A week on Skye
The Skye Photo Academy
The photographic highlight of March this year was a week spent at the Skye Photo Academy, in the village of Uig, under the able direction of Marcus McAdam. I had long wanted to attend such a course and having previously visited Skye and being a fan of Marcus' photography, when the opportunity arose I jumped at it. It was a great week and I thought I would take time to write a little about the experience.
There were twelve of us, of a variety of ages and nationalities united by a love of photography and the great outdoors. In addition we had the expert help of three professional photographers: Marcus McAdam, Nick Hanson (this year's Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year) and Harry Martin. I can't speak too highly of the willingness and ability of each one to help us develop our photographic skills. They were always on hand to instruct and encourage - as well as to ensure our general well-being. The camaraderie was excellent, especially considering that apart from the three professionals we were all strangers to each other at the start of the week.
The weather wasn't particularly kind to us, but even when it was misty and wet there was always something we could photograph and something we could learn. We packed an amazing amount into the time and I don't think any of us had any problem falling asleep each evening! Accommodation in the Uig Hotel was good, the staff very friendly and the food excellent. Uig itself enjoys a spectacular location on the Trotternish peninsula, the most northerly part of Skye. One evening we were able to capture sunset just behind the hotel.
Each morning early, if there was any possibility of decent light, we were taken to a local location to shoot sunrise. Then, after a superb breakfast, we had a lecture on a core aspect of photography - such as composition. Marcus is an excellent teacher and I benefitted greatly from the instruction. In the afternoons we went out again and I appreciated the fact that great care was taken to ensure that we had an opportunity to experience a wide variety of locations and types of photography. As the week wore on more time was spent on individual guidance and tuition depending on the need: post processing, photographic technique, gear issues and composition. Thankfully we weren't subjected to group critique but there was ample opportunity for individual assessment and suggestions for alternative approaches. And there was a fun quiz at the end to test (gently) what we had covered during the classroom time.
Harry Martin, always cheerful, keeping an attentive eye on what we were doing.
For me the week served to do a number of things. It gave an opportunity to focus on photography in one of the most beautiful places in the world. It helped to fill in some of the gaps in my photographic knowledge. It allowed me to explore different kinds of subjects, with professional guidance where needed. I met a great bunch of people. And the experience inspired me to keep shooting!
It was a long drive from Glasgow airport but the scenery along the way was simply stunning - between the downpours! I knew I would be too late for sunset on Skye so I stopped at Eilean Donan Castle on the way, just a few miles before Skye Bridge, to catch the last light of the day.
Uig is close to the famous and other-wordly landscape of the Quiraing. It is very like the landscape around Binevenagh, in Northern Ireland except on a much larger scale. Here are a number of the photos I took on our early morning visits.
There is a bit of s story to the following photo of the Quiraing. I was busy trying to compose my shot, on the tripod in very strong wind, when I noticed Nick Hanson racing across my line of vision. As I stood up surprised, he swooped low to the ground like an eagle to snatch a photography bag that was about to disappear over the cliff. My photography bag! So I can proudly boast that the Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year saved my photographic bacon! Thanks Nick!
There is a little bit of everything on Skye, one reason it makes such a fabulous location for photography. It has mountains, rock pillars, waterfalls, castles, lochs, lighthouses, rugged coastline and wildlife. Some of it is only accessible to the super fit and agile - which I am not. But I did manage the climb down to this beautiful waterfall.
We spent an afternoon at Tallisker Bay, an amazing place of rocks and black sand. As the tide came in the challenge was to capture some of the patterns of the water amongst the rocks without getting soaked!
Skye is also famous (or notorious) for its dramatic weather. This was certainly the case the afternoon we visited Duntulm Castle. Squall after squall swept past, blowing over my tripod on one occasion (thankfully my camera was in my hand at the time) and snatching my hat on another - Nick yet again coming to the rescue! It was a challenge keeping lenses and filters dry - as well as keeping upright! But it certainly made for an exciting afternoon's photography!
As the final squall swept by the low cloud cleared just enough to reveal the outline of the Isle of Harris in the distance.
Skye takes its name from an old Norse word meaning 'cloud island'. Low cloud and mist are frequent visitors and yet they bring with them their own photographic opportunities.
The mist slightly hampered our boat trip in search of sea eagles on the final morning, but it was still so worth it to capture my first sighting, let alone photograph of these magnificent birds.
The week raced by and soon it was time to head for home, an opportunity to savour the experience and dream of returning again to this most beautiful island. One thing had been missing during the week: the opportunity to photograph the Cuillins. They had spent most of the week shrouded in mist. But on the journey home, the mist relented, a little sunshine pierced through and I was able to pull into a handy parking area and capture a few final photographs.
A brilliant week!
If you would like to improve your photography or even just to have a great experience of photography on Skye, I encourage you to check out the Skye Photo Academy at Skye Photo Academy - Marcus McAdam Photography I also encourage you to check out the superb photography of Nick Hanson Nick Hanson - Landscape & Wildlife Photography and of Harry Martin Harry Martin Photography
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