One area that I have always had on my to do list since I can remember was Ben Alder and Loch Ericht, It is one of the more remote locations for hill walkers and us photographers. But for me it is now one of the more local mountains..! Having done my research for ease of access pouring over the OS maps I decided to just do a recce last Saturday to check out the lie of the land for direction of light etc, it was a short drive along Loch Rannoch of about 9 miles then a walk along forestry commission tracks until I hit open moorland with land rover tracks all the way to Loch Ericht which took about 2 1/2 hours. This is part of the Ben Alder estate and a new hut had been put up by the loch and a hundred yards or so away a shooting target in the shape of a stag deer amongst the long grasses.. I marched on past this just as a runner appeared with a large back pack and his dog close behind on a training mission by the look of it as he was looking at his watch, Scotland has something for everyone.. following the track by the woods next to the loch with its native scots pines scattered around which always makes it look like Scotland to me. Although I took my camera with me it was dull and flat light so it was more a case of lining up a few shots ready for better light and working out the direction of sunrise and sunset for a future mini expedition, then I caught sight of a few dead tree stumps by the water and straight away knew thats the shots for me, I had found my objective. Happy that my walk out to here was worthwhile it was a bite to eat, sit and admire the scenery and take in the grandeur of the area then back to the car, I was about half way back and the skies started to clear and I could see across to Glencoe and the photographers favourite Buachaille Etive Mor on the distant horizon and immediately wished I was over there as the light looked great, its only about 15 miles from where I stood as the crow flies but a 2 1/2 hour drive by road!
The following day, Sunday 23rd July was promising weather-wise and checking online it looked petty good with clearing skies as it got dark which made me think I could get a few star shots as well in an epic location so I decided to make a return trip, this time I took the mountain bike but from the house and cycled all the way as its not too demanding with steep hills, just gradual climbs here and there, one of the reasons I chose this area to live was that so much was accessible without the need for transport of the motorised variety. So everything packed into the 40l backpack off I set eventually arriving at the location around 7.30pm, sunset was not until 9.40pm although the mountains were in the way so it would be a lot earlier that I witness the sun disappear. When I left home it was warm and sunny down in the village and sheltered from the wind but out on the moorland there was a cool breeze to say the least. I made my way down to the waters edge where the wind was being funnelled straight down the loch between the hills so a good job I brought extra layers to wear. The weather reports were not as I remembered them!
Out with the camera gear and setting up a few shots occasionally keeping my hands in my pockets to warm them up - In July..! - the sun had dropped behind the hills but the clouds looked great so I was happy, the water was a bit choppy so a long exposure to smooth things out using a polarizer and ND grads to increase exposure lengths as I don't have any big stoppers as its not something I normally go for. The clouds kept rolling in and out which always gives a bit more diversity to the finished shots waiting for them to hopefully line up as you want them. This particular shot was taken at 9.39pm which meant the sun was just disappearing over the distant horizon out of site to my left but lighting up the clouds with its reddening glow, using my my 17-40mm lens @ 17mm to get as much of the sky in as possible, 10 seconds exposure at ISO 50 with polariser and a 2 stop hard grad for the sky and a 2 stop soft grad upside down for the foreground. This is one of those occasions where I like both b&w and colour versions, its the colour of the clouds against the monotone foreground that makes me keep a colour version but the b&w has a lot more drama and is my pick of the two.
As a final note, It wasn't the clear night skies that had been forecast as more ominous looking cloud started to build up so it was time to head back home, I eventually reached the end of the tracks where it meets the road and by this time it was around 11.30pm, a couple of guys were just setting out on their bikes to head for Ben Alder bothy to climb the hills the next day, there is always someone who goes that bit further..