Note: This article appeared in Outdoor Photography, October 2006, Number 79. The text is given here in full; for the magazine version some text had to be cut due to space constraints. The two photographs shown below were used, the left hand one is discussed in the text.
Main Photograph: Glen Lyon Stream. This might be a small stream without a name but it is full of possibilities. It goes under the road and drops quite suddenly offering another excellent composition but the rain fell at precisely the wrong angle for over an hour without change, one for next autumn.
River Lyon Stream. It is possible to cross the River Lyon by a bridge (hidden from the road) about four miles in. This is well worth exploring. For this photograph I used back tilt to emphasize the foreground. I like the way that the water defines the edge of the main rock which seems to be floating.
The information board at Glen Lyon's western end welcomes the reader to Scotland's longest, loneliest and loveliest glen. The first claim is surely true; at least for enclosed glens (measurements vary but Glen Lyon is around 25 miles long). As to the second claim, that is easily understood since the only roads are single track (two are easily seen from maps though there is a third possibility) and habitation is sparse. But the loveliest glen? Surely a contentious claim with so much competition. Perhaps so, but anybody who visits this glen in its full autumn glory is unlikely to disagree. The glen's attraction does not just rest on the huge variety of colour but also in the great variation both in trees as well as topography.
In autumn the best approach is via the road from Aberfeldy. The single track road to the glen starts with the right turn soon after Fortingall. It goes though a deep gorge with falls marked by MacGregor's Leap. It stays fairly enclosed being surrounded by rich variety of broad leaf trees with some larch and pine. After this the glen takes on a more open aspect with some fertile farm land. However it is no less interesting; offering a choice of waterfalls, surrounding mountains, as well as sparser trees amongst its attractions.
The main photograph was made just by the road side about 16 miles in. This is my second version, having made the first one about a week before rather late in the day. In the first version the tree has many more leaves, however I find this version more pleasing as their sparsity means they act as highlights and give a sense of transience. The initial impulse to stop and study this little stream (which has no name on the OS Explorer map) was the dramatic angle of the rapids. The first instinct in such situations is to include as much of the rapids as possible. However artists in various fields have long known that partial concealment is more interesting than a full frontal assault. After studying the possibilities for quite some time the use of 6◊12 horizontal format (rather than my preferred 4◊5 portrait format) became inevitable. This enabled me to divide the space largely as a series of triangles with the tree acting as a strong accent and foil to the forward energy of the rapids. Conditions were perfect, overcast with a light drizzle and next to no wind. Focusing a view camera can at times be a nightmare but here it was fairly straightforward. Determining exposure (using a spot-meter as always with me) was also fairly simple thanks to the low contrast of my favourite conditions. The only real issue was choice of shutter speed as this affects the extent to which the water is blurred. Opinions vary on this matter; where the water dominates and is the central theme I prefer one second or faster though not always. The situation was quite different here and 2 seconds seemed more appropriate (with the bonus of a smaller aperture giving greater depth of field).
All that was the easy part. The more difficult part under these conditions is to put each filter on while keeping it dry. Photography in light drizzle or even fairly heavy rain is possible so long as the drizzle or rain is directed from the side or the back of the camera. If the camera is angled slightly downwards that also helps. Of course this means that conditions are ideal for the back of the filter to become wet and once on the lens it is no use trying to wipe it! The solution here is to cover the back with a cloth and remove it carefully as the filter holder is clipped on. It is also a good idea (and essential in rain) to put the cloth around the filter edge and lens to prevent any drops getting in between the small gap. Just before pressing the shutter (after a final check on exposure) it is essential to check the front of the filter (it is almost bound to have water drops on it). If the drizzle or rain is from a definite direction then the lens can be shielded to good effect.
No matter whether Glen Lyon is indeed Scotland's longest, loneliest and loveliest glen it is certainly one of its treasures; no mean status in a country so full of natural wonders.