Monday, 23 October 2017

COLIN PRIOR LANSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP

Beinn an Eoin & Loch Lurgain
Anyone who regularly follows my blog will no doubt realise that landscape photography is a major passion of mine. Hillwalking and photography go hand in hand for many mountain goers.  I  started out my photography many years ago with small compact film cameras then progressing onto SLR equipment and slide film.  Since digital I have owned numerous cameras from compact to Micro Four Thirds which have fantastic quality for their size and weight. My latest camera is a full size Mirrorless. This is a major step up in quality if you are looking to getting into publishing. In all the years of photography I have never had any formal tuition. Until last week.
I treated myself and enrolled on a Colin Prior Photography Workshop last week. Colin is the most well known and respected landscape photographer in the UK. If you look at one of his spectacular images on calenders, books and prints you will no doubt instantly recognise it as his work. The workshop was based up in Ullapool for 5 days with 8 other folk on the course. What finer place in the world could you wish to be?
Here's our journey in photos through the Torridon and Assynt area over the last five days.



WEDNESDAY
Liathach and Loch Clair
 From Inverness we headed up to our base for the week at Ullapool. On route we drove into Glen Torridon to photograph the mighty Liathach from the shores of Loch Clair. The light wasn't great with cloud cover so a bit flat. This is one of the classic views of this stunning peak.
Slioch & Loch Maree
After lunch it was  a drive down Loch Maree with the impressive Slioch to view and shoot. There are some lovely Caledonian Pines scattered in the foreground of the loch and another classic image to try and master in the flat light. One of the main reasons for me signing up on this course was to get more knowledge of the manual settings. Most of my images tend to be on auto. 

THURSDAY
Cul Mor with Orograpic Cloud
We drove north of Ullapool and into the Coigach and Assynt area. These stunning mountains are mostly quite low in altitude but every inch a mountain! It was overcast and flat light again but  we regularly kept getting some quite spectacular cloud over the tops. It was a case of stopping and shooting!
The Old Man of Stoer
Just like when planning a hillwalk, keeping an eye on the weather forecasts is crucial to get the best out of photography. With a poor forecast again we headed over to the Assynt coast and parked up at Clachtoll. From here there are some great coastal scenes. Big cliffs and a sea stack, The Old Man of Stoer. This sandstone stack is even better with big waves but storm Brian didn't reach the Highlands.
Sunset in Strah Canaird
We got a slight sunset on the way back to our base in Ullapool. In the end we had a dry day so all good.

FRIDAY
Wonderful lichen covered rocks
Friday dawned a bit damp and low cloud. The afternoon was forecast to be much brighter and drier. We had a three hour indoor tuition session looking at the technical aspects of landscape photography. This is where Colin's skills and knowledge really kick in. We also covered post editing in Lighroom and Photoshop software. The main point that Colin got across to us was to get the image right in the camera.
Autumn colours in the sun
After our tutorial we headed outdoors and the lovely coastline west of Stac Pollaidh. Even in dull weather there are some great subjects to shoot. We found some wonderful lichen covered rocks down at the beach beyond Stac Pollaidh.
Suilven in beautiful afternoon light

Stac Pollaidh from the west
By 5pm the skies had cleared and we were treated to some wonderful light just west of Stac pollaidh. Light really is the key for stunning looking images. Autumn light with it's vivid colours is just wonderful. The 'golden hour' has we call it.  We savoured it all and probably the finest period so far this week.

Colin Prior at work
What is the word for a collection of photographers?
SATURDAY
Orograpic Cloud over Cul Mor
One of the highlights of the course was to get up Stac Pollaidh to shoot sunrise. Unfortunately the weather all week had been a lot of cloud, rain or wind. Today looked like the best chance but the wind was going to be an issue. When I say wind we're talking about speeds that have an impact on camera and tripod shake, not struggling up a mountain. Also known as 'noise'. thewind will leave you with poor quality images. We set off in the vehicles at 5.45am but it was already raining and the cloud was down, the wind was too strong. It was plan B. We headed down to Enard Bay and a short walk along the coastline to get a great shooting point of the Assynt and Coigach hills stretched out in a long line.
Cul Mor, Stac Pollaidh, Cul Beag, Beinn Eoin at dawn
 The rain ceased and just as dawn was creeping in the skies partially cleared enough for a half decent shoot. Some impressive Orographic Cloud again over Cul Mor and Cul Beag.
Sunrise over Stac Pollaidh
 After breakfast and another indoor session of critique on some of our images we had shot this week. This was a valuable time and some great advice. After this it was back out on the road. The skies had now cleared and it was a beautiful warm day. We headed over toward Lochinver for more shooting toward Suilven and Quinag.
Quinag's three Corbett summits
Dusk on Suilven
Sunset

SUNDAY
Loch Broom before the rain

Rivers flowing at Dundonnell
Our final day was the wettest of the entire week. Quite lucky really. It could have been wet every day. We never got our glorious sunrises, our clear skies and our still air but we got some decent images. More importantly I gained lots  more knowledge and experience of the  technical aspects of photography.
A fantastic 5 days and I would highly recommend going on one of Colin Prior's workshops. He's also a top bloke and great company.

Images  taken with a Fujifilm XT-2 camera. Lenses: Fuji X 10-28 & 100-400


Saturday, 14 October 2017

BIKING DAY

Meall a' Bhuachaille looking good
Autumn colours, Rothiemurchus Forest
Lairg Ghru
Quiet single track
Windy day
Crested Tit
Rothiemurchus Forest
A lovely sunny morning in The Cairngorms. A biking day through the beautiful Rothiemurchus Forest. One of the glories of the Cairngorms are the ancient Caledonian Pine Forest. The largest tracts of Caledonian Pine in the British Isles and it's on our doorstep. Looking particularly fine in the beautiful Autumn colours. Another windy day, even at lower altitudes. A spot of birdwatching along the way. The Crested Tit is one of the species of birds that live in these forests. Today I spotted about 10 of them. A couple of days ago I was staring at one of these guys, less than 1 metre away, perched in a tree at eye level but my camera was stuck in the bag!

Thursday, 12 October 2017

BREEZY DAY ON BRAERIACH

Loch Coire an Lochain, Braeriach
Braeriach's Northern Corries
Strathspey
Braeriach's summit
Lairig Ghru
Sunset over Strathspey
A lean period of fine weather continues. Occasionally we have had the odd decent day but just recently the spells of fine weather and nice views have been limited to just a few hours! Today on Braeriach there was only a few glimmers of blue skies and a bit of sun. The cloud shrouded the tops above 1000m for much of the day. The main weather feature was a stiff Cairngorm breeze, 50mph + much of the time, even at lower altitudes. Braeriach is my favourite mountain  of all the Cairngorms. It's remote, big, wild and has many corries to explore. The Northern Corries of the hill are wonderful places and guaranteed to see no one. There are two ridges to gain the plateau once you get high up on the north side. The finest of these is the one that bounds the high Loch Coire an Lochain. Just has It was windy up here, coupled with rain, cloud and then finally a glimmer of blue skies, clear views and the sun trying to break through the clouds. The glimmer of 'hope' soon receded and it was back to clag ton the summit plateau. Another descent in darkness through the Lairig Ghru back to the bike and cycle home ( I timed the day to be at the summit for the best weather hour!). Only people I saw all day were a few dog walkers in the trees. I'm sure we are due for a nice day again soon. In the meantime there is a storm out in the Atlantic heading our way!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

WINTER NOT FAR AWAY

Ptarmigan taking flight
Some ptarmigan think it's winter already
Weather fromt arriving over the Fiacaill Ridge
Meall a' Bhuachaille & Loch Morlich
Female Ptarmigan
More showing off
Taking off
Landing
No luck with the Mountain Hare's sticking around today
These weather windows we are experiencing are becoming shorter and shorter. This morning we had just a few hours of sunny and dry conditions in The Cairngorms. With yet another Atlantic weather front heading over in the afternoon. Enough time to get out and get amongst the ptarmigan for some wildlife photography. Today we saw around 20 ptarmigan in the Northern Corries. Some are just getting into their winter plumage. One or two were not far away from full winter feathers. The cloud came over by early afternoon but some nice spells of sunshine. Fingers getting chilly for photography and the down jacket was on when hanging about for any length of time above 900m.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

LOCHNAGAR

The Northern Corrie of Lochnagar
Warm sun and Autumn colours on the walk in to Lochnagar
The cliffs of Lochnagar from the West ridge

High altitude Field Mouse
West Buttress Lochnagar
Cliffs of Lochnagar
The many cliffs and gullies of Lochnagar
No signs of  settled weather anytime soon, unfortunately. We usually get a two or three day spell of fine weather in Autumn but we are still in a cycle of Atlantic lows across the Scottish Highlands. Sunday was looking half decent in the Eastern Highlands so Ian and I headed in that direction in hope of sunshine on Lochnagar. This is a fine mountain  and one I have not been on for at least 10 years. Like much of the Cairngorm mountains it has a big plateau with huge cliffs which have a wealth of  hard winter climbing routes. One of the best mountain in The Cairngorms. We had a late morning start in lovely warm sunshine and it was looking hopeful for a clear, sunny day with little wind. By the time we reached the bealach below Meikle Pap the cloud had come across the tops and plateau . Most folk who walk up Lochnagar head up the well constructed 'Ladder' path, the easiest, most straightforward route in summer with little navigation required. There is an amazing line of cairns higher up on the plateau (is there really a need for so many cairns on a obvious path?). We avoided the crowds on this route and headed down to Lochnagar (The name given to the mountain from this loch that sits below the cliffs). You get fine views from here and we were out of the wind. There is a nice, pathless route up the West ridge of the mountain to the summit plateau from here. Great views into the corrie. All the way up we could hear the stags roaring down below. We reached the plateau and into cloud for the final stroll to the Munro summit, Cac Carn Beag. Despite the claggy weather on top we had atmospheric views of the cliffs plunging down the corrie.  I forgot how easy a day this hill is in summer conditions. A bit different in winter!

Saturday, 7 October 2017

SUMMITEER GLOW WORM 800 SLEEPIG BAG REVIEW

The Summiteer Glow Worm 800


Since March 2017 I have been testing out a sleeping bag by a new company called Summiteer. Summiteer are based in Kendal with an ethos of quality mountain equipment at affordable prices. They first started out in 2016 with a range of down sleeping bags. This year they have expanded their production with a line of quality rucksacks and tents in addition to the sleeping bags.
I was given the Glow Worm 800 sleeping bag to test. The ethically sourced goose down has a fill power of 800. Aimed for winter use or for those folk who require a warmer bag in Autumn. It has a temperature rating at  Extreme: -15Âșc, Lower Comfort -10c and comfort -5c.  The weight is 1.3kg (excluding the stuff sack). The outer is made of 440T ripstop nylon.
I’ve used the bag in a wide variety of temperatures and conditions including Cairngorm snow hole trips and a very wet and cold Iceland trek during May. It’s a very versatile bag and copes well in milder temperatures too. I’ve slept in it in Spring/Summer high camps in the Scottish mountains.
There are some really well thought out details. The baffles around the neck and face are very comfortable and cosy. The zipper is smooth and has never snagged once. I really like the stuff sack, it’s simple and easy to compress down. Great quality shines through.
For me the weight and compact size make it a great choice for chilly weather right up to winter use.

Snow hole, March
 
High camp, Braeriach, April
Cosy after a very wet day in Iceland