Scotlands Highlands 2020: Part Ten
31 July 2020
I started the day at Ardvrek castle, and tried an early shoot but I missed the dawn and the sun was now washing out half the shots I hoped for. I did have a go, and in one spot the shots came out fairly nicely, although I felt there was a definate need to come back and try again when the light reflected the mood of the castle itself. This castle, and its awesome history, needed, in my opinion, a good moody threatening sky. This would reflect its grim and bloody history well, I thought. Since this clearly wasnt going to be right now, I decided to have a retry tonight when the sun or light would be behind me for my prefferred shot and I had a rethink for today over breakfast.
I decided to take a leisurely drive down the A837/A836/A839/A9 to pick up on the southern part of Sutherland that I had driven through on my way to Caithness. There were a few locations I hoped to photograph down there and I didnt want to miss them. My first choice of location was the Sputie Burn waterfall at Golspie, a really sweet waterfall that was right on a beach apparently. The drive was easy, only an hour, and on the way I happened across the Wee Hoose in Loch Shin. I only grabbed a quick shot, as there was pretty much only one spot to shoot it from. Cloud had begun to set in, but the Hoose was still in full sun, so the shots here were a bit too harsh for my liking. I forgot to bring over my long lens too, so I couldnt zoom in more to get the shot I would have preferred, but I consoled myself with being able to get this better at another time. It was fun reading about the fake history of this house however, it was so convincing, it almost had me, even though I knew it wasnt real. The ‘legend’ has it, that a poacher named Jock Broon taught the local Laird how to distil whisky, and as a way of showing his gratitude, the Laird gave Broon a small piece of land of his own. It was said that Jock wanted to proudly mark his territory and his new status as a landowner, so build a house of his own and the Wee Hoose was born. The story then continues, stating that he didnt live there long, as he accidentally shot himself in the foot and died shortly after. Fun story, and there’s even a board nearby showing photos of the house in olden years… however, as I already noted, it is all fake, having been build some 20-25 years ago as a float for the local Lairg Gala. It was put on the island after the gala, purely as a bit of fun, and it took off and became so popular with not just the locals, but tourists, that it has since stayed. Bad weather had destroyed it a couple of times, but it has been rebuilt and apparently even has lighting that comes on at the same time as the street lights. Wish I had been there in the evening now…bet it looks lovely!!! Next time!
I continued down to the waterfall, found the spot fairly easily and had to park up on a verge as I wasnt sure whether I could get down the small road after the bridge here. I gathered my kit, the dog and my wellingtons and started off down the road, wading through water that flooded the road under the bridge, finding a spot for two cars at the end. I could have parked here after all. I heard the falls from here so followed through a small gate, and along the little footpath down to the beach. The waterfall was really easy to find, as it was indeed pretty much right on the beach where the path ended. When I arrived, it was bathed in beautiful sunlight, and looked amazing so I snapped a quick shot with my phone, and set the camera up. Once the camera was up however, the sun had gone behind a cloud. I waited for a while, and when it looked like a no show, just took what I could and packed my camera away when I couldnt really get much more. As I packed the camera away, the sun came out, so I quickly set up again, only to have the darned thing duck behind a cloud again. I waited, but nope, nothing, so packed away again. It continued to tease me like this for the whole time I was there. It was SO frustrating!!
I waited for a little longer just in case the sun was willing to make a re appearance, and even wandered down to the beach for a bit, but it clearly had no intention of coming out for any length of time. Eventually I had had enough of the wait, and the clouds were definately gathering rather than dispersing, so since it clearly wasnt going to happen for me today, I travelled the 5 minutes to get to Big Burn falls instead. These were also easy to find, as the Big Burn walk is marked from the roadside. Parking was plentiful, with a few car parks dotted along a narrow road and a nice 10-15 minute woodland walk from the end car park.
When I got there, I fell in love with these falls. They felt totally different in character. Where Sputie Burn was light, airy, fresh and open, Big Burn falls were dark, brooding and far more oppressive, in a good way if thats possible. They were in a small gorge that rounded and cupped the falls making them feel very intimate, private and peaceful. Sadly, these falls had pretty much only one position to shoot from, a ready built wooden viewing platform on the left side. Because of this, I didnt have a lot of options for alternative viewpoints so I tried several different exposures and ISO settings instead. I hoped that when I got home I might see the differences in each setting on the PC. I would have liked to have gotten a shot from the other side of the river, but the falls and water had cut a fairly deep riverbed so crossing today looked pretty impossible. I might try again at another date and see if its possible further down river, tho the walls of the gorge might make it impossible to walk up on the other side sadly. Of the two waterfall visits today however, this one was definately my favourite.
I stayed quite a while here, mostly just standing and soaking up the peace, but eventually I had to leave to do the drive back to Ardvrek Castle for a second night, and hopefully my moody castle shot. By the time I got back there, it was also in cloud cover so I got quite excited by the shot I was hoping to get. However, I had neglected to remember where I was, and the time of day, and the second I stepped out of the camper I was mobbed by evening midges that swarmed into the camper. I slammed the door shut as soon as I realised and spend the next 10 minutes doing my now impressive (and frantic) clapping dance to the still curious and confused gaze of the dog. Despite this not being my first ‘dance’ she still seemed totally perplexed. Within the hour, I was very sadly watching a stunning sunset swathed in the wee biteys from the window – but I was too scared to set foot outside. What a shite nancy of a photographer I was that night! 🙁