Making of 40 Photographs #15

This is #15 in my series ‘Making of 40 Photographs’. I love the highlands of Scotland. I've come to think of them as some of the most dramatic landscapes in the world, even though the mountains are relatively small (the highest mountain - Ben Nevis is 1,244 metres). But the light is fascinating, often a complex melting pot of optimism and despair.

You see, being situated in the northern hemisphere, right at the edge of the gulf stream, and some of the first land mass to be met across the Atlantic ocean, we get a fair share of rain and low fronts that come swirling in, one after the other. Compounding this, Scotland is very mountainous on the west coast - similar to the south island of New Zealand, which has been christened the 'wet coast'.

Anyway, the reason why I bring all this up is because of the photo I'd like to discuss here. I shot this in Glen Coe, perhaps the most photographed region of Scotland. It was taken in the depths of winter, during a snow storm.  I'm always keen to head into the highlands during winter, because the light is at it's most dramatic - hence why most of my workshops are based at this time of year. The sun is often low in the sky, even at midday which means that shadows are long and the tones produced through the atmosphere are rather beautiful too.

I'd spent a few days up in Glen Coe and had finished for the morning by 9am when I came round this bend near the Buchalle Etive Mor. The Scottish Mountaineering Hut is in the frame here, and I saw the snow blank out the sun in the sky. All I could see was the colours of the sun behind the clouds and that was enough for me to set up my Ebony 45SU large format camera.

In an attempt to save money and allow me to use the Ebony more freely, I'd adopted using a 6x12 roll film back with it, which worked to good effect on this image. I do remember feeling I'd set the camera up a little too late for the intended 'vision' I had in my head, but took the shot all the same. Often I find that my expectations can mar the full possibility of an image and this will hinder me from actually making the shot in the first place, or rejecting it when I see it. I'm glad I gave myself a few weeks before developing the roll because I couldn't have been any happier at the result.

In terms of technical details, I can tell you it was shot on Velvia 50, with an ND Grad on the top half of the image. Everything else is a blur and I'm not one for making up aperture and shutter speeds, nor for recording them at the time.