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Leaping into the Tay
It's the story of my life. For someone who is fairly cautious, I plunge into things. If an idea catches my imagination, I think "Yes ! I can do that. It will be easy." When I was at work and said it aloud, people used to groan and shrink away. Rightly. It was never easy. Didn't give up though. I struggled through whatever it was. I got there. But I never learned. Another idea came along and it was "Oh Yes ! This one WILL be easy. That's what I've kind of done again with the river Tay. The group 100x caught my eye and the idea of a hundred photos in 2014 on a subject of my choice appealed. I'd just taken some shots of the Tay on a calm idyllic morning. So there it was. I leapt in. It would be easy. Of course once I started to think about it properly my heart sank. A hundred photos ? Well, it's a long river. A hundred and twenty miles. The longest in Scotland. It's the UK's biggest river drainage basin and discharges a larger volume of water than the Thames and the Severn combined. I always thought it started at Loch Tay but apparently it starts on the slopes of Ben Lui. Just doesn't call itself the Tay till it comes out of the loch at Kenmore. What this means is a lot of driving. And at this time of year the sun rises early and sets late which means going to bed late and getting up in the middle of the night to be places by dawn. And I'm beginning the challenge three months late. And I said it would be easy. No wonder people used to groan. But I start by looking at maps and making lists. Before long I've downloaded the Tay onto my tablet. I didn't know I could buy just the little bits of an Ordnance Survey map that I want. I've learned something. And I'm learning more. There are disused bridges I never knew about. An old railway one. A ford. And I haven't explored the Dundee side of the river, which isn't far away. I drive down narrow little roads to tiny communities with nowhere to park. At the end of what looks like a muddy derelict path I find Dundee University boat club. Friendly students getting their boats organised to train. Another road leads to some old expensive looking houses. A creek with moored boats and grass thick with ladies smock. Marsh marigolds everywhere. I follow a path along the edge of the river. Sure as Death bank. Carthagena Bank. Dog bank. A sea of reeds. I want to know the stories behind the names. Back home I find the website of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. What good maps they have. Lots of little boat symbols signifying wrecks. The Tay estuary is full of sandbanks. All named, all shifting, all treacherous. I go and look at the two disused lighthouses at Tayport. Well, three actually. Three disused lighthouses in one small town seems excessive. But I'm pleased to see one was built by Robert Louis Stevenson's granddad. And then of course there are the salmon. They've got a sculpture of them at Newburgh and they are incised into the walls that contain the river in Perth. Further upstream at Boatlands there is a plaque to Georgina Ballantine who holds the record for the largest salmon ever caught in the UK. I like that it was caught by a woman. And I've hardly skimmed the surface. A hundred photos won't do it. It will take more. Fourteen photos in and I'm thinking I will go on for a second year. Take a second hundred. I know I can do it. It will be easy !

8 comments

Alison said:

lol love it. I always find when you limit yourself to an area you find an amazing amount of interesting things within it. Things previously unseen abound.
8 years ago

Jean replied to Alison:

Thanks Alison. That is so true..
8 years ago

Dave Hilditch said:

I admire your determination and enthusiasm and I'm looking forward to seeing your images. By the time you've finished you'll have an amazing knowledge of the Tay. I feel a book coming on!!!
8 years ago

Jean said:

Aaaargh ! But seriously I'm enjoying being focused on a subject. It's so easy to get into a rut and feel that you have exhausted all the local photo opportunities.
8 years ago

Rabbitroundtheworld said:

Oh well done, Jean, and I'm sure you can do it. Sometimes the more prescribed the subject, the better - you really learn how to look.
8 years ago

C.Rayz said:

Wow, great read, great idea.. its all so easy! :P Nice job , will be watching and waiting for the rest.
8 years ago

Jean said:

I've just found out .I was photographing at Tayport and somebody who lives there told me. They frequent the river between the Pile lighthouse and Broughty Ferry and Tayport when the tide is coming in and are sometimes seen at Tayport harbour. There is a boat trip from Broughty Ferry I think which might be the best chance of a photo.
8 years ago

Janet Brien said:

WONDERFUL!!! How ambitious and adventurous of you! I approach projects differently than you do, but like you, a serious challenge does not stop me. I am not afraid of them, and I, like you, know that by taking on a intimidating project means that we will finish the project because that is who we are. I am delighted to hear of your story, what an adventure. I myself and in the middle of turning my huge project, my 365, into a book, and it's a lot to deal with...I fight with myself about whether or not anybody would care about such a thing...but in the end, I arrive at the place I should: we do these projects for ourselves. To finish them is one of our strengths and shows that we can accomplish much, even when others look sideways at us and don't believe we can do it! :) Happily, we are surrounded by those who care about us and support us! I will go and see if you have an album full of the river Tay! :) (Suggestion: it would be lovely to see a few pictures sprinkled throughout this post!)
8 years ago