Sulliven, Assynt, Scotland.
One would imagine that when visiting amazing places such as Assynt that it would be a case of pointing the camera and coming home with, at the very least, some useable shots. Well in most cases that would be true, certainly on some of my previous trips some of my favourite images have been adhoc moments where I have been more of a tourist with my camera that a photographer.
My annual trip this year was in the UK, I have always wanted to go and explore the area around Stac Pollaihd and Sulliven with the hope of getting up high to capture the amazing and surreal geology. As you can see in the image above, these mountains and ranges just appear in the middle of lochs and marshland. By spending a week here I would have hoped to come away with full memory cards and spent many a weeks after processing images and enjoying the memories of the trip, I certainly have memories and loved every minute of exploring what I could. But mother nature on this occasion was set to thwart every attempt of a reasonable days photography, for any one on a dedicated photography trip will tell you there is nothing more frustrating the wrong weather. So what is the wrong weather, well in my opinion it would be low cloud base, drizzle and mist with a strong wind. Pretty much what we experienced for the full week, except for a few fleeting moments.
The image you see above was one of those moments, but it took at least an hour of standing in the rain with full waterproofs and a 5-minute gap where some of the sunset shone through the gaps in the clouds. Then shortly after it started to rain again for the rest of the evening. It was like this pretty much everyday all day, like an artistic vampire and mood hoover. Motivation was low and my companion and me were starting to get really frustrated.
The only thing that even close to anything interesting in this photo was the huge cloud hanging over Stac Pollaihd. I was trying to be creative and thought about the cloud being the feature of this photo and went for a very low exposure, I don’t really like the shot but it certainty portrays how I was feeling in the moment. This was one of the days where much of the morning was spent sitting in the car watching the rain on the windows, a brief moment saw the rain lift and I was hopeful that I might be able to get up the top of Stac Polly. The temperature was quite warm, wind was dropping so fingers crossed.......
Eventually is stopped for a moment, the weather satellites were showing that it might be hopeful for some change so I thought I would chance a walk up towards the summit.
The cloud just wouldn’t seem to shift from any of the tops, Sulliven here loses it characteristic look and Stac Polliahd behind me was also covered in low hanging cloud so elevation was also a challenge. The other most annoying thing in Scotland, second to the weather is the dam Midge, no sooner had the wind dropped I was eaten alive with Midge sticking to me from the wet and perspiration. I think the words, I give up came to mind. I only forgot my head net too....... back to the car again.
A desperate attempt at being creative with the files I got, afterall there is no point in not taking any photos while you are away.
So I guess this was about as good as it got, a lot of time was spent exploring and it wasn't a wasted trip as a return will be on the cards with the hope of better weather. Winter is definately looking hopeful, i'd imaging these mountains with snow would look spectacular as long as I can get there safely, it is a ten hour drive afterall. So I suppose the answer to the question is, no landscape photography is not easy. It certainly helps to be in the right locations and to have some idea about compositions, getting the most from your camera but if the weather is not on your side it can be difficult. Great landscape photos are usually made when the weather conditions are at its very best, or worse in some occassions. I know the ones I am most happy with have been a bit more interesting because of the light interplaying with the land.