Monday, 5 December 2011

Hard Times, Golden Times

It is the time of year again when sunglasses are needed in Scotland - thanks not to baking heat but to the low angle of the winter sun shining off wet roads, making driving difficult. There is a photographer's saying that the 'golden time' for landscapes is one hour before sunset and one hour after sunrise - I have an image in my head of landscape photographers mooching around summer Scotland all day with nothing to do for 16 hours - but December and January subvert that. The sun is low enough even at midday to take pleasing pictures with defined shadows and that slight reddish tint. A clear winter day is a photographer's delight.

I returned to one of my favourite stretches of river, a bend in a Tweed tributary that rises in the Lammermuirs. Three weeks ago the autumn trees were still full of leaf and, at night, the river was alive with an eerie splashing: salmon spawning. Since then the river has risen and fallen, and the wind blown hard. The trees are bare, blackbirds unable to hide away, and the riverbank strewn with the two to two-and-a-half foot long bodies of spent salmon, their final act of spawning done. Somewhere in the gravel beds the next generation is preparing to hatch. In the meantime, bare winter and its frosts and reluctant sunshine has most definitely come for good.

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