Despite it being many years since this photo was taken it still remains one of my favourite images. A combination of being in the right place in the right time and having the knowledge, equipment and lack of self preservation required to get this fairly unique picture.
Landscape photography has always been a great hobby of mine, and back then I drove a motorbike and I was often out looking for shots in all weathers. I still do on occasion, but age and responsibility have me out less often, and I’m more likely to use a motorhome to travel and camp in comfort these days.
The day in question was a chilly January and I’d rode up to Loch Lomond with the intention of spending the day taking photos as I travelled up the Eastern shore. I visited Balmaha for the first time and fell in love with the village and in particular the food of the Oak Tree Inn where I stopped for lunch.
I’d decided on a whim to climb Conic Hill, which is no joke in full leathers, carrying a helmet and with a backpack full of photography equipment and a tripod. Having reached the “summit” I setup and took some pictures, only to find some people on the way down as it turned out the actual summit was some distance further up. As I was overheating despite the chill winter wind I decided against it, vowing I would make my way all the up next time. Year later I’ve yet to fulfill that promise, as every time I’ve made my way up either scheduling, weather or injury have prevented me completing my goal.
Back on the bike I went further North and soon found civilization dropping away, with the map showing only two more areas left: Sallochy and Rowardennan. Of course any photographer who knows the area will know what is coming next: the inevitable photo of the tree at Sallochy.
Except I couldn’t, as on the day in question the whole area was flooded due to the heavy rains of the previous week. The entire beach and picnic area was submerged, making it hard to get to the tree. Despite it being early the winter sun was already setting so I needed to come up with an idea. I waded out, my bike boots conveninently being waterproof and high, allowing me to head deeper in to the water than any of the other photographers nearby.
This rare combination of circumstances is what allowed this picture to happen. Standing knee deep in freezing cold water I set my tripod, legs sinking in to the submerged path below me as the head sat just above the water level. I mounted my camera, attached my remote and waited. As the sun dropped lower, almost reaching the hills it created this perfect silhoutte of the bare trees, reflected in the still waters. I had to be careful, as even the slightest movement on my part would send out ripples that took minutes to settle and the sun would be setting very shortly.
As the snow started to fall lightly around me I made my final adjustments, stood still, held my breath and pressed the shutter. The result you can see, the dramatic shadows of the trees emphasising their stark beauty, with the reflections and muted colours capturing the sense of quiet cold serenity of this cold winters afternoon.
Happy with the shot I had I got back on my bike, intending to complete the last leg of the road up to Rowardennan: unfortunately at this time it started to snow in earnest. To those who may not know snow is deadly on a motorbike, as only the slightest lack of traction can throw you from the bike and cause injury. The snow was light, but I had at least an hours drive ahead of me even if i took the motorway so homewards I went.
The snow grew heavier and by the time I was a mile away from home it was thick on the road. I had a wobble or two, so when I had the option of taking the dual carriageway or the country road for the last leg of my journey I decided to take the safer option and travel slowly on the quieter road.
Unfortunately I had forgotten that just before my home the road dipped down a steep hill, and I lost control as I approach the base and the bike fell, landing on my right leg and sliding a few meters. Despite the full armoured biker gear I wore this hurt rather a lot.
With the snow falling heavily on the quiet road I limped to my feet, checked no bones were broken and most importantly checked the camera wasn’t broken. Everything was fine, save for a huge bruise on the side of my leg and my inability to start the bike. I waited for a few minutes, but with the cold setting in and not a single car in sight for miles I gritted my teeth and pushed the bike the last half mile home.
I spent the evening with a bag of frozen peas on my knee, my laptop infront of me as I looked over the images from the day. Years later the pain from the fall is nothing but a memory, but the image preserves and will likely remain one of my favourite images forever.