Scotland is where I grew my love for landscape. I’ve found nowhere else as enjoyable to photograph than its West Coast. And so with the weather forecast looking promising I took the drive up with just my camera for company and enough pants for 4 days.

 

I drove up to Edinburgh on the Wednesday evening, stayed with my folks and headed off up to Rannoch Moor for sunrise on the Thursday. I wasn’t particularly bothered about being there for sunrise itself so didn’t really leave early enough as I arrived to Lochan N’ah Achlaise around the time the sky was lighting up. My plan was to climb up Bienn a’ Chrùlaiste for some early morning sunlight but I made a quick stop of at Lochan N’ah Achlaise as the colours were too good to miss.
Lochan N'ah Achlaise, Rannoch Moor
50mm | F16 | 1.3s

I then popped on my hiking boots and began my 5 hour climb for this panorama from Bienn a’ Chrùlaiste showing most notably Buachaille Etive Mor and the three sisters of Glencoe.

I’d recce’d Stob Bienn a’ Chrùlaiste a few winters back and discovered I needed the light to be pre 10am from that spot which is at the North side of Bienn a’ Chrùlaiste. I initially headed up the side of the mountain halfway between the main peak and it’s Stob but once there decided I needed more height and kept climbing. This image is made about 20 metres shy of the main summit.

3x shots @ 29mm | F9 | 1/160s

Continuing my drive up to Skye and if you’ve been to the Isle of Skye you’ll know that in almost all cases you have to drive past Eilean Donan Castle. You’ll also know that unless you are a local it’s a criminal offence to drive past it without getting out the camera (okay that might well be a lie, but not many people would be arrested even if that was the case).

Anyhoo, I couldn’t resist stopping myself especially as the night was approaching, and I knew the dusky shot I was after wouldn’t require too long a wait.

50mm | 10s | F6.3 | CPL + 0.6 hard + 0.3 hard

Check into my B&B, get some sleep and then out the door to Sligachan for sunrise. I was rather aching from my hike the previous day so didn’t fancy anything to strenuous which is why I chose here. This is the only light all day as about 20 minutes after the sun rose it started raining and didn’t stop all day with thick grey cloud.

24mm | 0.5s | F8 | CPL | layer mask merge of 3 bracketed exposures

The sun lighting the Cuillins

24mm + 1.4x | 1.3s | F8 | CPL + 0.6 hard + 0.3 hard

 

 

Old Man of Storr:
Alarm for 0530 (isn’t landscape photography easy in the winter!), bite to eat and out the door of the B&B by 0615. A 30mph crawl on roads of sheet ice to park up at 0630. Pile on the layers, hats, gloves and head torch and head up the path to the old man. On the way up query the torch lights at the top of the hill, the only car in the car park had snow on it so these fools had either camped or been up there a while – and it wasn’t exactly the weather for sauntering around on a mountain. Get to the top around 0730 nod at the three photographers already set up (what’s that about remote?) and scramble up the side of the icy cliff face to get to a position where each of the points of the old man were separated from each other.

Nowhere to put my bag, my legs or my tripod so a sort of crevice straddling tripod setup and my legs as a bag holder I managed to get my camera out and attempt to put some filters on (Lee 0.6 Hard) without them blowing away to Mull. Marvel at how windy and blooming cold it was and wait for some clouds to roll into the top of the frame. Brrr!

Conditions in the sky weren’t ideal, a band of clouds on the horizon and very little overhead. Eventually a few clouds came overhead to sit at the top of the frame but by this time I was struggling to move my hands never mind my fingers and I was concerned my next fumble would send my tripod and camera to its death. So I admitted defeat and scrambled down to a slightly more sheltered spot where the Storr merges into 3 peaks. I couldn’t find a sheltered spot I was happy with the view from, I thought the sun looked like it was likely to break through the clouds but there was now no clouds overhead and I couldn’t face climbing back up to my freezing cold spot from earlier. So I headed back to the car watching the rays of sun beaming out the clouds wishing I’d put on a few more layers.

24mm + 1.4x | 0.6s | F8 | 0.6 hard

Crashing waves from Kilt rock viewpoint. Being a windy day the waves were up more than the previous day. I stopped off at the Kilt Rock viewpoint to check out the light but it wasn’t up to much. Looking down however the foreshore was nicely lit and the waves creating a bit of drama. Reckoning that there isn’t very many opportunities to shoot almost straight down from a cliff without attaching yourself to a rope I made a few exposures.

85mm | 0.4s | F9 | 0.9 ND + CPL

Headed back down to the Glen Brittle where I had a hairy moment on a frozen bend of the road. Made the walk up to the fairy pools for this.

24mm | 1.6s | F9 | CPL + 0.3 hard

Was hoping to catch a good sunset at Neist point as in the winter it sets out at the end of the peninsula. Unfortunately the band of cloud on the horizon had other ideas so I hunkered down as best as I could on the cliff edge and waited for the light level to drop enough to make out the light from the lighthouse. Could have done with waiting another 20 minutes really but I wasn’t too happy with the clouds which were staying on the horizon but about to go from just above there and the wind was rather unpleasant. So I took this and called it a night.

50mm | 15s | F8 | CPL + 0.9 hard

“The Hairy Loch”, Loch Cill Chroisd, Isle of Skye

One thing Skye has a little less of than the rest of the mainland West coast, are Loch’s. And I love a good Loch. Find one on a calm morning and nothing compares, flat as a mirror and often
laced with patches of mist. Magical places indeed. Fortunately for me Skye does still have a number of smaller inland Loch’s and this is where I found myself on Sunday morning with a nine hour drive home in front of me. The light wasn’t to disappoint, with a fresh dusting of snow on the mountain tops and dappled high cloud (I think Altocumulus Stratiformis cloudlets), conditions were looking ripe for some special light.

The sun was due to come up behind my left shoulder meaning a good amount of light already on the mountains Bla Bhienn and Chlach Glas from the bright cloudless horizon. As the sun rose closer to the horizon it began to light up the high level clouds above the mountains contrasting beautifully with their white snow-capped peaks.
This is 2 vertically taken shots @ 50mm merged to give a 4×5 image. Lee 0.6Hard grad over Sky and reversed 0.6Soft over the water.

2@ 50mm | 0.3s | F8 | 0.6 hard + 0.6 soft

 

The light on the mainland was lovely on my way back down on Sunday. I couldn’t resist stopping off at Eilean Donan castle again on my way past.

70mm | 1/20s | F8 | CPL