Behind the Camera: ‘Sunkissed’ – Buachaille Etive Mor, Scotland

Known by many names – The Buachaille or The Beuckle – Buachaille Etive Mor must be one of the most photographed features of the Scottish highlands. Not only does “the great herdsman of Etive” look spectacular, a giant pyramid welcoming you to Glen Etive, but also getting to a spot with fantastic foreground interest is only a short walk across a field.

No mountains to climb or rivers to negotiate.

So, on the one hand it’s great to have such a splendid sight to work with that’s a few minutes away from the roadside, but on the other hand it puts a pressure on the photographer to present it in a new light. While there’s nothing wrong in bagging a shot of something that looks like thousands – if not millions – of other photos, it’s much more special – not to mention rewarding – if you can make that capture unique in some way.

Given that I didn’t have the drama of snow to work with, and the moon wasn’t going to play ball with me, I decided I was going to work with this peak both at night and early morning. The foreground interest provided by the waterfalls makes it a great subject to work with under low light conditions because long exposures draw out the time that the shutter is open, giving the water a chance to transform from looking as sharp cut glass to a super-soft candy floss.

But there’s other things that you can do to an exposure to present it in a different way. In this example I’ve processed the image as a black and white exposure, but I’ve also added a couple of colored graduated filters to it to give the image depth and drama. But these filters aren’t arbitrary. I added a light pink to the sky and a blue to the ground because this is what I saw just before the sun dipped behind the hills in front of me, robbing it of the last bit of vibrancy.

In a mere few seconds, the landscape can be transformed from a near monochrome into a bouquet of colors, and while the color is amazing to behold, so is that low contrast build up to the new day.

In a future post I’ll write is greater detail about the process of taking the morning and night shots of this splendid mountain, so stay tuned!

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