Loch Lomond - An Overnight Adventure

Just over a week ago I spent a night on the hillside above Luss, Loch Lomond. It was my second solo overnight, and while it wasn’t exactly far away from civilisation, it was good to be back out with a tent and camera after my overnight in Glen Muick.

My plan was to spend the Thursday night on the slopes of Beinn Dubh, the hill gives great views north toward Ben Lomond and the hills beyond. To the south you look out across the many islands of Loch Lomond with Conic Hill ahead and Balloch can be seen in the distance, at the south end of the loch. Luss pier is also in view from certain angles as you look south.

Set up for sunset...

Set up for sunset...

My room for the night.

My room for the night.

I’d been checking forecasts for a reasonable weather window, my intentions were to photograph at sunset capturing the light on the slopes of Ben Lomond and then wake early to set up and photograph sunrise looking out over the islands and the southern part of Loch Lomond.

I’m exploring a new personal project, it’s still an idea in progress - after my trip out to Glen Muick and photographing sunrise over Lochnagar and Loch Muick it sowed a wee seed for a new project. I’m not saying it’s anything original photographically, but I wish to capture a series of panoramic images of the hills and glens of Scotland.

Looking south over Luss and the islands.

Looking south over Luss and the islands.

So far it appears to be off to a good start and it’s nice to have an end goal in mind for a series of images. This trip fits in with this aim; I knew that the location and angle would suit a panorama style photograph. All I needed was the forecast to stay as predicted and I’d be set for another couple of images for my series.

Camping trips are always good fun, just the fact you are sleeping on location adds to the experience. It also helps with the early morning starts for sunrise – the fact you don’t have to be up hours before hand to drive/walk/climb to your location is a bonus! Admittedly you are still up early, normally around an hour before sunrise but there is no rush (except to make a cup of tea) and it gives time to assess the location and the likelihood of the sunrise you are (hopefully) expecting.

So, back to sunset…

Due to the nature of the surrounding hills I knew the light would go from Ben Lomond long before the sun actually set below the horizon. When this would be was hard to judge, where I was standing the sun had already gone behind the hills so I was already in shadow looking out across the loch. I must have stood watching the light play across the hill side for about an hour, as the sun dipped lower and the shadows lengthened a tinge of colour appeared in the sky. My biggest concern at this point was the high level of haze in the atmosphere, I was happy that it would be adding drama to the scene but it was also softening the clarity of the landscape.

Regardless of this I worked (as you do) with the conditions presented to me and looked for a suitable composition, taking both single frames as well as a series for merging into my panorama image. Once the last of the light had faded on Ben Lomond I waited until the sun had gone, hoping for a colourful sky. The sky did eventually colour but as the sun had disappeared behind the hills all around me was in shadow. With a final few frames rattled off I noticed a subtle dip in the air temperature; a slight chill was felt so I packed up for the night and retired to my sleeping bag. I had an early alarm call after all!

Last Light on Ben Lomond.

Pastel Skies.

At 04:10 I was woken by my alarm, it felt ridiculously early but it was already fast becoming light outside. As I poked my nose out of the tent it didn’t feel anywhere near as cold as the previous trip in Glen Muick – the overnight temperature hadn’t dipped down to, or below, freezing. The next thing I noted was that the haze was still in the atmosphere and, if anything, it was worse than the previous evening. I sat wishing under my breath that it had dropped to freezing overnight – it might have cleared the atmosphere of the haze if had done so. Still, I was on location and it wasn’t that bad that there wasn’t an image to be had…

With a hot cup of tea clutched in my hand I grabbed my camera, tripod and filters and walked over to where I had thought was best for my sunrise shoot.

Sitting on the hillside waiting is one of the nice things about being out to photograph the landscape. Yes, it can become hectic when the light is changing rapidly and you have to react but on the whole, it’s a time to contemplate or to just sit and enjoy being outside watching the ever changing light when most folk are still tucked up in bed.

In the end I waited for about 40 minutes after the sun had risen before light started to touch the western shore of the loch. I had wanted to capture the light as it hit the tree tops across the islands but unfortunately, as the sun climbed high enough to do this it was also creeping up into a bank of cloud. It was an odd sky that morning, it certainly wasn’t clear but it also didn’t appear to be too cloudy. There just seemed to be this band of murky grey ‘stuff’ hanging in the sky which appeared to descend to the horizon on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond. So much so, that the eastern shore disappeared into the murk and haze. Below the murk were a few fluffy clouds which were moving rapidly across the sky with the freshening easterly wind.

Sunrise - waiting for the light.

Sunrise - waiting for the light.

I had picked my spot the previous evening and, after a bit of refinement I was ready to go. It was just a case of waiting until the sun appeared and lit the landscape in front of me. While waiting I checked my composition and that everything was ready to go – the last thing I wanted was to suddenly realise I was in the wrong place or that I had the wrong lens or filters in place. As I previously mentioned, the light can change rapidly and might only last a fleeting few seconds. It wouldn’t be good to miss it due to swapping out a lens at that moment!!

With the sun in the clouds and the morning sunlight having given way to shadow I decided it was time to pack up and head back to the car. The long drive back to Aberdeen wasn’t an appealing thought having been up so early!

Sunrise over Loch Lomond

Now that I’ve a project for a series of images I have a few more locations in mind and hopefully I’ll be able plan a trip or two over the remainder of the early summer period.

These images, along with a selection of my other images are all available for sale. If you are interested then please have a look through my shop section, this can be accessed here or by clicking the relevant link in the navigation panel beneath this blog.