September 5, 2018

Photo-tour – Scottish Landscapes Day 1

First of two posts on a recent two-day private photo-tour

As well as running the various photography workshops that you can see on the Edinburgh Photography Workshop site, I can also run an individually tailored photo-tour for guests coming to Scotland. Over the last weekend, I had the pleasure of taking a visitor on a 400+ mile trip taking in the Scottish Highlands, as well as a few other locations. I’ve spent over 20 years living in Scotland and so I have got to know the place very well. This was a particular advantage during these two days as our planned route was changed many times to find better weather.

One of the pleasures and also pains of Scotland is the unpredictability of the climate. In the days leading up to the trip, my route-plan was changed several times as the forecasts changed. In the end, the best predictor seemed to be getting up to high places and looking which way the clouds were moving. It was a good strategy in the end as you’ll see in the next few images. Despite predictions of 70%+ chance of rain we still found the sun.

I’ll share with you a few of the locations that we covered during the two-day photo-tour. As there are so many images to cover, I am going to split this into a two-part blog with this week covering the first day of the tour and the remainder of the photographs next week.

Falls of Dochart

The attendee for the photo-tour had travelled with me in the past and before the trip, they’d asked me to source them some better filters. A big thanks to Mark from NiSi Filters who got them to me in time for the start of the tour. The falls of Dochart was a great location to try the filters out. The circular polariser built into the system helped lighten and darken the water, the ND Graduated filters helped to balance the skies and the ND filters allowed the water to turn nice and milky.

Loch Lubhair

This is a lovely little spot on the road from the Falls of Dochart heading toward Glencoe. It seems to always be sheltered so we get these lovely reflections of the trees that line the loch without the wind creating too many waves. I can’t wait until the autumnal colours start to appear to return to this beautiful venue.

Kilchurn Castle

A 15th century castle sitting on a Scottish loch is as romantic as it gets for a visitor to the Highlands. Kilchurn Castle doesn’t disappoint even when the weather was a little grey at the time we arrived. It’s an often-shot location so it can be tricky to find something different in a photograph. This minimalist feel of a few rocks in the foreground echoing the shape of the castle felt quite pleasing to me.

Loch Tulla

I always think of this Loch as the gateway to the Highlands. After heading past Bridge of Orchy the loch is the last landmark before we start to head upwards onto Rannoch Moor. At the North-eastern end of the loch are a few trees which lean at odd angles, bent and twisted by the wind. As the photo-tour was taking place in September the leaves were still on the branches so they were a little less interesting. Walking a few meters further there is this nice curving waterway which flows into Tulla. In the distance, you can see the various weather systems competing with each other over the peaks of the Black Mount and Ben Cruachan.

Loch Ba

One of the things I love about much of the Scottish Highlands is their accessibility. This scene of Loch Ba looking toward Stob a Choire Odhair and Beinn Toaig looks like it is a remote area. Only 20 meters behind us is one of the main roads connecting the central belt of Scotland with the Highlands. This photograph also shows how it is sometimes handy to include a person in a landscape image. By featuring a figure on the right of the image it gives a sense of scale of the Rannoch Moor.

Black Rock Cottage

Sometimes, you have to do the chocolate box shot and this little white cottage is just that. Ideally positioned in front of the famous Buachaille Etive Mor mountain it must be in the portfolios of most Scottish photographers. The cottage is a working bothy where walkers who are traversing the West Highland Way will stay the night. As a result, it can be difficult in walking season to get a clean shot of the cottage. I have to confess that this image has had a small amount of photo-shopping to remove the inconveniently parked car to the left of the cottage.

Glen Etive

Until 2012, Glen Etive was only known to photographers, a few adventurous hill-walkers and kayakers who ride the rapids. An 18km road takes us from the entrance to Glencoe and follows the River Etive where the roads stops at Loch Etive. An iconic scene in the James Bond film, Skyfall, has now attracted many more visitors down this single-track road. This waterfall is only a few meters away from the Skyfall location and the weather was almost perfect for re-creating the pensive look of Daniel Craig but the 4×4 vehicle we were travelling in wasn’t quite as sexy as an Aston Martin DB5!

Lagangarbh Hut

Another iconic site in the Glencoe area is a second white cottage. This is also a place where walkers can stay but unlike Black Rock Cottage there isn’t a vehicle access to it, so no Photoshop skills are needed for this one. It’s another location that has been photographed to death, so it is good to try and find more unusual ways to compose the image. Here, I have made the River Coupall the feature and used a circular polariser to allow the rocks in the water to shine through. Our eyes are generally led to the lightest thing in the image, so the famous cottage can be fairly small in the scene but still attracts attention.

Glen Coe View

The final location on day one of the photo-tour was this view along the pass of Glen Coe taken from the foothills of Meall Dearg. I left the cars in the scene as they again show the size and scale of the mountains in the scene.

That brings us to the end of the first part of this two-part blog. Unfortunately, I’m not able to share the lovely meal we had at the Loch Level Hotel in Ballchulish where I stay in my West Highland adventures.

I run a group photo-tour of the West Highlands once a year. This year’s trip will be three days between the 19th and 21st October. If you would like to attend with three other photographers, then you can sign up here.  I know that some photographers would love to have a one to one tour and if that’s you then please drop me a mail and I can put together an itinerary tailored to exactly what you want to photograph.