Today didn't start off too well, to be absolutely honest I slept in. Early mornings are a prerequisite for a landscape photographer and when I saw the time I thought by the time I got on location I'd have missed the action. As always the night before I'd checked The Photographer's Ephermeris to see what time sunrise and sunset were, however once I got out and about I realised that I'd not taken into account the height of the mountains to the East of my intended location which meant by the time the sun would rise over the mountains was much later than the posted sunrise time.
I pushed my trusty photography truck on (as much as you can a 2 tonne plus 4x4 full of cameras) and made it to Castle Stalker, near Appin, on the west coast. You may recognise the castle from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Having recce'd the location earlier in the week I knew where I could park to be quickly down to the shoreline, you may remember in an expedition in November 2012 I parked at the viewing point, some way up the road and had to slip, slide and fall down an overgrown banking to get to the beach, this time there was no such delay.
I set up, composed the shot and got ready, all the while watching the sun come up over my shoulder. All of a sudden the castle went from being fully in shadow to being bathed in golden sunlight. I worked quickly, getting a couple of different compositions, then as soon as it had come the sun went back below a thick blanket of cloud.
My shooting friends (when I was younger I was in the Great Britain Rifle Shooting Team) will know the feeling of pulling the trigger and knowing it is a belting shot, right down the middle. With this photo I had the same feeling, I knew as I pressed the shutter release, long before the shutter closed and the image appeared on the digital back that it was going to be one of my favourite ever shots.
Packing the car back up I headed onwards towards Loch Awe and Castle Kilchurn. Unfortunately the cloud was back with a vengeance, as it stayed through the rest of the day, I tried the Falls of Dochart at Killin, again thick cloud, along Loch Tay, up over Meall Odhar Mor, through Tummel Bridge, Dalchalloch and onto the A9, then off at Dalwhinnie, past the famous distillery and down the banks of Loch Laggan. I had a spot in mind to try and wait for some decent light but when I got there the level of the loch was much higher than the last time I was there in September meaning my spot was underwater! As light fell I turned to another previous spot, Loch Arkaig where I have had success in the past. Sadly the cloud stayed with us meaning it was a no-go.
I am going to have some dinner and keep an eye on the cloud, if it clears I'm going back out into the hills to take advantage of the full moon and do some night photography.
Update - Friday 17th January at 0100 Hrs.
I've just got back in, the cloud looked to be clearing so I kitted up and went out again, only for the cloud to come back in. Still, there is nothing like the amazing solitude of being out on your own in Glen Coe at midnight in a full moon and a snow shower! As I've said before I love that place and being around tonight, instead of feeling quiet and lonely, as it may well to many people, it felt like home.
I even went for a jog out on the moor, I've been using a Fitbit Flex to help me get fitter for photography (my rucksack with 3 camera systems and lenses for each weighs in at 40kg and carrying it up hills and mountains is hard work). This ingenious little wristband measures how many steps I have taken each day, with a target of 10,000 per day (just over 5 miles). Approaching midnight I realised I was on 9600. Being as competitive as I am I couldn't miss my target so pulled up right at the summit of Rannoch Moor, parked up and went for a run about. There was only me, a herd of deer, and driving snow for company. It was quite refreshing and I hit my target! Sadly it wasn't a night for photography, a low cloud hanging over the mountains, but I am glad I was out there anyway.
Now to bed and ready for an early start in the morning, the met reports look really promising and thanks to a fellow landscape photographer, Paul Bullen, I have a new location to try.