Mountain Magic

Posted on Wednesday, 9th February, 2011

Stagecoach Monument Valley

A still from John Ford's classic Western 'Stagecoach' shot on location in Monument Valley

I just got back from a wee 5 day expedition up to Assynt where I was doing some filming for my upcoming show North West.  I hadn’t been that far north since I was a kid and never to that particular area so I was really looking forward to it,  especially since I’d been in touch with a couple of super helpful local residents with a vast array of historical and contemporary knowledge on the area, Andy Summers and Bill Ritchie.  Andy and Bill both recommended me places to check out while I was there and Bill was kind enough to guide me personally to a couple of prime viewpoints.

The landscape is just breathtakingly beautiful.  I’m a sucker for mountains as it is but I’d never seen a range like Assynt before.  The mountains there are sandstone Inselbergs which for some reason I didn’t know before going and struck me as so wonderfully fortuitous as my objective was to film a landscape in a way that invoked John Ford‘s vision of Monument Valley, which is of course littered with its own iconic sandstone inselbergs.  I’ve lost count of the number of times this kind of serendipitous discovery has formed and informed my work… as Hannibal Smith would say, I love it when a plan comes together 🙂

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t on my side most of the time, the evening I arrived after the 5 hour drive up from Glasgow, 80mph winds were whipping the sea loch up onto the pavement in front of the B&B, it was wild!  Over the following days the weather chopped and changed constantly so  I spent quite some time on top of hills, in layers of thermals, waiting for a break in the clouds…

I’d decided to film with my dad‘s Canon 5D MKII for the first time as I’ve been thinking about investing in one, having seen so much great footage shot on them.  They’re really weather resistant so it was a good call considering the incessant rain.

It took me a while to figure out exactly what I wanted and the weather made it pretty tricky but on my last day there, just an hour before I had to head back south, the clouds lifted off the peaks of the hills, the sun broke through and I think I managed to get the shot I’d been waiting for although I have a gut feeling I may need to make a return trip…

The magic of mountains in art

For centuries, the grandeur of mountain scenery has mesmerised artists in search of images to convey the infinite…

The day after I got back, I read the above article by Jonathan Jones in the Guardian which reminded me of the art historical context of what I’m trying to do.  I’d been thinking predominantly about the film context and history of what I’m doing but of course there’s such a rich history of mountainous landscape in fine art, painting specifically, that I can tap into too.

Topic: Projects in Progress

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