When clouds convert to mistthat sitson the sea’s surface,the mind relies on memoryto add the lines of islands,the rise of distant hills.
The deserted beaches of the Isle of Harris, on location is not always as tough as it sounds. Some days you might be out there in driving rain, sitting in the car with the windows steaming up and others, you might be on a beach like this.
Harris has to be my favourite destination come rain or sun, the colour of the water is mesmerising and always different depending on the day but that green, that intense aqua colour, that is just heaven. I remember the first time I saw it, I was on a long island hopping trip with my closest friend Carole, who introduced me to the islands. The weather was sunny and the sheep and lambs were wandering all over the place, the air was crisp and clear and filled with bleating. As we came off the ferry from Leverburgh and travelled up the south end of the island we came over a small rise in the land to see the vista of aqua/green of the waters around Northton. Small islands of marsh grass were dotted with sheep and the water of the area round Scarista Beach were simply unbelievable colours.
I have spent many trips there over the years. Below are a few of the thousands of images I have collected. At the bottom of the post you can see the place that I stay in when I visit, the B & B run by Leona and Norman, they have a holiday cottage I intend to use as well as soon as it is free of visitors!
On a day when there is snow on the hills you simply don’t expect to see water and beaches that look like somewhere in Hawaii, do you?
Standing at the top of a cliff on a remote island I can only wonder at how lucky I am to live where I do. Up here at the north end of Skye we have views all around that emphasise the remoteness of our little island. For miles and miles all you can see and hear is dominated by water, sky and wind. From here we have a view of other tiny islands like ourselves, Raasay, Rona, Eilean Fladday, Staffin Island and Flodigarry Island are just off the coast towards the East, Harris, Lewis and the string of smaller inhabited and uninhabited islands that make up the Outer Hebrides lie to the North. I remember as a child I had a long trip home from school by underground then bus. In Winter, as I got off the bus and trudged the twenty minute walk up the hill, I passed my time looking at the brightly lit windows, where lives were being lived. I wondered what happened in their space, were they looking out at me as I was looking in at them?
Looking from Skye at our nearby companion islands, I have the feeling that we are communicating in some way, there is a beautiful, silent and mysterious dialogue going on.
There are days when you can see for miles across the tops of the islands to the mountainous ranges of Assynt and the Torridon Hills on the mainland, and there are days when you can barely see the outline of our sister islands in the mist. At the moment I am intrigued by the small strip of water between us and the islands Raasay, Rona and the tiny, now uninhabited islands, Eilean Fladda (Flat Island) and Eilean Tigh (House Island) and Eilean an Fhraoich (Heather Island). It is hard to imagine, but families once lived here long ago, moved onto this harsh terrain during the clearances; perhaps that is why there is a sense of mystery swirling around these lumps of rock in the mist. The light plays tricks, the islands lie far away in the distance one day and so close the next, that you feel you could reach out and touch them, feel that rugged rock and touch the heather on the hills. In the mist you can barely make out the shapes as they float between sky and water.
The sunny days and blue skies we had in September and October have gone, the warmth and clarity they brought to the view will remain a memory for some months now as we head into November. But, that is not to say that the change is unwelcome. There is nothing more exhilarating than standing on the clifftops on a blustery day in the Winter months trying to capture your emotions and a sense of drama as the islands appear and disappear in the clouds. If you are lucky enough to see the sun split through early morning mist then you are rewarded by a sight that few are enjoying as they are tucked up in warm beds or complaining about the weather.
The words of the wonderful poet and fellow islander Mavis Gulliver strike a particular chord.
From One Island to Another
there is nothing
to show there’s land
across the sea.
When clouds convert to mist
on the sea’s surface,
the mind relies on memory
to add the lines of islands,
the rise of distant hills.
When mist drifts and lifts
the outlined islands,
shapes of distant hills
emerge like wraiths
like shadows of themselves,
until sun scalpels through,
reveals each detail,
against a blue so clear
the miles of ocean
seem to disappear
and I could walk
across the water.
With permission from Mavis Gulliver First Published in ‘These Islands, We Sing’
Ed. Kevin MacNeil, Polygon, 2011. You can find more of her wonderful poetry in Waymarks her latest volume of poetry newly released by Cinnamon Press.
One of my all time favourite photographers is David Bailey; among his many interviews I really enjoy this short one by Sarfraz Manzoor for the Guardian. In 8 minutes Bailey manages to touch on loads of fascinating topics – How to be creative in a world that wants the same old thing time after time? What is Art and why is there a perception among some that photography is not Art? What influences our photography and is ‘stealing’ ideas from other great artists acceptable? It’s a wonder how he packs it all in!
“I bet Michelangelo thought, ‘shit, not another ceiling!” David Bailey
What I love about Bailey is that he just tells it straight, Continue reading “Rare Species: Art? Photography? Everyone gets lumbered with a label!”
Delighted to announce that I will be speaking at the Societies’ annual convention in London in January, it’s Europe’s largest photography convention. I am in great company as some really famous photographers will be there!
The Societies include photography in every genre – Wedding and Portrait, International Fashion and Glamour, Travel and Tourism, Commercial, Industrial, Sport, Leisure, Nature, Wildlife, Media, Press, School and Events…..somewhere in there I fit in with my Landscape photography….not quite sure where though as this will be my first time.
My topic will be
Have you ever noticed that there seem to be far fewer women in landscape photography than men? Why is that? While there may have been reasons for gender bias in the past, are those same barriers preventing women from joining in nowadays? Things are not quite so imbalanced in other genres of photography like portraiture and wedding, so, do women prefer the more social types of photography or are we just afraid of getting out there in the wild?
“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart”
Although Wordsworth was talking about poetry when he said “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart”, I think this is such a great way to think about photographs. If you were to be cast away on a desert island, and had to choose a few possessions you could take with you, what would you choose? I bet many of us would choose our photo collection – and it probably wouldn’t be our transient digital collection from Facebook or iPhone but those old photos from the shoebox in the attic or under the stairs. Our connection to our roots, to the people we love and to the places, art and history that make up who we are, is through images and the stories they bring with them; those little bits of paper and ink are so much more than the sum of their parts. Continue reading “Printing your Photographs? Why bother?”
The Quiraing, Isle of Skye, Scottish Highlands
Yesterday we had snow again and some pretty dramatic lighting, it’s hard to imagine sometimes that we are at the end of April. Took this just after sunrise when the light was filtering through the clouds, the 20 second exposure and a bit of a breeze gave me some drifting cloud and added to the mood. An hour later and the sleet heading past my window was horizontal!
Recently I spent my day in the car driving to Oban then travelling down to the little port of Tarbert before getting the ferry back home (6 hours in total!). It was a pleasant drive and Pip loved playing with the ball on the beach but the tide was in instead of out, the light was too strong and when I checked my bag I had only packed one half used battery. In the end I came back empty handed in terms of photos.
GOING OUT ON A PHOTO SHOOT?
Photography is all about the light. You can’t control light but you can give yourself a better chance of getting a decent shot if you make sure you are in the right place at the right time with the right gear!
Here are a few mistakes I have made over the years Continue reading “Going out on a Photo Shoot? Plan ahead!”
Here are some of my favourite quotes by Georgia O’Keeffe to take you through a few of my lyrical abstract prints – these look amazing in the enormous 40 x 60 inch sizes when you can fill a whole room with colour!
“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way… things I had no words for.” Continue reading “Lyrical Abstractions – The Poetry of Flowers”
The Amazing, Inspirational Georgia O’Keeffe
Photography and Painting – The Alternative Realities of the Female Artist
I just finished reading the story of Georgia O’Keeffe (How Georgia became O’Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living by Karen Karbo). What a fascinating story! What a life! I was amazed to see so many parallels to the world of female photographers. I would love to know your thoughts on this topic so do feel free to comment.
Georgia was strongly motivated by colour as many female artists and photographers seem to be, myself included. She was also influenced by modern photography Continue reading “Rare Species? – Alternative Realities of the Female Artist”