A couple of years ago we walked into Glencoe on the route of our West Highland Way walk and were both struck by its rugged beauty and atmosphere. In the autumn of 2021 I was lucky enough to return on a Photographic Workshop run by Sarah Howard of Image Seen Photography.
Whilst Lyn stayed in Keswick, Cumbria, I made my way to our base in North Ballachulish in the West Highlands of Scotland for what was planned to be a four day workshop. As you can see from the images below, I managed to stop a few times on my journey up.
The first day’s photography was planned to be a dawn shoot at Loch Leven to catch the sunrise but heavy rain and a strong wind came overnight and persisted through the day until early afternoon. Any idea of a dawn shoot went swiftly out of the window, on the wind!
When it eventually stopped raining, we were able to get out to a nearby waterfall at Clachnaig, where the low cloud lifted momentarily, and we were able to get some reasonable images.
Top: Clachnaig Waterfall on a miserable afternoon. Centre: Unnamed waterfall nearby. Bottom: Looking down the valley with the waterfall behind.
Day 2 saw the group up before dawn and out to the head of Loch Leven for a sunrise shoot. The weather had dramatically changed. The wind had gone and the loch was flat calm which, when the light came, made for some excellent shots.
Two images of Loch Leven in the calm light, post sunrise
After breakfast we headed to Glen Orchy and our first stop at Loch Tulla which again was flat calm with watery sunshine which provided some magical light and reflections for us.
Four images of Loch Tulla showing the reflections in the flat calm water
Next up was Loch Awe and Kilchurn Castle. There were patchy clouds in the sky which provided variable light but once again some fantastic opportunities.
Top: Loch Awe. 2,3 and 4: Images of Kilchurn Castle in varying light conditions.
Our last destination for the days shooting was a waterfall in the depths of Glen Orchy, Eas Urchaidh. This location had a tree canopy shading it from the sun, which by the time we got there was setting slowly behind the mountain behind us. My diary notes for the day say that this day was one of the best days photography I had ever experienced.
Three treatments of images of Eas Urchaidh waterfall
Sunday was dull and overcast as we headed down into Glen Etive, turning off the main road just before the Glen Coe Mountain Centre. The autumn colours were still present in the vegetation that adorned the hills and mountains, but the focus for today was the waterfalls and rivers that flow through Glen Etive.
As we arrived at our first location a large van parked up behind us carrying kayaks. A number of adventurous students disembarked and prepared to go paddling down the river. They entered the water upstream from our location and spent an hour or so kayaking down the waterfall we were there to photograph! There were other locations near by so I initially headed off there.
River Etive with An Grainan mountain in the background
Kayakers tackle a waterfall in Glen Etive
After a couple hours and a coffee break we moved further down the glen. It was at the second location that a personal disaster struck me. Walking down a shallow descent towards a possible location close to the river bank, I slipped and somehow wrenched my right ankle as I fell. I stayed down a for a minute or two in slight shock before moving slowly to sit on a nearby rock to recover. I paused on the rock for about 10 minutes before hobbling gingerly back to the car park for lunch,
We drove on to the last location. From the car park it was a 10 minute walk down a rough track to Lochan Urr. There was limited space on the loch shore so I, hobbled round to a bay nearby. By this time I was in difficulties so did not enjoy this location as much as I could have because of my ankle pain.
Two images of Lochan Urr (Lochan is a small loch). One colour and the other a mono conversion. I could not choose between them, so I included both.
After having difficulty walking when we returned to our hotel it became clear overnight that I could not continue with the workshop and that I would have to withdraw from the final day’s shoot. I reluctantly bade goodbye to the group and headed south via Loch Lomond to Keswick to try and enjoy the rest of the week in the Lake District, without being able to walk properly. I had frequent stops in the lay-byes on the drive south to try and keep my ankle moving, and managed to take a number of images en-route without straying too far from the sanctuary of my car.
Loch Lomond from the main road south
Once south of Loch Lomond the landscape became less mountainous and eventually gave way to more urban town and cityscapes as I drove around Glasgow and towards Keswick and the south.
The Highlands of Scotland are stunning at any time of year, but adding in the autumn colours, the light and the mostly calm weather made it especially beautiful over a cold November weekend. I want to go back in winter to catch upon what I missed out but mostly to see it all again, this time covered in snow!