Christmas In the Countryside

Happy New Year everyone! Wishing you all the best for 2017!

Yes, it’s way past Christmas, and I’ve been busy – but I still wanted to show you some Christmas photos – it’s never too late, right?

What Have I Been Up To?

I’ve been doing some travel writing work, and I am excited to announce that I am also writing photography tutorials over at Two articles so far: “How to Isolate your Subject” and “Why I Rarely Use a Tripod” with another coming very soon on Details and Patterns in Travel Photography. It’s an exciting opportunity for me as it’s more published writing, and I also get to use my own photos in the articles for exposure. Photoblog have got some great photographers and writers for their recent relaunch and I have already been learning myself from their articles, so head over and take a look. I like passing on my knowledge to others and this gives me a great way to do that. In addition to that, I’ve been writing more games reviews for ComiConverse, and more photography writing on the horizon, so stay tuned!

Christmas at Home

I spent Christmas with my parents in the Scottish Borders. Sadly, there was no snow, instead Scotland was treated to a big storm which caused problems around the country. Merry Christmas, haha! We were lucky and got out for a sunny dog walk before the weather closed in, and then the next few days were miserable – that’s Scotland for you!

This was my first Christmas with my family for five years due to my travels so it was especially nice. Sadly my sister couldn’t join us, but thanks to the power of the internet we did some Skype present unwrapping with her on the day. People moan about how we are becoming anti-social thanks to technology, and of course there’s truth in that – but at times like this you can really see the benefits – where communications technology brings us closer together.

Dad always does a good job of fully decorating the house and getting a real Christmas tree, and the folks put on Christmas carols and tunes in the lead-up to the day, making everything feel really Christmassy. We do many of the usual traditions like presents under the tree, a big roast meat dinner and playing board games to make families into enemies!

My New Toy

I asked for an LED lamp for Christmas from my parents to help with my photography. These come in all shapes in sizes but I wanted one small and light enough to travel with. You can attach them to your camera or pop them down in a convenient place. You can adjust the brightness (which is astonishingly powerful) with a dial, and also slot in different coloured filters to adjust the tone of the scene. These are great, especially for portraits as you can use them to illuminate dark patches of a face or light up interiors in order to get better photos. I tested it out on my Mum, who likes to do jigsaw puzzles at Christmas. I’m hoping this LED will help me improve my portraits and inspire me to take more, one of my goals for this year. I also received my first business cards which I’d had commissioned, which I’ll show you another time.

Wrapping Up (Literally!)

When I went present shopping in Edinburgh (Scotland’s capital city, about an hour from the Borders), it was great to explore all the Christmas markets. Of course, it was also very, very busy! I’ve spent the last three Christmases in Australia and New Zealand and although they celebrate in much the same way, it’s just not the same because it’s summer there – here it was cooooold and everyone was wrapped up in many layers. There’s nothing quite like a Christmas at home! Hope you had a good holiday season where-ever you are, and I’ll sign off with this Christmas gallery for you – click on a photo to enlarge it. Until next time!

A Frosty, Foggy Winter Afternoon in the Countryside

Winter is coming! This week the temperature really dropped here in the Scottish Borders, and it got very frosty. One particularly freezing day I set out to take some photos as the landscape was transformed.

Early afternoon, the sun emerged and its heat caused a thick fog to envelope the countryside, creating an amazing atmosphere.

It was so beautiful that I spent hours out in the frosty, foggy afternoon walking by the river and taking photos, with an audiobook for company.

I stopped in at the plush restaurant at the visitor centre for historic Abbotsford House for some lunch, the big building you can see in a few of the photos below.



As the afternoon faded, the cool tones from earlier were warmed with the orange light from the sunset.



What an amazing afternoon! Here’s a gallery of photos from the day. Click on a photo to enlarge.



Tenganan Cultural Trip – Bali


My last trip to Bali was focused on learning more about the customs and daily life of the people of this religious island – and what better place to see this than the ancient village of Tenganan. I was eager to return to this cultural highlight after doing a photography workshop there with international photographer Suki, you can read about that trip and see the photographs from the workshop by clicking here. I was also able to put some of the portraiture skills I’d learned to good use on this second visit.


I hired excellent driver Ketut to take me on a photography day from Ubud, who proposed the itinerary for my last day in Bali. We departed in the early morning in darkness, arriving at the tourist beach of Sanur for the sunrise – where a number of other tourists and exercising locals were already waiting to enjoy one of Bali’s classic sights. We grabbed some chilli-filled breakfast at a local stall and some strong Bali coffee to wake up in a firey fashion, before Ketut drove me to a salt farming beach further along the coast.


Here we wandered down through a small settlement to find flattened sand on the dark beach, and an old man going back and forth between the sand “fields” and the sea, filling buckets of sea water and then sloshing them out methodically over the flattened area. The purpose of this is to saturate the sand with salt water, where it then dries. The sand is then collected and filtered to extract a second batch of salt water, which is then left to evaporate in wooden troughs, leaving behind rock salt deposits.



It’s an old farming method which is still viable today due to the demand of salt in the country. Ketut chatted to a lady who was covering the troughs, telling me that they had experienced a poor season thanks to adverse weather – wet and cloudy conditions were thwarting the evaporation methods. On busier mornings you can find many salt farmers collecting the sea water, but close to dawn as the work is done early to avoid the harsh daylight heat.


Our next destination was Tenganan, the culturally significant village I’d visited before. This settlement retains many old customs and buildings which have been lost elsewhere in Bali. We were lucky enough to arrive on a ceremonial day, a coming of age celebration for young men and women in the village. The following days would see a number of large ceremonies, and the streets were full of the ladies of the village making ornate decorations from palm leaf and flowers in preparation. Other villagers prepared vast amounts of food, and a pig slowly turned on a spit over open coals in the town square, smelling delicious. There weren’t many tourists today and I wandered around taking photos of the friendly villagers.




We met a number of other Balinese photographers who had come to witness today’s initial ceremony, where the men of the village would tour the village elder’s houses on a bonding ritual involving body paint and plenty of alcohol. It was great to meet them, one guy had come all the way from Java to see the village and was lucky enough to arrive on this special day with his vintage Polaroid camera, another was a professional wedding photographer sporting a superb Lecia camera and there were a few others who were more interested in cultural learning and documentation, including a professor from Japan who has lived in the village for over 6 months, still trying to make sense of all the unique customs in Tenganan.




The men finally appeared, in traditional dress, and went to the village leader’s house on the main street to receive a reception of food and alcohol. We were welcome to go inside and watch, a friendly gesture – the people of the village are happy to share their customs. I chatted to the wife of one of the participants, her English was good and she was able to explain to me more about the ceremony and I took some photos of her and her friend in the craft shop in the front of the compound, matching many of the other houses on the main street – Tenganan being famous for its weaving and other handicrafts.



alanstockphotography-07766After an hour or two, the already rather inebriated men, in good spirits (boom tish) and now covered in body paint, moved on to the next elders house and we had lunch at an alley stall. It was getting quite late so I popped in to get some last photos of the men and graciously received an offer for a cup of strong rice wine, no wonder they were so merry! The Japanese professor had also been roped into the proceedings and was sporting a massive grin as they plied him with booze! I said my thanks and made my way out.


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But as I was leaving, I first spied an amazing old lady resting under one of the communal rest shelters, who was happy for me to take a photo, although she didn’t speak any English. I also ran into a man I’d met during my last visit, a friendly weaver who specialises in Tenganan’s unique double weaving technique and got a few shots before I had to leave. I also enjoyed watching the kids playing on the big traditional wooden carousel – safety standards be damned – as they swung round and round.



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As it was my last day in Bali, I was gutted to miss out on the evenings celebrations, when the true ceremony began, and the festivities of the next few days. But one day I hope to return to this wonderful village and witness more of their unique ceremonies – if you visit Bali, be sure to visit Tenganan and be whisked back in time, and don’t be afraid to chat to the friendly villagers and learn about their special culture!

Here’s a gallery of more photos from the day, click to enlarge.