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A Trip Report – Three Weeks Part 2

Tim Parkin Trip Report - Glencoe

Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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Last issue I talked about the first half of my epic photography 'vacation' where I finished a commission for the National Parks authority and a week giving a large format workshop. As soon as I got back it was off to Glencoe in the camper van with my ever loving (and occasionally despairing) wife.

Now having visited Glencoe a few times and having done the ‘icons’ in the past, I was interested in looking for some different locations and/or different viewpoints in familiar locations. Our first goal was to take a walk up into the Lost Valley, a hanging valley that sits in between the three sisters. After parking up we saw some an incredible sight of mist overflowing from Rannoch Moor into the Glencoe Valley, after a short run up the valley and a fight with the cold air dropping down the slope - sadly, as is often the case, the view didn’t translate well into a photograph as seen.

The walk into the valley is fairly easy, although there is a sneaky bit where you have to climb over a tree that has fallen across the path with a 50ft drop just to the left of you but it's not dangerous.  Once you have reached the place where you cross the brook, you are basically there bar a 100 yard scramble. I took at small detail shot of a water drop in the brook reflected in the very cool light from the pure blue sky above. I reduced a lot of the colour saturation in this image.

Once you get over the talus (a massive skree slope/rockfall that blocks the exit of the valley) you get to see an overall view of the valley. Even thought the subject wasn’t the most photogenic, it was still impressive and sometimes it’s good to get a record shot of a location for future reference, so I captured a side by side panorama using the shift feature of my camera (basically the equivalent of holding the lens in one position but moving the sensor from side to side to capture a wider image). I’ve added a zoomify image to show you the location below.

 

One of the downsides of walking in November is the short days so we didn’t have long to spend in the valley before it was time to return - we really should have started walking in before daybreak.

On the way back from the valley, we took a quick trip to the hospital Lochan below the Pap of Glencoe, catching the last light. I wanted to work around the reflections of the last sun on the Pap and walked around the edge of the Lochan. Fortunately I found an opportunity and turned it into a composition fairly quickly and I’m happy to say it turned out to be one of my favourites of the trip.

The following morning we drove over Rannoch Moor to take a look at the area of clear fell that I had been looking at for many years - originally I thought the area was a blight on such a beautiful, wild environment; then, later, I understood it's necessity to transform an area of commercial monoculture back into something that was complementary to the moor but that was still ugly; now I'm more sanguine - the area is what it is, the landscape is constant flux and any part is transitory and is interesting possibly for just this reason. Because of this change in viewpoint, I wanted to spend some time in the area just to see what was happening - how the transformation looked from close up. I was quite surprised to find that the area was brimming with new growth. Admittedly this new growth was small plants, mosses and the occasional sapling but it was incredibly luscious. I would be guessing but it seems that where the clear-fell has been burned, the ash has fertilised the soil and boosted growth.

 

 

I spent a while looking for a view that would allow me to include this effect and to put it in context. In order to do so, I had to work very close to the ground and using tilt to show a glimpse of the moor and Lochans in the background under a rolling morning cloud. Unfortunately, the location wasn't particularly inspiring to my other half and a retreat to the camper van for a well deserved cuppa and shelter from the wind was soon required.

Later that day we took a walk from our cabin up the Glencoe valley with the aim of exploring areas we had not seen before. Most of this wasn't photographically productive, either my eye wasn't "in" or the light wasn't inspiring me. We reached the end of the valley early and decided to walk down to the river opposite the late Jimmy Saville's house (which had flowers on the gate and scottish flag at half mast - a bit too much reverence in my eyes) and once we reached the river we realised it would be easy to cross and so we decided to have a wander around on the land opposite. After climbing around for a while, I reached a viewpoint where I could see down the valley and also overlook "The Study" and the road through the head of the valley. This view had a wonderful symmetry and showed the meeting of the waters to great effect. Even though the weather wasn't particularly complementary, the effect was worth an image and so I decided to try a first for me, a three shot rotational panorama on my large format camera. The result is shown below and is one I'm quite happy with. It shows the a pair of the Glencoe sisters (the pretty ones, of course) but it also shows the meeting of the waters in full symmetry.

While I was up there, I also took a quick shot in the other direction to show how the glaciers scraped away the head of the valley in all it’s geological glory (not particularly well colour balanced this one ..).

I’m hoping to return sometime to capture this view under more inclement weather and possibly more dramatic light :-)

We could have been a little disappointed with the fact that all of the trees in the Glencoe area were nearly leafless, despite having had some glorious colour in our previous week in the lakes (see the photograph below taken on the edge of Ullswater one morning). The Autumn was quite ‘varied’ to say the least.

Fortunately, our next trip was to meet up with Richard Childs who was to take us to an ‘alternative’ location that showed a little more chromatic vigour. So after a circuitous drive down to Barcaldine and then back up past Invercreran, we ended up not a few miles from where we started but on the other side of Meal Mòr. Incredibly, just the back of this valley had luscious Autumnal colour and full bodied heads of hair .. err.. leaves.. I can only presume that the cold air I had experienced sweeping down the Glencoe valley from Rannoch Moor had hastened the leaf loss.

Although it was only 2pm, the glancing light skimmed across the glacial moraines (lumps of rocky crap left over when glaciers melted... moraine sounds quite posh though so I’ll carry on using that) as shown below. The head of the valley definitely needed further investigation which I was to do later in the week.

I was joined by Mr Dav Thomas and his better half in the middle of our trip and we spent a day pottering about the foot of Robbers Falls at the end of Glen Etive, a wonderful, boggy location with some wonderul grasses and trees. Once particular tree was quite surprised to see myself and Dav with such big cameras.

 

I don’t know whether I’d been influenced by the Friedlander book I had read recently but I’ve had an urge to shoot through trees and branches recently, hiding the background and ‘scenery’, tantalising a little perhaps. I took the idea a little further when we walked into a small fenced area (to allow saplings and bushes to grow without deer grazing them) and I shot through the fresh birch growth and abstracted the background even further. Quite pleased by the results.

Further toward Robber’s Falls itself, we could see massive landslips that have blocked the ‘scoop’, a feature that Richard Childs has introduced to various people producing beautiful photographs such as David Ward’s and Roger Longdin's. Here is a view looking up from the scoop itself.

Dav Thomas took a fine shot looking down in the opposite direction from here producing something almost looking like a vista, an uncommon occurrence I've been told.

by Dav Thomas

The next day both myself, Dav and Richard Childs returned to Glen Creran. Within the first few minutes of arriving, Richard had shown us an area of grassland scattered with birches and the first light was skimming into the valley and pin pointing areas of the hillside. Within the first ten minutes I had taken three photographs (unheard of for those of a large format persuasion - so I’ve been told).

All of these were taken with a long lens (at least long for large format, in 35mm terms it was about a 150mm). These moments when you arrive in a location and there seem to be an infinite amount of possibilities are few and far between but can be a combination of not just the location but your state of mind. Dav and Richard weren't having the same experience and so we moved on.

Dav had his moments of inspiration later on however, producing this trio of shots from within a hundred yards of each other.

The end of Glen Creran was wonderful; a mix of old growth birch, fir, marsh, brooks, dams, etc. etc.. There was once particular picture that I was desperate to get but despite developing all of my sheet film it appeared to have disappeared. However, last week we found a random darkslide behind the collapsible bed in the camper van so I'm hoping that is the one. The picture below is an iphone shot of what I'm hoping it might look like. This was taken with the iPhone 4S and the ProHDR app, which is evidenced by the ghosting in the trees on the right where my ageing hands had problems keeping things steady.

 

Our last walk of the holiday was to follow the feeder pipes flowing from the Blackwater reservoir behind Kinlochleven. A recommendation from Richard Childs was very well received and although we were supposed to walk up into the woods, I got attracted to the pipes themselves - starting to understand the attraction that Richard has for the location (see here and here) in the end I made three images, using the graphic shapes of the pipes and the way that the local flora had managed to get a foothold back again.

So - in total a most enjoyable few weeks.



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