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Day 8 – October 17, 2010

Barren twigs - Glencoe

I woke up at 5am today, feeling gloomy and under weather. The fact that it wasn’t even daytime yet didn’t seem to make much difference. I’m not sure what caused the sudden presence of this state of mind. Yesterday was a good day, if not great. The sun had been out all the time, and apart from having to come back to the hostel soon because of memory cards that were full everything else had been fine. I had been a little unsure of going to Torridon, just as I was unsure of coming to Glencoe, but the fear and dread were stronger this time, and I couldn’t find any reason for their resurgence.

I ended up sitting in the car for a good ten minutes after checking out of SYHA Glencoe, wondering why I was feeling this way. The weather today was packed in. Clouds had rolled in between the hills where yesterday sunshine streamed through, and the wind, though not as chilly, had an edge to it that was different from yesterday. But I had to go, for my booking at the Torridon hostel had already been done and paid for, for the next two nights.

I had decided not to stop along the way as much as I normally do, to shoot, because the distance to be covered was a fair bit more than I would do any other day, and I didn’t want to drive at night. The Highlnds of Scotland are known for their narrow single-track roads that allow only one vehicle to pass at a time, and I didn’t want to be driving on them after the sun went down. Despite that I did end up stopping a fair bit. Doing so is unavoidable when the main purpose of a journey is to take photographs, especially at places that are symbolic of a land. I had started feeling more relaxed by the time I stopped for lunch at Cualin Inn. The inn is small, but is a very warm place, with two very beautiful hostesses. 🙂 There was an American family there with a baby boy who was staring at me all the time and making some of the best noises babies could be capable of making, I think. Helped me with my mood quite a bit. I didn’t get to speak to them, but whoever you were, thank you.

It kept raining intermittently all the way from Glencoe onwards, and only ceased when I crossed Shieldaig. Between the turn-off from the A87 onto the A890, and then on to the A896, there are numerous patches of single-track roads, and I was glad I reached this section of the journey during daytime. The scenery all throughout this section is breathtaking, but the road never really lets you enjoy it because you’re continuously concentrating ahead looking out for vehicles coming your way from the opposite side.

Loch Shieldaig

Torridon is situated right in a valley and besides the shores of Upper Loch Torridon. The views all around are magnificent, and any kind of terrain is no more than a few minutes away. I think I’m going to go on one of the short walks tomorrow, which were suggested by the helpful chap at the hostel reception. It’s a little funny how I have been given the keys to Room 9 here in the hostel at Torridon. There are more than 10 rooms in total, and each has a different name. Room 9 is called Loch Torridon. Not sure if it means anything, but there it is.

I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t really explore Glencoe, as I did Loch Lomond, and I don’t have much time here in Torridon either. Hopefully I’ll be able to do it more justice that Glencoe. My mood is better now that I’m here, and I really hope there are no more bouts of gloom to be suffered.

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Day 7 – October 16, 2010

Loch Leven

I left the hostel this morning thinking I’d go on one of the many short walks around the area to take in the beauty of the landscape. Instead I ended up wandering around the small village of Ballachulish, and then driving around the circumference of Loch Leven. Nothing terribly exciting, although both of these places are pretty, as is every other place in Scotland I’ve seen so far. Came back to the hostel early today to see if I could start with some image management, but I don’t think I’m going to end up doing it yet. My cold is taking hold over my actions completely, what with the permanently runny-nose today along with the never-ending sneeze-fest.

Not sure what I should do tomorrow. My knee has been acting up again and I don’t really fancy the idea of going on any walks that may keep pushing it. I need it to be better by the time I start with the workshop next Friday. I’m considering heading to Torridon, but it’s more than 120 miles away, and I’m uncertain whether I should drive that much in a single day. I need to start scheduling my travel such that I can be back in Glasgow on the evening of the 21st, no later than 6-7pm. Reading the Rough Guide to Scottish Highlands & Islands by Rough Guides (which I bought at Stansted airport) might help me figuring this out.

I’ve been shooting continuously for the last week, and despite the number of good photographs I think I’ve taken so far, there is still this sense of hollowness about it all. They might all be good photographs, both individually and as a representation of the land that I am visiting, but it that all it is supposed to be? Is landscape photography only supposed to be about the grand shots and the detail shots, standing alone and working together to give a picture of the place being photographed, or should there be more to it? Am I overcomplicating this, or am I relalizing something that never occurred to me earlier? Is there some way landscape/nature photography can play a kind of documentary role in the sort of the travels I’m undertaking? Maybe not, but probably the scope of images being shot might need to be expanded to include people, rather than just the landscapes. After all, people do form a part of the whole landscape of a country, so it only makes sense that including them should add another dimension to the story, if this can be called as such. Only, I’m not very comfortable making images of people, and to do it now in such an unfamiliar setting is going to be a challenge. Let’s see how it goes.

On photography –

I think photographers, especially those who have been really into the entire process of imaging, and have devoted a significant amount of time to their craft, have a tendency to reach for their camera every time they see something interesting. I’ve found myself doing this repeatedly over the last few days, and I’m sure it’s quite common among others of my breed. It’s almost a reflex action – seeing something and reaching for the camera. I think it has the potential to be debilitating, and possibly even have negative effects on leisure time. After all, if all we’re trying to do is look at composition and light all the time, rather than just sitting and soaking in the place, the atmosphere, there has to be something wrong. I noticed this first when I stopped at all these different parking slots on the side of the road in order to get out and take pictures of the surrounding area.

Most other people around me were happy to jump out of their vehicles and roam around, maybe take a picture or two, laugh and joke, and just stroll around taking in the scene. I, on the other hand, looked ready to go into battle. Backpack on, fully geared up from head to toe in rainproof gear, gloves, beanie, with the camera in one hand and the tripod in the other. I probably looked like a walking comic book to everyone else. Not that I mind being considered a comic, but it made me think about the difference in how they were enjoying their time there, and how I was running around, like I had targets to achieve (images to make), and deadlines to meet. Kinda’ made me feel a little silly. I am on holiday, after all, even if the holiday comes with a purpose. Maybe I should slow down a bit and try to soak up things a little more. Or maybe I’m just over-thinking stuff, as I’m predisposed to most of the time.

Day 6 – October 15, 2010

On the road to Glencoe, passing through Rannoch Moor

Woke up today feeling much better than last night. Even though I had thought of driving to Glencoe last night before going to bed, I wasn’t sure of it mainly because Ben Lomond had taken a lot out of me. But this morning was better than last night and I decided I’d do the drive. At the same time I started feeling a little apprehensive of going further up into the highlands. I have a heard of the splendour of the highlands, along with their unpredictable weather, and for some strange reason I started feeling safe and at home in Loch Lomond, where I had been staying for the last four days. There was, however, no way I was going to let silly thoughts like those get to me. I was here, far away from home, to explore, experience, and see. Going into the unknown when I already was in the unknown wouldn’t be much different. And so I packed my bags and set off for Glencoe.

The throat was much worse this morning than it has been in the last couple of days. It’s probably because I keep stuff to drink in the car that I’ve rented, but it stays cold all the time because of the weather. The water I had after coming down from Ben Lomond must be to blame here. Drat!

En-route to Glencoe

The drive up towards Glencoe kept me on the A82 all the way. The drive itself was fairly good, but the scenery en-route was spectacular. Lots of elements of Ladakh to see, along with many unique features such as the dour-looking Rannoch moor, said to be the most inhospitable area in Scotland. The drive itself was fairly uneventful apart from my valiant attempts to drive single-handed at 60mph while trying to take photos of the lands passing by with the other hand! Not very smart, but that’s what I’m here to do right? 😛 Didn’t have much choice in terms of places to stop till the time I reached Tyndrum where I had a cup of herb tea to soothe my throat. Beyond Tyndrum there were parking places that were well situated, especially as I got closer to Glencoe.

The SYHA hostel at Glencoe is located on a small by-lane, around two miles off the A82. It’s a quaint little building surrounded by the hills of the Glen and tall trees all around. It is a very picturesque location. I’m staying here tonight and tomorrow. Hoping to catch up with all my unwritten blogs for the last few days and get some much-needed rest. I’ve been shooting and moving around continuously for the past four-five days and it’s starting to wear me down a little bit. I’ve been recharging my camera’s batteries continuously, and it’s time I did myself the same favour.

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