A rare week of peace and relaxation in this wonderful glen on the Culligran Estate. Niall Henderson was, once again, my partner for this photographic escapade. He is very tolerant and this time had to put up with a few expletives as I managed to lose and break various bits of equipment. Many thanks to Frank and Juliette Spencer-Nairn for putting us up in one of the cottages. Being on the right side of the gated entrance to the glen made all the difference. Frank made time to welcome us despite having a significant family medical issue to deal with which was lovely of him. He even provided the peanut butter to attract in the badgers and pine martins.
The weather was a mixed bag. Some lovely misty morning with flat light. Lots of rain and then a couple of sunny days. What more could a photographer want?
Once the mist cleared the view up the glen is awe inspiring. Miles of beech, aspen and Caledonian pine. Bracken banked rivers with rapids and waterfalls. Wildlife at every turn. Deer, wild goats, badgers, pine martins, eagles, owls and too much else to list.
When the sun did break through the glen shone like a jeweller’s window. Astonishing.
Without a doubt, I would love to re-visit Glen Strathfarrar in the future to capture the atmosphere of this special place in a different light and a different season. I think there is much more magic and photographic gold to be discovered in those hills.
I had a very brief journey up through Glencoe to the Isle of Skye and back down. Three days that took in every type of weather you could imagine. I thought a wee slide show told the story better than a single image. Omer.
Technical: Canon 5D4, 17-40L @ 17mm, 1 second @ f/14, ISO 100.
This one-second exposure captured the flow of water away from the camera back out into the sea. Not everyone is a fan of these long exposures but, for me, it tells a more accurate story of the landscape. It’s how we actually experience the landscape rather than the frozen image of a short exposure time. To capture this type of image you need a tripod and neutral density filters and a remote shutter release. That may seem a bit more trouble than it’s worth to some! I find it a very relaxing and enjoyable process. Consider where’s the best view point to bring all the elements together, what height the tripod should be, what attitude to set the camera at, get the filter holder onto the lens, work out the strength and type of filter you need, place it correctly, work out the exposure, wait for the perfect moment, release the shutter. A few minutes of total focus and creativity. Capture time in the waves and a little bit of time to myself.
Every time I go back to Lewis I am simultaneously happy and worried. The bond we form to the place into which we were born is enduring. The intensity of childhood experience and the memories we form in those early years are especially strong. As I get older, I worry that someday I will get off the ferry and feel like a tourist in an unfamiliar place. Happily that day has not yet come. I still have a better mental map of Lewis and Harris than the area where I now live. Every road and corner, the town, the castle grounds, the beaches are all still connected to those strong childhood memories. I recall who had chickens on the steep hill behind the main street in Tarbert, who I played with on what beaches, what it felt like to bush walk through the rhododendrons in the castle grounds, balancing on the sewage pipe to get across the river at Bayhead and on and on. A storm of memories around every corner.
Some things do throw my sense of place off balance though. The Scalpay bridge does this. Probably due the huge scale of the bridge coming up against those strong memories of going over to Scalpay before the bridge existed. It feels like the present and the past refusing to co-exist in my conscious mind. I wonder why this might be. I like change and I don’t like pointless nostalgia. I get that from my father who was always looking for the next thing to do in business and even in retirement at the age of 83 he’s still ripping out flower beds and starting from scratch. His philosophy was simple: If change gives people work and jobs then it’s a good thing.
So why does the my mind refuse to be impressed by the Scalpay bridge? I think it’s because I have a memory of Scalpay to which I attach entirely unreasonable importance. I used to spend the summer holidays helping Iain, the carpet fitter who worked for my dad, lay carpets all over the island. One job, on Scalpay, was on a particularly gorgeous summer day. I was sitting with Iain on the back of the Luton van listening to the Beatles on a portable cassette player eating a sandwich, looking out over this peaceful landscape while Iain puffed away on his roll-up. It sits in my memory as a moment of total peace and happiness. I wonder if the bridge is a reminder that that moment is gone forever, never to be experienced again. As a good friend once said to me: “Shut up, you hippy”.
A 40 minutes brisk walk from home and the rolling, snow covered fields provide a beautiful subject to photograph. The wide scale is emphasised by the snow and the indistinct line between the ground and the sky is intriguing.
Camera work: Canon 5Dmk4, Lens: 70-200 f2.8L, 1/125, f/9, ISO 800 (handheld).
An insanely early trip to Loch Awe and Kilchurn Castle this week. Arriving at 5.30am before sunrise we picked our way through the marsh to the edge of the water and waited for the dawn. The air was still and clear with a magical display of stars above. To be honest, the images from this trip are a bit underwhelming but there’s always something to observe and learn. The photographs have a subtle shift in colour as the light rises from a blue pre-dawn light that is flat and mysterious with 30 seconds of exposure time to the warmer tones at first light and the harsher contrast and warmer light as the sun clears the hills.
Niall and I got to discussing the merits of each situation. Most of the pictures we have seen are taken after sunrise because most people are infinitely more sensible than the the two of us stumbling around in marshland in the dark to catch the very first light of the day. The fully lit scene is normal. It looks like the landscape we all experience. It’s ok but its familiarity makes it less interesting I think. That blue, flat light that comes from no direction in particular is a rare thing. We both agreed that even if we did not make any earth-shattering images that day just to be in that light, at that place for a few minutes to experience something that is out of the ordinary is worth the 3am rise.