A Scottish Adventure Captured on 35mm Film

Jun 22, 2019
by Andy Cole  

When fellow mountain biker and photographer Kiel Murphy got in touch asking if I'd be up for shooting some film, I jumped at the chance. We chose an area I'm familiar with and a route I've done before, but this time decided to take 2 days to complete the Ben Alder loop, giving us plenty of time for photo opportunities along the way. Ben Alder cottage was perfectly placed for us to lay down our sleeping bags at about the halfway point.

Alongside the bivvy and bike gear, Kiel's weapon of choice was the Ricoh FF-70, 35mm point and shoot, paired up with some Fuji Velvia 50. I couldn't let Kiel have all the fun though, so packed my digital compact camera.

Heading out from Dalwhinnie on the good tarmac trail and little photo stops, we were soon hitting the 4X4 track to take us into the hills. Kiel choosing to take the bike portraits with his phone.


We found a little rock drop with an epic backdrop to play on and get the film exposed. After a couple of test runs, Kiel set the focus and I hit the drop, knowing he had to get his timing right for the shot.


When we thought we got the shot we moved on, picking up the singletrack towards the shutdown bothy, Culra. I've spent a few nights in this great located bothy, so it's sad to see it closed due to asbestos.



Shooting film is certainly different from today's digital world, it slowed us down, made us think, imagining the composition before framing and timing that all essential shot, hoping we bagged the image. I even went to the back of the camera a few times, hoping to see a glimpse of some pixels we'd just captured, only to be embarrassed when I realised there was no screen.

Hearing the camera shutter, the motors winding on the film, brought back some childhood memories of been soaked through, posing miserably on a hill somewhere.



We carried on past the bothy on a good trail to Bealach Dubh, pushing only for the final 50 metres to the pass.


At the bealach, the views opened up towards Loch Ossian, where I took the opportunity to take a couple of photos on the digital compact I carried.



This time I didn't look silly when I checked the rear LCD to view what I captured on the memory card.

A small steep descent and we were climbing again up to Bealach Cumhann. On the drive north, I was telling Kiel about the amazing piece of flowy singletrack that takes us all the way down to the bothy without putting in a pedal stroke. I had sold it and we were both excited for what we had in store.

When we hit the bealach the wind hit us, hard. The amazing piece of flowing singletrack, turned out to be the opposite. 5 kilometers, with a drop of around 300 metres and we had to pedal the lot. Finally, at the bothy, we laid out our beds, said 'alreet' to the other occupants and headed out in search of wood to keep the cold at bay.


With the fire roaring, we passed around our hip flasks and bothy treats, sharing stories of past adventures before bed.



Next morning the wind had died down a little, but we weren't in a rush with the 500 metre hike-a-bike we had to start the day. After a couple of brews and breakfast, we reluctantly shouldered the bikes and headed out on the climb.



The view just got better the higher we climbed, giving us an excuse to put down the bikes and pick up the cameras.





Upon reaching the top, the temperature had dropped significantly from the glen bottom, making operating a camera difficult with no gloves. We managed to grab a couple of shots, before packing up and picking our way down the off piste grass to the loch 100 metres below.





We pedalled around the loch, picking up a good track once again to take us back down to Culra. With yesterdays wind now behind us, we found that flow we'd been seeking. The only things to slow us down were the scenery and water bars.



All that was left was to say goodbye to the locals, head back along the road back to the van and send the films off for processing.


Words: Andy Cole
Images: Andy Cole & Kiel Murphy


68 Comments

  • 21 1
 #35mmAintdead
  • 6 6
 it is really is - plenty of packs of film have been killed off in the last 5 years.
  • 1 0
 HAHA #retrovibes
  • 3 0
 @mtb-scotland: disagree, Fuji and Kodak both announced Acros II and Ektachrome back in 35mm and 120mm due to demand.
  • 2 3
 @Klainmeister: doesn't mean plenty still haven't been killed off.
  • 15 0
 I prefer 28.99mm
  • 2 0
 @mtb-scotland: still plenty about! Kodak's main gig these days is the production of film! There's also a lot of new up and coming brands aside from Fuji and Kodak which are becoming available too, but you tend to know about them only if you actually go out to buy them. Still a niche these days but very much alive
  • 1 0
 @Murph0103: never used much colour film. The odd roll of velvia and provia. Stuck to B&W: plus-X; adox 25; Fpan 50; neopan 400NC; with the odd roll of XP2
  • 8 1
 These are great, but you chose possibly the most difficult film to expose! Ha! Velvia is so gorgeous when you nail it, but man, it is a picky one. This could be a fun series, maybe try some Portra 400 and expose at 600-800iso and you can get some really nice action shots I'd imagine. Great work!
  • 1 0
 Thankyou!

100% agree Velvia 50 is super hard to expose - even worse on a point and shoot with no controls. We were so lucky it was overcast so we had more chance to have relatively balanced exposures. A series would be cool! Ektar, Portra and maybe something random too..hmm the gears are whirring now! Smile
  • 5 1
 That looks like a great weekend away and you tell a great story.

...But I was just wondering, was the whiskey bottle anything to do with why you "weren't in a rush" to get up Wink
  • 2 0
 Hahaha, no the whisky bottle was left there by someone else. People find justify leaving their trash behind, by saying it's a candle holder etc. But, we did have port to help keep the cold at bay. And thanks for your comment.
  • 4 0
 Anyone remember those Advantix cameras and the oval film canisters where you could choose three different views? Used to get full 360° by taking a shot, moving the camera to the right, take another then all the way round.
  • 1 0
 Never seen them personally but they sound really cool!!
  • 8 4
 Makes absolutely no difference. 99% is the composition and content of the photo, 1% what you took it with...

The ones that are in focus are nice though...
  • 1 0
 Thanks buddy - really surprised how well the Ricoh FF-70 focusses considering it's 30 years old. The lens on it is stellar too with good contrast which really helps!

Thanks for the kind words Smile
  • 4 0
 Really enjoyed those, please do more! The tones and effect you get from the 35mm really go nicely with the rugged Scottish landscape
  • 3 0
 100% agree! Andy has suggested to me to do a mini series on 35mm film. Bet it would be a great way of documenting various adventures Smile
  • 2 0
 I did the Andes Pacifico this year and shot the whole thing on a Olympus XA2 and Cinestill 50D. Film all the way. small compact camera, full frame quality and light and easy to use.
  • 1 0
 Awesome!!! Cinestill is fantastic film Smile
  • 2 0
 I stared in awe at most of these photos... I didn't realize that they were velvia 50! I shot a bunch of rolls of it 15 years ago in college, weird having visual nostalgia for specific film.
  • 1 0
 Thats amazing and thank you so much. Velvia really is something special. Get it just right and it yields amazing results. Hard to accomplish good photos on Velvia with a point and shoot camera, but we were happy with these Smile
  • 4 0
 Cracking images mate - well done!
  • 1 0
 Cheers Ian.
  • 1 0
 cheers Ian!
  • 1 0
 Lovely pics, can’t help thinking though that an FM2, Nikon 24mm lens and some Tri X or HP5, bit of was fibre paper and some selenium toning would have yielded some stunning pics!
  • 2 0
 Absolutely - you should try it! I don't have a FM2, but have an Olympus OM10 and Delta 400 i might try this with Wink

Thanks for the kind words!
  • 2 2
 Possibly the worst route to ride in the Ben Alder area. The climb you did up the Bealach Dubh should be the descent that spits you out at Culra and not drainage ditch hopping down to Ben Alder Cottage. The hike a bike up to the Bealach Breabag is shite and also the following descent down and past the loch is woeful. Luckily the smooth track from there back to the opposite side from Culra is decent enough.
Not the best route in the area but at least doing it clockwise would have been much better in my (And others) opinion.
  • 1 0
 I disagree. The descent down to Ben Alder Cottage wouldn't be much fun from Bealach Breabag, in fact it's hardly ride-able.
  • 1 0
 I also disagree as do the majority of people I've spoken to. The descent down from Bealach Dubh to BA bothy and the one from the loch to Culra are both awesome, if you can hop the tiny water bars.
  • 1 0
 @alcphotosleeds:
Not sure what you are on about, I'm talking of climbing up from Ben Alder Cottage to the Bealach Dubh and descending to Culra from there.
  • 1 0
 @countpeaham:
The descent to BAC from the Bealach Dubh is ok, the descent from the Bealach Breabag is crap
  • 2 0
 Fantastic photos and a great story! There's something special about film photography and Scotland is a very special place too. Thanks for sharing!
  • 2 0
 Thankyou! You are correct on both counts!
  • 5 5
 Even a crappy film camera yields better looking photos than a high end digital. There’s a soft richness to the images which befits the ethereal landscape perfectly. Great job! Looks like a fun trip.
  • 2 0
 You're absolutely right here buddy which is why we thought we'd challenge ourselves. The camera which I used - the Ricoh FF-70 was fully automatic too, so really needed some thought! The film - Fuji Velvia 50 slide film is stunning when exposed just right. Difficult in a fully automatic camera. Thanks for the kind words though was an amazing trip!
  • 3 0
 The horse pic is amazing. Well done.
  • 1 0
 Thankyou - started to get worried when they were following me...! aha Smile
  • 2 0
 This might just be making me think about dragging my F3 out for a bike ride one day. Nothing beats a good grainy shot.
  • 1 0
 Absolutely!
  • 3 0
 I like me a bit of Scotland. Shame I never got to ride there...
  • 2 0
 LOVE THIS! I've been thinking about the same for a while but haven't got round to it yet!
  • 2 0
 one of my favourite pieces I've seen on the site yet. Always wanted to ride Scotland; thanks for sharing.
  • 2 0
 WOW, what a comment, thanks man.
  • 2 0
 So good! Great job bouys Smile
  • 1 0
 Thanks man.
  • 1 0
 Thanks buddy
  • 2 0
 do like a bit of velvia 50. Used to shoot with an eo5 and a bronica ETRS.
  • 1 0
 Velvia is good for your soul Smile
  • 1 0
 Would love to read in description which photo was taken with the Ricoh and which with the Fuji.
  • 2 0
 Good point, I did think that but you can click on the image and see which camera. I think you can tell visually as well.
  • 2 0
 Nice pics, beautiful land
  • 1 0
 I will be shooting a DH race on film this weekend. I shoot a lot of film so it will be interesting.
  • 1 1
 Shoulda rode a steel rigid with a 72 HA, triple ring 8 speed and the seat all the way up your ass. Then Id buy it. Old tech aint really cool.
  • 1 0
 Nice Photos but why are nearly the half of it made by a digital Fuji....?
  • 1 0
 Almost forgot, add an orange or red filter as well.
  • 1 0
 Cant on this camera, its just a point and shoot but yes youre right for a proper SLR - contrast crazy!
  • 1 0
 This is terrible advice. He is shooting color. Colored filters only work as intended on black and white film stocks. The only time you add a colored filter, a warming one, is on tungsten balanced film.
  • 1 0
 I saw one tree behind that shack, , where are the trees?
  • 1 0
 Eaten by all the deer and sheep.
  • 2 0
 Love this!! Smile
  • 2 0
 Beautiful photos
  • 1 0
 Is that a Bird AM9?
  • 1 0
 It is.
  • 1 0
 @alcphotosleeds: Beauty. Holding out for a 130mm version ????????

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