The Scottish Highland Winter Wonderland

Canon EOS 5D mark III with EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens, Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod.

The Scottish highlands were turned into a real winter wonderland over the Christmas period. A frosty, clear and cold spell was a fantastic opportunity to admire breathtaking scenery, breathe in fresh arctic air and burn some calories hillwalking after the rich Christmas meal. It was certainly worth an early rise in the morning to make the most of the short winter’s day. Glencoe mountain range was perhaps the obvious choice with lots of hoarfrost and rivers and lochs locked in ice.

Buchaille Etive Mor is the favourite mountain of many mountaineers and visitors, including myself. The mountain river in the image above leads the eyes directly towards the rugged rocky north face with its perfect triangular shape. The key highlight, however, is the ice crystals extending from the polished river stones. The level of detail in this short-lived marvel was simply unbelievable. It was an obvious decision to use a wideangle lens positioned very low and close to fill the foreground with the crystals. It also meant standing in the freezing and fast flowing water to carefully position the tripod, while being careful not to disturb the surface. It was all well-worth the pain in the end.

The waterfall is a must for any visit to the highlands. It was, however, a very special and unique view with the snow cover and icicles growing in the stream. I chose to photograph the location in the late afternoon, when the low sun was highlighting the water and the base of the mountain. The stormy sky, and playful diffuse light painted a very mysterious Scottish landscape picture. The mountain looks wonderful with clear skies, bathed in the morning sun, but to me this light does it better justice.

Canon EOS 5D mark III with EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens, Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod.

Canon EOS 5D mark III with EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens, Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod.

Rannoch Moor is within 10 minutes drive from Buchaille Etive Moor and the skiing centre. Lochan na h-Achlaise with its ancient rocks and stones and wind-swept vegetaion is a great backdrop to the surrounding peaks. The ground receives the best light early in the morning. The sun works its way up the sky painting the hills lake with its golden rays and eventually illuminates the loch and the swamp. The thick cover of ice and hoarfrost created a very welcome surprise.  It was the perfect winter wonderland to play in and enjoy. I will let the images to do all the talking.

Canon EOS 5D mark III with EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens, Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod.

Canon EOS 5D mark III with EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens, Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod.

Canon EOS 5D mark III with EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens, handheld

River Etive gorge is another great location in the area with fantastic waterfalls, beautiful bends and rapids. The snow and ice is the final ingredient creating a surreal landscape. The river is pretty fast and deep in places, so a great care must be exercised working on the steep slopes and in the water.

Canon EOS 5D mark III with EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens, Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod.

Canon EOS 5D mark III with EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens, Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod.

And finally, I would like to share a couple of photographs from a fantastic chilly evening in Inverary. The historic town is best known for its magnificent castle, however the centre stage was this time set around the harbour. The sea loch Fyne was decorated with floating chunks of ice and the banks were covered with a crisp, thin sheet of ice. The warm golden glow in the sky was reflected on the lake’s mirror surface. As the sun hit the tree line, the moment was truly magical. To best capture the scene I have positioned my camera with wide-angle lens on tripod relatively low to the ground to include some ice crystals in the foreground. Balancing the exposure in a single frame was clearly a very difficult task – however, the job was made a lot easier by manually blending two exposures: one for the radiant sun and another for the rest of the scene.

Canon EOS 5D mark III with EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens, Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod.

My favourite image of the day looks over the resting harbour and towards Beinn An Lochain peak. The last rays of the setting evening sun painted the hills and clouds in subtle pastel pinky hues. The harbour ice provided a perfect foreground for the image. The lone stranded boat completes the composition and guides the viewer into the frame.

Canon EOS 5D mark III with EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens, Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod.

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