14 February, 2017
Into the forest
Sitting on the tarmac at Houston waiting for a severely delayed flight to New York gives me a few minutes to record some thoughts about a recent trip to Glencoe with Dave Tolcher, Guy Aubertin and Paul Whiting.
It is almost 13 years since I first made the annual pilgrimage. My photography has changed immensely over the years and the time spent there has always been one for developing, consolidation and reflection: developing new ways of seeing, working with new cameras or mediums like black and white, consolidating ideas and evaluating where I am photographically - and where to next.
The 'apres photography' in the company of good friends has also always been a key feature of these trips and this was no exception. Staying at the Glencoe Hotel we traded good food for proximity to the moor - a change but it did mean that we felt disconnected to the local conditions that happen up on the top of Rannoch Moor and most days had to start with a drive to the top of the moor to evaluate the situation.
The first day was a rain affected trip to Glen Nevis and a scounting trip to some waterfalls in Glencoe. It saw me exercising photographic muscles that had become rather stiff over the last 18 months - a busy time at work and alternative projects occupying my time.
The key lesson from the first day was one of bag management with the Pentax 645Z. I had too many lenses and hadn't been able to bring myself to simplify. An hour or so over rough ground did the trick however and I quickly downsized the bag to what will now become my standard medium format rig - 35, 45-85, 100 and 150. A setup that closely mirrors my LF lens lineup.
However by the Sunday morning (second day) and Guy's birthday I felt my mojo returning. We stopped off on the moor at what proved to be a birthday present of spectacular light for Guy as we camped on a mount (Aubertin Mount to us now!) watching the floor show develop. I made a few images and I will post one or two later but it wasn't until the afternoon that I made what I consider my first strong image of the trip - working some details at the birch trees in Kinlochleven with my TK.
An excellent sunset was spent looking back to Glencoe village from the sides of the loch. A wonderful birthday for Guy!
On the Monday (day three) we woke up to clear conditions and a heavy frost and immediately headed for the moor again to assess the situation. The shade of the mountain meant it was possible to work details for a couple of hours with my TK and I made two images that I was pleased with. Firstly I was caught by the beautiful coloured rock and made this image.
Then I made a second image of the frozen grasses in the water pools.
My friends dragging me away with my TK kicking it's heels reluctantly behind me (just kidding guys!) I triggered a second stop at the stumps on top of the moor by virtue of driving the lead car. I made the third image of the day that I was pleased with, working the tree roots. Dave and I first photographed these stumps several years ago and they continue to develop nicely. Again I will post that at a later date when I get chance.
In search of cloud we headed over to Loch Tulla to scout out some trees that Dave and I saw on the drive over from Yorkshire the previous Friday. As the cloud came down I finally zoned in on a composition I liked and waited for the cloud to fill in over the snow clad hills in the background.
Pine Trees at Loch Tulla
Day four (Tuesday) proved to be another very wet day and we went back to work the birch trees above Kinlochleven in the rain. An enjoyable day indeed and I made a series of birch images I liked which hopefully I will post later. For the first time in several years I got into the zone or 'the flow' as some people describe it. When this happens to me - which is rare - images seem to be so easy to make, like plucking brambles from a bush.
I managed to make this simple but pleasing composition back down the valley when we all reached the waterfalls.
The final day (Wednesday) saw me stop off at Bridge of Orchy in the morning to make the main image at the top of the page - one I had scouted out a few days earlier - before heading home in the car, drenched but happy.
For me this was a trip that was a lot about consolidating where I am with my photography. I was able to come to terms working the Pentax 645Z and start to understand how the files from this camera behave - wonderfully flexible and elastic as Guy describes them. I also reinforced the belief that I still make my best images with my TK. The TK / Sony / Nikon macro 120 combo I have been using really works well for me and I can see a project starting with this many headed monster of a camera.
Above all I discovered I have my mojo for photography back (it never went away - it was just resting) and look forward to seeing where this next chapter takes me.