Sunday, 28 December 2008

Heilan Light

292 - Good to be Home, originally uploaded by North Light.

It has been many months since I last posted to my blog, 2008 has been a busy year for me both in terms of photography and as a hotelier.
Long shifts in the hotel in the summer meant that what little time I had for photography was devoted to my 366, a photograph a day posted to my flickr pages. As this draws to a close I have to admit that this has been a interesting experience, more about this at the end of the year.
In the last few months I have had more time to devote to photography, the main result being Heilan Light my website, this was remarkably easy to set up and even if I say it myself, I am pleased with the results.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

A Few Days on the West Coast

We managed to escape for a couple of days over the weekend, despite being a Bank holiday weekend the weather was stunning and although we did quite a few miles it was a very relaxing break.

Now to the serious bit, the west coast was busy, the north coast was quiet.
So the tourists go to the west coast because it's better, no way, I think its more to do with people's perception of where to go for a holiday in Scotland.
The west coast is well known, has had a well developed tourist industry for many years, the north coast has not been promoted to the same level, people come here to go to John O'Groats, to catch the ferry to got to Orkney, for fishing, shooting and a few to tour the area, but we don't get the numbers the area deserves.
How do we change this? Should we expect VistScotland to do this for us? Do we have to do it locally? I guess there is no simple single answer, we should expect VisitScotland to promote the area, but they have a limited budget and will concentrate on areas that pull the majority of visitors, the North Highlands Scotland group is starting to make an excellent job of promoting the area, , but this will take time, it's the long haul, should we link with Visit Orkney? It would make some sense, certainly we can learn from them as they have a well developed tourism industry.
I think the real development has to come from the area, but we should be ensuring we ask for, and get the support of VisitScotland, The Highland Council, Historic Scotland, The Scottish Government and any other agencies that we feel can assist us in promoting this beautiful part of Scotland.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Promoting the North Highlands

Unlinked, originally uploaded by North Light.

As with any business advertising is an necessary evil, the tourism industry has many firms promising to increase your sales for a slice of your hard earned profits! After nearly four years in the industry I would say that in many cases the only business to increase it's profits from this in the advertising company. But one would think that the countries national tourism agency would be worth supporting.
Scotland's national tourism agency is called VisitScotland, and along with which it part owns provides international and national marketing, booking website, quality measurement and grading, and local tourist offices.
For this we contribute by paying membership fees, quality inspection fees, advertising fees and commission on bookings.
For the last few years I have been hearing rumors that the promotion of the far north by some of these offices was a bit lacking, I would tend to discount these stories as gossip, but last weekend some guests relaid an interesting tale. They had gone to one of these offices and asked about the North Coast and the Orkneys, only to be told that they would be better going to Skye.
Now I think Skye is beautiful, but so is the far north, it's early in the season and we need every visitor we can get, so I have to say I am more than a little peeved that part of the body that is supposed to be promoting tourism for the whole of Scotland is promoting one area above another.
It's difficult enough to get tourists, we could really do without part of our national tourist agency actively trying to persuade them not to come.

Ok rant over!

The photograph is of Sandside Harbour, Reay, Caithness.

Monday, 5 May 2008


Early Birds, originally uploaded by North Light.

I note from the Highland Council's website that they are conducting a online survey on the development of John O'Groats, in their own words "We need your help! Please help us to scope the potential for John O’Groats as a visitor destination"
Now sadly the link to this survey is buried away under "Tourism Development"
Surely this should be a front page item? John O'Groats is one of Scotland's best known locations, yet the Hotel is falling down, the foundations of the next phase of development are overgrown and long abandoned. The Operators of the shops and other facilities there deserve a lot of credit and support for their perseverance in this beautiful corner of Scotland.
This should be the focal point for the development of tourism in Caithness and North Sutherland.

So here is the link to the page, please do the survey, the far North of Scotland is a stunning place and tourism has to be a key part of it's future.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

What, No Surf!

112 - Calm, originally uploaded by North Light.

Today is the first day of the O'Neill Highland Open Surf competition, I was on Thurso beach last night, flat calm, you could have gone out into the bay in a boat made of paper, and it would have been safe!
Lets hope the swell behaves and give all the Surfers staying in the town a good competition.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Beach Graffiti

98 - Beach Graffiti, originally uploaded by North Light.

Ok, so I am going to have to admit that now the hotel is partially open, 4 nights a week, that I really am not achieving my goal of a post a week to my blog! There just does not seem to be enough time in the day.
We are at present busy with a series of 4 night tours, which so far are going very smoothly, and the vast majority of the guests are a pleasure to have.
I am still uptight about our Politicians meddling with licensing laws and alcohol duty, so we'll leave that subject well alone!
The weather, well I hope that last weekend's cold snap is the end of winter, and that we can look forward to a warmer summer than last year, and maybe a few more tourists exploring the beautiful area I live and work in.
The photograph, my photo of the day for the 8th of April, I hope that I don't have to do too many like this, got onto the beach late afternoon, it had started raining on the way to Dunnet, it was raining heavily, there was a biting cold wind, hence I was feeling very unmotivated, considering the circumstance I am very pleased with the result!

Thursday, 13 March 2008


Tranquillity 2, originally uploaded by North Light.

I don't often do B & W, but this image struck me as I worked on the colour version that it would be better in Black and White.

Anyway, I need images like this when I listen to our Politicians on the subject of alcohol.
Why do they think that the solution to drinking problems is to increase the costs, ie duty and the cost of licensing premises?
Do they not understand that the Tourist and Hotel trades are important to Scotland?
Reading some of their comments they obviously do not.
Licensing costs, the new cost have increased by a factor of 5 for renewals for our hotel, plus annual charges.
I accept things change, and do not have a problem with the concept that the fees should pay for the system, Yet Councils are employing extra staff, surely this suggests the new system is more bureaucratic and hence not as cost effective?
I strongly object to some of the comments that have been made by politicians, I quote Mr MacAskill, our Justice Secretary,

"They would dispense with the "outdated and dogmatic" mindset that selling alcohol was a right."

"It is not," he added. "It is a privilege."

Hmm, as an operator of a Three Star Hotel, that brings a lot of tourist trade into the area, to be awarded the Three Start rating I have to have a Bar, it's one of the criteria! It's not a privilege, it's a requirement.

As for heavy increases in duty to help curb binge drinking, the vast majority of people drink in sensible moderation, and a good operator will, as his license requires not serve alcohol to someone who has had too much.
Cheap alcohol will still be available, the supermarkets sell for less than I can buy for! Having high duty on alcohol will only increase the illegal import of Alcohol for sale from other parts of the EU.

Alcohol abuse is a problem, but the solutions are not as easy as putting the taxes up! It's a cultural problem, the solution is to change the culture. Its about education, not penalising one of the countries major industries, who are already having to cope with big rises to their operating costs due to rising energy costs.

Oh I need to go and look at the photograph again!

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Bi-lingual road signs

67 - In Between Showers, originally uploaded by North Light.

Time for a rant!

I note with less than amusement that we are to benefit from bi-lingual road signs, the Highland Council has recently voted that as part of the Gaelic Plan these signs are to be implemented as a Highland wide policy.
In doing so, the Highland Council meeting rejected by 36 votes to 29 a notice of motion by 8 Caithness Councillors who wanted their area excluded from the policy stating: “…the blanket roll out of bi-lingual signs in the Highlands should only proceed where there exists significant local demand for such a policy.”
I should add that Caithness only has a total of 9 Councillors, so much for democracy!
The vast majority of Caithness was not Gaelic speaking, its language deriving from Norse, as the majority of place names do.
Would it not be better to spend this money on attracting more tourists to the area and hence helping the economy of Caithness!

Wednesday, 5 March 2008


A Sea, originally uploaded by North Light.

Hmm, so much for more consistent posts! Will have to do better!
We have our first Tour in the Hotel next week, so its starting to get busier, which ironically means I will have more time to post on the blog.

February has produced some great weather for photography, some of which may be seen on my Flickr pages. As the days are getting longer I am looking forward to photography on warm evenings, and on that wishful note its time to sign off.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Ruffled by the Wind

Ruffled by the Wind, originally uploaded by North Light.

It's some time since I made an entry on the blog, other things seem to have taken precedence over the last few weeks, but I am back so there will be more consistent entries from now on!
I have bought a compact camera, a Nikon P5100, why did I choose the Nikon? Liked the build quality, felt comfortable in the hand, and part just plain impulse! The results from it are not bad, and it will cover the role of light pocketable camera well.
But I do have to say, why oh why do they try and squeeze so many megapixels into a tiny sensor! At anything above ISO200 it's so noisy.
Six megapixels would be more than sufficient, and the performance from the sensor would be so much better. Still tempted by the Sigma DP1 though!
I have to be honest, "Ruffled by the Wind" was taken with a DSLR, would not have been able to get the detail and exposure latitude from the compact camera.

Monday, 14 January 2008

A view of Thurso

14 - Brimms Hill Panorama, originally uploaded by North Light.

I first saw this view the very first time I visited Thurso in 2002, it was not until I lived in Thurso, and had seen this view in evening light that I realalised just how stunning the vista is.
Today is the first time I have dared to try and capture the panorama, I was ill equipped as I had not gone out with any intention of capturing this shot, but the light was so good I could not drive past, so here is version No. !.
I will make no apologies for spending some time this year trying to capture the essence of this vista, when I think I have done it, I will let you know!

Friday, 11 January 2008

To the Beach

11 - To the Beach, originally uploaded by North Light.

Ok, I cheated today, weather was good, so a chance to explore Murkle Bay, had the office phone diverted to a mobile in my pocket, and off I went! Photographically not a bad morning, but the tide was high, and with the Murkle Burn being quite high, I could only get to about half the bay, needs further visits!
Like all sweeping vistas its quiet difficult to photograph, particularly with wide angle lenses, need to be very careful about foreground interest.
So there will be more to come from this location.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Murkle Bay

Murkle Bay, originally uploaded by North Light.

I drive past this bay quite regularly, yet have only taken photographs there twice, the first time was about 18 months ago, and yesterday.
It has always caught my eye, but access and parking are not good or obvious. The light there yesterday was superb, grey clouds in the background, with a low winter sun. So, 2008 is the year to explore this stunning location, and take more photographs here.
The Hotel is now quiet, just spent some time sorting and tidying the walk in freezer, not finished, my feet are too cold to continue! Ironically, the freezer needs to chill down again before I finish the job! The weather outside is very inviting, sunshine with a hard frost, Hopefully the sun will still be out this afternoon, I can then go and investigate Murkle Bay!

Saturday, 5 January 2008

"Up, Up and Away"

"Up, Up and Away", originally uploaded by North Light.

A photography day, the light this morning was excellent, and, as I discovered once I got past Dunnet Head, the sea was spectacular.
I spent a very productive 20 to 30 minutes taking photographs at John O'Groats, with I think some excellent results. Note that it then took a large cup of coffee in the Cafe to warm my hands up!
I am still getting used to the Nikon, a process that will take some time, but I am not unhappy with any of the exposures, and continue to be impressed by the camera.
This image was created from a single RAW file, 5 exposures created at 1 EV steps using Camera Raw, then processed with Photomatix Pro, with some final tweaks in Photoshop, sounds long winded, but probably only took about 15 minutes to create.

Thursday, 3 January 2008


Waiting to be Eaten, originally uploaded by North Light.

I've been found out!
There's me thinking I could just quietly write a bit about my life, it would disappear into the ether on this internet thing, and that would be that.
But no, I should have known, you just can't hide any more.

I've been confused all day, the North Light flickr pages have been much more active than usual, could see no obvious reason and hence had resigned myself to waiting for the stats for the pages, and try and work out where the traffic was originating from.
Just doing a bit of surfing before I go to sleep, as one does, and visit Caithness dot org, scan the page, look a bit harder, clean glasses, no thats definitely the name of my blog, oh s**t what have I been saying in my blog?
No more anonymity, I'll just have to keep some of the thoughts to myself, guess I'll have to be careful with the pictures as well!

So a safe picture of apples and pears, can't be anything controversial about this, can there?

Well, I'll take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy new year.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Caithness Flag with a Seaweed garnish

The hotel is now entering the quiet spell, the New Year guests are all sitting having breakfast, cases are loaded onto the coach, and after a busy day putting the hotel "to bed" the next few months are not quite as frenetic.
The 2007 season was an odd one, in terms of tours, particularly from Italy and Germany we had a good year, but individual tourists was poor, the weather, interest rates and fuel prices I guess.
On paper we are already looking busy for 2008, but cancelations will start coming in during January, it will not be until April that we start to get a real feel for the season.
Now the important bits, Photography, I intend to spend a bit more time on photography this year, going to try and post a photograph a day, where I am unable to post every day, at least take a photograph every day. On flickr there is a new Set on my pages, 366, this will hold the daily images.
Time to do some work, so, wishing all the readers of this blog a very happy 2008.