So.. 'man in black'.. 'carrier of the tripod'.. 'driver of the bus' .. what is it today? What adventure does the Koala have in store for me? Well folks, today we’re on the beautiful Isle of Arran, the seventh largest in Scotland and the largest in the Firth of Clyde. Only 5000 people live here and it is commonly known as ‘Scotland in Miniature’ because of its diversity of landscape. Epic beaches give way to rolling hills that are overshadowed by rugged mountains. Castle .. clans and vikings.. whisky and highland cows. Mary Queen of Scots probably too!
I was supposed to be a guide to this island and so it began.. as I strapped the tripod once more to the rucsac with that familiar feeling of resignation. ‘Of course.. this trip is a break.. even a holiday’ said Koala. I even believed the sentiment. ‘ ..we don’t even have to get the camera out.. no pressure at all!’ said Koala. I still believed her as we drove off the ferry.
But then it happened. How could I be so naive? ‘Look at the light!!!?’ Koala exclaimed. 'Look!!’
Okay yes. I see it too. I also hear the comforting clink of wine bottles in the boot. Arran has a distillery too. with a great cafe... and cake.
‘So it’s 3 o’clock.. golden light!! Ok remember this... where is that lighthouse??! What about the waterfall..? There’s snow on that mountain!!’ Koala stuttered excitedly.
That’s Goat Fell, the highest point on Arran at 874m. A fine pyramidal peak with magnificent views. ‘Look at the light!’ Koala interjected over my description. Arran also known for its light. Apparently.
‘What about that waterfall?’ Koala suggested. As the sun rose over the Carrick Hills on the Mainland. What a view I thought, as the pink lit the Firth of Clyde. The early ferry left Brodick Harbour below. What a wake up view.
‘What if we have a walk up to that waterfall?’ Koala brought me back to the room. Waterfalls? Ah yes.. there are great waterfalls too on Arran. That’d be a nice walk up through the forestry Glenashdale.. I thought.
‘Let’s just take the tripod.. ‘ Koala whispered. ‘ ... just in case. There might be a unicorn..’ Of course. I smiled...warmly. Is it infectious? Enthusiasm? Photography? The tripod hit me on the back of my head.
The track from the Whiting Bay car park was bathed in dappled light through the trees. The late autumn colour still evident. The smell of the forest and the burn running in the gorge..’Quick!!!’ Koala switched ‘... there’s a guy with feckin drone! We need to beat them to the viewpoint!’
Ah. But... I’m a sucker for her enthusiasm. Ok! I can still power up a hill. It’ll work of the middle age spread I thought. Carrier of the tripod.
The blurred view up the Glen was lovely. We beat the leisurely drone group to the viewpoint. Ok.. let’s do this! I have fallen into role again. The legs were extended and camera mounted in a flash.. ready for the artist to begin her mastery. Then.. Koala sighs ‘I hate long exposure!’
I sigh. Good enough reason to carry the tripod and run up a hill then?
Glenashdale Falls. A spectacular double cascade reached through a wooded glen is the finest on Arran. Koala is in the zone. I like this phase but worry that the result doesn’t meet her standard. It doesn’t. I agreed. The viewpoint was great for a view but didn’t give the wow angle for our exacting demand. I should worry. We haven’t got a shot. ‘We should try a filter..’ I should worry.. Koala said ‘We..’ That means me. I’m involved now. Uh oh Koala asks ‘...what do you think?’
What do I know? What about an iPhone shot? Probably not the right thing to say. But we beat the droners. Now we’re going to have to get a shot somewhere else! That’s the day.. that’s the challenge now.
Mulled wine sounds like a good idea.. I thought. Perhaps don’t say that. There’s a good waterfall not far away. Will I mention that? It might save the day.
I said it.
The Falls at Kildonan.. I’ve never been. That’s a risk. Koala beat the droners but no shot. She’s on a mission now. So am I. Check Viewranger.. Eas Mor. That’s the waterfall! Ok.. back to car with renewed vigour! I’m happy when you’re happy. Let’s get lunch on the way. Great! Driver of the bus.
Kildonan Hotel.. what a view of Ailsa Craig with its Gannet population and the lighthouse on Pladda. Clear blue sky and seals basking on the rocks. We’re on holiday again. Coffee and a club sandwich. The sun shone on her face.. ok maybe we can take photos this afternoon. She smiled.
Eas Mor.. a waterfall cascade through the wooded glen on a relatively new track and developing visitors centre. A robin kept guard and followed us upward as Koala fed it my oat bar. My £2 oat bar. The tripod hit me on the head again. The light was even better and 'man in black' was back. ‘Stand in the light..’ ..could I? Of course. I hope the falls are a cascade. I smiled.
Eas Mor had a beautiful view.. but not a cascade. Uh oh. There’s no shot. But I’d carried the tripod anyway ‘just in case..’
The robin laughed. I thought of mulled wine. The sun was setting. What about the beach shot as the sun sets? Good idea?! Yeah Koala always pulls it out of the bag on a beach!
‘Yeah.. the lighthouse will light up as the sunsets.. ‘ It will. It should. Quick back down to Kildonan beach!
We’re on holiday again. I love beach shots. I get to look for pebbles. Koala was looking for the angle and performs for a silhouette in the fading sun. Not a lighthouse.
‘Smile!’ Koala asks as I sit in my element sifting sand waiting for the pink sky.. My portrait. There’s the shot. Not a waterfall today I laugh for her. I carry the tripod.. but she cheers me! She’s not got a landscape but she’s infectious. I guess I’ll drive the bus tomorrow too.
For a few brief minutes I was in charge. The sky was clear, blue and crisp. I smiled.. it was a terrible day for photography. Who knew!? Koala explained. I smiled inside and sympathised.
It was a great day to go into the hills and today I could be in my element. I love mountains and Arran has some great horseshoe ridges to rival the mainland. The snow remained on the peaks. I was getting carried away... this could be my day!! ‘...terrible day for photography’ Koala sighed. ‘Can we go for a walk though?’ Oh ok then.. I smiled inside.. perhaps a little too quickly. No tripod today! I’d already prepared a route through Glen Rosa. A lovely Glen walk overshadowed by the high crags of Goat Fell. At the head of the Glen was the almost alpine conical peak of Cir Mhor. There was also an option to climb the gorge to the Beinn Tarsuinn horseshoe. I’d never done that! How exciting! Was I getting ahead of myself again? Koala is Australian and not known for her suitability to snow and ice. But perhaps the elevation could give her a photo opportunity? She could be persuaded? And it’s blue sky!? No chance of photos anyway?!
Should I offer to carry the tripod? I’ll make sandwiches.
We left the truck at the campsite and briefly, I was a mountain leader again. I smiled. No tripod. Nothing to hit me on the head. The sky was blue. The snow shone on the peaks above. We set off without expectation. Crisp air filled our lungs.
The light was low... and glistened invitingly in the Glen Rosa Burn beside the track. The camera was out. The camera was out!! Our brisk pace slowed and... stopped. The familiar sound of a Canon shutter behind me. Ah.. the shutter release. Perhaps I should go back and get the tripod now before we get too far? What am I saying??
We continued on, the point at which a decision needed to be made was getting closer. There was a great spot at the bend in the burn, rocky boulders, a tree in the foreground and snow covered peaks in the background. Leading lines and everything. I thought so anyway.. and filled with enthusiasm I looked at the choices. Koala was briefly occupied with the boulders. The path would continue into the Glen, at low level, in shadow. Or we could climb the gorge out to sun bathed crags, gain elevation, satisfaction and perhaps unicorns! I took the opportunity and I sold it. It was blue sky anyway.
We climbed. I was in my element. Koala wasn’t. The camera was housed back in its bag. Uh oh.. I was losing the reins of the day. I should’ve carried the tripod! The ice was on the path too and the snow in the ridge looked a little more technical as we approached Beinn Nuis. Uh oh... Koala slipped. I should reevaluate. Perhaps there is a shot up here? I hope there’s a shot up here, over the bog, over the icy boulder, to cross the burn, over the slippy wooden fence. It isn’t going well.. Koalas don’t balance. I’ll hand back control to ‘side light’ and hope. That will salvage it. ‘I’ve no feckin grip in these boots.. and the light is over there!’ Perhaps not.
The light was over there. It looked great to me... but apparently it was only good ‘to the eye’. It wasn’t a shot. I thought it looked alpine. What do I know? Ok think. I’m losing her. She's not smiling. I haven’t seen the camera for a while.
Portraits in Landscapes.. that’s it! That’ll salvage it. Koala can make miracles. I’ll suggest I stand on a rock. I smiled. I laughed. I remembered to make space between my arms and body... and I even posed with the ‘leg bend’. But I had the ‘wrong bobble hat on...’
Sandwich darling? Think that helped... and look.. there’s a portrait of me... with a cold head! Another Portrait. Ok let’s get off the hill.. and marvel at the golden light hitting the valley wall... on the other side of Glen. If only we’d brought the other lens... and the tripod.
The cock crowed.. the golden light streamed into the bedroom. I smiled. It was a beautiful sunrise. That means another blue sky day, not a beautiful photo day. I sighed. Koala hadn’t woken up to catch the golden light.. again. She won’t be happy. It’ll be my fault. Damn that Co-op mulled wine! I was going to have to give supportive words. This is will be tricky after yesterday. Ok... think.
Bacon sandwich darling?
That worked. The sun came up and bathed the Firth of Clyde in pink morning light. The pampas grass swayed over the verandah, as the snow shone on the Carrick Hills on the mainland in the distance. We could even be on... god forbid...holiday!? But we need a shot today. Koala is a little tetchy.. even with a bacon sandwich.. and her sun kissed skin! We need a shot. I need to get her a shot.
Let’s have a drive up to the Distillery for coffee I suggested. It bought time if nothing else.... and I figured there was Glen Sannox on the way. There might be a shot! Koala climbed a fence last year to get a sheep picture.. she liked it there. There’s a plan.
‘Look at the light!’ Koala sprang into action as we drove up the east coast road ‘... is this where I jumped the fence last time?’
Erm... yes I think so. I smiled inside. She was animated again. I smiled.. this is fun.
Glen Sannox is epic. There’s a spectacular walk through the high mountains of Arran here, crossing the saddle between the peaks into Glen Rosa. We should’ve come here yesterday!
She’s switched. Animated and excitedly frolicking between the boulders.. looking for the frame amid trees. The low midday sun cast golden light invitingly on the craggy slopes around us. The Canon shutter wurred enthusiastically. It was a great sound. I’d forgot the tripod!!! Feck... she hasn’t noticed. I snapped on my iPhone hoping she wouldn’t need it..
... was it that far back to the car?
I was freezing too. I only threw on a light fleece in the flurry of excited activity leaving the car. I can’t complain... Koala is happy! I can’t suggest we go for coffee at the distillery yet!? She needs a shot. Get the feckin shot!!! My hands are blue. Ok darling of course I’ll be the model again. I stood by a tree and out came the ‘knee bend’
I need coffee.
‘Look at the tree... be with the tree.. whimsically!’ What the.....! Whimsically??? I’m freezing my.... What is whimsically darling? I smiled.. as a pair of weather beaten Glaswegian hikers appeared to cast judgement on my pose!! Great.. I’m being whimsical! They smiled... and nodded toward me. Were they mocking or feeling my pain? They are Glaswegian for fecks sake... they’re mocking, inwardly. They’ve walked this route 8 times this year. That’s nice.
The Arran distillery is great for coffee and does a good fruit scone. We had time, apparently. The light at Lochranza is too low. Koala is happy though. She got photos! Worth being whimsical for then. Warmed we set off again. The castle was indeed in shadow. How did she know? Well I do know that Robert the Bruce landed and stayed at this 13th century place on his way back from Ireland to claim the Scottish crown! It’s still not a shot though, it’s in shade! They didn’t think of that in 1200 AD did they?! I digress, warmth, sugar and a happier Koala.
The sun was dropping down the east coast. The Machrie Standing Stones!!! Of course!! I’ve been there before, there’ll be snow on the hills and golden light!! It’s my next suggested stop. Am I pushing my luck? No, it’s looking good, the car park is empty but for a lovely couple from the Peak District in a camper van! They love Arran.
The walk into the Stones is hindered by sheep, particularly aggressive sheep. Koala lived on a farm in Australia and apparently Merino sheep are stupid. But she’s scared and doesn’t have the right boots. I think it’s ok though.. the stones have impressed her! The light is good and getting better too. Result?! ‘Could you stand next to that stone and look Outlandery?’
Outlandery??? Is that anything like whimsically?! All I need is the Glaswegians to saunter by now!!
‘Oh I’m liking this!!! This is it!!!’ Koala was enthusing. She was animated again.
I stood and looked up ‘whimsical like’ at the 5m high prehistoric stone monolith and wondered what ancient man would do....
I hoped no one would see. Then to add insult... ‘Your down jacket...’ Yes, the one that’s preventing hyperthermia? ‘...well... it’s ruining your shape. Could you take it off..? And that bobble hat!’ It is below freezing and I’m in a tshirt... hugging Scotland’s answer to Stonehenge!!
She had a photo. I sneezed, as we evaded the dominant ram. She had more than one photo.
About the Author
I was born in Leeds and grew up in the Military. Which thankfully has put me in good stead to 'look after' the Koala. I carry the tripod, hold the reflector, drive the truck, make the sandwiches and ensure that the clients have everything they need. So basically I do everything apart from press the button... sorry.. shutter! Apparently I am a hidden literary gem so I get to write the blog and provide creative input when asked!