Harris & Lewis Workshop


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Cheapabhal, South Harris with a blanket of cloud.
Cheapabhal, South Harris with a blanket of cloud.


Cheapabhal, South Harris with a blanket of cloud.


I am just back from an inspiring week in the Outer Hebrides on the Isles of Harris and Lewis with the very talented lead Photographers Doug (Singalong) Chinnery and David (Best Worst Joke Teller) Ward. I thought I would write a blog/pictorial diary of one of my best weeks, in photography terms.

This was an opportunity that only became available to me a few weeks before. When someone had to withdraw from the trip it left a place available which, after frantically consulting with work and my very understanding, beautiful wife to see if it was possible, I jumped at and quickly made plans on how to get there.

Never one to miss an opportunity I checked ferry times from Uig, Skye and realised I could squeeze in a sunset at Elgol, Skye before driving and sleeping at Uig then getting the 5.30am ferry to Tarbert, Harris, our base for the week.


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A muted sunset at Elgol, Skye.
A muted sunset at Elgol, Skye.


A muted sunset at Elgol, Skye.


The ferry crossing was unseasonably calm and it came into Tarbert just as the sun arose above the horizon to light up the rolling mountains enclosing the very small town and port. I had a few hours before the rest of the workshop arrived down from their flights to Stornoway, Lewis. So I went off to try and get some early shooting done. I had browsed over maps of the area but nothing too in-depth so this ended up being very much aimless. I did stop for the occasional side of the road shot of the views or details around the many small Lochans that litter the east coast but eventually gave up and headed for the hotel to freshen up before everyone else arrived.


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Looking over East Loch Tarbert where I had just came in on the ferry as the sun slowly rises.
Looking over East Loch Tarbert where I had just came in on the ferry as the sun slowly rises.


Looking over East Loch Tarbert where I had just came in on the ferry as the sun slowly rises.


The troops all arrived on time and we made our introductions before quickly heading off to start the exploration of these wonderful Isles. The two minbuses split the group into two groups of 7 each with it’s own expert leading the way. Their knowledge not only of everything photography but of the secrets of Harris and Lewis was to prove invaluable. Immediately we went south and west to a beautiful little sandy beach lined with huge smooth granite rocks which would allow the rising tide to envelope in almost slow motion. I was dressed for northwestern Scottish weather but we were basking in warm autumn sunshine which in some ways was not ideal but pleasant all the same. The occasional cloud would dot the blue skies to remind us it was not a tropical island we were on.


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Traigh Lar, South Harris with some unseasonal warm weather.
Traigh Lar, South Harris with some unseasonal warm weather.


Traigh Lar, South Harris with some unseasonal warm weather.


This was a great little ice breaker where we wandered around looking for detail in the sands under the still small pools of water while looking over some of the most beautiful coloured water you will ever sea. David and Doug were offering their expertise to everyone while getting to know each of us at the same time. It was my first time meeting David but I had been on a previous workshop with Doug earlier in the year in the Cairngorms. Both are fountains of knowledge and will help you in any way they can and never make you feel stupid or incompetent no matter the level of question, which is exactly how it should be.

From here we moved just around the corner to the well known Traigh Sheileboist or just Seilebost as its better known. Another stunning beach looking out towards Taransay and sharing its sands with the humungous Luskentyre. This was to be our first sunset, and what a beautiful sight it was. Personally I think the long two days and lack of sleep etc had caught up with me and I kind of lost my way with capturing the image I would have hoped for but I just sat back for a while and watched the sky and colour change as the sun got lower and lower before dropping down behind the horizon to end a spectacular first day on Harris.


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Looking west towards the sunset from Traigh Sheileboist, South Harris.
Looking west towards the sunset from Traigh Sheileboist, South Harris.


Looking west towards the sunset from Traigh Sheileboist, South Harris.


The second day threw up more traditional weather in the morning with driving fine rain moving quickly across the island. This allowed us to have a bit of a lie in and have a civilised breakfast before heading out. With the wet weather in mind David lead us to St. Clements Church at the very south of Harris near Rodel. We could shelter here while shooting the interior until the rain moved through.


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A window in the Tower of St. Clements Church, South Harris.
A window in the Tower of St. Clements Church, South Harris.


A window in the Tower of St. Clements Church, South Harris.


The rain had started to lift leaving fast moving low cloud rolling across the surrounding hills and mountains which allowed me to get a glimpse of what would be expected as the traditional view from the local cottage windows.


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Rodel House, South Harris
Rodel House, South Harris

From here we went around the corner to Rodel Hotel which overlooked the old harbour and would be our stop for lunch. It appear deserted until we entered only to be followed by many more customers who must have had this place earmarked for a food stop. A lovely meal was had and we were glad to find that the sun was now trying to pierce the fast moving clouds as they lifted and allowed some wonderful light to sparkle across the water and land in fascinating patches. We took this opportunity to spend half an hour exploring the harbour and the new light before moving on.


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View across Loch Roghadail from Rodel Harbour.
View across Loch Roghadail from Rodel Harbour.


View across Loch Roghadail from Rodel Harbour.


As we gathered in the car park to move on I got chatting to David. It was here that I was to see first hand what it is that makes him stand out from the crowded world of photography. All be it a small thing but to see him ‘snapping’ with his iPhone in amongst some wet Montbretia and producing an image with such detail and colour that he’s best (but not only) known for was inspirational to say the least. Needless to say I scurried in with my D810 and Zeiss 25mm to try and emulate what he had so callously captured on his iPhone 4, to no avail I may add.


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Colours of Montbretia, a Western Isles Wildflower.
Colours of Montbretia, a Western Isles Wildflower.


Colours of Montbretia, a Western Isles Wildflower.


Back in the vans we headed north east to Lingura Bay where we were introduced to our first deserted crofts, 2 of many that litter the countryside of these islands. We were to visit a few on this tour but an individual blog post might be the best way to tell their story better. So we walked the path that would have been walked for years by the inhabitants of these now skeletal homes. Lined with wild moorland shrubs, streams and Lochans it seemed an arduous task that must have been undertaken each day by the crofters in the traditional changeable weather that would have been thrown at them. The first croft was literally a shell, with the roof and furnishing gone for what seemed like years.


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Lingara Croft Shell
Lingara Croft Shell

The second was less derelict and was strangely found to have some of the home comforts that would have eased the hardship of life here. It was doing its best to crumble into nature, along with the few sheep carcass that littered the interior.


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Looking through the window of a Lingara Bay deserted Croft house.