Welcome back to everyone and I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and wish you all a very Happy New Year.
2017 was an interesting year for me as far as landscape photography went, I left the coast alone pretty much all year and concentrated on inland areas mainly due to wanting a change and because of my beloved puppy who I felt wasn't ready for dangerous swelling seas and cliff tops just yet, instead we just got chased several times by killer cows !
So much for inland being the safer option !
I managed to get to a few places I have wanted to go for many years including Snowdonia, The Lake District & Scotland, these were real eye openers and they really spurred me on with my adventures.
On the negative side I had such a bad experience in the Lake District that it also knocked my confidence and passion for photography.
On top of that between October & February my work goes into over drive and I spend all day working then come home and work for another 5-6 hours almost every night through sheer volume of bits that need doing.
It is physically & mentally draining and it left hardly any time for landscape photography sadly.
Between October and the 1st of January I only managed to get out three times in two months which was soul destroying.
I did however manage to go to new areas each time which in itself was positive and exciting.
The truth is I had hit a bit of a rut and I wasn't really feeling things at the moment.
There were several factors in this......
1, The bad experience in the Lake District (the last blog will cover that)
2, Being beyond tired due to the excessive workload at this time of year
3, Dorset....The county I once loved with such passion had become boring to me.
4, The non stop copying by other photographers who would literally shoot the same scene, same composition the very next day of it appearing online.
I had become very frustrated when I put an original image up only to see several people go to the venue the very next day and take exactly the same picture in the same way and I had watched it happen time and time again to other photographers when they put their work up.
Now people will say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but I just don't see it like that.
If someone copied a book word for word and then sold it as their own work then it would be copyright and everyone would be unhappy about it, why then is it acceptable to copy a photograph that someone else has taken and expressed their art form in ?
Now this is a double edge sword I guess as in the early years I freely admit that I had done this while finding my feet and style, so I guess it's the pot calling the kettle black and I didn't give a second thought to the original photographer who's picture I had copied.
I felt I wasn't selling pictures it was just for fun so wheres the problem I guess ? For that I am sorry and I never realised how it would feel to be on the receiving end of this myself numerous times.
Dorset has undergone a landscape photographer boom and it seems in the past two years it has exploded and now everyone has a camera. This is a good thing as I genuinely believe that landscape photography opens a persons mind and gives them a focus (pun intended) and can help them live a more rewarding life and become a better person for it.
On the flip side it now means that going to a venue that you once had to yourself was now impossible and you would see a lot more people all fighting for a position so it makes things a little harder.
It also would lead to having your work copied constantly and much frustration, I can only imagine how the pros who have been doing this for 20 years must feel.
The end result of it is that I simply had to make my peace with it and accept that it is just going to happen and in all fairness some venues have an obvious composition that any talented landscape photographer would see right away anyway, it doesn't make it any less frustrating but I guess it's inevitable and in a couple of years the same photographers who copy others will be sat there getting frustrated that they themselves have been copied.
I decided to simply take some time out and have a couple of months off from it all.
Stop looking at social media once again (the route of all evil !!) and just generally keep my head clear of everything.
The answer was staring me in the face, get out of Dorset and go further afield for my pictures, that way I would avoid the crowds of Dorset, avoid the copy cat syndrome and fighting for a tripod space.
The downside to this is it would mean I would be going a lot less as I only had a certain amount of holiday time each year and weekends were a premium where everything else needed to get done.
I felt it was worth getting maybe 6-10 images that I was really happy with in a year instead of going to the same old places but with a different sky etc...
Now it might sound like a very small amount of pictures to get in a year but I'm talking about really tip top images that you would be super proud of, your very, VERY best work and then you start to see its actually quite a lot.
I would never totally turn my back on photographing Dorset, I simply love it too much and still intend to walk the coast often which will lead to taking the camera with me obviously, I just intended to branch out a lot more where possible.
I have been getting more pleasure recently with the workshops I have been running in Dorset, It's really great seeing peoples enthusiasm coming through and their excitement about seeing a venue for the first time and this had injected some much needed enthusiasm back into myself.
Seeing them make real positive improvements on their pictures too had also encouraged me a lot too and I started to feed off that and relish the challenge and get back into the swing of things.
During this time I was helped along by several close friends who encouraged me to pick up the camera again and on several occasions I had literally been forced out with them and for that they have my sincerest thanks as they know me and they know I live & breath this and it is the one thing where I can express myself and feel truly happy with, got mad love for all of you and thanks :)
So January rolled around and I had a workshop booked for the weekend and I decided to take along the camera myself for demonstration purposes at the request of my client.
This turned out to be a much needed boost for me and we all ended up with some cracking pictures, and perhaps more interesting, I had enjoyed Dorset again which I hadn't expected too.
So I have come full circle and you might say well what was the point of this blog, you're back where you were and thats true, But I wanted to relate to everyone how you can get these feelings that are hugely negative and you may well be overwhelmed with your work life etc... BUT the love of Landscape Photography will always be there and the draw as strong as ever, sometimes you just need to walk away from it for a while and let it recover.
Taking a break had done me the world of good as I had become far more focused on what I wanted from my photography and had several trips planned for the year all further afield.
I would still be taking the odd trip here and there to Dorset because it has a special place in my heart and well it was nice and easy to get too.
My main focus would be Wales/Scotland and further tup 'north where holidays allowed and I'm very much looking forward to it. I've always been a very solitary photographer but in recent times I had enjoyed several trips with other people and I'm looking forward to do more of that in 2018.
Good friends are worth their weight in gold and they can help you find your mojo when you've misplaced it and everyone should have them and keep them close.
If your in a rut then do something outside of it and examine what makes you happy about the situation and expand and draw on that and it will lead you through.
I'm a big believer in a change of venue for this too and a trip away can work wonders and ignite the enthusiasm once again.
You can push yourself too hard with landscape photography and it can become all consuming, its good to take a step back from it for a while and pay more attention to the things around you, family, friends, partners etc and give them the same focus you put into it.
Wishing you all much success in 2018 and may your next picture be your very best.
The trip had got off to a pretty poor start and right now hurricane Ophelia was blowing hard outside and I was certain I would wake up to trees down everywhere.
This wasn't my only problem, My car was due into the garage that morning for an urgent repair that I couldn't leave and it was so far the only likely looking day for reasonable weather.
I had managed to get the first appointment possible and set off early from up high at Hawkshead Hill on my way to Windermere, There was lots of small branches in the road but it seemed that hurricane Ophelia hadn't done too much damage so far which was a result, it was dark still but just starting to get light and the wind had totally stopped and in the distance I could see a layer of mist right over Windermere, this was the worst thing in the world as I couldn't stop to shoot it due to the car being dropped off, this was torture.
After the car was sorted I was off like a rocket and Windermere was now devoid of mist, typically so I decided to head off towards Loughrigg Tarn, a small lake that was overlooked by the mountains of Langdale and was picture perfect, I hoped the autumn colours would be in full force here.
Whilst on the way I decided to go a slightly different route to that of the sat nav and in short I took the wrong turn and ended up going past Rydal Water towards Grasmere, this turned out to be the best decision of the trip as the light was just coming out and Grasmere looked absolutely stunning.
As if by magic there was a pull in place and it had a space just calling me to stop. I ran over to the opening that allowed me to get a view of Grasmere and set up on some small steps.
The lake was flat calm and the light was just catching the higher points of the mountains and some mist was forming on the upper layers, This was the moment I had been waiting for and I took several shots.
Looking down the lake there was a beautiful mountain that was almost red in colour as the light hit it and I took several shots of this and its reflection in the water.
The mist had started to really fill up now and several shots were again taken with pleasing results as mountains peaked above it and light streaked through it.
The light had made these shots and I was so happy to have finally nailed some photos of this most beautiful area, I felt the pressure release and with that the light faded and the wind picked up a little bit and with that the beautiful scene in front of me was gone and it made me reflect on a few things, if the car hadn't been in the garage I would have probably ended up shooting mist over Windermere which simply put wouldn't have been as good shot, If I hadn't decided to ignore the sat nav and choose my own way I wouldn't have ended up here and I felt the Lake District was paying me back for the horrific start to the trip it had given me and the unfortunate chain of events that had happened.
I decided I would still check out Loughrigg Tarn and headed off in that direction, parked up and walked down to the tarn. It was beautiful, I knew it would be and it hadn't disappointed.
Lush green grass surrounded it and the burnt orange bordering on red colours of the fell sparkled in the sun.
There was still cloud around and the water was calm, The sun was a bit brighter than I would have liked but I wasn't going to complain and as I walked round the lake I took several pictures.
Loughrigg Tarn had several areas with nice stones leading down to the waters edge and I chose to focus on these to start with and got a few reasonable shots.
There was also a gate that went into the water separating the out of bounds area which belonged to the campsite.
As I tried to get down to it my feet squelched into the waterlogged muddy area and I knew I was going to get wet feet but I was a man possessed and I wasn't going to let anything spoil the chance of a picture of this area.
The light had started to get a bit patchy now and I decided to move on taking a route towards the mountains, I wasn't sure where it went but it had to go towards the mountains so it was a good start.
After a brief few twists & turns I was presented with a great view of the mountains of Langdale and I eagerly got a few images.
I moved further down the road and was greeted with some fabulous light catching the mountains where the road passed through and again I stopped the car and rushed to get the gear out and got several images I was happy with, I loved this type of photography where light & shadow roll across a mountain it's what I live for and was thankful that I had been able to get these shots.
Again I went further down the road and eventually came to a small but perfectly formed bridge that was surrounded by autumn colours and the light was hitting it with mountains in the background and low cloud it was exactly the sort of shot I had been looking for.
The weather started to change again rapidly and I headed North to try and catch the last of it.
I hadn't visited Derwent Water properly yet and looked forward to seeing this area.
By the time I got there it was pretty windy, very cloudy and not looking too great but there was still light coming through in patches.
I walked past the famous boats on the shore of Derwent Water and the moorings even further down, Something had caught my eye and it was an old mooring or jetty that was way out into the water and they were all leaning at funny angles and I really liked it as a feature.
Behind them in the distance was a mountain I later found out to be called Catbelles and the light was occasionally coming out and pointing right at it.
I set up with a long lens and waited, the light was teasing me and it would barely come out but I had nowhere else to be and I would wait patiently for it.
I couldn't make my mind up whether to shoot it with the 70-200mm or the wide angle 16-35mm and kept switching between the two and it seemed every time I was making the switch the light was coming back, it drove me crazy.
Decisive action was needed so I switched to the 24-105mm to give me the best of both worlds.
I tend to avoid this lens where possible as I feel its a little bit soft, There is nothing wrong with the lens but the 16-35 & 70-200 are both so sharp they are simply the preferred choice for any shots.
I took several photos at varying exposures and eventually got several shots I was pleased with.
I walked further back to the moorings and shot a few from here with big posts in the foreground and Catbelles mountain in the background with light rays coming down on it.
The wind had now really picked up and as I walked back I wanted to get a picture of all the boats parked up on the waters edge but they were all rocking back and forth so a higher ISO speed was used to give me a faster shutter speed whilst being able to retain good depth of field and again I was pretty happy with the results.
That pretty much concluded The shoot as it clouded over completely and the rain started once again and just carried on.
I was grateful for this one morning of nice weather and it had accounted for about 90% of the shots from the trip so far.
I headed back towards base camp and to my delight went through the bad weather and into some nicer patchy cloud which was letting light through, it rolled over the mountains so I went for high ground and looked across the Windermere valley and surrounding areas and I was able to get several nice images full of autumn colours and beautiful light.
The weather for the remainder of the day was very poor and I never managed to get out again other than a brief hike up to Tarn Hows but that was for pleasure rather than for taking pictures as the weather just wasn't there for it.
I looked at the forecast for the rest of the week and it was simply rain and at this point I had almost decided to call it a day and go home as Dorset was having decent weather but I decided I would give it another day on the off chance and I really fancied the area at Wasdale head again and Wast Water.
I was happy I had at least got some pictures from the trip and as I woke that morning I knew today probably wasn't going to be any good but I was going to go anyway.
I headed down to Wast Water and grey cloud seemed to get thicker and thicker, it wasn't looking good.
When I finally arrived it was much as I had expected, flat and grey and not really worth shooting but I wanted a shot to remind me that I had unfinished business here and that I needed to return to this area.
The shot while not a good one will give you an idea of the potential for this area and why I wanted it so bad, it's simply stunning.
I decided I was out so I would go to Loweswater which was very impressive but again no pictures were taken due to high winds and heavy rain but a return trip was on the cards for sure, From here to get back to base I could go past Crummock Water and Buttermere which seemed like a good plan but the weather once again put paid to any shots.
I was heart broken not to have even taken a picture of Buttermere, it was the one lake I really wanted but that was the way with these trips.
From Buttermere I would head to Derwent Water over the Honister pass, boy that was an experience and I was glad I had got my brakes fixed on the car as it was fairly steep to say the least.
As I approached Derwent water I decided I would go and have a look at Ashness bridge which if you don't know the name you will have probably seen the picture, It's certainly the most famous view in the Lake District and probably one of the best known bridges in England.
The drive up is quite steep and as you go over the bridge itself its very, very narrow but I have to say it is beautiful.
The shot would be great at sunset or sunrise as it was a view out to the mountains and I have to say I wanted to shoot it in better conditions but I didn't have that luxury today, it was pretty flat and you could barely see the mountains due to the cloud.
It was also swarming with tourists who were enjoying the bridge and the view and obviously didn't care about the photographer waiting for a clear view to shoot it, one couple even decided to have their lunch sat on the bridge, frustrating wasn't the word !
I persevered and eventually got a shot in portrait mode managing to frame it so the wandering masses were outside of the frame but it wasn't very good, conditions were just not on my side.
I walked up to an area know as "Surprise View" and it was pretty special I have to say but it was poor weather and I didn't bother photographing it for that reason but it was very nice to have seen it.
I called it a day and went back to base camp, I wasn't due to leave till Saturday morning but I had really come to the end of my tether now with the Lake District, it had been exceptionally cruel and to put it bluntly I just wasn't enjoying myself and thats what I do this for.
I decided that Friday morning I would head back to Dorset first thing, I packed everything up on Thursday night and was ready for the off in the morning.
The weather forecast had been for heavy rain and as I got up and looked outside I was dismayed to see some pretty nice weather and wondered if I should go back out but in truth my heart just wasn't in it and the Lake District had broken me a little and the spirit was damaged and needed to heal.
Dorset would sort me out with all of the good weather they were having, I got in the car and started the journey back, thats when I heard it on the radio, Storm Brian would hit Dorset today and the weather was going to be fowl.
I wasn't even upset, I just laughed as this whole trip had gone this way and it was one I would sooner forget.
The Lake District is a beautiful place but it's not without its pitfalls, its a tourist explosion everywhere you go and it makes life hard to park and to shoot. Its exceptionally expensive to park anywhere unless your a National Trust member and to be honest I felt that National trust were really exploiting non members by charging outrageous fees and I questioned my future membership with them, they seem to have taken a turn for the worse recently and I was unhappy about it.
The roads in the Lake District are small and of poor quality and frankly they are dangerous when covered in so many slippery leaves and with steep hills I wondered how people got around there in Winter.
It was a real disappointment for me sadly which is a great shame as it had been one of my most wanted places to visit.
That said I am sure I will go back someday as one bad week there can't write the future and I know the Lake District has many gifts to give up, it still remains one of the most beautiful parts of the country.
You can view all of the pictures from my trip HERE
Thanks to everyone who has read my blogs and supported me by reposting and commenting on them, it really is truly appreciated more than you will know.
For now my plan is a return trip to both Wales & Scotland in search of some snow capped mountains but that will mean putting in some serious graft at work in order to fund this so thats where I'm heading now, back to the daily grind.
I had just finished a week in Scotland and I was now driving from Glasgow to the Lake District, in autumn to shoot one of the most scenic areas in the country, was I excited ? I was fit to burst.
I had looked for endless hours at locations in the Lake District and felt like I knew the area already pretty well, this trip had a lot of planning gone into it.
All week while in Scotland I had been keeping an eye on Cumbria's weather and seeing what was going on there and it looked quite reasonable but today was different.
It was greyer than grey could be, full of fog and raining hard, not really the way that I wanted to start but I didn't care, I'd been in this situation before and I would make the best of it, or so I thought.
I was staying in an area called Hawkshead Hill which was right at the tip of Lake Windermere and Conistion, with the added bonus it was a short walk from Tarn Hows which was one of the main reasons I was going.
As I drove into Cumbria I saw a sign for Castlerigg stone circles and I had some time to kill so I followed the signs to my first look at the Lake District.
I had seen pictures of Castlerigg Stone Circle before and it's a beautiful man made circle on top of a large hill surrounded by mountains including Helvellyn of which I wanted to see.
As I got out of the car I was pleased to see only a handful of people there, mainly due to the fact that it was hammering down with rain but even so it was a Saturday in October and I felt I had a bit of luck as I expected it to be much busier.
Conditions weren't up to much, it was raining, there was hardly any light coming through but I couldn't check in to my cottage till 3 o clock so I had some time to kill.
I waited patiently in the rain for it to allow just a small bit of light through and give me something I could use but it didn't come and eventually I conceded defeat and decided to go and explorer the area a little more.
The Lake District has one main road running right the way through the middle, The A591 and it was a nice wide decent road with occasional duel carriageway areas, very nice I thought. There are also some other good roads around the outside of it, the A595 for example takes you away from the main mountain range and although single lanes its a reasonably fast and good road.
Every other road in the lakes seemed to be quite tiny and mirrors were spending more time being folded in than out on the car.
In fact the more rural you went the smaller the roads were, if another car came it would result in one of the parties having to back up until a passing place came in to view and I must admit I didn't really like it that much.
As I drove down the A591 I got my first glimpse of one of these wondrous lakes, it was Thirlmere and it was a very long and slim lake (much like all of them in fact) and it had several islands and some lovely autumn colours too, but alas no light so I continued on in search of what else was there.
Further on the same road I came to Grasmere which was a really pretty lake and one that I very much wanted a chance to shoot. Further on and Rydal Water came into view, very similar to Grasmere but with its own character and a beautiful boat house, things looked good if the weather would just let up.
Just as I needed to turn off to get my key I saw the edge of Windermere and I decided to drive straight on to have a look at it, Windermere is the largest of the main lakes and perhaps the best known.
As I drove around the lake edge I wasn't getting the same feelings as the other lakes had given me, Windermere just wasn't that great, Sure there were some areas where it look nice but I wasn't super excited about it which was a bit of a shame as I was going to be staying just a stones throw from it.
I finally got to my cottage which looked like it had been decorated in early 1900s but it was warm and comfortable enough and I thought i'd hardly be spending any time there so it didn't really matter what it looked like.
As it happens I got to rather enjoy the cottage but I did miss a settee, it had 2 recliner seats in instead and that just wasn't the same.
I had been very specific when I booked it that it must have a good internet connection so I could upload my pictures from each day to Dropbox to keep them safe and I had been assured it fitted the bill.
They lied, they lied big time. Web browsing was virtually impossible and if you tried to upload a picture the router nearly had a heart attack, I was less than amused but I had brought along a spare external hard drive just in case this very situation happened and I was glad I had.
The weather had set in for the day and I decided not to bother going out again that evening, instead I would plan my assault tomorrow instead, a quick look at the forecast too see what I had to look forward too.....
Rain, the whole week nothing but rain, no let up no sun just rain, I was devastated.
Now I don't put too much faith in the weather forecast, instead I look outside and go with my gut but this was too much of a signal to ignore.
There were weather warnings issued for the volume of rain that was due to fall and there was a hurricane due in a few days too so things really were looking a bit crap for want of a better word.
I looked all over Cumbria and even further out to Yorkshire etc to see if there was any other options to get some decent weather, I checked Dorset and it was all sun & rain and for once I was super jealous not to be there, as if to confirm the fact I got a text message from a friend back in Dorset asking if I was out as it was all about to go off.
I replied simply with a picture of the weeks weather forecast, it said it all.
Sympathy from my friend was over quickly as they sent me picture after picture of the epic sky that was colouring up all over Dorset and I cursed my luck but tried to keep it positive.
I decided to get out of the house and take a drive down to Coniston even if it was pouring with rain, I had been going along the shore when a Jetty came into view. Now the Lake District cliche of all cliches is the Jetty shot but they really do know how to build a good one there and they're very photogenic and the rain eased just for a few moments so I thought why not.
I jumped out of the car and headed over to the jetty and set the camera on the tripod, reached into the rucksack for my filters and they weren't there, the sudden realisation that they were still sat on the table where I had taken them out to give them a good clean had hit me and it just about summed up the day.
I took a few pictures before the rain returned but they wouldn't see the light of day.
Dejected I headed back to base camp making sure my first job as soon as I got in was to pack the filters back into the ruck sack.
I was glad to see the back of the day and it ended as grey as it had started, tomorrow was another day and despite the forecast there was always a chance.
It seemed the North of the Lake District held the best chance of getting a picture as the weather was the least extreme there so with an eager start I headed back off to Castlerigg Stone Circles to start the day, The sunrise never really happened and big stormy clouds swirled round and the odd bit of light popped through and I managed to get a few images but nothing special.
I decided to go and have a look at Buttermere on the advice of a good friend who had visited it recently, the weather wasn't really looking great though.
The drive down was through a diversion and I noted a great spot if the weather changed from high up, as I went through the narrow lanes towards Buttermere the weather looked like it might change a little, it was very dark but odd light rays were getting through here and there.
The northern sense of humour was in full effect as I went over a cattle grid and noticed a sign which read "Tek care, Lambs ont road" which did make me giggle.
I drove past a large expanse of water known as Crummock water and there was some good areas where fences and gates met the water if only the light would play ball, driving further on to Buttermere down very narrow lanes I was disappointed that my first view of somewhere so iconic would be in such bad conditions.
I pulled into the car park at Buttermere and went for a wander round, it was indeed a very impressive place even in this fowl weather. I could see the shots in front of me that I had seen in books and on a computer screen many times but none of it filled me with any enthusiasm as it was just unshootable.
I decided to dive back up to Crummock water where the light had been popping through and found a nice area to shoot and waited, I waited for a long time but I wasn't going till I got a shot.
Finally some light drifted over the mountain at the end of the lake and I got a shot, It wasn't great but it was something.
As quickly as the light had started it stopped again and after waiting for ages I decided to head further in again, This time to Derwent Water.
As I was driving down the road there was a sudden burst of light further down on the mountains and I went straight past Derwent water in hot pursuit of the light.
No matter where I went I just couldn't get an angle on it and it faded along with my hopes of getting anything.
I decided a trip to the shops was in order and grabbed some comfort food and headed back.
The place I was staying at was only 20 miles away but it took nearly an hour to get to due to the slow roads and weekend traffic, By the time I got in it was around 2pm and conditions had really taken a turn for the worst and rain set in for the day and that was the end of Sunday.
Despite willing it to change it just didn't and I spent the rest of the day house bound and moping around like a caged animal.
Monday was exactly the same thing, heavy rain all day and night and I didn't get out at all, Now I was feeling the pressure as I didn't want to have used up a weeks precious holiday and go home with hardly any shots but it really was torrential and just no chance of getting out even with an umbrella as the wind was just too strong.
I decided to make use of my time by hiking around the area instead while leaving the camera at base camp, I found some interesting areas and prayed the weather would ease up over the week.
Tuesday came and it was much the same conditions but id had enough of not taking any pictures so I decided to go out anyway and visit Wast Water and Wasdale head.
This was only 11 miles as the crow flies from where I was staying but I was going to have to drive 35 miles just to get to it because of the mountains being impassable not to mention the fact it was going to take an hour and a half according to the sat nav, I wasn't amused.
The drive up to Wast Water was shocking to say the least and I knew that in reality there would be little or no chance of pictures due to the really high winds and the intense rain.
When I finally got there I have to say I was blown away by it, It was a really incredible sight to see this long stretch of water running down to some huge mountains, well it would have been if it wasn't covered in clouds and you could actually see them. Despite it looking pretty shocking I could see why it was called "Britain's favourite view"
There was a group of other photographers there who had decided to brave the elements and I can't for the life of me see why ? There was zero light, it was covered in low cloud and fog and it was raining elephants.
I ended up watching them for around 30 minutes getting blown backwards and forwards and wiping their lens every 5 seconds, if someone had played the Benny Hill theme song at this point I think I would have wet myself, it was comedy on an epic scale !
I have to admire their spirit but I can honestly say I thought it was beyond pointless being out in that but each to their own.
I decided to move off North again in search of better weather to Ennerdale Water, I fired the sat nav up and hit the gas.
Now sat navs can be unpredictable at the best of times and the route choices are more than questionable but this was taking my up a hill that was so steep it was frankly scary and then when someone came flying down the other way I ended up having to park my car, in a bloody ditch.
This was the last thing I needed, Storm Ophelia was about to happen and I was stuck fast in a ditch unable to get my car out in the middle of nowhere, at this point I could have cried frankly and just gone home.
First stop was to a farm where the door was answered by an 86 year old farmer who was keen to help but I just couldn't ask him to do that, while pondering what to do next a workman's lorry pulled up and was unable to get past my car as it was stuck fast and he said he had a digger at home which was only ten minutes away and he would pull me out.
Relief was an understatement and as I sat there waiting I reflected on how lucky I had been that this chap had been passing, otherwise I just couldn't see a way out of there due to the steep hill another car wouldn't be able to get up it while pulling another one.
I heard the noise of tracks rolling down the road and looked round expecting to see a JCB but instead it was a tiny one man digger and my heart sank as I just didn't think it would be able to pull the car out.
When he finally got level I said my fears to him and he said it would all be fine and proceeded to put a strap on the car and attached to the digger, I have to say I nearly fell over when he gave it a pull and the car came out, dam theres some power in those things.
I was so grateful to this chap and his toy digger words just couldn't say.
The damage on the car was fairly minimal, it had torn up the underside and I had a slice on the tyre which needed attention but the bodywork remained not to bad.
After bunging him a few quid for his trouble he sent me on my way to the local garage who patched up the underneath of the car with those problem solving miracles, cable ties and I was once again mobile but I was fed up in the extreme and decided to head back to base camp.
The drive back had me on edge the whole way and the breaks had a right hammering and badly needed to be replaced, I limped the car past Coniston where a small patch of light came out and made me take a welcome break.
I looked down the shores of Coniston and took a couple of images which came out reasonably well and decided to go for a wander to calm my nerves, As I walked through forest lane I came to the end and there was a jetty right in front of me that I recognised as Rigg wood jetty and I hopped on it and get a better viewpoint of the light falling across Coniston.
This went on for a short while before the sky got much darker but light rays punched through right in front of the jetty, I wanted to get decent shots and not too many cliches but this was too good to miss so I fired off a few and ended up with some decent shots.
I limped the car home again and got it booked into a garage for the following morning, Storm Ophelia was going to hit tonight and I decided I better batten down the hatches and stay hold up for the night.
The car was being sorted first thing in the morning but now there was a much bigger problem, the forecast had changed and there was actually some light forecast first thing, I cursed the fact I would be without a car when the only chance of the week was presenting itself.
That night Hurricane Ophelia did her worst and it hit Ireland and the UK hard and sadly there were a few deaths which kind of put everything in perspective really.
I could hear it outside lashing the building and I was glad I wasn't out in it and thanked my lucky stars that I had been pulled out if the ditch or I might still be there.
For now though it was time for bed and to formulate a plan on how on earth I was going to manage to get shots with no car.
Part 2 will be out next week, thanks very much for reading and special thanks to those who comment and share these blogs.
Part four of my Scottish adventure sees me visiting the Cairngorms National Park in the north east of Scotland.
I had done a little research on the area and in truth it was going to be a "back up" area in case the weather didn't play ball around Glencoe & Skye which was the case on most days.
The Cairngorms only recently gained national park status in 2003 and is the largest national park in the British isles, and there is another planned expansion of the boundaries for the future.
The Cairngorms is not only home to some magnificent mountain ranges & lochs but also to a who host of rare and protected wildlife and is a really unspoilt area.
I had not been able to find out too much information before the trip so it was very much the unknown for me and that always adds to the adventure but as it turned out it was by far the biggest surprise of my Scottish adventure and the one I can't wait to visit again.
The strange thing is I had read a few accounts of people visiting the area who had been fairly negative about it in terms of photographic potential but at the same time I had seen some wonderful images from here so I had mixed feelings about going.
This account is of five days in Scotland where I visited the Cairngorms at several different times but I will put it all together in the order of which I went.
The weather in Glencoe & Skye was shocking to say the least, almost non stop rain and high winds but the north east of Scotland was actually showing some much more favourable conditions and never one to look a gift horse in the mouth I decided on Tuesday to venture over to the Aberdeenshire coast to go to Bow Fiddle Rock, named simply because of its uncanny resemblance to a violin bow.
I had seen this well known rock formation many times and I wanted to visit it myself and then I could go directly to the Cairngorms national park afterwards.
The weather looked good for sunrise at Bow Fiddle and a plan was hatched to go the next morning.
The alarm clock rang out like a demented harpy and brought me out of a deep sleep full of excitement about the mornings trip, I looked outside and that excitement was quickly replaced with a soul crushing sinking feeling as it was raining cats & dogs, in fact it was probably nearly elephants & Rhinos.
I checked the forecast again and it had changed but there was hope on the horizon, it said the weather would clear around sunrise time and I had thoughts in my head of clouds breaking and epic light punching through over Bow Fiddle rock.
The drive down from Inverness was a fairly long one and the weather didn't really look like it was going to do what the weathermen had predicted, it was still raining very hard and thick cloud consumed the sky.
The further I got into the journey the more I wished I wasn't going as it looked like it would be a long trip for nothing but I was over half way now so I kept going.
The cloud did indeed start to ease and break up a bit and the rain stopped and once again it was looking good, that is until nearly all the cloud went and I was left with that arch enemy of all landscape photographers, clear sky.
I pulled into a housing estate which I knew was the right way but it seemed really strange to think that one of the most photogenic rock stacks was right on the back of houses but as I rounded the bend there was no mistaking the top of Bow fiddle rock looking back towards me.
The journey had taken a little longer than planned mainly due to rush hour traffic and a great deal of optimism on my part with the Scottish traffic and sunrise was due within the next ten minutes.
There was a bit of rogue cloud around and this was what I was after, The sun would be coming up from the side of the rock and I was hoping to shoot with one side heavily lit from the sun with the other edge quite dark and just catching the odd glint of morning light.
In recent times I had stopped shooting sunrise or sunset scenes preferring to capture the light on the subject instead of the sun still being behind the horizon and just getting lots of colour etc...
I made the short scramble down to the rock and waited, there was the briefest moment of colour but the light never really hit the rock with any intensity and in truth it wasn't the shot I wanted but I took a couple for the memory of visiting this wonderful place.
I decided not to wait around on the off chance the light was going to pick up as I felt it wouldn't and decided to head to the Cairngorms instead, While on route I went through some nice rolling fields that were just catching light with a few bails of hay, cliche maybe but welcome all the same.
I passed several of the really well known distilleries too which was nice to see, even though I hardly ever drink.
The road leading to the Cairngorms was beautiful, real countryside full of hills and colours, sadly very few areas to pull over at the most photogenic areas but it was all noted for future visits.
I decided to go to Ruthven Barracks first which was built in the early 1700's as part of the Jacobite uprising and also where they congregated after the defeat at Colloden before their final surrender.
A real historical gem and it had the added bonus that the road back from here was jam packed with lochs and opportunity for some great pictures if I was lucky.
Ruthven Barracks can be seen from miles away due to it's elevated position on a hill and as I looked over from the roadside I could see it bathed in light and I couldn't wait to get there.
As I rounded the corner there was some form of roadwork going on and I had to wait for what seemed like eternity but in reality was probably only around 15 minutes as a huge earth moving piece of machinery was carefully moved into what seemed like an impossible position.
Finally there was a green light and I drove on just in time to see the light go in, a few expletives were uttered and I pulled up and waited, and waited some more but the light wasn't playing ball.
I decided to change my position and see if there was a better view available from further down the path, no sooner had I left my spot the light rained down again and I ran back to get it, tripod ready, camera on and ready, hang on where has the light gone ?
This game again, frustrating but I wasn't going to be beaten and with a little patience I eventually got the shot I wanted, driving on down the road blindly to see what else was here I looked in the rear view mirror and could see the barracks lit up again and I liked the curve in the road and behold, a pull in place.
I couldn't get out fast enough and managed to capture a much better image of the barracks and was really happy. Sometimes you have to wait and age and other times it's there on a plate.
As I drove round the winding roads not entirely sure where I was going but not really worried as the whole area was beautiful and the colour yellow was everywhere, and I do mean everywhere.
Birch trees had started their autumn change and the whole landscape looked almost fluorescent and it really was beautiful. I can't stress just how much yellow was here and how bright the colour was, getting lost had been a real eye opener.
I managed to get several shots just by pulling over on the roadside as scenes presented themselves even though it wasn't a very wide road.
I was enjoying the Cairngorms, it was nice weather, beautiful scenery & colour and it made a real change from the terrible rain I had suffered at Glencoe several times.
I headed to Loch an Eilein which had a small island on it with and old church/castle structure that had long since succumbed to the elements but I wanted to have a look as I had seen some great images of the place.
I pulled in and was surprised to find a pay & display car park as most places had been free so far but it was a very well run facility with toilets etc available but also VERY popular.
By this point the weather had clouded over a little bit and all thoughts of capturing some nice light on the surrounding mountains was now gone, I walked down the back and got my first glimpse of the island and I don't know why but it just wasn't how I thought it would be and the grey conditions did nothing to help that and I was pretty gutted to be honest as I just didn't want to shoot it.
Another time and with better conditions and I would be all over this place as it was beautiful but on the day it just didn't look good and I left in search of other areas.
This was the way it went for much of the day to be fair, Several more lochs visited, each one more beautiful than the last but each one not looking their best due to the lack of light and I decided not to photograph them as it would in effect be just a poor snap rather than a picture showing their beauty and character.
I called it a day and headed home but I would return during my time here as I really liked the area and it was without doubt the biggest surprise of my trip and felt much more of an unknown rather than the heavily photographed areas like Glencoe.
The Cairngorm mountains are not as dramatic as other areas like Glencoe, they are far more gradual in their slope and pretty smooth but they had real character about them and I liked it a lot but understood why people visited other areas rather than this one.
During one of my fruitless trips to Glencoe once again in terrible weather I decided to divert and head back to the Cairngorms and chase the better weather, I hadn't gone this route before and was looking forward to discovering new sights.
As I headed up the A86 road I was full of expectation and I have to say it didn't disappoint, the weather improved and the scenery was fantastic, big mountains, Lochs of all shapes and sizes and green and yellow as far as the eyes could see.
I made several stops and shot several areas, sadly a lot of which were just too harsh on the light to give me the pictures I wanted but once again I was blown away by what the Cairngorms had to offer and decided that I would spend much more time here in the future.
The area was largely free of tourists and other photographers and I felt I could shoot on my own terms and take my time more, I sat and enjoyed the views as well rather than just taking pictures and it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I wished I had discovered this area sooner as sadly it was nearing the end of my trip.
Several mountains were shot as light fell perfectly on them and several Lochs for the same reason and once again the beast had been fed and I was happy.
I headed back to base camp as the light had changed again and reflected on my trip, I had driven nearly 2500 miles in one week chasing round Scotland and looking for decent weather, I had got a few images I was really pleased with and discovered a lot of areas I wished to visit again.
It had been an experience, I had been unlucky with the weather but determination and going the extra mile (literally) had given me a few decent ones to come home with and a wealth of experience to plan other trips with.
Scotland is without doubt the most amazing place I have visited for landscape photography and is a photographers dream of which I will be pursuing.
When shooting Scotland you have to be prepared to roll with the punches and adapt quickly, always have a back up plan and back up to the back up because you will need it.
Several people told me, if you don't like the weather wait ten minutes as it will change and that rings very true for a lot of it except maybe Glencoe, Glencoe just rained !
You can view all the pictures from my Scotland trip HERE
I treated this trip as more of a fact finding mission and I fully intend to go back early part of next year as I would like to capture it with snow on the peeks of the mountains, Autumn however had been a great time to shoot the Cairngorms and I'm pretty sure ill be there next year for a dedicated week there.
For now though that was the end of my Scottish adventure but something else was on the horizon, I had booked a week in the Lake District and this is where I was now heading.
I have wanted to shoot the Lake District for an eternity and I was finally going to do it, but it wasn't going to be the trip I hoped for, as I drove from Glasgow to the Lakes the wind was getting up, Storm Ophelia was starting to make herself known and I was driving right into the teeth of it, This promised to be an interesting experience and you can read all about it in next weeks blog.
Thanks once again for reading this Blog and letting me bore you with my adventures and an extra thank you to those who have supported and shared these bogs too, your support and help is truly appreciated.
The Isle of Skye is perhaps one of the best known photography locations in the UK and maybe even the world ? It has everything a landscape photographer could wish for, Heritage, Seascapes, Mountains, Waterfalls, Lochs, the list just goes on and on.
I have seen thousands of pictures from the Isle of Skye and it was somewhere I really wanted to visit and see with my own eyes, a landscape photography mecca if you like.
I knew in advance that it wasn't going to be a case of getting original shots as the vast majority of Skye had been photographed and done very well by many others before me, it was more about having the chance to tread the footsteps that photographers I admired had done before me and seeing these incredible sights for myself, Half of me wasn't even worried about photographing it, it was just about being there.
That said I wasn't going to miss my chance at getting some photos while I was there, that would be madness.
The weather forecast had been looking pretty awful for the week I was staying in Scotland sadly, with the majority of the rain forming over the Isle of Skye and Glencoe areas which typically were the areas I most wanted to visit.
There was a small glimmer of hope on the horizon though, Monday had sun & rain forecast even though the rain was heavy and looking further down the week there was nothing but rain so I wasn't going to miss a chance while it was there even if it was only a slim one.
There were several areas of Skye that I really wanted to visit and I had made a map of the locations and decided on my best times to visit them for the best chances.
One of the main attractions at the Isle of Skye is Eilean Donan Castle which was a simply stunning castle that was on a small island out in the middle of where three lochs meet.
This was going to be my first stop and I intended to be there for sunrise for a number of reasons, mainly to avoid the tourists who flock to this area in their droves and because I really wanted to get first light hitting the castle and surrounding mountains.
The drive from Inverness to Skye was a fairly straight forward one as there was one main road all the way in to Skye from Loch Ness, I was driving down it in pitch black early morning conditions with heavy driving rain which wasn't very encouraging but I couldn't help but notice there were several lochs and loads of mountains on this road and I really wished I had been driving it during day light to see the scenery properly because it looked seriously interesting and I noted it as a back up plan for the drive back that evening if I had time.
I knew i couldn't cover all of Skye's delights in a single day, I could have been there all year and not done that but I knew my most wanted areas and I was going to hit as many as I could.
About five miles from Eilean Donan Castle the rain started to ease a little bit and I was almost holding my breath wondering if the conditions might actually play ball for me.
As I rounded the bend I got my first view of the castle, I can't really print what I said but it would be very fair to say that I was impressed and it was every bit the amazing place I had thought it would be.
I was really keen to get some pictures but the flat grey skies that had plagued the trip so far were still here.
I looked around for a few compositions which seemed to be everywhere and decided on the areas I wanted to go for. I had been very fortunate to have the place to myself and I couldn't believe that no one else was here yet ?
Then it dawned on me, who else would be stupid enough to be standing in the rain in the early hours of Monday morning, Why, Why do we do it ?
I knew the shots were never going to be great with the conditions that I was presented with but even so I wanted to get some reminders of this amazing place so I got busy and started taking a few.
A small bit of light pink had caught on the clouds and it was about as good as it got for me really and I made the best of what I had.
Out of nowhere came a mini JCB style digger which went out on the bridge to the castle and parked up which wasn't anything other than a big yellow ugly blight on the landscape so I called it a day and took a moment to look at the placard which told the history of the castle.
The name Eilean Donan is often mistaken for a persons name but it simply means Island of Donan. The first structure was built on the island in the 13th century as a defensive position from the Vikings who had settled and controlled a lot of north Scotland as well as the waring Scottish clans. Over the years the castle has been added to and in some case had areas removed and during the medieval period it was at it's largest where it occupied most of the island.
Towards the end of the 14th century the castle was reduced to around a 5th of its size, although no one is sure why it is general opinion that it was due to the amount of man power it took to man the castle.
The castle played a large part in the Jackobite risings during the 17th & 18th century where it was ultimately destroyed and lay in ruins at the mercy of the elements for around 200 years.
Lt Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap purchased the island in 1911 and set about restoring the castle with his clerk of works, Farquar Macrae based on the only surviving ground plan, the work took 20 years to complete finally in 1932.
The castle is often described as the most beautiful castle in Scotland and I can see why and when you know the full history of the place it just becomes even more special and I was ecstatic to have seen it for myself.
From here I decided to head right up to the North end of Skye to visit Storr and shoot the world famous "Old Man".
I crossed over the bridge into Skye and the rain returned but so did the light and I pulled over at a fairly unscenic section convinced there would be a rainbow at any second, It came out almost on cue but the area was not really photogenic and I raced back to the car hoping to find somewhere better, I rounded the next bend and found it.
There was a bay and it had mountains at the back and light was pouring over the edge and once again a rainbow came out to play and I couldn't get the camera out fast enough and managed to get a couple of pictures before the heavy rain took hold and forced me back into the car.
It was torture, light bouncing around all over the place but heavy rain and high winds were stopping me from getting a shot, everywhere I looked was light.
I drove further down the road and I quickly pulled in again having spotted new areas, this was the way at Skye, everywhere I went it just looked great.
The rain started to win the battle and I was forced to drive on to Storr (some 30 miles away) but believe me I could have happily stopped around 100 times on that journey alone if it hadn't been for the excessive rain.
I was nearing the Old Man of Storr and I couldn't wait to see it, I was around a mile or two away and as I drove over the hill I got my first glimpse and it was simply epic.
The rain had let up briefly and there was a big cloud right along the top ridge where the old man resided.
I had to pull over and rushed out to the head of Loch Leathan and got the long lens out.
There was a ripple on the water and the classic reflection shot wasn't going to happen but light was pouring over the mountain and the old man and I got some shots I really liked so I was more than happy.
At this point hoards of Japanese tourists turned up and I hate to stereo type anyone but they really where the epitome of the camera wielding excitable stereo type that you see on TV.
I tried my hardest to move away from them but if they saw someone with a camera they rushed to photograph the same thing, I could have pointed my camera at the ground and they would have rushed to have shot that, it was comical.
I was literally flabbergasted when they would just wander in front of my camera and stand there while they photographed one of their clan jumping in front of absolutely anything.
I waited patiently but more and more turned up so I climbed over a gate to get into a field away from everyone and to my horror they all followed me once again standing in front.
This was just to much to cope with especially when your a person who avoids people where possible so I left them too it.
By this time the cloud had covered over the Old Man itself and I decided against making the climb up as I didn't feel that the shot would be there so I cut my loses and moved further down.
As I approached the Old Man I knew I had made the right decision as it was tourist mayhem, cars everywhere and buses and it was my idea of hell, it was a Monday and October but yet it was swarming with people, I dreaded to think what it would be like in high summer.
A little further up the road was Kilt rock, a wonderful rock stack on the cliff edge that has the appearance of a tartan kilt, hence the name. It had the added bonus of a waterfall right in front of it too so I headed off in the general direction hoping for less tourists.
Now at this point your probably thinking I sound like a right moody old sod, and in all fairness you would probably be right ! I have nothing against tourists, I was one of them on this occasion after all but photography and crowds of people just don't mix, unless your passion is shooting riots.
I am always respectful that it's everyones right to be there and do what they like and I will wait patiently for a clear moment to shoot, sadly that same respect is never shown back and clueless people really do wind me up but I just have to bite my tongue ! I really am a friendly person normally, tourists just bring out the worst in me.
A roadside pull over point appeared and there was some stunning light rolling over mountains so I stopped and enjoyed some solitude for all of 30 seconds till the Japanese tourists from earlier rolled up and rushed off their bus to shoot whatever I was looking at, they seemed pleased to see me again, I smiled on my face and cried a little inside and moved on.
Kilt rock as suspected was busy and there was only one viewing platform so I once again waited for my turn and managed to get a couple of shots just as some light hit the rock itself which was a right result.
An American photographer was also present and we had a brief exchange on the benefits of the filters I was using which was nice and somehow cooled my anger at the tourism industry in general.
After Kilt rock it was onto Dunvegan Castle which I had seen pictures of and liked but after a long journey I have to say I was bitterly disappointed in it, I didn't even take a picture in the end which was a shame but it just wasn't doing it for me so I left it.
It was now around mid day and of course the light was pretty harsh and not really what I wanted to shoot in but I was only here for the day so I decided to go rogue and just drive and see what I could find.
I found several areas which looked promising but in reality the pictures didn't come out to well and never really saw the light of day.
This was the main issue, the light or lack of it just wasn't helping matters and I hate shooting without it, I have become a light snob and if it wasn't there then I just didn't have my heart in it.
A picture without light is just a picture, a picture with light is a story that reveals itself to the viewer in my opinion.
I decided to head to the Fairy pools as I felt if the light hadn't changed by the time I got there I could still shoot the waterfalls anyway.
The drive was a fairly lengthy one and when I finally got there I was greeted by so many tourists including my Japanese friends that I just decided I wasn't going to shoot it and went off in search of the rest of the area instead.
I found a nice river running down the side of a mountain that was catching the light and had a nice lone tree on it, perfect I thought and jumped out of the car once again for some solitude.
No sooner had the camera gone on the tripod the light shut off like someone had flicked a switch, no problem I thought I will wait and enjoy the scenery and the peace and quiet. I waited, And I waited some more and the light didn't come back, I decided to move into the river itself so I could shoot upstream using the water in the foreground cascading over the rocks as my lead.
I hoped onto the first rock, as I moved my other foot onto the next rock my foot slipped and I got a boot full of water, dam it !
I carefully squelched over the other rocks to a submerged area and the light was back, I got the gear out again and of course the sun went in again, Frustrating.
I waited for a while and it just didn't come back out again so I decided to call time on it and go back to the car, on the way back the same foot took another boot full of water and a watery walk back to the car saw a change of foot ware and the camera gear slung in the back in disgust.
As I pulled away the light came back on, I wasn't going to play that game anymore. Well not for at least 500 yards where I couldn't resist it anymore and pulled over.
A couple of shots were taken but they were rushed and despite thinking they were good at the time they ended up in the bin when I looked at them more closely and realised the lack of thought in the composition had ruined what could have been a reasonable shot. I had a stern word with myself and promised not to rush it again.
I decided that I would finish the day up at Elgol, a beautiful rocky beach full of big boulders and overlooking the Cuillin mountain range but on the way there I would see what else I could find.
I basically drove round the back of the black Cuillin mountains and while there managed to get a few shots once again in the peace and quiet.
The weather was still changeable and as I headed towards Elgol the sky behind me let out a huge beam of light and once again the race was on to find a pull in place and shoot down the valley.
It was well worth stopping and it gave me one of my favourite shots from the trip, I was happy again.
After a quick pit stop for some fuel and food I was back on the Elgol road which was small to say the least but there were plenty of passing places so it didn't seem to bad.
A small ruin came into view and it looked interesting so I pulled in to see what it was all about, several other photographers had also had the same idea.
It turned out to be a commonwealth grave site known as Cill Chriosd, a 16th century church that now lay in ruin surrounded by graves and mountains.
The light wasn't great but I wanted to shoot it nonetheless, That was until the other photography tour bus turned up and once again they stood in front of my ignoring my polite coughs which in reality should have been escalated to "get out of the bloody shot" These people really did show a complete lack of manners and photography etiquette and were frankly downright rude. Several of them looked directly at me as I was shooting and then casually positioned themselves in front of me so they could get their own shots.
I had pretty much had enough at this point and decided to move on, I knew skye would be busy but this was worse than I had ever imagined.
The road to Elgol is steep, really steep and the brakes on my car had really been exhausted to the point of needing to be replaced so it was a nervous drive to the top with a sheer drop one side of me, then it happened, a bus came along the opposite way and I was going to have to reverse down the hill I had just come up, I couldn't see out of the back very well and there was a few "new pants" moments until I managed to get to one of the passing places.
Eventually back on the way and the weather looked pretty poor but I pressed on anyway. The hill dropped down sharply and I have to say I wasn't enjoying the journey and it probably caused my mood to be a little bit more strained than normal and when I got to Elgol I was fed up to see that it just look rubbish, by rubbish I mean really rubbish, just a big grey flat mess but I was here now so I was going to at least get out and have a look.
As I walked down the shore to the famous Joe Cornish shot I could once again see Japanese tourists all doing their jumping photography and this was enough for me and I decided to call it a day.
I was tired and I had a 2 hour plus drive back to base not to mention having been up at around 4 am.
So that was the Isle of Skye, it was a wonderful, frustrating, funny and jaw dropping experience and to be honest, I'm not to sure I would go back.
By that I mean the place was epic, words just don't describe how good it was but I really struggled with the volume of people there and obviously that was to be expected but even so it was a strain to say the least.
Skye has so much to offer but you are constantly battling to get any of it, maybe a winter trip would yield a better result in future ? While I have no desire to go back I know if I'm in Scotland again I wont hesitate to do it so it was mixed feelings so i'll leave each of you to make your own minds up when you visit it.
Thanks once again for reading and sharing my blog, next week sees the last part of my Scottish adventure, part 4 The Cairngorms.
All of the pictures from my Scotland trip can be seen by clicking HERE.
So I had just started my Scottish adventure by visiting the Trossachs National Park and now I was venturing north to get to the Highlands, somewhere I have wanted to visit for so long.
As I drove around Loch Lomond it never seemed to end, it was a vast loch thats for sure, but I was eager to see Glencoe as it was an area I wanted to focus heavily on.
It was around about a two hour journey to the lower highlands and I have to say, very very scenic and enjoyable, it was a Sunday and I knew Glencoe would be busy but I hadn't planned to shoot it, more to have a look and get some ideas while I drove through.
It was raining very heavily now and the sky was flat grey and the least photogenic conditions you could imagine really.
On the way to Glencoe, and just before it in fact is an area called Rannoch Moor and when I caught my first glimpse of it I knew I wanted to come back and shoot it, I had seen several winter photos of the area and it was full of small islands with lone trees popping up and I would have loved to capture some frost on them but it wasn't really that time of year yet but the area was noted.
Finally Glencoe came into view and it was simply jaw dropping, I was excited about this area and when I rounded the corner and saw Buachaille Etive Mor, my heart began to beat faster.
I had seen this mammoth mountain photographed many times before, probably Scotland's most famous after Ben Nevis perhaps ?
The shape was instantly recognisable, and if you were to draw a mountain then this is what it would look like, Sloping sides all heading to the peak in perfect symmetry. Boy did I want to get a few of this.
As expected it was tourist central and people were pulled over everywhere in any gap they could find even though it was raining very very hard people where everywhere.
I drove further on along the Glencoe pass and noted a nice waterfall which I would try and explore at a later date and then the famed Glencoe sisters came into view.
These three mountains were a sight to behold even in flat grey conditions, they towered above the valley way up into the clouds and I really wanted to shoot them. Going further down I came to Loch Achtriochtan which was joined by the River Coe.
It was simply wonderful seeing these areas with my own eyes, I had seen thousands of pictures and knew what to expect but I still wasn't fully prepared for the majesty of Scotland.
As said before I hadn't planned to stop mainly due to the poor weather and the fact there were tourists everywhere (I'm very aware I was now one as well) So I continued north heading towards Inverness and was treated to even more stunning sights along the way.
Loch Leven is a fairly small loch in comparison to others but it really was beautiful and I wanted to visit it during my weeks stay. It joined on to the far bigger Loch Linnhe which was essentially an inland sea and it was vast but not as photogenic in my opinion.
Driving further up to Fort William saw Ben Nevis coming into view and again I really wanted to visit here but hopefully at a much quieter time.
Next stop was Fort Augustus which signalled the start of the mighty Loch Ness and there was a small area of moored boats and half sunken ones which looked very interesting and I knew a return was on the cards.
I had been told to avoid Loch Ness as it was possibly the least scenic loch in Scotland and I have to say, that was a pretty fair description of the area BUT there were still some gems to be had and I wasn't going to discount it just yet.
Loch Ness whilst most famous for its possible resident the Loch Ness monster, or Nessie as it was affectionately known did in fact hold a much more realistic and interesting claim to fame, Loch Ness is the second largest loch in Scotland by surface area and covered roughly 22 square miles, it's a long thin body of water with various bays and areas of interest.
It's big claim to fame however is it's depth, it's the second deepest Loch in Scotland but because of the depth and surface area it actually holds more fresh water than ALL the lakes in England & Wales combined, Now that is pretty mind blowing ! Maybe it could well hide Nessie, who would ever find her there ?!
Whilst driving along the endless shore of Loch Ness I noticed an old rustic and dilapidated jetty which was noted for future visits and of course the famous Urquhart Castle which was once again filled with tourists and rain.
Finally after much driving (Around 6 hours and a few hundred miles) I arrived at Inverness and couldn't wait to relax and plan my adventure.
The following accounts were over a 5 day period, some days I spent in other areas that I will cover later on like the Isle of Skye and The Cairngorms national park but for the sake of this blog I am just sticking with the Highlands.
Looking at the weather it really didn't look great, rain was forecast non stop for the week and that was the last thing I wanted to see, I would have to go where the weather was and formulated a plan to explore other areas and return to Glencoe later in the week.
I spent Monday on the Isle of Skye and Tuesday was spent in the Cairngorms region which I will cover in the next two blogs, but for now it was Wednesday and there was a rare glimmer of hope on the horizon.
Glencoe had been forecast non stop rain but on Wednesday there was sun & rain forecast for a brief spell of two hours in the morning, this was the chance I had been waiting for so I set off full of expectation and hope.
The journey down to Glencoe wasn't looking hopeful, well in fact it was looking downright terrible but I kept going putting my faith in the weathermen.
I arrived at Glencoe just before sunrise and my plan had been to get shots of the mountains as first light clipped the top of them but this was looking highly unlikely as the cloud just kept building and the rain falling.
I decided to have a little explore and see if the weather changed, I headed for Glen Etive which was famed for featuring in the James bond film, Skyfall and of course the epic Braveheart.
The road was quite small and more of a single file area with passing places and it was cascading with water and I have to admit, at this point I was becoming quite nervous driving down it, I'm sure in the dry it would be a much more enjoyable road but I was nervous to say the least.
The River Etive runs alongside the road and had many spots where waterfalls cascaded down it and looked very inviting, if only the rain would stop.
I tried to get a few images of the valley but it was very frustrating in the rain and high winds and a lack of light was really making it a bit of a non starter to be fair.
I turned around and headed back up towards Glencoe to get to the waterfall area by Buachaille Etive Mor which is a world famous picture and while its been done to death, I really wanted to see it and shoot it for myself as it was this shot that really peaked my interest in Scotland when I first saw it.
The weather had started to get a bit better by the time I pulled up, the rain had nearly stopped and the cloud was breaking up slightly and some blue sky visible behind the thick grey.
This area had seen a lot of rain over the past few weeks and words can't do justice to just how waterlogged the ground was.
The very short walk from the car park to the waterfall took an age as my boots were getting stuck with every step.
Finally I got to the waterfall and it was indeed, everything I had hoped for and more. The raging torrent of the river was thunderous in the ears and it was up way higher than in any pictures i'd ever seen.
It was also producing a lot of spray and as I shot my first few images I was shocked at just how much had collected on the polariser and cleaned it off.
It was literally a case of one shot, clean, one shot clean again and it was very very frustrating but I knew it would be a lot worse if I had got home and seen all the images had been ruined.
Trying to get a new composition at an area like this that has been hammered is nigh on impossible and I didn't feel to bad about capturing the "Classic" shot as it were, but I walked a bit further up and shot back down the waterfall looking at some beautiful autumn colours on the trees and hadn't seen that angle shot before (although I'm sure it has) so I was quite happy.
With that the heavens opened again and I tried my best to trudge back through the sodden ground to the car where I bumped into a bus load of photographers from Holland who were as keen as I had been to see the sight, and to those Dutch, Hallo Vrienden :)
This is how it is at Glencoe, it's a world class location and therefore attracts a lot of people so I was just going to have to get used to it and work around it.
I really wanted to get some shots of the sisters but rain was stopping that and the lack of light, I kept waiting and waiting for it to get better as the weathermen had said but it just wasn't happening.
I decided to go further down the Glencoe pass to the large waterfall I had seen as that wasn't so light dependant, I shot a few but my heart just wasn't really in it so I abandoned those shots and decided to wait until the light was right at the three sisters.
It was an odd and erie feeling here, knowing the history of Glencoe and the massacre that had taken place there made you think deeply about those times and the fact the name Campbell dare not be uttered to this day there.
I wondered if the spirits of the MacDonald clan were the ones playing havoc with the weather in protest to their horrendous slaughter in the past.
I decided to head back to Rannoch Moor in the hope that the weather would be slightly better, in short it wasn't and after much back and forth along the areas I was still not getting any shots.
I decided it wasn't going to happen and I was going to head back looking for better weather along the way.
As I was driving through Glencoe a rare bit of light peeked through the clouds and I rushed to find an area to pull over, It wasn't the best place but a few shots were taken as the light rolled over the mountains.
It seemed very much that the area of Glencoe was constantly raining but either end of it wasn't too bad and this was confirmed by one of the locals so I decided to head back towards Loch Leven in the hope I could ambush the better weather.
As I rounded the bend I could see golden light pouring over the mountains around Loch Leven and I cursed myself that I had persevered for so long at Glencoe.
I was out of the car and catching some nice images of the boats on the Loch and the surrounding mountains as the light passed over them, This was more like it I thought to myself !
This area had some great colours on the trees and was a joy to shoot, or maybe I was just elated to be out of the rain and finally shooting again, either way I got some images I was pleased with.
I headed back towards Fort Augustus as this is where the better weather seemed to be coming from, While driving back there was some nice light forming over Loch Lochy and I couldn't resist a shot of an old weathered jetty which I couldn't get to but found a spot further back where I could include it.
The heavens opened again and that pretty much concluded wednesday and I headed for home keen to get out into other areas of the Highlands and avoid the constant barrage of rain at Glencoe.
I had heard some good things about an area in the north called Torridon and after a bit of a google search I was keen to go so this would be the focus of Thursdays assault. Once again the weather didn't really look to promising but I was in Scotland and I was going to make the most of it.
I had seen an area called Loch Clair that I fancied and it nestled between the Beinn Eighe mountain range too, with the mighty Loch Maree close by so that would be the area I was going to head for.
The drive up was in the familiar drizzle and grey sky that I had got so used too this week and not a lot looked like it was going to happen. As I drove through the Beinn Eighe range still in quite dark conditions I was struggling to pick an area I wanted to shoot. I arrived at Torridon and if i'm honest I just wasn't feeling it and sunrise was about to happen, the sky had started to clear a little and there was a touch of pink forming and I was struggling to find an area to shoot.
This was the last thing I needed after a week without any decent sunrise or sunsets there was now about to be one and I hadn't got a shot lined up.
As I drove back up the Torridon road I rushed over to a small area of water with some trees poking out but it just wasn't what I was after and the colour was pretty much the other direction, there was only one thing for it, a mountain shot from the road, it wasn't what I was after really but it was all I could get.
The colour faded almost as fast as it had started and I was left with flat grey sky again and a serious lack of light. I went for a walk around Loch Clair which was indeed beautiful but conditions just weren't there so I decided to leave it and head out to Loch Maree instead.
This loch is huge and never ending and there are some lovely areas with lone trees, small bays and of course mountains and I would have loved to have shot it but with no light around and dull, lifeless rainy grey sky it just wasn't what I wanted so I decided to leave it rather than take a bunch of poor shots that in reality I would probably never use. While driving along the shore of Loch Maree I saw a sign for Victoria Falls and quickly diverted. I do like waterfalls a lot but I have become a little tired of them but today this one was most welcome as the light wasn't so important for the shot.
I have to say Victoria falls was a pleasant surprise, once again no parking fee and a beautiful three tier waterfall cascaded down the mountain.
I had a lot of foliage obscuring it and shooting from the viewing platform wasn't really doing it justice, The main tier of the falls at the top was the most impressive and I decided to walk up the hill and see if I could get a better angle to shoot it.
There was a shot there for sure but it did seem a shame to only get the one tier in but beggars can't be choosers in this situation and I shot it nonetheless.
I decided I was going to head back towards Inverness where the weather seemed to be better according to the forecast, Whilst driving back I suddenly saw why people had raved about this area, it was beautiful and there were shots available everywhere, or there would have been if it hadn't been pelting down with rain.
I cursed my luck once again and made a mental note to visit the area again in better conditions.
Whilst driving home there was the odd bit of light popping out and no sooner would I pull over and get the camera out it would disappear, This game of cat & mouse went on for an hour and it's very fair to say I didn't win at all.
With hardly any shots from the day I saw a sign for Rogie Falls and thought I would investigate it just in case.
A short walk down the path and I could hear the thunderous sound of water cascading over rocks.
Rogie Falls was very impressive and I was glad I had stopped.
Once again the camera was out and I tried a few compositions and finished up with a shot or two that I was happy with.
Rogie falls had a suspension bridge there which meant you could shoot the falls head on which would have been great if it was a solid bridge but the suspension bridge would rock if there was so much as a sparrow farting near it let alone tourists trampling all over it so I had to make do with a shot from the far bank, the colours however did make up for it, Truly stunning and I would recommend anyone to visit here.
The rain was back like a cloud that followed me around so I headed back to base camp in Inverness.
The forecast wasn't great but I was going stir crazy being inside so I decided to go to Loch Ness to the area I had spotted at Fort Augustus and also the old jetty that was tucked away.
As I drove the long road down Loch Ness I kept looking to see where this jetty was, I remembered it only being visible while heading the other way but I was convinced if I saw the area I would know it.
After a few errors of judgement on the way I finally found the pull in point and could see the jetty a bit further down a lane that had a metal construction gate over it.
I wasn't too sure if I was allowed in the area but it didn't seem to have any houses around and didn't look dangerous and the gate was ajar so I decided to go for it.
The light wasn't great in all fairness but the jetty was fantastic, a real old war horse that had been battered and weathered and was in a real state of decay.
As I stood in the water shooting the jetty I had a strange feeling, I was stood in Nessie's dinner bowl !
Now I don't believe in the Loch Ness monster of course, but right then and there I did think twice about it !
I headed down the road to Fort Augustus and pulled in, I liked this little area a lot and it was full of potential.
There was one single small island known as Cherry Island which was the only island on the whole of Loch Ness, I found a nice view point of it and waited for some light.
It started coming in and out and I got a couple of pictures, not the best but I was out.
I moved further down the bank to a partially sunken boat that was old and weathered and really looked great.
The sun had come out again and lit up the side of the boat and at that point I was over the moon to finally start getting some decent shots.
This area is full of sunken boats and I had to wonder how they had all met their ends ? maybe Nessie had indeed struck ;)
It was now getting close to sunset and I knew at the very other end of Loch Ness there was some nice old jetty posts sticking out of the water and I wanted to investigate but that was around 30 miles away and I was pushed for time but I decided to go for it and boy what a revelation that would prove to be.
Driving along the other side of Loch Ness for the first time I went up a large hill and when I finally got to the top my mind was absolutely blown.
This area was stunning, high up views right over to Inverness and with mountains to the right of me and Lochs to the left I was amazed and wished I had found the area earlier.
I didn't have time to shoot it now and the light wasn't quite right for it so I pushed on to the end of Loch Ness but around every turn I went I wanted to stop and shoot as it was simply stunning.
When I finally got to the top of Loch Ness the conditions had once again turned for the worst and while I took a fair few shots I didn't end up using them and wished I had stayed at the other end, but lesson learned.
It was friday now and it was time for me to head home sadly so I decided I would spend the morning at the newly found viewpoint and then go back via Glencoe again for the third time to try and get lucky.
The day had started off rainy, for a change but the forecast said it would get better by around 10 am.
As I headed to the viewpoint it was dark, very very dark and not looking too good but you could just see there was change coming.
As I got to the top of the hill it was raining and 50 mph winds were battering me but the cloud was breaking and I just couldn't miss this.
For the next 20 minutes I was treated to ray after ray punching through the cloud and lighting up certain areas and I was loving it.
To compensate and try and get a much faster shutter speed I ended up shooting at ISO between 500 and 1000 as even with the rock solid tripod set up I was getting blown all over the place.
That said it was probably the best moment of the trip and this was the type of photography I enjoyed most, light rolling over mountains.
Soon it had gone almost clear and my mind turned back to Glencoe, maybe today would be the day I would get my shots, I pointed the car south and hit the accelerator.
All the way it looked pretty positive but true to form as I got around ten miles from Glencoe the raindrops appeared on my windscreen and with them washed away the hopes I had of a decent shot.
Driving through the pass it was solid rain and high winds, I drove up and down several times looking for something, anything but it never came.
I headed down towards Rannoch Moor in the hope it might be kinder, there was light on the horizon but I just couldn't get a shot I was happy with so I decided to call it a day and head back.
The highlands had been exceptionally cruel to me but at times they had given up their gifts and when they did they were perfect, I knew I wanted to return.
This whole trip had been a bit of a fact finding mission really, I wanted to know the areas better for a return trip when there were snow capped mountains, that was the real goal and I felt I had found some good locations and learned where I had gone wrong too which would all be put to good use in the future.
Part 3 - The Isle of Skye will be out next week.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the ups & downs of my Scottish trip.
All of the pictures from my Scotland trip can be seen HERE
A while ago a decision was made to go to Scotland, it had been a dream for years and I was finally going to do it.
For years I had seen stunning landscapes from Scotland and I really wanted to see them for myself and go and explore a bit and see what else I could find.
The trip was planned with military precision, I had decided to stay in the Inverness area as it was fairly central to the places I wanted to visit, mainly the highlands & the Cairngorms National Park and of course the Isle of Skye (although that was a fair bit further over).
I had found several locations in the North and main roads from Inverness went straight to them so it was a good starting point, the one main issue was it was around 650 miles from my house and boy, did I not fancy doing that 12 hour drive !
After careful consideration I decided that stopping over night around Glasgow area would give me a much more palatable 8 hour drive of around 450 miles and it was right on the edge of the Trossachs national park and of course the mighty Loch Lomond.
I kept a close eye on the weather forecast on the weeks leading up to the big day and I have to admit it was giving me cause for concern.
Every single day was forecast as rain, but not the good kind of rain & sun that yields rainbows and epic light, more the kind that gives nothing but flat grey skies, zero light and a complete soaking.
I was originally going to travel up in the late hours of Friday night so I could be at Loch Lomond for the sunrise but seeing as the weather forecast had said it was a non starter I decided I would leave around 4 am to avoid the worst of the traffic and still have some time to look around, in my head the weather had written off this over night stay anyway.
The shrill call of the alarm clock woke me up from dreams of mountains and snow and I grabbed a shower to wake me up and then put the kettle on for another wake up boost.
I had pre packed everything and just needed to load it in the car. I had done some shopping before hand so I had some food and drink for the journey and for a couple of days in fact in case I hadn't managed to get to a supermarket, Energy drinks (which I hate) were purchased for the journey just to be sure
Camera and case loaded into the car and I went to grab the food and drink bag and I could hear some sort of hissing noise, unable to work out where it was coming from I picked up the bag and it leaked its contents everywhere.
A can of Monster energy drink had got a tiny hole in it and was spurting all over the place soaking everything in the bag and the walls, a few choice words were uttered quite loudly.
After a clean up of everything and the offending can chucked away I was ready to go, this wasn't the start I had wanted and I was now running late.
I was anxious about this journey, it was long and tedious in my head and I wanted it out of the way as quick as possible.
I had contemplated stopping at the Lake District on the way up for a morning of photography but the weather had put the brakes on that idea, there was nothing else for it, point the car North and hit the accelerator.
I was making good time and the roads were being fairly kind, the weather didn't actually seem to bad either and the rain was holding off. As I went up the M6 it was nearly time for sunrise and I was well up for diverting off to find somewhere to photograph but then it happened, rain by the bucket load.
I cursed the fact the weather men had actually got it right, the one time I actually need them to be wrong and they get it bang on.
I kept plodding on and arrived in Glasgow around lunch time, I knew why I had picked Glasgow in terms of location but having arrived I was thinking maybe I should have gone further up, it simply put, wasn't what I imagined !.
After checking in after a mammoth drive I was keen to go out and explore a little bit, Loch Lomond was the first place on my list and after looking on the map/google earth etc and a few images I decided the East side of the lake offered me better access, opportunity and pull over places.
The rain had taken a temporary breather as well and I was super keen to get going.
Loch Lomond is very well known, it's the largest body of water by surface area within Scotland, England and Wales and is roughly 27 miles squared of surface.
It has some very scenic islands, over 30 of them in fact and is surrounded by mountains, pretty much heaven really.
Nothing prepares you for the first view of it, its size is mind blowing and as you look down it, it just appears to never end. I headed for an area known as Milarrochy Bay which had some lovely rocks in a line snaking out into the water as well as a single tree which was very photogenic and surrounded by mountains.
It was a very pleasant surprise to be able to pull right up to the lakes edge at a picnic area and to not have to pay for parking, Scotland really do seem to encourage the tourist trade there and make it as easy as possible as well as cheap to view the wondrous sites it has to offer, I liked this a lot and wished Dorset would take a leaf out of Scotland's book.
The light was pretty good and I got a few pictures right away as the light & shadow drifted over the foliage but I couldn't stop looking at the mountains behind me which were getting the best of the light so I left the bay in search of a good vantage point to make the most of the light.
This proved harder than expected as everywhere that looked nice had nowhere to stop and it was tiny roads do I couldn't risk pulling over and blocking them. I was in and out of car parks, nature reserves, up and down hills but I just couldn't find the right place.
After around an hour of frustrating searching I finally found a place that had a reasonable vantage point and got some nice images of light on the mountains and overlooking the Trossachs but sunset was rapidly approaching and I couldn't get Milarrochy Bay out of my mind so I drove back just in time to capture some nice light on the tree and rocks and even a rainbow briefly came out to play.
I liked Scotland, The conditions I had seen so far had been fantastic and the area itself was very, very beautiful and I was debating spending some more time here but the Highlands were calling.
I decided to give the bay one more shot at sunrise as the sun would be coming up behind me and I was taking a gamble that a bit of colour would strike the clouds and then illuminate the mountains.
The weather forecast seemed to agree with me and it looked good up until around 10 am when it would start to rain heavily and be wetter than an otters pocket.
That suited me, I could shoot Milarrochy Bay and then trundle on to Glencoe for a look around and then on to Inverness to my base camp.
The weather men had again been on form with a fairly accurate forecast for the morning and the bay looked very promising. Hardly any wind and flat calm with some decent looking cloud around.
The gates to the picnic area are locked around 8pm at night and I didn't know what time they opened again and as I pulled up as expected they were locked so I pulled my car to the side and hopped over the gate and started to get set up.
No sooner had I done this then another photographer appeared and raced towards the area I was shooting, a whole bay and he has to set up right next to me, irritating !
He then proclaimed it was going to be crap and he was "Neigh Bothered" and raced off somewhere else which suited me just fine.
The chap came to unlock the gate around 7.20 am and I rushed back to move my car into the picnic area and to avoid blocking the gate for any others turning up, I was expecting something to happen any minute, it didn't !
I waited till sunrise itself at 7.46 am from memory and it had been a pretty poor start but then that familiar red tinge started to catch the clouds out in front of me and steadily kept building until the dark blue sky was peppered with red clouds. I grabbed some shots as it was fairly short lived and then waited for the light to hit the distant mountains.
It teased me several times lighting up for a brief second or two and then going but I was determined to wait as the cloud cover was getting less and less and I was convinced that the light was going to power through any minute, This time I had got it right.
I was treated to a superb display of light & shadow illuminating the mountains as it rolled over them. The colours were wonderful, naturally saturated oranges, yellows & greens and I lapped it up taking a fair few pictures.
Several fisherman turned up and they added nicely to several scenes and for once I was pleased that someone was getting in the way of a shot ! That said I would have loved them to be in old rustic fishing boats rather than the ultra modern crafts they had obviously saved so hard for, never happy eh ?!
As I was driving back to the hotel to get checked out the heavens opened and grey clouds swept in like a dream crushing wave.
The Trossachs had just been a stop over really as I was here for the Highlands more than anything but it had been a very welcome one and although I had focused on just one main area I felt I had come away with some nice shots of it and also a good look around for the future as I knew I would return to the Trossachs for a much more focused trip on them.
But for now I was off to the Highlands and I was finally going to see the Glencoe region and I couldn't wait, Pointing the car north and I was off again.
Part 2 of my Scottish adventure - The Highlands will be out next week
Seeing as it's getting to that time of year again where it starts to get a bit chilly I thought I would do an honest and in depth review of the Berghaus Ben Oss Fleece.
As I have said many times before I'm a bit of a Berghaus fan boy and I own around 7 of their jackets, several pairs of trouser and untold amounts of base layers and I really rate the gear they make but this will still be and honest review based around my findings.
A little bit of background to Berghaus to start with, It's a British company, despite its name (german translation is Mountain House) and I love to buy British especially during these turbulent times where the economy is up and down it's great knowing you are supporting a British company and British jobs.
Berghaus was created in 1972 by climbers Peter Lockey and Gordon Davison, who frustrated with the quality of mountaineering clothing available, decided to design their own.
Berghaus was born and quickly gained a substantial following based around the quality and innovation of its products.
In the late 90s they made a significant leap forward by securing the right to use Gore membranes in their products, at the time the most advanced material for waterproof and breathable functions.
Reputation quickly grew and they were established as one of the market leaders in walking & climbing clothing so as you can see they have a very good pedigree behind them.
So now you know the company lets have a look at the Ben Oss fleece itself (Named after a mountain in the Argyll region of Scotland).
The fleece itself is available in three colours, blue, dark blue and finally black, I opted for the Dark Blue version which is pictured in this review.
The design is very pleasing on the eye and a small splash of colour on the chest pocket adds to the look in my opinion.
The fit of the fleece is absolutely spot on, even for a fuller figured gentleman like me. There are elasticated panels and sections which allow the fleece to contour the body really well without ever feeling tight or restrictive.
The neck was an especially nice surprise as some of the older Berghaus fleeces tended to be fairly tight around the neck almost to the point that it was uncomfortable. Berghaus have listened to feedback and rectified this and made the neck stretchy so it fits perfectly.
The fleece comes with a hood which is very comfortable to wear and really does cut the wind down without even feeling like you are wearing one, I cannot emphasise just how comfortable it is to wear.
The Ben Oss Fleece has a draw string around the bottom of it so you can get a snug fit and again keep wind out, There are two outer hand warmer pockets which are mesh lined and can act as ventilation if needed while a single chest pocket is handy for a phone or small map, keys etc..
The fleece is made of 350 g/m2 weight polyester micro fleece which is non pilling so it will stay looking good even after a good bit of wear.
The feel is very much like velour and as crazy as it sounds, it makes you feel good when you wear it, much like someone is giving you a hug as it's so well cut and contoured with its stretch panels and material.
The Ben Oss fleece is designed to be a three season fleece and is suitable for all but winter seasons really although if its fairly mild it will still keep you warm, I have tested this to only 3 degrees at the moment but with a much colder wind chill and it was perfectly warm.
Because of its lightweight feel you almost wont notice wearing it and even in fairly warm conditions the fleece seems to regulate the body temperature very well.
The most important factor in the Ben Oss Fleece is the Gore Windstopper material.
Gore Windstopper is a membrane which is bonded inside the jacket and as the name suggests it will stop wind dead in its tracks but it will allow a good level of breathability to stop you from over heating and allow perspiration through the fleece.
It really is effective and I have tested it in England, Wales & Scotland so far on top of a fair few mountains and some extremely windy open spaces and it hasn't let me down once.
My back pack weighs a lot with all the camera gear I take and I often find that my back suffers with other jackets through perspiration but so far the Ben Oss fleece has been doing a perfect job and kept me dry and comfortable.
The Gore Windstopper material sadly doesn't extend to the arms of the jacket and you can defiantly feel a difference from the rest of the jacket. I have to say I was slightly disappointed at this for such a top end fleece but I'm sure Berghaus have their reasons for making it this way.
The arms do however do come with very comfortable elasticated cuffs to stop the wind from getting in and of course the thumb loops of which I'm not really a fan of but I have found myself using with this particular fleece to great effect, I didn't see that one coming !
The fleece isn't marketed as waterproof at all but I have been caught out in several showers while wearing it and have managed to stay pretty dry I'm guessing due to the Windstopper membrane which seem to poses some very good ability to repel water.
The fleece is also very quick drying if you do get caught which I don't need to say is a massive bonus.
This has now become my every day fleece, I use it for dog walks and even nipping down to the shops then of course for the full on treks through the mountains and coastal walks and I have to say it hasn't let me down at all over a period of around three months since purchasing it.
The Ben Oss Fleece really is exceptionally good and certainly the best fleece I have used, although its a 3 season fleece I will be using it all year round but with my Berghaus Mera Peak Goretex jacket over the top for the colder winter months and leaving my 4 season fleece at home from now on.
The fit is exceptional and as said its like someone is giving you a nice warm hug, The material washes well and doesn't seem to bobble up at all even with heavy ruck sack straps rubbing against it all the time.
I would have liked to have seen a couple of under arm zip vents put in but that said I haven't overheated in this Fleece so I guess its ok without them.
The price isn't cheap with an RRP of £95.00 but I do believe you get what you pay for and I know the membranes are seriously expensive and thats what you're really paying a premium for but it is worth it when youre out in a howling gale.
The jacket performs very well, looks fantastic, keeps you warm and is a joy to wear so I would recommend it to anyone, Well done Berghaus.
Value For Money 09/10
Total Rating 94%
I hope you find this review useful and would just like to state I am in no way sponsored or paid to review these items, they are all purchased with my own hard earned money at full retail price.
Well, it's been quite a week and I've learned a hard lesson. The passion I have for landscape photography is huge and simply cannot be measured but every so often she can be a harsh mistress and knock you on your ass.
For roughly a month I had been planning a trip to the Brecon Beacons in Wales, an area I know very well but have only really dabbled on the fringes of mainly chasing the waterfalls there.
This time I was planning on shooting a few of the lakes in the area and of course the mighty Pen Y Fan Mountain and surroundings.
Pen Y Fan had long been a nemesis of mine and I hadn't managed to shoot it and to be honest I had reservations about climbing it too, it gave me a lot of anxiety just thinking about it, therefore I HAD to conquer it.
There are several paths up to Pen Y Fan and one of them is pretty easy but due to my own reasons I was still concerned about going up it but I knew I had to defeat my own demons in order to prove to myself I could and to get the monkey off my back.
The trip was planned in minute detail, locations checked, double checked and triple checked.
The two week countdown had started and I was excited, actually thats a lie, I was beyond excited and couldn't wait.
This trip would be slightly different from my normal ones in that I would have company as I often do when I go to Wales as I have a very good friend who lives there who also happens to be into photography and I have a dam good laugh with as well, the added bonus she makes a banging curry and breakfast, so a good week was a certainty.
Rather than obsess over multiple locations I decided to concentrate on four of them, I was going to be staying for four days and felt a day at each would be worth having to get exactly the shot I wanted rather than trying to rush between a few venues each day.
The weather had been glorious and sunrises of epic proportions had teased me in the run up to the trip.
I had booked two days off work and was using the weekend too so I really wanted to make the most of the time there and decided that Pen Y Fan would be best shot on the Thursday or Friday when it was least busy as weekends there are chaos.
I watched the weather forecast intently on the run up to the trip and then it happened, a huge weather system started moving closer and closer towards Wales and it wasn't looking good.
It was Wednesday and I was itching to finish work and drive up to the Brecons. 5 O'clock finally came and I finished work, got in the car and turned it on and the heavens opened.
There were a few choice words muttered I can tell you, I drove up the 150 miles in what can only be described as a full on monsoon with added extra wet !
I was tired after a week at work and the three hour journey but I got to Llangorse lake and met my friend and spirits were soon lifted.
After checking the forecast it basically said two days of solid rain for Thursday and Friday which was the last thing I wanted to see but as with all things, you have to make the best of a bad situation and hope for a break in the weather which can make for some very dramatic photos.
Eirwen said she had ordered mist for the morning and had some sort of pact with the weather, that would do for me I thought. The wet conditions outside and the dropping temperature could well be the making of it and there was a possibility that the rain would relent for just a bit in the morning.
We were staying at a camp site at Llangorse lake which has a beautiful bird viewing hut that had caught my eye and I imagined it surrounded by rolling mist with the mighty Pen Y Fan mountain in the background, I fancied that shot a lot and went to sleep praying to the weather gods to be kind.
The shrill cry of the alarm went off at 6am and I jumped up to take a peek out of the tent, it was still raining but there was a little mist rolling around and I got ready and raced down to the lake.
There was little or no signs of colour and in fact it all looked rather drab but the sun would be coming up soon and the hut would look great as the morning sun hit it.
The mist was starting to go but I didn't want to shoot till the light was there really but a tiny bit of colour was now showing and I decided to take a couple.
It wasn't the best conditions but it was better than the forecast had predicted so I made the most of it.
The light never really came and the mist vanished and the rain started again so it was back to the camp site to decide on a new plan of attack and get stuck into a man size breakfast bap or two.
The forecast had put a downer on the next two days with non stop heavy rain and a tent and a camper van can be quite a small space when your claustrophobic like me so a decision was made to go and look at a few areas to see if there was any potential in case the weather broke.
Talybont reservoir was the first stop and I had seen this well photographed lake many times and wasn't it too much of a rush to capture it myself although if there was nice light about then of course I wouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth.
From there it was on to the reservoir at Pontsticill which was another well photographed location but I really liked it and wanted to get a shot of the fabulous tower that nestles in the waters.
This one had my attention and after much searching around in the rain I found the areas I wanted to shoot it from and now I just needed a break in the weather and some light, after waiting for a long, long time with neither showing the decision to leave it was taken and it would be renamed Penicillin lake due to the fact it gave me a headache and I couldn't say Pontsticill without sounding like I doing the worlds worst Welsh accent.
A drive down to Pen Y Fan was in order, we got there and couldn't see a thing.
Thick fog had engulfed the mountain and today was not the day we would be getting a shot of it so we drove further round to the valley in search of a better view and maybe a gap in the fog, it simply wasn't there and the day was written off.
The evening was going to go clear so in order to make the most of it a few night shots would be tried as it was a recognised dark sky area.
Talybont was visited and a few shots taken but none that I really liked and then the short drive to Pontsticill lake to get to the place I really wanted.
In the short time it took to drive to there the sky had gone from crystal clear to cloudy and mother nature had indeed given me a swift kick in the family jewels.
There were two other photographers there who remarked that the cloud had come out of nowhere pretty much as soon as we had turned up, I was starting to feel like a jinx !
A couple of shots were taken and I actually liked one of them because of the lit tower, it just gave a certain mood and I was into it.
There was a catalogue of amusing events during this shoot in the pitch black, dropping of items, car headlights going on by their own accord, a tripod left at home ! I could go on but the pair of us laughed it all off and decided to call it a night and head back, Tomorrow would surely be better.
It wasn't, the forecast had gone from monsoon, to "I'm just going to throw buckets of water over you all day" This was a right pain and thoughts of a weekend climb up Pen Y Fan were now becoming a reality which I really didn't want to do.
Thick fog and heavy rain was all that was showing up on the weather apps and looking outside it was all we were getting, sunrise wasn't even attempted and we consoled ourselves with more breakfast baps, which brightened the mood but killed the waist line.
The day pretty much went like this and there was no chance for a picture anywhere, dull lifeless sky, thick fog and rain ! When mother nature wants to make a pain of herself she does it with style.
There was a small break in the rain and some light came out late in the day and we raced out towards the back end of Pen Y Fan trying to capture the light streaking across it but having gone down a fair few narrow paths it quickly became apparent that if we were to find a gap in the hedgerow to shoot from we wouldn't be able to pull over because the road was so narrow.
After missing the best of the light there was finally a small gap to shoot from and a shot was taken but my heart wasn't in it and I knew we had missed the best light.
Back to the campsite for a banging curry and all was well with the world again, the forecast when I last looked said Saturday & Sunday might be ok, I checked again and it was back to solid rain, I just couldn't catch a dam break.
The morning came and true to form there were cats and dogs bouncing off the tent and hopes were at an all time low. Staying in wasn't an option so when its flat rubbish light like this there is always the option to shoot a waterfall or two as flat light really works well for them.
We set off to find a really nice but small waterfall we had seen on day one while looking around the local area. Several shots were taken and my mood lifted and we set off in search of more and found a further three that were all lovely but had lots of branches and broken trees obscuring them and they just didn't seem too photogenic to me so they were admired but no pictures taken.
We went to Pen Y Fan again and when I say there were hundreds of cars there it's no exaggeration, it was simply rammed and taking pictures would be chaotic at best topped off with the fact it wasn't exactly looking good we decided to leave it.
A short drive down the road and the weather had vastly improved and there was a bit of nice light peeping through over the valley at Pen Y Fan, not one to miss an opportunity I pulled up the car and jumped out and got a couple of ok shots.
Driving further round we went back into the bad weather which seemed to be following us, a brief moment of hope was given when a rainbow all be it a very slight one appeared on the horizon but it was bing blocked by the torrential rain that showed no signs of letting up.
I waited and waited in the pouring rain but it just didn't happen, the rainbow was dead ahead in line with East so we drove East to try and get in front of the bad weather but to no avail, the rainbow had enough and vanished, this was pretty typical of the luck on this trip.
Day four, the last day and my only chance to salvage anything from the trip.
A location had been found that overlooked the mountains and the sun came up to the left, my hope was that first light would hit them and give me a really special shot as the thick cloud poured over the top.
To be fair the sunrise was actually quite reasonable with some nice colour forming but the location I had chosen just didn't lend itself to shooting that direction, I wanted to wait it out for the shot I wanted.
It was all looking very good, the sun was just about to come up then think cloud rolled in and obscured it.
I was less than amused at this point but there was a gap in the cloud and sooner or later the sun would hit it and I hoped the shot would be back on, I waited nearly two hours in total for this but the cloud kept climbing just ahead of the sun and it just never came.
I called it a day and went back and packed up, it was time to go home as heavy rain was yet again forecast and I didn't really fancy driving home in it.
The photo side of the trip had been a complete nightmare with barely any shots taken and had been a real come down from what I was expecting.
It might seem strange to blog about a really bad experience, but I wanted all of you to understand that this is how it is more often than not, Going to a location and everything all being perfect happens so rarely its almost unheard of.
I want you to know that a few bad trips are perfectly normal and while you might be seriously fed up and down at the time it all goes out the window when you get great conditions again.
That feeling of euphoria and elation when conditions are kind and everything went to plan is worth all the bad trips every time.
I wanted to touch on another side as well, this trip had been an absolute blow out make no mistake, but it was still one of my most memorable ones simply because it was made so good by the company I was with.
We had laughs, we shared in our disappointments, we had amazing food and kept each others spirits up and the enthusiasm going.
As someone who generally likes to shoot alone it was a bit of an eye opener and it wont be the last trip I take with my adventure buddy, without whom this would have been just a failed trip instead of a roaring success.
It's not the trip, the location or the conditions that make it or break it, it's who you share them with.
Bring on the next one, Thanks Eirwen.
Myself and my adventure buddy, Eirwen posing with Pen Y Fan in the background
Man sized breakfast !
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