The gruelling morning alarm clock: Stac Pollaidh Sunrise

02:25 am! That is the time that my alarm clock (phone) started making that horrible racket. I’m wake this early as Steve is coming to my house in 45 minutes and I still need to get the rest of my gear ready.

After boiling the porridge and throwing a crumpet in the toaster, I begin to pack my bag and get it all in to the car. As I step out of the door, I notice how unusually mild the air is for being the 6th of January.

The car boot is filled with my gear but room is required for two more persons. At that point, Steve arrives in his also tired state. I grab my food and coffee and we begin our 4 hour drive to Assynt.

An hour in to the drive and we stop to collect Joe who will be joining us on this adventure. The car boot is now full and off we go.

After a stop at the Inverness Tesco for some comfort food, we finally arrive at the base of Stac Pollaidh. It’s not 07:30, pitch black and from the space in the car park, we are the only ones here. The bags are on our backs, head torches are on and we begin out accent to the top.

Stac Pollaidh is a very well known location to walkers and landscape photographers. It is a relatively quick climb, taking only an hour to get from the car to the bottom of the summit (it’s incredibly difficult and dangerous to summit this hill, you really need to be a pro at scrambling and the last part requires rope) . Walking in the dark had it’s advantages, you don’t really see what’s far in front of you meaning, you don’t know now much longer it’s going to take OR how hard it’s going to be. I also feel, that time comes by quicker.

The walk was hard, it was steep, wet and the gradient just felt like it was constantly going up but after 1 hour and a few rests, we made it.

From the top, you could see the gentle colours of the sunrise starting to flair up and with every minute, the foreground was turning from black to slight silhouettes of the near hills. We still had 90 minutes before the sun hits the horizon but there was a thick bank of low cloud which, if it stays, will hold back the light for a while longer. This gave us time to find the best composition. I found myself on the middle ground, just next to the cairn. Steve ventured slightly below me and Joe being the “Adventurist” decided to scramble as high as he could.

With the open landscape & Sullivan to my left and loch Lurgainn to my right, I was beginning to like the small summit that was in front of me, breaking up to the two sides.

I found my composition and realised it meant a panoramic stitch but I was happy with that. After a few trial shots, I know the number of images I was going to need, also I stick my Lee polariser and 0.6 soft graduated filter. I have noticed recently that I have been using this combination a lot with my images.

So now i’m set up, it’s time to wait for that sun to rise. It was just amazing to sit there with a coffee in my hand watching the light spread across the land. Beginning to show every little nook and cranny. As the sun started to show it’s glow, you could see it was rising right above loch Lurgainn, if you were lower down and could get the right angle of the loch and sun, that would have been epic.

The light was perfect and the next hour was spent bracketing shots, panoramic’s, adjusting composition, drinking more coffee and just discussing photography & life with Steve (Joe was to high and far away.)

It was now 10:00 and still not a soul on the hill but looking down the car park, you could see that cars were starting to arrive. Joe returned, I recorded a quick fire interview with both guys and then we packed up and headed down the hill.

The rest of the day was spent exploring the area and finishing with a disappointing sunset on Loch Assynt but I was happy with the Black & White reflection (see below).

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Loch Assynt Reflections

Loch Assynt Reflections