North of the Wall

Castle Stalker

Castle Stalker

Scotland, land of awesome scenery, great light, moody skies, lochs, munroes, rain and midges. And let’s not forget the roads. A roads that are single tracks with passing places and seem to have been built by people who just drive the tarmac laying machine wherever they like; up and over hills rather than through them, winding around just for the sheer joy of making a bend, hugging sheer cliff edges to put the fear into anyone who suffers vertigo. Where else would you find 12 miles of perfect tarmac and new bridges to a car park? My home town council could learn a lot from these guys. I must take my bike there one day.

There were the obligatory shots of the Buckle and Couple Falls, (with water this year) Glen Coe, Castle Stalker, Loch Awe, Glen Etive and Loch Leven. We saw 128 pipe bands compete in the European Pipe Bands competition, tried a walk in the hills around Kinlochleven (never again), had a boat trip out to see the Corrywrecken whirlpools that would suck you down 100 metres if you fell in (they put the boats into the whirlpools so you spin around!), a train trip across Rannoch moor to the most remote station in the UK, walked to some of the most remote places I’ve ever been and camped on the Isle of Mull and was woken by the sound of a waterfall that had appeared overnight due to the heavy rain we had.

Photography? Oh, yes I did some of that too, despite having a ‘block’ I managed to create some images I’m fairly pleased with. Apparently we all suffer from it from time to time. I put it down to scenic overload and wanting to take pictures of everything but doing it in the best light, which was sadly lacking. Either that or I’d lost my ability to see a good image. Hopefully it was the former. After some advice from a local landscaper I headed to the classics and just shot, despite the conditions and some frustration, and found my mojo again.

We revisited old ground, found some new locations and got wet. I managed 3 dawn shoots, only one of which was really successful. I had a crazy idea to shoot down through Glen Coe as the sun rose and lit the valley sides up but I wanted to do it from a higher vantage point. I ended up climbing higher and higher until I found myself at the edge of the lost valley with a stag barking at me, warning me I was on his turf. Quite unnerving as his bark echoed off the valley walls. The sun rose through the clouds but there was no real colour. Still, an experience to remember.

Rannoch Moor was another dawn shoot. No light, grey and overcast and yet I found myself balanced on a rock in the middle of Lochan Nah Achlaise waiting for the exposure to finish. I discovered that welly boots are a wonderful thing as I picked my way across the submerged rocks just below the surface. I liked the shot I got; calm and moody in the blue hour.

The last dawn shoot found me in Loch Achtriochtan with perfect reflections of the hills on it’s mirrored surface. Just before the light arrived though, someone flicked a switch and the winds picked up ruining the effect. I packed up and drove up through the glen into thicker cloud so gave up and headed back to camp.
So despite over 2 weeks of fairly poor light, I managed to get a few images I’m pleased with and have found some new locations for next time we venture north of The Wall. You don’t need to fly to find spectacular scenery; there’s plenty of it on our own shores.