Glencoe and surrounding areas, that part of Scotland which draws photographers from far and wide, and once you have been it isn’t hard to understand why. If you haven’t been yet, why not? From the breath-taking mountain views, to the tranquil lochs and beauty of the Glens, there are so many shots available. You could spend a day there and get great shots, or spend a week and really explore the area.
Of course with a location like this comes the inevitable ‘Cliché’ shots we have all seen, and I have taken myself many times. I never use the word, I much prefer ‘classic’. These scenes are popular for a reason and will always look individual in different light, and it isn’t fair on those that haven’t been yet to call something a cliche. There’s always a better shot than the last incredible shot you saw, so it’s up to you to put your spin on it.
The best time I find to go is winter, with the chance of snow capped mountains, and less people. Glencoe is busy, incredibly busy in high season, and of course you will face the midges. It is an experience having to face those little Creatures of Satan, so avoid them. Be very well prepared if you visit in warm weather.
Glen Etiv – Nisi 3 Stop ND + 2 Stop Medium Grad
Rannoch Moor – Nisi V6 Landscape, Various Medium Graduated, 3 and 6 Stop NDs
Lochan na h-Achlaise, Rannoch Moor
The first area you will come to on a visit to Glencoe is Rannoch Moor. You can’t miss it, the main road passes right through it. It’s a huge area and is mostly moorland and water. It is the UK’s largest area of bog, with water from Lochan na h-Achlaise, Lochan na Stainge and Loch Ba.
Using the rocks in the water as foreground with the Black Mountains in the background, there’s never a shortage of compositions. This image was taken one freezing cold winter morning at first light as the colour started to illuminate the clouds and reflect onto the water. And have a wander further up away from the water itself, the mashes make for intriguing compositions, as in the header image of this article.
Buachaille Etiv Mor
The famous ‘cliché’ waterfall. Despite being the subject of thousands of shots already, it’s still a must visit location, I have visited four times with varying light from grim and raining to cloudless. This image taken two years ago was again winter, at sunset. A few days before there was no water at all, it was so disheartening. Some rainfall the night before gave just enough water for the image to pass as a waterfall with some soft warm colour. The mountain in the background is Stob Dearg, the iconic triangular shaped end of the Buachaille Etiv Mor mountain range, and it dominates the area. Going futher up stream there are many more compositions to shoot.
Buachaille Etiv Mor – Nisi V6 Landscape, 2 Stop Medium Graduated, 3 Stop ND
The White Huts
The ‘White Huts’ and lone cottages are features of Glencoe that once you have seen them you will start to recognise them on TV adverts, such is the beauty of them and the way they conjure up feelings of remoteness.
Along the side of the Buachaille Etiv Mor mountains is the iconic white Lagangarbh Hut, and it has become the epitome of scenes to represent Glencoe. There are a couple of others in the area, but this is one of the more dramatic because of the imposing background. This image and the one below were taken this year with a couple of collegues at dawn. We arrived with what was a bleak forecast, but you just never know. My attitude has always been if it isn’t raining just go. If it is raining, still go, you just don’t know what will happen. It was semi-dark when we arrived but there was a hint of promise in the sky. And it turned out to be a stunning sunrise.
Lagangarbh Hut – Nisi V6 Landscape, 2 Stop Medium Graduated
Lagangarbh Hut – Nisi V6 Landscape, 2 Stop Medium Graduated, 6 Stop ND
The other most scenic hut is Blackrock Cottage. At the foot of Glencoe Ski Resort, it has a charm of it’s own with the red door and Stob Dearg in the background. Other buildings lend themselves to images of isolation and drama depending on how you frame them.
On Loch Achtriochtan for example, a small white cottage stands right at the bottom of the mountains. This image taken in February this year intrigued me, with the waterfall behind it and the mountain peaking over the top. Imagine what could happen in heavy snow? I got down really low with a wide lens to emphasise the foreground and the isolation of the cottage.
Black Rock Cottage – Nisi V6 Landscape, 2 Stop Medium Graduated
Loch Achtriochtan – Nisi V6 Landscape, 2 Stop Medium Graduated
A trip down the road from the waterfall takes you along the long winding road through the beautiful Glen of Etive. Along the way there are waterfalls, rapids, and a view down the Glen itself. It’s well worth a trip for the many possible shots along here, and also to see the deer. Glen Etiv is the home of the wild deer that have become very sanitised to human contact because of visitors feeding them. They will actually approach you, and I admit I did it once before I realised the harm it can actually do.
I’ve already mentioned the moorlands, and it’s worth another mention because for me, they are stunning. I live near moorlands, but they don’t have mountains in the background.
There are huge open areas of wet boggy areas around Rannoch Moor and near Buachaille Etiv Mor that I love to explore. Wear wellies because you’ll need them, it’s worth it. In winter the moors become rich in almost autumnal colour and the water creates patterns that give wonderful foregrounds.
“the water creates patterns that give wonderful foregrounds”
Buachaille Etiv Mor – Nisi v6 landscape, 2 Stop Medium Graduated
Reflections in Winter – Nisi v5 Pro, 2 Stop hard Graduated, 3 Stop ND
The River Coupall
The two main rivers running through Glencoe, the River Etive and Coupall, are worth exploring. This February I had a very quick trip to Glencoe, just two days. One the last day I went to explore the River Coupall, even though it was late and I had a six hour drive home. I’m glad I did. It was a flat and uninspiring sky to start as I checked a few locations for next time, but then it changed, and I had to make the most of it. It was a long drive home but it was worth it.
River Coupall Sunset – Nisi v6 landscape, 3 Stop Soft Graduated
In Glencoe there are quite a few Lone Tree shots, and one in particular hangs over the River Coe. Situated just at the side of the road on the way to the Three Sisters, it isn’t obvious. I came across it by chance two years ago. The light changed with some stunning colour in the sky, so myself and my fellow photographers just pulled over at the first place we could and there it was. In Glencoe you are never far away from a shot.
River Coe – Nisi v6 landscape, 3 Stop Soft Graduated
Although there are so many other scenes to shoot, from ground level or getting up high, there are also a couple of places nearby worth a visit. Although not in Glencoe, if you love castles like me, they should be on your list, and they are close. For me castles are enchanting, mysterious, enigmatic and sometimes even spooky. For me they stir the soul, the imagination and take me back to a place long ago. And there are two that are worth including on a trip.
Castle Stalker in Apin is a short drive from Glencoe.
The name for me always stirs gothic images, but on this particular winter morning there was nothing Gothic about it. The colour and the snow on the distant mountains were just a joy to see.
Castle Stalker Dawn – Nisi V5 Pro Landscape, 2 Stop Hard Graduated
Kilchurn Castle stands on Loch Awe. It is a stunning location and when the light is right the Loch is appropriately named. My first trip here was an utter fail, it rained so hard I was soaked, even in waterproofs. This year I had two visits, one a grey still day with low cloud that produced some of my own personal favourite images with lots of mood. And then the sunrise image, and what a sunrise it was. Still water, beautiful colour, everything you could ask for.
Kilchurn Castle Dawn – Nisi V6 Landscape, 2 Stop Medium Graduated, 3 Stop ND
This is just a brief tour of some of the locations Glencoe, and indeed most of Scotland has to offer. I hope you enjoyed it and please check out my Social Media links and leave a comment.