How emergency service staff, or anyone else that works shifts for that matter survives, is a mystery to me. Landscape photography at this time of year is hard work. After 2 or 3 consecutive early rises I turn into a zombie. The same applies to Eddie, and nobody wants a grumpy beagle. I am sure I am not the only landscape photographer who can't wait for sunrise to happen at a more sociable hour again.
The next location on my wish list was Glen Etive, and eventually Loch Etive. The road through the Glen is approximately 14miles long and a dead end. Its a single track road that twists and turns as it follows the river. It has passing places that are mainly occupied by camper vans overnight, and again our old favourites the suicidle deer that occasionally like to jump out in front of you, usually on a blind bend. I remember my parents falling in love with Glen Etive when we went as a family over 25 years ago, but it was lost on me. So having researched it a little online, I couldn't wait to see it again.
Now I'm not going to say it was a disappointment, but its looking a bit scruffy at the moment. There's a huge logging/deforestation project underway and until thats finished its not going to look its best. I know the area has an economy to keep going, and keeping a Photographer from Walsall happy is low on their priorities, but I just felt they could have left the cleared areas looking a bit better. At the end of the day, I'm sure it will recover, the landscape is very good at that. To avoid the necessary heavy wagons using the narrow road along the Glen, most of the cut timber is transported using water power, and to facilitate the boats a special floating pier has been installed. Its quite a simple but ingenious structure. You can just about make it out in photograph above, taken from the head of the loch.
The forecast for this particular morning was spot on. They had said any low lying cloud would be 'burnt off' early, to be followed by a mostly clear day, and they were right. With this in mind, I knew that I had to make the most of the first few hours of daylight, and I decided to concentrate on using it to its absolute best. I decided to get a bit 'arty' or as I prefer to call it 'creative'.
When the clouds are low enough to touch, the water provides mirror like reflections, and the light is as good as it gets (at this time of year) you have to make the most of it. It only lasted about 15 minutes. The hues of greens and yellows changing with almost every exposure as the light crept into the valley. I was in my element. Its moments like this that make it all worthwhile. I have never tried fishing, but I would imagine its a similar feeling after all of the waiting around to finally get a bite.
This is my favourite shot from the trip. Its nothing like what I had in mind when I set out for Scotland, but for me it captures a moment in time, and thats all I ever try to do. Lets face it, it could be anywhere, and it could get easily overlooked as there is no obvious focal point. But if you give it a chance and allow yourself to get lost in the pixels you never know what you will find. At this low resolution I expect you would at least spot 2 ducks, but at high resolution theres a cheeky deer in the trees in the distance, having his breakfast (ill prove this only if i have to!).
Light and shade is one of the fundamental necessities for landscape photography. Its as crucial as composition, as without it you have a flat, boring photograph that nobody wants to see.
Light provides us with shadows, which creates natures own contrast. You can add contrast using software, but it doesn't look natural. Much better to wait around for the real deal.
In the highlands its not as simple as checking what time the sun is due to rise, as more often than not a mountain will block it at some point. So as a 'tourist' it can be a bit hit or miss. I had checked my sun position App (The Photographers Ephemeris) and knew that the Glen was in line to get some good light early on, it was just a case of sticking with it. Im glad I did.
You can do a lot with light and shade. You don't even need a whole mountain to make the most of it. A lot of the time its all in the detail, so get a bit closer, or get out those longer lenses and make the most of it.
No photographic journal about a trip down Glen Etive would be complete without at least one shot of the waterfalls in front of Etive Mor, the impressive pyramid shaped mountain that stands at the entrance to the Glen. I know this shot would be hugely more impressive when there is snow around, murky clouds in the sky, and the rivers in full flow. Its been taken a thousand times already, and will be a thousand times more, so its hardly original, but that shouldn't stop anyone wanting to take a picture (This seems to be a hot topic at the moment, and maybe one for another blog, another day). Im sure I will visit it again when the conditions suit.
From this point on good light was fleeting at best. Wall to wall blue skies were replaced with wall to wall flat grey ones, so the trip turned into a glorified recconaisance outing. Im not complaining about that, its rare you can just turn up somewhere and instinctively know where you're going, so the groundwork is essential. Its just a shame I didn't get more opportunities.
The next few days were spent exploring. Walking Eddie in some of the most wonderful landscapes we have ever seen. He got to spend his Birthday on a beach (his favourite places, but not in the sea) and I tried to keep his time in the car to a minimum.
I drove away from Glencoe, disappointed with the shots I had taken. I felt that somehow I had missed opportunities and ended up having a glorified jolly, minus sleep. It was only when I got home and started to edit the shots that I realised the lessons that I had learned. The importance of light, the majesty of scale etc. Also the new knowledge that I have for the location. You could spend a week just in Glencoe with the right conditions and fill an album. In fact there are books on the glen packed with stunning images, all within walking distance from the A82. I have a notebook full of reference points, places of interest, where to park the car and so on, that will come in useful at another time. Its not simply a case of "rocking up and taking a few snaps" to get a good shot. It takes patience, planning and a dose of good luck. Then one day, you will be rewarded by being in the right place at exactly the right time.
I hope you have enjoyed this 2 part blog of my trip. I hope it has been informative and interesting, and even if you're not interested in photography, you have at least enjoyed the pictures. Please feel free to drop me a line using the 'Contact me' feature of the site if you have any questions. Also, you can follow me on Facebook www.facebook.com/davefieldhousephotography and twitter @davefphotos