Just a couple of weeks ago I arrived in Torridon, Scotland with a group of other photographers and mountain goats, having spent the best part of two days travelling to get there, exhausted, feeling a bit rough but excited and more than a little trepidatious.
Anyone would be excited about a week in a lochside Log Cabin in Scotland, and as a photographer even more so, surrounded by mountains, coastline and ancient woodlands that you just can’t simply drive to easily when you live down south, but I was also slightly worried about how I’d be able to represent that landscape in my own way. I feared that finding simple, clean compositions amidst vistas of staggering beauty and complex woodland was going to be tricky and I’d come away with a week worth of images that simply weren’t me, but after a particularly fine meal laid on by a trio of ex-coppers, I can only assume from the Catering Division, and a quick trip around the dozen or so bottles of single malt brought by everyone, I put my concerns to bed and headed for a good nights sleep. Unfortunately a night of heavenly slumber was disrupted for some by a bit of enthusiastic snoring…apparently…sorry gents!
The following morning we headed out, the group divided into mountain goats who headed for the high peaks and the less enthusiastic and/or knackered who instead headed for a short woodland jaunt in the Scots Pine laden Beinn Eighe reserve. First stop along the way for those of us not in the goat party was Loch Clair…which upon arrival was like a millpond with reflections of Sgurr Dubh and the mighty Liathach. Stunning, classic, picture postcard landscape territory…beautiful, epic, not what I was hoping for. I duly set up, took some images and inwardly started to worry again.
Next stop a nice relaxing bimble through ancient scottish woodland, just enough to stretch the legs after a long weekend travelling…well not quite….a brutal climb up from the shoreline of Loch Maree topped us out well above the snow line next to some stunning frozen lochans with views of the Beinn Eighe range. Stunning. An incoming snow storm blowing swiftly off the tops and swallowing them completely encouraged us to pack up and make back down, but the snow building up on the semi frozen surface of one of the lochans as the weather made better progress across the landscape than we did, made me stop and unpack again. Working a few compositional options as the snow flurries thickened was interesting to say the least but then suddenly it all clicked into place. In one of those rare moments where you know you’ve just nailed it, where you don’t even need to check, you just know you’ve got it, a few square meters of snow-covered lochan suddenly became the basis for one of my favourite images I’ve ever taken.
Instantly the self inflicted pressure was off. If I didn’t get another image I liked all week I was a happy chappy simply having got that one image. As it turned out I needn’t have worried, that image was a creative catalyst, or maybe the release of pressure was the important thing, probably a bit of both to be honest, but I went on to have a fairly successful week I think, not just creating images of the staggering landscape I was in, but most importantly creating work I was really happy with.
I even managed to go to the almighty Elgol and get several images I was happy with, which is no mean feat given that every inch of that beach has echoes of other photographers footprints. You look one way, Paul Wakefield, another David Baker, turn again Pete Bridgwood and that’’s without even contemplating ‘Joe’s Boulder’…I sought it out, I found it, I smiled, I examined the compositional challenges it presents, I came to the conclusion Joe had absolutely nailed it and in much more interesting light and weather, and I stepped smartly away to look for other images instead.
I won’t bore you with details of the rest of the week, it was beautiful and tough with a smattering of woodland, plenty of beach action and a 12 mile hike into the mountains to ultimately take a photo of a puddle (I really wasn’t having a good day tbh) thrown in for good measure. And the whole week was capped off by the most ridiculous Lik-esque sunset I’ve seen in quite some time over Rannoch Moor on the way back home, so bonkers in fact that I don’t think I can even bring myself to share it here.
So all in all it was a cracking week, with great and very, very talented company, so thanks go out to Mark Littlejohn, Darren Ciolli-Leach, Greg Whitton (hats off for driving all week chap and putting up with my constant bleating about your appalling musical tastes…you lost me at Roxette), Adrian Gidney, Lee Acaster, Matt Dartford, Stewart Smith, Scott Robertson and the venerable Jeff Ashton and his two collies Misty and Flash.
A gallery of my images from this trip can be found below (click on the image of Greg & Darren) so feel free to take a wander through them as I let them stew for a bit until I can be a bit more objective about thinning them out which I no doubt will.
And finally, and most importantly….heartfelt apologies for my snoring chaps, I’ll bring the camper van next time and sleep somewhere far away in another glen with a mountain or two between us…