Roadtrip 2014 – Part 2: Northwest coast

Another exciting instalment from the gripping 2014 highlands photographic roadtrip, which some critics are already describing as “having occurred”.

Picking up the story from part one, after Inverness and the oil rigs on the east coast I headed overland to the west coast and the Ullapool area.  A delightful campsite at Badrallach (in the Scotland Cool Camping guide no less) served as home for a few days (and the location for the star image in my last post) and so the next roll of film lasted me for a day trip up though Ullapool itself to Achmelvich beach just north of Lochinver.

This is proper wild Scotland with few roads vast expansive views, a great place to just go for a drive and look at stuff. I shot a good number of these images while stood on the roof rack of my truck (also a great spot for rooftop picnics!) to get a clearer view and a higher perspective to try and draw a bit more foreground into the images. The set here are the highlights from a roll of Ilford FP4+ shot on my Bronica 645 format camera using mainly a 50mm lens (35mm equivalent for ‘normal’ cameras).


Ullapool itself is a great little town with a harbour full of boats and surrounded by mountains. It is also a ferry port for travelling out to the western isles and I’ve travelled out from here in the past over to Stornoway on a great big ferry, although that didn’t stop a choppy sea bobbing it about like fairground Waltzer. I still have flashbacks.

On this day things were much calmer and thankfully my travels were strictly land based this time. As you can see the weather was only a couple of photogenic clouds away from being absolutely perfect, this was a very good day to loose yourself in the solitude and scenery.


North of Ullapool things Get Big pretty quickly and traces of human presence start to diminish, or at least fade into the backdrop of big mountains and big skies. I tried to limit my ‘general scenery’ images as I’ve travelled these roads with a camera before and instead take one or two establishing shots where the I could see interesting compositions and then find some more specific actual things to photograph.

The 645 image format is wonderful for printing from as you get the whole frame on the paper, but the squarer ratio makes it challenging to shoot scenery with as you are going to get a lot of either sky or foreground in the image. Lots of sky can be bland so I only use that approach when there is a bold composition in the skyline itself, the negative space of the sky serves to then emphasise the composition below rather than detracting from it.


If you go the other way and opt for loads of foreground you need a good elevated viewpoint so you are essentially looking down into the image. If you put your finger in the centre of the image below you’ll see the camera is actually pointed down below the horizon into the fields (as opposed to the image above where it’s pointed up into the sky). I stepped close enough to the edge of the grassy bank I was stood on so it covered the lower third to produce a strong set of foreground-midground-background-sky layers to the image. I think it works well in this image as it leads the eye into the picture quite nicely.

If you carry on going you reach Loch Assynt which is the destination par excellence for a lovely bit of ruined castle that’s not too far from the car park.

It’s great to be able to wander about around freely the ruins, even with the slight sense of trepidation that a degree in structural engineering gives you around bits of old stone stacked up like this.

I like the bleakness of them. I can imagine that even when inhabited previously this was not a very jolly place to live, miles and miles from anywhere and surrounded by only rocky mountains and deep cold water.

For the next part of this set I travelled south down to Skye. I’ve been in the darkroom making prints today from that set and as soon as I get round to scanning the negatives I’ll post some up here. So stay tuned.


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