Cycling and Photography on the Black Isle

The thing I miss most about living in Edinburgh is walking to and from work. Without even thinking about it, I used to clock up 15 miles a week just walking to and from the office, before I even thought about going walking in the evenings or at weekends, and occasionally playing badminton. I now live in the Highlands – the outdoor capital of Scotland – but ironically I find it more of a challenge to get exercise here than I did when I was living in Edinburgh.

My job is largely desk-based, so I typically spend 37.5+ hours a week in front of my computer. The Inverness office is 23 miles away from home, meaning my days of walking to work are well and truly over. However, I’m very fortunate in that the office is in a rural location, so I often get out for a half hour walk at lunchtimes, which I love. After working in the centre of Edinburgh for four and a half years, I still find it refreshing to step out of the office and see sheep, cattle, horses, deer and red squirrels. Let’s give city life some credit though – I did once see an urban fox heading towards Princes Street during rush hour on a Friday night! I also work from home, which is a joy; no commute and I try and use my extra hour and a half a day doing something productive. Life up here is great but I do miss my 15 mile a week walk to work in Edinburgh. It was a good feeling arriving at the office/flat a little out of breath after a power walk, whatever the weather (besides dicing with death crossing the road, dodging vomit on the pavements, and other pedestrians blowing cigarette smoke in my face… ah, what memories!).

So, how do I get my exercise nowadays and how is this relevant to photography, I hear you ask. Well, I still love walking and I now enjoy breathing in cleaner air when I go out to stretch my legs. I also play badminton once a week and I go cycling regularly. In the winter months, I’ll have to make do with my exercise bike in the spare room but, until then, I’m enjoying taking my Pendleton Somerby for a spin around Resolis and sometimes Cromarty and Culbokie too. I’ve also taken to wearing a pedometer so that I can monitor my exercise levels and set myself daily goals.

Bike, Brae, Springfield
Cycling on the Black Isle

Purchasing my Nikon D300 camera in 2009 changed my life. However, I found that there was a downside to shooting with an SLR. I no longer carried a camera with me everywhere as it was simply impractical to do so, due to the weight and size of the D300. As a result, I captured fewer ‘record’ shots of events and loved ones. I rectified this last year when I splashed out £250 on a Nikon Coolpix P330 compact camera. I can almost hear the scoffs amongst the pros and gear-obsessed. However, it’s a high quality compact and better than shooting with a mobile phone. The P330 offers full manual control and the RAW file format; two things which I wasn’t prepared to live without. I carry my wee compact with me everywhere, even if I’m just stretching my legs or going to the office, and I don’t notice the minimal weight and bulk. I never go cycling without it.  Whilst obviously not as good as my D300 and associated kit, the P330 allows me to capture spontaneous images. I use my cycle runs as reconnaissance exercises, to scope out new places to which I can later return with my D300, tripod and filters in the desired conditions.

My image ‘Corn Marigolds’ (captured on the D300, I should add) came about as a result of this process. I felt in need of some exercise on a recent Sunday afternoon and headed out on my bike for a 10 mile circuit on the country roads around Resolis and Culbokie. After the switchback cycle ride out of Culbokie, I pulled into the side of the road for a break on the final leg of my journey. I immediately noticed a splash of yellow in the field across the road. I rested my bike against a fence and went to investigate. I was greeted by these beautiful corn marigolds in a small corner of a field of golden barley. I would never have noticed the corn marigolds had I not been on my bike, as I normally whiz by this location at 50mph in the car. I captured an image on my compact camera and vowed to return with my SLR and tripod at the earliest opportunity. I returned the following day and captured this shot. Yellow has always been my favourite colour and that’s what I love about this image.

Corn Marigolds, Toberchurn, Black Isle
Corn Marigolds, Toberchurn, Black Isle

The barley has since been harvested and the corn marigolds are gone, but I recall this memory every time I pass by this location. I drove past a few days ago and glanced into the corner of the field, remembering the corn marigolds, and there stood a roe deer – what a beautiful sight! Each of these experiences makes me feel a deeper connection with the Black Isle.

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4 thoughts

  1. Getting better and better, only you could narrate this way and take the reader along with the trip 🙂 i liked it “I still find it refreshing to step out of the office and see sheep, cattle, horses, deer and red squirrels.” and to add a great touch to sum it up “Corn Marigold” Lovely. Enjoyed it, See you Karen!! On the next post 🙂


    1. Thank you Josh. The ‘Corn Marigolds’ photograph is a personal favourite and I’m looking forward to better weather and longer days when I can get out and explore again after office hours! I’ve just published a new post on the Scottish islands, which I hope you will enjoy. 🙂

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