Mountains, Trees and Sunshine – Perfect Conditions for Glen Nevis

Last week I had the pleasure to deliver another of my popular half day photography workshops to three keen learners. Dave, Sam and Ben joined me in Glen Nevis for an afternoon in one of Scotland’s most beautiful glens with our cameras.

Glen Nevis is without doubt one of the most spectacular places in the Highlands. Being flanked by some of the highest mountains in Scotland, and indeed the highest mountain in the country i.e Ben Nevis, its steep craggy flanks offer no end of drama and delight. I first visited the glen when I was 15, and have been coming back ever since.

In the first part of the workshop we covered one of the most important topics. This is the idea that in landscape photography our thoughts and attention should be divided 99% on the landscape, and 1% on the photography.

To put it another way, we need our understanding of the camera to be so solid that we don’t have to think about it. This leaves us free to focus our attention on the landscape around us; learning, observing and ready to take advantage of any photography opportunity.

With this in mind we first had a lightning recap of understanding exposure. If you’re interested then it’s summarised in this post. I then explained how we want to set up our cameras to eliminate most of the mental workload, as well as the crucial knowledge of how to read and review a histogram.

From then on we were free to enjoy exploring the glen and focusing our attention on the fun part of photography – taking photos. Happily, the weather gave us a good mix of sunlight and dramatic clouds, meaning the light passed across the landscape frequently and gave us constantly varying scenes to enjoy.

We explored some simple compositional techniques, with particular emphasis on the principle of using ‘layers’ in the landscape to emphasise depth. We also discussed the ways in which the light can affect the quality of the image based on whether you are looking toward or away from the sun. The old convention in photography is to avoid pointing toward the sun but we quickly decided that idea needs to go out the window!

I was keen to make sure that Dave, Sam and Ben had the chance to see the best of the glen, off the beaten path. Some areas of Glen Nevis have grown very busy in the last few years (and some were busy long before that) but there is no shortage of superb scenery to be found by being bold and going a bit further.

We were quite adventurous in our explorations, as I led the guys quite far up the hillside to explore the top edge of the forest. The woods in the glen are a wonderful example of rewilding in action and it was fantastic to explore these wild upland reaches while enjoying the tremendous views of the hills all around.

All too quickly it seemed our time on the workshop was running out. So, after enjoying some final snaps of the light flowing over the woods and hills we carefully made our way back to the floor of the glen and returned to our cars.

Finally we finished off with a quick visit to Polldubh falls to get the classic shot of the River Nevis plunging into the gorge. We made our farewells as the sunlight faded and the rain came on. Perfect timing!

My thanks to Dave, Sam and Ben for their company and adventurous spirit!

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