Fascinated by the landscape and the mystical mood of the movie “Braveheart,” Scotland is always on my mind when it comes to mystical mountainous landscape photography. So I was happy that I found two fellow photographers who were willing to accompany me for a two-weeks road trip to the Scottish Highlands.
The journey from Germany to Scotland was quite adventurous in and of itself. My car was almost too small for three photographers and their equipment. A recurring challenge was the search for a place where we could put up our tent at the end of a day… sometimes there wasn’t a campsite next to the locations we visited and the mix of rugged terrain and strong wind made it even more difficult.
But we made it, and we were able to see a lot of impressive natural, cultural and historical sites on the way. Landscape photographers on the scent of Braveheart, always curious about his legacy in the Scotland of today. My aim was not just taking pictures of natural scenes — rather, I wanted to create visually accessible places where the viewer can virtually experience the wild Scottish landscape and some historical sites, too.
Scotland is famous for its ever-changing weather conditions. You never can be sure what conditions await you at the next location.
I studied geography at university and meteorology was an important part of my studies. Therefore, I always have one eye on the sky to discern even little changes in weather and lightmood. But Scotland was a challenge, because if you try to cut your own path as a landscape photographer you have to understand that weather and landscape can’t be divided into two separate variables that influence your photography individually.
Both have to be seen as one entity. And when you photographically approach a new area you have to find out what will be the best weather and lightmood for the landscape you want to capture with your camera. I think this was the most important lesson my tour through Scotland taught me: Find out what weather fits the landscape you want to capture best!
Scotland somehow needs those rainy days to act as the mystical country that we have in mind when we think of the movie “Braveheart.” Bright sunshine is good for a nice holiday… but rain, wind and fog are the conditions I recommend for atmospheric pictures of Scotland.
Furthermore, when you finally do get some sunlight during the last minutes of a day — just before sunset — these moments are much more impressive and picturesque than they would be if you had enjoyed sunny conditions the whole day. Wet grass, fog around the mountain peaks and a glimpse of sunlight — just perfect! Truly fairytale-like.
Legends and local fairy tales are always a great way to get in mood for landscape photography. Especially in mountainous regions like the Scottish Highlands where you’ll find many fairy tales about strange rock formations like the Old Man of Storr or castle ruins like Dunnottar Castle.
In ancient times, people were fascinated by those locations. It’s logical, then, that these places are great for mystical landscape photography, too. Generally I like to read stuff about the areas where I am taking my photos — I think this provides a more intense understanding of the natural and cultural peculiarities offered by a specific landscape.
Also, it was very interesting to drive along the narrow streets through the Highlands and on the Isle of Skye. I think the Isle of Skye is my recommendation for anyone who wants to spend some days in Scotland for landscape photography.
This island has it all: Steep mountains (Black Cuillins), impressive cliffs and rocks (Old Man of Storr, Quiraing, Lighthouse at Neist Point), castles, church ruins, waterfalls and green glens. Mossy groves, little lakes, rocky mountain tops, white water creeks and eerie moor landscapes are ubiquitous — it’s a landscape photographer’s dream.
Rainy and foggy days fit very well to this landscape in the north of Great Britain. And if you leave the beaten path, you’ll find places that aren’t known to a larger touristic (photographic) crowd. The natural and historical locations, combined with the melancholic landscape of harsh beauty, are a unique experience that every landscape photographer would benefit from.
About the author: Kilian Schönberger is a landscape photographer and geographer from Germany. Despite being colorblind, he still takes incredibly compelling landscape photos and has been featured in myriad publications both on and off the web. You can see more of his work on his website or by following him on Facebook.