on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Glen Nevis

Photographing the Glen in the Snow

Mark Littlejohn

Mark Littlejohn is a landscape photographer based on the edge of the English Lake District. He specialises in moody, atmospheric early morning conditions and offers bespoke one-to-one workshops and Lakeland tours.


Like most landscape photographers I love winter and find it a special time of year. There is much to be said for autumn, spring and summer but there is just something about crisp frosty mornings and fresh layers of virgin snow that I find invigorating. A change is as good as rest as they say. However, this year winter has never really arrived. Maybe one frosty morning and a couple of minor snow falls by Mid January and that was our lot.

Around this time I received an invite from Tim and Charlotte to come up to Glencoe and spend a couple of days with them in their rented cottage. Checking the forecast revealed promises of heavy snow and temperatures well below zero. It seemed too good to be true and I accepted the invite with alacrity. When I arrived at the cottage late on the Friday night via a Glencoe almost bereft of snow I discovered a puncture on the Landcruiser. Feeling slightly disheartened Tim and I had a natter over a glass of Red and discussed where we would all go on the morrow. I disclosed I had never been to Glen Nevis before and that was just about the start and end of the discussion.

Location decided, we set off earlyish in Tim’s car the following morning. A fresh landscape beckoned and the puncture on the Landcruiser could wait. Driving up a now and ice covered single track road into the heart of Glen Nevis gave Tim the chance to find out how grippy (or not) his Volvo XC70 was in four wheel drive. We drove right to the end of the road and parked up. By this time it was just after dawn but there was no sign of any light. The new day was being revealed as rather a flat grey. We decided to walk back to the nearest footbridge; maybe half a mile or so back down the road.

I always have to go to the highest point when exploring new locations.
It was my call as I had been rather taken by the sight of some beautiful Scots Pine trees standing on little platforms of rock a few hundred feet up from the valley floor. We agreed to meet back at the bridge in a couple of hours time and I was off exploring. I always have to go to the highest point when exploring new locations. I’ve no idea why. I just do. On this occasion I was never going to get to the highest point but a few hundred feet would certainly give me a different take. As I climbed I could see the weather start to close in and the conditions improved by the minute. The only problem was, as I got higher I wanted to go higher still. There was always another, more interesting ridge beckoning me on. I finally decided to call a halt as the snow flurries started to thicken and the distant ridge started to disappear from view.

I was travelling fairly light. No filters, tripod etc and using just the Nikon Df, 20mm 2.8Ais, 28mm 2.8Ais, 50mm 1.2Ais, 85mm 1.8G, 135mm f2 DC, 180mm 2.8AF-n. The 50mm is a recent acquisition and I have been quite taken by it. From the highest point I reached I had a view forwards to the ridge (Tim told me the name but I have no idea what it is) with a lovely charismatic Scots Pine in front of it. Using the 28mm lens gave me the opportunity of trying to capture it in a manner complementing the nearly out of sight ridge. Moments after this the ridge disappeared from view as the snow flurries grew in strength. Despite the fact that there were some interesting views of waterfalls and rocks behind me (I was on a small ridge like pinnacle) I decided to start making my way back down the hill. Although the snow was a decent depth at this height there were no issues with my movement up, down or across.


Moving slowly back down the slope gave me time to explore some of the other wee platforms of trees. In common with many other photographers I always tend to go to the highest spot first and then take photographs on my return journey. It means I’ve seen each view from all the angles and I’m more in control of my time. As I descended the snow got heavier and I started to wonder if Tim would be worrying about the journey back out of the Glen. Conditions were too nice to worry too much about that as I reached rather a nice platform of trees. It was quite an easy job to isolate one of the Scots Pine, in such a ways as to also give it a nice diagonal backdrop of other Pines.


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