It is a long time since I have just gone out in the car with my camera and no solid plan in place. While driving on to Exmoor national park in the late afternoon, my only plan was to drive around and see what caught my eye. I have been trying to open my eyes to more isolated scenes that I can capture with longer focal lengths. It was nice to be in the open countryside with a flask of coffee, my amateur radio on and the sun out, just absorbing the beauty of the Somerset countryside.
Driving over Winsford Hill as I have many times before, I saw some nice trees in the distance that I hadn’t fully appreciated until now. The light was too harsh though. However, I decided that that would be what I would shoot once the light was more favourable.
The most amazing side light
On my return, the scene before me made me smile. The countryside beyond was bathed in stunning sidelight from the low sun. This formed amazing shadows across the luminescent greens awash with sunlight. I found myself walking quite far to try to find the right composition. The sun was close to the field of view for the compositions that I wanted, which made shooting more challenging.
One of the shots I captured was the one above. I love how the three trees are aligned, complimented by the sheep grazing in the golden light in the middle of the scene. In an ideal world I would have avoided the trees in the foreground, but this doesn’t detract from the scene in this case. I cropped out the sky as it added nothing to the image and some of the background. I like the image in a larger crop too but felt that the 1:3 aspect ratio is more balanced.
Using longer focal lengths
I have been trying to isolate scenes in my landscape photography rather than just use a wide point of view to keep fresh. I think it is important to try to find ways to view things differently. The “intimate landscape” is a term thrown around by many photographers. Finding the right perspective for each scene is something that is worth giving attention to, regardless of the focal length. It can be all too easy to get into the habit of shooting at one focal length all the time, or to use a particular lens. I shot this photo at 188mm on my 70-200 lens. A longer zoom lens is something I really want to add to my kit list. I have already spotted potential compositions that the 70-200mm just isn’t long enough for.
Photographing the North Devon coastline is something I really enjoy. The rugged nature means that sometimes, getting to your chosen location to shoot from can be quite difficult. This was the case here, where I found myself chasing the water’s edge as the tide receded. I managed to position myself overlooking some rocks where I was just out of range of the splashes that were reaching a good 10 feet in the air.
In this photo I love the motion of the sea as it flowed in and out of the deep channel to my left. I like that you can see multiple waves in the distance. There wasn’t much cloud on the horizon, but just enough to add a little detail towards the horizon as the sun sank below it.
The Rocks at Westward Ho!
The rocks at Westward Ho! are massive platforms that extend out into the ocean, with deep channels that the water channels through as the waves roll in. The top of these rocks can be quite slippery and are littered with pools, so a lot of care is needed. A good tip to help to save yourself from a fall is to keep your tripod slightly extended so that you can use it as a support. Never venture out too far on the rocks unless you know the tide is receding. Due to the platform levels of the rocks the tide can cover a large distance in a short time.
As the blue of night began to win the war over the warm tones of the golden hour, the air became still as I looked out from Connel across the southern shore of Loch Etive with my son. I love this part of the evening; the silence of the world around is tangible as it settles into the night.
A transition into the night
I like how the colour in the sky is still quite strong in the scene of the image, and how the darkness is enveloping the rest of the surroundings. This is a very calm scene, far from the drama that had been present not long before. I used the jetty as a leading line, and think it adds balance to the image, which without the cold would be totally different. I think the story in the image is that of contrast. On one side there is a vivid but fading sky, and the other there is the peace of night.
If you visit North Devon, watching the sun set from Westward Ho! should definitely be on your list. From the ridge of large pebbles, the view is amazing, as you look out towards Lundy Island and beyond. The energy of the waves rolling in from the Atlantic are beautiful.
The cooler tones of twilight
Often, sunset is often perceived as being orange, and warm. Sometimes however, they can be much subtler, especially as the sun gets lower towards the horizon. On this occasion, the wind had been howling and the warm light had already passed, and was transitioning to the cooler tones of twilight.
As I followed the ebbing tide while taking my photos, the smooth boulders look amazing, with their wet sheen giving them extra dimension. I love the sky in this image; while still dynamic, it has an air of calm to it. Because the warm light had passed, any other spectator had made their way home, leaving me to enjoy the approaching calm, and savour the view, all to myself.
The UK coastline is particularly rugged in North Devon and Cornwall. Looking west along the coastline away from Blackchurch Rock, I saw a stunning scene before me. The coastline wise adorned with beautiful rock formations, stunning cliffs, and the finishing touch, was a waterfall, cascading onto the beach. The light made moody images the goal for the day and I’m happy with the results.
I balanced the composition by using the waterfall and the foreground rocks as they key elements in the image. The leading lines of the cliffs, and the water’s edge work really well. I used subtle colour, rather than black and white to emphasises the mood.
Rugged Cliffs and Rock Layers
The cliffs are rugged, all along the coastline. I particularly love how you can clear see the different layers in the rock that forms them. I think this gives the cliffs an even stronger presence, and they really are imposing, as they loom over the beach.
I have been creating photos during rainy days as part of a project, and this composition of a viaduct surrounded by the Scottish mountains works well. I was driving along the A82 in the Scotland looking for scenes to capture in the rain, when I saw this viaduct in the distance come into view. I instantly knew that this was a scene I needed to capture. I love how the viaduct is partially obscured by the torrential rain, and how it is framed by the mountains. The mountains in view are Beinn Dorain, Beinn Nam Fuaran, Beinn a’ Chaisteil and Beinn Odhar.
Anyone who is familiar with Scotland knows that the A82 is a busy road, especially in the summer. This meant that I had to find a lay by to stop in as it wasn’t safe to stop at the road side. Luckily there was one close by so I pulled in and found a good composition just along from where I stopped that fitted with what I envisioned. I must have looked a sight to passers-by, stood in torrential rain crouched under my golf umbrella with my Canon EOS 5D Mark 3 on my tripod taking pictures while my family waited in the car.
Stob a’Ghlais Choire was impressive when looking from Glen Etive below, especially as the cloud drifted across the peak. I focused on the intimate landscape for this photo and loved how the small streams of water were feeding into the much larger stream, which was then entering the River Etive. This was further complimented by the lower reaches of Fionn Ghleann, as it leads into the foreground. With the scene’s ambient light and the muted greens, it is still quite easy to imagine yourself there, feeling the Scottish weather.
When viewed larger it is possible to see loads of tiny details that aren’t immediately obvious, like the tree next to the stream. In some ways, I wish there was a recognisable element to give a true sense of scale. Maybe I need to set a timer and run as fast I can into the distance!
Witnessing Nature at Work
Witnessing how much water the mountains can generate in the rain is awe inspiring. The beauty of nature in action is almost hypnotic, especially when trying to comprehend just how much water is being generated from finite points at the mountain tops around you. It would be good to do a nature photography project at some point that centres around this.
Glen Coe is one of my favourite places to go to in Scotland, with or without my camera. The entire length of the glen offers amazing scenery to absorb or capture in any weather, at any time of the year. I didn’t spend as much time there this time, opting to explore the quieter Glen Etive instead.
This is a shot of Buachaille Etive Mor. This Scottish mountain is attractive from all angles. I like this one, because the view of the pass up to towards the peak on the right adds another dimension to the often shot, perfect shape of the mountain. I opted to process this photo in black and white. I think monochrome really suits the mood of the day, and simplifies the image. I really like the tones in this rendition.
The Glen Coe area is a particularly difficult area to shoot, without comparing your images to others taken there, or for others to do the same. The important thing to remember, is that there are so many images of the place, because it is just that beautiful. Enjoy your images, and more importantly, the memories that go along with them.
The rain had been consistent for most of the day but had lightened. It was still really cloudy out but I headed out with my son to look for a viewpoint just in case the cloud broke for sunset. The weather wasn’t looking promising at all so we photographed some trees near Ben Cruachan, on the shore of Loch Awe.
I thought it was worth heading towards Oban to scout out potential images and we headed west we caught the tiniest glimmer of light just on the visible horizon. I knew that the shore of Loch Etive was where I wanted to be to get a good composition of the water with a backdrop of mountains so rushed towards Oban. I spotted this location in Connel that looked ideal. The yacht in the bay looked perfect for the scene and the light was magical. It was as if someone had magically opened a zip along the cloud in the perfect spot to reveal the sky at just the right time. We shot right through the blue hour until the sky had finished its colour show for the night. This is one of the images that I captured. I love how the clouds are still hitting the mountains across the Ardmucknish Bay, and how the clouds were almost parallel with the horizon.
A few hours after we arrived in Dalmally; our base for this visit to Scotland, the sky looked like it was on fire as the sun began to set beyond the mountains. I watched the light develop into a fiery display, and seeing the band of orange light begin to shine across Bienn Eunaich from behind Stob Daimh prompted me to rush to get my camera gear out to capture it. The sky was ethereal, like nothing I have seen in a long, long time. I photographed a few different compositions and then the light faded as quick as it came. I was starting my week in Scotland on a high, knowing that I had already seen my first magical moment.
The sky looked like it was on fire over Stob Daimh nr Dalmally, Argyll & Bute, Scotland.
The ridge of Stob Daimh looked amazing; almost silhouetted against the sky that looked like it was ablaze. Little did I know that Scotland was to deny me golden hour shooting for most of the week. The weather was very wet, although that did open up the opportunity for some moody images of the mountains. I will post more images in the coming days.