It's 5am, late in the Summer and the sun has yet to break. I'm en-route to the Galloway forest (accredited as the best 'dark sky' park in Europe. I turn off for the forest trail, following a single track road through the initial pine trees and foothills. Things are getting a bit brighter and I press on to my first location so as to avoid disappointment.
Loch Doon, a popular location for hillwalkers and fishermen lay still and silent before me, its water much like a sheet of glass reflecting the hills on the far side. To my left sat Muckle Eriff Hill, carpeted in rich purple heather and to my right the panoramic views disappeared round a corner, leading up to the head of the Loch. Directly in front of me lay my first shot.
The tide was low. Softened pebbles lay at the waters edge; massaged by the still, glass-like water, guiding the image towards the Cullendoch hill. For the image, I used my 35mm prime lens with a polarising filter to reduce any unwanted glare from the water, to add depth to the foreground waters and to make the dramatic sky pop. I used a relatively slow shutter speed to soften any movement in the water and waited until the clouds were in the right position before triggering the shutter.
I got back to the car and the weather was beginning to change for the worse. Thick, dark clouds were gathering around the peaks of the surrounding hills and I could feel a spit of rain. Time to move on.. I drove deeper into the hillside and found my next location; a rocky outcrop with very nice views of the head of the Loch. At this point it started raining very heavily, so I sat in the car drinking (cold) coffee and watching the passing shower.
I started off by taking a cropped long exposure shot of the three peaks at the head of the loch (Dungeon Hill, Hoodens Hill & Mullwharchar) which were bathed in thick cloud. I then decided to create a panorama as I'd spotted a small house poking out of the woodland which was under construction. This gave my shot a sense of perspective, not to mention that the skies were extremely moody!
I headed deeper into the valley, finding a multitude of small rivers (or Burns) converging into waterfalls - flowing beautifully thanks to the days and days of rain beforehand. The midges were well and truly out and were eating me alive, though the area was free of other people so I could shout and swear to my hearts content!
The rest of my excursion consisted of battling the elements, cursing said midges and destroying my car with loose stones and potholes - while gathering some amazing intimate landscape shots and panoramics.
- All in all, it was a couple of hours very well spent!
On my way home I stopped at the foot of Sheil Hill, as I noticed a group of four Buzzards circling its peak. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get any decent shots due to the position of the sun..! These beautiful birds ended up as mere shadows in the overexposed sky - which was disappointing, but I’ll return when the light is in my favour and hope that the birds have not left their post!