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Ardtornish Day 3

We’re off and running! It appears that everyone on the Ardtornish Estate has been fully briefed and are behind our Highland Winter photoshoot. It looks like we’ve got everything we could need in the way of back-up and support. From six-wheeled all terrain vehicles and a high-powered RIB to carry our gear to the various distant bothies, we’re all set to get around and the farmers on the estate have been right up for us driving across their land to get to remote locations.

This morning we spent a frustrating dawn on Loch Aline waiting for low cloud to clear. The flat dull cover gives no textural interest in images. Allen took Charlie for a scout around and found track that runs along the northern shoreline to afford good views of Ardtornish House. He also walked the river upstream from the bridge at Ardtornish castle to check for likely shooting spots. I have to say it’s great having two pairs of eyes looking around. For instance as I was wading across a feeder stream from Loch Tearnait, keeping my mind on the job of not flooding my chest waders and dropping the camera set-up, he spotted two fish eagles way-off in the distance. I made a note to come back with the hide and see if we might get a closer encounter with these rare birds.

While we’ve been driving around and getting acquainted with the area, we’ve already seen red deer (that at this time of year are very skittish) and a large dog otter that had us thinking it was a small seal at first sight. I have to say that Ardtornish is a truly remarkable place, its scenery is simply breathtaking. There’s soft beauty and spectacular ruggedness and everything in-between. Yet being off the beaten track, and ‘out-of-season’ there’s no-one around. In fact even Glen Coe was deserted as we drove up. It’s so strange that people flock there in summer, when it is undoubtedly picture postcard pretty, but to appreciate the Highland’s magnificent majesty, needs to be seen at this time of year.

Talking of which, we came prepared for blizzards and sub-zero temperatures and yet we’ve been walking around in our fleeces with no need for the shell jackets and thermals. The temperature’s been around 10° all day today so it looks like the crampons and ice-picks are staying in the car for the meantime. I don’t mind the clement weather as the colours up here are so vibrant. Moss and pale green Lichen hangs from the branches of leafless trees, providing them with a second, winter ‘bloom’ that looks wonderful. However, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that a new weather front will appear from the north to bring the snow and ice that I really had in mind when I first thought of the Highland Winter photoshoot.

Having said that, once the sun drops, it gets cold very quickly and as I write this, the open fire is cracking and popping in it’s fight against the chill from Leacraithnaich’s wet granite walls. Low cloud shrouds the surrounding mountains as darkness draws in. We have lit a dozen candles that are throwing a warm glow in to the interior of the bothy and Allen had two mugs of hot chocolate with very generous dashes of rum, so the taps from my keypad are being abbreviated with his snoring! Charlie has had a great afternoon. Up here there are no sheep or livestock and we can see for miles, so there’s no chance of him running off and getting lost. This means he can be let to roam freely, something he’s never been able to do before in his life. And he really made the most of it so now he’s lying beside his zoned-out master and giving the occasional satisfied sigh as he sleeps a deep, knackered sleep.

As for photography, which after all is the main thrust of this blog, I’ve managed to get some really good shots today. As soon as the low, flat cloud cover began to break I started to get definition in the sky to work with and I’m feeling positive about the results from four separate locations. I also had Charlie join me in the afternoon when I climbed up into the hills and he managed to sit centre frame just at the right moment for so check them out in the ‘Highland Winter’ gallery.