Last month I was invited to meet up with David Shawe and Rod Armstrong, friends I had made on various Aspect2i workshops. The two of them had photographed in Kintail before heading to the glens of Affric, Cannich and Strathfarrar to research locations for a possible workshop in the following autumn; and I was to join them for an exploration of the latter two glens. Weather wise, the trip was dogged by torrential rain and strong winds making the photography challenging to say the least, with only the occasional glint of sunshine. As the saying goes no pain, no gain; anyway here are my short-listed favourites from the trip.
It’s good to get something in the can early on; and I believe I can claim the laurels for finding this first location in Glen Strathfarrar. But it’s not easy to be creative when one’s specs and view finder are misted up and with rain drops constantly having to be cleared away from filters and lenses!
15 sec @ f/16 ISO 50 Nikon D800 with 45mm f/2.8 Tilt+Shift lens
We were desperate to photograph any part of the landscape blessed with any sunshine at all; and this stunning viewpoint in Glen Strathfarrar proved the point. Just a bit of sun hitting the river, the trees and the far off hillside was all that was required to bring the scene to life, albeit for just a few moments.
1/5 sec @ f/16 ISO 400 Nikon D800 with 45mm f/2.8 Tilt+Shift lens
By the time I set up, the sunshine which had skimmed this tree in Glen Strathfarrar had all but disappeared under the ominous rain clouds charging in from the rear. Nevertheless this image, following its slightly faded post-production treatment, remains one of my top favourites.
1/50 sec @ f/16 ISO 400 Nikon D800 with 45mm f/2.8 Tilt+Shift lens
The quickly changing weather gave the benefit of a little sunshine on the right-hand side of this picture, otherwise the hillside would have been in un-relieved shadow.
1/15 sec @ f/16 ISO 200 Nikon D800 with 45mm f/2.8 Tilt+Shift lens
My earlier, straight on, shot of this same hillside stream did not work as the background appeared too confusing. This alternative view of the water side-stepping left down the hillside offers better definition.
8 sec @ f/16 ISO 100 Nikon D800 with 24mm f/3.5 Tilt+Shift lens
Towards the end of the first day, David discovered this lovely, secluded stretch of river in Glen Strathfarrar; it’s one of the benefits of being able to read a map properly! In this shot my eye was first drawn to the leaves on the river bank; then towards the silk-like patch of quiet water beyond.
1/4 sec @ f/16 ISO 400 Nikon D800 with 24mm f/3.5 Tilt+Shift lens
Taking a couple of steps to the right; who could resist this shot of water swirling over and around a leaf-strewn rock and in doing so creating a myriad of textures?
1.3 sec @ f/16 ISO 400 Nikon D800 with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens @ 116mm
My last photograph from Glen Strathfarrar; the gorgeous tints of autumn reflected in the calm, dark, deep running water.
2.5 sec @ f/16 ISO 100 Nikon D800 with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens @ 86mm
You will notice that the next series of photographs (all shot on my new and wonderfully sharp Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens) were not taken in a Highland glen! Truth be told the rain was so heavy on the 2nd day that we could barely get out of the car let alone create works of art. So we headed east and eventually discovered “dry land” around the village of Cromarty on the Cromarty Firth.
1/50 sec @ f/11 ISO 400 Nikon D800 with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens @ 56mm
I haven’t photographed lobster creels since exposing my very first roll of black & white film back in 1979; these randomly stacked creels create an intriguing arrangement of patterns held together within the square crop and by slightly darkening the outer edges of the image in post-production.
1/40 sec @ f/11 ISO 400 Nikon D800 with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens @ 70mm
Exposed using a “medium” shutter speed to capture some movement in the cold water of the Cromarty Firth. What really attracted me here was the patch of sunlight glancing off the shack; and due to the light tone it’s the first thing the eye lands upon. This image is moodier in monochrome than in colour and I love it!
1/60 sec @ f/11 ISO 100 Nikon D800 with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens @ 70mm
I cannot claim to have stumbled across this “find”, that was down to David Shawe; but I think it fair to say that our representations of the same scene differ slightly. This image draws the viewer’s eye from bottom to top; starting with the coiled rope then to the capstan, onwards to the weird leg stumps of an oil installation and ending with that wonderful sky.
8 sec @ f/22 ISO 80 Nikon D800 with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens @ 48mm
Our final day and back to the glens, this time heading for Glen Cannich via Strathglass when we chanced upon these amazing flooded trees. It would have been good to isolate a single tree thereby achieving a stronger composition; but even using a wide aperture and long lens (as here) it was impossible to avoid the intrusive background. However, the image makes for an interesting photograph.
10 sec @ f/5.6 ISO 50 Nikon D800 with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens @ 140mm
Three bands of horizontals make up this image; first the river, the river bank then finally the far off trees. What I love best is the unusual pattern caused by the endless flow of the river.
30 sec @ f/16 ISO 50 Nikon D800 with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens @ 70mm
This Glen Cannich composition is complimented by the square crop; the recurring ripple pattern of the flow blends into the silky-smooth water then mirrors the lovely clump of trees and autumn-tinted bracken beyond.
62sec @ f/22 ISO 100 Nikon D800 with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens @ 105mm
The original colour version of Glen Cannich looks fabulous with its autumn tints but I find this monochrome conversion very appealing with the “Y” shape (on its side) formed by the arrangement of trees on the hillside, grounded by the dark water in the foreground. Ok, the line of the riverbank cuts the picture equally top to bottom; in certain circles this is considered a no-no but at my age I can break the “rules” if I want.
30sec @ f/22 ISO 100 Nikon D800 with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens @ 82mm
Another square composition, hankering back to the time when I used a square-format Hasselblad camera in the good old days of film. There is something mesmerising about this image; it seems as if the water is gushing in all directions from the centre of the picture.
0.4 sec @ f/22 ISO 200 Nikon D800 with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens @ 38mm
Taken from slightly above the previous composition this shows the river running through Glen Cannich, swollen from many days of heavy rainfall; now draining from the mountain tops and bracken covered hillsides. As you will guess, I cannot resist photographing waterfalls and fast-flowing rivers, wherever the location.
0.8 sec @ f/16 ISO 400 Nikon D800 with 24mm f/3.5 Tilt+Shift lens
This last image from Glen Cannich looks equally emotive in monochrome as it does in colour; it is one of my favourite portrayals of a river in full flood. It also reminds me of the 70’s Punk music scene; fast, furious, powerful.
2.5 sec @ f/14 ISO 100 Nikon D800 with 24mm f/3.5 Tilt+Shift lens