was drawn. At one time there would also have been an external generator but there was no sign of such now. Also in the room, near the door, was the chemical toilet and I considered that the lack of privacy here would surely mean it would have been kept in the smaller cupboard sized room next door. A toilet in the command room - how fitting I thought! On the walls were some homely canvas prints of a more artistic nature which were in stark contrast to the nuclear explosion photos opposite.

Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0300Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0300Power was supplied by battery for all lighting etc inside and a generator outside would have been used when possible.

Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0305Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0305A few home comforts with the room largely as it was in the day.

Terry was preparing for his film night with the brave band of cinema-goers on the 29th March 2019, which was not too many days away at the time of writing. He hung a projector screen effortlessly from the steel sliding door where the periscope was and would project onto it from the other end of the room. I haven't seen 'Threads' myself however, from what I found online, the viewers will be in for a dramatic night in a perfect location!

Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0294Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0294Owner, Terry Glancy surveys one of his historic books about the nuclear atomic science and consequences of its misuse. Teddy adds a lighter touch to the overwhelmingly seriousness of the bunker.

Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0317Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0317A planned showing of the harrowing 1984 Nuclear Drama, 'Threads' has its first Screening in the bunker on Friday 29th March 2019.

And so it was, that I came to learn a little more about Scotland’s secret history and my grateful thanks to Terry for showing me around. If you would like to visit for yourself, then you can get in touch with Terry through his Facebook page since at other times the facility is very securely locked!

Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0324Traquair Nuclear Bunker-0324Terry Glancy at the open shaft that leads down fifteen feet to the nuclear bunker below. Traquair, Scottish Borders, Scotland, UK. Build in 1958 as a main hub of three within a larger grid network covering the Bordrs up to Edinburgh. March 22nd 2019.


Facebook Link: Attack Warning Red, Scottish Borders

Graham Riddell

23rd March 2019 













[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) atomic monitor nuclear bunker nuclear shelter nuclear war scotland scottish borders station traquair uk war Sat, 23 Mar 2019 16:00:04 GMT
The Mystery of Damhead Rig Memorial The Mystery of Damhead Rig Memorial, Kirklands, Scottish Borders

Damhead Rig Memorial-long-0883Damhead Rig Memorial-long-0883The view of Damhead Rigg from the house has been a hill I have wanted to climb for many years.

There is a hill on the distant southern landscape that I am able to see from my house and I have always been foxed as to where it actually lay and where to access it from. So I dug out my 1:50 000 OS map and was able to find its location with the letters ‘Meml’ indicated at its peak. I then consulted my 1:25 000 series map which is more detailed and sure enough the word Memorial was clearly indicated.

Intrigued, I wondered to whom this memorial was built and so then decided I would have to get up there and find out as I had not heard anything about it before. Damhead Rig is a broad rolling hill with a signature brown-cap peak which links the northern flanks of the Southern Uplands, with the Southern Uplands Way route from St Mary’s Loch further south, to Traquair, on its north eastern side, where it passes directly through on its way up to Minch Moor and Yair beyond to its east.

From my bedroom window, aided with an old pair of binoculars, I observed two distinct cairns, one on the summit and a smaller feature below and to its left. I was looking for a good route up, however no distinct path was visible to the summit from the main walkway route and so I guessed that a detour from the main path would probably be required.

On the mid morning of the Summer Solstice on June 21st, 2018, with a good weather window, I set off in search of my quarry from Damhead Farm which lies just beyond the tiny hamlet of Traquair. Passing through four large metal farm gates I was at last following the farm track as it meandered left and upwards past a small wood on my right to another metal gate.

When walking, I always feel it is worthwhile to stop every so often and take in the views, not only of what lies ahead, but what is around and behind you too as it is otherwise too easy to just head up and miss parts of the bigger picture.

Damhead Rig Memorial-wide-1315Damhead Rig Memorial-wide-1315Ascending from the farm track at Damhead Farm then looking back towards Innerleithen from the first advantage point on the marked way.

From this early vantage point, I was struck with the natural beauty of the landscape as it rolled back towards Traquair and Innerleithen and reminded myself just how lucky I was to live in such an idillic area of the Borders.

Looking ahead, the path snaked upwards and as my goal came into view in the distance, I progressed steadily, observing the lower track down on my left from the farm as it cut along the valley floor continuing deeper into the glen, eventually leading to two small-holdings first at Damhead Shiels and then a little further up at Camp Shiels approximately a mile and half in. Trevana Know lay adjacently above, and between them was an area marked on the OS maps as The Lead Mine, now cleared of forestry, whilst further still rose the lower slopes of Minch Moor canopied by forestry then heather on the top. It is the highest peak in the area at 567M (1,860 ft) and is slightly offset from the main Southern Upland Way.

Damhead Rig Memorial-wide-1326Damhead Rig Memorial-wide-1326Looking east from the Way path with Damhead Shiel and Camp Shiel cottages below an area marked on the OS map as The Lead Mine above. The summit of Minch Moor is just heading out of shot on the right

As I passed through two further gates the track opened up bearing left around the contour of the hillside I was following, towards the glen at Glengaber and the ominously named Hammel Bog, from where the three prominent ridges of Welshie Law, Glengaber Hill and Peatshank Head can be accessed (a walk for another day perhaps!).

Unfortunately by this point I had not found what I was hoping for, i.e. a path leading directly up towards the summit! The only option was to leave the path and cut up onto the carpet of thick heather and start plodding. Anyone who has walked through dense heather will know it saps the very life out of your legs and with some parts almost knee deep, I wasn’t enjoying the experience but vowed to ‘plod-on’ regardless. I usually look for sheep trails as they are experts at cutting tracks, however on this occasion I was unable to locate any.

Climbing blind with my heavy camera gear & tripod, I soon stumbled upon the ruins of another cairn or maybe a shelter or store. It was fairly round and appeared to have been hollow and so may even have been a well at one time. Not sure what it was, but certainly not a memorial. After what seemed an eternity of more tough plodding, I saw what I believed to be the main cairn up ahead. Hooray!

Damhead Rig Memorial-wide-1333Damhead Rig Memorial-wide-1333The broken cairn

Damhead Rig Memorial-wide-1335Damhead Rig Memorial-wide-1335The summit of Damhead Rigg is marked by a cairn and the place where the Memorial to George John Learmont Drysdale used to be.Was this it? As there were no obvious tracks to be seen, the only option was to march ever upwards being careful not to step on nesting birds roosts, several of which would cause their residents to suddenly shoot into the air with a cacophony of noise that would alarm even the most raucous of souls. The heather was just beginning to flower, not enough to be visible yet, and would later transform the hillside in a deeply rich purple mass through July and August.

Then at last I was there. The cairn was about four feet high and cone shaped and offered some welcome protection from a brisk breeze which was bellowing across the land from the north west. As normal, I took a few photographs to mark the position and to celebrate the occasion. One showed my walking stick and tripod for scale, whilst the other was to feature on the Geograph online map reference NT3331. Yet I could not see any sign or evidence of a plaque or inscription on it to inform the sojourning pilgrim.
Damhead Rig Memorial-wide-1341Damhead Rig Memorial-wide-1341The cairn has been rebuilt at least once and the original monument is now no more than a memory

damhear-rigg-long-0863damhear-rigg-long-0863Cairn marking what I believed to be the memorial spot where the monument to (George John) Learmont Drysdale stood. It overlooks Innerleithen and Traquair to the Moorfoot Hills beyond.

It was a pleasant, very warm and sunny day with blue skies all the way, however by the time I got there with my weighty camera gear, I was literally soaked in sweat. As is usual, I always like to spend at least half an hour at the top and take in the views and so I enjoyed my packed lunch in the peace and tranquillity of my hard found location, taking in the stunning scenery of the rolling landscape, with Innerleithen and it's local hill Lee Pen below and the Moorfoot Hills beyond far into the distance. 

After I had dried out, I began the search for the best return path and looking back homeward, I could see the remnants of a faint cart track or perhaps a more modern quad bike route over to my left, so I made my way over finding ground which was much more welcoming and favourable for walking on.

Dotted around were little clumps of wild cotton vigorously shaking their heads in the stiffening breeze, a sign perhaps that in less favourable conditions this ground might well become quite boggy, as I soon found out when I knelt down to take some photos of them, as it did not take long for the hidden moisture underground to seep through my trousers at the knee.

damhead-rigg-wide-1352damhead-rigg-wide-1352A small clump of wild cotton growing amongst the heather with the Learmont Drysdale memorial cairn and Minch Moor behind.

Walking slowly back down, the track petered-out and was lost to more heather and I realised now why I could not find this route on my way up. It brought me to an acute edge of a stone-wall dyke surrounding the field that I had earlier passed through on the way up. The route to this point was not at all obvious or marked from the main track below, which had it been, would have saved me a lot of expended energy and a tough scramble through the tortuous heather mantle. Soon though I was reunited with the main path and heading back down to where I'd started.

Damhead Rig Memorial-wide-1368Damhead Rig Memorial-wide-1368The way path meandering from Damhead and Traquair, with Innerlerleithen in the distance.

So to whom was the memorial erected? I simply didn't know.

After I got back and having made more investigations online, I was able piece together a fragment of this person’s life. Having struggled to find a good account of him locally, he was mentioned in a pamphlet in a Scottish Borders Council publication ‘Paths around Innerleithen and Walkerburn’ dated August 2013, which had an old photograph of the original opening ceremony accompanied by this text..


'There is a memorial cairn to George John Learmont Drysdale on the hill above Hannel Bog. Drysdale was a Scottish composer born in 1866 in Edinburgh. From 1887 to 1904 he worked and studied in London having failed to gain a place at the Edinburgh Royal College of Music. When he returned to Scotland in 1904 he spent the rest of his short life composing. He died at the age of 42 in June 1909 only one month after his mother died’.


                                      Drysdale Monument Opening-35Drysdale Monument Opening-35Old photograph showing the opening of the original monument to George John Learmont Drysdale. Date unknown.

From a pamphlet by Scottish Borders Council Walks around Innerleithen and Walkerburn.
            George John Learmont DrysdaleGeorge John Learmont DrysdaleGeorge John Learmont Drysdale

Known as Learmont Drysdale (see Wikipedia entry), this talented composer lived a short life and was immortalised by his sister Janey Crighton Drysdale who lived locally. I am grateful to Jim Barton for his entry on Geograph dated June 2011 (NT3331 : Memorial cairn for Learmont Drysdale) which reads as follows:-


              “A plastic box, just visible at the base of the cairn, contains a Visitors’ Book. It explains that the cairn was dedicated in a ceremony held on 1st September 1937, attended by about 60 people. The plaque was unveiled by Sir Dan Godfrey, conductor of Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra. Also attending was the composer’s sister Janey Drysdale, who lived at the nearby cottage of the Hennel. She died in 1949, aged 87, following a fire at the cottage, which is now a roofless ruin.”


So I came to realise to my dismay, that I had not found the Memorial Cairn at all, but some other other cairn, perhaps a way marker, and lovely though that spot was I knew I had to return someday and complete this story.


Graham J Riddell

29th June 2018


UPDATE: 26th February 2019


It was a remarkably warm and still day for February and we were experiencing record high temperatures of 18 degrees or more!! I set off again in search of Leamont Drysdale's monument cairn about 2:00pm in the afternoon since the light was longer again and I should make it back easily before darkness and temperatures fell.

This time I travelled light with only a small haversack, one camera, spare jacket fleece a flask of water and an apple and orange for sustenance. On reaching the point again where the way skirted left around the hillside I cut up sharp right following the dyke wall to an orange gas pipeline marker (314). This time I was confident I would be on the correct route. Unfortunately though for me there were two paths leading off it!! I took the first and after about twenty minutes, realised my mistake and had yet another unpleasant scramble across the now infamous heather moorland. At last I was reunited with the sparse track I had come down on my previous trip and so made my way slowly way ever upwards.

Eventually, to my left, was the cairn I had previously reached and I continued past wondering how I had not considered this option when I last visited. After about a further ten minutes or so climbing carefully in the narrow tracks between the heather, the cairn finally came into view - relief!. The track coiled its way around towards it, then with just a short excursion through the heather - I was finally there (I should have taken champagne)!!

Sure enough the cairn was larger and as I had seen on the OS Geotag web page. It had a stone plaque, obscured by moss, lichen and weathering which read; 

‘Learmont Drysdale, Composer, 1866 - 1909’

and a large stone at the base concealing something wrapped in black plastic. Removing the stone, I carefully unwrapped the layers of wet plastic bags to reveal a rusting old tin box, not the plastic one so described in previous reports, and I was fearful the notebook inside might have been contaminated or destroyed.

To my delight, the final plastic bag was thicker and inside was a small red notebook with a couple of biro pens. I duly made my entry, noting that this was not the original book but a subsequent update and thought how a plastic box would still have been a better option than the this rusting old metal thing.

Learmont Drysdale Monument-0086Learmont Drysdale Monument-0086"Learmont Drysdale, Composer, 1866 - 1909 Learmont Drysdale Monument-0079Learmont Drysdale Monument-0079The visitor's book at the memorial cairn to composer George John Learmont Drysdale Learmont Drysdale Monument-0114Learmont Drysdale Monument-0114Memorial cairn to composer George John Learmont Drysdale.Sitting atop Damhead Rig, with the Southern Uplands surrounding it.


Learmont Drysdale Monument-0088Learmont Drysdale Monument-0088The memorial cairn to Learmont Drysdale, composer, overlooking Innerleithen and the Moorfoot Hills beyond. Scottish Borders. I had finally managed to pay my respects to the memory of Mr Drysdale and his sister Janey, who pushed for the monument to preserve Learmont's name and who also died tragically in a fire at her cottage at Hannel Bog below the summit in 1949.

George John Learmont Drysdale was born in Edinburgh on October 3rd, 1866 to Andrew Drysdale (1831–1918), a builder, and his wife, Jane Elspeth Learmont (1827–1909), who was descended through his mother's line, from the 13th Century border Laird, poet and seer, Thomas the Rhymer (Sir Thomas de Ercildoun). 

Learmont was one of three siblings, Andrew, and his sister Janey Crichton Drysdale. He had wanted to study at Edinburgh Royal College of Music but was turned down due to a lack of orchestration skills. He left and studied in London eventually enrolling with The Royal College of Music. One of his aims was to establish a Society for Scottish music which came into being only after his untimely death (the Dunedin Association). He never married and was devoted to his mother who died suddenly in May 1909 from pneumonia. Learmont was just finishing off his opera 'Fionn and Tera' when he also suddenly developed the same illness just a month later and he died aged just 42 on the 18th June 1909.

On Janey Drysdale (Mrs Farmer): "as the result of the friendship which developed in the 1940s between Henry Farmer and Drysdale’s sister Janey, who through the years had tried to promote her brother’s works whenever possible, she was persuaded by Farmer to donate his papers to Glasgow University Library" 

(see link below).


After a short rest to absorb the utter stillness, peace and serenity of this place on this remarkably warm and yet winter afternoon, I headed back home, much wiser and richer in knowledge of this local landmark which for over twenty years I had simply gazed at out of my bedroom window in wonder.

Graham J Riddell

28th February 2019



Further Reading and sources for this article:-


Scottish Composers




Oxford Dictionary of National Biography


University of Glasgow - Special Collections














[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) 1866 1909 composer Learmont Drysdale musician Fri, 01 Mar 2019 17:03:40 GMT
The Sounds and Sights of Nature Oystercatcher Bahing-0037Oystercatcher Bahing-0037Oyster Catcher bathing in the cold waters of the river Tweed in January 2018. Taken near Innerleithen, Peeblesshire, in the Tweed VAlley of the Scottish Borders.

As we are enjoying the milder weather this January, on looking back to last year, January was chilly but not as bad as the month of February which turned bitterly cold as the Beast from the East visited upon us.

This Oyster Catcher was taking a dip in the icy waters of the river Tweed here in Innerleithen. I love to hear them arriving back in numbers, usually at night, with their peep-peep piping as the arrive and so I used this as my January image for my Limited Edition, 2019 Desk Calendar this year.

I am looking forward again to their mass return and the herald of Spring, though I do know that winter is not finished with us yet!

I provide photography walks and training to anyone interested in learning and am looking forward to meeting those who bought Vouchers from me at Christmas for lessons in the near future.



[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) nature photography oystercatcher photo training photography lessons wild birds winter Wed, 16 Jan 2019 15:30:59 GMT
Ricky - A Biker's Tale Dave ‘Ricky’ Richardson has been riding motor bikes for over sixty years and only stopped competition at the turn of the Millennium. At 83 years of age, he cuts a slim physique and is still in full control of all his faculties.

rickysbikes-3784Ricky on top his silver Triumph 21Dave 'Ricky' Richardson atop his prized silver Triumph 21

I first met Ricky whilst out and about on my own personal photo-walk searching for inspiration and was making my way back from a local pine wood when I stopped to take a picture of a house that interested me with fallen leaves and intriguing shrubbery around its gated entrance.

An elderly man walking his little white dog (Jenny - a cross between a poodle and a Bichon Frise as I later learned), came strolling up and stood directly in front of my view and exchanged pleasantries about the weather and then our conversation somehow led to the subject of motor bikes. I don’t remember how exactly, but he started to tell me about him riding old classic bikes and how he had several friends, some local, who also partook of this social and exciting activity.

Intrigued by his tales, I enquired his name and if he wouldn’t mind telling me how old he was, thinking that the bikes he drives today will be somewhat pedestrian. It took me by complete surprise when he told me he was eighty three years and had been riding bikes for most of his life.

An idea was formulating in my head indicating that I had to explore this more deeply and so I ventured to ask if he would allow me to include him in a project I have been running for several years now entitled, ‘People of the Valley’. This random collection of persona is from everyday folks I meet and who live in the Tweed Valley here in the Scottish Borders. I have been greatly impressed by the diversity of skills and talent I have thus far encountered and so was keen to include Ricky in my personal Hall of Fame!

We agreed that I should call him and arrange to meet, and if his friend was available he could join us too. And so it was that a few days later I came to photograph and interview Ricky and his friend seventy year veteran Dennis Bellville, who also brought along his vintage bike - a shaft-driven, 1951, Sunbeam 500 incline twin, in classic war-time green.

Dennis had kindly come over before having to head back to his part-time job later in the afternoon and I was grateful for the opportunity to photography both these wonderful characters with their bikes and thereby archive another small piece of local history.

rickysbikes-3769Two veteransRicky and his friend Dennis Bellville on their bikes

rickysbikes-3783The Sunbeam and the TriumphGreen Sunbeam 500 & Silver Triumph 21

As Dennis putted off into the distance to return to work, I took a few more shots of Ricky with his wonderful 1962, silver Triumph 21, four-stoke twin, which he had bought in 2016 ‘unseen’ and to his dismay arrived as just a box of parts. He set about rebuilding it, even hand-crafting a new oil tank. The result is a spectacular, light-weight machine that beams with as much pride as Ricky’s satisfied smile.

His collection didn’t end there though. Next he showed me another classic he had personally rebuilt, a stunning, blue 1962 Triumph T100 - a 500cc four-stroke twin which came to his possession in 2008. A friend had contacted him about an old machine in need of some TLC. When he told him the registration, Ricky quickly realised that this was was a bike he had previously owned and sold, back in 1963, and so acquired it back and set about rebuilding it and has brought it back to life and its former glory.

Whist his silver Triumph 21 is a favourite, he never rides it far from home as the petrol tank capacity is limited and he once ran out of fuel when out on a ride. Fortunately he was close-by to a friend and walked a mile or so to his house where he was able to get assistance.

The T100 however has been on long touring rides to the western Isles including Mull and Skye and also down to the Lake district.

rickysbikes-00061962 Silver Triumph 21Lovingly restored from just a box of parts which he bought unseen.

rickysbikes-3812What's in your Garage?Ricky in his workshop with his three bikes, tools and spare parts.

Ricky’s skills are not confined to only riding motor bikes. At the age of fifteen on leaving school he served his apprenticeship as a coach-builder at the famous K&I Coach-works in Dalkeith, Midlothian, Edinburgh, where he grew up and learned vital skills that were to serve him well through his career. He suffered a serious injury while working there shattering his leg, and the physiotherapist recommended he take up road cycling. He did and fell in love with the two wheels mode of transport getting into motorbikes in his early twenties.

At the age of twenty, he began his two year National Service with the Royal Navy serving on aircraft carriers (HMS Bulwark (R08) and HMS Centaur) as an aircraft mechanic, when on occasion he famously repaired the catching mechanism for the incoming Sea Hawks and single prop Gannets, after one had become snagged by one plane’s propeller whilst attempting the hazardous landing, thus ensuring the fleet and ship remained operational.

Motor cycles caught his imagination and he began learning new riding skills in Reliability Trials, firstly in the Novice Class then progressing through to the Non-Experts Class and finally the Experts Class with several wins along the way. Modest about his past successes and achievements in these classes, he did remind me of his final win back in the late 1990’s at the ‘Grey Beards Trial’ - a one-day event near at White Adder near Gifford.

Through the 1970’s up until 2005, Ricky remained an active endurance rider competing in Motorcycle Reliability or endurance trials with two Edinburgh teams, Edinburgh Southern and Edinburgh St George.

On one famous outing with his trials pals with Edinburgh South Motorcycle Club, they scrambled up to the top of Ben Nevis, then took a trophy photo of themselves with one of their bikes, a Spanish built OSSA 250cc two-stroke machine, perched on top of the trig-point with one rider on top and the others around each side. With a humorous glint in his eye and dragging on another JPS Blue cigarette, he passed the photo to me saying that it might just pass the Guinness Book of World Records for the Highest Motorcycle in Britain!

rickysbikes-3817Ben Nevis ClimbMembers of Edinburgh South Motor Cycle Club on top of Ben Nevis with L-R: Jock Young, Jock Fraser (on bike) Dave (Ricky) Richardson (center) and George Plenderleith who's brother Archie took the photo.

rickysbikes-3815Happy MemoriesRicky with his photograph from the Ben Nevis expedition

Ricky moved down from Dalkeith to Peebles here in the Scottish Borders with his wife and continued to commute to work, then on retirement they moved to Ellibank Gatehouse before finally settling in Innerleithen in 2000 where is was able to help care for his wife who has sadly now passed away.

Approximately 26 years previously he and a group of close friends, started the Lothian & Borders Classic and Vintage Motorcycle Club which met at the Leadburn Inn until it was destroyed by fire in 2005 by a tragic motor accident. They continued meeting after the Inn was rebuilt until the owner, himself a bike enthusiast, acquired new premises in Eddleston earlier this year. However the Inn didn’t have the required parking facilities for a mass bikers' gathering and so today the club meet at the Black Barony Hotel also in Eddleston, on the second Thursday of the month. They also have an active Facebook page.

But Ricky had yet one more surprise in store for me.

Far from being an elderly gentleman pottering about on his old classic machines, he just bought himself a new BMW G310, a single cylinder, 313cc roadster with rear exhaust outlet which he plans to go touring on next summer, especially if the weather is as good as this year. And true to form, he had modified it by adding a new rear mudguard. 

rickysbikes-0015Modern RiderSitting on his new BMW G100 single cylinder, four stroke 313cc machine.

rickysbikes-3792BMW G100Elevation of his new machine.

For my part, I want to thank Ricky for sharing part of his story with me and I wish him many more years of happy, safe motoring.

rickysbikes-3824SafetyRicky with his helmet.










[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) biker bikes blog BMW G310 classic classic bikes competition elderly motorcycles photography scotland Scottish Borders Triumph 21 Triumph G100 vintage Tue, 23 Oct 2018 20:44:28 GMT
The Henry Ballantyne Institute Mural The Henry Ballantyne Institute (HB Club) Mural

Henry Ballantyne Club_Mural_1_mountHenry Ballantyne Club_Mural_1_mountThe Henry Ballantyne Club, Walkerburn - Mural by Alan Liversedge - photograph by Graham Riddell Photography, Innerleithen. Hidden inside the Henry Ballantyne Institute (known locally as the HB Club), in the small village of Walkerburn in the Scottish Borders, is one of those amazing art treasures that are only well known to those who are familiar with the club and its activities. 

For years I had been asked by locals if I had ever seen the wall painting inside the club and I had to confess that I was not familiar with either. I did though make a mental note to go in next time I was passing or out walking in the area, however the years rolled on without gaining access when the club was open.

Following a quiet spell at work recently, I vowed to go in and see it for myself and made a quick trip over having contacted the club via their social media Facebook page. What I saw there made a lasting impression and I just knew I had to add this to my project list and preserve it for the world since very little information could be found about it anywhere online.

The only place where I have seen anything similar was in the Royal Circus Hotel in Edinburgh over thirty years ago and long gone now I think.  It had an oval, tented (circus) bar with an ‘audience’ looking-on representing the numerous locals who drank there.

The Henry Ballantyne Institute was constructed in Dumfriesshire red sandstone by David Ballantyne in 1904 to the memory of his father, Henry Ballantyne, who established the textile mill there in 1846 and later had housing constructed for the workers and the Ballantyne family by architect Frederick Thomas Pilkington, thus creating the village of Walker Burn. It was originally opened as a Reading Room and social centre to provide knowledge and entertainment to the local workforce and was run by a committee of locals. 

HB_Club_walkerburn__MG_7434HB_Club_walkerburn__MG_7434Henry Ballantine Institute, Walkerburn, Scottish Borders also known locally as the HB Club.

In 2000 it was handed over to the community from the Ballantyne Family Trust and has operated independently since then as a charitable organisation providing refreshment and entertainment to the local community.

Inside, the mural occupies the eastern wall in the rear lounge bar and celebrates the lives of the many local characters who have supported the club over the years. It was painted by local fine artist Alan Liversedge and he employs various themes from the Arts and cultural events to represent them.

Classic scenes such as the iconic 'The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch’ by Henry Raeburn, are depicted and the entire concept delivers an abundance of self-effacing humour in a wonderfully rich historical context. The effect is to connect the Arts to Walkerburn through a visual montage of performances, events and historic iconography of the club’s patrons who have graced its environs over the years and who were its most supportive and colourful local characters at the time of painting.

Many of those characters are no longer with us today but their legacy lives on through the artist’s imaginative representation of them in his masterful mural.

My thanks to HB Club for their permission to write this, particularly ex-club treasurer Ronnie McCudden and club secretary Mags Henderson, Walkerburn History pages at for a little context and not least to the artist himself Alan Liversedge for making such a wonder piece of art.

Graham Riddell

Sept, 2018


[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) art artwork blog hb club henry ballantyne institute history landscape mural painting scottish borders walkerburn Wed, 19 Sep 2018 10:54:26 GMT
How Deep is your Field? kailzieboho_MG_0139-3kailzieboho_MG_0139-3Fashion photo-shoot at Kailzie Gardens

I firmly believe the best way to learn photography is by actually doing it! That is why I choose to train people in the art through personal one-to-ones, or in small groups. There is no substitute for getting your hands dirty and putting theory into practice.

New technology today means that photography is moving rapidly away from the traditional tools and methods, relying increasingly on effects apps to create a look. Whilst these are interesting in a creative sense, they also rob one of personal creativity, producing factory style 'me-too' images such as on Instagram and smart phones.

As these apps develop in the future, photography will for many, become just like driving a car or operating a computer. People know less and less about how their world works and so are ignorant of the deeper knowledge of it all and how everything comes together to produce a given effect.

For example, what is meant by Depth of Field in photography?

The importance to lens choice in image making is more important than the actual camera or its format, since it is through that eye one sees the world and each lens has different characteristics and potentials depending on choice.

Apps now replicate Bokeh (blur) and other Photoshop-style effects so whilst an image concept can be replicated, the concept and technology behind it get potentially lost. Like any tool, the skill lies in the craftsman or woman who uses it and I accept the youthful, modern photographer, is skilled in software applications at the post-capture editing process. In fact, often a poor photograph can be 'enhanced' to such a degree as to be completely indistinguishable from the original file.

Here then is where the Old-School knowledge comes in handy. You can shoot the effect you want just by having the correct lens and 'controlling the depth of field, or in layman's terms, the amount of an image that is acceptably sharp.

So the next time you are playing with your apps, try and imagine how the effect would be produced conventionally and apply your skill accordingly.

Peace and Tranquillity by Stobo Castle_0792Peace and Tranquillity by Stobo Castle_0792Stobo Castle Health Spa from across the pond. Stobo, Scottish Borders.

Tweed Valley Location

[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) aperture art basic photography blog bokeh depth of field digital photography landscape learn photography photography scotland the principles and practice of photography Thu, 05 Jul 2018 15:54:31 GMT
Finding Peace in our Time locheddy-9995locheddy-9995 'Tranquil Loch Eddy' is located in the wild and remote private Glen Estate belonging to the Tennant family, and is just a few miles from my home here in the Scottish Borders. A place where past members of the Royal Family and senior politicians spent vacations or held important meetings.

Today the Loch remains a place where a busy or troubled mind can find peace and relaxation.

Traquil Loch Eddy-9999Traquil Loch Eddy-9999The peaceful waters of Loch Eddy rests in the Glen Estate a few miles south of Innerleithen. It is favoured by fishermen and those seeking a quieter pace of life. Scottish Borders, Scotland, UK

Have a Seat and Think About ItHave a Seat and Think About It

[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) borders" fishing glen holiday landscape loch loch eddy nature peaceful photography remote scotland scottish tranquil uk vacation walking Wed, 09 May 2018 11:36:16 GMT
A Spring Walk The Southern Upland Way, St Mary's Loch to Traquair route from Blake Muir

Along the Way-0721Along the Way-0721Heading north on the Southern Upland Way across Blake Muir and Newcraig Hill towards Traquair and In the distance, Innerleithen. Southern Uplands, Scottish Borders, Scotland, UK.

The weather has been, well, to put it mildly, mixed recently between freezing easterly chills accompanied by snow to pleasant warm spring sunshine and green fields, so it was with a determined heart that I set off on Thursday 29th March 2018 for another local excursion as clear skies and hills suggested a more promising opportunity to get some new stock images in.

I set off from the car park at Traquair Kirk south of Traquair at Kirkhouse which is the meeting point of the Southern Upland Way walk from St Mary's Loch 12 miles further south and the B709 Innerleithen to St Mary's Loch road.

Traquair Kirk-0569Traquair Kirk-0569

Access was next to two cottages beside the car park in the southern side and a small farm track eased up behind them leading onto the rising hillside above. I am definitely not as fit as I once was and carrying my two digital SLR's and their heavy glass lenses added a further 10 kilos (1.5 stone) to my already overweight frame.

Where once I used to leg-up hills with relative ease, I now have to set a more leisurely pace of between one and a half and two miles per hour (uphill) and just try to keep on going. The first half mile is always the worst as my legs question what the hell I am doing to them again! So off I plodded stopping as required to check my progress and any views that may present themselves (or just to recover!).

This would be an up and down walk, returning by the same route as I hadn't brought my map with me and I wasn't entirely sure which hill I was actually on. I last walked here over ten years ago with a friend over to the other side but had no intention of repeating it this time. The farm track gradient up was long and progressive, steep in parts and as I pushed further up, the rolling landscape of the surrounding hills came more into view. I was focused on getting to the top of what I thought was a local landmark that I can see from my house, but as it turned out I was in the wrong location for that and as it stretched out before me I was beginning to have second thoughts about making it up there at all. In reality is was just a couple of miles to where I was heading but somehow it seemed further, much further.

Barn on the Hill-0748Barn on the Hill-0748

Taking one of my frequent 'breathers' I was able to get a glimpse of where I actually was. Looking back towards the north east there was an open farm gate on my right inviting further inspection. From there in the distance I could see the peak of our local hill Lee Pen and the scarred side of Pirn Craig to its right and the higher peaks of Priesthope Hill, Glede Knowes and possibly Windlestraw Law in the distance which at 659M (2,284 ft) is the highest peak in the southern Moorfoot Hills. Below me was the farm at Orchard Mains and the road to Glen Estate whilst and in front, a weather beaten corrugated iron shed with a flaking orange roof which added something 'artful' to the scene.

Turning back to the rising farm track I was following, the assent steepened to a brow of a hill. On either side were trees. Forestry on my right and some determined hawthorns to my left. These twisted forms of the hawthorn made me think more about their fight for survival. Clearly the landscape can be brutal and unforgiving at times as winter storms take their toll. I was impressed by their crooked determination to survive and in just a month or so, they would be in full bloom with white blossom. It was a thought to cherish.

Hawthorn Tree-0586Hawthorn Tree-0586Hawthorn Tree on the Southern Upland Way path from Traquair (Kirkhouse) to St Mary's Loch. Scottish Borders

Onward and upwards I plodded until the track gave way to a more open landscape with the broad back of Newhall Hill and Blake Muir beyond. From there I could see my destination in the distance. Somehow it seemed further away. Would I have the time and energy to get up there I wondered? feeling tired already and the weight of my camera gear and gravity pulling me back down. Normally this would be a fairly straightforward walk for most, but I was not at my fittest and my 60 years were reminding me that I was no longer an agile gazelle.

Newhall Hill to Blake Muir-0590Newhall Hill to Blake Muir-0590Looking south towards the summit Newhall Hill to Lee Pen-0593Newhall Hill to Lee Pen-0593

As I progressed ever upwards I would occasionally stop to look back to see how far I had come and it was then that I began to release the real joy of this trip. The views back towards Traquair and Innerleithen were wonderful with the soft rolling Borders hills stretching out before me.

Over to my left from this viewpoint the hillside fell dramatically into a steep glen. The importance of which was to keep that place a hidden secret far from prying eyes. No wonder then Royalty and dignitaries used to visit there in bygone years at the impressive Scottish Baronial style Glen House and Estate which is home to the Tennant family. At the head of the glen is Loch Eddy, the source of the Quair Water, from which Traquair takes its name (hamlet on the Quair Water) as it converges with the river Tweed on the northern banks of the historic Traquair House's grounds further down.

A Dappled Land-0666A Dappled Land-0666Looking down to Glen House from the high plains of Blake Muir on the Southern Upland Way, Scottish Borders.

As I stood and watched the arriving clouds converging and floating overhead, their shadows flickered across the curvaceous landscape beneath the mid-day sun, creating an interplay of light and shadows dancing and weaving around the glen. It would be easy to just sit down and take it all in but I was on a mission to get to the head as soon as possible and so I left the Glen to its secrets and climbed onward towards my prize.

Progressively, more of my distant hometown gradually came into view and so at the next way marker I stopped to reflect on how far I had walked. I could just make out Innerleithen sitting in the Tweed Valley in the far distance whilst ahead awaited the more troublesome high heather mounds of Blake Muir.

The Way North to Traquair-0600The Way North to Traquair-0600 Blake Muir-0603Blake Muir-0603

There is a certain feeling you get as you near the summit of an endeavor like this no matter how small or great the challenge. It is a sense of accomplishing something that began as an idea and was now a living reality. I was on the hill where earlier I had only thought about being there. I felt spurred on and could see the summit up ahead. The ground to either side was difficult terrain to walk through and my guest had one more surprise before letting me join her. Where the path turned to curve around the top, I had to leave it there and find a sheep track which was winding its way through the lumpy heather and grassy mounds.

Then there it was. A small cairn to mark the head of this particular land formation.

Blake Muir Cairn-0611Blake Muir Cairn-0611The cairn summit of Blake Moor on the Southern Upland Way St Mary's Loch to Traquair route. The Way cuts across the middle distance to the forestry beyond before dropping down to the Loch side.

Up ahead the path continued towards the distant treeline which I remembered from my previous walk was the point at which the drop down began to the A702 Selkirk to Moffat road and the head of St Mary's Loch. It is generally from there that walkers come along The Way heading for Traquair before turning east on to Yair, Galashiels, Melrose and so on. The whole vista opened up here and I was afforded panoramic views all around. Opposite on my east were the remnants of Cultivation Terraces and sheep pens and tha road from Innerleithen stretching down past Glenlude Farm, whilst the higher snow capped planes of Glenrath Heights and Dun Rig were to my west, and then back round to the full landscape of Innerleithen nestled within the Tweed Valley.

Cultivation Terraces-0613Cultivation Terraces-0613Cutivation Terraces and sheep pens revealed again after deforestry logging operations on the forest at Curly Moor on the east side of the B709 road to St Mary's Loch from Innerleithen. Scottish Borders Glenlude-0612Glenlude-0612The B709 Innerleithen to St Mary's Loch road streches out past Glenlude farm and the Paddock Burn

Dun Rig & Stob Law-0614Dun Rig & Stob Law-0614Cairn atop Blake Moor on the Southern Upland Way and looking across to Dun Rig and Glenrath Heights. Scottish Borders

Blake's View-0635Blake's View-0635From the cairn at the top of Blake Muir looking back to to Innerleithen and the Morrfoot Hills beyound. Scottish Borders, Scotland, UK

After less than an hour and half from setting off it was time to say farewell to this beautiful spot and so headed back down whenst I came, soaking up the views over Blake Muir & Fethan Hill and the cosseting hills that surround my home town and which form the lower reaches of the Moorfoots.

Along the Way-0721Along the Way-0721Heading north on the Southern Upland Way across Blake Muir and Newcraig Hill towards Traquair and In the distance, Innerleithen. Southern Uplands, Scottish Borders, Scotland, UK.

[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) countryside fair weather kirkhouse landscape route rural spring st mary's loch traquair traquair church traquair kirk walk way Mon, 02 Apr 2018 14:43:53 GMT
Grey Mare's Tail to Loch Skeen Loch Skeen_Panorama1Loch Skeen_Panorama1The frozen loch Skeen at the head of the valley above the Grey Mare's Tail waterfall is surrounded by hills forming a natural basin. Taken from the eastern side on the Spring Equinox, 20th March 2018.

It must be twenty years since I last ventured up the side of the Grey Mare's Tail with my then small son who was aged about four. The path then seemed long but steady, not arduous and demanded respect but we were beaten back by torrential rain half way up, however we tried again a year or so later and got to the top. On another trip I took my mum (then in her seventies) to see the spectacle and got some of my first stock images of the waterfall.

Now all these years later, I returned on the Spring Equinox, Tuesday 20th March 2018.

It was a beautiful day after many weeks (and months) of chilling winds and heavy snow as we endured the 'Beast from the East's" historic wrath. With open skies and crystal clear vistas, I got the walking boots on and lugged my camera bag onto my shoulders. It felt heavy. Two Canon Digital SLR's with 24mm-70mm and 100mm macro lenses, small flask of soup, another with water, sandwiches etc for lunch, then with my carbon fibre tripod in one hand and walking pole in the other I was ready to go.

From the car park the ascent is steep and the NTS (National Trust for Scotland) have put a lot of work in to the path to add stone steps the majority of the way up. A feat I appreciate for the work they put in but not for the walking experience as many of you will know, stone is hard on the legs, something I was to curse on the way back down!

Once on the path I stopped about a quarter of the way up to look back and see the extent of the glacial valley that cuts its way between the Ettrick and Moffat Hills above and around, from which their aggressively steep slopes, carved by the ice so many millennia ago, formed the Southern Uplands. The car park looked small from where the path leaves and begins its upward trail over the  wooden bridge across the Tail Burn as it feeds its way down from Loch Skeen above to create the spectacle that is the Grey Mare's Tail, then it flows under the narrow, twisting main A708 Moffat to Selkirk road, to join and follow the Moffat Water. The picture below shows one of the two viewpoints from where the falls can be safely viewed in the style of a sheep pen or holding. How fitting I thought to myself.

Grey Mare's Tail Valley_0162Grey Mare's Tail Valley_0162Looking east towards the NTS car park below and the ancient glacial valley floor with the A708 road winding its way towards Moffat (10mls). I will add more to this album over the next couple of days ultimately leading you up to the loch

By now my legs were screaming. The extra pounds (stones) I was carrying on my physical frame since my last encounter and the weight of a small child on my back in my camera pack, meant my legs were taking a full-scale assault. The view from here was spectacular though and so getting my camera out gave me a breather and time to take it all in.

For a weekday there were only a few visitors with the same idea. One young family of mum, dad and two small children (in wellies) had traveled up on holiday from Northumbria and were staying in Peebles. Another party of four mature adults were just ahead of me and then soon after, seemingly out of nowhere, a young woman scantily dressed in a bright coloured top, leggings and trainers, whisked by clearly putting her faith in the weather, though I suspect her natural athleticism would have got her back down in a hurry if needed.

Facing the hill again the falls came more clearly into view. The white moustache-like whiskers on its sides were remnants of its partially freezing-over during the worst of the winter. That would have been nice to see, but the roads were virtually impassable with snow and traveling 20 miles in my front wheel drive car on what are virtually single track roads would have been a complete nightmare.

Path by Grey Mare's Tail_0168Path by Grey Mare's Tail_0168The path has been worked on quite a bit since I last was up here 20 years ago. The waterfall still had a lot of ice formed around its edges too. Not sure if I appreciate the stone steps - very hard on the legs (well at least mine!!) Grey Mare's Tail with Ice_0403Grey Mare's Tail with Ice_0403And so as we begin to see the falls more clearly, ice is still evident around it though the falls themselves are running free.

From the Album Grey Mare's Tail and Loch Skeen — with Graham J Riddell at Grey Mare's Tail, Moffat Hills.

The older viewpoint is a precarious path on the lower slopes of White Coomb, the highest of the Moffat hills. It takes you to a dead end with a barrier and is nearer the falls. For some unfortunate souls though this attraction has been literally that - a dead end! It does not pay to get too close to the edges of these precipitous gullies with sheer drops of 200 feet at the top.

Pressing on, the stone steps pathway leads safely from the dramatic edges of the gully on its left and frequent drainage channels have been added in its construction. Personally, I'd prefer the softer natural path underfoot for walking as the ground is more forgiving though I appreciate that over time, many walkers will have taken their toll on it and so is possibly more dangerous as a result so I accept the works as necessary and climbed ever upwards.

On reaching the top (after a few stops to ease my pain!) the path turns deeper into the hanging valley above. Here it is tempting to go nearer to the edge and peep into the abyss but age and wisdom whispers in my ear, "don't be a fool' as now I get the giddiest of feelings where heights are concerned and after years of back problems my balance is definitely suspect, so it was with great respect and caution that I ventured on.

The path flattens out passing the remains of early settlements and cuts a weaving twist through the rugged hillocks which form on both sides of the Tail burn obscuring the way ahead to the distant hilltops. Here the snow for the most part is off the path but occasionally there are patches of packed ice and snow covering the streams running underneath as the melt water continues to be released from high ground. It would not take much to slip through and perhaps twist an ankle so my trusty walking pole was used to test the solidity of the ground, particularly where previous walkers have inadvertently broken through leaving shoe-sized black holes about nine inches to a foot deep.

Looking back behind me I could see the wilderness for what it truly is. A fearsome, unforgiving landscape if caught unawares and yet also breathtakingly beautiful. I honestly believe you cannot appreciate any landscape until you walk even just a few miles of it. The effort required is your guide to nature's secrets and the feeling of connectivity with it should never be underestimated. It is memory enhancing, rich in understanding.

Tail Burn Head and Path_0218Tail Burn Head and Path_0218The snow covered path winds its way through a rugged and remote landscape in the Moffat Hills near the head of the valley where it joins Loch Skeen. In the distance are the Ettrick Hills which also form the Southern Uplands.

After what seemed like a fruitless journey through obscurity, with one hillock after another blocking the promising views ahead and as the path twisted and turned over ice and snow, rock and mud, I came across the four mature walkers who were up ahead of me taking photos of themselves. I stopped to inquire if they would perhaps prefer a group photo with everyone in it. Their camera phone was duly set up for me but as it had no flash (that they knew of) I had to reposition the group  with the sun behind me and retake their photo feeling more confident now that they would all be clearly seen unlike the earlier one facing into the sun which most likely had a group of dark silhouettes instead!

As I passed them and turned the next corner, my visual senses were heightened and to my utter amazement, the reward for my endeavour was instant and in a way shocking. There before me in full majesty and awe-inspiring glory, lay the foreshore of a white iced Loch coveted by the protective snow dusted peaks of the Moffat Hills creating a natural basin in a winter wonderland of amazement.

Loch Skeen in Ice_0211Loch Skeen in Ice_0211The frozen loch Skeen at the head of the valley above the Grey Mare's Tail waterfall comes into view sudenly and is one of those magical moments of true awe. Taken on the Spring Equinox, 20th March 2018. Loch Skeen on Spring Equinox_2018_0214Loch Skeen on Spring Equinox_2018_0214The frozen loch Skeen at the head of the valley above the Grey Mare's Tail waterfall comes into view sudenly and is one of those magical moments of true awe. Taken on the Spring Equinox, 20th March 2018.

Loch Skeen with Mid Craig (left) and Lochcraig Head (right)

I think I actually gasped (literally breath-taking!) when I saw it. Such a sudden and unexpected surprise which I will remember until my last breath. Rarely does Nature fill you with such amazement so suddenly. It was a kind of awakening, a spiritual moment, an enlightenment. Then my trance was broken with the cries from the group following behind me - "Oh Wow"!!

To be honest I would have preferred to savor this moment alone but then perhaps we were a kind of 'soul group' there to experience it together. The young woman who had flown on ahead earlier was now standing on the shore Loch head, balancing herself dexterously on the small rocks which formed a kind of land bridge to the opposite side with her phone camera in hand and aiming for a low perspective shot of the magnificent sight before her.

"Beautiful" I said to which she nodded in enthusiastic agreement.

Not to be outdone, I garnered my gear from my backpack and mounted my camera on my tripod then like her, took up a position on the rocks within the 'Tails' icy waters. My boots and balance were not as deft as hers and as she suddenly spirited away, I was left to compose my shot whilst trying to stay focused and not slip and inadvertently immerse my feet in a baptism of liquid ice.

I had fitted a polarizing filter earlier to help eliminate some of the light reflections on the burn and so rather than remove and replace it with ND Grad filters, I stuck with it opting to shoot multiple exposures instead which I could choose from or combine later in post production.

The hillocks were quite steep for carrying a camera on a tripod but I gingerly made my way up to the top where the views were excellent and thankful for my accompanied visitors who led the way to a short circular walk with safe return. I duly followed their lead and took a couple of sequences of the Loch from different viewpoints culminating in a five-exposure panorama which I would complete later on my return and is the lead photograph of this piece.

Loch Skeen and Mid Craig_0216Loch Skeen and Mid Craig_0216The frozen loch Skeen at the head of the valley above the Grey Mare's Tail waterfall is surrounded by hills forming a natural basin. Here Mid Craig rises from the shoreline. Taken from the eastern side on the Spring Equinox, 20th March 2018.

Mid Craig rises out of the shoreline of a frozen Loch Skeen

White Coomb Loch Skeen_0228White Coomb Loch Skeen_0228The rising peak of White Coomb at the head of the Moffat Valley above Loch Skeen is the highest peak in Dumfries and Gallaoway and lies next to the border of the Scottish Borders. Southern Scotland. UK

White Coomb (above Loch Skeen) is the highest mountain peak in Dumfries and Galloway at 821m

And so it was time to return. I had left the car park at 11.30am and had promised myself to be heading back by 1:30pm and with my phone in hand I snapped a few more, packed up my gear and headed back. Little did I realise that the phone setting which was on Manual, didn't reveal its settings in the viewfinder and so what I thought I had taken correctly, when I got back down was shocked to see they were all white, overexposed blanks! Good job I wasn't relying on phone camera skills then.

The walk back was steady and I was careful to place my feet on solid ground and as I reached the summit of Grey Mare's Tail once again I stopped to have a closer look at the falls and pools that preceded it. The fairy tail wonders of the Ice Queen were evident everywhere.

Ice Fall_0237Ice Fall_0237The tumbling waters of the freezing Tail Burn rushing from Loch Skeen, plummet into the head of the Grey Mare's Tail, Scotlands fifth largset natural waterfall, from an elevation of 60 meters or 200 feet. Freezing Tail_0414Freezing Tail_0414The Tail Burn flows down to form the Grey Mare's Tail waterfall as the ice from a cold winter slowly recedes.

The walk down was difficult for me. The stone steps were brutal on my knees and legs and so it was hardly surprising that I stumbled and fell just thirty feet from the bottom. I will though forgive 'Her' for giving me such a perfect day to witness her full glory on a perfect day on the vernal Spring Equinox of 2018 and I hope anyone reading this will will take away from it some of the magic and pain for themselves to savour.

Until we meet again my friend.

Grey Mare's Tail on the Rocks_0169Grey Mare's Tail on the Rocks_0169

Grey Mare's Tail on IceGrey Mare's Tail on IceClose-ip of the iced Grey Mare's Tail in Dumfries and Galloway, southern Scotland, bordering southern Scottish Borders on the A708 Selkirk to Moffat road. Scotland, UK.




[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) 2018 20th dumfries and galloway frozen grey mare's tail ice lake loch loch skeen march moffat hills snow souther uplands southern scotland spring equinox tail burn waterfall Thu, 22 Mar 2018 17:51:09 GMT
Spring is in the air at Traquair I took myself out for a walk around Traquair House gardens here in the Scottish Borders yesterday in search of some much needed inspiration. The snowdrops were sprouting all around bringing forth the first signs of life of a long awaited Spring. And whilst the surrounding vegetation is still in hibernation, the days are lengthening as the sun rises higher each passing day providing a little more welcome warmth from what has been (is) a long cold winter. The earth is stirring once again.

Traquair House Snowdrops_0204-05Traquair House Snowdrops_0204-05

Obtaining the right perspective for photography often means getting down and dirty amongst the grass or mud (or both) and manipulating a resistant tripod into a locked position that would still support the camera at the angle of view I had in mind. In the above shot I wanted to keep the foreground snowdrops in focus with the house behind also in focus to add context to the story of spring at Traquair House.

The ever changing light means that as soon as you are ready, Nature is not. Dull and overcast, flattening out the contrast to kill the shot. Clouds seem to know what you are thinking and so you just have to wait and be patient until they slip by allowing brief illuminations to flicker on and off like a magic lantern.

In those duller moments, my mind turns to thinking how good that diffuse light would be for a close-up of the budding stars themselves. I bank the idea and move on to explore new possibilities.

Another bank of snowdrops was growing nearby and so armed with my 100mm macro lens I turned my attention and focus towards them. Weighing up the possibilities, my eye was instictively drawn to the curving driveway which cut a swift 'S' between two trees with the edge of the courtyard buildings above the bank of snowdrops I was considering. The picture below was created from a desire to combine all the elements into one frame and provide a hint or glimpse of my focussed engagement.

Traquair Snowdrops by the Path_0013Traquair Snowdrops by the Path_0013

There is a pond close by at the side of the house which is where the brewery is located and so I wandered down to see what I could find. Although the light was not as favourable there were still opportunities to create intriguing images. Water provides a wonderful canvas on which to paint reflective buildings or skies above and the ripples added a more atmospheric mood to the House's ancient and often turbulent history.

Traquair House Liquified_0032Traquair House Liquified_0032 Reflections of Traquair_0030Reflections of Traquair_0030

There are usually a couple of swans at this location and sure enough they magically appeared as if from nowhere and though I could not command them to pose ideally for me, one did make a pass whilst feeding from the beds below the surface, just long enough to snatch a quick image with the brewery behind and before the inverted bird presented its less flattering face!

Swan below Brewery_0230Swan below Brewery_0230 All too soon it was time to go as the afternoon light was fading and I had to be back for an appointment which left just enough time to take a couple of the stars of the show themselves. I give you The Snowdrops!

First Amongst Many_0019First Amongst Many_0019 Snowdrops Three_0039Snowdrops Three_0039



[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) 2018 february flowers nature photography plants scottish borders snowdrops spring traquair traquair house Thu, 22 Feb 2018 18:08:20 GMT
Scott's View in Winter Sunrise Panorama Scott's View Winter Sunrise PanoramaScott's View Winter Sunrise PanoramaEildon Hills from Scott's View near Dryburgh, Scottish Borders

Yesterday I was up at the crack on dawn in freezing temperatures (minus 5-C) and headed over to a famous natural beauty spot here in the Scottish Borders. Scott's View was a favourite viewpoint of Sir Walter Scott, distinguished and famous author & poet who's iconic gothic memorial stands prominently off Edinburgh's east Princes Street.

In this panoramic photo-stitch of 4 separate exposures you can begin to appreciate the reason why he so loved the place. I waited from the crack of dawn until the sun rose behind me and cast its warm, radiant glow over the distant Eildon Hills and the valley in from of me.

In the final composed shot the strength of the morning sun and its power to light up a dull, frozen landscape certainly took the chill out of my hour and a half wait for it to appear as its shadow gradually dropped forming a dark band on the foreground foliage and steepening hillside. The drop into the valley below is about 200 feet where the meandering river Tweed cuts a horseshoe U-bend.



[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) art blog eildon hills gb landscape morning photography river tweed scotland scottish borders scott's view season uk winter Wed, 13 Dec 2017 16:52:58 GMT
George Meikle Kemp - A Memorial to the designer of Sir Walter Scott's Monument George Meikle Kemp

Architect of Sir Walter Scott’s Memorial in Edinburgh

George Meikle KempGeorge Meikle KempPortrait painted by Kemp's brother-in-law, William Bonnar in 1840

Sir Walter Scott MonumentSir Walter Scott Monument©Graham Riddell Photography

Sir Walter Scott’s iconic, gothic tower and memorial, is a dramatic addition to Edinburgh’s architectural heritage and city landscape. Its prominent position in Princes Street Gardens adjacent to Princes Street and Waverley Bridge, originally towered above the surrounding buildings from which atop can still be seen outstanding views of Calton Hill, Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street and the gardens below. It is a world famous structure and yet the story behind its architectural designer is less well known but equally worthy of note.

George Meikle Kemp was born on 26th May 1795 in the Moorfoot Hills of the Scottish Borders at Gladstone Loch (Reservoir) to James Kemp, a lowly Borders’ shepherd and mother Jean Mowbry. George was a shy and somewhat timid child which does not appear to have held him back in life. The family moved almost immediately after George’s birth to work at Newhall Estate near Carlops south of Edinburgh. There he grew up and was educated in Penicuik where he developed his talents in carpentry and interest in poetry and the violin, however it was his amateur passion for architecture that was to become his true life path.

A memorial wall now stands on the northern gable of Moy Hall, Redscarhead, off the A703 near Cringletie, a few miles north of Peebles, by Eddleston Water. The building was then the workshop of master carpenter Andrew Noble, joiner & millwright, under whose supervision he served a four year apprenticeship. It is now a private residence and is easily missed when travelling by car on the A703, being something of a well kept secret reserved only it seems to those seekers of Kemp’s story and his subsequent contribution to the world of gothic and neo gothic architectural design. The garden (at the time of writing) is in a fairly poor state and could do with a little love and refurbishment as it is now overgrown with weeds and the stones have become blackened and discoloured by weathering.

20171116-_MG_7427George Meikle MemorialFeatured on the north gable of Moy Hall at Redscarhead near Peebles with garden, now sadly overgrown. ©Graham Riddell Photography

20171116-_MG_7426Arch DetailOwn memorial - a three light arched window in whinstone ©Graham Riddell Photography

20171116-_MG_7428The Three Fishes of Peebles Emblem©Graham Riddell Photography 20171116-_MG_7429SaltireThe Saltire Photo©Graham Riddell Photography

20171116-_MG_7430St RonanPatron Saint of Innerleithen Photo©Graham Riddell Photography



20171116-_MG_7433Left PanelThis Memorial To GEORGE MEIKLE KEMP Was Subscribed by the inhabitants of the County of Peebles and others Upon the FIRST CENTENARY of the Death of SIR WALTER SCOTT Baronet of Abbostford 21st September, 1932 Photo©Graham Riddell Photography

20171116-_MG_7432Bronze Plaque (centre)George Meikle Kemp Carpenter and Architect Born 1795 - Died 1844 Photo©Graham Riddell Photography

20171116-_MG_7431Right Panel Sir Michael G Thorburn, Lord Lieutenant George Anderson, Provost of Peebles Robert Mathieson, Provost of Innerleithen James Grieve, F.S.A. SCOT Committee Photo©Graham Riddell Photography

As a child of ten, Kemp had occasion to visit Roslin Castle and was inspired by the design and structure of the ruins there and nearby Rosslyn Chapel. In later years he ‘walked’ extensively throughout the Scottish Borders, visiting to sketch and draw details of the area's rich, historic and religious architectural heritage of it's abbeys such as Dryburgh, Kelso, Jedburgh and in particular Melrose Abbey, where one of history's renowned medieval craftsmen, John Morvo, a master mason, had worked on its construction.

It is worth reflecting upon today, how folks travelled in those days as there were no buses, taxis or trains that we take so much for granted and Kemp therefore went on foot often covering twenty to forty miles as a matter of course!

By chance, Kemp was walking to Galashiels to a new job there (purportedly in fowl weather) when he was given a lift by non other than Sir Walter Scott in his private carriage. They became friends and perhaps by Scott’s influence, or through his own family, Kemp eventually joined the Scottish Masonic Order and was accepted into Lodge St. Andrew, Edinburgh, in 1827 as a Freemason. Freemasonary has long been a magnet organisation attracting publishers, writers, architects and craftsmen amongst others and would have been an ideal organisation to network and develop his contacts and career. 

Indeed through his connections he was apparently introduced by his brother James, to the Duke of Buccluech for whom Kemp provided drawings for the architect of the proposed Bowhill House near Selkirk and he submitted designs for another grand house the Duke was considering building at Dalkeith and constructed a wooden model for it. 

Kemp continued to travel extensively at home and abroad where he plied his trade and was therefor able to support himself financially. He moved to Lancashire in 1817, then in 1824 to London then on to Boulogne, Abbeville, Beauvais and Paris visiting each location and staying there for several weeks, allowing him to work and study the ancient churches and abbeys of gothic design including Notre-Dame. Only the death of his mother brought him back home to Scotland.

In 1830 Kemp’s drawings of Melrose Abbey were exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy which led to a further commission for drawings for a planned publication ‘Scottish Cathedrals and Antiquities’ by an engraver called Mr. Johnstone. This project floundered but created the opportunity for him to submit further ideas and architectural plans for the restoration of Glasgow Cathedral incorporating two new towers. Controversy over drawings rights between the leading architects James Gillespie Graham ensued, Kemp had used his pseudonym John Morvo (the medieval stone mason of Melrose Abbey), rather than his real name and strove to claim his contribution to the design and be recognised as his work. 

Melrose AbbeyMelrose AbbeyDrawing of Melrose Abbey The Royal Institiution copyThe Royal Institiution copyDrawing of the Royal Institution, now known was The Scottish Royal Academy (RSA)


1832 he married Elizabeth Bonnar (daughter of eminent artist Willian Bonnar) and fathered four children, two boys & two girls. Sadly his eldest son died at the age of twenty and was showing great promise as a noteworthy architect and of pleasing character in his own right.

Another opportunity arose to prove Kemp's architectural genius in 1836, with a design competition for a new public monument in memory of the great novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott (whom Kemp had met and been given a lift from all those years previously), who had died a few years earlier in 1832. Kemp submitted his plans, again under the pseudonym of John Morvo, not having sufficient confidence that he would be taken seriously by the architectural establishment, being a mere craftsman.

The design was based on some of the work he had previously prepared for the Glasgow Cathedral project and drew on all his experience collected over years of Gothic Architectural study. His initial design was awarded third place, however the committee embarked on a further competition and being impressed with his work, and after further refinement of his original design, he was ultimately successful in winning the commission in 1838. 

ScottMon_BuildScott Monument ConstructionPhoto: David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, held by the University of Glasgow. Read more at:

Sadly, Kemp never saw his monument built. Walking home from a visit to a contractor in fog and poor visibility, he appears to have lost his way and fell into the Union Canal and drowned, only to be found several days later. He is buried in St Cuthbert's graveyard at the west end of Princes Street.

The_grave_of_George_Meikle_Kemp,_St_CuthbertsThe_grave_of_George_Meikle_Kemp,_St_CuthbertsGeorge Meikle Kemp's final resting place is within sight of the Scott Memorial.

The National Galleries portrait at the top of this piece was painted by his brother-in-law William Bonnar who also oversaw the build and construction of the Sir Walter Scott Monument. It was completed in the autumn of 1844 with Kemp’s son laying the finial. The monument was finally inaugurated on 15th August 1846.

And so it was, that the man who gave a boy a lift, unwittingly met the future creator of his now world famous, memorial.



Written by Graham Riddell November 2017

My special thanks to local friend Ross Happer of Innerleithen for taking me to see the site and inform me of much of it's history.

20171116-_MG_7434Ross HapperRoss Happer from Innerleithen who told me about Kemp and his fascinating story Photo©Graham Riddell Photography


Other Sources:


Kemp Family History. com


Peebles - The Royal Burgh

National Galleries of Scotland - Photos 


Scottish Architects







[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) architect architecture designer edinburgh george meikle kemp memorial peebles redscarhead scott monument scottish borders Tue, 21 Nov 2017 18:31:34 GMT
Sex in the City I recently had the pleasure to attend a Street Fashion photography workshop with world renowned Edinburgh Fine Art photographers Trevor & Faye Yerbury in their capital city.

We began shooting in the city centre at the Usher Hall off Lothian Road and exploring some classic beauty fashion portraits of our wonderful model Riona Neve from Belgium who was over on her first ever visit to Edinburgh.



I love classic beauty photography and shot in natural daylight without reflectors or any additional lighting using my EF 70-200mm at f2.8. on a Canon 7D body and a 24-70mm on a full frame Canon 5D. I placed Riona in the darkened doorway of one of several wooden doorways that form part of the original building's wonderful architecture to create contrast to her pale complexion. I wanted her looking directly into camera for maximum impact and I think her expression in top image was as captivating as it was engaging. The second shot was taken from another set up and I liked the look of it.

My eye was then drawn to a series of billboard posters and I decided to try and place our model within them. The regular repeat pattern of yellow and blue seemed to cry out for a long lens to compress them and so after a little persuasion Riona agreed to try and craft a look with her placed within them. In the image below, I love the strength of colour and the way Riona's casual 'waiting' posture punctuates the whole scene in her black outfit. 67ca216d-4df0-4583-bfe7-562a3e46deb0_post67ca216d-4df0-4583-bfe7-562a3e46deb0_post b19769b6-caa0-40b8-afde-4c05a45bff64_postb19769b6-caa0-40b8-afde-4c05a45bff64_post

Next came a change of clothes into something more adventurous. Dressed in a black bodice, black stockings and suspenders, and topped with a scarlet hat we ventured into the seedy lane of Grindlay Street Court which was the perfect choice to create some atmospheric images again using natural light only. The lane was dark and had graffiti sprayed on the walls which added to the sense of a somewhat seedier atmosphere. There were really only a couple of spots where the light was optimum and in these shots below I sought to capture her sensual side.

6c5f454d-da4c-4857-b2c1-b1b2a7759e08_post6c5f454d-da4c-4857-b2c1-b1b2a7759e08_post 5b8a9a33-2b0a-4a43-8db6-0fdd4b36c2ca_post5b8a9a33-2b0a-4a43-8db6-0fdd4b36c2ca_post 2f47bc80-ed90-454e-8a05-2757fcaafe1f_post2f47bc80-ed90-454e-8a05-2757fcaafe1f_post 907e16b3-5ba6-4431-897f-c3aada94830c_post907e16b3-5ba6-4431-897f-c3aada94830c_post

Keeping the theme, we moved across the road to the Financial district where a walkway bridge over the main road afforded opportunities to expand on the theme. The next few shots I felt worked best in black and white as the light was naturally diffuse with grey skies and ever-threatening light drizzle. I then followed up with a strong colour background.





We then moved on and left the Financial quarter and the bemused onlookers and headed into the centre again for a quick change and some elegant fine art within the steps and pillars of the neo-classical stone building of West Register House formerly, St George's Church.

0c05e959-915e-4c40-929e-0bd96c16d407_post0c05e959-915e-4c40-929e-0bd96c16d407_post 1fc71835-b4c8-424e-88be-5fb5b4c105bd_post1fc71835-b4c8-424e-88be-5fb5b4c105bd_post


Finally we headed down to Stockbridge to explore a venue popular for weddings and it was fitting to change dress once again, this time in opposite to the sharp lines of our black dress and hat styling to something fresh and lifestyle in white.

8a15499f-4f21-44a7-98ed-32ee393ad0bb_post8a15499f-4f21-44a7-98ed-32ee393ad0bb_post 695502a1-7195-480c-bc64-3a2eb3b9474a_post695502a1-7195-480c-bc64-3a2eb3b9474a_post




[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) attractive beauty belgian black boudoir capital classic contemporary edinburgh fashion shoot glamour hats lifestyle model photography riona neve risky sexy style white woman Sun, 23 Jul 2017 15:44:20 GMT
The Black Dwarf of Kirkton Manor (David Ritchie)  

black-dwarf_april_2017-4195black-dwarf_april_2017-4195A statue of David Ritchie 'the Black Dwarf' of Kirkton Manor in Tweeddale, near Peebles in the Scottish Borders, is to his memory (1740–1811) and stands today (April 2017) in private grounds at Hallyards, commissioned by Andrew Clason (who bought Hallyards from the Campbells in 1836) and is still situated just in front of the main house which is near his former home and Manor Kirk churchyard where he is buried. He was three foot six, immensely strong with large upper body strength and arms which compensated for his dishevelled legs and disfigured feet which were wrapped in cloth as shoes were not of any use. He walked with the aid of a large stick and reputedly transported a massive heavy stone from the river Tweed to show his great strength which today can be seen in the roadside dyke in the area. He lived in an adapted cottage with a tiny door and his sister who lived next door but was of normal stature. Sir Walker Scott also visited him in 1797 and wrote a novel around him called The Black Dwarf. When he died his legs were removed and kept for medical study. His headstone was commissioned by W and R Chambers (publisher) in 1845.

A statue of David Ritchie 'the Black Dwarf' of Kirkton Manor in Tweeddale, near Peebles in the Scottish Borders, is to his memory (1740–1811) and stands today (April 2017) in private grounds at Hallyards. It was commissioned by Andrew Clason (who bought Hallyards from the Campbells in 1836) and is still situated just in front of the main house, close to his former home and Manor Kirk churchyard where he is buried. 


The son of a local quarryman from Stobo in the Scottish Borders, he originally trained as a brush maker in Edinburgh but his appearance proved too challenging and so he eventually settled in Manor back in the Borders. Even there, superstition and unease made the locals wary of him, believing he could cast and evil eye on them and so they tended to blame him for any ills with their livestock.

Also known as known also as David of Manor Water, Bow'd Davie, Crooked David, he stood three foot six tall and was immensely strong with a powerfully developed upper body and arms that gave him immense strength which compensated for his dishevelled, deformed legs and disfigured feet, which were wrapped in cloth as shoes were not of any use. He walked with the aid of a large stick and yet in a show of strength, reputedly transported a massive heavy stone from the river Tweed which can be seen today in a roadside dyke in the area. In the picture below you can see the tree-line of the river cutting past the stone's head.

black-dwarf_2017-4107black-dwarf_2017-4107A statue of David Ritchie 'the Black Dwarf' of Kirkton Manor in Tweeddale, near Peebles in the Scottish Borders, is to his memory (1740–1811) and stands today (April 2017) in private grounds at Hallyards, commissioned by Andrew Clason (who bought Hallyards from the Campbells in 1836) and is still situated just in front of the main house which is near his former home and Manor Kirk churchyard where he is buried. He was three foot six, immensely strong with large upper body strength and arms which compensated for his dishevelled legs and disfigured feet which were wrapped in cloth as shoes were not of any use. He walked with the aid of a large stick and reputedly transported a massive heavy stone from the river Tweed to show his great strength which today can be seen in the roadside dyke in the area. He lived in an adapted cottage with a tiny door and his sister who lived next door but was of normal stature. Sir Walker Scott also visited him in 1797 and wrote a novel around him called The Black Dwarf. When he died his legs were removed and kept for medical study. His headstone was commissioned by W and R Chambers (publisher) in 1845.

black-dwarf_april_2017-4113black-dwarf_april_2017-4113A statue of David Ritchie 'the Black Dwarf' of Kirkton Manor in Tweeddale, near Peebles in the Scottish Borders, is to his memory (1740–1811) and stands today (April 2017) in private grounds at Hallyards, commissioned by Andrew Clason (who bought Hallyards from the Campbells in 1836) and is still situated just in front of the main house which is near his former home and Manor Kirk churchyard where he is buried. He was three foot six, immensely strong with large upper body strength and arms which compensated for his dishevelled legs and disfigured feet which were wrapped in cloth as shoes were not of any use. He walked with the aid of a large stick and reputedly transported a massive heavy stone from the river Tweed to show his great strength which today can be seen in the roadside dyke in the area. He lived in an adapted cottage with a tiny door and his sister who lived next door but was of normal stature. Sir Walker Scott also visited him in 1797 and wrote a novel around him called The Black Dwarf. When he died his legs were removed and kept for medical study. His headstone was commissioned by W and R Chambers (publisher) in 1845.

He lived the majority of his life in the Manor district in an adapted cottage with his sister. His cottage had a tiny door and window (see above) and sat between two adjoining buildings on either side. His sister lived next door (see large door on right) and was of normal stature. Some sources commented on him as being an intellectual who enjoyed reading Milton's Paradise Lost and other poetic works by William Shenstone.

Sir Walter Scott (writer and poet of great renown) visited him in 1797 and wrote a novel around him called The Black Dwarf. When he died his legs were removed and kept for medical study. His headstone was commissioned by W and R Chambers (publisher) in 1845.

black-dwarf_april_2017-4098black-dwarf_april_2017-4098A statue of David Ritchie 'the Black Dwarf' of Kirkton Manor in Tweeddale, near Peebles in the Scottish Borders, is to his memory (1740–1811) and stands today (April 2017) in private grounds at Hallyards, commissioned by Andrew Clason (who bought Hallyards from the Campbells in 1836) and is still situated just in front of the main house which is near his former home and Manor Kirk churchyard where he is buried. He was three foot six, immensely strong with large upper body strength and arms which compensated for his dishevelled legs and disfigured feet which were wrapped in cloth as shoes were not of any use. He walked with the aid of a large stick and reputedly transported a massive heavy stone from the river Tweed to show his great strength which today can be seen in the roadside dyke in the area. He lived in an adapted cottage with a tiny door and his sister who lived next door but was of normal stature. Sir Walker Scott also visited him in 1797 and wrote a novel around him called The Black Dwarf. When he died his legs were removed and kept for medical study. His headstone was commissioned by W and R Chambers (publisher) in 1845.

My sense of him has left a lasting impression on me and I am grateful for my local guide and friend Ross Happer who took me to the locations and ignited my interest in this delightful character and local legend.

[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) black dwarf dyker history intellectual legend manor manor valley scottish borders story strong man tweeddale Fri, 21 Apr 2017 14:57:58 GMT
Death of a Crystal, A Shining Life Ice Crystal_3762Ice Crystal_3762A drop of frozen ice clings precariously to a weeping birch leaf as the sun begins to melt its icy grip. Yesterday saw out the last day of February in 2017.

The morning was crisp with bright sunshine and the early morning frost was still thick on the branches of my six weeping birches.

All around there was the gentle sound of dripping as the warming sun's rays melted the grip of winter and jewels of ice fell inevitably to the ground. Spring felt near.

Up close, these small fragments, held precariously by fingered twigs, seemed like rough-cut diamonds or irregularly shaped miniature comets suspended in space. Sparkling in the sunlight, they glistened, refracting tiny rainbows of intense colours of orange, indigo, and yellow and more as the light penetrated through their icy cores.

Ice Crystal on Leaf_3762Ice Crystal on Leaf_3762A drop of frozen ice clings precariously to a weeping birch leaf as the sun begins to melt its icy grip.

Then suddenly, without fanfare or warning - it had gone.

[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) brief cold death gone here ice impermanence leaf life melt single winter Fri, 03 Mar 2017 15:14:46 GMT
Bending Time I Fell for Autumn_0508I Fell for Autumn_0508The rush of autumn Today I want to give you some insight into making unusual, abstract images in-camera without the need for photoshop.

I was out walking in the woods on a dull afternoon in January and the light was pretty uninspiring. I had given up the idea of photographing anything of interest and so decided to have a play instead.

It can be a fun experimenting and these simple ideas will move you forward on your own photographic journey.

The image above is called 'Bending Time' and it uses a simple technique to create movement. All you need is a zoom lens that you can manually control.

1. First set the ISO low as possible

2. Next set your exposure (Evaluative or Centre metering will do) using a low speed such as 30th sec or less.

3. Zoom the lens whilst taking the photo. It will look something like this...

I Fell for Autumn_0508I Fell for Autumn_0508The rush of autumn I hope that is helpful. Give it a try and send me a link to your efforts.

Finally, below are some more results using a combination of theses ideas.

Happy Shooting.

Softly Underwood_5852Softly Underwood_5852Saplings in a small wood with vertical shake. Increasing the Frequency_3099Increasing the Frequency_3099Abstract taken in Caerlee Woods using in-camera tecnique.

Golden Blue_8815-5DGolden Blue_8815-5D

[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) art basic photography blog camera tricks effects graham ridell photography how to innerleithen. learn lens photographer practice of photography rotate scotland scottish borders slr twist warp zoom Tue, 24 Jan 2017 17:31:13 GMT
Raw Files from Raw Emotion carla-7D-0173carla-7D-0173

As a photographer, exploring the arts and mysteries of image capturing and image making, can be a perplexing business.

For a start, what kind of photographer do I aspire to be?

I have always been attracted to raw natural beauty and the drama and uniqueness of the ever changing landscape. Nature in all her moods is I imagine, not unlike a mistress. Exciting, challenging, captivating, even dangerous. Her moods and expressions keep me in awe and I have always felt a special kind of bond with Her which comes from an inner sense of connection to the land that engages my very soul.

On my web site I describe this interaction as a 'process' having once been asked by a client what my 'process' was for images I was exhibiting. I did not know what he meant or how to answer at the time but it got me thinking and so I came to realise that the process of taking pictures for me was about two things.

Firstly, my eyes which see the potential and secondly, the 'connection' from my inner being to what I am seeing. This is a personal and unique perspective which sometimes I don't always understand even though I am the creator. It seems almost from the subconscious mind. I can fully appreciate however, why others might also be attracted to certain works, since they clearly resonate with them, perhaps on a level I am not even aware of. For this reason I try not to be too prescriptive about my work. Either you will like it or you won't. It has to 'move' you in some way to make you want to own it and pay me for the privilege.

Other photographers may disagree with me and probably with good reason. They will say that there is actually a third essential element to this process which all the Great artists must possess - 'Vision".

This I suppose is my greatest weakness, yet what I enjoy is the excitement of the chase, of not knowing, working in real-time to capture something illusive and fleeting. This also affects how I shoot events, or a portrait, a small intimate wedding, or pretty much anything else. I may have a back-of-mind idea but I have often been left with 'mud on my lens' where the weather didn't play ball, or the situation wasn't right when I got there to do a planned shoot. This difference is perhaps what separates us ordinary photographers from the true masters.

Taking my due process forward, I am keen to develop more people-oriented work (my landscapes have always been devoid of them!!), asking friends to sit for me, creating personal projects, or paying professional models in order to explore deeper whatever piques my interest. Working with people is much more challenging. They have emotions and appearances which demand respect.

So I attended an introductory portraiture class with the world renowned Trevor and Faye Yerbury Studios near Edinburgh to watch two masters of their art at work and learn some basic pointers and creative principles. Communication with the sitter or model is vital and crafting the image is key to success, whereas the landscape keeps her council. 

People are also directly affected by you. There is a fluid dynamic at work which my other 'mistress' doesn't react to. 'She' is almost unaware, candidly taken which is a style I like to adopt generally where possible. So when I got the chance to put my methodology to the test with a paid photo-shoot with a professional model, I wanted to explore the full gamut of possibility. It was an appetiser and far from A LA Carte. A blunt encounter with professional talent.

In two hours I explored the Classic look, the Corporate look, the Fashion look, right up to the difficult challenge of Art Nude on a one-to-one basis. In each I looked for the poses and shots she performed that attracted me and where I felt I failed was in the 'vision' shots where I had images of paintings I wanted to use as a basis. I did the best I could or was capable of in such a brief encounter in an unfamiliar studio.

So what kind of photographer am I now?

This is what I am trying to unravel. The basic process remains much the same but the eye has sought new stimulus, new projects and new life.

If you would like to see the images I took on the shoot then please follow these links below. There are some nudes so please don't if you might be offended.

Finally, I leave you with a few images from the people shoots I have been working on more generally.

Happy New Year and thanks for your interest in my photography journey so far.

Model Shoot


"Photography is more than a technical image or captured moment......

It is an interactive process....

….the distillation of engaged emotion”

©Graham Riddell Photography


20160608-TA-2-1131-220160608-TA-2-1131-2 rev_charles_aitchison-8rev_charles_aitchison-8Man of God, Rev Charles Aitchison is a Scottish Episcopalian priest with gifts of visions and psychic abilities. One of my 'People of the Valley' contibutors. 20160331-_MG_966420160331-_MG_9664

Erin_2-2799Erin_2-2799Studio portrait taken at Yerbury Studios
Model: Erin McCrindle.

Boho StyleBoho StylePhoto shoot at Kailzie Gardens near Peebles.
Model: Charley Welch










[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) art attractive beauty bogle classic eric fashion model nude photo-shoot portrait studio woman Wed, 11 Jan 2017 17:58:14 GMT
Music to a Photographer's ears

On Saturday, 11th June 2016 I had the pleasure of attending the launch of one of our area's immensely talented musical artists, for her new album 'Almost Home' at the County Hotel in Selkirk here in the Scottish Borders.

This is the story of how I had the great honor and privilege of working with the irrepressible Kathy Stewart, singer and songwriter, music teacher and an inspiration to many. Originally from New York city, Kathy has lived and worked here in the Scottish Borders for over 30 years. Her sweet blend of American country and Scottish/Celtic ballad brings a refreshing antidote to the harsh and aggressive frequencies that dominate our age.

Having written a new album 'Almost Home' over the past three years, Kathy was ready to place her work into production and publish. But she hadn't seen the image yet that she wanted to convey her ideas for the album cover and was contemplating this when, at her local hairdresser, she saw the September month's picture on my 2015 desk calendar sitting before her in the salon.

"I love that" she exclaimed, "it's perfect for my new album cover"

Soul Ascension_col_3208Soul Ascension_col_3208A bird rises in flight from the morning mists seemingly ascending to a higher perspective.

The title of that image is 'Soul Ascension' and appears on the inside double page spread as a background to the song sheet. So how did it go from being a cover choice to the inside?

Well, that's quite a story...

I had met Kathy before and so when she called me to say how much she adored the 'Soul Ascenssion' image and wanted to incorporate it on the album cover somehow, we agreed to explore it's possible uses with cover concepts.

One of the songs on the album is called 'Dreva' a place here in the Scottish Borders that she loves. A place close to where the mystic Merlin is reportedly buried. The area has a magical, mythological history in this regard.

So we agreed to try a photo-shoot at Dreva and see what happened. I had two dates available and the best one was less convenient as there was pressure to get pictures urgently so we opted for the less good weather option.

We took a few shots at the sign for Dreva. The sun was shining and after a short while we proceeded to Dreva. The valley is open and expansive and I thought it would be good to put Kathy 'in-situ'. But, as soon as we began shooting, ominous dark clouds quickly appeared and before we had time to explore all the options, we were hit by a momentous hail storm. Taking refuge in the car, with the hail battering down, we agreed to call it a day. After all, Kathy's partner Ken's tea was still to be made!!

So we retraced our journey and to our utter surprise, were suddenly confronted by a truly magical sight as if by Merlin's or a Higher Power's intervention. For there on the road before us, a magnificent rainbow coloured the darkened sky ahead, striking down onto the soft rolling hills as the sun came out.

It was one of those moments when you knew that there would never be another opportunity quite like this one ever again, so ignoring the spate of cars on an otherwise quiet, empty country road, I said to Kathy to get her guitar case and walk into the rainbow.

And so it was, that on that disappointing afternoon shoot in April, we got the shot of a lifetime and she got her album cover.

Kathy's ex -husband (Andy Stewart of Silly Wizard fame) died on the 27th December 2015 where she and their son were at his side.

I like to think Merlin was summoned by that other 'Wizard' and wished Kathy and her new album the success it deserves.

For more information about Kathy and her music please see this link

[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) album almost home art country graham riddell kathy music photography scottish borders singer songwriter stewart Thu, 30 Jun 2016 15:40:00 GMT
What the 'f' (Aperture Values and Full Stops) 320px-Aperture_diagram.svg320px-Aperture_diagram.svgFrom Wikipedia



Ever wondered where we get the f-numbers from and why they are so difficult to remember sequentially?


An ‘f’-number is a fraction  - a ratio between the size of the hole in the diaphragm of the lens and the focal length of that lens. Divide the focal length of the lens by the lens diameter to get the ‘f’ Number.


As the diaphragm hole is 'stopped-down' (gets smaller) it effectively reduces the amount of light entering the lens barrel. Since this is the mathematical ‘area’ of the hole-diameter, the numbers aren't simply half of the previous (as say for shutter speed.) By ‘stopping-down’ one stop (by a half) the light is ‘stopped’ or reduced from entering the barrel.


The typical f-Number sequence for an SLR camera lens in Full Stops is as follows:-


f1, 1.4, 2,  2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22, 32, 


If like me, you find it hard to think in numbers, then here is a tip to remember the Full-f-Stops sequence.


Each alternate number is TWO stops more than the other.


So look at them sequentially this way f-,














Each fraction is HALF or double the other alternating between the two columns in the sequence.


I know 1/3rd stops makes it a little more complicated but at least now you can now see a pattern.


Happy Shooting


Graham Riddell



Further Reading

[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) Graham Riddell basic photography explain f-stop full stops how to learn practice of photography what is exposure? Fri, 12 Feb 2016 12:00:39 GMT
Super Moon Eclipse - Last one until 2033 The alarm went off at 2:00am and so I dragged myself out of my slumber, dressed and headed downstairs to take a look outside. There was a light chilly mist lying in the valley but the stars and 'star attraction' were clearly visible.

The moon was by now high in its orbital path in the south western horizon and the first signs of the eclipse shadow was biting onto its left shoulder. Next I set up the tripod with my SLR and 70-200mm lens securely mounted. My 5DMkI is a good enough camera but ISO sensitivity has increased significantly on later models so I knew I was limited in scope. I selected 1250 ISO and set manual focus on infinity taking a test shot at f2.8, two stops under. Still too hot so I eventually settled for f8 at 1000th/sec as the preview gave me no clipping and detail was clearly visible. Then into the menu to turn on 'mirror lock-up', set the timer and began the sequence taking an image every three or four minutes, though not to a stop watch, more by eye.

It was now 2:30am and I was joined by my son whilst my wife was looking out from the bedroom window. A full compliment of moon watchers!

And so I continued taking exposures watching the moon shrouded in half by the Earth's shadow and then the magic began. A brownish glow appeared from the silvery white and as the morning rolled on, so too did its colour, until eventually the whole of the moon was covered in dark amber. This darker light meant some quick adjustments to compensate, pushing my ISO to a limit of 1600 (more than this is just too noisy) and opening up the aperture wide and dropping the exposure time like a stone.

Having witnessed the first transformation I decided to call it a night and use my imagination to see the final sequence.

Later I post-processed the images and combined them together in Photoshop to show the full effect in one shot.

If you missed it, you will have to wait another eighteen years!!

Happy shooting

moon_eclipse_2015_zmoon_eclipse_2015_zSuper Moon and eclipse on 28th September 2015 between 2:15am and 3:15am. Taken form the house.


[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) 2015 28th blog blood moon eclipse lunar eclipse September sequence super moon Thu, 01 Oct 2015 16:44:33 GMT
Roll over and go back to sleep, or.... An Eerie Luminance_7465An Eerie Luminance_7465The first rays of dawn filter through the early morning mist. Scottish Borders.

It's 4:30am and I rise to look out the bedroom window.

There is a thick mist covering the land and I am thinking to myself, is it worth chasing the sunrise this morning?

Yesterday had been stunning and I missed the whole thing so I manage to convince myself that it is worthwhile, as the thought in my head seems to be saying, "it will be worth it"

Stealthily I get dressed, pack my gear and head downstairs to make myself a cup of coffee. My bag is equipped with two cameras, one has a 24-70mm lens and the other has a 70-200mm. This is my standard combination. Also in the bag are my Cokin ND filters, remote shutter release and a wide lens (17-40mm) just in case. Upstairs, (undetected by me), my good wife is disturbed from her slumber and hears me driving out into the thick, enveloping morning mist. So much for stealth. It's a quarter after five.

The location is not far and I am ready to start within 15 mins of leaving the house. Camera 1 is secured to the tripod with the wider lens on a full frame Canon 5D and set to 35mm. Camera 2 is a Canon 7D with the crop sensor so my 70-200mm is extended closer to 112mm x 320mm. I begin with 800 ISO on the tripod combination and 1250 on the handheld - the stabiliser helps especially in this low light. As the light improves I cut the ISO back to more agreeable levels.

Above me the crescent moon is making its way through the tree tops while all around is shrouded in mist. Its about a quarter to six when I take my first exposure and I am hoping the sun will break through soon and melt the mist to provide excellent views over the town and the surrounding hills. By eight fifteen I am still waiting and although the sun is up, the mist persists. One last exposure to record the event of its faint appearance but not exactly what I was after.

Having taken a few shots in the intervening hours I satisfy myself that 'at least I tried' and pack up, grateful I had decided not to ascend the hill behind me.

On the way back the sun breaks free and is shining on the roadside and as I turn into town, the mist is evaporating off the surrounding hills.


Too late to do anything more about it I return home and head back to bed to catch up on some lost sleep. Later I download my files and have a browse. I always believe there is something worth taking and so it proves. Not the shots I was hoping for, but other shots that I would never even have ventured out for. 

It's a funny old game this landscape photography lark. You never really know what your next shot will be. Here's one then and a link to others in my stock theme 'Mist'.  Still unique, still worthwhile.



[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) blog dawn early morning', first light morning photographer sunrise Mon, 07 Sep 2015 15:44:43 GMT
Storm Force A quick edit of the recent storm using stills and some background effects from

​Here I have taken a sequence of shots from the storm and made a short video of them to try and show what the experience was like. The thunder has been added using sound effects from FreeFSX.

Storm Force - the videoEnjoy s a few lightening strikes from a recent storm here I'm the Scottish Borders



[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) 2015 Borders" July Scottish electrical storm', Innerleithen, storm Sat, 11 Jul 2015 15:24:07 GMT
Shooting in 'Electric' mode The air was heavy and I saw a flash beyond the horizon....and waited….


I was going to bed last night and saw a flash on the horizon and thought mmmm this might be something. Turned out to be the most dramatic electric storm here in the Scottish Borders I have ever seen in the 19 years I've lived here. With lightning bolts striking every hilltop in the entire valley area every 10-15 seconds at its height. It started at around 11:30pm and carried on until after well after 1:00am.

StormTriple StrikeElectrical storm over Traquair and Innerleithen on morning of 2nd July 2015   StormStrike above TraquairElectrical storm over Traquair and Innerleithen on morning of 2nd July 2015

So how do you capture lightning?


It's not so difficult, here's what I did on my Canon 5D SLR and 24-70mm lens

  1. Select focal length to wider end of scale
  2. Switch lens 'Auto Focus' OFF 
  3. Turn focus ring until the 'L' before Infinity symbol is displayed in the lens window
  4. Set a decent ISO - I used 1000
  5. Set aperture f8-f11(for moderate sharpeness in case of focus imprecision
  6. Set exposure time (TV) to 30 seconds
  7. Shoot 2 stops under (may have to adjust or fine tune ISO/f combination
  8. Select 'Mirror Lock-Up' from internal custom functions
  9. Set Timer, or you can use a cable realise
  10. Mount camera securely on a tripod
  11. Aim in the direction of the most activity
  12. Make an exposure and check if any hits - adjust if required
  13. Repeat....repeat....repeat....until you're bored or its pouring down with rain (cameras don't like that!)

Infinity ShootingInfinity ShootingShooting at Infinty setting on a canon 24-70mm lens


[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) blog electrical storm electrical storms how to shoot lightning photographing lightning shooting lightning Thu, 02 Jul 2015 15:06:09 GMT
So What IS Photography? At its root, photography employes technology to capture and record light-based images in real time. It literally means “Drawing with Light’, from the Greek phōs (light) graphé (lines or drawing).


The word camera comes from the Latin for a 'Vaulted Room' or dark chamber, in reference to the early Camera Obscurawhich could project light from outside onto a wall or table in real time and is something that continues to amaze me even now. Many artists also used this device for drawing perspectives accurately.


In the late 19th and early 20th century - the pioneering days, photography was regarded more as a science and equipment was much more cumbersome and technically more demanding to use. The photographer's technical skill quickly became a fashionable 'must have' portrait capability for families across the world, however, the medium also attracted others who saw its creative potential and right from the beginning artists displayed their innovative techniques to excited new audiences through stills exhibitions and movies.


These early cameras took single-shot exposures or 'stills' and in their most primitive form they were constructed of a rectangular box with a hole on the front or 'aperture' fitted with a simple lens and a roll of light sensitive film inside at the back. These simple devices, referred to as Box or Kodak cameras (after its inventor George Eastman) worked best in good daylight and were inexpensive to produced in volume, bringing photography to the masses for the first time. They are the forerunners to the modern hand-held cameras we have today which, though much more sophisticated, operate around the same basic principles.


If more detail was required, or if light conditions were variable, then the hole's size could be altered using a sliding metal device with different sized holes which covered the aperture and 'stopped' or reduced the amount of light entering in predetermined, measured increments. See my little Box Brownie below (its seen better days)!




Another design of early camera was a large wooden box with an optical lens instead of a fixed hole. The 'exposure' (of light onto the film, or light sensitive coated glass plate inside) was controlled by using a lens cap to block or allow the light entering inside and a watch to accurately measure the required 'time' to take the exposure.


So here then are where the first three principles of photography were born, namely, Light Sensitivity (of the recording medium i.e film or digital sensor, Aperture and Time and they have stood for over 150 years until the present day. Today, we still consider these three elements when learning photography and use the terms ISO, A or AV (aperture value), and S or TV (speed or time value). We call this the 'Exposure Triangle' and I have included an example diagram illustrating this below. 


The exposure triangle contains the key elements to making a 'correct' exposure and is the basis of teaching I use on my Photo-Walks and lessons.


ISO (or in the days of film, ASA), is an international standard which in photography is used to describe the 'Light Sensitivity' or reactiveness of the recording medium. It is generally my first consideration as it was in the case of film, since we have to consider the available light before determining the rest.


As light fades, a higher rated film was used which reacted faster and so could still capture usable images in poor light. A slow film was generally in the range 25-50 and possessed critically fine particles and was used for recording high detail work. A basic standard negative film was in the range 100-200, then as the number increased up to 400, 800 and so on these 'fast' films were progressively grainier. Slide, or Positive film, was usually in the lower end of the scale such as Kodak's 64 which possessed magnificent colour balance and saturation.


Digital cameras work in a similar way and here ISO refers to the sensor rather than film and its capability of recording light wave energy which is then saved on to suitable memory card. Today, instead of having to change the film every time the lighting conditions change, digital camera users are able change the ISO setting on each and every shot according to the situation if so desired and some new models can shoot at incredibly high sensitivity of 20,000 ISO and greater.


Image quality and light conditions will always determine the ISO used but as a rule of thumb, it is best to benchmark 100 as the norm, increasing as required. Often modern digital cameras and smart phones will set this automatically without the user even realising, however I prefer to have the student select it for the job in hand. Its not a better method, just a more thoughtful approach.


Aperture controls the ‘Depth of Field’ or DoF which determines how much of the image can be held sharply in focus. A deep DoF has the image sharp the majority of the whole scene from front to back, whereas a shallow DoF generally shows the background or foreground out of focus creating separation between the main subject and its environment along the plane of focus (see this article).


Speed (Time Value) refers to the ‘Shutter Speed’ or length of ‘Time’ a quantity of light is allowed to enter during an exposure, from when the shutter first opens until it closes. To capture fast moving objects and freeze action, a fast shutter speed is required, or for inanimate objects, or time lapse, slower speeds requiring longer exposures may be used - usually with the aid of a fixed surface or tripod.


Creativity is a personal decision to control the process to meet a desired objective. What once may have been regarded an error or mistake, can be re-applied for effect. This is where the photographer (technician) becomes the artist, using the tools available to ‘create’ images of personal choosing. ‘Seeing’ a picture, either in the mind first, or by eye in real time, is part of the visionary process needed to express ideas and emotions, or telling the story of the selected subject.


One may be criticised for lack of technical capability as a photographer, but should never be criticised for expressing creativity, since I firmly believe that it is the latter that makes you you, and therefore uniquely different from me and everyone else.


In summary, there are three critical components to taking a photograph.

    1    ISO is set for the available light

    2    Aperture is selected to control sharpness in the image

    3    Time is selected to control the the amount of light the shutter will let in when open



NB - If you would like to read more about the many types of photography there are then read these articles by Jen Miller at Jen Reviews for an overview. It may help you decide on the style of photography you would ike to pursue. and


[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) basic photography exposure triangle how to learn photography practice of photography shutter shutter speed what is exposure Wed, 01 Jul 2015 14:09:30 GMT
Hello and Welcome Hello and welcome to my new photography web site.

Whilst it's taken me nearly four years to finally settle on a design format, there will still no doubt be some teething issues, however I am hoping that the changes I am making are positive and will benefit users and clients alike.

Following a short test survey via social media, it was clear that many were satisfied with my work and presentation, however, there was for me an issue about going forward and how users were increasingly interacting on-line for information via their smart phones and tablets. Whilst my old site was still liked, it could no longer be updated to meet these new demands and so a 'smart' friendly solution had to be found.

I have joined up with Zenfolio who have a great set of tools for photographers where for example, my stock images scan be uploaded and protected with a watermark, saving me a lot of processing time and are of sufficiently high quality to be able to fulfil most clients' buying needs. These images can also be shared on other social media via a set of preset buttons on the image and, for now, they can be purchased throughout the 'BUY' option via preselected suppliers here in the UK.

I have also moved to a new domain name ( and email address which replaces my original so it is important you update your records as the old ones will be going off-line soon.

Let me invite you to please have a look through the new site. My stock images are to be found under that title and also in 'Collections' whilst other commercial commissions can be seen in the remaining galleries. Hopefully this interface will reveal more of the work I do and help widen client's choices and perceptions for their different needs.

I hope you enjoy visiting my site and please do provide feedback on your experience, good or bad.

Finally if you are happy to keep in touch then please joint my RSS feed and subscribe to my blogs. I promise to keep them informative and as interesting as possible and if you have any requests then please do get in touch.

Life's road can take twists and turns, join me on my journey.....


Damhead Rig Memorial-wide-1368Damhead Rig Memorial-wide-1368The way path meandering down back towards Damhead and Traquair, with Innerlerleithen in the distance.

[email protected] (Graham Riddell Photographer - Landscape & Nature Art) basic photography exposure triangle f-stop full stops Graham Riddell Photography hello how to photography blog Wed, 17 Jun 2015 16:24:54 GMT