Photographing in Scotland: Getting the best light for your photographs

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Friday photo time, this time it’s a holiday snap. Maybe not a snap as such, but it’s from one of my many sailing trips. This was by far the longest and most memorable trip though. You see unlike a lot of my photographs which are usually of other peoples’ boats, the small yacht in this picture is owned by my wife, Kirsty, and me.

“Pixie” (the boat) is not actually that small, she’s a 32 foot long Sadler, after sailing on her for three months she didn’t feel small to us at least. OK once or twice when we were caught out in a blow, on our trip from Portsmouth around Scotland, she did feel small. But the waves around us were big!

She’s a great yacht and she’s looked after us well. The trip around Scotland had many highlights and many low points, this was by far one of the highlights. It was taken in Kylesku in the Scottish highlands, it might look remote, and to all intents and purposes it is, but behind me is the Kylsku Hotel and a handful of houses. The Kylesku Hotel is a pub/restaurant/hotel which serves a excellent food, we enjoyed a great locally caught haddock and chips, and as you can see the views were stunning.

We had spent the day anchored. Past the headland on the right of the image, it opens up to a long inland loch, surrounded by mountains without another sole in sight. Most of the trip had been a conflict to get to Orkney, while enjoying the adventure, this day was a day of relaxation.

The weather wasn’t always great, we had engine problems along the way and needed a new cylinder head/alternator/head gasket along the way, the usual running repairs one has to accept with a “mature” engine. But that day was different because the weather looked stable for the next few days and we were only a days sail from rounding Cape Wrath, the north west corner of Britain. So the day was spent doing nothing at the head of Loch Beag, one of only a few “do nothing days” during our three months afloat.

It was mostly cloudy when we anchored for the night off Kylesku, but there were patches of sunshine breaking through as we rowed ashore, so I hoped for a few nice shots. I kept popping out in between courses waiting for the setting sun to appear, all to no avail. Returning to the table with a few more midge bites to show for my efforts. Only on pleasant evenings ashore were the tiny wee rascals about to make it unpleasant. The best description I’ve heard for midges is “teeth with wings”, and on that warm evening with little breeze they were out in force. Imagine taking photos while any bare skin is repeatedly pecked with a pin! It was only through a liberal application of Expedition 50 that I was able to keep my sanity while photographing that evening.

As we were finishing our haddock the low sun in the west started to break through the clouds, illuminating the Pixie in the dramatic scenery of Sutherland. The sun only broke through for a few minutes, before the hill behind the hotel (and me) cast its shadow over the water and onto Pixie.

Photography is all about capturing light, sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes you’re not. But you really do have to make hay while the sun shines, because you never know how long it will last.

If you’d like to find out more about our trip from Portsmouth to Orkney the blog of our tip can be found at yachtpixie.blogspot.com

 

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