Swimming with the Loch Ness Monster

*no Nessies were harmed during the making of this film.

As our sea and water activities-filled July comes to an end, we have one more thing to share with you before we float into August (see what we did there?)

We’ve recently learned of a beautiful film made about a group of swimmers who meet once a month to swim in Loch Ness. More than half of the swimmers are aged over sixty, and they swim in the inky waters year-round – allowing them to see the different shades the Loch waters take on under varying skies and weathers and enjoy each other’s company while benefitting from the physical and mental health benefits of swimming.

Autumn Voices Steering Group member Simon Berry was an early viewer of the film. He described it as having excellent production quality and a very edgy feel to it. The film was shown in Cromarty Cinema in April, but due to Covid restrictions at the time only a small group of around 30 of the swimmers were able to see it. We’d like to help boost its viewing figures by sharing the YouTube link with you and encouraging you to immerse yourself in this 18-minute film, Every Single Time It’s Different:

Trev says of the film:

‘I’d recently completed a duathlon, but a friend inspired me by doing a triathlon (swimming, cycling and running). I wanted to try one but needed to learn to swim properly. It was the late 1990s and I was nearly 60 and living in the Highlands. After lessons and much practice, I fancied swimming in Loch Ness, but I needed a guide and mentor. I found Juan. He looked after me as my swimming improved. Over time we met other enthusiastic swimmers and eventually The Wild Highlanders was formed.

It was a short jump from there to try to make a film capturing the camaraderie which had evolved within the group. And it was a step further in my new direction after ‘The Wise Guys’ Project at Highland Print Studio had established my journey to creative discovery. 

The process was a little more difficult. There were practical concerns as I had to learn how to navigate Final Cut Pro (the software), how best to capture the scenes I wanted, and then test them out by trial and error after returning from the Loch. Recording interviews with swimmers was also a challenge, with sound levels and background noise. Also, to organise additional still photos and other movie shots. Then the music was developed from the sound of my hand clapping on the water surface as I swam. I called on friends to help with the drone shots and to create swimming poetry. It was a long and very interesting journey.

I used a Go Pro camera with the harness reversed, on my back. This appeared to be the most effective way to create the scenes I was looking for, to give a sense of motion and meaning to the swimming. Earlier this year Every Single Time It’s Different was completed and shown In Cromarty Cinema to swimmers and the Highland Print Studio to artists.

Trev Johnson
Trev’s YouTube channel

Trev was part of the Wise Guys project run jointly by Age Scotland and Highland Print Studio, which delivered free printmaking workshops to men aged 55 and over. This project was designed to prepare this group of men for a creative and healthy retirement and also to prevent loneliness and social isolation by providing a space for conversation and community. The project was so successful that many of the men are still engaged in it years later, developing their own techniques and profiles as independent printmakers. One of the men went on to set up a Men’s Shed in his local area – another vital resource for creative and positive ageing.

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