Where and when?
Loch Achtriochtan, Glen Coe in September 2019.
The background story
Towards the end of last year I was conscious I had spent precious little time outside with the camera. So I decided to take a week off to do some dedicated landscape photography, splitting my time between the Lake District and Glencoe.
This would be my second visit to Glen Coe and I didn’t have many particular shots in mind. With time limited and the weather predictably unpredictable I wanted to be flexible, keep an open mind and work with whatever conditions I was given.
Unlike a lot of photographs in this series this one did not require that much preparation. I had driven past Loch Achtriochtan a couple of times the previous day and couldn’t help but notice the colours on the side of the mountains and thought it might be nice to try and capture them.
It was going to require sunlight so I waited for a break in the weather on day two and headed over there. It was late morning – so not ideal lighting conditions – but the cloud was breaking and there was even a hint of blue sky to add to colour.
How it came together
The lack of foreground interest meant that I committed to making the colours and reflections the main attraction. I framed the scene to have the mountains coming in from the corners and converging somewhere near the middle. I put the horizon in the middle of the frame to maximise the reflections in the water.
It was a fairly still day but as it was late morning the shutter speeds were getting quicker. So I decided to use a ten-stop filter to slow everything down and ensure that the water was as mirror-like as possible.
Why is it a favourite?
Moments after I captured this shot, the three-stop ND grad slipped out of its holder while my back was turned and landed on the grassy bank below. But not without the very edge of the glass catching a small stone, which in turn caused a huge crack across the filter.
Oh and did I mention I had only bought this filter four months prior? Frustrating doesn’t quite cut it! It also adds to a run of bad luck in Scotland; I lost another filter into a river in Skye in 2016 and slipped on wet rocks and broke my finger in Glen Affric in September!
So why is this a favourite? Because every photo has a story behind it and this one taught me a valuable lesson. Firstly: always make sure you fit your filters properly. The gear didn’t fail me on this occasion; I failed the gear. And second: learn to adapt in the field.
Whether it is bad weather, failing equipment, incorrect location choices (or correct locations at the incorrect time) landscape photography throws all kind of curveballs. Learning how to react to a situation and be able to continue shooting is key. This photo is a constant reminder of just that.