Coul Links Project Update

After the oral presentation run through with the tutors a couple of weeks ago, there were some suggestions which prompted some rethinking of the project parameters.  These ideas were further cemented in the 1 to 1 session with Gary and the discovery of some relevant work by others.

The most significant modification is that the project can and will go ahead regardless of the outcome of the Highland Council decision on the planning application.  The land at Coul Links is in it’s our right an ever changing landscape that supports a rich and varied biodiversity throughout the year.  It is a site subject to dramatic changes through the various seasons of the year, both physically and in terms of the wildlife that inhabits it.  It is subject more subtle changes on a day to day basis with weather and light, which depending on the direction and angle reveals characteristics of the landscape not necessarily visible at other times.  It is a dynamic ecologically with plants that appear and thrive at different times of the year, and with the ebbing and spreading of native species, as well as the encroachment of invasive species.

Should the planning application to build the golf course be approved, Coul Links will undergo a rapid and dramatic change that is man-made and documenting those changes as they occur and how those changes affect the surrounding areas directly and indirectly.

Although I was essentially planning a large rephotography effort, I had not been familiar with the term.  Learning that vocabulary opened a rich bibliography of relevant resources upon which to draw, such as Repeat Photography (Webb), Mark Klett’s work on the “Rephotographic Survey Project” and  “Yosemite in Time”.  I was also introduced to Sophie Gerrard’s project “The Dunes”, which while different in focus, bears some resemblance the circumstances in my project.

Now that I have arrived back in Scotland I will be able to capture some of the imagery I will use as the reference bases.  The particularly harsh winter NE Scotland experienced this year has flooded the area behind the fore dunes quite extensively and considerably more than in recent memory.  It gives the appearance of one enormous dune slack rather than the typical isolated ephemeral dune slacks.  It is a glorious example of how dynamic and ever changing the Coul Links are in the face of the forces of nature.


GERRARD, S., , The Dunes. Available: [Mar 15, 2018].

KLETT, M., 2003-last update, Yosemite in Time. Available: [Mar 15, 2018].

KLETT, M., 1979-last update, Rephotographic Survey Project. Available: [Mar 15, 2018].

WEBB, R., 2010. Repeat Photogrpahy. Island Press.


Week 6 – Reflections

This week’s work was focused on the preparation and presentation to the tutors of our oral presentations.  I took the time to look at the exemplars that were posted and found them diverse and revelatory.  There were things I liked and disliked about each, but all displayed impressive depth and critical analyses of their influences, motivations and inspiration.  These are things I have not given enough thought before.

In the tutor review I got some very valuable feedback on the presentation content and the project which allowed me to think about the project in a different and more sustainable way.  It pointed out deficiencies in the depth of my research that I need to rectify.  I have been so focused on trying to decide what I wanted to do and how I might go about it that I hadn’t focused enough on critical analyses and research.

After the review I had a better frame of reference to re-examine and understand the exemplar presentations which helped a great deal in preparing the next draft of my oral presentation.  I have been struggling a bit with technology trying to find a platform to make the presentation come to life as I envision it.  I believe the content is now nearly nailed and the project Coul Links in much clearer in my mind and in the presentation.  A couple more tweaks on the presentation platform to improve the polish and I will be there.

Coul Links Small-0613

Coul Links Dunes and Dune Slacks (Dec 2017)

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.