Capturing the night sky is a challenge, but thanks to our talented friend Stuart McIntyre, the man behind boundbystarlight.com, we’re delighted to share some beautiful images of the milky way and aurora borealis, set against Scotland’s dramatic landscape. So sit back, and enjoy this adventure through Scotland’s night sky, in Stuart’s own words.
First up in our top 5 is this spectacular and very cleverly composed image of the Crawick Multiverse. This standing stone circle, recently transformed from a former open cast coal mine into an amazing land art project in Dumfries & Galloway, is a representation of the Andromeda Galaxy. This spectacular image, cleverly composed by Stuart, also reveals the real Andromeda Galaxy in the same frame, revealed by Scotland’s beautiful dark night sky. We love it!
“For me, it was a fusion of all my interests. I grew up on a farm in Aberdeenshire and had seen the dark skies many times and the beauty often obscured by light pollution. I also have a passion for imaging and trying to use new techniques to capture the best possible images so taking dark sky photographs was a natural progression for me. Once I started Bound by Starlight and found myself alone with only the stars for company, I discovered how truly amazing it is to go out and explore Scotland in the dark! It has a very different feeling, and it has all taken off from there.”
It’s images like these that make us want to explore our own lovely country MORE! This incredible shot, capturing the absolutely magical beauty of the illusive Aurora Borealis, comes with a great story. Taken on a cold October evening, deep in the hills of Glengarry in the Scottish Highlands, this image involved Stuart wading through reeds and getting knee deep in cold Loch water! Not only did it involve having to withstand the cold temperatures, Stuart also had to force himself to remain as perfectly still as physically possible in order to capture this stunning loch reflection. Hats off to him for his patience and determination, it certainly paid off!
“It really depends on what you want to photograph. Generally speaking you should try to go out during a ‘new moon’ as there is no light reflected from the moon to contend with, so this is when the most stars are visible. Winter nights are also obviously easier due to the extra darkness. My personal favourite is to photograph the Milky Way, which is more vibrant in the summer months. The lighter nights make it very difficult to observe, but this only makes it more rewarding once I am able to find the right conditions to view it, and even more so to capture it. The spectacular Northern Lights are very popular, and these tend to be more active during the winter months.”
It was during a night of the strongest Northern Light activity Stuart has ever witnessed (and he has spent many a night chasing the Northern Lights!) that he stopped to capture this incredible shot of the Milky Way over the hills of Glengarry in the Scottish Highlands. As explained by Stuart himself, one of the joys of exploring the night sky is that the longer you stop to look, the more that is revealed to you. This is a perfect example.
“Find darkness…manmade light pollution is a massive problem and makes viewing the stars incredibly difficult. The darker the location, the more rewarding the photographs will be. Also watch out not to use too slow shutter speeds or you will start to see star trailing rather than improved image quality.”
It was during a night of uncertain weather that Stuart’s patience once again paid off for this spectacular shot. It wasn’t until 2.30am that a window of clear sky opened up allowing him to capture the amazing railway viaduct facing south west. What makes this image even more interesting is what happened afterwards however. It was after around 2 hours of patient photography that Stuart finally returned to the warmth and comfort of his car around 4.30am to cook up an early breakfast, only to find his car being approached a few moments later by a beautiful young stag, presumably lured by the smell of his breakfast! Amazing!
“Oh that is a difficult question, I suppose it’s cheating to say the image I have not captured yet? At the moment I am climbing hills at night with the hope of having the stars above me but the clouds beneath me. I haven’t been too successful so far, instead mostly emerging in the middle of ‘cloud sandwiches’. Also I find that clouds move like waves, engulfing me in fog that sometimes never lifts. Leaving me in the cold, surrounded by darkness and getting wet. I only have the stamina to stay on the peak for a couple of hours before I need to think of my safety and return. Other than that, I am trying to create as accurate as possible 360-degree interactive image spheres. I hope that by March I am able to consistently produce spheres that are completely accurate, but it is the most complex and frustrating project I have undertaken so far. However I believe the results will be worth it as I think these spheres will give people a more immersive and encompassing feeling of what the night sky is like. Some of the traditional images can cram vast amounts of sky into a small photo, making it hard to identify the stars or appreciate the shear scale of what is out there.”
Last but not least is this beautiful shot of the Milky Way over the stunning Argyll Peninsula near Scotland’s dramatic west coast. Taken late in the evening without much traffic around, Stuart was able to capture a strong contrast between the bright and vibrant night sky, and the dark and peaceful earth below.
“Currently I am using two Nikon D4S cameras and either a 14-24mm f/2.8 or 24mm f/1.4 depending on what I want to achieve. I use a Gigapan panoramic tripod head and some really cheap tripod legs that weigh a ton and I want to replace! I don’t think this is the kit I would recommend to a beginner. You just need a camera where you are happy with the image quality around 4000 ISO a shutter speed that goes up to 30 seconds (the longer the better) and a good quality f2l8 lens.”
So that’s it! Our top 5 favourite images from Stuart’s stunning 2016 collection. If you love them as much as we do, then hop on over to Stuart’s page here to place your 2017 calendar order!
by Barry & Laura
As soon as we arrived to Kyoto, swiftly deposited by an incredibly punctual bullet train, we immediately felt a contrast to fast-paced Tokyo. It was remarkably more peaceful and had a relaxing atmosphere of calm in comparison. Ahhh. Although we’d enjoyed discovering the unique wonders of Tokyo city, the clear air and sense of tranquility was a welcome change.
Since we only had a short time in Kyoto (approximately 3 days), we didn’t delay in dropping off our trusty backpacks and getting out and about to explore. Little did we know how much we would discover in just a few days! Read on for our own personal highlights and inspiring things to do in dynamic Kyoto.
From the perfectly proportioned sushi and always on-time bullet trains, to the beautiful traditional Ryokans, meticulously laid out, the Japanese LOVE precision. So it was no surprise when this level of precision was taken to another level at a traditional Japanese archery ceremony.
We’d just arrived in Kyoto when we heard of a special archery ceremony taking place the next morning in the North of the city, at an important temple called the ‘Kamigamo Shrine’ on the banks of the Kamo River. We couldn’t believe our luck in getting the opportunity to witness a traditional Samurai Archery Ceremony!
However it wasn’t until we arrived that we realised how much of a big deal the ceremonies are. Television cameras and all, it was so exciting!
Luckily we arrived just in time for the archery area being set up, and took up our position alongside a large crowd of spectators that were eagerly waiting for the ceremony to begin. It wasn’t long before the archers arrived. Resplendent in beautiful, colourful outfits, they slowly emerged from the temple and made their way, calmly and gracefully, to the archery area. This was to be another lesson in patience, precision and attention to detail.
Slowly but surely, the archers made their way to the staging area where each archer prepared themselves with meticulous poise and grace. The detail in every movement was incredible. Before attending, we’d learned that the aim of Kyūdō (Japanese archery), is to train the mind and body through learning to focus on firing an arrow with the right ‘ma’ai’, or timing. We were captivated.
Slowly adjusting their robes to prepare for the bow and arrow and steadying themselves in preparation for action, we watched in anticipation as the arrows were presented to the archers as if they were a newborn child being given to their parents for the first time.
And then it came to the firing of the arrows. The first was a pair of men, who slowly adjusted their robes and steadied themselves for the spectacle. And then, finally, the release. Letting go of the arrow, the arrow travelled majestically through the air, emitting a low gentle hum as the crowd audibly gasped and crowed, and burst into applause.
We watched as other archers repeated the mantra, a meticulous routine which was in every way as interesting as the firing of the arrow. It was another fascinating insight into Japanese culture, amply demonstrating ancient rituals combined with absolute focus on detail.
After the ceremony, we explored the grounds of the temple, another victory in design and organisation, as streams and trees effortlessly coexist with the temple and its inhabitants.
Admiring the spectacle that is a traditional Japanese archery ceremony was an amazing experience and one we’ll never forget. We’d highly recommend seeking out this opportunity when visiting Kyoto.
Home to many traditional Japanese art forms, Kyoto is also a great place to experience and learn about the ancient custom of the Japanese tea ceremony. From the methodical preparation of the tea through to the principles and significance behind the ceremony, it’s another fascinating insight into Japanese culture. For the full story of our Japanese tea ceremony experience in Kyoto, click here.
Kyoto is extremely blessed when it comes to beautiful pagodas and temples. You only have to walk around the city’s Geisha District to witness many of them, but it’s also worth jumping on a local bus to explore some of the city’s best, such as the magnificent and iconic Golden Pavilion of Kinkaku-ji.
We were lucky enough to witness the iconic temple on a lovely winter’s day with clear blue skies. The temple looked stunning with its beautiful golden reflection shimmering across the rippled surface of the pond before it. We could have easily admired it all day.
It’s also possible to explore the area around the temple, but we’d recommend visiting in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the large crowds.
We arrived to Kyoto after spending a view days admiring magnificent Mount Fuji by quiet Lake Shoji, and were excited to explore the city’s many amazing restaurants. Little did we know that we’d discover some of the best sushi and ramen we’d had so far on our Japanese adventure!
If you’re a food lover like us, then Kyoto’s main market, ‘Nikishi’, is also a great place to explore. Known as the best traditional food market in the city and open most days from 9-6pm, it’s a buzz of activity and a great place to see the locals stocking up on everything from delicate fish to traditional sweet treats from the many stalls. Simply grab some fresh sushi as you wander the more than one hundred shops and restaurants, it’s great fun!
So that’s it! A short journey through our Kyoto highlights. We hope you’ve enjoyed it and are feeling inspired to plan your own Japanese adventure. We can’t wait to return someday!
When it comes to Asia, we always recommend the hotel booking site Agoda.com. We usually book our accommodation in advance as you typically get a lower rate and the most popular spots get booked up quickly in Kyoto, especially during peak seasons and public holidays!
We like Agoda.com as it offers a wide range of accommodation, from cheap guesthouses to high end chain hotels, typically with free cancellation or the option to change your dates if needs be. Plus you can book most places for free!
Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means if you choose to book somewhere though our link, we receive a small commission. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything more, and most importantly, we only recommend companies that we use ourselves so you can trust our recommendations!
We’ve already shared the full story of our Rinjani trekking experience (including video and 45 photos!), and despite the gruelling challenge it presented us, it is without a doubt one of the most epic volcano treks of all! The scenery is simply some of the best we have EVER witnessed (and no we’re not exaggerating!), so if you’re up to the challenge, we’d highly recommend it!
Over in our ‘Top Tips For Trekking Mount Rinjani’ (see our full Rinjani trekking article), we recommend thoroughly researching and choosing your tour company wisely. Why? Well aside from the standard variables such as price and basic trek inclusions, there are a few more things to consider. From camp quality (and location), to food and drink (yes we talk about this a lot but it’s our passion!), we cover it all here…
We saw a big difference in the quality of service between different companies on the trek, in particular with regards to food and camping equipment provided. Which is why we want to share our tour company experience with you in detail. Thankfully for us, choosing ‘Rudy Trekker‘ for our 4 days and 3 nights on the mountain turned out to be a GREAT decision!
We spoke to many fellow trekkers along the way and were occasionally shocked to hear about the vast difference in service received. For example, one group told us how they were having to ration water each day as their company didn’t have sufficient supplies. Another told us that they’d eaten the same meal of instant noodles with veg for every meal and many other groups arrived to their camps long before their porters, so had to wait a long time for meals. Certainly not what you want when you’re already very tired and hungry from trekking for around 7 hours at a time!
In stark contrast to this, we genuinely felt like we received 5 star service from the staff of Rudy Trekker and would highly recommend them to anyone! Before delving into the full details, find out more about the accommodation, food and camp sites in our video review here!
All 3 of our campsites whilst trekking Rinjani were fantastic, especially their locations! Each day our porters would speed ahead to ensure they were faster than most other groups in order arrive early and secure the best camping spots!
Each time we arrived we were delighted with where they’d chosen for us to camp, and we were usually a good distance away from the other camps so that we could enjoy the amazing views in peace and quiet. We also appreciated the ‘luxury’ of having our own toilet tent too – no hiding under a bush required! I think we were also one of the only groups to have deck chairs to sit on at the end of the day and enjoy the views – amazing!
Camping with a view!
Night 3 camp sunset
What can we say? It was just amazing!! The porters managed to surprise us with every meal. From an incredible 3-course lunch on day 1 to our delicious burger & chips served up on day 2 morning (after our early morning summit attempt!), we were amazed by what they could produce on a mountain top at 2,600m altitude!
Every day our porters consistently delivered delicious and filling meals at every stop, and very efficiently too. Here’s a glimpse of the variety of meals we enjoyed over our 4 days on the mountain!
Having delicious meals to look forward to along the way definitely boosted our motivation and played a huge part in our trek survival/enjoyment! In fact this is the main reason that we would recommend choosing Rudy Trekker for your tour.
It’s safe to say that we loved our guide and he played a huge part in us succeeding to complete our trek! He was super patient (especially as we like to stop a lot for photography & video!) and he motivated us through the many tough parts of the trek. He made sure to stay close to us (despite our slow speed!) in order to show us the safest routes to manoeuvre ourselves up and down the steep sections, keeping us safe from taking any tumbles. His level of english was good and sufficient enough to talk us through the trek and encourage us when needed too.
Our porters were also fantastic the whole time, giving us friendly encouragement as they sped past us in order to get ahead and set up our next camp in time for us arriving. Not to mention their amazing cooking skills (already mentioned in the section above) – thank you guys!
In total we took 4 car journeys with Rudy Trekker:
1) Pick up from our Lombok accommodation in south Kuta beach to bring us to the guesthouse in Senaru.
2) 1 hour transfer from Rudy Trekker guesthouse in Senaru to the starting point for our trek in Sembalun.
3) Pick up from end of the trek in Senaru back to the guesthouse.
4) Transfer by car then private speed boat to Gili Air after the trek.
All of our journeys were excellent in a comfortable 4×4 car with A/C and safe drivers (which is a relief when driving around Lombok!) This is the sort of transfer vehicle you can expect from Rudy Trekker.
Taking a ride in Rudy Trekker’s own speed boat however was an experience we’ll never forget! A very exciting ‘James Bond’ moment! 10 minutes or so and we were on the shores of Gili Air – amazing! (All of which was included in our tour cost!)
The Rudy Trekker guesthouse totally exceeded our expectations and was one of the nicest accommodations we stayed in on Lombok!
Our excellent room was extremely spacious with a delightfully comfortable bed, providing us with a good night’s sleep the night before our trek! We also had a big bathroom with beautiful fittings including a big (HOT!) rain style shower which was just wonderful to soak in before and after our long hot 4 days of trekking!! The room also had A/C but we didn’t need to use it due to the nice cool evenings in Senaru (with its 600m altitude).
On a practical note, we also had about 8 different plug points (including different sockets & voltage options to cover a range of countries & adaptors!) which was very useful for charging up all our devices and camera equipment before our trek!
The restaurant in the guesthouse is great with a large menu of lunch and dinner options.
A full buffet breakfast is also included in your stay which was varied and plentiful with options including eggs, toast, omelette, fruit and tea/coffee. A good start to the day before setting off on your trek!
Finally, Rudy Trekker are also a very environmental sustainability focused company and regularly run projects to send teams to pick up rubbish from the mountain. It’s a shame how many groups just leave their trash behind, but we noticed our porters and guide making sure that every single item they brought to the mountain was taken back for proper disposal or recycling. They actually marked each bottle with Rudy Trekker, so if one was left behind on the mountain, the company would know. In fact we were so impressed to see that they also put all this hard work to good use in their own guesthouse by using lots of empty plastic water bottles as decorative plant pots in the garden!
When you’re travelling around South East Asia, your biggest expense will probably be booking tours. It can be tempting to cut costs and go with the cheaper option, which might make sense when you’re on a half day tour around a city.
But when you’re attempting a 4 day trek up a volcano, you want to be well looked after with proper equipment and food. You will need to be well hydrated, you will need to sleep and eat well. So do your own research, read other reviews, but for us, we felt safe and well looked after by the team at Rudy Trekker and would highly recommend them.
For us, after 4 days of hard trekking, the only option was to take a short 10 minute speedboat from Lombok to the Gili Islands, and chill out in paradise for a few days on a beach, sipping cocktails, cold beers and fresh seafood. We recommend Gili Air!
Disclaimer: we received a discount from Rudy Trekker, but as with everything on our blog, our opinions above are an honest account of what we experienced.
Eilidh and Andrew chose to spend their special day in the magnificent St Andrews In The Square wedding venue, located in Glasgow. The lofty, classic space inside this building made for a fantastic ceremony space as well as perfect for a meal and the dancing in the evening! The weather was fantastic, and many guests spent their afternoon sitting on the steps outside, soaking up the warmth of the sun.
Here are the highlights from Eilidh & Andrews special day.
Eilidh & Andrew from Worldly Nomads on Vimeo.
Are you getting married at St Andrews In The Square? You could have a video like this one to remember your very special day! Take a look at our other wedding videos or our package for the day.
Cara and Dan chose the enchanting and rustic Aswanley wedding venue, located in the heart of Aberdeenshire, on the edge of the Scottish Highlands near Huntly, to celebrate their special day. On a beautiful May day, guests spent their time playing various games on the lawn, or took some time to chill out on the hay bales dotted around the lawn.
Here are the highlights from Cara and Dans special day.
Cara & Dan from Worldly Nomads on Vimeo.
Are you getting married at Aswanley? You could have a video like this one to remember your very special day! Take a look at our other wedding videos or our package for the day.
Pauline & Richard chose the beautiful Danby castle for their wedding, a fantastic venue on the edge of the North Yorkshire moors. On a sunny August day, their guest spent their time wandering around the various ruins and barns, the kids admired the various animals at the venue, and as the sun set the views over the countryside were spectacular.
Here are the highlights from Pauline and Richards special day.
Pauline & Richard from Worldly Nomads on Vimeo.
Danby Castle feels like an adventure, with so many nooks and crannies amongst the ruins, you could spend some time wandering in, under and through the ruins. The bar is rustic and welcoming, and the selection of beers and ales was excellent! There are also so many opportunities for great photos and video nearby, either in the hills whether the heather rolls on into the distance, or along one of the many lanes that spread out from the venue. Not to mention the glamping teepees in the neighbouring field which looked like a lot of fun for those staying there!
Are you getting married at Danby Castle? You could have a video like this one to remember your very special day! Take a look at our other wedding videos or our package for the day.