Skye 2019: Part Ten
24 June 2019
After such a long day, I ended up just staying parked up at the foot of the Old Man. It was gone 11pm, dark, and I hadn’t plotted an overnight spot to stay, where I had made a spur of the moment decision. This meant I needed an early start to vacate. So at half 5 despite my tiredness, I roused myself, made a quick breakfast and left so that I wasn’t imposing on anyone. Today I was aiming to go to Elgol. but before I left this area I really, REALLY wanted to try and get a dream shot at Lock Fada… literally just down the road. This may be my last chance, I mused, as so far the weather hadn’t been especially helpful in getting my shot from any loch and I wasn’t sure how many more days I might be able to stay on this break. The sky had a light high cloud, but I hoped for, dreamed of, a sunrise shot, with smooth water, stunning reflections maybe a perfectly placed rock or two… Oh yeah… the works please.
Today, however, was NOT going to be that day.
I arrived at the spot, and was a little disappointed to realise that there wasn’t going to be any colour because the high cloud was building fairly quickly and basically just whited out the sky. A second disappointment was that the wind was dancing about all over the surface of the water, so my glass like reflections were not going to happen either. The third issue disrupting my plans? Summer + water+ Scotland = Midges (I keep forgetting this!)… oh, and a fourth. tiredness. This all mixed together to form a highly entertaining view of a grumpy, plump, older lady cussing the camera, the wind, the light, the boats, slapping herself every two seconds, feeling frustrated, totally inept, chronically unable to think this thing through and eventually, just stomping off with the biggest frown on her face imaginable, leaving a few colourful words floating around on the air behind. Oh today was gonna be a corker… I could just feel it!!!
Basically my issue was simple, there was quite a strong breeze blowing across the water. This caused a few problems… mostly that I was completely unable to get the glass like reflection of the boats on smooth water. I tried a long exposure shot to cheat the water movement a little. This might have worked if the boats weren’t blowing around and moving in every shot, spoiling the image. Then there was the constant tickling, distracting the addled brain still further. All I needed now really, was a full bladder to distract me completely and utterly… oh… wait… From start to finish, I barely spent half an hour here and then left. I was totally annoyed at my inept skills, questioning everything from my abilities (or lack of) to my whole life, and especially my inability to solve a simple problem or find a suitable alternative. It wasn’t even 6.30 am and I had the whole of the day ahead of me yet… Part of me wasn’t looking forward to this.
I cut my losses and drove back down the isle and headed towards my final destination Elgol. I had with me my self made guide book, and another one, a Fotovue guide to photographing Scotland that I had flipped through. In this book was a place that I was going to drive past, and that I intended to stop at en-route. The picture was of an abandoned cottage in front of a mountain, and I hadn’t seen one of these yet, so I really hoped to find and photograph it. Nearby was an old church too, so a possible double opportunity excited me. A few hours later finding it was fairly easy, so I started with the church, literally on the roadside with a car park right next to it.
As I walked around the site, I found it was standing in a awkward spot, on a bit of a hill that didn’t allow for the mountain behind to fit in the frame – nor anything in fact. The book had the church with the Milky way behind, but there was obviously no hope of that right now…and the cloud was still building, so avoiding just getting white sky was totally impossible. It just looked drab. I didn’t even get my mobile out. Disappointed yet again, and even more frustrated, I decided to try and find the abandoned cottage instead. The description I had noted on getting to the location was mildly hard to find, and as I have absolutely no sense of distance, I ended up feeling like I was just walking around lost on the Scottish Moors for ages… My distress just kept growing.
Then I spotted it, and the sight just lifted every ounce of tiredness and bad mood away. The cottage looked amazing.
With nature on its way to reclaiming it, it had small trees or shrubs growing up the walls inside, and grass all in the interior floor. I could see where an upper floor might have been, although I could only see windows facing the front upstairs. I saw two tall fire places, so tall that they obviously heated the top floor too, one each end of the cottage – clearly this can be a cold place at times! I noted a wall at the front just laying, near complete, across the whole floor. Had some strong winds just caught it at the right spot and pulled it down in one go? I tried to imagine a family maybe living here, the crumbled walls all around outside, maybe a smallholding for animals? I would have loved to have read something about the story of this place, but it was just in the middle of nowhere, completely on its own, its silent history blowing away with every hour that passed. Maybe I should have read the page before this one, in the Fotovue book… it did actually give a suggestion of what this house might be linked to. Later, on my return home, I discovered that this was, in fact, part of a marble quarry works for a very short period at the start of the 1900’s so maybe this was a workers cottage for them to have a break, or to meet and start the day. Did someone live here full time to keep a watch on the place for thieves I wondered? I would love to get back, and find the rest of the quarry, apparently still evident, with a small rail line used to transport the, then, highly popular, stone away. Lost in the magic of the place now however, I tried to photograph it in a way that would highlight its isolation, the thing that struck me the most. A little mist would have helped the view I feel… but on the moorland it still looked pretty bleak. Once the pictures were taken, I turned and my heart stopped.
Without me even realising, the mountain behind me had been slowly gathering a hugely impressive cloud, and as I watched, frozen on the spot, the cloud darkened, with huge great fingers clawing their way around the top of Beinn na Caillich. I didn’t quite know what to do, hold my spot, or, literally, RUN! This was surely going to bring some extremely unpleasant weather my way… possibly lightening… and out here, with no cover, standing here would most definitely NOT be the safest of places to be. Realising the length of time the walk (run!) back would be, I decided to hold my spot, and to photograph this instead. This was what I was out here for after all… using whatever the weather threw at me, right?! Part of me even secretly hoped that there would be a little lightening… (but only over there please…!)
The pictures looked amazing in the viewfinder, and after a short while it did indeed roll right over me, and downpour in the best possible fashion. It was a quick downpour, no thunder or lightening though, and the remainder of the black cloud just ended up fizzling out, and filling the whole area with a light misty drizzly rain the lower down the mountain it came. River and I made our way back to the camper. I felt a little invigorated by this experience, and looked forward to seeing what Elgol might offer. I was still physically exhausted however, so as the drive progressed, I felt its grip slowly clawing at my resolve to keep positive. I drove on past several really beautiful views, but with my main aim solidly set in my mind, and the clock ticking away now, I stubbornly refused to stop at any. I have no idea why I did that. to this day it confuses me. My single visioned determination to get there, had blinded me to all the possibilities that were flying past my windows, and in hindsight, that was a decision I sorely regretted