Photographing Scotland’s Wester Ross – Part 2

Mellon Udrigle Beach
The coast of Wester Ross is studded with beautiful beaches, this is one of my favorites.

In this first article

of photographing Wester Ross, I gave you an overall feel for this stunningly beautiful area of the world – its landscapes, villages, people, and a hint about its weather. <style=”text-align: center”>

I’ll take you on another adventure and share with you the incredible places you can visit and photograph.


Places Not to Miss in Wester Ross

Now this is very difficult, as there are so many places to go in Wester Ross. There is not an infinite amount of space for this article, so I have to be very selective about ‘unmissable’ places to see and photograph. No doubt, those who know this area will say that I have omitted many of their favourites. I admit my guilt right now.

Lochcarron Village
What a view seen each and every day!

So here are my 15 selected photographic highlights, starting at the southern end of Wester Ross and heading north. Where I mention a road on which to travel it is because it will take you through several beautiful areas with stunning landscapes.

1.) Elean Donan Castle
2.) Plockton village
3.) The road from Shieldaig to Lochcarron via Applecross
4.) Travel from Shieldaig round Loch Torridon to the village of Diabeg
5.) Travel from Torridon to Kinlochewe
6.) The Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve mountain trail – learn about the trail here.
7.) Travel from Achnasheen to Gairloch – note in particular the spectacular views of Loch Maree from Glen Docherty
8.) Walk to the bay at Camas Mor east of Rhubha Reidh Lighthouse
9.) The road on the eastern shore of Loch Ewe
10.) Mellon Udrigle Beach
11.) The mountain trail from Corriehallie to Loch Toll an Lochain beneath the peaks of An Teallach
12.) The hillside trail along Little Loch Broom to Scoraig
13.) The view of Loch Broom as viewed from the A832 near Braemore Junction
14.) Travel from Ullapool to Achiltibuie
15.) The area around Ardvreck Castle just north of Inchnadamph

A link to a map of Wester Ross at the end of this article will help you work out an itinerary for the above.

Row Houses of Ullapool Village

Midgies

The midge is a small biting insect that inhabits the west highlands in prolific numbers from May through September. Most of the time you won’t be bothered, but they can form large clouds in still weather, especially in the early morning and evening. During bright sunny days or under breezy conditions they are generally not a problem, but if you were to go into a forest, which provides midgies with shade and relief from the wind and sun, they can make your life very uncomfortable!

If you keep moving, say at walking pace, they are not usually a problem as the midgies are unable to keep pace with you. But as soon as you stop, say to compose a photo of some scene, they can become very unpleasant. Even changing lenses can raise difficulties in that the midgies can become trapped inside a camera body!

 

Beloved Midgie Conditions – still, misty summers morning at Plockton.


Protect yourself from the Midgies:
There are a variety of creams and repellents that claim to be effective (varies from person to person) and I suggest you have a repellent handy. I prefer to use a very fine mesh ‘jumper’ with a zip up hood and elasticated cuffs and waist that prevents the midges making contact with my skin. Many companies make midge protective clothing as a little online research will soon reveal.


Access to the Wilderness

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 formalised in Scottish law the ancient tradition of unfettered public access to the land, providing you act responsibly. There is no need to seek permission for non-motorised activities and you may walk, camp, swim, cycle, or canoe in the wilderness without impediment.

Loch Maree – Its islands and Beinn Airigh Charr

For photographers these rights are a boon and allow access to the most spectacular wilderness areas. For these purposes I strongly recommend that photographers planning to spend a few days in Wester Ross buy one or more of the 1:50000 scale Ordnance Survey Landranger maps – nos. 19 and 24 cover a good deal of Wester Ross. They show the location of many of the hill and mountain trails that start from public roads and lead off into the wilderness.

Even more detailed are the 1:25000 scale Explorer maps. They show even more tracks and provide much greater detail about the wilderness areas covered.


View from near the beginning of one of the many wilderness tracks in Wester Ross.


Safety in the Wilderness

There are also many guidebooks and websites specialising in walks in Wester Ross. Some walks require a good degree of fitness and the relevant resources will usually give advice on this subject.

Do be aware – conditions can change rapidly when in the wilderness.

What may have seemed an easy trek initially can become life threatening if you become lost and exposed to unsavoury weather conditions. Always plan ahead! Make sure you have clothes in your backpack for whatever the weather may throw at you, plus a cell phone, a compass, a map, a survival bag, medical supplies, whistle, and headlight. It is important that you call or leave a note with someone about where you are going and when you expect to return.

Photography Equipment

For all those passionate landscape photographers, lots of photography equipment seems to be required, but practical conditions do have to impose some limits if you are not travelling around Wester Ross by car.

As soon as you start to plan backpacking treks into the wilderness you have to think about the weight of what you can carry. As well as photo gear, you must carry food, water, and clothes for whatever conditions you might encounter. If you are ‘wild’ camping then there are even more restrictions in that you need to carry a tent and other camping accoutrements.

Abstract – Beach Patterns at Applecross Bay

I have in the past slung a 32 lb. backpack on my back full of photo gear plus a tripod, but now, at an advanced age, I would never do that! Nowadays I prefer to trek as light as possible into the hills and for that purpose I carry a 24mp full frame Sony RX1R plus EVF with fixed Zeiss Sonnar 35mm f2 lens (which also has a macro setting), circular polariser, spare batteries, and a Gitzo trekking pole that doubles up as a monopod. Plus of course, a backpack with all the gear, food, and water I need for survival in the hills.

Not having a zoom may seem restrictive, but having a 24mp full frame sensor allows me to crop images in the post-processing stage and still have a very useable image. I chose the Sony RX1R primarily based on the quality of its lens, which even at f/2, is pin sharp corner to corner. If I need a wider angle than 35mm, I can stitch a sequence of images together in order to achieve what I want. Some early experiments using the Gitzo trekking pole for this purpose have been very encouraging.

There is a simple joy in carrying minimal equipment for photography – equipment which can be instantly ready for the opportunities that arise.

Traditional Croft House at Loch Shieldaig

If this has tempted you to visit Scotland’s beautiful Wester Ross, then pack the up yourself and your photo gear and head this way. Wester Ross would welcome you.

Useful links:

Visit Wester Ross: Comprehensive tourist information covering travel, accommodation, activities, maps, a great video about driving on single track roads, wildlife, and much more.

The Internet Guide to Scotland: Comprehensive tourist information for Scotland as a whole but also providing further accommodation, travel and sightseeing information for Wester Ross.

Note: If you have any comments about ‘must see’ places that you think should be included, then please feel free to add them as comments to Apogee Photo Magazine’s Facebook page when this story is posted!

by Gordon Harrison
Article and photos: © 2014 Gordon Harrison. All right reserved.

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

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