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Moray photographer: How I took my Cloud Factory image


By Alistair Whitfield

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'The Smoke Stack' by Pat Douglass, or to give it its other name The Cloud Factory.
'The Smoke Stack' by Pat Douglass, or to give it its other name The Cloud Factory.

A Moray photographer might never have taken this award winning photograph of the Cloud Factory if it hadn't been for lockdown.

Pat Douglass was feted by the judges at the recent Scottish Nature Photography awards.

Her dramatic image, placed second in the environmental category, shows the Norbord Factory – a familiar site to anyone driving along the A96 towards Inverness.

However, this photo of the so-called Cloud Factory was actually captured from several miles away on the other side of the Moray Firth.

Although Pat lives in Elgin, she has been staying with a friend on the Black Isle since the first lockdown.

She says: "I was in my friend's garden when I saw it.

"Sometimes there's a temperature inversion over the Moray Firth.

"Warm air gets trapped beneath cold air, which leaves the clouds with nowhere to go.

"What I photographed is the steam from the factory spiralling upwards above a bank of clouds."

Pat was once the active travel officer for Moray Council, a role that involved encouraging people to walk and to get outside on their bikes.

Her present job with the walking and cycling charity Sustrans would ordinarily see her travelling all over Scotland.

Lockdown put pay to that. However it has had some compensations.

She says: "I'm a wildlife photographer as much as anything.

"That means Spring is very important to me. It's when the days are starting to get longer and so much is happening.

"When the five-mile travel restriction came in last year, I was thinking that I was going to miss out on everything.

"However, it meant I was forced to start looking instead at what was close at hand.

"My friend has a pond where all these toads started hatching.

"I became fascinated in watching them. I even started filming them underwater.

"It turned into a proper little project for me.

"Likewise, I started to notice there were breeds of birds that I didn't realise lived locally.

"Normally I'd be travelling all round Scotland to take photos of them, but here they were on my doorstep.

"I think lockdown has forced us all to take a lot more notice of our immediate surroundings. It's made us appreciate them more."

Pat Douglass.
Pat Douglass.

Pat believes this part of the country has a unique light that makes for good photographs.

She said: "There's definitely something about it.

"We have a lot of open spaces where you can see a long way.

"The large skies, especially combined with the light reflecting from the water along the coastline, make for something special.

"It's a great place for any photographer."

To see more of Pat's photos go to her website here

Alternatively, her Twitter account is @SnapperGirl2


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