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Artistic Nude in the Landscape, April 18th-20th 2014

Helen and Tillie Greeting the Dawn over Suilven, Cul Mor and Cul Beg
Helen and Tillie Greeting the Dawn over Suilven, Cul Mor and Cul Beg.

Our Easter 2014 Artistic Nude in the Landscape Workshop took place in some of the finest Spring weather we could have wished for. This could not have been more different to last year's workshop, when the models had to endure the coldest Easter on record. Our models for this year were the lovely Helen Stephens and Tillie Feather, both highly experienced and popular artistic nude models. This was the first time we had run a major workshop with models we had not previously worked with but both models came highly recommended and easily surpassed their reputations.

The lovely weather made for a very pleasant drive from Aberdeen to the Assynt Field Centre, Inchnadamph Lodge. After introductions and a welcome dram, we discussed the plans for the weekend. As everyone attending had also attended last year's workshop, we gave them the option of some landscape photography time instead of repeating the lectures. With Easter being almost a month later this year, we had light for longer and there was still plenty of daylight left, so we headed round to Ardvreck Castle. Tillie decided to tag along to see the scenery, so we lent her a Sony NEX7 with a 35mm f1.8 lens so that she could get some nice snaps to take home. We had not been at the castle long though, when Tillie decided she could not leave such a stunning backdrop unused and gave everyone an impromptu extra art-nude shoot.

Tillie posing in the ruins of Ardvreck Castle
Tillie posing in the ruins of Ardvreck Castle.

Back at the cottage, Karen cooked a lovely meal of spicy fish with coconut mandazi, spinach, tomato and chilli, plus rice and ugali for everyone. There was plenty of excited discussion of the potential for this weekend with such lovely weather.

Around 9pm, we headed out for the first scheduled shoot, an introduction to light-painting at the ruin of Ardvreck Castle. Although it was nowhere near as cold as last year, once the sun went down it did still become very cold. We all agreed that one good set would do and we would call it a night. We opted to use the gate to the castle cellar and proceeded to take turns creating images, using the other participants to manually fire speedlights during the long exposure and painting our own gelled light with a powerful torch.

Naked Hobbits Escape From The Fires Of Mount Doom
Light-Painting at Ardvreck Castle ~ Naked Hobbits Escape From The Fires Of Mount Doom

Saturday morning began even earlier than last year, as the dawn light would rise earlier and we had a longer drive to get to the location, so we were up at 4am. We drove to a lay-by just outside Achmelvich and climbed the hill next to the village for a spectacular view across Assynt that included several of Scotland's most iconic mountains. The sun took a little while to reach the spots we wanted it to but when it did, the light and the view was spectacular and the models worked like mad, producing pose after pose to give everyone an embarrassing wealth of great images before the golden glow quickly disappeared.

Helen and the Dawn light with Canisp and Suilven as a backdrop
Helen and the Dawn light with Canisp and Suilven as a backdrop

Tillie soaking up some morning sun
Tillie soaking up some morning sun

Helen and Tillie with Suilven, Cul Beg, Cul Mor and Stac Pollaidh
Helen and Tillie with Suilven, Cul Beg, Cul Mor and Stac Pollaidh

After several minutes of superb golden light it was over and it was time for the models to get wrapped up and have a warming cup of soup before we descended the hill and headed back to the cottage for breakfast.

Helen and Tillie wrapped up and warming up with a cup of hot soup
Helen and Tillie wrapped up and warming up with a cup of hot soup

After such an early start, everyone needed a nap before we reviewed our images and headed out for the longest shoot; the trek along the Allt nan Uamh towards the bone caves. We revisited several locations from last year, including the large waterfall near the bottom and the wonky dead tree but there are so many other spots along the route, we also added several new scenes.

Tillie at the main waterfall on the Allt nan Uamh
Tillie at the main waterfall on the Allt nan Uamh

Helen meditating by the waterfall on the Allt nan Uamh Helen meditating by the waterfall on the Allt nan Uamh
Helen meditating by the waterfall on the Allt nan Uamh

Helen and Tillie blending in with rock formations
Helen and Tillie blending in with rock formations

Looking closer and their shapes match the rock patterns beautifully
Looking closer and their shapes match the rock patterns beautifully

We also revisited the wonky dead tree and the girls let their imaginations run riot here, producing some lovely images for us all. We then found some interesting rocks along the Allt nan Uamh to play with and the girls created some great poses both singly and together

Tillie working with the wonky tree
Tillie working with the wonky tree

Helen goes feral at the wonky tree
Helen goes feral at the wonky tree

Huddle under the wonky tree
Huddle under the wonky tree

Helen goes feral again on a rock
Helen goes feral again on a rock

Tillie's relaxed pose with this rock led to jokes about a lesser-spotted rock-humper
Tillie's relaxed pose with this rock led to jokes about a lesser-spotted rock-humper

After a great afternoon, it was time for another landscape photography shoot and we headed over to Achiltibuie to catch the sunset over the Summer Isles. Tillie decided to join us and once more could not resist posing in such a beautiful backdrop.

Tillie at Achiltibuie Hippie on a rock
Tillie goes all Hippie on the rocks at Achiltibuie as the sun sets over the Summer Isles

Solitude
Hippie solitude for Tillie

After such a hectic and rewarding day, we had a late dinner and polished off the rest of the MacAllan. We had a relative lie-in on Sunday, not going out until 7.30am. We headed along the shore of Loch Assynt, which was bathed in warm morning sunlight and so still that there were superb reflections all around. The conditions were perfect for photography! On the rocks along the shore, we found plenty of opportunities to create some stunning images with two great models.

Helen on a rock on the shore of Loch Assynt
Helen on a rock on the shore of Loch Assynt

Tillie and Helen reflected in Loch Assynt Tillie dipping a toe in the water
The reflections on Loch Assynt were beautiful

Beautiful Loch Assynt and equally beautiful Tille
Beautiful Loch Assynt and equally beautiful Tillie

Stunning reflections and two stunning models
Stunning reflections and two stunning models

After a fabulous morning shoot, we headed back to the cottage for breakfast and to pack and check out. Within seconds of the cameras going down and the models' clothes going on, the wind arrived and destroyed the beautiful reflections we had just enjoyed shooting. After leaving the cottage we headed back to the huge secluded waterfall beneath Loch na Gainmhich that had been almost completely frozen during last year's workshop. This time it was flowing freely, though no less spectacular and Tillie and Helen made the most of a superb backdrop for one last shoot.

Helen enjoying a refreshing spray from the waterfal Both girls on a large rock below the waterfall
Helen and Tillie below the waterfall

The bathers
The Bathers

After the waterfall we began the journey home, stopping for lunch in Ullapool before going our separate ways at the end of a superb three days. We would like to thank Helen and Tillie for the fantastic job they did on this workshop to ensure everyone got superb images and memories of a great weekend to take home.

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