As anyone who climbs in Scotland in winter will tell, Scottish winter is a fickle mistress, teasing you to take a chance and get the axes and gear ready for an early start only to snatch it away with poor ice or lack of build up or some such combination of rubbish conditions. This winter that we just had wasn’t so much as fickle , more like non existent, so when we were trying to get images for the Ellis Brigham winter shoot , the forecast was for rain , for every day of the shoot with freezing levels above the summits . Any ice that had been present had been well and truly washed away , classic lines either hadn’t formed or just were unclimbable and into this forecast we had to get images .
Normally I try and stay positive and embrace what the weather throws at you and use it to your advantage but with non stop rain , its definitely a challenge just keeping the lens dry and after a whole day of it , pretty much everything is wet or in various shades thereof .
Luckily our ace up the sleeve was having Mike Pescod , owner of Abacus mountain guides, as our guide, all round good guy and he knows Ben Nevis like very few other people so if anyone was going to get us into the right position , it was him. Sally and Adam were our models/climbers and we headed up the Ben for the first 2 days .
I did have in mind a couple of shots though and the conditions did lend themselves to getting a certain type of atmospheric shot . We stood around for a long time waiting for the mist to clear enough for this shot , I liked the stream in the foreground and the distant hills side showing through the mist and its a certain type of claggy soggy atmosphere that if you go out into the hills in winter you’ll be only too familiar with .
We were heading up to some ice patches that Mike thought would have enough ice to allow us to get the shots we wanted but as soon as the camera was out the bag and the lens cap off for more than a few secs there was water on the lens and trying to dry it between shots and keep balanced on vertical ice was a bit of a pain . This shot of Adam is certainly not technically great but the water drops on the lens give it a bit of ‘feel’ for the conditions we were in.
But good effort from Adam and Sally , they didn’t complain or moan about it , just got on with the job. I think on day 2 the freezing level dropped to just below the summit so we actually got some snow instead of rain which makes my life a hell of a lot easier. as much as possible we were just climbing and I was shooting as much documentary style shots as set up shots
Day 3 and we actually had freezing level down to around 600m so it could look like winter on this day , we also had ballistic winds , with spindrift/ice so it was very atmospheric and also very painful , so when I said to Adam and Sally to look up , you can sense their reluctance to oblige
We headed up the E Ridge of Carn Mor Dearg as it gave a suitably mountaineering feel to the shots we were looking to get , less ice climbing, more winter mountaineering. I think some of my favourite shots from the shoot were done on this day , the white on the rocks and the wind whipping the snow up just is amazing to photograph and not having to dry the lens and camera between shots seemed like a luxury .
This day probably saved the shoot for me as I felt we could go home now with the shots we needed to make a winter catalogue, nothing like cutting it fine !
Kit wise I was carrying a Canon 5 D iv with either a 24-70 2.8 or 17-40 f4 and a second body , 5Diii with a 70-200 f4. All carried in a F stop Loka UL with medium ICU . Black diamond Punisher gloves to keep fingers warm enough but enough dexterity to operate camera controls. Oakley hydrophobic solution on front lens element to make ice and snow less sticky to the lens .
Thanks for reading and feel free to get in touch about any of the above