P S Waverley Loch Crinan and Sound of Jura, 24th April 2011

I was hoping to catch the Paddle Steamer Waverley, the last ocean-going Paddle Steamer in the world, while I was up in Argyll - she visits for a week every year before returning to her home waters in the Clyde. We were on board Sea Leopard II at the entrance to Loch Craignish when she steamed round Craignish Point heading for Loch Crinan just before visiting the Gulf of Corryvreckan. She was met at the entrance to Loch Crinan by the Duke of Normandy. Another steam powered vessel the VIC 32 operates out of Crinan, the Puffers were made famous by the tales of Parahandy by Neil Munro and the television series The Vital Spark. You can have a holiday on board as she cruises the area. Go to the link below for more details.

Photographing The Whirlpool

Most of the time when it's active the pinnacle produces standing waves and a maelstrom of churning water. The area affected varies depending on many factors such as wind strength and direction along with the strentgh and height of the tide.

A lot of high tides are either very early in the morning or late in the evening so it's not always possible to be out there at just the right time. However as the gulf doesn't always follow the rules as Mike says on his website, entering at the highest point in the tide doesn't guarantee spectacular results and vice versa.

If there are whirlpools usually on an ebb tide you'll probably be better with a wide angle but sometime a whirlpool might form a good distance from the boat so a medium to long telephoto is handy.

How To Take Good Photographs of The Gulf of Corryvreckan Whirlpool - Coastal and Wildlife Photography Off West Coast of Scotland

I like getting close-up shots of the turbulence, freezing
the water you never know what you are going to get.
The wave wasn't all that large but great to photograph.

How To Take Good Photographs of The Gulf of Corryvreckan Whirlpool Waves - Coastal and Wildlife Photography Off West Coast of Scotland

A wide angle zoom allows more scope
for the whirlpools and eddies when they appear
but allows you to zoom in on a whirlpool as it grows.

Don't forget to keep an eye out for Dolphins, Porpoise and Whales and don't dismiss the seabirds you can get quite close to them sometimes - Razorbills, Guilliemots, Terns, Gannets even Puffins at various times of the year.

As the boat skippers don't get too close to the standing waves for obvious reasons you'll need a telephoto to catch them and a high shutter speed to freeze them and get those great textures and colours in the water.

Even on low tides the gulf is worth a visit and has a lot to offer other than the whirlpool, just remember that even in summer the wind is cold out there so take a fleece or pullover.

Even a cloudy day with the water reflection and the constant wind you can get sunburnt very quickly! Wear a hat it as it will also shield you when shooting into the sun.

How To Take Good Photographs of The Gulf of Corryvreckan Whirlpool Waves - Isle of Mull Photography Off West Coast of Scotland

A long telephoto allows shots bringing the island of
Mull or Colonsay closer to give more impact
and gets really close to the whirlpool.

The best place to look down on the whirlpool is from the high points on Scarba or from the shoreline, however it's a long walk from the drop off point and even then there's no guarantee you'll be there at the moment something happens.

Jura is another place to view the whirlpool from land but this means getting from the south end of Jura up to the north end leaving your car or someone elses and walking along a rough (very good ankle breaking country) track about three miles to the headland (this includes hills).

You will need a pair of binoculars or a long lens to see it close up from here, and if you choose to walk further down to the shoreline of the gulf remember you'll need to walk all the way back up again! And don't forget to take plenty of water with you, there aren't any shops up there!

The most spectacular results can come when there is a low pressure zone coming in from the northwest but of course this usually means rain, low cloud and strong winds. Mike and I were fortunate to see the gulf on a particularly wild day when we went out in Mike's boat in September one year.

On this occasion, I would be lying to say it wasn't scary to be surrounded by all that churning water! The effect was heightened by the low mist covering the tops of Jura and Scarba. I was very glad we had two strong engines!

How To Take Good Photographs of Whirlpools and Waves - Coastal and Wildlife Photography In Argyll

One of my few mono shots before I moved to digital,
this was taken from the Scarba shoreline
during our overnight stay.

How To Take Good Pictures of The Gulf of Corryvreckan Whirlpool Waves - Coastal and Wildlife Photography Off West Coast of Scotland

An example of the pinnacle forcing water to the surface.

To be honest if I hadn't already been out on deck at the stern when we arrived at the gulf I would probably have stayed in the wheelhouse!

The other bit of luck was that I had splashed out (no pun intended) on a waterproof housing for my little Sony camcorder, without it I reckon the camera would have given up because of all the moisture in the air as it was it started to steam up as we left the gulf.

It's certainly something I'll always remember and I doubt if I'll every repeat it, my one regret is that I didn't have more cameras running or get any still shots.

Certainly the easiest and possibly laziest way to shoot the whirlpool is by boat - you get ferried out into the gulf, see the whirlpool if it's active, have a cup of tea then back to the Marina. No strenuous walking in the heat, rain or wind and you'll get as close to the whirlpool as it's possible to get. Just remember there are no guarantees like most things in life you have to be there at the right moment and with the whirlpool it's pot luck!

You can find a list of boat operators at www.whirlpool-scotland.co.uk - enjoy your visit and watch out for Dolphins, which are possibly even more difficult to photograph!

How To Take Good Photos of Whirlpools and Waves - Coastal and Wild Life Photography In Argyll

This shows clearly how the pinnacle forces water
up to the surface producing a series
of swells that can, with an opposing wind
from the west, produce white-topped standing waves.
Eilean Mor can be seen in the background.

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