Coul Links

A great deal of time these past two weeks has gone into deciding upon which project to pursue and how to go about it.  Ultimately I returned to the concept I had when I applied for the MA programme, and began preparing the draft outline for a proposal and the oral presentation on the project titled Coul Links.  Once decided, it was relatively straightforward to pull references and begin researching those documents and sources to compile a bibliography of relevant sources and data that would support execution of the project.  The Oral Presentation is complete and form to submit following this week’s review with the tutors.

In the Coul Links project I have found an evolving story that allows me to blend photographic skills and interests with knowledge and experience in biology, project management, construction and one of my other life passions, golf.

My research for this module and hopefully through into the Final Major Project will be centered around this extraordinary parcel of land in North Eastern Scotland which is embroiled in controversy over the primacy of the economic needs of the region vs. the desire to preserve and protect from development a unique natural environment.

The developers have submitted their planning proposal to the Highland Council to build a world class golf course on one of the last untouched parcels of links land in Scotland. The site lies within a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area, a RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands of International Importance site, and within the Loch Fleet National Nature Reserve. The site also has potential historic and archaeological significance.

The application has been extremely controversial sparking strong debate and heightening emotions on both sides of the argument. Highland Council are meant to take a final decision on 17 April.

In this project, I will use documentary, landscape and natural history photography to document the construction of the course and buildings, to assess impacts to the landscape, flora and fauna of the area, and any archaeological discoveries.

Still photography, and aerial still photography and videography will be used to document the base state and change states over time in the landscape overall, specific habitat areas, as many species as possible’ steading and other buildings on site that are to be repurposed, and the construction process itself and the people undertaking it.

I plan to do archival research through the History Links Museum and Cambusmore Estate from when the property operated as Coul Farm.

Ultimately I hope to span the proposed 18 month construction cycle (assuming approval of the planning application)

There are some factors which weigh on the success of the project. On the plus side I have established relationships in the community and with the developer, from whom I have received permission and support to undertake the project.

The principal concerns lie in the approval of the project and the timing of that approval. If the plan is rejected I will proceed with the work for this module, but will probably rethink the Final Major Project. If the approval is delayed it could impact my ability to complete the project as my Final Major Project and that too may require adapting the plans or pursuing a different subject.

For the work in this module and prior to my return to Scotland, I will be continuing to hone my skills in natural history photography and post processing. I will be using the Planning Application documentation, in particular the Environmental Statement to further research the planned development. I will use mapping resources to identify candidate fixed sites with adequate ranges and angles of view to capture the baseline and change states. I will also be practicing with the drone to refine the flight and mission planning processes to ensure repeatable perspectives for the aerial photography.

Upon returning to Scotland at the end of March I will be coordinating with the Project Management team, confirming and selecting the fixed point locations and beginning the baseline state image capture. I will establish the drone mission profiles and begin the baseline state capture from the air. I will also be photographing the native species and areas of primary environmental concern. And lastly I will be starting on the archival research.

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