Shortly after arriving at Bridge of Orchy a day started with the hills obscured behind thick grey clouds, there was a biting cold wind and snow was falling at road level. It looked unpleasent outside the hotel windows! Inside the hotel, dry and warm, I reasoned that if the weather broke there would be some good photography so, suitably booted and dressed for a day on the Scottish hills in winter I headed out and up one of the hills overlooking Loch Tulla. Not that you could see the loch or much else! Fortunetly, I had scouted the lower paths the previous day and was confident the higher path would be ok.
My thinking hadn’t been wrong; it was most unpleasent at times with wind blown snow getting into anything not securely closed. Despite the weather upwards I plodded through, in places, thigh-deep drifts which just couldn’t be seen due to the poor contrast. Any reader who has experieced these sort of conditions will know exactly how tiring this sort walking is especially when wearing a heavy backpack and tripod. On occasion it just was not possible to extract a submerged leg as the other would sink equally deep into the snow. When that happened, extraction was an interesting challenge!
Around lunchtime I reached the top of the hill but decided to stop a little way back down were it was more sheltered from the wind and spin-drift. Here I decided to hunker-down, eat lunch and wait a while for the cloud to break. It didn’t! So, after about an hour of waiting and getting increasing cold I start to head back down. Ten to fifteen minutes after starting my decent I noticed it was starting to clear. Yes! Looking around I could see some rocks over to my right. These are the rock in the photograph above and the only objects I could see that looked interesting. I spent some time with the rocks as the clouds continued to dissipate with, at times, the sun breaking though. I guess persiverence is rewarded!
On previous scouting trips I’d noted a small group of Scotch pines set on a knoll well separated from all other trees a short distance from Loch Tulla. I was immediately drawn to their collective shape; the outer trees leaning inwards towards a slightly shorter central tree of a different shape. They seemed to have natural balance – a sense of family. There had been no appreciable rise in temperature or wind from the previous day so snow still clung to their sides further accentuating their shape and texture in the morning light.
Setting-up to capture these photographs I pre-visualised the group of trees in black and white and configured the camera to preview in black and white. This was a straightforward decision as almost everything that morning was black or white! Configuring preview in black and white is a technique I’ve started recently having learnt the tip from another photographer. I find it beneficial with visualisation of the image.
The shape of the three right-hand trees and their bold trunks also caught my attention. Framing just these trees provided a simple composition allowing removal of any possible distraction due to the other trees or surrounding landscape. As I was making this photograph a snow shower past through which at first resulted in short white lines on the photograph. Moments later it was a short-duration blizzard and I retreated to the shelter offered by those trees!