Third Spring 2015 Workshop
In contrast to my previous workshop which was with some pretty experienced photographers looking for something a bit different, on this one we concentrated on a mix of photographs to include more of Skye & Lochalsh's iconic locations. A typically mixed bag of weather during this week meant it was hard to stay on plan, with many changes forced upon us by the conditions, it was nonetheless rewarding, even though we were unable to get the classic shots around Elgol or at the Old Man of Storr on this occasion. To photograph all of Skye's amazing scenery in just 4 days is a difficult task requiring a lot of good luck, but we did pretty well. We got off to a flying start with a visit to Eilean Donan Castle, capturing a couple of classic dusky evening shots showing the castle beautifully lit up.
A dry morning with scattered cloud on day 1 gave us some good early light opportunities around a calm Loch Cill Chriosd - a real favourite for reflections. A recent fall of snow on the higher ground added to the beauty.
Day 2 had a dull beginning that cleared to scattered cloud later on. We had headed to a less well-known part of Skye where I knew we could find some interesting lone trees. Sadly one of these was destroyed by Skye's stormy weather in January but a couple of good ones remain. One even looks like it has been twisted around like a corkscrew by the winds! Not far away is a disused church in an unusual spot, well worth a visit. With the sky starting to look interesting, my hopes were high for a good sunset later on.
Well, we got that sunset - and then some! Although I love the foreground interest near to this location when the tide is high, that does not work at low tide. On this occasion the tide was out. so we found some foreground interest in the rippled sand instead. However, I take my hat off to Alan for spotting some unusual curved ripples in the water (see below) while I was up to my ankles in water looking for a reflection shot. The ripples were better!
From a photographer's point of view, no portfolio of Skye images would be complete without a visit to Talisker Bay so this is where we headed on day 3. To the uninitiated visitor it can be pleasant enough, but maybe a bit "untidy" (thanks to the large amount of flotsam and jetsam that washes up there - take note of the disgusting mess you make, passing ships' crews). But to a photographer who understands Talisker Bay, it is full of delights that the casual visitor may not find.
We had planned to follow Talisker Bay with a visit to Skye's famous Fairy Pools but the weather had other ideas and we had to adapt. We headed on to the coast again where the rain was passing us by and enjoyed some more delightful sand interest. In the photograph above, the sand is actually perfectly flat! What appears to be undulations is an optical illusion caused by dark and light sand.
We looked again but abandoned any hope of walking up to the Fairy Pools on this occasion as the rain seemed unwilling to shift from there. It had a permanent air to it. So, rather than get soaked for no good reason, we moved on and gave preference to some drier spots.
Gesto Farm sits in a glorious landscape with the Black Cuillin in the distance. Back on the other side of the Cuillin mountains, we stopped at Sligachan to walk to a location I've discovered. It's quickly becoming a favourite as it gives plenty of choice for good foreground interest to complement the surrounding mountains and the often spectacular skies.
Day 4 had the most favourable weather forecast of the week and so I had held back a couple of Skye's most spectacular locations for this. It meant an earlier start - and probably later finish! - than Alan really wanted but hey, that's landscape photography! It's worth making the effort. The actual sunrise was not particularly great but the early morning light a little later, and the breaking cloud, helped a lot.
We had the briefest of stops at the Kilt Rock viewpoint as the wind was strong and cold, but at least we were early enough to be the only ones there so there was no fighting through coach-loads of tourists to reach the only properly decent spot for a photo. Portree's harbour (below) was much calmer!
While at the Quiraing for that early morning shot, we took the opportunity to walk into the middle of this amazing landscape to see the unusual "Table" (above). Although the light was less than ideal, the walk was fun and interesting, and it was gratifying to be heading back out when others were just making their way in. Having had an early start and a strenuous morning, and still with a late finish ahead of us, we drove back to Broadford for a bit of a rest and dinner before heading to the last of our iconic locations, Neist Point...
I would like to express my sincere thanks to Alan who very kindly sent me this comment to display here:
" The best week's education I have ever had. David's knowledge of tides, weather, sunrise times and the best places to be at any given time meant that I came away from Skye with proper landscape techniques and the most stunning photographs I have ever taken." (Alan S, Essex, England).
April 2015 Workshop - day 1
My second spring workshop was blessed with some bright weather: not good if you're after moody, stormy shots but it's a whole lot more fun to be out photographing in pleasant weather. I have found that different photographers are after different types of photograph - not always "iconic" landscapes - and in this case my group were mostly interested in less well known spots which have not been photographed by countless others before them. They were also very interested in abstract patterns within the landscape. Fortunately, I know a couple of beaches that provide plenty of that kind of interest.
April 2015 Workshop - day 2
Our second day got off to a relaxed start as everyone was tired from the first day and the low tide we needed for our first location came around mid-morning, so that dictated our timing.
From the shipwreck we moved on to a spot beneath the Skye Bridge which also requires a low tide, and here we had a choice of some unusual architectural shots and some different shore details. (That 'A' panel title got expanded!)
For the evening we visited another of Skye's iconic sites, Elgol, hoping for a sunset to match what the scattered clouds had been promising. On the way we met some hairy characters...
Elgol itself gave us an interesting sunset, though quite short-lived.
April 2015 Workshop - day 3
With a clear morning predicted, we set out before dawn.
Morning mists and calm water for reflections were awaiting along with some more abstract landscape details...
Back home for breakfast and then we were off to another location, unknown to most, for a bit of photography and a peaceful picnic lunch. That's not a volcano erupting, just some fortuitous clouds!
Back home for tea and cake in the garden...
Back out for some more photography. Ken found an interesting viewpoint which made great use of our cloudless blue sky...
Back home for dinner, and then a final outing for the day to get a shot at dusk of that most photographed but ever-popular of castles, Eilean Donan...
April 2015 Workshop - day 4
Due to car problems and a nasty cold going around, we changed the plan for the last day but oh boy, what a day it turned out to be. We had a quick stop to photograph some Highland cattle in very glary light..
After this "fun" stop, we continued on our way to Sligachan, watching as some interesting clouds began to form...
Ken found a good use for his hat.
Bright light but interesting clouds
Abstract shots abounded
Dappled light made interesting water patterns
We decided to go wild on foreground interest and leading lines
Interesting skies continued to form and I began to get my hopes up for something special in the way of a sunset. But there was time to burn first, so we had a late afternoon excursion to see the pretty lightouse at Isleornsay.
So, after a day of fighting with harsh lighting, there was just one more real photo opportunity to come, if those clouds would just behave for us! Judge for yourself...
This was a sunset that just kept giving...
...and then giving some more. It was the perfect end to a great week during which everyone got a lot more than they'd expected.
March / April 2015
The first of my Spring workshops was plagued by poor weather but we still managed to sneak in some passable photos and a lot of fun. Elgol gave us some fleeting glimpses of evening light to contrast against the dark, brooding Cuillin mountains.
Our second visit to the Quiraing was marginally better than the earlier one when we were only able to watch from the car as some other visitors (not carrying camera bags!) struggled to remain on their feet in the wind. This time we ventured out during a spell of better light and managed to find this relatively sheltered spot to get a shot in the bag. It's a good job we did as moments later the horizontal sleet and hail arrived. We had only a short walk back to the car but it felt much longer as we battled the wind.
An early morning visit to Sligachan eventually paid dividends. This "off-piste" spot is unknown to many but provides some interesting foreground to contrast against the wide open moorland and Sgurr nan Gillean.
A return to Sligachan on a calmer morning gave us a chance of some reflections.
The walk up to the Storr should not be taken lightly, especially in colder conditions. Much as we would have liked to be there for a sunrise, I felt it wasn't worth the risk, and this was confirmed by a photographer we met on his way down as we climbed up. Even in daylight, the climb was pretty tough on my workshop guests but they were determined to continue and they were happy they did. One, Geoff, can be seen in the bottom right corner here...
For the last day, in less than promising conditions, I left my camera behind and concentrated on just guiding my guests and giving them a helping hand getting around this wet and muddy area, unknown to all but a privileged few. The photo below is one from early last autumn, hence the heather.
It was a frustrating week thanks to the mostly inclement weather and the weather forecasts that continually fed us with poor information, but we still managed to find some worthwhile photos.
22nd January 2015
Not a bad way to kick off the New Year, this was a short but stunning sunrise at Sligachan. A hint of colour on cloud edges burst into life, filling the sky with purples and pinks which quickly moved towards orange as the sun rose. In just 10 minutes or so it was over. (The two photos below were separated by 7 minutes.) Right place, right time!
29th December 2014
Last outing of the year, and where could be better than this?
13th December 2014
Unusually late, the first proper snow of the winter has arrived on higher ground. For the fitter photographers, this is a "must see" location.
20th November 2014
Elgol again provided us with beautiful late afternoon light. There can be few places that just keep on giving the way Elgol does. It doesn't matter how many times you visit, it always makes an impression.
9th November 2014
I didn't have too long to wait for that cloudless sky I wanted a few days ago. Continuing my tree theme I returned to my favourite bit of Forestry Commission land, but this time with a largely clear blue sky around sunset providing a couple of pleasing shots. I may be tempted to remove the shorter tree to the right of the main one!
A lovely sky following the sunset gave a pleasing splash of colour.
5th November 2014
We had a pleasant gap in the wet and windy weather for midweek fireworks at Plockton. As the afternoon was so lovely, an early journey over was called for and we found Loch Achaidh na h-Inich as flat calm as I've seen it.
After some exploration on the edge of Plockton, we spotted the Moon rising over the nearby hills.
Finally, though, we had the fireworks.display and there was plenty to photograph...
28th October 2014
During a week of wet & very windy weather in the wake of Hurricane Gonzalo, it was pointless taking a camera outdoors, so when at last we got a fine day I headed over to explore a new area on the mainland I'd been thinking about visiting.
It was pretty wet underfoot (especially when I accidentally stuck one foot into a deep pool of water) but it was worth the effort and temporary discomfort. I now want to try something similar but without clouds.
When it's far too unpleasant to be outdoors because of the remnants of a hurricane bashing around, some odd ideas take hold. Enter... my "planet" phase!
The first is from a barnacle and limpet covered rock at Talisker, and the second is part of a rainbow photo taken from in front of my house, looking towards the mainland. I feel a solar system coming on....
15th October 2014
Talisker Bay always throws up something unusual or interesting. On this occasion it was arriving there to find people swimming in the sea. That I have never seen at Talisker! The sunset wasn't quite what I'd hoped for so I tried something different.
12th October 2014
Time to return to Elgol for those autumnal sunsets. On this occasion I wanted to look for stronger leading lines at low tide.
Then, for a moment, the sun emerged, sparkled, and disappeared again!
24th August 2014
We were blessed with a gorgeous sunrise at Sligachan on a still morning. The lack of breeze meant there was an almost ripple free surface on the water.
By 8 o'clock that magical early light was all but gone but this place is so beautiful, it's hard to stop taking photographs. There was still a crispness to the air, no haze at all.
10th August 2014
Aside from the wonderful little-known spots around Skye and Lochalsh, the area is, of course, full of iconic locations. My intention when photographing these is to find something to lift the shot above the ordinary. A return to Eilean Donan Castle for an evening shoot presented us with some interesting clouds. Normally I would take long exposure shots but on this occasion the clouds were moving across and not giving a pleasing sky when blurred, so instead I used a much shorter shutter speed to freeze a dramatic cloud formation. Pointing a wide-angle lens skywards does, of course, cause some distortion of the foreground but that only adds to the drama.
7th August 2014
I'm always looking out for new locations which only "locals" know, places that visiting photographers bringing workshops to Skye will miss. Last week a local girl mentioned some pools in a river where she and her sister used to go with their mum when they were little. She described to me roughly how to find them and so when I had family visiting over the next few days, we set off exploring.
The two pools are what I would definitely describe as "wee gems". The first pool has a wonderful emerald green colour.
The second pool is, if anything, more spectacular. It has a deep centre surrounded by white coloured bedrock and plenty more of interest nearby. My first photo of it (below) shows the pool in its surroundings. The reddish colour from the surrounding soil has also affected the white bedrock at the edge of the river, giving an interesting blast of colour.
This pool takes on a leaf shape from certain angles, which seems to suit the greenish colour. If you visit on a hot day and are tempted to take a dip, be warned: it's deep and very cold!
So far, I've not seen any other photographers there except those with me. An occasional hill walker might pass by, but that's about it. After visiting the Fairy Pools in Glenbrittle, that's quite a refreshing change! Don't get me wrong: the Fairy Pools are absolutely worth visiting and photographing but how lovely it is to have somewhere to photograph that almost nobody seems to know about - and that very few others will have photographed.
14th July 2014
Spar Cave, not far from Elgol on Skye, was visited by Sir Walter Scott 200 years ago. Sadly, the many Victorians who followed him chipped off souvenirs of their visit and so most of the stalgmites and stalactites within reach have gone. Nevertheless, it's still a spectacle worth seeing. Access on foot is difficult and is cut off except at low tide. Although you'd not drown, a 12 hour wait to get out again is certainly not appealing, especially if that turns out to be in the dark! Lighting in the cave has to be taken with you, and there's a lot of water dripping from the roof so keeping your camera dry is a problem. In fact, if you look closely, you'll find a couple of blurs where I got water drops on the lens and didn't notice until it was too late.
I'll not be taking any but the most agile and adventurous to the cave but I thought you might enjoy a glimpse anyway.
30th June 2014
Back to my new favourite spot for sunsets: this place just keeps on giving! I wanted to check how it photographs with a lower high tide - there's a remarkable range of tide heights. While there, I thought I might as well try another shot. This time I've processed the foreground with a different white balance to try to bring out a more natural colour for the rocks.
17th June 2014
A few days ago we had almost clear skies forecast for sunset, coinciding with a high tide. Let me tell you that tide forecasts are a whole lot more reliable than weather forecasts! In fact we got 100% cloud cover. Undeterred, I visited a nearby location that has interesting rocks which I felt would look great at high tide. The light was useless but at least I got to see some of the potential. The next evening, which was supposed to be "overcast", gave us a lovely sunset and the tide was still high at the right time. I think I'll give up with weather forecasts and just look out my window instead.
There are several good shots to be had at this spot. The unusual rocks in my photo below appeal to me as they make me think of Neolithic boats moored up for the night.
It's amazing how quickly the water level changes so having a good idea of what you want when you arrive is handy. I've never seen photos of this location so I'm pleased to be able to add it to my growing list of less well known spots on offer to my workshop guests - places that workshops run by non-resident photographers will miss.
Within sight of the location above is another great spot. Both can easily be photograhped in one visit. Again, a high tide is needed to make the best of it, and there are many choices of angles and composition. I need to return to these rocks for high tide at sunrise as I believe this should give some great light to bring out detail in the foreground. Watch this space.
Of course, sunrise at this time of year is pretty anti-social, being at 4.30am. At least this location doesn't need an hour's drive to reach it! At the moment sunrise coincides with low tide so I'll not be dragging myself out of bed at 4am just yet.
As well as early sunrises, we have late sunsets, currently at 10.15pm but it remains light long after that. As I'm typing this, it's 10.40pm and there's still enough daylight to see clearly. In fact, it never gets completely dark. At midnight, on a clear night, you might just see a star or two.
31st May 2014
We've had some dull, wet, and cold weather this month so getting some warmth in the past few days has been a welcome change, even if the midges are out in force in the evenings. It almost feels like summer has arrived! The paddle steamer, Waverley, has been cruising around the Western Isles since Wednesday and I took a couple of opportunities to photograph her.
The Waverley is a truly elegant old lady and she fits beautifully into the picturesque surroundings of the Western Isles. I had two viewpoints I wanted to try, though it was impossible to get shots from both on the same outing. Fortunately she was around for a few days so I got the shots over two days.
My favourite angle of the Skye bridge was one choice, though I knew I'd have to be wary of the incoming tide. In fact, I set up on the rock you can see in the foreground but the water rose quickly. After all my preparation, I had to move at the last minute, got a bit flustered and nearly missed the shot! Lesson learnt I hope.
The other view I wanted was from the bridge. Sadly there was no occasion when the Waverley would pass under the bridge without the sun at her back, so the head-on shot was never going to work that well. However, the double wake from the paddles made a great feature in the shot from the other side of the bridge. I might not have been able to get the shot I most wanted but I probably got a better one instead.
Perhaps next year I will run a photo workshop based around the Waverley's visit.
9th May 2014
An evening at Eilean Donan Castle seldom disappoints. In this case it had to take the place of a planned dawn shoot for the following morning as the weather forecast was so dismal. As it turned out, the forecast was absolutely right so it was definitely a good call and we were very happy to photograph the castle at dusk instead.
20th April 2014
A trip to Ord for a late spring sunset turned up something quite different - a rather interesting "lone tree". In the evening light and against a cloudless blue sky (which looked like it was not going to help our sunset!) this tree with its twisted trunk was much more interesting than what was going on behind us.
A monochrome version was just begging to be tried, so I found a different angle and used the graduation across the sky as an interesting backdrop for the delicate branches.
I suspect this tree will work best when not in leaf but it should prove an interesting subject in any season. I'm just not sure if the road to Ord will be driveable in winter conditions! I think snow-chains might be a worthwhile investment before trying that.
As the sun sank towards the Black Cuillin mountains, we headed back to the shore to some grassy knolls for some foreground interest. With almost no clouds to enhance the sky, I decided to catch the moment just before the sun dipped below the horizon to get that little starburst effect from a point of light seen through a small aperture.
It's not a great shot but I've included it to illustrate why we concentrated so much on the tree.
30th March 2014
Some abandoned boats I've had my eye on for about a year finally tempted me to investigate how they would photograph at high tide. In fact it was a very high tide and when I got there they were totally submerged! I had to wait for about an hour while the water dropped ...and the light went. I had wanted a long exposure but hadn't planned on getting a 30 second exposure without any ND filters!
24th March 2014
An attractive derelict building close to Broadford pier tempted me to photograph it with the flowering daffodils, now growing wild, in front of it. This version has been altered to monochrome but with the daffodil heads returned to their proper colour to make them more prominent. I've also applied a slight Orton effect to give a soft, almost glowing, feel to the image.
10th March 2014
One of Skye's iconic locations is the Fairy Pools in Glenbrittle. Understandably, it gets photographed to the point that on some days you might even find a small queue of photographers waiting to set up in one or other of the highly favoured viewpoints. So, I specifically set out to find something a wee bit different. This ledge of rock running across the full width of the river caught my eye, and I couldn't remember seeing another shot of it, so here it is. A quick search on-line has not yet turned up a similar shot. I'm sure another photographer must have seen it ...but maybe not! With Joe Cornish's name so strongly associated with that round boulder at Elgol, perhaps in years to come you might be calling this Deemac's Ledge :o)