Martin Lawrence Photography
Photographers Guide to Glencoe
Posted on 18th March, 2018
Whether you’re a photographer, skier, fell walker or Munro bagger you will have heard of Glencoe. It’s somewhere that is close to many people’s hearts, including mine. In this article, I'd like to introduce you to Glencoe - A Photographers Dream Location.
In this article I will try and guide you through the many stunning viewpoints Glencoe and the surrounding area has to offer. I think one of its main plus points is the closeness of all these stop-offs. I have been to Iceland a couple of times and you can be travelling for literally hours between venues but with Glencoe, the venues are all relatively close together. So, at crucial times of the day, you can take advantage of the light in the right area and not miss out on a shot because you made that ‘locational’ wrong decision. How many times have we all said – the light looks better over there - and travelled over there to see that it's moved on again only to miss the light altogether.
I think most people will be travelling to Glencoe from the south – forgive me if that’s not the case but you will quickly be able to work out where I am if you're not.
Before we get started, if you are travelling from down south, The Green Wellie Pit Stop at Tyndrum on the A82 is a great place to refuel not only your car but also yourself with a bacon or sausage sandwich ready for the long day ahead. It opens around 8.00 a.m. until late, has plenty of tables and is definitely worth a stop.
Your photography day starts on Rannoch Moor - from Tyndrum keep on the A82 through The Bridge of Orchy until you come to the first Loch on your left. This is Loch Tulla a beautiful loch with The Black Mount as a great bit of background interest. The loch is often still in the early morning, so reflections can almost be guaranteed if you’re there before the breeze picks up later. Be careful with parking here as there are not many pull-ins but well worth the effort of finding one as the scenery already is breathtaking. I like to come here in either the autumn when the orange colours can be so vivid or in the winter when the Black Mount is covered in snow reflecting beautifully in the loch.
When you have had your fill here continue on the A82 for perhaps a mile when you start to climb and do a switch back to the left. At the top of this rise, there is a large car park where you might be lucky to see a lone Scottish Piper or red stag that I know frequent this area. The view down to Loch Tulla where you were a few minutes ago is gorgeous and definitely worth a minute or two capturing the loch at an elevated position.
Continue to the next loch on your left, which is Lochan na h-Achlaise. This will be one of your highlights of the day. There is a car park on the right-hand side as soon as you see the loch. This is the best place to park when you’re taking images at the southern end of the loch. Park your car and carefully cross the road, this is an extremely busy road so be careful. Once across the road, the world is your oyster – there are so many vantage points that it really is up to you where you position your tripod. The Black Mount is always in your shot so you’ve no need to worry about background interest. Also early in the morning, the sun will be behind you so no need to worry about glare or flare but perhaps just watch out for your shadow. Take your time in this area – walk along the loch as there are so many great vantage points all with different foregrounds. Trees, islands, rocks and pools most with reflections to die for are abundant along the full length of the loch.
After filling an SD card full of images return to the car and continue along the A82 to the next loch which is Loch Ba. This can be seen on both sides of the road and there are several parking areas again on both sides. I particularly like the left-hand side area of the Loch as the mountains still give you a great backdrop to your images whereas on the right the loch is pretty but with very little in as far as background interest – this is just my personal opinion. There are also many paths on the left that lead you out into Rannoch Moor with pools and rivers crossing your path in every direction. A beautiful area so takes your time here, you won't be disappointed.
This all has been a little taster as to what’s to come. Continue along the A82 – in fact, most of your driving will be along this road with just small diversions to a couple of venues. In front of you is one of the main reasons why photographers come to Glencoe – Buachaille Etive Mor or the Herdsman or just 'Beuckle’ as most people like to call it. This mountain will now feature a lot in your images and I make no apology for this – it’s just a perfect shape with different foregrounds everywhere you look. I have photographed many places in the world but this mountain and location is right up there with the best. This is the image that will face you as you enter the Glencoe Valley.
The first small diversion is down the Glencoe Mountain Resort road on the left. This takes you to the now very popular skiing area with lifts, accommodation, toilet facilities and food if your bacon barm cake needs topping up. Images can be taken from the road to capture Buachaille Etive Mor (Picture 1). The venue you need to capture is Blackrock Cottage (Picture 2) halfway along this road before you get to the Mountain Resort. There is a pull-in on the left-hand side enough for a couple of cars. This is such an iconic image with Buachaille Etive Mor standing proudly in the background. I have photographed this in all seasons but I must admit in the winter with snow on the cottage and on the ‘beuckle’ takes some beating. You can take just the cottage with or without the perfectly placed stone for foreground interest or everything you can see – it doesn’t really matter as everything you take here just seems to work.
After your session here or a bite to eat then get back to the A82 and travel just a little way to the north until you’re opposite the Kings House Hotel on your right, Here you should find a lay-by on the left where several cars can park. Walk across the road and towards the river. You will need to cross the river here and there are some places to do so a little upstream. Once you have crossed, find a safe place and get settled to take The Devils Cauldron. These are fabulous waterfalls especially early in the morning or towards sunset. Here you will need a wide-angle lens, at least a 16 – 35 mm on a Full frame camera or the equivalent on a cropping factor sensor. I say this because I can just about get the waterfall and the ‘Beuckle’ in on the same shot with my 16 – 35 mm lens. Also, take a Big Stopper or Little Stopper with you so you can slow down your shutter speed to get that long exposure that has become so popular recently. Experiment with different angles both close to the waterfall and also down the river to the ‘Beuckle’. You can spend many an hour here so take your time and come away with something you are proud of. A pair of wellies will help you keep your feet dry and wade into the river for some close-ups.
Return back to the car and continue along the A82 for the highlight of your day. I know this location has been done to death but it is one that you need for your portfolio – everyone else has the shot so why not you. Turn left along the Glen Etive road and continue down here for about a mile. When you go down a dip in the road where there are some trees, there is a car park on the left for about three or four cars. Cross the road into some trees where you will find several little paths all going to the same location – the waterfall. Get yourself set up with the waterfall in the foreground and the ‘Beuckle’ in the background. This is a stunning location, especially on the right day. If you look towards the right of the waterfall there is a place where you can drop down and take a different perspective shot of the waterfall (Picture 1). This is a great shot especially if there is snow or ice on the rocks in front of you. After these shots have been taken, just walk along the river towards the ‘Beuckle’ and take the river and rock shots along the full length of the river (Picture 2).
Return back to the car and, if waterfalls and wildlife are your bag, then continue down the Glen Etive road. This is a dead end road and culminates at Loch Etive however along the way there are many opportunities to take waterfall shots on the left with wild Red Deer visible continually to the end. My favourite location for red deer is on the higher ground next to the road with a small lochan as a great backdrop.
Drive back to the A82 and turn left. After about 200 yards there is a small pull-in on the left. Park your car here and walk along the road for about 300 yards – here is Lochan na Fola. This is a beautiful little loch with reeds and subject matter all round with a great view of The Three Sisters of Glencoe in the distance. A worthy stop off on your busy schedule.
Continue in the same direction and when you come to a bend in the road with a white cottage on the right and a small white hut underneath the mountain on the left then park your car in the car park on the right of the road. Cross the road and walk towards Lagangarb Hut. This is a very picturesque area with rivers and bridges in all directions.
Back to the car now and proceed in the same direction just for a short while until you come across a beautiful loch called Loch Achtriochan. This is really a stunning loch especially on a calm day when there is no wind. Trust me the reflections can be to die for. Park your car in the car park on the left-hand side of the road close to the loch. Walk down to the loch and take images all along the side of the loch. If you are in luck then the Aonach Eagach Ridge will be reflected nicely in the loch.
The last venue on our Glencoe experience is just a short distance along the A82. At the top of the valley there are a couple of large car parks on the left-hand side of the road. You can park in either one so long as you have a great view of The Three Sisters of Glencoe. These sit proudly at the head of Glencoe and a must take an image. You won't be alone here as it’s a stopping point for everyone who visits Glencoe and a suitable finale of your trip to this iconic Scottish area.
As mentioned at the beginning, this guide is just a series of suggested locations around The Glencoe area that I have found particularly rewarding and should take you a couple of days to complete – search others out for yourself perhaps at a time when the weather is not kind as I’m sure, like me, once you get hooked on Glencoe you will return time and time again.
All of the images in this article can be purchased in the Glencoe and Rannoch Moor Gallery.
© Martin Lawrence Photography 2018