All images from the series Loch Ardinning by Alan Donaldson
Loch Ardinning Wildlife Reserve is 10 minutes’ drive from where I stay. It’s a small area of 350 acres, just north of Glasgow, with the small loch as the centrepiece and a variety of landscape types and vegetation.
The vegetation and animal habitats are protected by guiding people on well-defined paths, all managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust. Despite the reserve's proximity to a busy road and popularity with everyone from dog walkers to families to groups of inquisitive students, the experience of a landscape is undiminished.
I never intended Loch Ardinning as a project. Like everyone else, I found the reserve a convenient way to refresh and exercise, a respite from everyday urban activity. I often found myself stopping to look and contemplate though, then I began taking a tripod and camera and becoming immersed.
The accessibility of the reserve meant frequent visits over the seasons and years. The variety of vegetation, the small gorge, the rocks and the moorland I find engage me as much as any far-flung wilderness. Although managed, the place is wild.
The winter months were my most immersive – the ice on the pools, the low blue light. The cold and the lack of people channelled my energy. To look down and close up, I found myself connect in a different way. The wonderful and delicate patterns of the ice and vegetation chimed with my concerns of fragility, time and balance.
These were the most challenging pictures, working at the end of daylight. Stabilising the camera without damage to the surroundings while maintaining my rapport with the composition. These were done in early 2021 when we were still coping with lockdowns, but with the reassurance of vaccination. When I look back at the pictures taken in March 2020, a week before lockdown, I realise how affected I was. A world inverted. As a commercial photographer all work had been cancelled. At this stage there was no government intervention, plus questions about whether we could survive this disease. My anxiety is clear in the last two pictures in the body of the book.
Loch Ardinning was published as a book in November 2021 – and more recently an image from the project has been shortlisted for IPE 164. I have returned to Loch Ardinning to take pictures and, I feel, always will. While I have moved on to other projects, putting the book together over that period served as an important conduit for my concerns of fragility, balance and time.
The photobook of Loch Ardinning by Alan Donaldson is available to buy at alandonaldson.co.uk