Loch stock

Award-win­ning land­scape pho­tog­ra­pher Damian Shields talks about the chal­lenges of shoot­ing around Loch Leven

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I’m a Scot­tish pho­tog­ra­pher, so the scenery of Scot­land has a spe­cial place in my heart. Coire an Lochan is an ir­reg­u­lar but pris­tine body of wa­ter ly­ing be­tween the mas­cu­line-look­ing peaks of Sgor Eilde Beag and Sgurr Eilde Mor, part of the Mamores range in Lochaber. I stum­bled upon the lo­ca­tion on­line while re­search­ing hill-lochs. The pre­vi­ous June, I’d spent some time ex­plor­ing the many ‘lochans’ scat­tered at al­ti­tude be­hind An Sgurr, the high­est point on the Isle of Eigg, and was keen to seek out oth­ers. So, af­ter pick­ing a day with suit­able con­di­tions and making sure of the route, I set out for what I hoped would be a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity for some great shots. My walk be­gan in the vil­lage of Kin­lochleven, which nes­tles at the east end of Loch Leven, with the trail start­ing be­hind the vil­lage church. The first sec­tion slowly climbed through for­est and grad­u­ally as­cended onto Meall an Doire Dharaich. The loch be­came more vis­i­ble once I had emerged above the tree­line, and I spent about an hour work­ing out the com­po­si­tion for a pos­si­ble shot. When it comes to fram­ing, I never like to rush things; you need to be sure of all the el­e­ments in the frame be­fore press­ing the shut­ter release. At the time the sun was too high, so I made a note of my po­si­tion, so that I could find it again on my re­turn jour­ney, when the sun would be lower in the sky. I ad­mit I said a quick prayer to the gods of na­ture for de­cent colour when the sun set later!

I pressed on, and the path be­came a steeper and more ex­haust­ing as­cent around the base of Sgor Eilde Beag. It was tough go­ing, but my ex­cite­ment over the won­der­ful ar­range­ment of lentic­u­lar cloud for­ma­tions gath­er­ing over the hills drove me on­wards. I spent the best part of the day wan­der­ing around the bon­nie loch, and the bonus of those lentic­u­lars made ev­ery­thing ex­tra spe­cial. I had to be care­ful that I wasn’t se­duced by the grandiose vis­tas all around me, how­ever; I could eas­ily have spent a life­time watch­ing the light pock­ets drift over the moun­tains be­yond. I had to make sure of re­turn­ing to the tree­line over Loch Leven in enough time to find my spot. On my re­turn I moved around with my Nikon D800, us­ing it hand­held at first to find the com­po­si­tion I had worked out ear­lier. I then set up the cam­era on a tri­pod and made sure I had ob­scured the vil­lage be­hind the copse of trees on the left of the frame. I used a Sigma 28-70mm lens at 1/250 sec, f/4.5, ISO800. That Sigma is a great work­horse lens for me, along with the Nikon 24-85mm, Nikon 50mm and Nikon 200mm.

As I dropped in an ND grad to stop down the sky, a sublime peach colour be­gan to bleed across the hori­zon as the sun started to arc its way down. The won­der­ful dif­fuse light tinged the fore­ground with a warmth that per­fectly com­pleted a mag­i­cal day. It had al­ready been a pretty pro­duc­tive trip, but if I had to choose, my stand-out shot from that day would have to be ‘Last Light Loch Leven’ [01]. Seemore­ofDamian’s stun­ning­land­scape­sat www.dami­an­shields.com ‘Last Light Loch Leven’: Damian’s pick of his day’s pho­to­graphs The play of light on the peaks looks as strik­ing in mono­chrome as it does in colour So-called lentic­u­lar clouds form near big struc­tures or fea­tures that dis­rupt air flow – moun­tains be­ing clas­sic ex­am­ples

Pray­ing to the na­ture gods

I could eas­ily have spent a life­time watch­ing the light pock­ets drift over the moun­tains be­yond

Worth the wait

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