I’m experiencing my first ‘proper’ winter on the Black Isle.
Last winter was mild. I got out for a short walk most days, scraped ice off the car on a handful of occasions and got by without winter tyres. With the exception of a storm in early December, it was nothing to write home about. This winter has been a different story. In December I stocked up on tinned food and kitted out the car with a wind-up torch, snow shovel and sleeping bag, and braced myself for the first storm of the season. Nothing happened. Christmas and New Year came and went and I dropped my guard.
Hurricane force winds battered Scotland on 9th January and kept me awake in the Travelodge in Edinburgh. I was back in the capital catching up with colleagues after the Christmas break. I’ve learned the following lesson the hard way over the years: if there’s an amber weather alert, then your journey will be disrupted! Unable to get a train back to Inverness, I spent the night at my parents’ house in Perth and caught the bus up a snowy A9 the following day.
I returned home to a broken boiler (thanks to a surge following power cuts) and six long days wearing more layers than the Michelin man, trying to stay warm. Then the snow came. I was torn. I groaned when the mercury plummeted to 1°C in my study, yet the big kid inside of me was thrilled to throw snowballs and go sledging by the light of a headtorch! The photographer in me had mixed reactions too. I was captivated by our first fall of deep snow on the Black Isle and I was keen to capture the occasion, yet the only daylight was during office hours and I was tied to the house for the plumber’s three separate attempts at repairing the boiler. Also, venturing out in the snow is less appealing when you can’t return home to a warm house.
Finally the weekend arrived. It was my day off, our heating and hot water had been restored, the sun was shining and the snow was still lying. I had run out of excuses. I had to go out with my camera, and not just to take a shot of the house. It was time to tackle the real problem – an ongoing creative ‘mental block’ after suffering from stress two years ago. Since the winter of 2012-13, more often than not, I have lacked the motivation to get up and get out with my camera. ‘Get obsessed with photography again’ is number one on my list of new year’s resolutions. I have a plan. I know what I want to shoot. I just have to go out there and actually do it. So, I set off with the intention of capturing a snowy image which may find a home in my 2016 calendar. I thought I was destined for failure as I haven’t really been in the right mindset for such a long time.
As any landscape photographer will know, one of the biggest challenges can be finding a place to park the car, particularly in the snow. Scoping out the local area on my bike and on foot has paid off. I left the car in a safe spot, grabbed my gear, set off through a field of barley stubble and snow, and jumped a gate to reach a frozen pond with a view of Ben Wyvis on the horizon. The camera was positioned at a 90° angle to the sun and so I attached a polariser to the front of my lens to reduce reflections on the ice. I waited for the sun to burst through a rogue cloud and for the wind to drop, and I captured my first serious image of 2015. I hope it’s the first of many.
Are you a fan of the snow? Have you captured any special images this winter? Please leave a comment below!