My Favourite Hill Photo

© James Roddie

Since the hills are currently unattainable, and the views closer to home just aren't as inspiring, we've found ourselves browsing the site galleries a lot in recent weeks. The standard of the best submissions never ceases to amaze. Here some of the leading contributors to the galleries each pick a photo that's special to them.

Beinn Eighe - James Roddie

For me, good landscape photography is more to do with balance and simplicity, than dramatic light or scenery. This image is a favourite of mine for its clean composition, and for the memories of a pristine winter day in Torridon.

Winter on Spidean Coire nan Clach, Beinn Eighe  © James Roddie
Winter on Spidean Coire nan Clach, Beinn Eighe
© James Roddie

I had spent the dawn taking photos on the main ridge of Beinn Eighe. Once the best light from the sunrise had gone, I made my way over to Spidean Coire nan Clach. I loved the appearance of these icy boulders, and the symmetry they formed with the ridge in the background. I knew they could form the basis of a great photo, but a final element was missing. As luck would have it, a lone walker had passed behind me without me realising, and appeared in the frame right between the boulders and the background. I had a few seconds to slightly adjust my composition and fire off a few frames before the walker was gone. It was one of those perfect, rare moments when everything came together to create exactly the image I wanted. It is my favourite photo from a brilliant day on the hill, and it went on to boost my career as a professional photographer when it did well in a national photography competition.

Grasmoor - Stuart Holmes

February 2015. After what seemed like weeks of incessant grimness, the forecast announced more cold, damp and cloud but with just the slightest possibility that the highest summits would be above the inversion. A glimmer of hope.

A spring in his stride on Grasmoor  © Stuart Holmes
A spring in his stride on Grasmoor
© Stuart Holmes

We parked at Cinderdale Common on the east side of Crummock Water, the sky was dark and heavy and it felt like you just had to reach up to touch the clouds. 'There is no way it's clear on top' we said but with a 'we're here, we may as well have a look' attitude we set off up Lad Hows, the ridge that leads to the top of Grasmoor. We entered the dark cloud and our pessimism increased with altitude until about 700m where it started to get lighter. We emerged from the cloudy blanket at around 750m into bright sunshine. Hallelujah! The photo hopefully reveals some of the joy we felt on seeing the sun. Our mood swung from almost despair to magical awe, it really put a spring in our stride. It's not my best photo ever but it makes me smile at the memory of an unexpectedly brilliant day out. The hard part was definitely dropping back into the gloom.

Suilven emerges form a winter storm - Hamish Frost

I took this photo a couple of years ago during the memorably poor Scottish winter of 2016/17, whilst on a trip up to the Northwest Highlands with photographer, Alex Nail (whilst he was working on his brilliant book 'Northwest'.) We'd seen that a series of winter storms were forecast to hit the area so we decided to drive north and put ourselves directly in the firing line, in the hope that we might be able to capture something a bit different.

Suilven emerges from a winter storm  © Hamish Frost
Suilven emerges from a winter storm
© Hamish Frost, Jan 2017

On one of the days we headed out to get some photos of Suilven, but for most of the day the light and weather seemed to be conspiring against us, so we weren't really getting anything particularly exciting. As another storm started closing in, we decided to call it a day and started hiking back to the car. Not more than five minutes into the walk back, a break in the clouds appeared which appeared to be blowing directly towards Suilven. Sensing a possible opportunity, we sprinted back to our previous vantage point, arriving just in time to capture this fleeting moment as the clouds were rolling off the top of Suilven. It's a mountain that's been photographed a lot and probably one of my favourite hills to look at in Scotland, so it was nice to come away with a slightly unusual take on it.

I guess I chose this photo as it serves as a nice personal reminder of the value of perseverance when I'm out taking photos in Scotland, demonstrating that even when the weather and light aren't particularly interesting they often have a habit of changing very quickly, so it's worth sticking at it!

Crib Goch - Jethro Kiernan

This photo of Crib Goch in the morning light epitomises a special kind of doorstep photo adventure for me. Developing my photography has usually involved all the usual compromises that work and families involve, and this makes the doorstep microadventure a crucial part of photography/mountain time for me. This particular morning was the culmination of a run of early winter morning photographic misfires, only the brief glimpse of a lone star through the darkness and clouds stopped me turning tail back down the pass to the comfort of my bed.

panoramic of Crib Goch in early morning sun  © jethro kiernan
panoramic of Crib Goch in early morning sun
© jethro kiernan, Jan 2020

A quick power walk up the familiar path and scramble chasing the soft pre dawn pink light up the ridge before it disappeared, and once at the top I was met by a view that rivals anything you can see in the Alps or the greater ranges.

An obliging fellow early riser was happy to be photographed as a figure in a landscape (I refrained from lecturing him on his poor choice of drab clothing).

I shot on my Olympus OMD EM5 Mk II as I've been trying to push the micro four thirds to its limit rather than always using my full frame camera, and it came up trumps. The panorama was created using four frames shot on the 12-40mm and tripod that were then stitched together in Lightroom to provide a panorama that captured more of the dramatic cloudscape.

Sgurr Alasdair, Venus and Moon - Robert Durran

One of the things I enjoy about mountain photography is the planning to be in the right place at the right time, poring over maps, sun and moon tables and weather forecasts, and then making the effort to be in the right place at the right time; the long drive, a few hours sleep in the back of the car, the 4am alarm and the uphill flog in the dark to be in position for sunrise.

Sgurr Alasdair, Venus and Moon  © Robert Durran
Sgurr Alasdair, Venus and Moon
© Robert Durran, Jan 2019

Occasionally it all pays off! But equally satisfying can be the shot which is is completely unplanned. On this occasion in the Cuillin at New Year I was aiming for sunrise on Sgurr Dearg. As I approached the Bealach Coire Lagan, the moon and Venus suddenly appeared from behind Sgurr Alasdair. There followed a frantic half hour scrambling around on the lower rocks of An Stac trying to get the camera propped up with the moon and Venus in photogenic positions. This was the most pleasing result. The dawn was also beautiful later, just as anticipated!

And here's the photo I actually had planned [that's two Robert, sneaky - Ed.]:

The Cuillin before sunrise from Sgurr Dearg  © Robert Durran
The Cuillin before sunrise from Sgurr Dearg
© Robert Durran, Jan 2019

Mam Tor Rainbow - Mike Hutton

I owe the idea to my friend Jill as she was after a nice photo for her wall that showed off the hills close to her home village of Edale in their true glory. In effect she sowed the seed in my head.

The afternoon forecast was predicting bands of intense showers followed by intermittent bursts of sunshine; perfect rainbow weather. As I trudged up to my viewpoint along the Rushup Edge ridge I became aware of dark rain clouds in the west which appeared to be blowing on a southwesterly breeze. With my back to the afternoon sun this would be perfect as the peaks of Mam Tor and Lose Hill would be perfectly illuminated in golden afternoon light as the shower blew overhead.

I'll see you on the dark side of the Peak  © Mike Hutton
I'll see you on the dark side of the Peak
© Mike Hutton

Many early attempts fell short of expectation and the trapped nerve in my back was beginning to take its toll. The trick was to choose the moment just after the rain had passed when the rainbow was most intense so as to minimise soaking the camera. Covering the lens with a polarizer and wiping in between showers became the standard routine. I should have bought my umbrella.

After what seemed like an eternity the final attempt was more than I could have wished for as three beams of light projected downwards over Lose Hill and Back Tor.

A friend later commented it resembled the iconic Pink Floyd Album cover Dark Side of the Moon.

The photo was eventually published in a national newspaper with the ridiculous comment, "And surely it wont be long now before Pink Floyd fans get their hiking boots on". In my world it was "The Dark Side of the Peak".

Camera settings: Canon 5D mark III with Canon 24-105 L lens @90mm, 1/125 second @F11 iso 200

Ben Nevis Panorama - Sean Kelly

I have always wanted to photograph The Ben in full winter conditions but try as I might something always went wrong. First I was stormbound at the CIC hut in the Millennium winter, the following year with good conditions, nearly all the hills were off limits because of the Foot & Mouth epidemic. More bad weather winters followed year after year until 2010, when after nearly a week of leaden skies there was the prospect of better times. However if I was going to get the photograph I wanted, it meant an early start. I departed a little after 4 in the pitch dark and empty roads had me rolling up at a deserted North Face car-park. I climbed through the woods and as I emerged and looked back the lights of Fort William illuminated the scene.

The mighty Ben Nevis from Carn Mor Dearg  © Sean Kelly
The mighty Ben Nevis from Carn Mor Dearg
© Sean Kelly

My destination was Carn Mor Dearg, as such a superb viewpoint would do full justice to Ben Nevis's majestic winter architecture. The snow was almost down to the road, and the higher I ascended, the deeper it became. I noted with interest the delicate crystals of surface hoar growing vertically from the snowfield after a few nights of very cold temperatures and little wind. In a little over three hours I crested the summit and prepared my equipment and selected the best viewpoint. I planned a panoramic photo, a task that previously required specialist equipment before the digital revolution. My new Nikon D300 was aligned vertically on the tripod and auto focus disabled. ISO was set at 200 and then in full Manual Mode I set the Aperture to F11, the sweet spot for my chosen lens. The bright early morning sun was in the east, exactly where I wanted it. Later in the day all the cliffs are lost in deep shadows. I proceeded to knock off about 10 or 11 exposures slowly rotating the camera on its tripod. Fearing that I might under-expose the image I repeated the exercise at different settings but keeping my F11 Aperture. (When finally processed the full panorama was nearly 96 inches in width and the resultant file over 1GB!)

I had been so engrossed in what I was doing and doubly shocked when a figure seemingly appeared out of nowhere. It transpired that the figure was Ian, who was halfway on a winter traverse of the Ramsay Round. I wished him well and started to pack. There was no rush and so followed a leisurely descent from Carn Mor Dearg's graceful summit ridge with large cornices that required care. I stopped to take on refreshment, and then it suddenly dawned on me. There was no camera swinging from my neck. I frantically searched my sack. I emptied the entire contents onto the snow, but no camera appeared. I must have put it down when I had stopped earlier. Although the camera had cost well over a £1000 it was the photographic loss that most bothered me. I slowly retraced my footsteps back uphill and continued for more than an hour but no camera appeared. Had I passed my lunch spot? I sunk in despair with my hands on my knees, and incredibly there not more than 6 inches from my grasp was the lost camera!

The following year was even better and I repeated the whole process, luckily snapping a rescue helicopter hovering over the summit of The Ben.

Evening light on Rhinog Fach - Myfyr Tomos

I am so lucky to have the Rhinogydd as my back yard and have played and worked on them all my life. They are the first thing I see each morning - weather permitting. They are the roughest, toughest country in Wales and nowhere highlights the craggy, heathery, lake-strewn nature of the range better than the south and west faces of Rhinog Fach.

Evening light on Rhinog Fach.  © Myfyr Tomos
Evening light on Rhinog Fach.
© Myfyr Tomos, Oct 2018

I often do a "figure of eight" route by starting from the forest on the east side, up Rhinog Fawr via Llyn Du. Drop down to Bwlch Drws Ardudwy then the steep, steep slog up the north end of Rhinog Fach to the summit overlooking Llyn Hywel. A truly majestic view but for photography I prefer to drop down to the col and climb up onto the rocky ribs on the lower flank of Y Llethr - not too high otherwise you lose the grandeur and steepness of Rhinog Fach. This gives a dramatic view of Llyn Hywel and Rhinog Fach with the South Ridge route drawing the eye to the summit - the finest mountaineering route between Snowdon and Cadair Idris according to Showell Styles in 1935.

Ideally, a colourfully clothed figure should be admiring the vista in the foreground, but, hey...

Drop down beneath the west face to Llyn Cwmhosan and back over Drws Ardudwy then home for a well deserved beer.

Canon 5dIII with 17-40 f4L at 22mm ISO100, f16, 0.6 seconds.

Sgurr Mhich Choinnich - Adrian Trendall

My favourite hill photo was always going to be a challenge, but I wanted something with a positive vibe and a good story, optimism triumphing over adversity.

Breaking out of the murk on Sgurr Mhic Choinnich  © Adrian Trendall
Breaking out of the murk on Sgurr Mhic Choinnich
© Adrian Trendall

Last year I was delighted to help James Forrest and Nicola Hardy on the Cuillin leg of their Munros in a season challenge. Fingers, and everything else crossed, with blind faith in the forecast, we left Glen Brittle late and headed up through rain. An Stac screes were a challenge as we ascended in cloud. Interesting scrambling kept us focussed and it wasn't until high up the north ridge of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich that we broke through the clouds.

Warm sun hit our faces as we took in the vista opening before us. The damp, cloudy, claggyness was a distant memory. In an instant we were transported to a magical mountainscape. Sheer drops either side led to a bottomless cauldron of clouds. Ahead lay our summit, behind we could see Munro number two, the In Pinn. This photo captures the joy of this special moment, the smiles say it all, a moment of happiness caught forever.

Summits left to right are In Pinn, Sgurr na Banchdich, Sgurrr Thormaid and The Three Teeth then Sgurr a Ghreadaidh.

Adrian is the author of new Cicerone guide Skye's Cuillin Ridge Traverse

Dolomites ski tour - James Rushforth

Scanning through my Lightroom catalogue of favourite images I kept coming back to this shot of Mary, Lynne and George ski touring around the Tre Cime on a perfect winters day. It's not my finest work, the lighting is very uniform and even the composition is a little off; but stuck here in quarantine it's good to remember that bluebird day where we got these iconic towers all to ourselves.

Tre Cime ski tour  © James Rushforth
Tre Cime ski tour
© James Rushforth

Throughout summer the paths circumnavigating the towers are exceptionally busy with people making the hike from Rifugio Auronzo to Forcella Lavaredo to view the famous north faces. However, during winter the toll road up to Auronzo is inaccessible by car, making skis a prerequisite for exploring the Cadini di Misurina and Sesto Dolomites. For those with access to two vehicles it's a beautiful traverse from Auronzo, around the towers, with an optional winter ascent of Sasso di Sesto before making a downhill ski descent of the beautiful Val Sassovecchio.

Braigh nan Uamhachan - Colin Henderson

Technically, I don't think this is the best photograph I've ever taken (it's of my friend David Hetherington, on the Corbett Braigh nan Uamhachan). But for pure satisfaction looking back, it's right up there with others in my portfolio.

Braigh nan Uamhachan in winter  © Colin Henderson
Braigh nan Uamhachan in winter
© Colin Henderson

It reminds me of a weekend that ticked many boxes of what I look for in a hillwalking 'adventure'. A winter night in my sleeping bag the night before (we stayed at Gleann Dubh-lighe bothy, which the Mountain Bothies Association renovated in 2013 after it was accidentally burnt down), a bluebird winter's day entirely on our own hiking up a striking peak with a narrow ridgeline (the 909m high Corbett, Streap, which is located right across the glen) and pure and simple hard work. After we descended 650m to the waters of Allt Coire na Streap we had a relentlessly steep 400m ascent back up to the ridgeline to where we are in this photograph. Add a setting sun, which we just caught before it dipped below the horizon, the fine view we had across to Ben Nevis, and a descent by headtorch down a steep gully in the dark (lured by the thought of hot food and whisky back in the bothy) and it had all the ingredients I look for when planning a trip in Scotland's hills.

Bidean nam Bian - Ian McIntosh (Mac fae Stirling)

We had just got to the top of Dorsal Arete and I was looking across to Bidean nam Bian and spotted the four figures making their way down and I casually thought they might be good for adding a bit of scale. It was only after looking at the photo later that I saw just how much scale they added!

Bidean Nam Bian  © Mac fae Stirling
Bidean Nam Bian
© Mac fae Stirling, Mar 2019

One of the great joys of photography I think is the way the image can later reveal what you didn't take in at the time. I certainly did not really appreciate just how magnificent Bidean looked at that moment. I just framed it as best I could, took the shot, and then my attention was mostly drawn elsewhere. So, yes this is certainly one of my favourite photographs of one of my favourite hills; and belated thanks to those four anonymous figures for making the shot!

Castell y Gwynt - John Henderson

The weather forecast for Sunday was looking promising staying cold with the chance of snow showers. I had started to realise, after thirty years or so of tramping the hills, that actually capturing them with my camera had taken precedent in my choice of hills and routes to take.

A rare moment of perfection on the Glyderau  © John Henderson
A rare moment of perfection on the Glyderau
© John Henderson

I set off from Ogwen bound for a round of the Glyders in perfect winter conditions, with crystal clear air that you only find in the dead of winter. I made steady progress until the Bristly screes where deep snow with an unpleasant breakable crust made for an energy sapping ascent to the top.

It was a busy summit with people either having a late lunch or queuing for a photo opportunity on the Cantilever stone. I was primarily there to take advantage of the superb views over to Snowdon and also the rocky spires of the Castle of the Winds (Castell y Gwynt). The light was changing fast with breaks in the high cloud allowing sunlight to filter through. I already had my dark grey graduated filter attached, always used either to manage the highlights or just to add drama to a darkened sky.

To start I was after the classic view of the Castle of the Winds. Now to look for a foreground, in amongst all the frozen ground a large lichen covered rock stood out. It added balance to the main subject of the Castle rocks, while a lead-in line of a path also pointed to the distant summit of Glyder Fawr. Five slightly different composition shots later I was happy with the result.

I took many more shots that day, even one that came third in the Kendal Mountain Festival competition for that year, but it was this first photograph that stood out to me on that perfect winter day. A quick descent of the Y Gribin ridge led a very amateur photographer back to his car.

4 May, 2020

One question Dan. Which is James Roddie's photo? If it is the headline image, it looks cropped too tight and it doesn't enlarge when clicked. Some figures are half missing.

Otherwise it was as interesting to read the comments as much as view the images. Thanks for putting it all together, and it seems that you can't beat the Highlands for photogenic scenery to inspire the photographer. It obviously helps to live close to one of these mountain areas though!

4 May, 2020

Lovely set, nice to browse and dream. Congratulations everyone.

4 May, 2020

Thanks Dan and all the contributors for some great stories and inspirational photos! Well done

Thanks Sean.

Do you mean the first image in the article? That's James', and it's not been cropped. The expand function works for me: have you tried refreshing your browser? This (uncropped) is also the thumbnail on the UKH montage.

But if you're looking at the image on the Facebook post, then yes they do crop photos into a thinner letterbox. This would be a faff for us to allow for every time we publish an image, though I'm sure we could.

4 May, 2020

Cheers Dan and the photographers of UKH

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