In our series of recommended places to photograph we are looking at locations that have inspired photographers to create great work. The Isle of Skye in Scotland is one such place.
The Isle of Skye features beautiful mountains, varied coastline and the tantalising prospect of catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights (aurora). The light can be truly spectacular and the landscape can be rugged and wild. It is a great destination for landscape photographers but is also popular for dramatic pre-wedding photoshoots with couples travelling across the globe with their photographers.
If you are interested in landscape photography then you will most likely already work with a wideangle lens. This can be a good choice for many locations, enabling you to give a feel of depth and space, taking in the huge views. However, I would strongly recommend that you also take a longer telephoto lens if you can. The compression that a telephoto lens can give to the perspective gives another option for photographing distant hills and mountains. You can bring the distant skyline closer and give a view that is hard to see with the naked eye.
So far I’ve only been once but it made a great impression on me. We were there in winter, though thankfully not battling with snow! We did see quite a few rainbows. But that, of course, meant that it rained a lot. However, with some creative thinking it was possible to make some interesting images using the rain. With distant showers approaching, they almost formed a kind of texture layer over the hills. A telephoto lens helped get the shots and then I processed the rain quite strongly to enhance the feel. It certainly gives a different mood!
A big advantage of heavy rain showers is the contrast you get in the clouds and the pools of light on the landscape. Yes you get wet, but it is worth it for some lovely scenes.
There are several key spots on Skye that are very well known and worth a visit. One of these lies at the feet of the Cuillins, which themselves are beautiful. They looked majestic with a dusting of snow in the winter when we were there. There is a series of mini waterfalls and pools known as the “Fairy Pools” that you can walk alongside and there are many photo opportunities there.
At the other end of the island the “Fairy Glen” looks like a landscape from the surface of an alien planet. There is a series of small hills all clumped together that makes them look like a small scale model of a mountain range.
Other common tourist and photography hotspots include Neist Point, the Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock Waterfall, Coral Beach near Dunvegan, the Quiraing and (although less for photography purposes…!) the Talisker whiskey distillery. Although you can just about fit in most of the sights on the island in a week I would recommend longer or 2 visits if possible.
One of the reasons we went in winter was with the hope of seeing the Northern Lights. The longer dark nights of winter make it more likely that they will be visible. The Isle of Skye is quite far north so gives you a reasonable chance if the Aurora is very active. There is very little light pollution on the island, especially if you are in a cottage outside of the main towns. This makes stargazing and astrophotography much easier. We enjoyed looking up at the stars on a clear night and I had a play with some star trails images too. The camera managed to pick up the northern lights as you can see from the photo. This was a 30 second exposure, so it could see them better than was possible with the naked eye. No real colour was discernible in the sky by eye. There was just what looked a little like a light mist. It was only when I checked the camera I saw the Aurora! Make sure you take your tripod and a wideangle lens if you would like to try photographing the night sky.
I hope to go back to Skye some time and re-visit various places and see new ones. Beware that it can be very busy in summer apparently and I’ve also heard that there can also be rather a lot of midges (flying insects that bite!) in the warmer weather. If you would like to see some more of my images from that trip set to some great instrumental music by Dave Brons then I invite you to watch the video below with your sound turned up.
© Joe Lenton, May 2018 (all images & video copyright with all rights reserved)