I don’t know about you, but once in a while I like to book some time off work and go ‘somewhere new’ and challenge myself to capture some images outside my usual ‘comfort zone’. I like to try and get away around October time so, in search of inspiration, I had another look at my Landscape Photographer of the Year (Collection 13) book and was drawn to an image by Chris Lauder (page 168) taken at Loch Ard.
I got in touch with Chris and he spoke highly of the area, so I booked some accommodation for my wife and I at Aberfoyle for a few nights and, when the time came, we set out on the long drive from our home just north of London.
What I’ll say right away is it’s a beautiful part of the world – even if the weather gods decided to toy with me for those few days! Apparently, Aberfoyle and the surrounding area had had beautiful weather in the preceding weeks but, unfortunately for us, rain was pretty much the order of the day. And the day after. And the day after that… However, we did get some breaks in the weather here and there, so waterproof coats and walking shoes on, we ventured out!
Image 1 was taken on the western edge of Loch Ard, about a 10 minute drive from Aberfoyle, and was my ‘attempt’ at something along the lines of Chris Lauder’s beautifully executed image. I think I was in pretty much the same spot but regretted not having my wellies on that morning, as I would have preferred to have been closer to the reeds and a little lower down to occupy the space between foreground and background. The western side of Loch Ard (a small-ish loch) has a different feel to the eastern side – more ‘open’ and with width to the water itself – image 2 gives a feel of that sense of space as you look east and can see hills beginning to close in as you return to Aberfoyle.
The western edge of the loch as an abandoned jetty, so options to use that as a leading line exist and could make for a wonderful composition in great morning light. The western end of the loch has a very well photographed boat house, which looks great in misty conditions. Whilst no such mist was present during our stay, I did see several photographers braving the roadside to park up and shoot the boat house.
Aberfoyle itself is a small town that is probably largely dependent on seasonal tourism. There are numerous walks, forests and managed parks to enjoy and explore – several of which start from the town centre and give you options for walks of various durations / physicality around the Loch Ard area. Even in the rain, it was lovely to be outside and enjoy the clean forest air. A few hundred yards north of Aberfoyle is the Lodge Forest Visitor Centre – another spot with a variety of well signposted walks, including waterfalls and red squirrel viewing hides. Image 3 gives a flavour of the lovely forest scenery you walk past as you wander through the forest.
A short drive further north is Loch Katrine, where you can board a boat for a trip out into the loch – which is much, much bigger than Loch Ard. Though there was a fierce wind blowing that afternoon, there was some lovely light catching some of the trees, which image 4 hopefully demonstrates. I’m just glad for ‘vibration reduction’ in my kit as it helped capture something reasonably sharp from the open top of the boat!
On our final morning, the weather was a little kinder – clearer skies the night before produced just a little mist on the water (image 5) as the sun rose. Whilst I can’t say that I captured any great images during our short stay, it’s a lovely area to explore with lots of photographic potential if the weather cooperates a little more. Plenty of walking options are available, with other areas nearby to explore in the car too. And, if the weather is less than ideal, I can thoroughly recommend a trip to the Glengoyne distillery – especially the paired whisky and chocolate tasting!