The inspiration of autumn – landscape of the Scottish Highlands

The area of Torridon in the north-west Highlands has a little bit of everything that Scotland has to offer – the grandest mountains and expansive views; Caledonian pines, silver birches, colourful heathers and mosses; clear lochs and wild seascapes; gently sheltered woodland with chattering streams; huge open skies and when the weather is on your side, the most astonishing splashes of unexpected light.

I’ve long been a fan of October – particularly as it’s my birthday month – and the colours of Scotland at this time of year are really worth seeing in person.  I’d been looking forward to another landscape photography course with The Digital Dawn for a while, as after a busy summer it offered some time to slow right down, take in my surroundings in peace and quiet (apart from the stags, noisy beasts!) and replenish my enthusiasm for creating images in the first place.

The most beautiful light is at either end of the day, if the skies are co-operating – and we had a week of particularly calm settled weather.  The trade-off, of course, is that you don’t end up with the dramatic cloudscapes of just after a storm.  The mornings we set off whilst it was still dark to stand lochside and wait for the first hint of colour in the sky, and light catching the edge of the hills, were rather special.  At the other end of the day, we had a couple of particularly beautiful evenings where flat light was transformed with the setting sun to display all the rich golds and purples of the Highland mountains in autumn.  Course leader Garry kept a close eye on forecasts and drove us to suitable locations where the 5 of us could set off with our tripods and find the images that we wanted to compose.  The lovely thing about landscape photography is that it requires your time and patience, setting up on a tripod and often with graduated filters, to make the most of longer exposures and a depth of field stretching off into the distance.

Thanks to the Kinlochewe Hotel for looking after our little group so well and feeding us so heartily!  Thank you travel companions Christine, Dave, Jackie and Judy for being so much fun to spend the week with and for sharing ideas.  (I’m missing our honey porridge and Tunnocks!) And many thanks to Garry for his patient enthusiasm, advice, encouragement and guidance as always, to help us take the inspiration of the landscape and transform them into the sort of pictures that take the viewer on a little journey too.


gentle sunrise Loch a'Chroisg

Upper Loch Torridon, Pass of the Wind

Shaft of light, upper loch torridon

Two of our team…waiting for the light!

Photographers waiting for the light

Julie Anne Images | Photography

Above Upper Loch Torridon at Bealach Na Gaoithe, ‘the pass of the wind’.

Julie Anne Images | Photography

boulder above upper loch torrid on

First light on mighty Liathach (meaning ‘the light grey one’) and reflected in Loch Clair.

first light on Liathach

…And this is dawn on ‘the dark peak’, Sgurr Dubh (which also became known as Scooby Doo).

first light on Sgurr Dubh

Loch Clair to Liathach

Julie Anne Images | Photography

Loch Clair to Liathach

In the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve I went small, and with the macro lens enjoyed looking at the colourful sphagnum mosses with droplets of dew like fallen stars.

Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve

Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve

When the sun came out, this heather that was tangled through the branches of a Scottish silver birch cast beautiful shadows across the bright bark.

Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve

Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve

Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve

just before dawn, loch maree

Julie Anne Images | Photography

A calm and reflective morning mood at Loch Maree.

gentle dawn Loch Maree Slioch and Beinn Airigh Charr

loch maree shoreline

This is the view ‘over the sea to Skye’, from Red Point beach.

over the sea to skye from red point beach

So often you’ll find the cloud falling into shapes that echo the landscape around.

lone pine and matching cloud

Dawn just managed to colour up the edges of cloud that Slioch was forming, making the ancient Lewissian gneiss and Torridonian sandstone lump look slightly volcanic.

lone pine, slioch and loch maree

I was absolutely captivated by this beautiful shape.

lone pine, loch maree

cloud shapes, loch maree autumn

caledonian pines at beinn eighe

beinn eighe, glen torridon

Near Beinn Eighe (‘file mountain’, due to its resemblance to a 3-sided file), in Glen Torridon, I found a little woodland oasis and spent a happy couple of hours recording the dancing light on the plants and stream.

light on fern in scottish woodland

rippling stream, glen torridon

fallen silver birch leaves in autumnal stream, glen torridon

autumn light on water, glen torridon

scottish stream, glen torridon

caledonian pines and heather, glen grudie

river grudie pines

If the light comes out to play you can end up with something quite unexpectedly breathtaking, as I did on our last evening after standing in the River Grudie for an hour in the hope that the angle of the setting sun might eventually dart across the hills. It was such a typically Scottish scene with pines, river, bracken, rock and mountain that I’d enjoyed capturing it with slowed-down water in the flat light (above). And then, this happened.

astonishing light, river grudie towards slioch and Beinn Airigh Charr

unusual diamond tree, glen grudie

autumn bracken colours

before dawn, loch maree towards Beinn Airigh Charr

On my journey back to Inverness Airport I stopped off at the Culloden battlefield – it’s a number of years since I’d visited and I always find it very moving.

memorial stone, culloden

Okay, fun facts: did you know that there are over 70 Gaelic terms which mean a hill, mountain or high ground?

I liked this quote in a book on the hotel’s shelves:

“For those with a command of Gaelic, the close relationship between language and landscape affords that beauty {of the north-west Highlands} an even greater intensity.  The land speaks to us through our language.  The backbone of our place name heritage is Gaelic and, for a better understanding of our landscape, it is necessary to understand our language.”





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