When the forecast says stay at home…

Wet weather photography in Glencoe, the Highlands of Scotland. I love it. Many don’t. I thrive on the challenge of making photos when most folk would stay at home. Everyone’s different and there’s nothing wrong with that.

When I saw the forecast for Glencoe last Friday I just had to take the 3 hour drive north. After all, I had nothing else planned, and where better to go for a day of photography? The forecast was wet, wild, crazy. At least the midges wouldn’t be around, bonus!

I couldn’t sleep the night before, so made the decision to drive up on the Thursday night. I left home at about 10.30pm, and I’d beat any traffic that may have been about leaving in the morning. It’s a three hour drive, 180 miles north from Carlisle. A drive I’ve done countless times now to be in my favourite area, the Highlands of Scotland. Particularly around Glencoe and Glen Etive.

Arriving there about 1.30am, sunrise was 5am-ish, alarm set for 4.30am as I’d parked pretty much where I intended to catch the sunrise and first light on Buachaille Etive Mor. Time to get the head down in the car for a couple of hours. That couple of hours turned into a nice six hour sleep, as once my alarm went off, I looked out and as expected there was going to be no sunrise, so I just planned to wake whenever I woke. I’m certainly not adverse to sleeping in the car when I have to.

So I woke up, to the exact conditions that were forecast. Wind and rain, both in abundance! Great! I took a drive along Glen Etive first, to see if there was any deer about to photograph, as I have a specific shot in mind for a stag in the rain. Unfortunately it’s the first time I’ve ever went along Glen Etive and never seen a single deer. A great start to the day I thought, and headed back into Glencoe.

On my way back out, I stopped just above Lochan Urr, a wonderful view, when you can actually see the scenery. I hung around for a while here, had a snack for breakfast and the sky, whilst heavy, decided to clear enough to maybe make taking a shot worthwhile. It was still raining although not too bad, so out I got, set up the shot and here it is…

Above Lochan urr looking back to Glencoe

After this I headed back to Glencoe, it was really wet again by now and the river, whilst not flowing a lot, were starting to fill up nicely. It’s quite incredible watching how quickly the water levels rise and fall again in this area. I parked just in a lay-by on the side of the A82 next to a spot I knew would come good once a bit more water came downstream from the mountains, and if the light broke in the glen it would make for a great image.

Of course sheer luck has quite a lot to thank, but the light did indeed come, softly…yet there I was, set up by the now raging river, getting battered by the wind and rain, thankfully on my back, and also spray off the river being whipped up by the crazy winds. I’m sure other tourists who stopped for quick phone shots must have thought I was crazy, but it was worth it…

Wet and wild in Glencoe

After a while the sky cleared a bit and some really soft light broke through, with a break in the rain I took a walk a little bit along the road to a bit of an elevated view of the winding river leading you into the scene…

The long and winding river...

After I was happy with what I got from here, I drove further along into the glen, the weather closing in again. I had another shot in mind, which involved walking down a bit of an embankment to reach the river below. When I got to where I had to go down, I looked at the river again, which by now was almost bursting it’s banks, so decided not to head down to it, as there was just too much water flowing for the shot in mind, so I took this one instead…

The Three Sisters of Glencoe

By now it was getting to lunchtime, and I arranged to catch up with a great friend whilst up, so I had a bite then we went for a wander around Glencoe Lochan with her. The weather was the worst it got for the full day by now, it was almost monsoon-like the amount of rain falling from the skies. It was crazy, but at least I could leave the camera gear in the car and just have a great catch up with a good friend without thinking about the shot all the time.

Once we said our goodbyes, I headed back down into the glen, but just kept going as it was just awful conditions by now. The road was like a river, and the rivers and waterfalls were far far too full and fast flowing for anything I wanted to capture. I’d made the decision by mid afternoon to head down home. It had been a great day with some decent images captured after all.

However, I got back to the turning for Glen Etive, and boy did it put on a show. So back down the Glen I went. It wasn’t long before I stopped. In fact just a couple of hundred meters along the road, I stopped and set up the camera. The light and mood was to die for. This is EXACTLY what I live for. When conditions like these present themselves, you shoot what is there before it change again as quickly as it came. That afternoon, and Glen Etive turned out to be the star of the show…

Glen Etive road shot into the light
Glen Etive road shot into the light
The River Etive flowing into the light

After those images were made, the weather closed in once again, so it really was time to head home after a great day spent in one of my favourite places.

I hope you enjoy the story of my trip and the images made. It took a lot of patience, waiting, watching the weather change all the time. Images like these are what I love to shoot. Getting out and about in these conditions bring atmosphere and emotion to an image for me personally. I don’t shoot for anyone but me, so I shoot what I like. I like to capture moments that sometimes take you by surprise.

Blue skies and white cloud images are for biscuit tins and postcards, and whilst there is nothing wrong in shooting them, it’s not for me. It’s great to see the weather taking a turn for the worse (or better in my case) again as the summer starts to come to an end. It’s time to dust off my gear and go again.

The Highlands always suit these dark and moody conditions much better for me. I can’t wait for the grasses to start turning back to the wonderful golds and browns again and make this place really come alive for me.

All of these images were made on a Sony a7rii with Samyang 24mm 2.8 FE AF lens. They were made possible by the equipment that I am proud to represent, in this case the sturdy Benro Mach3 TMA48CXL tripod and GD3WH geared head that withstood all the wind could throw at it. The filters are Kase Filters which are available to buy through me on this website. They just let the rain bead up and then wipe off with one clean wipe with their hydrophobic coatings. All my gear kept safe and dry in my Vanguard Alta Sky 51d back pack.

With the support from Benro UK, Kase Filters UK and Vanguard Photo UK, it certainly makes life easier when it comes to capturing the moments.

M.

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