Firstly, we can call it the Boo-chel (ch within loch). But the Gaelic Speakers won’t thank you for it and would rather it was the boo – ach – keel -yi.

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Good afternoon and thank you for reading my post!

So let us talk about photographing the famous Buachaille Etive Mor mountain at the entrance to Glen Coe and Glen Etive. And more specifically, the beautiful Coupall Falls that run in front of the mountain as you approach from the South East along the A82.

Firstly, to those who don’t know, Buachaille Etive Mor is probably the most iconic mountain in Scotland. An almost pyramid shape, the mountain is certainly the most recognisable of the mountains in the Southern Highlands and probably one of the most photographed.

I run a lot of landscape workshops in Scotland and whenever we go anywhere near the Glen Coe area this is one of those places that we have to stop off at to photograph. I have photographed this mountain at sunset, in a hail storm, in rain and on a mid-summer afternoon and I can say that each time I have come away with a photograph that I am happy with. Obviously better weather gives better images but when you live and work in Scotland you quickly learn that you cannot wait for the right weather conditions!

To find the waterfall, head North along the A82 towards Glen Coe from Bridge of Orchy. A mile or so after the Glen Coe ski resort you will see a sign directing you towards Glen Etive. Take this turning and head down the road for 1000 yards or so. Just before a small bridge you will see a small parking place. If this is full, another parking place is available just after the bridge. Opposite the parking place you will see the mountain. Hop over the narrow stream and you should be able to hear the rush of the falls 100 yards from the car.

Once you are at the waterfall you will see two distinct patches of worn earth where the multitude of photographers have stood before you. The best shot will depend on the time of year and also the level of the water, as well as personal preference.

Photographing Buachaille Etive Mor, Glen Coe
Photographing Buachaille Etive Mor, Glen Coe

The two above images show the different angles you can choose. The top image was taken from the left area to make the most of the amazing sunset that was happening behind the Buacahille. The bottom photo was taken from the right and was taken to put the mountain in the middle of the frame with the waterfalls at the bottom middle. It also has the benefit of the tree not getting in the way of the composition like the top one. However if the water level is particularly high, the bottom composition can look overwhelming with the amount of water coming over the falls.

The amount of water that is coming over the falls will also depend on what shutter speed that you use. If the water is flowing particularly quickly, I would recommend a shutter speed of no more than 1 second. This can be increased to 4 or 8 seconds if the water levels are much lower without the water becoming too smooth. Keeping your shutter speed shorter will also stop the tree from looking too blurry if the wind is up (Hint: It usually is!)

As a quick addendum to all that, there are loads of other shots that you can take just by stretching your legs and walking 15-20 minutes in most directions but the 2 above are certainly the easiest!

I would usually recommend focus stacking for these images. (A great focus stacking tutorial is just here.) Although the mountain appears quite close, it is still several thousand feet away and at F8-F11 it will still be quite soft if you have focussed on the waterfall. If you are unable to focus stack, then focus on the largest waterfall (the nearest one if you are on the right).

For a different look and to get the mountain more in central in the frame then why not try portrait orientation? It is something that we as landscape photographers rarely use but in the case of waterfalls and mountains I think that it has a use.

I hope you enjoyed this post and if you are heading to the Highlands for a holiday or photo trip then I hope you find this little guide useful.

Thank you for reading!

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