An Teallach is one of the most distinctive and popular mountains of the Scottish Highlands; its distant and jagged ridge is a familiar sight to those travelling between Inverness and Ullapool. In translation An Teallach appropriately means ‘The Forge’, a name fully justified if one is fortunate enough to witness the first rays of the morning sun light up its steep terraces of red Torridonian sandstone.
An Tellach’s height and location – on Scotland’s north-western seaboard – mean that it is always prone to cloud cover even when nearby higher landward summits are clear. What is more, because the mountain is particularly exposed to west and north-westerly winds, it is more likely to attract cloud when the air is of a direction and clarity which especially suits photography.
On this autumn morning, for the fifth time, I once again ascended the moor to my chosen viewpoint in the pre-dawn; the eerie silence was punctuated only by the loud – and sometimes frightening – sound of the roar of numerous Red Deer stags. As on so many occasions beforehand, thin, high but broken cloud lay above the tops of An Teallach whilst the sky was totally clear all around.
I feared that I had made another wasted journey. However, this day my patience and determination were to be rewarded. As the sun started to rise, not only did the cliffs of An Teallach turn a fiery red, but a colourful spectacle unfolded above as the clouds put on a show to equal that of their earthly rival. I frantically took six rolls of film – 24 exposures at a variety of settings – desperate not to miss one moment of this rare and magical event.
When I left the location I realised that the image I had captured was better than anything I could have hoped for. At last I was at peace with the mountain; in capturing ‘First Light on An Teallach’ we had shared a wonderful moment together. Indeed, when I finally saw the developed film, I was once again reminded that the most memorable images are often obtained when least expected and when the conditions are less than perfect.
Date : 28th October
Location Map Reference : 114815 : Dundonnel Forest.
Time : 0815 GMT