on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Winds of Change, Windows of Opportunity

Richard Childs bemoans the Scottish weather...

Richard Childs

Richard Childs

Richard trained as an Orchestral Percussionist in the 1980's but his true love has always been the outdoors and particularly mountain environments. Throwing in his drumsticks to become a full-time photographer in 2004 he continues to work with a large format camera alongside digital equipment and exhibits his work in solo and group exhibitions as well as at his own gallery in the Ironbridge Gorge. Links to Website and Facebook

The first fat raindrops slapped down onto the rocks around me. Above, an angry cloud had swallowed the mountain summit beneath which the mist of heavy rain swept down the ridge in my direction. Cursing the inaccurate weather forecasts I pressed on, head down against the storm, fifteen hundred feet of ascent yet to go.

Glen Etive Storm 1

I had left my home near Oban under clear blue skies, as predicted a day of respite between the waves of Atlantic weather that had been the norm now for a week or more. The weathermen had lead me to expect light winds on the summits and an 80% chance of cloud free tops. Perfect for the image I had in mind, a grand view south from the summit of Beinn Starav to Ben Cruachan, the rocky tops and ridges in between lit by the last light of day and with any luck cloud in the sky to add colour and interest. Then a "relatively" quiet night on the summit, a dawn shoot and back to my car by mid morning.

A party of bedraggled hillwalkers descended towards me and a brief chat confirmed what I already knew would be the case; zero visibilty and worse, fierce winds that had driven them down into the valley early. Not a hope for me with a bulky, wind resistant wooden camera and slow film. As the crow flew I was only nine miles from home but here it was a completely different season and I was underequipped for the conditions.

Glen Etive Storm 2

Working for the most part on the West Coast of Scotland this is not particularly unusual. I have learned during the six and a half years photographing here that you often need a plan B, C or D but rarely have to return home defeated by the weather. Pre-conceived images often take months or years to fulfil, relying as they do on a set of particular conditions to make them work. Every failed attempt however spawns a multitude of new ideas and images, often better than the original. I have no doubt that this constant need to adapt has allowed me to develop as a photographer and I hope produce a more honest portrayal of what makes Scotland so beautiful to me, it's geology and climate.

Glen Etive Storm 3

High on the mountainside I knew that the only chances of making any images would lie beneath me. Heading back down the ridge with the weather at my back I now had the luxury of time on my hands and the chance to check out some of the many groups of boulders strewn across the hillside that I had passed on the climb. Another heavy shower was entering the head of the glen, the peaks of Stob na Broige and Stob Dubh melting in and out of the cloud. Overhead, more cloud, lit by the Sun to the west was pumping warm light down all around me. Having looked at a few options I chose the group of three boulders that sat well in the foreground and chose to make a series of images from the same location as the weather and light developed before me.

Berneray Bucket

While I feel that pre-visualisation can play an essential part in arriving at many successful images I believe there is also a danger that trying to make specific images in chosen locations can close your mind to the many other possibilities that present themselves along the way. By being flexible I rarely return home dissappointed after a days photography whether i've made new images or not. On a recent trip to the Outer Hebrides I emerged from my tent one morning to find that a thick sea mist had rolled in during the night. My intended image from the sandy shore of Berneray across an island studded sea to the hills of Harris in warm light had no chance of happening. The epic vista replaced by an image that has become one of my favourites from the week long visit, an image of a rusting bucket and coiled rope in the bottom of a rowing boat discovered as I wandered around the quayside beneath the dull, flat sky. An image that says as much to me about the island as my grand view would have done

And of course I still have my dream shots as a very good reason to spend more time in the future in those wonderful places.

The Letter from Scotland is brought to you by Richard Childs, a landscape photographer who works with a large format camera and is based around the West coast of Scotland. If you want to see more of Richard's work or take a look at his excellent workshops, visit Richard Childs Photography

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