The Coupall falls, Argyle and Bute.
The Coupall falls, Argyle and Bute.

Scotland Through A Lens: Karl Oparka on chasing waterfalls

From the Highlands to the Southern Uplands, Karl Oparka has photographed 70 of Scotland’s waterfalls and found little is known about these hidden wonders.

His self published book Chasing Waterfalls, features the ones he has captured since he started the project during the pandemic. 


Tell us a bit about your background, how did you get into photography?

In my past life, I was Regius Professor of Plant Sciences at Edinburgh, appointed by Queen Elizabeth II to preach to the unconverted. Photography was a big part of my work then – I authored over 250 scientific publications during my career – and remains so now. I have two main passions, landscapes and macro imaging of flowers. In my travels over the last few years, I have photographed many things, from skating ducks to individual pollen grains. 

Bonnington Linn, Lanarkshire.

Crawton Waterfall, Grampian.

Falls of Allt da Gobh, Perth and Kinross.

When did you become interested in Scottish waterfalls?

My fascination with waterfalls started back in lockdown. Around the same time my son was looking for a Christmas present for me and thought he would get me a book on waterfalls. But he searched the web high and low and couldn’t find anything at all on them. That’s when the idea to create my own book came to fruition. So my wife and I headed out and started looking at waterfalls close to home. We started locally in Angus and Perthshire, but we soon found we were getting on a wider and wider radius. We managed to cover several, from Assynt in the Scottish Highlands, through the Central Lowlands and into the Southern Uplands. 

How many waterfalls are there in Scotland and how many did you manage to photograph for the book?

A survey of Scottish waterfalls in 1986 suggested there were more than 200. I photographed 70 of them for the book so we have only just scratched the surface. There are a lot more out there.

The Black Spout, Highland.

The Fairy Pools, Skye.

The Falls of Dochart, Perth and Kinross.

What do you love about waterfalls?

Most of them have a unique atmosphere when you get close up and nearly all of them look spectacular when you use long exposure to capture them. They take on magic hues. The bigger waterfalls and not always the most photogenic, some of the smaller waterfalls we have found are extremely picturesque and have just gone unnoticed. Not all of them are beautiful, but some of them are truly spectacular. 

Was it difficult to get access to the waterfalls to photograph them?

When I started this project I was recovering from back surgery so the ones we visited are all easily accessible on foot, and not too far from car parks. In the book each image is accompanied by a thumbnail map showing its location for reference.

The Falls of Avich, Argyll and Bute.

Arbirlot Waterfall, Angus..


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