Scotlands Highlands 2020: Part Twenty Five
17 August 2020
This morning I hoped to get a very well known shot, that I had already tried in January. To be fair the January shot was really nice and moody, but I wanted a day where there was a full mountain and sun shining on the waterfall in front of it, and indeed, hopefully on the mountain itself. I wanted a happy and cheerful version of the photo instead… Today I was aiming to get the Buachaille Etive Mor waterfall shot I had been dreaming of.
When I awoke, the sun was flicking in and out of the clouds and I felt content that this would be perfect for what I hoped. I gently sorted myself out, had a bit of breakfast, a cup of tea, and left to finally get my shot just before 9. River and I made our way over to the prime shooting spot, and as I approached, I was rather surprised to see that it was photographer free – well that’s a real rarity – but it would mean I would have the place to myself and I would be able to move around freely! Then I looked up skywards, and noticed that the cloud had started to build. I might have been just that little bit too slow getting here, I sadly realised… but the sun did keep trying behind me, and I could see the mountain was clear at least. I wasn’t going to give up hope just yet! – until I got closer however, when I was totally surprised at the sight… there was no water at all!!! I laughed, and looked at River ‘well that explains the lack of photographers here doesn’t it?!’ As if the sun heard me, and wanted to stick its tongue out, it then bathed the Buachaille in beautiful swathes of dappled light. Well you can’t have everything, right? I took those pictures just to remind myself that the sun does shine here, and packed everything back up. I sense that Glencoe will be having a trip entitled ‘take 3’! Lol.
I didn’t think much further here, and just went back to the camper. Had I of really thought about it, I could have followed the river along a little, and maybe gotten an entirely different shot. Although I didn’t quite see it from my vantage point, the water hadn’t gone entirely, and I could hear the river flowing in the distance. Oh well, hindsight is a wonderful thing and all that…
Yesterday was about finding a thing I missed on my January visit. Another location I’d missed, was Ralston’s Cairn. It wasn’t too far from here, and after the January trip I had researched its location better, and a parking spot for it, for the future. So today, since the falls had been a bust, I decided that the future was here, and that I would go take a hike to find it. I pulled up at the singular parking spot, which, thankfully, was empty, and readied myself for an uphill hike. I used Google maps to try and find the exact position of the cairn, since it was on there with one of their markers, although I knew from other photos online roughly where it was. I hiked up, following Google until I saw a small building. It had marked this as the cairn, but it definitely wasn’t here. I had a little explore instead, then wandered around a slightly wider area in an attempt to find it. Using a photo I had on my phone, I tried to line up landmarks and wandered up and down in the area for a bit, until I nearly gave up – then I saw it. It was lower than I was, lower than the building marked, and a bit further down than the map had indicated. In fact, it wasn’t far from the start and I had overshot it by quite a bit! I went over and sat down nearby resting and just taking the view from here in thoroughly. On any other day it might have been an absolutely stunning view, but for me right now the cloud had taken root, and there was no sunlight picking out the scenery in front of me. That doesn’t mean to say that it wasn’t still breathtaking however!
Because the scenery was pretty flat, I thought I would just try to blur it out a little and get the cairn in crisp focus so that it was clearly the point of the image. I thought I would at least try and be a bit creative and deliberate in my shot(!) This wasn’t something I had really tried before, but I wanted the view to still be there, just not as the main subject. It would have been very easy for me to snap a photo taking the whole view in, and if it had been dappled in patches of sunlight I probably would have done that. For now however, I put my aperture onto the widest open that I could (f2.8 on this lens) and took this shot. I can see that it hasn’t blurred the background as much as I hoped though. For those not camera techy, setting the aperture to the smallest number will ‘open’ the lens up to its fullest. This does two things – it lets in a lot more light (so you have to adjust other settings to ensure its not too bright) and it restricts the area of focus. (also called the depth of field) Now, I really struggle to understand the camera settings, and no matter how many times I think I get it, I forget it all very quickly – but this effect almost worked – so maybe some is slowly sinking in after all! I suspect it wasn’t quite as blurry as I hoped in the distance because the subject that I was using to focus on (the cairn) wasn’t as close to the lens as it needed to be for a stronger effect on the deeper background. But if I had been right up close to the cairn, the balance of the photo wouldn’t have been what I wanted either, so this may have to do I think. Of course I may be totally wrong about all this… an experiment trying other ideas will show me otherwise I guess… (or someone advising me of course!)
Ralstons cairn, by the way, is a fairly new one. Its in memory of Ralston Claud Muir, who died suddenly, aged just 32, on 10 January 2000 from a rare form of leukaemia that he didn’t know he had. He loved to climb in the Glen, and his family and friends decided to have his ashes remain here forever, so he would never be far from the area he loved so much. On the marker it says “These are my mountains and I have come home. Ralston” The number of photos taken here, at this exact spot, are a reminder of why he loved this place so much, and will keep both this love and his memory very much alive. I was so very pleased to have finally found it, and sat having a short chat with him before finally making my way back down to Fred – a walk which revealed just how much closer to the start point it actually was.
It was 1.30 by now, so I wondered what I should consider doing next… I had visited Glencoe Lochen in January, but they had drained it at the time to do some urgent repair works. I wasn’t sure if they had finished it (as I couldn’t remember what their timescale was), but I assumed it would be a long job. I decided to go and visit here anyway, just to take a look, and started the drive. Somehow I took a wrong turn and was driving for over half an hour simply enjoying the views over what I now realise was Loch Leven, before I spotted my mistake. I turned back, found the parking spot I had hoped for and went for a gentle stroll around the circuit with River. After the woodland segment of the walk, I reached the lochen to realise that the water had been completely filled again, that it was looking stunning, and that even this late in the day, the water was incredibly still. The cloud had lifted a little in the hour I had been driving, and I was blessed with the odd burst of light across the whole scene. (see header photo) Agh!! I didn’t have my kit with me!! I pondered for a few minutes, but I really couldn’t be bothered to go all the way back for my camera, so I took out my mobile and settled on shots with that instead. The view from a little jetty looked particularly gorgeous this afternoon, and at least I now knew that the work here was all finished and that it would be good for next time right…?
This was about the walk Sandy… just the calm, peaceful walk… don’t look at it all too closely… enjoy the WALK!!! I was actually fuming with myself that I hadn’t brought my full kit, despite the pep talk – but looking skyward, it was clear that the break in the cloud was only ever going to be fleeting. By the time I had gotten all the way to the camper, and then back here again, this would surely not look like this. Or so I told myself anyway… I don’t know it convinced me however. The walk was wonderful, and despite my frustrations with myself, It was lovely to walk around somewhere beautiful without the weight on my back.
When I left here, it was to go to my final overnight spot, and to be in position for my last morning shot. I had plenty of time now, because I was just thinking of simply going back to park up ready, and relaxing for the evening. As I had the extra time on my hands, I decided to follow the pretty view I had mistakenly taken just before getting here. I paused for a quick stop in Kinlochleven, the village at the top of Loch Leven, when I saw what I thought were big gushing falls into the river that led into the Loch. As I explored I realised it wasn’t a waterfall, but a man made structure, releasing water from something being used much further upstream. I found a board that told about there being a dam further into the hills at Loch Eilde Mor. It said that the demand for Aluminium had grown so rapidly during the first world war that 1200 German POW’s and 500 British soldiers were brought in to build a pipeline from the dam to another – the Blackwater Dam, 5 miles away – to help increase water to the hydro scheme. I wonder if this is the run off from anything to do with that or the Aluminium smelter?
I tried to get closer to see if there was a shot here, but realised fairly quickly that I needed to plan this in properly to be able to work the scene. The flow out was quite chaotic, and the little spur of pebbled bank didn’t really lend itself to a nice enough foreground to balance the power of the gushing water. I went from there to the main bridge, and noticed that behind the commercial wastewater (??) there was the possibility of another shot with a little wooden foot bridge, a small weir (?) and some very gently flowing river. I was feeling too tired to go back and explore further though, so I snapped a photo on my phone, and left it there for today. This tiredness had been building clearly, as it was twice now that I had not bothered this afternoon. The ‘not bothered’ mood struck again very shortly afterwards, when I spotted a small sign pointing the way to a waterfall near where I had parked up. The Grey Mare’s waterfall was somewhere nearby clearly, although I couldn’t hear it from here, and I had no idea how far a hike might take me. Did I want to investigate… did I?…did I? I knew it wasn’t on my map as I had never heard of this one and I pondered it for a bit I wont lie, but was I feeling quite exhausted, so took a photo of the sign to remind me to look it up… and I left it for now instead.
As I drove towards Corpach, I suddenly realised how hungry I was too, (had I eaten anything since my light breakfast??) so I stopped off for something at the Fort William MacDonald’s drive through. I am not usually a fan of burgers, but I was so hungry I realised I actually wanted ANYTHING… no, I wanted EVERYTHING!!! LOL!!! The girl at the window was really helpful, and made sure I had enough of the sauces as I suddenly remembered extras to my order that I had forgotten, and I left salivating at the thought of tucking into it. Me, salivating at the thought (and smell) of a McD… that’s got to be a first!
As I drove through the north part of Fort William, a sign flashed up that there was a yellow weather warning for the area, and that heavy rains were expected. I feared the worst thinking that tomorrow may well be a bust – but I was here now, so I may as well stay, just in case. I pulled up at my stop for the night, ravenously devoured my food, and checked the weather. Yep. bad weather was definitely on its way looking at this…