Cashel Forest and Strathcashell Point, Loch Lomond

On Saturday we went for a walk by Loch Lomond.  This was intended to be a woodland walk, but it was so wet, it became more of a bogland walk – but was still very enjoyable.  We went to Cashel Forest and up Cashel hill, which would normally be a relatively easy walk, with occasional steep parts.  Water gushing down the hillside, at times washing away what path there was or turning the path into a slippery morass, made for a slower ascent and descent.  Nonetheless, being high over Loch Lomond did reward us with some beautiful views.

Loch Lomond, 4.1.14

Loch Lomond, 4.1.14

I had taken a digital camera with me.  This was my first ‘proper’ excursion for some time, what with moving house and work demands stopping me from getting out with a camera since the summer, and whilst these were little more than snapshots of new views for me, I was wanting to engage fully with the context I was in.

Cashel Forest, 4.1.14

Cashel Forest, 4.1.14

In the periods when it stopped raining (or rained less), this was, of course, easier to do, not least for simply enabling greater visibility.  However, the great thing about wetness is that it emphasises some of the fantastic colours in the trees and bushes, with purples and reds dominating.  In the spring and summer this will all be covered in foliage and so will mostly be green (which is a different kind of beautiful), but I do prefer autumn and winter for the richness and variety of the colours on display.

When it rained, it rained heavily, testing the waterproofing of our raincoats pretty thoroughly!  It also became much more difficult to make photographs – this image was taken on my iphone and the rain was so heavy I could barely see the screen:

Loch Lomond, 4.1.14

Loch Lomond, 4.1.14

I tweeted this from the hillside, but later deleted it when I saw it in detail.  I should not have done that – it does actually convey a very real sense of the hillside views in the rain!  Shortly afterwards, in a brief drier moment, I made the first image above of a similar view.  At one stage, when I wanted to photograph the path and the colours we were on, I took out the camera to find the lens almost completely misted over.  So I breathed on it to mist it over completely, and made this:

Cashel Forest, 4.1.14

Cashel Forest, 4.1.14

Of course, we buy cameras with millions of pixels and expensive lenses so we can breathe on them and create blurry images…! 🙂  I jest, of course – but this actually represents our view for much of the walk, so it’s an accurate image – you can just about make out a path leading from the bottom left, and see the outline of the hills.

Strathcashell, 4.1.14

Strathcashell, 4.1.14

Before we went up the hill on Saturday morning, we walked briefly towards Strathcashell because I wanted to see the way to Strathcashell Point, a place that I wanted to visit on my own on Sunday morning.

The track to the Point goes past a patch of woodland that I intend to go back to – widely spaced trees in various states of growth and decay, offering some interesting explorations.

The Point itself is reached by following the track almost to the end, and crossing a field with livestock in it.  The Point has ruins of an old fortification, presumably an ancient watch post to monitor traffic up Loch Lomond, but the ruins consist primarily of the remains of some exterior walls, none higher than about 50cm.  The point is itself shielded by a small cluster of trees that do not really suggest a promontory at all when viewed from the land:

Strathcashell Point, 5.1.14

Strathcashell Point, 5.1.14

The trees would offer shelter in wilder weather, but in contrast to Saturday’s strong winds and torrential rain, early on Sunday morning the air was completely still: with birds singing, and the sun gently rising, it felt as if spring was on the way!  Because nothing was moving I was able to use some longer exposures and still keep detail in the branches of the trees.  I made a few images overlooking the Loch, in part towards the snow-covered peak of Beinn Eich on the western side of the Loch (at least, I think that’s what it was), but mostly I just paid attention to the partially submerged trees – the high rainfall in recent weeks have clearly filled the loch.

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Strathcashell Point, 5.1.14

Strathcashell Point, 5.1.14

Strathcashell Point/Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

Strathcashell Point/Loch Lomond, 5.1.14

I quite like these images, and it was reassuring to know that being out with a camera again felt so natural.  After all these months when it has not been possible, I’ve really missed not making anything more than occasional snapshots, and whilst the images above are mostly simply to be ‘enjoyed’ rather than being particularly thought-provoking, they give me great satisfaction.  Not photographing for any length of time always results in my mind developing doubts about my ability to ever make images again: I am very good at self-doubt!  So this weekend was carefully thought-through and planned to counter this gnawing insecurity: apart from identifying locations on a map and on PhotoTransit and then scouting the Point on Saturday, using a digital camera rather than film meant I could do something with the images as soon as I came home.  Whilst out with the camera, everything felt completely natural – this is hardly a surprise, but it is still very reassuring (telling myself this would be the case in advance doesn’t work: I need to see that it would be so).  That is why digital made sense this weekend, even if most of my landscapes are now on film.

I have no idea what kind of half-used film is in my sadly-neglected 35mm and Mamiya 645 cameras that are still in the cupboard, but I’ll be getting them out and finishing the rolls shortly.  Now that everything has settled down a little after the move, my mind is clearer and I can start to think about creating imagery again.  It is also helping me with thinking through the next stages of the windfarm essays (ha! I bet you thought I’d forgotten about that!).

Also: this week, my new darkroom equipment should be arriving… more excitement!

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4 thoughts on “Cashel Forest and Strathcashell Point, Loch Lomond

  1. Mike Green

    Sounds like a rather good return to the ‘mood’ of photography, Michael. I like several of these images, notably the one where you breathed on the lens to mist it up even more 😉 All very atmospheric.

    I was wondering when your next wind farm essay might appear …. I look forward to it/them.
    Mike

    1. Michael Marten Post author

      Thanks very much, Mike; sharpness is vastly overrated, you know! 😉

      The next wind farm essay should be out very soon, promise…

  2. Lucy Telford

    “Everything felt entirely natural” – what a lovely thing to say and to feel. I think there is often an unnecessary emphasis put on the reasons for photographing – why you took that shot, what it means etc etc. Reasons are important if they are supposed to be important but equally there is a pleasure to be had in letting the camera (whatever camera, digital/film/LF/35mm/pinhole…) be an extension of the eye. This doesn’t make it thoughtless photography (which your images here clearly aren’t) because, of course, the eye is connected to the brain. Having read your words and looked at the beautiful pictures, the key word to me is “natural” – these are not forced or contrived and they are not trying to BE anything other than what they are. That pleases me greatly as does the fact that they have pleased you and have helped you get back into the swing of it.

    Long may it last.

    1. Michael Marten Post author

      Thanks, Lucy.
      I agree, we can sometimes think too much, as it were – or perhaps I should just speak for myself, and say that I can think too much, rather than letting intuition and a sensibility for the image guide me. That is why letting things come naturally really is, as you say, making the camera an extension of the eye. And yet: because the camera can be used to do something our eye often can’t do (eg here a longer exposure to smooth out the water ripples), it makes me wonder if we shouldn’t say the camera is an extension of our inner eye that sees things for what they might be.
      Thanks for making me think this through a bit more!

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