This loch sits on the edge of Rannoch Moor – a vast expanse of open land that I frequently cross on my way to Glencoe and beyond to the Scottish highlands and islands.
Adds to the challenge
This area on the west of Scotland has become one of my favourite parts of the UK for landscape photography. It’s a rugged, wild landscape that I find very inspiring. It can also be an incredibly frustrating place to work – the weather is very changeable (as mentioned in a previous post, they say in Scotland that if you don’t like the prevailing weather then just wait twenty minutes as it will inevitably change).
But that adds to the challenge and makes it all the more rewarding when everything comes together in a successful photograph.
The three P’s of landscape photography
When I am running photographic workshops or giving talks I often refer to the three P’s of landscape photography:
- Planning – to work out the right time of day and year to be at a specific location (with reference to sun/moon position, the presence or absence of foliage on the trees, tide times etc) as well as keeping an eye on weather forecasts to increase the chance of getting a successful photograph;
- Patience – as all landscape photographers know, rarely are we able to just turn up at a location, get out the camera and take a wonderful image. The old adage, ‘if you’ve seen it, you’ve missed it’ normally applies. My usual approach is to set up the camera, fine- tune the composition and then wait for the light, weather conditions, cloud formations and so on to come together in a way that supports what I want to say about the location (based most importantly on what I feel about the location, not just what I see). This requires a lot of patience – I frequently spend hours standing around waiting for all the elements to coincide to give me what I’m after. And of course success is far from guaranteed – going home empty handed is not uncommon.
- Persistence – which brings me to the final ‘P’. Revisiting locations is part of the job – sometimes I’ll keep returning to a location over a period of years before I get a photograph that I’m completely happy with.
And that is certainly true of Loch na h’Achlaise. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been to this spot and up until my last trip (when this image was taken) I’ve previously taken only one photograph that got close to reflecting the nature and the spirit of the place.
“Then I had my shot”
On this visit the loch was frozen, the distant mountains were covered in snow and an interesting cloud filled sky sat above them. I set up and waited. Luckily as the day was drawing to a close (and as I was beginning to fear that this would be another wasted visit) the sun broke through the cloud and gently illuminated the mountaintops. I had my shot.
The RAW file below showed that I had managed to record all the required detail in shadows & highlights and also revealed the potential for a successful colour image as well but that’s for the future. My first interest was to get a Black & White print.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog I like to get a good quality colour file as a starting point for the conversion process to monochrome.
I began by cropping the image to remove the edges of the frame and concentrate attention on the distant mountains.
I then used the exposure tools (in this case Levels and the Contrast slider) to brighten the image, particularly in the highlights, again to draw attention to the light on the mountains.
I also increased clarity and structure to enhance the detail in the foreground stones (these can be seen in the screen grab below and the result is in ‘the Final Colour Image’ also below)
The next step was the conversion to B&W. For this image I again used one of the presets available as a download for Capture One Pro 7 from Capture One Complete.
In this case I used ‘B&W Style 7’ – although I’ll usually look at the effects of using the other styles and presets, this remains one of my favourites. As is my way I use these as a starting point and then I fine-tune the result to suit my own vision and adapt them for each individual image.
I then added a vignette to darken the corners and adjusted the exposure curve to alter the contrast and lift the midtones.
The penultimate step was to darken the sky through the use of a gradient local adjustment layer,
before cloning out dust marks, sharpening and then exporting for printing.
Location: Loch na h’Achlaise, Rannoch Moor, Scotland
Equipment: Alpa TC Camera, Schneider 36mm lens, Phase One P45+ digital back, Gitzo tripod with Manfrotto 410 geared head, Lee 0.6 stop ND graduated and 6 stop ND filters
Exposure details: f22, 1mins 29secs, ISO 50
All the best,
Steve Gosling is an award-winning British based professional landscape photographer, specializing in black and white photography. His work has been published internationally and exhibited in the UK.