After my first stop at Inverary to photograph Kilchurn Castle, I had barely gotten my feet wet in the Scottish Highlands. But wet they were! Armed with a new pair of rubber boots, I was off to my next destination: Glencoe.
“Glen” is a Scottish term for a long deep valley with gently sloping sides and Glen Coe is probably the most famous one. About 8 miles long and half a mile wide, the glen is surrounded by tall majestic mountains.
The rugged landscape, dramatic clouds, gurgling rivers, and gushing waterfalls make this a spectacular location for photography. Add in the autumn colours of rust, yellow, orange and green on the shrubs and grasses that cover the lower elevations and you have the ingredients for a photographer’s dream.
I arranged 3 nights in the village of Glencoe and was glad to have that time set aside. On the first day my challenge was to photograph the River Coupall in front of Buachaille Etive Mor. The Mor itself is not hard to find for it looms over the entrance to the glen with a distinctive pyramid shape.
I decided to take a drive down the road that goes past the Mor and leads to Glen Etive. It was my first experience with driving on a single track road and I was not ready for it! Talk about STRESSFUL!!
The road is extremely narrow and is only one lane for both directions. There are pullouts along the way, so if you see a car coming, you pull out and let it go by. But if you come up to a car and there is no pullout, one of you has to backup until you get to one so the two cars can pass.
Eventually I became more experienced at this and had faith in the frequency of the pullouts. But this first experience was hair raising and crazy mad! It was absolutely pouring sideways rain and I was so stressed that about half way along I was simply looking for a pullout that was large enough to turn my tiny rental car around so I could head back. Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the payoff at the end of the road: Loch Etive. I doubt I would have seen anything on that day anyway.
So my first day in Glen Coe didn’t turn out very well, and the weather was not ideal for photography, but the next two days certainly made up for it.
The next morning I got up long before sunrise and returned to this same road in the dark! I only drove down it for a very short distance to a spot where I had seen the river the day before. I really wanted to find the location where you can photograph the river in front of the impressive mountain, so I decided to walk alongside the river and see if I could find a good location before sunrise, and I did!
I drove the 8 mile length of Glen Coe on Highway A82 numerous times during the next two days. I had a few specific places picked out, but one afternoon I decided to just drive along and stop whenever I saw something good along the way. After 4 hours, I discovered I had only gone 4 miles!!
All of this time was spent photographing not very far from the side of the road. Since I was having problems with my knees at the time, I wasn’t doing any serious hiking in the highlands. But fortunately there is plenty to see right from the road.
One of my favourite locations that I had picked out ahead of time was the Lagangarbh Cottage, which is owned by the National Trust for Scotland. I made lots of photos of this place, but my favourite was when I got right down on the River Coupall in front of the cottage and got the colourful rocks in the foreground.
The strangest thing happened to me when I was there. This couple came up to me and said they had seen another photographer there and they wanted to know what was so good about it. I think I looked at them a little dumbfounded and confused. So they clarified that they didn’t understand why anyone would want to photograph here. What is interesting about it?
I was like “uh … a rugged mountain, autumn foliage, cute little house, river in the foreground, colourful rocks, dramatic sky … I really can’t think of anything you could possibly want in a photograph that isn’t here!”
One thing I loved about photographing in Glen Coe is the ever changing clouds and light. Dramatic, moody, ethereal, magical and sublime, the feel of the place was constantly changing.