Discussion in 'Travel' started by alessandro_bennetti, Sep 26, 2013.

  1. I am gearing up to spend 6 months this winter photographing in Scotland and will be living in a tent. Does anyone have any advice and pointers to help me with?
  2. My first thought was that you will need to be fairly hardy to live in a tent through a Soottish winter. It can be very cold, will sometimes be very wet and it will certainly be damp. I suggest looking for campsites with clothes drying room facilities.
    Can you be more specific about what you want to photograph? Towns? People? wildlife? Highlands? Islands?
  3. I am a pretty hardy person, ex-military. I have a bell tent that will have a wood burner in for cooking and heat, plus I am taking a solar panel with as well.
    Basically all of them really, I have not set myself any real subjects to photograph, just photograph as things come up. I think this is the best type of photography as you never know what surprise is around the corner.
  4. I never let any subject dictate what I photograph, I try to keep an open mind but I will say Landscapes with sunrises and sunsets in my "favourite" with a bit of water added in.
  5. I don't know aqbout Scotland but here in the US (New England) many campgrounds are closed in the winter. You might confirm your planned locations in Scotland before you go.
  6. OK, well, just to say that the Scottish climate in winter can be quite discouraging mainly because it is a damp cold. In addition the nights are long and the days are short.

    If I had a whole winter I would obviously spend time in the main towns such as Edinburgh and Glasgow.Then make my way in a circular fashion going around the coasts, touring inland and visiting islands as I went. The Calmac ferry services run all the year round.
    I think I might look for winter festivals and seek these out as at least you could be guaranteed that something would be happening.
    I would definitely make a point of being in Lerwick in the Shetlands for Up Helly Aa (Fire Festival - January).
    Burns Night (not a fire festival!) is also in January.

    The highlands look great in winter with their snow covering but they are often remote and inhospitable so please make sure you are equipped for them. I would make a point of seeing Glencoe a couple of times in different weather conditions.
    As Charles said above just check as far as you can that things are open. My son toured the highlands on his motorbike last winter and found a couple of remote places where there were unattended sites with honesty boxes. Free-camping is usually OK as the Scottish trespass law is different from English and an overnight stay and a no traces left is usually acceptable.
    Something must have attracted you to Scotland in winter in the first place so I suggest you follow up your ideas with internet research.
    Best of luck!
  7. Take your golf clubs.
  8. Following Allen's advice, make sure the town you camp by has a brewery or distillery - that's a fun way to keep warm, and happy!
    On a slightly more serious note, I've friends who have made a 3-month winter trek along the length of Idaho state in the US. Considerable colder, more rugged, more desolate and steeper than much of Scotland (and no breweries or distilleries to keep them warm) and they did just fine.
    But as others have noted, cold is one thing, dampness is totally different--and that goes for electronic equipment and humans, both. Have fun and share pictures and stories with us.
  9. Winter here in Scotland is wet and can be very overcast on many days unless you are lucky. A graduated filter is a good investment.
    Take the main road (A82/A87) going north to Fort William and beyond. You will go through some stunning landscapes which I, and many other photographers, have tried to do justice to. Look at my own site for some ideas at Type in Scotland in the search tab. Another good site for ideas is Collections Picture library of London.
    Colin Prior is one of Scotland's finest photographers so check out his work on line for inspiration.
    Prior planning is essential and a good piece of software to help with this is the photographers ephemeris which is available to download online free (donation requested). However, although you can use it on a smartphone etc reception in a lot of Scotland beyond the central belt can be patchy for 3G and terrible to non existent for 4G.
    One thing I forgot to mention is mountain safety. If you intend to go hill walking, even at low level, safety is crucial as walkers are injured or killed every winter. A good resource is Please ensure that you are properly equipped for the hills, have the right experience, and tell someone where/when you are going.
  10. Thank you for all the responses and advice so far, I really do appreciate it. I have done some homework on the net and as a conservationist I appreciate the land as much as anyone and will ensure there is no trace of my stay at places I stop at.
    I have just ordered and received my Tiffen filters for my trip and I am just waiting for my inverter and heavy duty car batteries to arrive as these will ensure I have plenty of juice for my camera and laptop.
    I have also got all my safety equipment for hill climbing sorted and intend to leave a schedule of the day/s with a local pub or police station.
    Thanks for the tip on the TPE, that is a great piece of software (not free for iPhone £5.99) but who cares it is brilliant.
    I will be using a 4 x 4 to travel around in so keeping equipment and other stuff dry will be fine, plus as a last resort I can always huddle up in the truck if the weather gets too bad. Have purchased snow chains as well just in case.
  11. I think your main problem is likely to be coping with being alone for this length of time, but I guess this is part of the challenge. Sounds an intriguing idea. It is all very photogenic up there, and of course you need to embrace the damp overcast weather as part of the scene. The constant high winds in the isles and near the coast will be very wearing in winter - not sure you will want to be out in them much - that is when you will want to seek refuge in a pub or similar.
  12. I am by nature a solitary person, I enjoy my own company plus I will have my dogs with me as well. I am not a person who likes cities and crowds, I prefer the outdoors and if there is no-one within 10 miles of me, all the better.
    I gave up drinking on the 24th December 2007 at 21.55 in the evening and have not touched a drop since, feel a lot better for it as well. So pubs are out for me, but I will be fine in my tent as I have researched a lot and have stocked up on all the necessary items I will need to ensure we are warm and cosy.
    I feel this is a great opportunity to get some really great photos around a pretty special country, I have always liked Scotland having lived there for a few years and now my chance has come to go back.
    Weather wise, during my time in the armed forces I had to put up with whatever nature threw at us and as I said before, I am a pretty hardy soul who does not let things get me down. I try to see the advantages by looking forward to the next day when there will be good weather and I can get some good photos, if it takes a couple of days, weeks, so be it but I am sure I will get some special images.
  13. david_henderson


    I have photographed in Scotland in February and thorughly enjoyed it- though only for a week or so and staying in hotels- some of which were not too warm themselves. If you can manage to get snow on the ground but not much ice on the roads you can get around on the main roads just fine.
    I've driven through Glencoe many times and I've seen the mountain rescue services out far more than I'd like. As you're alone, the risk multiplies. In fact you don't need to move far from the roadsides to photograph nicely , and if you venture across country in difficult weather it should be because you enjoy it not because you need to to get good pictures.
    Enjoy it- you're doing something I wouldn't do, but that doesn't stop me envying you a little.
  14. Thank you for your kind words David, I assure I will enjoy it and I do not intend to be one the mountain rescue services casualties. I know my limits and always plan accordingly, plus I always keep a check on mother nature as she can be a bit cruel sometimes.
    When growing up, I was always told by my grandfather to respect nature and not try to 2nd guess the conditions, if in doubt, don't do what you were going to do, do it another day.
  15. Since my day job is as a writer, I'm sensing that this trip could yield a good story in addition to the pictures. "Me, my dog and the rugged wilderness" is a theme that has sold well in fiction and non-fiction alike. Take notes, keep a diary, and if you have any writing talent at all you might get something good out of this. If not as a book, maybe newspaper/magazine copy that could help sell the pictures. There's a great book called "Blue Highways" about a guy who traveled across the U.S. in a small van. He was a people person but still spent a lot of alone time. Might be a good read either before or during the trip.
  16. Alessandro, your will be doing what many of us thought about doing at one time--so we will live vicariously through your adventure. I envy you and your abilities, and wish you all the best. Just remember the old saying, "no pictures, or it didn't happen"!
  17. I second Colin's remarks 100%.
  18. Craig, Nick, thanks for your encouragement. Craig, I am not a writer per se but will endeavour to keep a diary or actually do a blog on a day to day basis.
    I will get the book and I am sure it will keep me entertained during some bleak days. I am a people person, even been known to be the heart and soul of a party as my friends think I am genuinely funny. I have a very dry sense of humour, but enjoy all types of humour much like my music from classical to heavy rock although the blues are my favourite.
  19. "I am a people person" - I know this seems contradictory to what I said earlier liking my own company, but in circumstances when meeting up with people, I enjoy company but do prefer to be alone and not constantly around people all the time as with city/town life.
  20. Since I lived there many years ago I have subsequently been to some of the reputedly colder parts of the world. Not much compares to
    the cold lashing wind and rain/ice that cuts through you. It is the only place where my nose has turned blue. A solar panel needs light and
    there's not much of that in winter. Make sure you have some porridge.
  21. I worked in Siberia and there it can get really cold but I enjoyed it. Unfortunately at the time I did not have a camera with me so could not record the fantastic scenery I experienced.
    You need to get a nosh warmer for your nose then, Robert. :)
    Apparently the solar panel I am getting is able to work in low light conditions albeit not at optimum but still workable, I will post results. I also do have a small generator as back-up but do not really want to use it by adding to my carbon footprint, and I will take some porridge with me, good 'ol oats.
  22. Alessandro, the big difference between Scotland and really cold climates like Siberia is that Scotland is a maritime climate rather than the more extreme Siberian-style continental one. So the surrounding sea moderates the Scottish winter temperatures which often hover just above zero. And the air is very damp as it has just come from the Atlantic. It is that combination of temperatures just above zero, damp air and strong winds that makes Scotland in winter such a challenge. The damp, cold air saps heat away from the body very quickly.
    I always preferred winter in Scotland when temperatures dropped below zero as it felt much drier and more comfortable. Just watch for the black ice on the roads.

    You will pribably be OK but just remember the old adage :
    'there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes'​
    Here is a link to a suggested kit list :
    This chap says you can get in touch if you have any questions so that might be an idea for you to do that.

    and in case of emergencies here is a link to my favourite pancake house in Perth which I resorted to whenever the chill got too much :
  23. Hi Colin, thanks for the links. Colin Henderson certainly has some good tips and there were a few that I had not thought of, that I will now add to my list.
    Oh dear, pancakes!!! Oh why, oh why did you send me that link, my stomach started growling and my mouth I am going to have to visit it!!!
    To think I have closed my business down and starting on a new adventure that who knows where it will lead.....pancake heaven is what!!!
  24. Never been to Scotland, and can't offer anything specific. But on my longish solo trips, I always try to find ways to stay with the locals.
    - Gain exposure to the culture.
    - Learn tips not found in the guide books, photography (locations, weather, light, local photogs, etc.) or otherwise.
    - Home cooked meals.
    - Have a local contact knowing my whereabouts (in case something bad should happen).
    Have you considered this?
  25. There's a great book called "Blue Highways" about a guy who traveled across the U.S. in a small van.​
    If you like travel books, have you read the one by the founder of PN? Not only for the story, but the images as well.
  26. I'd look for someplace named Scotland that had palm trees, a beach and warm water.
  27. I discovered the socks quite some time ago and will never be without them. They are absolutely brilliant albeit expensive, but worth it......thought I would pass this on
  28. Perhaps a Land Rover too if you are going to carry all that gear. In the depth of my naive inexperience many years ago,
    with some friends of a similar disposition, we became embroiled In a white out which came upon us in seconds. Luckily
    we had left a track about 100 meters before and could find our way back. All this to say that a personal Gps and a good
    Ordnance Survey map could be useful.
  29. I have a Terrano 4 x 4 2.7 diesel which is very good plus I have chains for the tyres which are BF Goodridge so that department is taken care of. I have a gps and have ordered an ordnance survey map, plus I have an app called MotionX-GPS which has had great reviews and it will record my trip in quite good detail for later use.
  30. I would love to take books with me, but I do not really want to be weighed down with too much weight hence the reason I bought a kindle. So it is a pity that Philip's books are not available on kindle.
  31. Scotland is extremely wet so I would plan on taking time to spend a few days in hotels to dry out. As others have said the weather in winter is often very overcast or cloudy so there will be lots of days when photography will be limited. I post this image just for fun (it was taken with a film camera in the mid 1980s)
  32. Ah, I see you had a nylon tent! I have a Soul pad tent with wood burner for heat and cooking. I do understand the
    elemens can be harsh up in Scotland, but my venture is to stay outdoors and no creature comforts allowed, apart from
  33. Besides all the equipment experience is important - it seems that you have that. After that planning as to how you are going to achieve
    your objectives is also important and then personal characteristics; fortitude, determination, patience and ability to cope with solitude will
    also help. It seems you have many, if not all of these. So start that motor and get on up there and send some pictures when you can.
    Good luck and have a good time.
  34. Thanks Robert, I intend to leave by the end of the week.
  35. Alessandro I have spent a lot of time in Canvas tents as well but in the wet nylon can work better. That tent was daily old
    in 1985 when the shot was taken! The big problem will not be the cold but the damp. I live in the Canadian Rockies
    where it gets very cold in winter (-40C) but I find Scotland can feel colder if you are not used to the damp climate (as I am
    not because it is very dry in the Canadian Rockies). I would be careful with your cameras as condensation is a big
    problem so never go cold to warm - put the camera in something that insulates it when you enter a warm room or car
    (e.g. Wrap it in a dry towel and put it in a bag) so that condensation does not form inside. I would also suggest that you
    are careful about the wind as it can get very strong (especially on the tops) and bell tents are not the best in high winds.
    If you plan to buy wood from gas stations or forage for it you may need some gasoline or firefighters as a lot of it can be
    extremely wet. I have had to use gas from a stove to get coal alight in a Scottish bothy as the gas station left it is the
    snow and rain for weeks before we bought the (plastic sack) so the coal was completely sodden! You may want to take a
    gasoline or propane stove as backup.
  36. Here's a shot from the Scottish island of Mull taken this summer. It was raining when I took the shot and the rain lasted for about 8 days continuously. Top tip - keep as dry as you can!
    Note also in some remote areas the petrol (gas) stations are unattended and need a credit card to work them
  37. Thanks for the tips and having lived all over Britain in the last 25 years, DAMP CONDITIONS seem to be something of a norm now, ;-)
    All advice is noted and will be put to use, I am not one of those that disregards it and thinks he knows better because that is when you are looking for trouble.
    Just received my 50mm f1.4 lens and I am just waiting for a couple of other items to arrive on Thursday and then Friday at around 2-30am, the trip north starts.
  38. Apologies, lens info incorrect, it is the
    Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G Lens
  39. Has anyone used a broadband dongle in the "wilds" of Scotland and if so, which is the best coverage?
  40. We use 3 Mobile but I don't have enough experience of the other networks to say which is best. Maybe other can help here. Coverage is usually OK in main population centres and along major roads but gets weaker and patchy elsewhere. Here is a link to the Ofcom (gov regulater) website giving links showing coverage for all the networks :
  41. Thanks Colin, I might just go with Orange which seems to have the best coverage.
  42. What a warm welcome I have received up here in Cannich.
    Stopped off in Cannich caravan and camping facility and one of my dogs knocked over a little girl by accident, next thing the father is standing nose to nose with me threatening me with all kinds of violence and also threatening to kill the dog.
    I did apologise for the accident but this guy was adamant he was going to do me some harm, so I put him in hospital for the next 2 weeks to think over how his reaction was over the top and that I do not take threats very lightly. The police were involved but no further action will be taken against me as there were witnesses to the fracas.
    Apart from that the people are ever so friendly and lots of warm welcomes.
  43. Have had to abandon the trip, got absolutely battered by the storm last Thursday with the tent being shredded, clothes and bedding completely soaked and ruined, lost all kinds of paper work and someone stole my wood burning stove!!!!
  44. Sorry to hear about that. Hope things will get better.
  45. Good to hear you personally survived, I did wonder when I saw the forecast on TV which looked quite severe!
    Just so no one thinks this was a trivial strom, wind speeds of 142 mph were recorded at the Nevis Ski centre and most transport throughout Scotland came to a halt. Several injuries were reported and one fatality. That is near the top end of what Scotland usually gets but it probably happens every few years.

    This is the Scottish storm I remember best :
    I was in my teens at the time, living in Glasgow, and the sight next morning of the many roofless houses and flattened forests remain with me to this day. Max recorded gust speed for that event was 173 mph (Cairngorms) and the Met Office started issuing Severe Weather Warnings as a result.

    You were probably a bit unlucky with that storm and in many other Scottish winters things would not have been so extreme. Best of luck!
  46. Hi Colin, thanks for your kind words.
    Apparently in the Kishorn area where I was, the wind speed reached a max gust speed of 120mph with regular winds in excess of 90mph that night.
    I was on the side of a hill at the bottom of the funnel of the glenns, quite exposed on the SW to NW direction which I thought would be ok due to the winds coming from the S to SSW but during the night the winds turned to SW and slowly to NW. This is what did all the damaged and spread some of my clothes of a mile away. About 15 trees came down where I was camped and some were pretty close to me, unfortunately I did not take any photos as I was still absolutely shattered from the experience for about 3 days after it happened.
    On the Thursday I went into Loch Carron to get a coffee and something to eat, came back to the tent and somebody had stolen my wood burning stove!!!!

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