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My Top 12

Tim Parkin's Favourites from the Highlands in 2017

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Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

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

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I’ve been posting my most interesting twelve on and off for the last decade. It’s fair to say that it’s been mostly off for the last few years as our residency in the bleak flatlands of East Yorkshire failed to inspire me (my fault! My colleague Paul Moon proves what potential lies therein if you look properly). Things have all changed in the last year however. Our move to the highlands of Scotland couldn’t fail but give me the inspiration and ingredients to produce some interesting work, but it wasn’t without challenge itself.

Anyone who has moved to a classically beautiful location will probably be familiar with the self-flagellation that goes with not getting out as much as one hoped. Before the move, I was insistent that I would be going out at least every couple of days to graze at the photogenic landscape. However, moving to a new location may bring new opportunity, but it doesn’t suddenly make one’s commitments evaporate - in fact for those familiar with just moving house know, the tasks that accompany that first year seem endless.

However! You don’t need to go out that much to accumulate a few photographs. I also came up with a plan. It’s hardly original, but by the time June came around, I thought it would be a good idea to start my own 365 project. The ultimate goal of any 365 project is to get out every day and take a photo. I’ll admit I didn’t quite achieve that, but I did get out at least very few days and posted a picture every day.

So what was it like moving from the pains of the east to the mountains of the west? Stunning and infuriating in equal measure. After missing a wondrous sprint via DIY, the year went on to become the wettest summer for decades. This didn’t stop us getting out and about though and everywhere pulsed with potential. The best days were getting out on the hill with family and friends (and for some reason we seem to have a lot more of both visiting than we did when we lived in Market Weighton).

One of the best surprises was the woods at the back of our house. What we thought would be your typical forestry commission regimented and tightly packed pine forest was, in reality, a sprawling mix of ageing coniferous with a decent scattering of old deciduous. Here’s a photograph of the area just behind the house.

I'm looking forward to spending time wandering around these woods through the seasons.

Anyway, I’m waffling now though so let’s move onto my ‘most interesting of 2017.’

Last Breath of Winter

At the end of April, Mark Littlejohn gave us a call to say there was a cold snap coming with snow forecast and do we want to go out to play? Of course, we answered yes, and so we were treated to a Chauffeur driven tour of the A86 up to Newtonmore. Quite a few nice photos were taken but this stand of trees next to Balgowan stood out for me, especially as we were lucky with some winter snow diffused sunlight just behind them.

Free Diving Flora

One of the joys of living somewhere instead of visiting is the chance to make ‘risky’ decisions. I don’t mean ‘risky’ as in doing the Aonach Eagach in winter wearing slippers though, I mean you can go out for a meander with no expectation of producing any images. On one of our walks, we came across a bank of thrift on the edge of Loch Leven that was in the process of being covered by salt water as the tide came in. I had never seen this happen to the plant before and the combination of water texture and vibrant pinks kept us both entertained for hours.

Quarry Meadows

Just down the road from us in Ballachulish is one of my favourite photographic assets. The old slate quarry isn’t obviously the most photogenic subject, but there are pockets of detail here and there, especially when the Birch is looking interesting and the atmospheric conditions are picked up by the slate. However, the community has also seeded the floor of the quarry with wild flowers, and it was a great surprise when I visited the area in spring and found this amazing meadow on our doorstep. With slanting light from the sunset skimming the tops of the flowers, I used a bit of tilt to create a curious sense of bokeh that draws your eye to the sun lit sections..

Bunny Tails Grass

Bunny Tails or Hare’s Tail is a plant I’ve never encountered before and finding it on Guernsey during our summer holidays was a bit of a treat. This was just by the side of the road near one of Guernsey’s beachside cafe’s (a great way to break up a walk of the quite arid coastline - Guernsey ice cream milkshakes!). I used my Canon FD 50mm f/1.4 lens with a bit of tilt to create an abstract scene and spent quite some time finding layers with minimal grass and where the foreground section sat on a plane.

The Dark Quarry

Back to the Ballachulish Slate Quarry where the first taste of Autumn preceded the rest of the area (quarries or craggy areas are great for early colour - this was mid-October!). There aren’t many wide views that really work in the quarry and so a longish lens is useful (most of my photographs tend to be from 70-300mm). The colours of the slate vary quite considerably, not only with the colour of the sky, but there also seems to be a change in algae coating that can make the surfaces matt or shiny. This was taken toward sunset on a generally overcast day, so the light was very soft but still directional

Real Men don’t Photograph Ciche

This was from a little wander around the Glencoe Lochan near Invercoe House. The birch were just about perfect in this area and I was treated to a glimpse of sunshine on the Pap of Glencoe (Sgurr na Ciche) in the background. This particular birch is especially beautiful and I have a few photographs of it in various stages of undress.

Meall Cumhann

Up past Steall Falls and beyond the old croft of Steall (now ruined) you can follow a river up toward Meall Cumhann, the peak that overlooks Glen Nevis. Just before you turn away from the river (Coire Giubhsachan) towards the final climb to the peak, there is the detritus of the glacial valley that flows from the Càrn Mòr Dearg watershed and over the flank of Meall na Teanga. We stopped here for a picnic and to take in the first flurries of snow of the season over the Mamores. I had no tripod with me but with a few tries, I managed a fairly sharp exposure at ⅙ of a second (thank goodness for sensor and lens stabilisation!).

Slate and Heather Sunset

In late summer, the sun sets toward the mouth of Loch Leven and you get a good view down the loch to the Ballachulish bridge. If you climb to the higher levels of the Ballachulish quarry, you can get a good vantage of these sunsets and I did just that on this August day. The heather was just about as good as it was going to get and we had been treated to a sprinkling of rain and a final blast of sunlight to illuminate the clouds scudding over Ardgour and add some highlights to the slate on this first level of the quarry near the entrance.

On the Way to the Aviemore

Toward the end of Autumn, we took a drive over to Aviemore for a short walk but got distracted along the way by a waterfall in some woodland near Inverpattack. We were lucky to pass just as the sun cut through some gaps in the trees an illuminate the rocks in the foreground. The combination of lichen-encrusted rocks and trees and moss-covered undergrowth gave the scene a captivating fairy tale feel.

That Cottage

We’ve been coming to Glencoe on our annual holidays for the last 14 years and yet I’ve not once visited this staple attraction. On this first truly wintery day (late November) I took my brother in law for a little tour of Rannoch Moor and thought it was time to have a little look. I have to say that I can understand just why it is so popular as you can literally take the picture from the window of your car and include all the classic components (and oh what a beautiful splash of red!). We spent less than a minute there until the staff at the Glencoe Ski Centre arrived and spoiled the ambience.

St Johns Church

While out with my camera one morning, one of the locals stopped their car beside me and suggested that I should pay a visit to St John’s Church just beyond Ballachulish. Not one to reject local knowledge I promptly moved around the corner and was presented with a beautiful carpet of bluebells in front of the old church building. Although somewhat of a location ‘classic’, I loved the location so much I had to attempt my own version. Within days, photographers had trampled the whole area whilst trying to find their own compositions (despite most of the good vantage points being found from the footpath).

Loch Leven Splendour

Probably one of the finest viewpoints in Lochaber, the path to the Sgùrr Eilde Mòr has only risen about 200m before the view opens out beyond some very photogenic birches. The viewpoint also catches the morning and evening sun in many and varied ways throughout the year. On this occasion, I was accompanied by Joe Cornish, and although I didn’t refer to his version of this composition, I still converged on something very similar.

And that makes up my favourite twelve images of the year. If you'd like to see more images, you can have a look at the 365 website I've been working on at http://www.lochaber365.com. My goal from next year is to do the project properly with each photograph taken on that day. We'll see how that goes!!

Both me and Charlotte would like to thank all of our subscribers for their support over the years, we’re constantly surprised and delighted at the feedback we get from you all, and we’re looking forward to bringing some of our plans into fruition over the next year which will bring you lots more engaging content.

Finally, I’d like to leave you with the view from the On Landscape office which has been inspiring me over the last twelve months. The Highlands have so much to offer the landscape photographer, and if you’re planning on visiting, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We know a few interesting places now and would love to meet up if we have the time! Have a great holiday and I hope the new year brings all you hope for (and snow - definitely more snow!).

Submit your top landscape photograph from 2017

Shout out to all our subscribers asking you to submit your top landscape photograph from 2017 and we'll pull together the images into an online gallery in the next issue. Deadline for submissions is 5th January 2018.

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