03 Apr 2015

Exploring the Western Isles

Earlier last month I ran my Outer Hebrides landscape workshop on the Isles of Harris and Lewis. I don't normally run this workshop so early in the year....and I may not do so again! We had some very nice conditions and some good light during the first part of the trip, but later in the week some extremely stormy weather arrived which left us stranded on the islands a day longer than planned due to all the ferries being cancelled! Initially I was keen to capture some stormy seascapes, but I soon realised that this wasn't going to happen as the wind was too strong to stand up in never mind take a sharp photo! The ocean swell wasn't that big but the water was very turbulent, causing white foaming water to fill all the bays along the west coast, which is never great for coastal landscape photography. Nevertheless, we managed to take some really nice shots during our time on the islands.

There was plenty of dramatic light and frequent wintry showers passed over!

In the early part of the week it was cold enough to snow, even on the saltmarshes along the coast

We were kept very busy for the first few days as the light was great all day long. It was cold and we had many snow showers. These passed through quickly with clear sharp light in between - perfect for photographing these beautiful islands.

The sea spray was constantly blowing into our lenses here, making long exposures rather challenging!

As usual when photographing seascapes in windy conditions it was essential to keep checking the lens for spots of sea spray - especially when shooting into the light. I prefer to use a normal Kleenex tissue (not impregnated with anything like Aloa!) to wipe the lens first - often with a spot of ROR lens cleaning fluid. The tissue absorbs any moisture (which a microfiber cloth will not). I then use a clean microfiber cloth to polish the lens and remove any dust left behind by the tissue. I've used this technique for years and I've never found that the tissue scratches the lens or glass filters.

The Butt of Lewis Lighthouse at night illuminated by the full moon

The Isle of Lewis has some very dramatic coastal scenes

We had a couple of attempts at photographing the famous Callanish stone circle. First at night illuminated with a torch and then the images you see below taken around sunrise one morning.

A lone sheep sheltering from a winter storm

The windswept sand dunes at Luskentyre looked great in the stormy light

Towards the end of the trip we explored a lighthouse close to our base. Although the lighthouse tower itself is well maintained the buildings around it was falling into disrepair, which made for some interesting shots. We waited until dark for the lighthouse to come on for the final long exposure shot.

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