Cruachan the hollow mountain power station

Cruachan pumped power station owned by Drax and is located in the Highlands of Scotland on the banks of loch Awe the third largest freshwater loch in Scotland.

Inside the turbine hall iphone shot


There are a few photographic challenges in photographing the power station deep within the hollowed out cavern under Ben Cruachan mountain which at 1126m its summit is the highest point in Argyll and Bute, Scotland.

Lighting and colour balance

Lit entirely artificially with a mixture of light sources from sodium, halogen, fluorescent and led lighting. There is no one shot fix under these conditions, so white balance and colour correction is always a challenge.

Biggest hidden challenge

However lighting and colour balance isn’t the biggest challenge its vibration from the turbines and associated equipment thats the least obvious challenge. Normally where we are photographing architectural elements we would be using a tripod and lengthy exposures bracketing for blending later but with quite large shudders and constant background vibration you don’t actually realise is there can ruin a shot.

1km underground

Carbon fibre tripods are our best chance as they help but you can’t rely on every shot being sharp as there is always a risk that shots just aren’t useable.

Hand held is the best option but that brings the need for high iso to have reasonable shutter speeds and a depth of field that works for our style.


Flash fill gives us the best chance of obtaining reasonable skin tones as the building is predominantly yellow any light bounce will carry the yellow cast, correcting this may desaturate the interior colours using direct flash has a chance of being clean. The bigger the source the better, but that’s a very big ask in a photojournalistic photo call where time isn’t on our side.

On location

Motion blur

Motion blur is our next challenge as the people are in active conversation or walking which is difficult to anticipate the optimum time to click the shutter, and not have blur or awkward expressions which is always challenging no matter where we shoot or what conditions we shoot under.

Equipment used

Our choice of equipment varies but on this shoot it was based on two camera bodies the

  • Cameras
  • Canon 5D for high iso performance and the
  • Canon 5Ds for the high resolution shots we would need but has poorer iso performance
  • These were coupled with the 70-200 IS and the 24-70 which has no stabilisation. The 5D was paired to the 24-70 most of the time and the 70-200 was on the 5Ds occasionally I’d swap these around.
  • Flash was on camera speedlight, again in a less paced shoot I’d use off camera flash and Pocket Wizard wireless triggers shooting through modifiers but thats not an option though did have this setup on hand if it came to that was the best option.

Other considerations


Walking around with a visiting party hunting and pecking interesting shots for an article needs a variety of images to go with the written word, story telling at it’s best. With social media demanding different orientation aspects theres a constant switching between portrait and landscape.

PPE is a challenge, hard hats are essential but get in the way of the camera, we have brimless hardhats with straps to ensure they don’t fall off. However not every site lets you wear your own so its a balancing act of removing and wearing between shots which interferes with your workflow and the potential loss of good shots.

Having an assistant

Having an assistant by your side helps keep you safe and speeds up switching cameras and lenses. Carrying more than you need slows you down, camera straps get in the way and are potentially more risk than strapless it’s a call we need to make and work with.

We are always presented with more and more challenges when on location and its where our experience becomes the key factor on the outcome and images we can’t leave things to chance and failure isnt an option.

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