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November 2016

Hebridean Seascape


A trip to the Outer Hebrides

The journey to the Outer Hebrides started with a train journey to Glasgow followed by a bus to the airport to meet my companions on the trip.  I was picked up by the ever patient Guy Edwardes who had driven up from Dorset.  An evening in GlenCoe and an early morning romp around and we managed a few snaps of Buachaille Etive Mor before turning the car towards Skye and then eventually, the Uig-Leverburgh Harris Ferry.  Oh it's a long way to the Outer Hebrides!

I really want to go back to Glen Coe and spend more time around the Buachaille and Rannoch Moor.  The snaps that I took whetted my appetite for spending more time there.  I want to explore more and next time hopefully, I'll be luckier with the conditions.  Trying to make beautiful landscape pictures in dismal light or pouring rain with low visibility is impossible.  I have some nice reminders of places that I want to revisit. 

We called in to Glen Coe again on the way back towards Glasgow at the end of the trip and woke up to snow.  We only had an hour or so to take any photographs.  It was incredibly frustrating to have to rush back towards a train and leave such amazing conditions behind.

Oh, and I managed my first picture of Eilean Donan Castle on the way to Skye. I've been past this beautiful castle on about 6 occasions now and this was my first opportunity to actually take even a snap.  Previously the weather conditions have been even worse!  I hoped that I might strike lucky on my way back to Glasgow but it wasn't to be. Next time!

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The weather Gods weren't being particularly kind and every time we stopped at the Callanish Stones on Lewis, it was pouring with rain and really challenging.  The standing stones have an outer cruciform arrangement around a central stone circle.  Lots of opportunity for different angles and some creative interpretation... if it isn't pouring with rain.  Despite the rain, each time I visited, I felt quite uplifted by the sheer magic of the place.  Once again, I have a small series of snaps to remind myself to go back and hope to be more fortunate with the light and weather.  

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Harris and Lewis have their share of huge towering cliffs with rock arches, pinnacles and stacks which make fantastic sea/landscape shots when the waves are crashing around or over them.  If the wind is blowing at gale force the towering waves make for dramatic shots... but rely on the photographer having quite a head for heights and steely nerves. When the wind is strong enough to threaten to blow photographer and equipment over the cliffs, I am not exaclty in my comfort zone!

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One day, it rained so hard and the skies were so uniformly dark grey that derelict cottages became the order of the day.  There are large numbers of derelict buildings.  It's as if the occupants have one day opened the door and walked out, never to return.  I saw coats hanging on coat hooks and crockery in the sink.  Remarkably photogenic but quite disturbing in their own way.

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Luskentyre on Harris was probably my most favourite setting on this particular trip.  I remembered visiting there before many years ago  on the day after (niece) Tanya's wedding to Paul on the Island of Taransay.  I loved the beach.  I loved the dunes.  I loved the sea. Everything.  During severe hailstorms (!), I had to lie in the sand with my camera equipement covered in order to prevent myself being blown over.  It was that wild!  I loved watching the clouds and hailstorms blow across the hills on Taransay.

We found a dead seal washed up onto the inflow onto Luskentyre on our last evening on the beach.  Quite an exceptional opportunity to photograph the detail on the huge foreflipper.  Poor thing.  Sad.

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I think my happiest moments of this trip were spent experimenting with seascapes and the colour of mountains, skies and seas.  I think this might have been on Seilebost beach on Harris but I'm not sure.  The sumptuous colours of the images which include the distant snow-capped mountains and the turquoise and aqua of the sea was irresistable.  I have included too many of these seascapes.. but I like them!

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There are a lot of sheep in the Outer Hebrides!  In the pouring rain, the highland cattle and the Hebridean sheep with their impressive horns become a welcome photographic target.  I peered through the rain at the rams and they peered back at me... literally!  Some have such magnificent curls on their horns that they can't actually look straight forwards at you and use both eyes but have to look sideways to peer out of one eye!   
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The return through Skye on the early ferry meant that we were in time to get up to look towards the snow covered Trotternish Ridge and to walk carefully towards the Quiraing.  I really couldn't take advantage of this spectacular sight.  I still haven't mastered the technique of blending layers to combine into a single image in photoshop in a way that will reflect the glory of the scene that I saw.  Too much contrast.  Too many stops of light.  Then there was the problem of the walk to the Quiraing.  If Guy says that it's a very hard walk and that he won't know until he gets there whether it can be done or not because of ice on the scree, then I know that it's not a walk for me!  I pottered about instead and took some dreadful pictures of the scenes in front of me.  Guy climbed up behind the Quiraing and took an amazing shot before slithering down again.  Hey ho!  I accept my physical limitations and I'm really not that brave.  
We snapped the Old Man of Storr and just got to Elgol in the last of the light on our day on Skye before heading for Glen Coe. All a bit rushed.  Oh for more time!
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I don't think this was my trip.  I'll have to go again.  I'd like more time there to explore and be creative!  Next time, please can I have a few more opportunities for decent light and weather?
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I spent a lot of time developing a series of Hebridean Impressions.  I think that they are my favourite pictures from the whole trip.