A journey through Isle of Skye, part 2/2

July 25, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

I here narrate the second part of my photography trip with my friend Sander to Isle of Skye, Scotland, that took place last May 2018. If you missed the first part, you can read it at: https://www.julienbeyrath.com/blog/2018/7/isle-of-skye

So here we are...half way through our week on Isle of Skye... with some decent shots, but an overall feeling of frustration. Partly because of the weather conditions, partly because of our too big motorhome that hampered us to stop wherever we wanted, and I believe also because of serious sleep deprivation. It was end of Day 4, around 11pm, walking back from the Fairy pools to the parking lot. Our original plan was to stay here overnight to capture the next sunrise, but we didn't feel like it. It was time to break the pattern. So despite the need for sleep we decided to drive to the old man of Storr! 

Day 5: Sunrise at Storr, hike up and Sunset at Quiraing

We arrived at the Old man of Storr parking at around 00:30am. Not the only ones there, few cars parked, we could even see two headlights already hiking up to the Storr, that's a little early...or late. We will certainly have some company up there at sunrise. But for us it was now time to get some sleep. 3 hours later we were up again and on the path to the Storr. Tough wake up. Good that, as always, our clothes and bags were ready, so no thinking required. Just get up and go out, don't look back at your bed. Another photographer just parked when we were jumping in our boots, somehow you get this little (unjustified) competition boost and suddenly feel fully awake! It therefore took us only 40 minutes to hike up to the spot we had in mind. Here we met two other friendly photographers from Ireland who did camp right on the spot, they actually were the two headlights we saw hiking up during the night. Looks like they also had little sleep! 

But hey, what a scenery! Absolutely stunning. And what a difference from the conditions we had few days ago at the same place. Well, now we can actually see more than 25 meters ahead.... We still had some time before the sun would break through to set up our composition and enjoy the view. Always s special moment. Behind us a stunning view on the sea and Rona Island. I couldn't resist to abandon my post and capture it.

Sunrise on Rona, view form the Storr, Isle of Skye, Scotland, 2018Sunrise on Rona, view form the Storr, Isle of Skye, Scotland, 2018

The sun was about to rise, time to turn around and aim the camera at the Storr. Will the rising sun breaks through the clouds and hit the rocks to give the dynamic expected? It might or might not happen, we just need few seconds of it! Turns out, it didn't really happened. Don't get me wrong, we got some very nice light but the clouds were a bit too thick to let the warmest light hit the rocks. But still rather happy with the shot, even had some tents in the frame that give the image some scale, can you spot them (3)?

Old man of Storr, Isle of Skye, Scotland, 2018Old man of Storr at sunrise, Isle of Skye, Scotland, 2018

The key moment was passed and the light was not going to get better, so it was time to explore this splendid area. We spent another 2 hours in the surroundings before going back to the parking. Oh wait, sheeps! up here those should count as wildlife, isn't it?...oh yes, didn't I mention that? wildlife photography is definitely my first love. Can't resist. Just one shot, we had to move on, and also I was seriously starving (yes, again).

Old man of Storr, Isle of Skye, Scotland, 2018The guardians of Storr, Isle of Skye, Scotland, 2018

We were back at the motorhome just before 9am, and before anything we had breakfast. I think we killed an entire XL sized box of far too sugary cereals before some bacon & eggs. We ate like pigs. I guess we were simply compensating the lack of sleep with sugar. 

We then drove up north to Staffin, but not without a quick stop at Kilt Rock & Mealt falls viewpoint. A beautiful waterfall directly ending its course in the sea, quite uncommon. No cameras here, just enjoying the view and the sun. Sander could actually hardly keep his eyes open, someone needs a nap. In Staffin we parked at the campsite to recharge our batteries, both cameras and ourselves. Funny that we entered the campsite when all other tourists were leaving, different rhythms. 2 hours sleep and a shower later we felt like new men! 

Next destination is Quiraing. Based on my digital scouting, this was the area I held my biggest expectation. It was a little far to hike from the campsite, and we were told not to try to park up there with a motorhome. But the friendly campsite tenant advised us to drive to Flodigarry and hike from there. So a plan we had! Bags got a little heavier as we took the tent and other camping accessories in addition to the cameras. 

This was a lovely hike under the sun. Not exactly sure where to go. So many options. We took some time to climb up the "table" through some seriously steep slopes (I might have picked an unofficial path :) ), not helped by our heavy bags, but what a view up there! To my surprise this was a dead end, so we had the "chance" to climb down the same way :) We must have been very focused on where to put our feet because we realised afterwards that we had missed quite a nice photo spot with a view on the needles of Quiraing.

Hiking down the "table" of Quiraing

Time was running out and we still hadn't a single clue where we wanted to shoot the sunset. In those situations, the best is to go simple, so we walked in the direction of the most popular photography spot, close to the car park. The view along the path was stunning, but again the sky quite flat for photography, so we decided to stop for a little diner with a view :) It was also a relieve to put the bags down after almost 6 hours hiking. Pasta on the menu! 

Pasta bolognese with a view

We accepted that we wouldn't get any great sunset shots so we took this time to scout for sunrise spots, and finally stopped to set up the tent...not far from our Irish friends we met the same morning at the Storr. Did a few night shots and it was bedtime after quite a long day. Although we slept in the middle of a stunning scenery, I've had quite a horrible cold and humid night (took the wrong sleeping bag! what a beginner). 

Day 6: Sunrise at Quiraing, Puffins, and sunset at Fairy pools

Morning at Quiraing, not a bad place for camping

No need for an alarm clock that day, I was quite happy the night was over! But feeling exhausted. Anyhow, time to go back on the field. It was a beautiful morning...for normal people...but for us again a bit disappointing. Where are all the Scottish clouds??? I went to the spot I had in mind, set up a decent composition, waited for the optimal light, pressed the shutter and slowly walked back to the tent. Sander and our Irish friends were still busy there, but I was done, time for coffee. 

We packed the tent and headed up to the motorhome. Oh yes, I forgot to mentioned that during the evening our lovely Irish friends drove me to our camper so i could bring it to the car park next to the tent. So yes, we could have actually slept in there...but hey, tent was up and it was part of the adventure. Anyhow, tent was packed and it was time to eat breakfast and do a bit of planning. We decided to take the day to rest and do something different. What can be different than landscape photography? well, the answer is simple, it's wildlife photography :) We drove to Uig where we found a campsite to park and booked a boat tour later the afternoon to spot some puffins! We learn it was just the beginning of nesting season, so we should see some. After a little nap and a second breakfast we were on the boat sailing to the Ascrib islands. After 30 minutes we could indeed observe the puffins flying from their nest on the cliffs into the sea. Funny birds. Time to get the big bertha (Tamron 600mm) out of the bag! at least I didn't carried it all the week for nothing! it turned out to be quite challenging to shoot with a 600mm standing on a boat :) but at some point I managed to find the rhythm in my legs to compensate the movement of the boat. We really enjoyed this little break in our journey! 

Couple of puffins in their nest, Isle of Skye, Scotland, 2018 Puffin at sea, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Recharged, we were back on the road as we had decided to give another chance for a sunset at the Fairy pools. No need for scouting as we know the place, so we arrived there rather late to avoid the crowd, and I directly walked back to the same spot as two days before. Quick set up of the camera and tripod in the river, and time for diner in the field, always a lovely moment. Tonight the conditions were much better, sunset light warmer, some clouds, definitely something to do there. Felt pretty happy with that shot! 

Camera set up at the Fairy pools, you need to trust your equipment!iPhone 6 Yet another wild diner with a view!iPhone 6

Sunset at the Fairy pools, Isle of Skye, ScotlandNikon D7100, 10mm, iso100, f16, 1/3s

I packed the gears and walked back to join Sander who of course was still busy shooting, and seemingly looking for something in the water :) Just his camera cloth, nothing dramatic...as compared to our last trip in Iceland where I dropped my phone in a river in the middle of the night! We were entering the blue hour, so decided to stop at the most photographed waterfall of the Fairy pools to give it a try. Although the water level was super low and the clouds had turned a bit funny I still went for it. After an additional hour we went back to the motorhome and drove to...Quiraing!! Yes, this place also deserved a second chance! This time we drove directly to the car park spot on top and had a decent 3 hours sleep, luxury!

Day 7: Sunrise at Quiraing, Road trip, Sunset at Glencoe

Last morning on Skye, but same routine, short night, alarm at 4am, brain's still off, stand-up, dress-up, take the bag, go out, and look at the sky! Clouds are there, adrenaline burst, brain's on! Yes, but they are on the east side, opposite to where I planned shooting, plus they might not let the sun through...Well, nothing one can do about, so I just adapted and went the opposite direction and try to shoot in the direction of the sun. It was still before sunrise so could manage the wide range of light. Although the picture is not answering to all basic rules of photography I still kind of like it. At the end that what counts, that you like your own pictures, whether others share your appreciation is another question.

I then went back the other side for the originally planned shot. The sky was (still) not great but the view remained stunning! Tried a very classic shot (based on google hits) with one of the few trees as foreground, and then another spot we found the day before. 

Quiraing, Isle of Skye, Scotland, 2018Sunrise at Quiraing, Isle of Skye, Scotland, 2018. One of the most photographed tree in Scotland :)Nikon D7100, 20mm, iso200, f14, 1/25s

I would like to spend more time here to explore this amazing area, but it was our last day on Skye so I'll just have to come back another time. It is already decided, next time will be during winter season! 

Our flight was only tomorrow, but to split the long drive to Edinburgh, we decided to drive now to Glencoe area, also a photography hotspot. We passed by the Old man of Storr which was still in the clouds. We knew the sky would clear up soon so decided to stop and use a waterfall as foreground to shoot the Storr needle in the clearing sky. We actually spend two hours there waiting for the moment the needle will appear out of the cloud, observed by curious and puzzled tourists that could understand what we were photographing. Well not much actually, the clouds eventually cleared for few seconds but the result was disappointing to me, so nothing to display here...

Back on the road with 2 hours delay on the plan, we finally reached Glencoe area, but where to go? Too many options as usual, so we went simple and picked the spectacular Buachaille Etive Mor mountain! If you are an experienced rock climber you know what I am talking about! We had time to scout, so slowly hiked up the river to find a good foreground with the mountain in the back. Again the water level was extremely low so a lot of apparent rocks which made the foreground a bit busy. But we can be stubborn and with a bit of experience we both found a spot we liked. Great, we knew where to go for the sunset. Back there 2 hours later, we were blessed with a bit of nicely shaped clouds on top of the Buachaille. Just time to set up the camera, once again dangerously hanging above the water.


Camera set up at the Buachaille Etive Mor, Scotland. Always double check your camera is properly attached to the tripod!iPhone 6 Buachaille Etive Mor, Glencoe, Scotland, 2018Sunset at the Buachaille Etive Mor, Glencoe, Scotland, 2018Nikon D7100, 10mm, iso100, f14, 1/8s

This turned out to be the last shot of the trip (and maybe my favorite) as we skipped the next morning. Yes, shame on us, but after a quick look at the (flat) sky early morning through the roof top we decided to skip the last session and sleep a bit before the drive back to Edinburgh...

So that was it, a bit of mixed feelings during the trip, maybe due to the weather conditions and lights not as we expected. But at the end I'm still quite happy with some of the pictures. And most importantly it was yet another great adventure during which we learned a lot and gain even more experience for the next trip! Hopefully sometime I will be able to share it with other passionate photographers. 

I could write a long list of "do and don't" based on this new experience but I will restrain myself and just focus on the most important aspect of such a trip, i.e. the person you travel with, or not! I have the chance to travel with Sander (www.sandergrefte.com), who share the same interests and passion with me, and despite the short night sleep, the weather frustration and being 24/7 together, all went so easily. We motivate each other and kind of synergize to get more out of the trip and the photography experience. Because let's be honest, if I had been on my own I would certainly have skipped some sunrises :)  So no doubt we will go on with another photography adventure in the near future, so stay tuned! 

Cheers, Julien

PS: More pictures of this trip can be seen in the portfolio section.


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