My previous blog ended on the hope that I’d shaken out my photography rustiness before this trip. I hadn’t. Or at least that is how it felt as I fumbled around the basics of composition.
I think Scotland is a beautiful country, and Torridon, or more generally the Wester Ross region is breathtakingly. I’d say it’s beautiful at any time of the year but adding the varied colours that abound during autumn it really is a photographers paradise. It comes a cost though and that being it’s a very high bar to be able to do the place justice and as is often the case, just because something is stunningly beautiful to the eye, doesn’t necessarily mean it makes a good photograph. Admittedly you can easily get great holiday photos as the scenery is doing a lot of the heavy lifting but I’m generally not after a series of images that tell the narrative of a holiday, I want to take images that make the eye linger and the mind wonder. And therein lies the problem, I don’t feel that I’m doing that right now.
I was hoping for favourable conditions, along with good autumn colours and not too many people about. Not to mention the ability to stumble across a unique yet stunning vista in an area I’ve never scouted before. Looking back, it’s possible my standards were set a little on the high side.
The condition weren’t bad, I’m more than happy being out in the rain. In fact, to be in a position to capture that often superb light that comes after a weather front has moved through you need to have been there while it was doing so. The problem was it never actually moved through, it just kept swirling around the Highlands so between the worst of the weather, it was just bland. I had preconceived ideas of images, which is a great way of setting yourself up to fail. I had visions of wide vistas featuring colourful autumnal colours on the lower slopes giving way to pointy peaks under foreboding skies. Some snow on the peaks would have been nice, as would the previously undiscovered vantage point that would still have been accessible by a lone soft southerner with no mountain experience. Didn’t want much at all. That is probably taking my thought process to the extreme but the point being, I had to work harder for compositions than I’d hoped for.
Rather than overlooking the varied colours of the forested areas I spent a lot of time within them where the rain would be less of an issue, and can be quite beneficial, although the wind that accompanied it, less so. However, woodland photography is something I struggle with which is pity as I really am very fond of it as a genre under the landscape umbrella. The big plus of woodland photography is it gives you a great opportunity to create something unique, it’s just finding the composition in the first place thats the tricky bit. Without trying to sound like I know what I’m doing I do find myself drawn to the more abstract compositions within the trees rather than the trees themselves. I like it when you get splashes of different colours within the chaos of branches and leaves. It kinda reminds me of fireworks. Admittedly you may have to squint, and really, really want to see it.
Due to how far Torridon is from Essex, hell it’s a 5 hour drive from Glasgow, I flew into Inverness and hired a car, something that had become conveniently cheaper due to COVID induced incentives but also more volatile as the second wave of lockdowns threatened leading up to the trip. A fairly uneventful journey to Inverness other than airports and aeroplanes just feel weird right now, had me picking up my freely upgraded car, thank you Avis, and driving to Shieldaig where I was staying. We don’t have a lot of birch trees in the south east, not whole areas of them anyway and certainly none against the back drop of evergreen conifers and scotch pine. The cross country drive above the 57th parallel does, and even in drizzle and the fading evening light it was truly beautiful and made the near two hour drive almost worth the trip alone.
And so began three days of exploration, both in the car and on foot, of an area I’d not been to before and although the title of this blog is a little hyperbolic, I had a great time regardless of how I feel about the images I took. It was as ever just nice being outside and it was very easy to distance my brain from the bizarre year that is 2020. Coincidently, a photographer friend I admire greatly was also in the area. However, due to the tougher restrictions in Scotland it would have felt disrespectful of the country’s laws to organise a meet up beyond bumping into each other, which we never did. I am looking forward to getting Jen’s take on those particular days though. Yes I found the conditions tricky, but hey, to reuse an oft quoted phrase to explain one’s struggles, it’s meant to be hard, that’s what makes it great. If wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. Although thinking about it, I’m pretty sure everyone is doing it these days, haha.
I’m happy to chalk the time up as a scouting trip and look forward to returning with better knowledge of the area. Having now reviewed the images I took there are a few I’m happy with, although none of those are close to what I had in mind leading up to the trip. The closest I got to that was a frantic pull the car over moment as I watched things unfold in my mirrors on route back to the airport. Bloody weather.