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A BIRD IN THE HAND AND A BIT OF SKYE

A long-awaited photography workshop to the Isle of Skye with ASPECT2i was scheduled for early December but more on that to follow.

First, what of that proverb: ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’? According to one internet source it means …… ‘it’s better to have a lesser but certain advantage than the possibility of a greater one that may come to nothing’. A bit long-winded perhaps but at my age I should know this saying to be true; unfortunately one of my failings (say I’m on a long journey) is that I simply want to get to my destination as quickly as possibly with as few stops as possible. And so on Monday 5th December I took the journey north to the Isle of Skye and chose to (albeit stupidly) ignore the many photographic possibilities presented to me along the way, such as: enchanting frost covered trees only a few miles from my home;  snowy sunlit hillsides in a glen near Loch Laggan and best of all, mist eerily skimming the surface of Lochs Lochy and Oich in the Great Glen. I could have stopped at least half a dozen times but regretfully I didn’t; in retrospect I could have kicked myself.

Monday had been such a calm, beautiful day; the last of such as it turned out. Paul Gallagher, our workshop leader, later described conditions during the 4 day event as being ‘slightly challenging’; however, I wouldn’t go so far as Paul but just say they were ‘challenging’ lol. Although our time out in the field was considerably curtailed by heavy rain and strong winds, Paul ably assisted by Michael Pilkington more than made up for the unfortunate weather with some very useful post-processing and photo critique sessions back at the Hotel. The learning curve continues!

Someone recently commented online saying that ‘everyone goes to Skye’ presumably meaning that images from there are becoming somewhat clichéd; but I don’t care. For me the jewels in the crown of this workshop were Tarskavaig Bay and above all Elgol; and I’m pleased to say all the images, clichéd or otherwise, are unique to me. The moody weather, while difficult to work in at times, positively added  to the Skye experience; and hopefully I’ve managed to bring this feeling to life in my keeper images. Please feel free to comment on the post should you wish.

Finally, remember the lesson …… never ignore ‘a bird in the hand’.

 

file processing journey

part of the file processing journey

Why does it always seem as if the wind, and the rain it carries, come from the direction one is shooting towards; and that the lens and any attached filters are continually becoming splattered with rain drops despite one’s best efforts to keep them dry?

It may be of interest to consider these un-processed RAW file images; seen on the left and middle. I really thought I’d managed to capture a clean file with the 2nd frame; and by preference I had also used a polariser here to cut reflections on the surface of the water. On later inspection, I was dismayed to discover that the middle distance was badly smudged by rain drops and thus lacking in clarity and contrast. I therefore decided to blend the middle distance from frame one (which itself had water damage in the top third) to create the 3rd file (right) seen here following a bit of early processing. By the time I had made my exposures, the cloud formation had cleared from the top right leaving an ugly patch of featureless sky. No doubt this will be frowned upon by some; but I then took the liberty of doing an Edit – Transform in Photoshop to move part of the cloud and so achieve a better rendition for the top right-hand corner. The end justifies the means and before anyone asks, no the image will not be entered into any photo competitions!

lochan | Sligachan | Isle of Skye

lochan | Sligachan | Isle of Skye

Here is the finished photograph; I quickly discovered that it was a real pig of a file to work with but as I’d spent way too much time at this place, I was desperate to pull something out of the bag. In the end I’m rather pleased with the shot; I think it says a lot about Skye.
1 sec @ f/14  ISO 200  Nikon D810 with 24mm f/3.5 Tilt + Shift lens

 

reeds | Sligachan | Isle of Skye

grass tussocks | Sligachan | Isle of Skye

Moving on, I stumbled upon this lochan and gained some respite from the wind and rain now coming from behind me. The background was less satisfactory but the warm tussocks of grass dotted over the lochan were the main interest in the scene. Then it was back to Portree for a chance to dry the gear and enjoy a welcome cup of coffee. Not the most productive of mornings!
1/5 sec @ f/14  ISO 800  Nikon D810 with 24mm f/3.5 Tilt + Shift lens

 

Tarskavaig Bay | Isle of Skye

Tarskavaig Bay | Isle of Skye

Paul may be a ‘Scouser’ but thankfully he knows promising Scottish locations like the back of his hand. The tranquillity of Tarskavaig Bay in the extreme southwest corner of the Isle of Skye was a welcome relief after the trials and tribulations of the morning at Sligachan. In the afternoon we were able to explore the fascinating rocky shore of Tarskavaig Bay under a wonderful moody sky and for a short time at least, to stay dry.
6 sec @ f/14  ISO 64  Nikon D810 with 45mm f/2.8 Tilt + Shift lens

 

Tarskavaig Bay | Isle of Skye

Tarskavaig Bay | Isle of Skye

1.6 sec @ f/14  ISO 64  Nikon D810 with 45mm f/2.8 Tilt + Shift lens

 

Tarskavaig Bay | Isle of Skye

Tarskavaig Bay | Isle of Skye

2.5 sec @ f/16  ISO 64  Nikon D810 with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens @ 70mm

 

Tarskavaig Bay | Isle of Skye

Tarskavaig Bay | Isle of Skye

4 sec @ f/16  ISO 64  Nikon D810 with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens @ 130mm


Elgol | Isle of Syke

Elgol | Isle of Skye

Without doubt, Elgol is the crème de la crème and is one of the most desired photo locations in Skye with its spectacular view northwest towards the jagged peaks of the Cuillin Hills; also the shoreline of boulders and striated bedrock provided powerful lead-in foregrounds as shown in this series of images. I actually across the famous ‘Joe Cornish Boulder’; the round boulder featured on the front cover of Joe’s book ‘FIRST LIGHT: A LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHER’S ART’. I can commend the book to anyone interested in the genre but I’m pleased to say that I managed to resist the temptation to photograph the JCB itself; that really would have been a cliché too far!
10 sec @ f/14  ISO 64  Nikon D810 with 24mm f/3.5 Tilt + Shift lens

 

Elgol | Isle of Syke

Elgol | Isle of Skye

20 sec @ f/16  ISO 64  Nikon D810 with 45mm f/2.8 Tilt + Shift lens

 

Elgol | Isle of Syke

Elgol | Isle of Skye

1.6 sec @ f/16  ISO 64  Nikon D810 with 45mm f/2.8 Tilt + Shift lens

 

Elgol | Isle of Syke

Elgol | Isle of Skye

I thought the tide was going out whilst I crouched behind this rocky promontory only to find the tide surging in behind me; a bit alarming so I didn’t hang around on this spot for long!
1 sec @ f/16  ISO 64  Nikon D810 with 24mm f/3.5 Tilt + Shift lens

 

Elgol | Isle of Syke

Elgol | Isle of Skye

I love the ‘S’ shape created by the white surf in this image, photographed from a higher (and safer) elevation!
2 sec @ f/16  ISO 64  Nikon D810 with 24mm f/3.5 Tilt + Shift lens

 

Elgol | Isle of Syke

Elgol | Isle of Skye

I’ve employed one of Paul’s top tips here; pressing the shutter as the tide begins to retreat and as the foam subsides slightly to show more detail. The tip works beautifully; thanks Paul!
0.5 sec @ f/16  ISO 125  Nikon D810 with 24mm f/3.5 Tilt + Shift lens

 

waterfall | Glen Brittle | Isle of Skye

waterfall | Glen Brittle | Isle of Skye

We had the best of Day Three at Elgol and I was loath to come away however the ‘Fairy Pools’ in Glen Brittle were on the agenda for the afternoon. I don’t think this particular location would be classed as the ‘Fairy Pools’ but I was happy to capture different aspects of this same waterfall in the gathering gloom and falling light levels.
6 sec @ f/16  ISO 64  Nikon D810 with 16-35mm f/4 lens @ 35mm

 

waterfall | Glen Brittle | Isle of Skye

waterfall | Glen Brittle | Isle of Skye

The shape of this waterfall reminds me of a set of organ pipes; I also love the mini flanking waterfall on the left-hand side!
0.8 sec @ f/11  ISO 800  Nikon D810 with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens @ 80mm

 

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