Technical: Canon 5D4, 17-40L @ 17mm, 1 second @ f/14, ISO 100.
This one-second exposure captured the flow of water away from the camera back out into the sea. Not everyone is a fan of these long exposures but, for me, it tells a more accurate story of the landscape. It’s how we actually experience the landscape rather than the frozen image of a short exposure time. To capture this type of image you need a tripod and neutral density filters and a remote shutter release. That may seem a bit more trouble than it’s worth to some! I find it a very relaxing and enjoyable process. Consider where’s the best view point to bring all the elements together, what height the tripod should be, what attitude to set the camera at, get the filter holder onto the lens, work out the strength and type of filter you need, place it correctly, work out the exposure, wait for the perfect moment, release the shutter. A few minutes of total focus and creativity. Capture time in the waves and a little bit of time to myself.
Every time I go back to Lewis I am simultaneously happy and worried. The bond we form to the place into which we were born is enduring. The intensity of childhood experience and the memories we form in those early years are especially strong. As I get older, I worry that someday I will get off the ferry and feel like a tourist in an unfamiliar place. Happily that day has not yet come. I still have a better mental map of Lewis and Harris than the area where I now live. Every road and corner, the town, the castle grounds, the beaches are all still connected to those strong childhood memories. I recall who had chickens on the steep hill behind the main street in Tarbert, who I played with on what beaches, what it felt like to bush walk through the rhododendrons in the castle grounds, balancing on the sewage pipe to get across the river at Bayhead and on and on. A storm of memories around every corner.
Some things do throw my sense of place off balance though. The Scalpay bridge does this. Probably due the huge scale of the bridge coming up against those strong memories of going over to Scalpay before the bridge existed. It feels like the present and the past refusing to co-exist in my conscious mind. I wonder why this might be. I like change and I don’t like pointless nostalgia. I get that from my father who was always looking for the next thing to do in business and even in retirement at the age of 83 he’s still ripping out flower beds and starting from scratch. His philosophy was simple: If change gives people work and jobs then it’s a good thing.
So why does the my mind refuse to be impressed by the Scalpay bridge? I think it’s because I have a memory of Scalpay to which I attach entirely unreasonable importance. I used to spend the summer holidays helping Iain, the carpet fitter who worked for my dad, lay carpets all over the island. One job, on Scalpay, was on a particularly gorgeous summer day. I was sitting with Iain on the back of the Luton van listening to the Beatles on a portable cassette player eating a sandwich, looking out over this peaceful landscape while Iain puffed away on his roll-up. It sits in my memory as a moment of total peace and happiness. I wonder if the bridge is a reminder that that moment is gone forever, never to be experienced again. As a good friend once said to me: “Shut up, you hippy”.
I was delighted that my image of cows having fun on the beach at Laig Bay, Isle of Eigg, has been selected as the seascape category winner in this years SLPOTY competition. It’s the first time I have entered a competition like this for a few years and I am thrilled that this image was appreciated in this way. I understand from the administrator of the competition that there is a blind judging process (to avoid bias towards photographers with an established reputation) with a few hurdles to cross before the winning image is awarded. I am humbled to see so many photographers I already admire on the commended list and the portfolios of images by the overall winner and runner up are just stunning. Check out SLPOTY.co.uk.