Having just returned from a two week holiday to Scotland, I’m already feeling the effects of withdrawal. We set off on the 270 mile drive to St Catherine’s, a small village situated on the southern shore of Loch Fyne and arrived at our cottage, Darroch Beag at about 5 o’clock on the Saturday. I’d actually been hoping to stay a bit nearer The Highlands but we liked the look of the cottage and the general area. Having fished for Pike nearby at Loch Lomond and Loch Awe in the past, I thought I’d be able to get some decent shots while at the same time keeping the family happy with a nice walk and a pub lunch or two. The cottage was perfect! Home from home with beautiful views across the loch to Inverary. So after a bit of relaxing and a bite to eat I decided to have a look round. We hadn’t realised just how close the cottage would be to the Loch but the garden went right up to the shore so it was easy enough just to nip out when and if the light was any good.
As views from the garden go, this one beats Batley
Being the first night I took it pretty easy. The lighting and conditions were ok but I expected to have loads of time for photography over our two week stay. How wrong can you be? One thing I hadn’t counted on here was the midges, more like flying Piranhas. I don’t know why but I didn’t think they’d be a problem near a sea loch. Luckily I’d bought some head nets from Ebay. These were absolutely useless. The midges just got straight in through the mesh. Repellent didn’t seem to work either. Neither did the bottle of Avon skin so soft that everybody recommended. I can only guess that the midges drink Iron Brew, made from Girders here as well. I did manage a few shots that night looking towards the lights on the opposite shore at Inverary but the sunset wasn’t a spectacular one. I might have put more effort in had I known what was to come.
4am the next day I surfaced and had a look outside, heavy, leaden grey skies and rain. This was the pattern for the next ten days. There were some days when the sun came out; it was just usually at the wrong times though and only for maybe ten minutes at a time. I don’t know if anyone else gets this but I swear sometimes someone is watching me from above. I can line a shot up in perfect light, set the tripod up, get the grads or polariser on connect cable release and focus but as soon as I’m ready to press the shutter the sun disappears behind a cloud and it starts throwing it down. Well I lost count of the number of times this happened in Scotland. The other situation is one I call the point of no return. Why doesn’t it start chucking it down when you’re within half an hour’s walk of the car? It always seems to chuck it down when you’ve walked for an hour in lovely sunny conditions. This happened on a few occasions as well.
However, we were enjoying our holiday despite the weather. We watched Otters hunting and playing in the weedy margins of the loch first thing in the morning from our bedroom window. On a trip out to Carrick Castle at Lochgoilhead we saw a Golden Eagle hunting over the moorland. We made trips to Oban and Glencoe stopping off at some amazing waterfalls on The River Orchy. We also startled a herd of about twenty Roe Deer which ran out in front of the car and over the fields. Then at Glencoe we watched a group of Red Deer stags beside The River Etive. We had a gorgeous meal at The Coylet Inn beside Loch Eck with a superb seafood platter to start with and Aberdeen Angus steak & Ale pie as the main.
By now though, I was starting to worry that I might not come away with any usable images. In an act of complete desperation, I thought sod the weather forecast and drove to Appin on the west coast to photograph Castle Stalker, surely it would look better on the coast. I’d bought a book from Inverary by a Scottish photographer. There were some lovely shots from places I’d not seen but one of his quotes was, “There’s no bad weather in Scotland, only interesting weather” Hmm if only you could see this interesting grey sunset I thought. Yes very interesting. So the castle Stalker excursion was just about O.K and that’s as much as I want to say about that.
Just about all of my images of Scotland that made it onto the website were taken over a two day period. The weather forecast predicted one day of sun on the Thursday of our last week I think it was. So I was up early and off to Glencoe again. I made the mistake of stopping off at the falls on The River Orchy on my way to Glencoe, missing what would have been some fantastic light and colour over Stob Deargh, ********. You read about it earlier, the sun just slipped underneath the low cloud cover as I was about to release the shutter. I still managed a couple of shots from Buachaille Etive Mor, but they could have been so much better. One thing I did manage finally was a shot of Inverary castle on the way back from Glencoe. I must have passed the castle ten or eleven times and tried standing there on the bridge maybe four or five times, hoping a patch of blue sky would just open up with no luck.
Friday was fantastic. We were due to leave on the Saturday. So although the weather forecast was total crap again, I dragged myself out early and set off in darkness for Loch Awe. As I got closer, deep pinks and reds started to appear on the horizon and it was looking like it could be game on. When finally the loch came into view there were patches of mist swirling down towards Kilchurn Bay. The colours of the sunrise slightly muted and softened were visible in places through the varying degrees of moving vapour. I parked up and started running down the path to the Loch. It was even more wet and boggy now than a previous visit the week before. I got about half way down to the shore still running if you could call it running. I stumbled but only went halfway down. I was kind of in limbo, on the balance point, legs pumping ten to the dozen to try and stay upright. I’ve been in this situation before and it’s inevitable when fighting against a fifty pound backpack you are going down. With tripod in hands I didn’t even have time to roll out the landing gear and crash landed face first in the mud. Disaster.
It has to be said though everything went pretty well after that little nosedive. The mist moved in and out with visibility dropping from very good to virtually nothing and back again on several occasions. The great thing about this is it can look like you’ve photographed the location on three separate days if you vary your compositions. I was happy with many of the shots I took on the Friday, though they can always be better. I’m hoping to make my way back to Scotland in the winter; it might just be a four dayer though next time. If the hours of sunlight are the same as on this trip that means it will be conducive to good photography for about ten minutes. Wish me luck.
I’m new to writing a blog and would appreciate any comments you might have. Hopefully as I write more I’ll figure out how to condense the facts rather than wittering on endlessly.