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Scotland: Climbing Ben Nevis

By |2021-01-15T11:19:12+00:00January 8th, 2021|Categories: Featured Gallery, Portfolio Galleries|Tags: , , , , , , |



There is no sport like mountaineering. It is the overcoming of difficulties, the mental climbing, as well as the physical, that give it such a zest. The troubles of life seem to fade away in the presence of the everlasting hills. We may go out tired and worn in mind and body; we return renewed and restored: health re-established and friendships strengthened

Jane Inglis Clark  Pictures and Memories, published in 1938,

The high point of 2020… quite literally!

Even a bad year can have its high points. In my case, it was the chance to climb Ben Nevis during a visit to the Highlands of Scotland in September 2020. My experience was rather nicely summed up in the Jane Inglis Clark quote seen above. There were a number of occasions that I came very close to turning around and heading back down the mountain. I’m so glad that I didn’t. As the quote mentions, climbing a mountain is as much about the mind as it is the body.

The weather was the trigger. For most of my stay, the visibility had been poor for climbing Ben Nevis. For at least a couple of days, the summit was not visible from the holiday cottage. I’d have to wait and see if the right conditions appeared. On the penultimate day of the holiday, the right weather arrived. Clear skies and warm too. My old 1990s era Army Bergen, found at an outdoor shop in Norfolk back in 2016, was packed with water (not enough as I found out), dry clothing and food.

It was time to go.

A brief rest. Time to take a photograph and enjoy the view

The Ben

Ben Nevis gets around 150,000 visitors every year with around two-thirds making it to the summit. It is not the easiest mountain the climb up with even the 1883 Pony Track (also known as the Ben Path, the Mountain Path or the Tourist Route) being pretty rough to traverse on foot. The steady stream of climbers was also something of a surprise. The mountain climb is popular. Maybe too popular as the track can become crowded. Oddly on my descent, the track was far emptier. The crowds had gone.

As can see from a number of the gallery photos, walking up the path is sometimes akin to travelling up a steep river bed full of rocks. A walking stick (two would be better!) is highly recommended. Fortunately, I’d packed mine which helped me avoid a serious stumble or even twisted ankle most than once. That doesn’t stop people from running up the mountain with the current record set at 1 hour 25 mins – that’s up to the top and back to Fort William!

Clearing the Mind

Clearing the mind of all distractions is never easy. We’ve all had a lot to think about in 2020 with the COVID pandemic restricting our movements. At times it has felt overwhelming. One of the fondest recollections from that day climbing Ben Nevis is how it focuses you on one single task – to get to the summit. Everything else drops away so you are left with a very simple mission. After the constant stream of bad news throughout 2020 that was a very welcome distraction.

Weighing it all up

The singlemindedness of climbing to the top did have some drawbacks though. The physical effort involved meant that photography was reduced to a secondary priority. At the summit, photo opportunities were missed and I failed to shoot a single bit of video due to a limited timeframe at the summit and recovering from the climb. I suppose that gives me a reason to do it all again just because it was compact and lightweight. Once I reached the summit the DSLR was out the Bergen and shooting pictures.

I would have liked to take more lenses with me but the other factor that came into play is the weight. You have to carry it all the way up and back down again. One camera body was packed along with two lenses – a 35mm wide-angle and my compact and lightweight 80-200mm f5.6. My favourite Nikon 80-200mm f2.8 was just too heavy. As it turned out I photographed most of the climb using my phone just because it was easy and quick. Photo shot… start climbing again.

The Summit

Two people standing in the rocky landscape of the summit of Ben Nevis, Scotland.
The view is fantastic but the summit is not easy to travel across

Reaching the summit was surprisingly emotional. The effort of making my way up to the top had not been easy but I’d probably rate it as one of my proudest things achievements. Considering that a couple of years earlier I’d hurt my back so badly that I could barely walk up the stairs, I consider myself fortunate that I’d recovered enough to do the climb.

The summit of Ben Nevis is flat. It almost resembles a rocky moonscape and does not have that classic mountaintop look of Snowden. It is beautiful nevertheless. A single pathway allows you to make your way to the top but otherwise moving around on the summit is a challenge. Sadly my time was limited. I needed to rest and prepare for descending down the mountain so I had around 40 minutes to collect my thoughts, explore and take some photographs.

Two Sticks!

A mountain isn’t climbed unless you return to where you started. The descent was much faster and seemed easier at the start. Within a couple of hours though, I realised it was going to be rough. The impact on the knees as you go down is immense and gradually you feel your knees becoming weaker and weaker. By the end of the descent, my legs felt very much like jelly and I was pleased I had my walking stick with me for that extra support. I just I’d had another! After what seemed an eternity (the final 2 km seemed to last forever!) I finally reached the car park and it was the end of the day.

So would I climb Ben Nevis again? Directly after the climb, I was exhausted and any question of climbing Ben Nevis again would have received a rude answer. A day or so later I felt different. Yes, I would do it all again. I have a better idea of what to expect and could plan better. For a first climb though, I didn’t do too bad. I would have liked to shoot more photographs and no video recording was not great but that was due to the physical nature of climbing the mountain. Photography is usually a primary concern with a photographer but in some cases, the photography is overridden by much more pressing issues. It was the toughest physical challenge I’ve ever had!

I like the photos that I shot during my visit to the UK’s highest mountain. With no gift shop at the summit selling mugs or fridge magnets, the only memento to be had is a photograph!

Related Galleries

The photographs in this gallery form part of the Scotland: Lowlands, Highlands and Islands project.

My 2015 Edinburgh iPhone photography project called ‘The Two Towns’ can be found HERE

Photography Prints

If you would like to purchase a print then the Richard Flint Photography RedBubble store has a wide range of images available.

Framed prints, canvas prints, art boards, metal prints, acrylic block plus lots more can be found on the RedBubble store HERE.

The Glencoe Path

By |2020-05-04T16:21:59+01:00May 4th, 2020|Categories: Blog, The Test Strip Photoblog|Tags: , , , , , , |

looking down Glencoe, Highlands of Scotland
Glencoe, 2015

The importance of staying at home is critical during this COVID-19 situation. You can’t help but think that mother nature has got a slightly cruel sense of humour though. Often Spring in the UK can be cold, wet and rather horrible, but at a time when we all have to stay in, it has so far been wonderfully bright and warm. So be it. Maybe the bright days are better than grey depressing ones during this pandemic. The outdoors can come to me,

Recent events have given me a little time to have a think about my favourite locations and the photographs produced during visits over the past few years. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting some of my favourite landscape images. I’ll delve into the roots of the photograph, how it was taken and the why the location appealed so much.

The Planned Picture

The A82 curves through Glencoe, Highlands of Scotland
Glencoe photographed in 2014

I start with my 2015 photograph of Glencoe, a landscape image that I’d wanted to make for a long time. Driving along the A82, that runs through Glencoe in the Highlands of Scotland for the first time in 2012, the scenery quite literally blew me away. It’s probably one of the best roads to drive in the UK and the mountain scenery is just stunning.

I really needed a good location for the photograph and some decent weather. Finding the place to shoot the image was relatively easy to find. I eventually came across the location by accident while stretching my legs after a long drive. The weather was always going to be the deciding factor.

Watching the patches of light and darkness quickly dancing across the mountains as the shadows from clouds wept over the mountain tops was just magical. Almost spiritual. I felt at home amongst those mountains. All I needed to do was to do some justice to the landscape with a camera.

Mention Glencoe and the story of the massacre soon comes into the conversation. Over the years the story of billeted British troops killing their hosts the MacDonalds in 1692 have equally horrified and fascinated people. History and myth can, however, become entwined so tightly that fact and fiction start to blur. Part of the fun of reading Scottish history is trying to untangle the actual history from myth. Glencoe continues to feed the imagination of visitors and the massacre just adds to the atmosphere.

An excellent overview of the events can be found via the BBC’s ‘In Our Time’ podcast from 2010 where the massacre was discussed in some detail by a panel of historians. The podcast can be downloaded at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00pxrr7

Along the Path

The path seen in the photograph heads up the side of the mountain and is a route I’d like to explore further in future. I liked the idea of having some depth to the image and the pathway was perfect. The viewer feels like they are on the path, walking the route. It also guides the viewer through the picture.

The path is located not far from the main Glencoe ‘viewpoint’ car park but doesn’t seem to attract the anywhere near the numbers of people you’d expect. The reason may be the walk involved rather than getting the easy view from a car. In previous years the visit to Glencoe was just a brief rest stop on the way to Skye so my time was limited as I needed to carry on driving for a further two or three hours.

In 2015 I was staying just down the road for a night in an effort to break the journey up to Skye. I’d found that driving the whole distance up to Skye from Newcastle was perfectly doable but you ended up being worn out for the first couple of days after arrival. An overnight stay along the route made all the difference!

A Gap in the Clouds

The weather was always going to be a factor for getting the photograph. Ironically the day the image was taken the weather on the journey up through the highlands was very wet and dull. The chance to photograph Glencoe looked highly unlikely. However, while crossing Rannoch Moor things initially looked bleak but then started to brighten upl. A gap in the clouds suddenly appeared, the rain stopped and by the time the car had reached the parking place the day was significantly brighter.

iPhone cover available from RedBubble

The picture didn’t need blue skies and fluffy clouds, in fact, I prefer the more dramatic sweep of clouds. There is still a threat of rain in those clouds. A hint of menace. Maybe some of that Glencoe appeal comes from the sense of menace in the landscape. The massacre history just adds an extra layer to that dramatic landscape. There is also an impression that not much has changed in the landscape as the years have gone by. The place is almost timeless – once you get away from the road. Sometimes you do expect to see a party of Redcoats come along the mountain path pursuing MacDonalds through the Glen.

The Glencoe Print

There have been two versions of the print. The current version is a brighter image with better colour saturation than the first print. While the first print did look great, I came to realise that the image was too subdued. It was also too dark in tone. The lush green landscape of Glencoe was being stifled.

One surprising success for the photo is as a phone case. Many people seem to love the depth to the image and the central area of the photograph fitting in neatly on the back of an iPhone or Android phone case. For phone and iPad cases and 63 other Glencoe items including t-shirts, mugs, postcards, throw pillows and framed prints CLICK HERE

Check out the RedBubble store for more prints and items at https://www.redbubble.com/people/richflintphoto/shop

Islay: Lord of the Isles

By |2020-02-22T12:09:22+00:00February 11th, 2020|Categories: Featured Gallery, Portfolio Galleries|Tags: , , , , , , |



Islay: Lord of the Isles | Documentary and Landscape Photography

Islay is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland with a rich history, diverse landscape and plenty of whisky distilleries. For over 400 years Islay was the centre for the Lordship of the Isles. At their height, the Lords of the Isles were the greatest landowners and most powerful lords in Britain after the Kings of England and Scotland.

The journey to Islay involves a long, but beautiful drive through the Highlands, followed by a fabulous (depending on the weather you get) 1 hr 45 minutes ferry trip from the terminal at Kennacraig. The route is a busy one with many visitors heading to Islay intent on experiencing the nine distilleries (more are in development) that offer tours and tastings. I wanted to experience a bit of everything… including the distilleries.

Lordship of the Isles

Historically Islay was at the centre of Hebrides life for centuries. The Lord of the isles were based at Finlaggan, a remote location set on an island where the Lord of the Isles ruled over vast territory that included most of Hebridean isles and even in later years included Ross. Successive Lords of the Isles fiercely asserted their independence from Scotland, acting as kings of their territories well into the 15th century.

By the 15th century James IV of Scotland. had decided that he want to take the lands, titles from John MacDonald II, the Lord of the Isles at that time. John had made an alliance with Edward IV, the king of England, in 1493. The Scottish crown finally decided to remove a thorn from its side. The title of Lord of the Isles was taken, along with ancestral lands and estates, as a royal title and is currently held by Prince Charles.

Finlaggan

The visit to Finlaggan came with a problem to overcome. Lots of water. The previous week before my visit had seen Islay get huge amounts of rain which had saturated the ground around Loch Finlaggan flooding the pathway down to the island. Definitely a job for some wellington boots. The only issue was I didn’t have any. I could either look at Finlaggan from a distance or get wet. Plan B then. Drastic measures which resulted in me wading out in my walking boots and jeans. Certainly not the first time I’ve got my feet wet for a photograph!

The images from Finlaggan are among my favourites from the trip. The location had a serenity to it along with the beautiful scenery and the historic importance of the site. As with many historic sites signs of modern life like the visitor centre and local farms are present. I made the decision to try and use the ruins to block out anything in the landscape that ‘ruined’ the ancient ‘atmosphere’ of Finlaggan.

The Whisky Island

While a wonderful landscape and rich Scottish history may appeal to some of us, arguably the biggest draw to the island is whisky with nine active distilleries receiving a huge number of tourists and whisky enthusiasts each year. Each distillery has its own character and every tour has its own unique experience. Tastings are particularly popular with each distillery providing different levels to suit entry-level through to the whisky connoisseur.

Visiting Jura

With a day remaining it was time to take a look at Jura. The tantalising close landscape of the small neighbouring island to Islay draws you in and fortunately there is a regular ferry service taking a surprising number of passengers back and forth. The waters between the island can run fast during tidal movements as the water rushes through the narrow channel.

Although Jura has a wonderful landscape to explore, another big pull to the island is the small whisky distillery that produces Jura whisky.

Related Galleries

The photographs in this gallery form part of the Scotland: Lowlands, Highlands and Islands project.

My 2015 Edinburgh photography called ‘The Two Towns’ can be found HERE

The Edinburgh: Seven Hills project can be found HERE

Photography Prints

If you would like to purchase a print then the Richard Flint Photography RedBubble store has a wide range of images available.

Framed prints, canvas prints, art boards, metal prints, acrylic block plus lots more can be found on the RedBubble store HERE.

Book Release Date Revisions

By |2019-12-27T13:40:14+00:00December 27th, 2019|Categories: News|Tags: , , , , |

Calton Hill, Edinburgh 2018

Book Delay

With Christmas come and gone its time to get a few things sorted out regarding my book release timetable. A couple of big changes to the release dates for upcoming photography books were made a couple of weeks ago. Quite simply the amount of photography work before Christmas meant I wasn’t able to concentrate on the text for The Two Towns book that was due for release in December.

Rather than rush the book out, I’ve decided to delay the release until the end of next year. It is a drastic change but I really do want to release the book in the runup to the Christmas period. December 2020 will mark the fifth anniversary of the trip to Edinburgh – plus I will have a whole year to work on the introduction and other remaining text for the book. The text hasn’t flowed nearly as easily as I would have liked!

Seven Hills

With the delay of the Two Towns book, the next book for release will be Edinburgh: Seven Hills. I plan to release that book in the early Spring. The images are in place as well as a lot of the text. Only the introduction text is left to complete and I have a good idea of what I’m writing for Seven Hills. It will also be the first colour photography book I’ve released so I’ll be breaking new ground.

More details about the Seven Hills book will be added to the website soon.

More Photo Zines

This year saw the release of my first photo book in over eight years. The photo zine ‘Caught by the Tide‘ came out in July and was the first photo magazine I’d ever produced. Overall it was a great experience creating the zine and I plan to do more. I may even put another zine together in 2020 if I can find the right project.

So the year has been a mix of the successful release of the zine and the delay to the second book. Next year should be good with a book release pencilled in for early in the year and also towards the end.

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