Skye 2019: Part Nine
23 June 2019
After the glorious sunny day at the Quiraing, it occurred to me that we may have an equally glorious sunset to match the one the previous evening. Added to the fact that there were still at least 4 hours to sunset, I decided on the spur of the moment, to try and get a shot from the Stor, and squeeze two big spots on my list into one day. Again, my lack of planning, and in fact, lack of understanding of the locations, really proved to be my biggest challenge. This visit to Skye was a good learning curve in a lot of respects. It seems to me that there are possibly two ways to do Landscape photography- In my situation, as the complete noob that I am, I was plumping for one of those ways…turn up and see what you get, react to the conditions, and be surprised. Possibly very pleasantly so. I suspect this is every beginners route, and its not a bad one to learn to react and just deal with the things being thrown at you. The other side of the coin is to plan a trip around all the details, you hope for. This can also work extremely well of course, although the weather, and other conditions, can always throw a curveball, and you may go to great expense in cost or time, to come away completely disappointed. Ideally you kinda want to utilise a little of both for the best chances, but I suspect that’s a skill for further down the line as I learn both aspects. In this instance, I had two different issues I hadn’t planned in…first one?..err…the sun doesn’t set this side of the island (kind of important really if you want a sunset shot!!) and two..a glorious day, doesn’t mean a glorious evening… BUT, neither necessarily means that its a completely wasted journey, because this isn’t just about the shot…its about the JOURNEY. Its the journey that gives a photo the meaning it has for you, the photographer, and hopefully in time, you learn to translate this to the viewer if you do your job well.
So I left the Quiraing with quite a bit of time on my hands, and headed over towards the Stor. On the way I made a quick pit stop at a location that caught my eye from the road. Lealt Falls. I spotted it because of the car park, literally on the roadside, and decided to have a look. I didn’t take my camera, as this was only going to be a very quick visit, and I left River resting in her bed. As soon as I entered the site I saw that there had been a specially made viewing platform. The first specially made tourist control thing I had seen here during my visit, other than the barriers at Mealt falls. It offered a nice view over the waterfall to our right, and certainly helped keep people away from the edge that pretty much led to a steep drop from what I saw. I personally found the top most big, horizontal, wooden bar on this platform, to be at a bad height for my not so tall frame, so grabbed a photo with my phone as best as I could over the top. (I tried under it, but it was just awkward, and a naff view) I doubt very much if it would be worth trying to get a nicer shot from here, as the position and heights makes it pretty hard to do so. I would love to know if it IS possible to get to the bottom of the falls however, as surely a shot from below would look awesome. After a quick wander around the rest of the site, I made my way back to the camper, and drove on up to the Stor.
I arrived at the car park, and then had the joyful experience of trying to coax a stroppy toddler out for the next walk. Well that’s certainly how River acted. Firstly she wouldn’t get out of the camper, choosing to hide her face with just her backside hanging out of her dog bed, then after the first drag out, she ran back in, hid at the back of the bed giving me an ‘I don’t wanna’!! eye, peeking out from the side mesh. Once I managed to get her out for the second time (camper door immediately closed this time), she crawled along at such an impossibly slow snails pace, that I felt very much like I was literally dragging a dead dog behind me (pretty much akin to all the best comedy sketches)
I got the hint… she didn’t want to come.
I left her with a bowl of food, water, a puppy pad by the door in case of emergency, and started the hike on my own instead, letting her have her way.
I started my walk up the Stor when the time had gone 6pm, and after about half an hour in, became rather concerned that there may be a problem with my self made guide book’s advice on timing. ‘The hike is aproximately 45 minutes’ said the note I had copied from somewhere. Yeah. Right. OK. Really? It became evident very early on into the hike that this was quite possibly not the case in SandyPlod mode. By 45 minutes into the hike it became clearly evident that this was definitely NOT true in my case, and that I was running a risk of missing any sunset. On top of this, I was only roughly aware of where the famed photographers viewpoint actually was. I pushed on nonetheless, my mind wandering over a number of things to keep it off the aching legs and breathless proof of my unfit state.
I had been here once before about 7 years ago, and thought I had walked through a forest at the start that time. There was no forest here now, and I had passed decimated stumps that absolutely broke my heart. At this point I had no idea what had happened to the trees or why, but the site looked ugly, and sounded dead. No birds sang, no animals scurried around me, no leaves rustled in the breeze… The breeze. There’s a cold breeze…I suddenly stopped focussing on the dead route and my physical tiredness, and looked up. To my complete and utter sadness I suddenly noticed the sky… at least 1/2 of it was covered in cloud, and when I followed the direction they were coming in from, there was a lot more coming.
Gutted, I realised that I had actually made it over 3/4 of the way, so had to make a decision. I chose to continue. You never know I mused… there might be a lovely glow from under the clouds that will look fantastic… I day dreamed my way through the next bit of the route. Hope is a nice thing sometimes. Sometimes.
Towards the last part of my walk I met a lovely lady from Singapore. We chatted as we walked, and she was incredibly interesting. At one point I mentioned to her where I was aiming to walk to, showing her a photo on my phone of the view I hoped to see. She loved the look of the sight and hurried off to the rest of her family who were at the rocks of the Stor itself, telling me she would see me up there. This encouraged me to keep going despite my growing disappointment at the weather. There wasn’t too much further to go I told myself… not much further…
As I climbed my last steps onto the viewpoint, the remains of my daydream fluttering away with my exhausted sigh of relief at having made this trip finally, and my realisation that the cloud had indeed come in much more. I was alone at the point to start, and was joined a few minutes later by the lady and her family. After spending time chatting to them, and laughing at the antics of the 3 teenagers, they had their fill of selfies, photos and funny video antics, and started to make their way back down again. I was left alone to enjoy this sight all to myself. The view, despite the weather, was everything I was hoping for. It takes your breath away, and I just soaked it up for a while before getting my camera out and snapping my first photo.
Shortly after, I was joined by another photographer, and together we spent the next hour just casually chatting, taking the odd photograph, offering each other advice (not that I had much to give), swapping stories and kit info, and getting all hopeful or excited together about how the cloud was looking, or how the light was reflecting on the water of a loch, or even… might we get a sunset??? I think this was one of just a handful of times I had ever experienced this kind of interaction with a fellow photographer, and it was the most joyous experience. It was peaceful, quiet, innocent and completely without any pressure or expectation. Both of us were fairly new to landscape photography, having come with a little experience from other places, so we were pretty much learning and enjoying the scene in front of us together. Moments of silence were understood without explanation, and the time went both quickly, and yet slowly at the same time, if such a thing is at all possible.
My pictures were not what I hoped for, and the dreamed of sunset, definitely didn’t materialise. Interesting cloud formations did however, and thankfully, no rain. Off in the distance way behind us, we saw a pretty pink sky, and as it gradually faded, clearly not planning to show here, my companion for the last hour packed his things away, and bade me goodbye. I myself followed shortly after, but instead of going directly down. I decided to walk closer to the Stor itself, and see what the shot might be like from there. I quite liked the view, so took everything out again, and took a few more pictures, just for the hell of it.
The light really began to drop now. it was gone 9.30, and estimating at least an hour and a half to get back down, I decided I had better get my backside into gear, and get off this big hill before it got too much darker.
In the end, the highlight hadn’t been the photos at all… they were far from the ones I dreamed of… but this reminded me that the simple experience of connecting with strangers, of working alongside another photographer, were all part of the experience. They had made what might have been a hugely disappointing evening, one that felt so warm and satisfying, and I arrived back to the camper feeling far from disappointed with my evening.
Tonight was most definitely not about the photo, it was totally about The Journey.
Oh, and I wasn’t in the dog house with River either…I was greeted with a yawn, a stretch and a happy waggy tail. Phew!