I’m not a big telephoto shooter. I tend to make most of my images from close proximity with either a wide angle or standard field of view lens.
So discussing this image for me is a bit of a real change.
I’d only been using the Mamiya 7 for a short while when I took this with the 150mm lens (equivalent to a 75mm lens in 35mm land). The location was Torridon, a fantastic nature reserve and part of the highlands which I personally find very inspiring, yet, strangely, it hasn’t acquired the reputation that it deserves, unlike Glencoe which I feel is perhaps a bit too obvious, and overly accessible.
The occasion was summer. These days, I’m perfectly happy shooting in any season in almost any kind of weather with one exception – bright, sunny days. These I feel, are the days to put the camera away. I know we get excited by sunny days when we start out as photographers, but they tend to be the absolutely worst kind of light to shoot in – harsh with dark shadows. Our eyes see very differently from how our camera does, and this is something that can only be learned by shooting in many types of light.
Summer in the highlands of Scotland brings as an advantage long evenings and it really don’t quite get dark. The sky will turn a dark blue, but ‘night’ as we know it in winter has been banished. The downside is that sunrise happens as early as 3am – not quite an advantage to someone like me who is typically a late night person.
Having stumbled from my tent at 3am feeling disorientated and quite frankly ‘ill’. I set off in my car for the wonderful journey around the Applecross peninsula – starting at Torridon and winding round the lovely little village of Sheildaig.
I came round the corner of a single track road near loch Sheildaig around 4am and found that I was staring right into the sun. The air was hazy which often happens here in Summer, and I knew I could shoot directly into the sun and capture the silhouettes that you see here. Yes, each shade is just a mixture of haze and shade from a sun positioned right behind it all.
I did shoot this at a very early stage in my photography. Having only recently moved up to Medium format, I still didn’t understand that the range of contrasts and tones that we see with our eye are much wider than any camera can record. The image you see here started out as a 6×7, but over the years, I’ve had a tendency to crop it to panoramic.
I think for two reasons. One is that the sky was so burned out by lack of an ND graduated filter to control the contrast (I was still a newbie), and also because I feel that as with most images, it’s much easier to be critical of them once you’ve distanced yourself from the taking of them. I now feel that this composition works best as a panoramic with a slight crop of the right to cut out the distracting tree.
The main focal point of the image for me is not really the center Scots pines, which I have to confess were what I was initially attracted to, but it is the gradients or steps of different shades that each mountain outline provides. As I’m starting to realize, most effective images are often simple collections of shades and shapes. I feel as a landscape photographer, we are often attempting to break down the complexity of our world into a much simpler, easier to understand existence, and I feel this image conveys that aspect well.