Skye Revisited

Skye Revisited

Back in the 1990’s I became known among my London clientele as their local Scottish photographer! I’m not sure why this was but, as I always enjoyed a trip north I never questioned it.

Maybe it was because no one further north than me ever trawled around London with their portfolio. Maybe they thought Lancashire was next door! Who knows!

However, I got to make regular trips to the mighty landscapes and visited Skye on at least four occasions. On my last trip there, some 25 or so years ago, I stood on a remote beach after doing a garden shoot for Woman and Home magazine and promised that I would return for my own purposes one day. That day came in February 2019.

I remember standing on a particularly beautiful wild beach on the south western coast, overlooked by the Cuillins and thinking how I must return right to this spot. Unfortunately I don't have the original image easily available but here's a shot I took from the exact same spot. I was amazed at how nothing had changed, yet my life was unrecognisable. I even have a grandson!

My time on Skye began on a roadside where I found an interesting loch to work with. Reedbeds, a conifer plantation and distant peaks made for an interesting set.

As the day wore on and darkness loomed I drove the width of the island to a place I'd spotted on the map. Elgol looked like it would give me a great outlook over the coast to the Cuillins as the sun set. I didn't realise it had been visited and photographed countless thousand of times before.

I had the location to myself for a good three hours until the light failed and the rain drove harder and harder off the sea. A storm promised to make landfall soon after dark so I headed back to my car. A local who was walking his dog in the evening dusk remarked how I was so fortunate to have the place to myself.

Here's three shots that evolved from that time. Due to the rain I could only shoot in one direction.

It had been my plan to camp during my stay on Skye and I'm so glad Nicola persuaded me otherwise. At the end of this, my first few hours on Skye, I was soaked through. I left home in the very early hours in order to say hello to the island before bed and was relieved not to be bedding down in a tent. I mean, how the hell would I get my clothes dry!

So I headed to the 'garden room' that I'd booked on the outskirts of Portree and found sanctuary, wifi and warm radiators. All I could need.

Day One

The following morning I woke to rain and drizzle but felt no choice other than to follow my plan to find the Old Man of Storr. The mist was thick, drizzle and rain curtained in from all directions making it impossible to keep my front element dry. Stupidly I'd forgotten to bring my waterproof camera cape so had to use my cleaning cloths and bandana to keep some of the moisture from my camera. Fortunately it survived.

The shots were heavily water spotted, but do accurately catch the feel of the place. Here's a handful.

The weather conditions robbed the landscape of any real contrast or colour and I had to work them quite hard in Lightroom to reclaim some of the atmosphere and connection that I felt as I wandered around the place.

Here's an untouched RAW file which you can compare with the processed version.

Following on from several hours spent here I drove to two other locations including the lighthouse at Neist Point but the weather was just too bad. I couldn't easily open my car door at the Point, the wind was so strong. 

Once again I was glad to have my garden room to retire too after a long day. After drying off I played with few images before seeking out a local pub for tea and a beer.

Day Two

The Fairy Pools were calling me so I set off, again in the rain, to see what I could find. For some reason I found the pools difficult to shoot, maybe it was weather related, however the mountain buttress that overshadowed them was quite mystical and drew me to it's black hulk where I caught several images of both the buttress (Bruach na Frithe, of the Black Cuillins) and the nearby corries.

I returned back to my accommodation quite pleased with my day. The rain had abated for a short while and I felt a very real pull to book in another trip to the Fairy Pools in winter again.

In Conclusion

On my final morning I found my beach down at Ord, as above and then after shooting in the neighbouring forests began the long drive back to Lancashire.

I did some quite drastic processing of some of the images when I got back to base. Below are some of them. On the whole the images are quite flat, lacking the drama I was hoping for. However I always stress the importance of working with the prevailing conditions and making the best of what we have so I stuck it out.

For some reason, maybe the glamour or history of Skye, I felt I had to return home with shots that caught the Island. In retrospect I wish I'd taken more time to simply shoot what was in front of me, what spoke to me, what captured by attention in the moment rather than chasing 'honey pot' locations. I still have lots to learn.

I've not made anything of this project as yet however I plan to turn my attention to it before this winter is out. It's needed to ferment for a while.

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