The Three Sisters of Glen Coe are one of the many famous natural landmarks those traveling along the A82 will admire. They are only the shoulders of the fabled mountain massif of Bidean nam Bian, most of which remains hidden from the roadside, (in fact when I climbed up Bidean nam Bian most of it was hidden all the way as we ascended into the low-hanging clouds.) but they are among the most imposing lumps of rock anywhere in the Scottish Highlands. Not surprisingly, the car parks which overlook the Three Sisters are both very large, and filled to the rim on weekends and holidays, as everyone wants to soak in the views.
After I had been photographing sunrise at Lochan na Stainge on Rannoch Moor I decided to take advantage of the unusually large amounts of snow which had recently fallen to lower levels. I tried to go down to Loch Tulla, but despite having winter tyres I wasn’t brave enough to travel on the last small road, as there was still a lot of snow down that way. I decided to travel back and see if I could find some nice photo opportunities around the Three Sisters of Glen Coe. It is a bit ironic that, in my quest to ignore honeypot locations, I have pretty much avoided photographing the Three Sisters for four years, and now I was back within weeks of my previous visit, although it’s fair to say that conditions were a little bit more special this time around.
Though it was heaving at the parking lot, I met very few people who wandered off the paths, and no other photographers, which was a nice change from the situation earlier that morning. Below you can find a couple of photographs taken here. I found that they were all ideal black and white material, as the landscape was almost monochromatic and the light was not terribly inspiring as most were taken at around midday.
I first headed down towards the river Coe, where the imposing cliffs of the Bidean nam Bian are intimidatingly close. I was hoping to get some nice shots feautureing the river, but the woodlands were too dense for what I had in mind. However, there are always other options available, as long as you try to keep an open mind.
Clouds were shrouding the northern slopes of the Three Sisters of Glen Coe. I found this tree which provided a nice anchor point.
Some nice woodlands near the river Coe. Gearr Aonach can be seen towering high above the trees.
After having some fun near the River Coe, I wanted to get higher up, where I knew there would be some great views. Last time I was up there I scouted a elegant composition, but when composing I was sloppy, and did not see the road creeping into the frame. I could get rid of it by cropping, but that would either lead to an aspect ratio I did not like, or losing other elements. Hence I was glad I could return, and set things right. Hopefully.
High above Glen Coe marvelous views over the snow-covered Three Sisters unfold.
After I found my tree, I went higher up, looking for some nice views. While I found a ledge which I had perused on my previous trip, this time I was not convinced by the resulting photographs. Instead, I looked for little details in the snowy landscape. I found this little heather plant whose twigs were struggling to barely piercing through the snow. Including it as foreground interest would mean losing the view down the Glen, only including the higher slopes and summits of the Three Sisters in the frame, but I was happy with that. Sometimes the grand elements just have to give way to the easily overlooked ones. Here, as in most other photos of the Three Sisters, I used a long exposure to create streaks and blur in the clouds. I found that having less definition in the clouds worked well with the feature-poor snow-covered landscape, but of course this is a matter of personal taste.
(Almost) snow-covered heather plant.
This is it. I had now photographed the Three Sisters of Glen Coe twice in a month time, it’s time to put it on my black list, at least for a while. Be it snobbery, or shame not having walked too much to get to a photo location, I find it hard to be really content with photographs taken so close to the roadside, but I hope I have put my own spin on one of the most photographed iconic vistas in Scotland.
If you’d like to see more of my work, please click here for black and white photographs, and here for photos of the Scottish Highlands.
I hop you’ve enjoyed this post, please feel free to let me know what you think in the comments.