Assynt Waterfalls in Black & White

It dawned on me that I often make monochrome versions of my waterfall photographs.

And then I realised just how many I have shot in Assynt alone.

It helps that I live there, so they’re my “local” falls; in fact one of them is only about a quarter of a mile away and I can see it out of the window of my house!
I never feel particularly bound by names or terminology, but it did seem obvious to assemble a collection and see what I’d got.

Quite a few apparently!

Although I can think of at least two people who I know will have visited more than me; maybe I’ll catch up one day.

Thinking about the concept, I realised that there was one glaring omission: Eas a’ Chual Aluinn, the highest waterfall in Britain. I had visited a couple of times, but only the top, and the view is very poor, almost non-existent from the top.

So after a period of rain to top up the water levels, I set off with Richard, Suse and Molly (the dog) to get some photos from the bottom. The forecast was dry that day, which didn’t really account for about three hours rain that we had to put up with whilst walking in. I should’ve realised there and then that it was an omen. But I didn’t.

Three of us plus the dog actually had a lovely day walking to the bottom of a tremendous, awe-inspiring waterfall, not realising that it wasn’t actually in Assynt at all. No. Its about half a mile (or less) the wrong side of the parish boundary. Hmmmm….

No regrets; we needed to visit, and it was fabulous.

It doesn’t look too difficult to get to the bottom of Eas a’ Chual Aluinn, navigating with a map, down a gentle slope to the south east of the falls. The total vertical drop is about 200 metres, so if you visit, be sure to find a nice gentle slope!

And the ground is very rough, so take your time.

The round trip for us was eight hours (including stops).

So there’s one school-boy error, and I think I ought to expand on another point before I trip over that too: “waterfall”.

The definition of a “waterfall” isn’t completely agreed. Apparently not.

And I’m going to ignore it anyway. Some of these photos probably count as “rapids” or “cascades”, or “something else entirely”, but I don’t particularly care.

It’s taken me at least five years to visit all these, but they’re certainly not the only reason for a walk with a camera; I wasn’t in a hurry.

Some of them are well know and regularly visited, being close to a road; and some of them require sandwiches, outdoor gear and the ability to navigate. And for those, it can take a whole day to make just one photograph.

Access is sometimes easy. Sometimes not: beware rough terrain, wet slippy rocks, wet slippy vegetation, and these may also be associated with steep or even precipitous drops. Just saying.

I have used a variety of equipment, cameras being Nikon D750, Nikon D5500, Sony A7iii and Sony Rx100Mk7. The first three have interchangeable lenses, and I would have chosen one for the walk that day. These lenses can take extra filters, so for the “smooth water” effect, I would have used a grey filter to reduce the light and create a “long exposure” (tripod necessary). Lots of cameras are capable of taking these photos, so the main thing necessary is deploying the feet to get there in the first place!


Clashnessie Falls


A northerly gale ripping water from the top of the falls and sending it back where it came from

An odd vortex of wind created this barrier of spray

Cold weather causing spray to freeze on the bushes

Even colder; almost frozen solid

Camera in a box to protect it from heavy rain, which is landing on the glass pane in front of the lens

Inverkirkaig (Kirkaig) Falls

Some icicles around the sides of these two shots

A particular heavy flow captured with a very long exposure

Wailing Widow Falls, probably could be called something like Eas na Loch na Gainmhich, Sandy Loch Falls

From the top, with a view across Sandy Loch to Glas Bheinn

Half way

Frozen; from the top

Frozen; from the bottom

Eas na Saighe Caime, near Inchnadamph

Eas na Saighe Caime, near Inchnadamph

Allt a’ Chalda Mor, near Inchnadamph

Allt a’ Chalda Mor, near Inchnadamph

Allt a’ Chalda Mor, near Inchnadamph

Abhainn na Clach Airigh

Allt an Tiaghaich

Allt nan Uamh, Bone Caves valley

Allt nan Uamh, Bone Caves valley

Quinag Estate (10 photographs)

Allt Sgiathaig

(North side, no name known)

(East side, no name known)

Allt na Bradhan

Allt a’ Bhathaich

Allt a’ Bhathaich

Allt a’ Ghamhna

Allt a’ Ghamhna

Allt na Saobhaidh Moire

Allt na Saobhaidh Moire

And finally, the imposter, Eas a’ Chual Aluinn; I couldn’t not include it now, could I?


Lunch on the Beach

A break in the weather; forecast clear until about 230pm.

We’ll take that; its as good as it gets at the moment.

Not wishing to waste too much time driving around, we head to Inverkirkaig for a walk up the river in the general direction of the waterfall.

There’s a few lochs and lochans up here with views of Suilven too, including Fionn Loch, the provisional picnic spot.

Picnic spots depend on sunshine and shelter from the wind, so never certain until at least two dozen suitable sites are tested!

Suilven doesn’t appear until quite a way along the route, so we don’t know exactly what the views might be today.

Three quarters of the way up to the falls, we head off the path, away from the river valley to find a series of lochans along the ridge.

I’m surprised to see very thin ice up there; I didn’t realise it was that cold, walking in my tee shirt now.


We passed three lochans of varying sizes before getting to Fionn Loch, each one giving us a different foreground for Suilven.


I’m shooting with my Sony A7iii today, fitted with the 24-105 lens (chosen because I already know that I’ll be using the middle to far end of the range with Suilven still a couple of miles away).

I do have a small tripod with me, which I actually didn’t get from a charity shop, despite the assertions of another photographer! 

But most of this I can do “handheld”, so not expecting to use it for a while.

The views are just great, and once again we’re reminding ourselves that we live nearby!

Getting to the larger expanse of Fionn Loch, the breeze picks up, so we’re going to need some shelter for lunch.

And there it is…. a nice little beach near to the anglers’ boats. Perfect.


Tracking a short distance across to the Kirkaig River, we turn back west.

The river is quite full today, so a quick diversion down to the main falls is obligatory.



I’ve got a new gadget to try out; its for springtime really, but I can’t wait for that.

It’s a deep red filter (Hoya R72), designed to just allow red and infra-red light through, so although my photos are going to look red,


they are destined to be converted to black and white.

The filter is so dark, that the exposure is 25 seconds (at F8 and iso 1600), so I finally use the tripod that I didn’t buy from a charity shop.


At the top of the bank, the weather doesn’t look so good anymore and we head about 2 miles back down the path.

It starts drizzling after about a mile, but it doesn’t really matter now.

“Drizzle” being a very important component of the lemon cake that we were given on the way home…..


Going to the Zoo


We got really hacked off with the weather at home, measured in months now rather than days or weeks. Not every day, of course. It’s the 25th of January today, and our last proper nice day was the 9th, the one before that the 25th of December. And yes, I am counting. It’s all been very local too, so when Carol suggested extending our trip to the supermarket (90 miles each way) by another 25 miles to stay in a cottage for a few days, it was quite appealing!

A cottage in the woods too, that would be a real novelty these days!
Trees. We both love trees. Not a good quality where we live…..
So we got a cosy little place just north of Loch Ness, and it were proper nice.
Loch Ness was not on our radar. But Glen Affric certainly was.
Neither of us had been to Glen Affric before, and being such an iconic location, complete with granny pines, mountains and waterfalls, the idea floated our boat (the one without a glass bottom).
One thing that did go wrong was that the miserable weather followed us, so we’re wandering around in anoraks and either wearing waterproof trousers or ready to put them on.
But Glen Affric is totally amazing.
Scenery, trees, big old pines and even some wildlife. Like birds in the trees.


Not something we usually see, except in our garden scoffing down sunflower seeds and peanuts. It’s not just that there aren’t many trees either, you can walk for miles and see very little. Recently we walked up to Suileag bothy from Glencanisp car park, and got fabulous views of two golden eagles, and they are the main event, and would make many people very envious. Understandably. But what else did we see? Two pipits, one blackbird and one hooded crow….. and that’s it. Including through the trees. And I think that’s worse than poor. But that’s what it’s like. Some disagree with my views on this, but I want to see evidence. Evidence that contradicts the scientific community that assert that we’ve lost at approximately three quarters of our wildlife in about fifty years too.
So it’s a treat to walk through lovely woodland and see the “usual” mixed flocks of small birds, and hear their voices again.
We’ve had several walks, varying in length up to about 11 miles. Some trees around us have been old plantations of Douglas Fir, like near the spectacular Plodda Falls, and they look great, albeit not indigenous.

Either side of Loch Affric there’s quite a lot of open-canopy Scots Pine: great big spreading branches on the “Granny Pines”; loads of new and teenage pines, plus rowan, birch and juniper.
Regeneration everywhere!
Lush new growth and no sign at all of the dreaded browse damage so characteristic of Assynt with its burgeoning red deer population.
Last time I saw this kind of landscape was at Beinn Eighe in Torridon.
And we walked through this for about 5 miles, I guess.
It was just great.
And then the illusion just collapsed in front of us.
We crossed a cattle grid through a deer fence, and within a couple of steps noticed browsing on everything at the side of the track. It was absolute.
Carrying on, our destination was arbitrarily the two bothies just past the end of the loch, one owned coincidentally by the charity “Trees for Life”.
Photography (me) and sketching (Carol) options weren’t good, the weather closed in again, so we ate our lunch and retraced our steps. We’d already walked along the north-side path, so decided to stay south this time.
Approaching the cattle grid and deer fence we stopped and looked a while. The view was lovely, but also rather sad.
From here, it was very obvious indeed that all the lush trees and woodland on north and south sides were bounded by straight lines. Fences.

Three options with this scene; couldn’t decide.

Tell-tale sign that this tree is outside the fence.


We thought we’d been in a landscape that was about as natural as possible, but Carol said “look, it’s a zoo for trees”. And it is.
Outside the fence, the same desolation that we see all too often, and extending as far as the eye could see. Inside: trees and birds.
So we went back into the tree-zoo and walked about 5 miles back to the car park, trying to come to terms with this reality.
We visited the nearby viewpoint where there is a memorial to a bloke called H M Steven, a forester with a vision about 60 years ago to start to protect the trees that we’d been admiring, and back at base we listened to an interesting and thought provoking podcast from Trees for Life.
And we reflected on the scenery of the Highlands.
Yes the mountains and lochs are fabulous.
But there’s too much missing.

And to finish, another illusion….

Upside down and taken in the daytime near to Dog Falls:


Re-wilding Conundrum Version 2:


Painting by Numbers

Fill in all the spaces

Paint up to the lines, go over them if you like

Leave no space

Check the maps to make sure its done


No space

No space free

No free space

Occupation total

Control absolute

Ownership complete


Voices

Birds, mammals, fish, plants; all silent?

No opinion then

No one listening anyway

Voices getting quieter


Memories

Fossils

Photographs

Taxidermy!

Yesterday’s survey

One more forgotten

And another….


Skin

Banana skin

Slippy banana skin

The “power of conscious thought” they call it

Deluded lemmings worshipping a credit card totally miss the point

Who, or what, will remember us, the unconscious lemmings?

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