Loch Torridon Sunrise

Behind The Lens

Loch Torridon Sunrise

The mountains of Torridon epitomise everything that I love about the Scottish Highlands. The landscape has a grandeur that is unrivalled anywhere else in the country, and, in particular, the tall monolithic mountains of Beinn Alligin, Liathach and Beinn Eighe rise up evocatively out of a rich tapestry of moorland and loch forming secretive glens and magnificent corrie headwalls.

I am a regular visitor to Torridon and I am always looking for new and original material. However, as much as I try to look elsewhere, I seem inevitably drawn back to the viewpoints that I know so very well and from which these mountains look at their best. And so I made the decision to use my traditional viewpoints, but to look for what I call 'A Moment of Mountain Magic' and for some light of oustanding quality.

Winter is the season most likely to provide such conditions, but the mountains at these latitudes see very little of the sun during the winter months and the deeply cut valleys often remain in shadow for much of the day. A good covering of snow was a necessary prerequisite for any of the shots that I had in mind, but this was not to be 'any old snow', it had to be 'new snow' - the kind which looks like icing on a cake and which lights up to perfection when illuminated by the rising sun. Such moments, and conditions, tend to be fleeting. So when I received a weather forecast offering twelve hours of cold clear and stable air - and at a time when the Highlands were lying beneath a carpet of fresh snow - I set off immediately for Torridon with not a moment to lose.

At Glen Torridon I entered a winter wonderland. A modest but complete covering of snow down to 300 metres had frozen hard. The temperature was down to -9C in Glen Torridon and only a few degrees more on the ridge above Loch Torridon where I set up my camera and tripod. Of the many opportunities available to me, I had chosen to capture a shot of Beinn Alligin and Liathach across Loch Torridon. As it was the morning of the winter solstice, my experience and research told me that this open viewpoint would catch the morning light much earlier and better than anywhere else in Glen Torridon itself.

I seemed to wait for ever for the sun to rise; I was in a state of excited yet worried anticipation. Would the light appear as planned? Would the colours be to perfection? It was not until 0915 that the first warm rays of the rising sun finally stuck the highest summits of Liathach and then Beinn Alligin. And then, over a 20 minute period as the light developed, the snows covering these two magnificent mountains turned a deep and rich pink in a spectacular and magical display which makes these special moments so memorable.

Trying desperately to quell my excitement, I carefully and deliberately ran off twelve rolls of Velvia covering a range of exposures and compositions. Soon the pink light turned yellow, and then finally the summits stood still, proud and outstandingly white in a cloudless and deep blue sky. The show was over, but the memory would last forever. The Highlands had delivered yet another superb, if fleeting, display so typical of their graceful and spectacular majesty.

Photographic Details :-

Time of Year : Mid December.
Location and Map Reference : NG 87015 54208: Above Loch Torridon. Time : 0930 GMT
Equipment : Fuji GX 617 Camera, Fujinon SWD 90mm f5.6 Lens, Circular Graduated ND Filter.
Camera Settings : Fuji Velvia 50 film, Shutter 1/8 sec, Aperture f16.