Last Sunday, with limited time on my hands due to the imminent return of my children from a weekend break I decided to haul all my large format gear up the 1600ft (488m) to the minor top on the approach to Meall Garbh, itself a minor top on the approach to Beinn Sgulaird. NB, Meall Garbh provided me with my Earth shadow images back in the Winter.
Recently I have been suffering with some knee and hip pain while on the hill that I now attribute to the road running I started back in July (no mentioning my age now). Due to that I have been hill walking without all of my heavy gear but with the onset of Autumn, its weather and its colour, the time is right to start making wider landscapes again.
In fact on Sunday I had no intention of making an image. The walk was purely for the sake of exercise and to test my knees on the jarring descent back to my car beside Loch Creran. I’m pleased to report no problems and even more pleased to find that I had no trouble keeping up with and even overtaking some of the Munro baggers cluttering the slopes of a hill I’m used to having to myself.
Arriving at my top in just 45 minutes I perched on one of the many erratics scattered across its top and with the warm sun at my back and a gentle breeze tugging at my shirt sleeves enjoyed the wonderful views up Glen Creran and beyond. It has since struck me that this is what all my outdoor experiences were like before photography, the simple act of walking in remote places, exercising my navigation skills and pitting my wits against whatever nature could throw at me.
Photography has certainly changed that. On a practical level, carrying 22 kilo’s of camera kit plus food and drink has made long distance days a thing of the past. I regularly opt to leave behind what used to be essential hill walking gear in favour of that extra lens and with this on my mind perhaps I don’t commit to the more adventurous routes I used to take. Sitting on my boulder I could pick out in front of me all the hills I have previously climbed, Sgurr a Choise (663m) and Fraochaidh (879m) backing the glen, Sgurr Dhearg (1024m) above Ballachulish high on the left. Behind them and spot lit the Mamores above Glen Nevis and with its head well and truly in the boiling cloud, the Ben itself. All bring back fantastic memories of days spent with or without friends in all weathers, with or (especially) without a camera.
I have come to realise that, to a certain extent, photography has actually disconnected me from the landscapes that I love. That sometimes just sitting and enjoying is more important for my soul than coming back with an image. That permanently hunting for images has perhaps meant that my other senses have been turned off while on the hill. While I intend to crack on with photographing Scotland’s wonderful mountains I shall be carrying less film and less lenses to make sure that I can look back with fond memories of the whole experience.