Photographing on the Isle of Harris
My three weeks spent weeks photographing on the Isle of Harris and Lewis, Outer Hebrides in October have been perfect. The weather was kind to me, photographically speaking. Plenty of rainbows, dramatic skies and wild conditions that I love for my seascape photography.
I arrived to find the type of day that I dream of for taking photographs. I drove down to Horgabost beach expecting to go for a swim and thought the weather would be a washout photographically. But as soon as I stopped at the car park I saw ahead a beautiful rainbow complete with shafts of rain lit up by sunshine on the far hillside. Completely unprepared I grabbed my underwater housing for my Fujifilm XT3 and made sure it was ready for the water, packed it with my Fujifilm GFX and 32-64 lens, and ran down to the shore. I would normally have kitted myself out with a wetsuit and snorkel, knowing I may be in the water for sometime. But no time for that, I was already wearing a swimsuit so that would have to do – rainbows don’t wait. A few quick shots on land and I ran through the spongy strange red seaweed on the shore and waded past it in the water. The water was warmer than you might expect after the initial shock and the delight of being in the sea only builds. A few moments later the best of the rainbow had passed by and so had my cold tolerance.
After a quick warm-up and hot drink at Talla Na Mara, I saw a good wave forecast and headed down to Scarista beach. The skies were not so good so using the first hour to get to know the beach and the waves were a good use of time. As the sky darkened I moved closer to the water’s edge and captured some images of the moving waves, swashing back and forth. The usual mistake of getting too confident at the shoreline meant my wellies were also swashing about an hour later. As the rains came and looked to be non-stop, I decided to call it a day. A beautiful memorable shoot. It took all evening to dry everything out including myself but I was very happy to finally sit to dry and warm up with an evening meal at the end of it!
Spent driving to Lewis to drop my son off at the ferry for his journey home. A sunny, calm day and a beautiful drive. I also realised that in my need to think of a million different scenarios packing-wise when leaving the house, that I had not considered the drop in temperatures and that sleeping in a van in October can be cold. I only had a very thin summer duvet with me and none of the usual pile of blankets I have on the bed. So I made a diversion to Stornoway town and purchased a new duvet and chose a rather nice pale green cover as well. You know that wonderful feeling of snuggling down into a new duvet? Well, it made my night ahead particularly lovely – an added bonus.
Waking up after a night in the van spent listening to the torrential rain and wind shaking the van about. There’s actually something cosy and soothing about being indoors when the wind is whipping. A chance to rest for the day maybe. Let my chest pain dissolve, feel rested and caught up on sleep after a busy few weeks.After a dozy morning, I needed to stretch and decided a swim was in order – if you are going to get wet then you may as well be in the water. Heading down to Horgabost, the red seaweed was still strewn around the shore, it was deserted as the wind whipped through the dunes and the skies swung between threatening and non-existent as the rain swept across. The most beautiful thing was the seagulls swooping low on the water nearby, battling to fly against the wind. It is always incredible how you can feel perfectly at ease walking in a swimsuit back to the van in such conditions after a swim. The remainder of the day was spent luxuriously between reading, sipping hot water, cosied up with hot water bottles in delicious silence, listening to the wind rattle around me.
Incredibly as the evening drew in, the skies cleared and the wind died down. Always on the alert for clear starry sky images, I checked the forecast and realised that there may be a chance of northern lights. Even though I was already tucked up in bed, all warm and ready to sleep, the draw of photographing starry skies is just too much to resist.So as I was already parked in a place where I knew from experience I could photograph the sky, I got my kit together and simply went outside and took a couple of test frames. What I saw in the second frame was a huge green glow of the aurora. So I recomposed and continued with great excitement shooting the aurora. The clouds sat firmly over the main part of the northern light activity but greens and reds in the sky spread considerably over so I could still create some images of the aurora. An incredible evening which topped of my few days on Harris alone. The next day I began my journey up to Lewis to get set up for the Hebrides photography workshop based at Lews Castle in Stornoway.