A narrow road winding between a rugged mountain valley, your two furry companions safe in the back seat, and untold adventures ready to be experienced. From glens to lochs, the beach to the Bens, Scotland is one of my favourite places in the world. The last time I was there, I wasn’t the photographer I am now, and while landscape photography still falls squarely outside my comfort zone and we were blessed (and plagued) with glorious sunshine every day, I still attempted to record our 2 weeks in Scotland’s highlands as we travelled.
In this post I want to share with you a few places we explored this time around, but in my experience, you can’t go wrong with Scotland. Drive anywhere north of Glasgow and Edinburgh and you’ll find lochs, mountains, valleys, forests, beaches, old castles and little villages. Since I had been to Scotland before and was on a tight timeframe, I wanted to go back to some familiar favourites and check out some new places.
So, pop on your Outlander soundtrack, and let’s go.
Loch Ard Forest
Google link here.
The whole area of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs is one I still want to go back and explore further. We only managed an afternoon here, a bit frightened off by wild camping restrictions being in force (though probably too early in the season for anyone to have cared).
This is a land of sprawling, ancient forests, hidden lochs, and moss. So much moss. It was also a stop-off for us after a long driving day so I wasn’t really in the right frame of mind for proper exploring, and the big wind storms that had gone through the area a few months ago meant many trails were closed and there was still a lot of damage around.
I couldn’t help but get some photos in a few locations here though: a rich, dense bed of moss, a perfect tunnel through the trees, a little glade with interesting light, and running up to a stranger and asking if I could photograph her Scottish deerhound Alba in this little mossy glade I’d see, with some backlight and perfect rimlight surrounding her.
Google link here.
We arrived here after a relatively long journey on some very narrow and disused roads, and I had been tossing up whether to go or not at all. In the end, we arrived late in the afternoon, lost all the light, and stayed nearby so we could return the next morning.
This place was a photographer’s dream. It was like something out of a fairytale, alternating between towering redwoods and mossy undergrowth, to the glen itself, which was something like a mossy canyon with the stream winding through the middle, little bridges and steps, fallen logs and posing rocks. The only challenge here was finding places the dogs could pose where I wasn’t either very far away from them, or much too close. Cue plenty of scrambling over rocks and I got some nice photos, but I feel like without doing long exposure to really get that frozen water effect, you can never do these kinds of places justice.
And while I have done long exposure with my boys in the photo (and I could theoretically mask two photos together), I just wasn’t in the mood. There were also plenty of panoramas taken here, for a super soft bokeh background and making sure I got plenty of detail on the dogs. This is one of my favourite techniques, though I don’t use it nearly enough – mostly because of how massive the files end up in editing!
Chasing Clouds and Sunsets
Much of our trip was spent enjoying unseasonably sunny, clear weather… which is lovely for holidays, but not so lovely if you’re a photographer. If you’re outraged because sun is the best condition for photos, check out this blog post on using natural light in pet photography.
We met up with a friend from Instagram, hiked to the most gorgeous hidden and secret beach, where it was beautifully sunny and photos didn’t really do the scene justice. We revisited a lookout point I’d been to with Loki 3 years earlier, hoping for a similar explosion of dramatic light through clouds…
But with clear, cloudless skies we got nothing of the sort, and while the landscape was still spectacular, and the dusk colours were pretty, I found myself praying for clouds.
3 years ago vs. now
Luckily, two days later heading through the valley from Glencoe, we finally got the clouds I’d been wishing for, so spent the entire day doing self-portraits of me and the boys, trying to capture “God’s Fingers” streaming through clouds in the background, exploring little tracks and delighting in the epic Scottish weather I’d been hoping for!
Google link to Glencoe (and trust me, as a photographer, this whole area is incredibly, unbelievably beautiful).
On the Other Side of the Lens
I also took the time to book a session with a portrait photographer, Regenweibchen Photography (who specialises in humans!) as I wanted to get both some photos of me holding my camera for the website, social media and whatever else, and this is impossible when I’m usually using my camera to take the photos… and I wanted some photos of Loki, Journey and I interacting, in a way that I can’t capture when doing self-portraits.
Although I’m pretty good at capturing candid, genuine moments of interaction between my dogs and myself, there are certain angles, or certain ways of seeing us, or being close to us, that I just can’t do by myself. I wanted to let someone else see us in their own artistic way, and hopefully capture a moment of our adventure together.
And I think Karo did a beautiful job! I love the photos she created, and it’s so fun to see us from her point of view, in her style, and to have just been able to relax and muck around and play with my boys during the session.
Travelling with Dogs
I’ve been travelling on and off with my dogs for over 4 years now, so stepping back into our little van and getting on the road is par for the course. We have our routines for mornings and for nights, we use Google Maps and Park4Night to find places to sleep.
Travelling with dogs doesn’t have to be complicated, but it can take a little more planning! Especially depending on what time of year you go. I could write a whole blog post just about my experiences travelling with dogs (should I? Let me know in the comments!) but this is meant to be all about Scotland.
Let’s just say that my essential recommendations for travelling with dogs are:
- the dog can hang out and relax in the car/van when you need to leave them there
- consider the weather and go to the supermarket early or late in the day if it’s warm
- take frequent stops during the drive. We tend to stop every 2 hours or so both for me and for them
- towels!! If you’re in a small space like a van, towels for muddy and wet paws are essential
- an excellent recall, or keep your dogs on leash. Since you’ll be visiting new places all the time, your dogs need to stay with you. If they have a tendency to wander, they might not know how to get “home” if they get disoriented. Loki, for example, is absolutely useless at retracing his steps.
- exploring daily can be tiring! Take some days as “downtime” to just relax, be in the one spot, and walk more familiar trails
- if possible, get your dog used to eating different brands of dog food. You might not be able to find your normal brands while on the road so if they can switch brands without getting upset stomachs, this is ideal
- if you’re travelling in a car and staying in hotels, being crate trained or being able to relax in new and unfamiliar places is a must