I’m the first to admit that Winter hasn’t always been my favourite time of year, and before the kids came along I could often be found huddling over my SAD lamp and complaining about the lack of daylight – probably due to working full time in an office and seeing very little of it except between the hours of 9 and 3 on Saturdays and Sundays. These days I’m in the fortunate position to be able to get out and about much more during winter daytimes, and having a dog who requires plenty of exercise also contributes to me getting that necessary daylight quota. I’ve also changed the way I think about winter, and these days try to focus on the lovely aspects of the winter season – frosty morning walks, cosy evenings at home, family time spent reading, playing cards or board games, and of course that all important Christmas countdown. Having the kids has of course really contributed to this change in mindset – let’s face it, who could really be all ‘baa humbug’ at the sight of a seven year old jumping up and down and chanting ‘I can’t wait for Christmas!’ at least fifteen times a day.
One of the other things that’s helped me learn to love winter is photography – or rather the opportunity to take the kind of photos you just can’t get at any other time of year. Photography is a big part of life in our household, and while GB is the technical one, I still love snapping away on my iphone – or occasionally the ‘big camera’ (as long as it’s on auto). Between us we’ve captured a few nice winter photos over the last couple of years, and I say that not so much about the quality of the photos themselves (we’re definitely not claiming to be experts), but rather about the special little family stories they continue to represent. So in line with the Christmassy theme on the blog lately, I thought I’d share a few of our favourites with you on here. I hope you like them and maybe get inspired to go out and create some of your own favourite winter photographs – who knows, you might even end up like me – a bona fide winter loving convert.
- The Monarch of the Glen
This photo of a stag, pictured on the North West Highland route now more familiar to many as part of the ‘North Coast 500’, wasn’t actually taken near Christmas, but in fact earlier this year on a snowy day in February. We had decided to take the kids on a ‘stag spotting’ day trip around the North West in our campervan, with the promise of some sort of prize for the first person to spot one (thankfully our kids are still of an inclination to be excited by the prospect of winning as little as a pound.) We had a lovely day out, picnicing near Ardvreck Castle and visiting Ravens Rock Gorge, but there weren’t many signs of any stags to be spotted, so we started our journey home assuming the big guys just weren’t going to be making an appearance. But then just as the light started to fall, they did – little groups of them dotting across the landscape until we pulled over at the side of the road to get this picture of the one I affectionately refer to as the ‘Monarch of the Glen’ (and yes, I know that title’s already been taken). We watched his pals practice their rutting skills on the hill for a while before it was getting too dark to see, and then headed home full of the joys of winter (and the contents of our picnic). This is probably one of my favourite photos, not just from winter, but from anytime ever because it reminds me of a family day out filled with so much fun and a fantastic sense of adventure. Seeing this majestic fellow living out a wild life and looking us square in the eye also makes me feel emotional for reasons I can’t fully articulate (but which have something to do with Scotland, nature, and freedom). Whatever they are they’re a reminder that every picture tells a story – and if anyone ever wants to make me one of those ‘Spirit of Adventure’ scrapbooks in the style of the movie ‘Up’ – then please remember to include this one.
- The Northern Lights, Caithness
One of the most wonderful things about living in the far north of Scotland, is being ‘far north’ enough to see something that not everyone will have the good fortune to experience in their lifetimes – the magical spectacle of the Northern Lights. Saying that, it took me most of my adult life to actually get to see them; going through various stages of either not looking, not being available, or not being awake (they often appear well past our bedtime). So when Facebook went crazy a couple of years ago with reports of some of the best light shows our area had seen in recent memory, we decided to bundle everyone in the car and get to an area away from the town lights to see if we could catch a glimpse. Catch a glimpse we did and it was breathtaking (although it does take a few minutes for your eyes to adjust to the experience initially). The dog was barking and the kids were starting to feel the cold, but for a little while magic was real as we watched this mystery of the universe unfold before our very eyes. It remains one of the best experiences of our family life together and one I really hope our kids will remember when they are older. This picture, although probably not technically perfect (it takes a bit of practice to master photographing the aurora), will always remind me of that special evening when we forgot about it being a school night and took the opportunity Mother Nature offered us. If the same opportunity ever comes your way I’d encourage you to do likewise.
- Dunnet Beach in the Golden Hour
These pictures (one of my youngest son, and one of GB and Brody), walking along a deserted beach at Dunnet near John O’ Groats, are also amongst my favourite winter snaps, and even though they were taken on my humble iphone, they do pretty well to show the colours that can fill the northern sky in those moments just before sunset on a beautiful winters afternoon. I love these photos for many reasons, speaking to me as they do of family, walking, the beauty of nature, and the outdoors. They also portray a sense of solitude and always make me think of that Cheryl Strayed quote about being wild and being free. I often think of this time with our young family as what GB and I will one day look back on as the ‘golden days’ – these pictures sum that up for me and remind me to always seek out the golden moments that can happen on any given family Sunday. I’m well aware that the golden times in life don’t stick around forever – you have to grab onto them and enjoy them while you can – and one of the reasons I take so many photographs is so that I can cling onto them for just that little bit longer.
- Thrumster House, Near Wick
This picture of a snowy scene at the Thrumster House estate near Wick was taken when the guesthouse opened it’s gardens to the public on a snowy Mothers Day earlier this year (snow often makes an appearance here in the far north as we verge out of winter and into early Spring). We went for a visit and a magical walk around the sugar coated trees there that day – and it wasn’t difficult to see why these gardens are such a popular choice for wedding photos. It was just a simple day out enjoying snowball fights and time spent together – and it was one of the best Mothers Day celebrations I have ever had.
- Winter’s Morning with Brody
The final photo on my list is a picture taken while Brody and I were out walking on one of our morning outings, which at this time of the year often coincide with the low sun appearing in the sky. I spend so much time out walking alone with Brody that our outdoor escapades have become a huge fixture in my life, and something I’ve undoubtedly become quite addicted to over the last few years since his arrival into our family. Looking at this picture reminds me how lucky I am to be able to enjoy my love of the outdoors with Brody on a daily basis. And seeing my little friend running towards me never fails to make me smile.
I have too many winter photos to talk about in one post so I’ve included a selection of some of my other favourites in the little montage grid below. And of course like all Mums I have many other favourite photos of my kids with excited Christmas morning faces or perched beside snowmen with wonky eyes and carrot noses. I don’t include too many photos of my family on the blog but I hope you can see from the stories here that they are always in the pictures – in the background, behind the camera, in the space behind my eyes, and in every single story. And that’s all a favourite photo really is now, isn’t it, a little story of our lives told within four corners. And if every picture tells a story then I know what I’d like mine to say about my life – and that each and every one of them should begin and end with the words FAMILY, LOVE and HOME.