First Photography of 2022: Torridon and Loch Maree with a New Lens

Our first adventure of 2022 was a brief trip up to the Loch Maree/Torridon area in Wester Ross. Besides the Cairngorms this is probably my favourite area in the Highlands, and it is a place I am coming to know quite well. I’ve enjoyed some memorable times there over the last few years. That said, I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface photographically, and I am always looking forward to the next return.

Liatach looming out of the snowclouds beyond Loch Clair. I have had this viewpoint in mind for a few years now, so while the wind blasted us with snow and we waited for light I decided we might as well head up the hill for a wee look. The blizzard was ferocious as we waited for the clouds to let a little light through, and I chickened out and descended before it happened. During a clear break I snapped this shot though, which I was very happy with.

In winter it is a dramatic and dynamic landscape, with an uncompromisingly harsh beauty. Now that my health and stamina are improving I hope to attempt some more committing adventures there in the not-too-distant future, to seek out and meet that beauty high in the secret places.

Probably my favourite image from the trip. Good light is all very well, but what I really love in a landscape photograph is the feel of the moment. I just love when the landscape feels so alive and full of movement as it did during this snow-squall – the air thick and full of flying snow, the water wind lashed and dark. Blue skies and reflections are for postcard photographers.

We took things easy, however, on this occasion; taking the chance to spend the long nights resting in the van, and the short days exploring amid some wild winter weather.

To start off a new year of photography I also made the first change to my optics for a long while, in the form of a second-hand Sigma 17-70mm lens. I have been using the same Nikon 18-55mm kit lens, more or less, since buying my first DSLR in 2007. They’ve done me proud, and I think the results I’ve achieved with this most basic lens (you can find them second hand for as little as £50) speak for themselves. But, having upgraded my DLSR body just over a year ago to a 24MP model, I really needed something that could deliver sharper results to make all those megapixels worthwhile.

A visit to the famous island at Slattadale (made difficult by the loch being so full) rewarded with some truly gorgeous light. The gradient of colour from is really what makes it pop. Last year we climbed Beinn Airigh Charr, on the left. This year maybe Ben Lair on the left?

The Sigma is still a very modest lens in the grand scheme of things, but the added sharpness has, I think, made a notable improvement to the technical quality of the images I’m getting from the camera. The zoom also offers a pretty ideal range for general landscape photography, so it might even offer a good one-lens-only option when I want to take the big camera on hill days.

Low winter sunlight picking out the snowy ridge of the ‘Horns of Alligin’ and low cloud above the Torridon hills. I love this shot for its simplicity, which does nothing to diminish the drama.

During our short 2 night trip we had the opportunity to enjoy some great moments of light, and some ‘interesting’ moments of weather. I was able to produce several images I was happy with, and was pleased especially by the fact that each one was very different to the others. I think a case could me made for each one being the ‘best’ shot of the trip, and all for different reasons.

Snow began to fall in powerful flurries on our last day, and it was a bit of an exciting journey home on snowy roads all the way through the Highlands to Aviemore. Strange to find more snow at home than in Torridon!

A rare (for me) vertically oriented shot with a deep foreground. I was consciously emulating the dark and dramatic style of Somhairle MacDonald when I composed this shot. I really admire his work, which always feels unconventional but meaningful. Good things to aspire to! There’s a bit of chromatic aberration in the trees on the right but I couldn’t be bothered fixing it. The results from the new lens were flawless every other time.
Bonus shot of a wind vortex on Loch Clair. I was hoping it would draw a waterspout up out of the water, which would have been an astonishing thing to photograph with the combination of the blizzard. This was about as intense as it got though – still an interesting photograph.

One thought on “First Photography of 2022: Torridon and Loch Maree with a New Lens

  1. My goodness! Those images certainly have a sharp edge and a deep perspective. Hard to choose but my favourites are the first and second-last.

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