Last Saturday was the day of the long anticipated Torridon and Loch Maree workshop, which I had been especially looking forward to. Autumn is arguably the best time of year in the Highlands, and the hills, woods and lochs of Wester Ross look particularly superb at this time of year.
I did feel a few pangs of worry at the weather forecast before the workshop, but by the Friday night I was happy to see a predicted mix of sun and showers throughout the day. Perfect photography conditions!
We met at the lochside carpark for the Glas Leitir walking trails at the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve. I was happy to see the summer crowds of NC500 tourists had gone and there were just a few cars in the carpark.
Starting Off – Strong Light and Big Views
After introductions we started the day by the lochside, sitting on the beach and taking snaps of Slioch across the water as we got to grips with the basic controls of the camera. Here we covered the technical basics – how to control the exposure, reading a histogram, and how to set the camera up in such a way that we can just focus on the creative side of things. This foundational knowledge is crucial for good photography, as you don’t want to be wondering what the right settings are when you might only get a few seconds of good light. You want to be able to shoot confident that the camera will work well for you, and have the confidence to alter settings without having to think about it.
With this in mind we headed up the trail that led into the gorgeous Caledonian Pinewoods overlooking the loch, looking for scenes to bed in our technical learning. We adored the rich, warm autumnal colours that were in sight at every turn. The contrast between the deep greens of the pines and the many subtly different tones of yellows, golds and browns of other species made for great photography. The photos got even better when the sun burst through the clouds, sweeping across the hills and throwing a pretty decent rainbow into the scene as well.
After this strong start we headed higher up, talking about composition and the importance of keeping the photo simple – just focusing on a few key ingredients rather than attempting to ‘get it all in.’ Another useful thing to remember is that you generally don’t need to include very much sky at all in the photo – the emphasis should be on the land. This last point was reinforced by our next scene as we found a fantastic shapely pine overlooking the loch as veils of rain swept up and down the loch in the distance. We spent a while working this scene before heading back to the loch for lunch, though not before enjoying another superb rainbow.
In the Rain – Close Ups and Colours
In the second part of our day we drove a short distance to Glen Torridon. We stopped firstly to explore the riverbank of the Allt Gairbhe, which flows from Loch Clair to Loch Maree. The river is rough and rocky, surrounded by stunning regenerating woodlands. It can be a tricky area to explore due to its very rough terrain. Finding good angles at this location is awkward too – the potential is undeniable but you often feel like there is a great shot close by that just won’t quite coalesce. Nevertheless we found some gorgeous intersections of colour and motion between water and colour, and came away with some good shots.
The waterproofs were definitely needed for our final exploration along the shore of Loch Clair to Loch Coullin. The rain came on hard at this point and it stayed on, but did not dampen our enthusiasm for the scenery. Even through the rain the autumnal shades were superb, and the blue tone cast by the thick clouds nicely set off the reds and yellows of the land. The waters of the loch were also quieted into a streaked and rain speckled smoothness – full of nuance and detail. The great peaks of Liatach and Beinn Eighe lurked mysteriously in the clouds.
We finally accepted the rain was not going to ease off again, but as we were now running out of daylight we agreed to call it a day at that point and head back to the cars. In good spirits we recounted our key learning points from the day before saying farewell at the cars.
All in all a brilliant day exploring some of Scotland’s most magnificent scenery at the best time of year. Wonderful mixed conditions of weather and light bringing real variety to what I hope was a fun day of learning in nature’s classroom.
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