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