A couple of years ago I joined a photo workshop in Glencoe, in the north west of Scotland. Due to injury I had to leave early so I missed out on some great locations. It was time for a return, so in March 2023 I joined a workshop group to re-visit the area.
On the way up we took the opportunity to spend time in one of our favourite places in UK, Keswick. and whilst I headed on to Scotland, Lyn stayed behind in our accommodation.
The workshop is based around the village of North Ballachulish which sits at the western end of Loch Leven. The area is noted for some of the finest scenery in Scotland and a short drive away is Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis so you get some idea of the mountainous area we were in.
The intention of this blog is to showcase the images so the narrative will be kept to minimum save for a brief description of each location.
The Route to Glencoe.
The route took me from Keswick around to the west of Glasgow and eventually up the A82 past Loch Lomond and into Glencoe. The weather was very wet and with low cloud, hence no images of Loch Lomond, essentially because I could not see enough of it to photograph! I have included a couple of images of the last stage of my journey to North Ballaghulish to illustrate what it was like.
Top: Buchaille Etive Mor – one of the classic mountain shots in Glencoe. The name means “The Great Shepherd”
Centre: View of snow covered mountains from the lay-by. It was raining hard at this point so it was a quick dash out of the car to a nearby mound for a quick snap!
Bottom: The Three Sisters – I am unsure of their Gaelic names.
Our first location was the west end of Loch Leven. It was a dawn shoot which meant meeting in the hotel car park at around 5-15am! It was worth it. The rain had gone but it was cold.
Top: Loch Leven. This is looking southwest, down the loch. The loch is tidal and when we arrived it was high tide.
Bottom: This image was shot from a viewpoint on the western edge on the road back to North Ballachulish.
Our next location was the western side of Loch Tulla, which is over an hour’s drive from our base. By the time we reached it the cloud had thinned and the weather was promising. I had visited this location on a previous workshop so was looking for some different shots.
The ruins of Kilchurn Castle was our next destination and is one of the most photographed historic monuments in Scotland. It was built in the mid-1400s, and it remained the base of the mighty Campbells of Glenorchy for 150 years. After the first Jacobite Rising of 1689, Kilchurn was converted into a garrison stronghold, but was abandoned by the end of the 1700s. Once a fortress, a comfortable residence and later a garrison stronghold, it contains the oldest surviving barracks on the British mainland. Its five-storey tower house dominates the complex, with a lower hall, courtyard and barracks below. Sadly it is now a ruin but lies in a very photogenic part of the area and is Mecca for landscape photographers.
Top: Kilchurn Castle from the bank of Loch Awe; 2. Framed by a tree; 3. Another viewpoint of the castle; 4. Mono conversion of Kilchurn Castle.
Glen Orchy sits at the southern entrance to the Glencoe region and has a significant, much photographed waterfall. This was the next location. The falls of Glen Orchy (Eas Urchaidh) lie about half way along the narrow road through Glen Orchy and once again provided some great, moody images.
Two very different images of the Falls of Orchy, both moody in their own way.
Our first day concluded with an unplanned stop at Loch Achtriochan. The water on the loch was flat calm and provided some stunning reflections of the surrounding landscape.
Top: Which Way Up? The cottage at Loch Achtriochan reflected in the still waters;
Centre: Tiny cottage, large mountain behind. This shows the scale of the Glencoe range.
Bottom. Looking south through the Pass of Glencoe. the main A82 runs down the extreme left of the image. Meall Dearg slopes down from the left with Aonach Dubh on the right.
We lost a day to bad weather. Day three was another dawn shoot, this time on Rannoch Moor, specifically at Lochan Na Stainge, a short walk from a lay-by on the A82. This time, the weather was a little more co-operative.
Lochan Na Stainge on Rannoch Moor – A variety of light conditions made for some challenging photography but a wonderful location, worth getting up very early for.
Buchaille Etive Mor
Buchaille Etive Mor, known in English as “The Great Shepherd”, is probably one of the most photographed locations in Glencoe. The mountain can be seen from the main road but the best location is a little way along the road through Glen Etive.
Top: Buchaille Etive More – The classic shot with the waterfalls in the foreground;
Centre: Slightly different aspect with a slower shutter speed;
Bottom: A little further along the moor, with the river flowing down to the falls.
Like many glen’s in Scotland, Glen Etive has more than its fair share of waterfalls and they offer challenges for a landscape photographer around composition and water flow etc. As we journeyed down Glen Etive we stopped at a couple of the larger falls. These image’s are below:
Top: Glen Etive Falls looking upstream Bottom: Glen Etive Falls looking downstream
Above: A different waterfall
Further along the narrow road along Glen Etive lies Lochan Ur. Barely visible from the road, access to the waters edge entails a 10 minute walk down a steep, stony track. The shoreline was all but flooded so I was thankful for my wellies as I ended up standing in about 6 inches of water to take my images. Oh and it was raining again!
Top: Viewpoint 1 – a brief respite in the afternoon rain
Bottom: Viewpoint 2 – I waded about about 10 metres to the left of the first viewpoint in my wellies. Even with a slow shutter speed, the raindrops can be seen disturbing the loch surface.
Our last day started dry, but did not last. Our first destination was a short drive from our base. Along the main road through Glencoe are dotted a small number of small white cottages/huts set back from the road. Our first location was one of these little huts. Known as Lagangarbh Hut, it belongs to the Scottish National Trust, though I do not know its origins or what it was used for. It is remote!
Approaching the Lagangarbh hut. The main road is about 10 min walk behind the viewer.
Top and centre: Two versions of the same image, one colour showing the dullness of the day and the mono conversion shows what can be achieved with a little post production tweaking.
Bottom: I crossed the river and shot this square on.
A short distance from the white hut is Clachaig Waterfall which was to be our last location. No sooner had we parked up it started to spit with rain so we hastily gathered our gear and headed down a narrow lane to the falls. As we walked so the intensity of the drizzle increased and by the time we had set up, the wind was gusting and the rain was consistent. I managed only a couple of shots and with raindrops continually splattering the lens protector I headed back to the car park with the rest of the group.
Top: Clachaig Falls in full flow.
Centre: The second image I shot of the falls. Slightly slower shutter speed to add additional blur to the water and the image cropped to take out most of the sky;
Bottom: Same image but with a slightly different crop to show the moody clouds.
Just to prove that the sun does shine in Glencoe in the winter, as I travelled south back to Keswick at the end of the workshop I took the following three images:
Having said that, I think the above images prove that cloudy weather can add its own mood to images, especially in mountainous areas.
My journey back to Keswick was uneventful, save for some short heavy showers around Glasgow. Look out for the next blog illustrating some of our walks either side of my trip to Scotland.
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