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Photo Article - Photo Trip to Ben More

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Last update 20 Jun 2016

Tumbling waterfall

Pair of Drinker moths on cocoon


Photo Trip to Ben More, Isle of Mull

Ben More, the highest point on the Isle of Mull is the only Hebridean 'Munro' outside of the Isle of Skye and is therefore held in high regard on the island. Its huge bulk dominates the southern half of the Isle of Mull and is clearly seen when passing through Glen More on the road from Craignure in the east to Iona in the west.

Whilst there are several recognised ascent routes my personal favourite is from the north starting near Dhiseig on the shores of Loch Na Keal, climbing this route from the shore ensures that every inch of its 3169 ft height is climbed. However, to get the best from the photographic day it is not necessary to make the full ascent, as there are plenty of distractions along the way to provide a full day of photography.

Spring and early summer is the best time as at this time the place is alive with birdsong and the display of wild flowers can be spectacular providing numerous photographic opportunities. This combined with the idyllic pools and waterfalls of Abhainn Dhiseig, small stands of trees and rugged rock outcrops tempt one to linger on these western slopes on a warm summers day.

Searching for suitable subjects for nature photos can be likened to a game hunt, the uncertainty adding to the enjoyment of the day, providing both challenge and reward. However, it is important to get down to work and great photo opportunities can be found thriving in damp areas near streams, ponds, or marshy areas. Start by looking for flora, leaves, textures and patterns as these can make excellent subjects for photography. There are also many photographic opportunities for insects, butterflies and smaller birds such as Meadow Pipits.

It is always preferable to take nature photos in the morning and evening as the quality of the low-angled light is warmer with less contrast. However, this may not always be possible and there is certainly no reason to pack away your camera if some simple precautions are taken to minimise the harsh light of a sunny summers day, particularly during the period a few hours either side of midday.

Working in the small stands of trees can help maximize photo shooting time as they diffuse the strong overhead light, this umbrella of shade allows us to question the traditional rule of packing our camera equipment away at noon. Look for shafts of light shining through trees or bushes, these natural highlights can turn a scene into something ephemeral and majestic creating moody and atmospheric nature photos. There are also times when a shaft of light coming through the canopy may highlight a subject, a flower for example will benefit from this softer diffused light that will make colours richer, reduce contrast and ensure greater detail.

As a film or digital sensors ability to render detail in both highlight and shadow is limited to about 5 to 6 stops it becomes necessary to manage the quality of the available light, this is best achieved by using a translucent diffusion screen and or reflector panels. As diffused light can be a nature photographer's best friend in the field placing a diffusion screen between the light source and the subject is a relatively easy way to reduce contrast. Diffusion screens are available from most photo shops, but you can also improvise by making one easily from a white translucent plastic bag secured at opposite ends to lightweight rods. This can be rolled up on completion and takes little space in the camera bag.

As an alternative to diffusion screens reflectors can be used to add light to the shadow areas of a subject. Reflectors come in different shapes, sizes and colours; you can use gold, silver or white reflectors to fill in shadowed areas by bouncing the light onto your subject. This allows control of the available light and providing the light is constant you should be able to see the effect as you move the accessory. Always meter the subject after the reflector is finally in place to avoid incorrect exposure.

Electronic flash, preferably dedicated, can also be used to reduce contrast in outdoor subjects. Harsh frontal flash may not be appropriate for delicate subjects and it is best to use the flash off-camera, slightly elevated and held obliquely to one side of the subject. Reducing the flash output by 1 to 1.5 stops will add just enough light to soften shadow areas; this natural looking, soft fill light can be unpredictable and difficult to assess in the field so bracketing offers a sure way of securing the desired result.

Finally, remember one of our greatest challenges as nature photographers is to constantly look for new ways of seeing the world around us. Knowing where to find these hidden treasures and how to photograph them will test your creative resources and provide many memorable days, great photographic opportunities and nature photos to treasure.

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The Smithy, The Bothy and The Studio, Ballygown Isle of Mull Argyll PA73 6LU Scotland
tel : +44 (0) 1491 639299