I’ve just spent a week up in Fort William and did wonder if I could fill the time without covering too much of the ground I’ve already shot. As it turned out I was quite happy with the relaxing week of photography it provided for. This is less of a blog post, more of a travelogue but here’s a selection of shots from an area I still haven’t tired of…
I was staying just outside of Fort William itself at a little place called Banavie and on arrival my first instinct was to pop along to see the old shipwreck at Corpach. I’ve shot this before on a summer’s day but on this occasion the setting sun suggested there might be a little colour dancing about in the evening sky. The top picture is a good illustration of what can happen ten minutes after the sun has set, the candyfloss clouds lending the scene a different dimension and feel altogether.
The day after it was different again with warm tones hitting the mountains beforehand – but no afterglow.
Back down the road in Banavie and just a stone’s throw from my cottage was Neptune’s Staircase, a 200 year old flight of eight locks devised by Thomas Telford to drop the level of the Caledonian Canal by 20 metres. Over the years the poor craftsmanship that had gone unnoticed during construction became increasingly problematic and major repairs were effected between 1995 and 2005. Thousands of steel rods were used to stitch the walls together while 25,000 tonnes of grout went into resealing the thing, which is now back in working order.
I took this shot during the blue hour about an hour after sunset, cursing the light rain showers that were already challenging me while straddling lock gates hunched over the tripod. The wet stone did create a nice shimmer in the blue feature lighting though…
Down on Loch Linnhe I spotted an old jetty that I thought might make for an interesting shot on an otherwise dull day, its seaweed-clad rotting timbers offering something to the once-again bleak and showery proceedings. A 10-stop ND filter allowed for a 60 second exposure that smoothed out the sky and the water and left me with this shot that I actually quite like. It’s all very Scottish…
Monday presented me with the first of several attempts at capturing the Jacobite steam train over Glenfinnan Viaduct and actually my favourite shot of the thing. The crisp and frosty morning and banks of lingering mist seemed to help with the scene and level out any difficult shadows and highlights. It’s a bit of a close up but the trail of smoke sits nicely in the frame:
Subsequent attempts were a lesson in camera settings that was impossible to get right as the driver went over it either rather sedately or hell-for-leather – and it’s something you really need to set up in advance purely by second guessing which way it would go. A shutter speed of at least 1/160 of a second is necessary but the other settings required to balance it ended up less than ideal in the gloom of the October mornings. On the second attempt it went far too fast to be perfectly sharp but the third allowed me to take a wider alternative from a higher vantage point. I’ll leave you to decide which you prefer!
The viaduct itself was – unusually – constructed of mass concrete in 1898, with engineer Robert McAlpine favouring that method over trying to work with the extremely hard local stone. I wouldn’t have known that to look at it but once you know you can’t unnotice it.
It’s now famous for being featured in a Harry Potter film, something that has brought in swathes of tourists and rather boosted the local economy.
Up in Glen Nevis I’d hiked to Steall Falls and spent yet more time trying to keep the showers off my camera gear but after all that I wasn’t overly happy with the composition, hence it’s not featured here. On the way back down I went to fraternise with the locals and was rather amused by these two portraits of them here:
Later in the week I took the most challenging shot yet, sinking in the mud and constantly wiping my lens and filters dry to get this shot of Etive Mor Falls with Buachaille Etive Mor in the background. Shutter speed was just long enough to blur the water without blowing out all of the detail. A tasty local hot meal in a rather nice place in Glencoe followed and allowed me time to dry off, but I’m happy that it was worth the effort.
By this time the end of the week was approaching and on the way out of town and back down south I stopped off to photograph the last Jacobite of the season leaving Fort William. The levels here were a nightmare to handle with a moving train approaching just as the sun decided to break over the mountains, but harsh backlighting aside it was worth a quick stop…
And with that done I head for home, just stopping to rattle off a few shots of the classic Black Rock Cottage and a now snow-capped Buachaille Etive Mor in the background before the weather turned.
It really is a breathtaking part of the world where the seasons and the light make for different photographs each time.
Thanks for reading this far!