Three Days on the West Coast of Scotland. February 2022.

Video

I had a very brief journey up through Glencoe to the Isle of Skye and back down. Three days that took in every type of weather you could imagine. I thought a wee slide show told the story better than a single image. Omer.

Glencoe To Skye

Capturing Time.

Isle of Harris, West Coast.

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.

Long Time No Sea: Western Isles, July 2021.

Beach at Borve, Harris.

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”.

Omer.

Pittenweem Again

Pittenweem Harbour

Pittenweem Harbour

A grey but fun day exploring the East Neuk of Fife again.I wanted to go back and reshoot this little beacon at Pittenweem with a long exposure. I like the composition but will need to go back to try again with better light and weather. Once again I was so focused on the camera that I didn’t even notice the seal poking around until I looked at the images on the computer at home.

Isle of Harris Beach Scene

The scourge of digital photography is the “costlessness”of pressing the shutter release. Excuse the invention of a new word for this. This is a case in point. I took about 10 images of the same scene. I like them all. They are all my babies. Then I have to pick a favourite. Film was easier (…is easier if you’re Bruce Percy…) I guess as you had a single chance and that was it. Perhaps film was harder as you had to be sure of your intention and timing. After much pacing around and squinting at the 10 this was the one that won out… For today.

For the large version please click on the image in gallery page 2.

Stormy Beach, Isle of Harris

Stormy Beach, Isle of Harris

 

Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year: Winning image in seascape category

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.

For a larger version see gallery page 1.

Cows at Laig Bay, Isle of Eigg

Cows at Laig Bay, Isle of Eigg

The Empty Landscape

portencross pier with lichens

portencross pier with lichens

Like most people I enjoy looking at interesting portraits as well as images of people interacting with each other and with the world around them. We are social animals and endlessly fascinated by each other. Consequently most people don’t find images of empty landscapes compelling. I sometimes wonder, having made an image, “Is there enough here to justify this composition?”.

I was having just such an angst on Portencross Pier the other night. The sun had gone down and the light was just stunningly blue and clear. I was standing there looking at the angle the concrete pier made relative to the horizon. Imagining a line from my feet to the distant horizon and the complementary angles that would be formed where those line meet. I imagined the construction worker many years ago marking out the lines on the concrete when he was going to cut the slots to allow the water to drain through the pier. Carefully cutting with his still saw to achieve those straight black lines. I enjoyed the complimentary colours of the blue sea and those yellow lichens and then it dawned on me that the lichens grew in a zone along the edge of the pier but no further . Why? What was different about the habitat in that zone? No idea and still can’t work it out.

There is an uneasy feeling in these empty, long-exposure images where man-made structures protrude into the natural environment. A sense that the landscape, even the man-made landscape does not need us any more. We are the ephemeral element here whereas the landscape is relentless and unyielding. It is full of interest if we look for it. There is beauty in the geometry and the maths, the natural and the constructed if we look for it. Without the distraction of people the empty scene started to tell its own story.

Camerwork: Canon 5D mk3, 63 seconds as f/11, ISO100. 3 stop hard grad on the sky and 3 stop ND over entire frame.

St Monans Breakwater

Image

St Monans Breakwater

Good day out on the east coast with Niall and Joe. This great looking breakwater hides behind the harbour wall at St Monans. The stormy weather and tidal surge created some nice water movement and moody sky.
Camera work: Canon 5Dmk3, ISO50, 1/4sec @f/16. 17-40L lens at 21mm. 3stop ND grad on sky and further 3 stop ND grad over entire frame. Lens cloth working furiously to clean the sea spray off the front.

Balance and Weight

portencross sunset small cloud

Portencross Sunset with Small Cloud

Technical: canon 5D3, 17-40 lens at 20mm, ISO100, 2″@f/16. Lee filters on the sky.

Conditions: slight breeze at sunset with a gentle swell on the water.

I can’t make up my mind about the balance of this image. There is a diagonal that goes up to the small cloud and seems to balance with the small rock lower left. It’s bottom heavy. Perhaps a square aspect ratio but then those nice lines in the rock are lost.