Gneiss, shores & moors: Harris & Lewis photography workshop
"Islands can throw you off course; they are places of the unexpected and that is part of their appeal. It is particularly true of the Hebrides. They disrupt the best-laid plans, sabotage the most cherished fantasies and offer the most startling – and seductive – surprises. They demand pragmatism and cheerful adaptability of their inhabitants. Islands don’t lend themselves to grand plans and big theories – the weather is too fickle." from Love of Country, Madeleine Bunting
The Isles of Lewis and Harris offer a wonderful variety of scenery and subject matter for the photographer, with rugged cliffs and sea stacks, white sandy beaches, impossibly blue seas and windswept moorland; and sometimes, the most incredible display of light and colour! Then, of course, there’s the jewel in the crown - the remarkable stone circle at Callanish… It is a truly awe inspiring place; also excellent for fine tuning one’s compositional skills and, unlike so many ancient sites, it is genuinely accessible, with no ropes, barriers or signs preventing a great image
Sunrise and sunset are at reasonably civilised times during the time of year we visit - but the days are still long enough to fit in a really good and varied itinerary. Near to our base are the wonderful sandy beaches of Harris, lined with gorgeously textural marram grass dunes - whether you enjoy your wide vistas or your intimate landscapes and detail shots, you will love the beaches here. The colour of the sea has to be seen to be believed - arguably at its best on a more overcast day, whilst, on a calm and sunny day, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d landed on some tropical island! Dip your toe in the water, though, and reality soon sets in! Typically, we will spend the majority of our time on Harris, but with at least one day on Lewis.
The west coast of Lewis boasts some wonderful cliffs and sea stacks, as well as a number of beautiful sandy beaches. There’s a good chance of crashing waves to help us capture some dramatic scenes. As well as the astonishing main stone circles at Callanish, there are two further smaller circles well worth visiting. There are some wonderfully situated, abandoned crofts on the Isle of Lewis. Further inland, on both islands, we will also spend some time photographing the hills, moorland and lochans, with the grasses and reeds a lovely colour at this time of year, offering potential for both abstract and landscape images.
We will be based in a lovely and comfortable hotel in Tarbert on Harris, giving us reasonably easy access to Lewis in the north, as well as the sandy beaches of south west Harris and the lunar landscape of the Golden Road to the south east. Our workshop is designed to offer a balance between visiting a variety of locations, learning the technical skills you require and looking carefully at creative interpretation of a scene.
We will experience the ever changing light and colour at dawn and dusk, as well as learning how to get the best out of the light at all times of day. You will undoubtedly see some great vistas but we will also be concentrating on the smaller, more intimate details to be found within the landscape - looking at ways of capturing our surroundings with more abstract interpretations, helping you to get out of your comfort zone and try a few different techniques and approaches to photographing this wonderful shoreline.
This location photography is then developed during our digital skills sessions where we will show you the fundamental techniques required to process your photographs, including exposure blending, using layers and masks and how to work efficiently in both Lightroom and Photoshop. The emphasis is on encouraging group discussion and lively debate between all participants and we will also use this time to look over and review some of the photographs from our outings.
This has proved a very popular part of our trips, as it helps take the photographs shot on location through the digital darkroom, ready for print or web display. Lizzie and Alex will share their processing tips with you and are also on hand for support and questions post workshop. We believe this strikes a good balance between shooting on location and practical help with the necessary post production side so that you can leave with a wealth of new knowledge and skills to compliment your photography out in the field.
Our workshops are very much informal in style - we like to work with our group to ensure we give you the best possible experience and are flexible in our approach to ensure you have a fulfilling and rewarding workshop. The Outer Hebrides do take a little getting to but you could not ask for a more magical place to visit! You could always extend your visit to include some of the other islands - a day or two on Skye either side of the workshop would be one super option! Again, please consult and we will help you work out your best option.
This is a Tripod Travels workshop - running in conjunction with good friend and super photographer / teacher, Alex Hare. Alex and I have thoroughly enjoyed working together for several years now and I’ve included a link to Alex’s website here. Also, for more information about my approach to photography workshops, please have a look at this page. If you'd like to see a few testimonials from previous clients, then please look here.
How do I get there?
Getting to Harris involves either a ferry crossing or a flight from Edinburgh/Glasgow/Inverness to Stornaway (about 1 hour’s drive from Tarbert). Ferries go from Uig on the Isle of Sky to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris, but also from Ullapool to Stornoway on Lewis. Each year we designate a flight for which we will do a pickup from the airport, and drop off at the end of the trip. We will email you the details once flights are available and we have worked out the best option - we will also advise what time we all meet up at the hotel. There is a bus service between Stornoway and Tarbert if you wish to arrive or depart at a different time/date. Typically we pick up around mid afternoon on the first day and drop off late morning on the final day - however, this can vary as flight times change.
What should I bring?
A camera and a selection of lenses - ideally covering ultra wide angle to telephoto. A spare camera if you have one and/or a small compact camera or smart phone. Tripod, spare batteries and memory cards. A laptop if you possibly can - it's really worth doing so for our processing and review sessions.
Good walking boots and clothing for any kind of weather. Comfortable backpack and waterproofs for you and your gear. If you have room for wellie boots, ideally with a good grip, then they would be useful - but not essential. There is a possibility of midges inland on stiller days, so you may want to bring a repellent - Smidge is said to be one of the better ones.
Water bottle and thermos flask would be handy as we are often out for much of the day with only limited access to shops and cafes - there will be an opportunity to stock up on snacks, though. If you are partial to a particular type of tea, then you might want to bring your own provisions!
What level of photographer does this workshop suit?
Photographers of any level are welcome - whether a beginner or with many years experience. With a small group of only nine participants, and two tutors, there will be more than enough opportunity to cover everything from the basic skills of landscape photography (if required) to more advanced, creative techniques. We are there to give you as much help as you would like.
Can I borrow a Lee filters kit?
You are welcome to borrow/share a Lee filter kit - including big stopper, little stopper and ND grads. Please note this is at your own risk, although we've had no breakages to date! Please ask in advance and advise of the filter ring sizes of any lenses you may be bringing.
How much walking is involved?
Most locations involve a relatively short walk from the car, although some of the beaches are quite long and so be prepared for a wander across sand, dunes and sometimes rocks. A couple of possible locations involve a walk of around 2 miles (there and back) on reasonable terrain.
Where will we be staying?
We will be staying at the excellent Harris Hotel on the edge of Tarbert. This is just a short drive/walk from the ferry terminal. We have a large breakfast (included) and evening meals (not included) at the hotel each day. We tend to grab a sandwich and/or snacks as we go - many do not want a proper lunch after such a substantial breakfast - however, the hotel can provide a packed lunch for £7 if you wish.
How much hand luggage can I bring on the flight?
If you are flying, please do check the luggage limits with Logan Air. Usually we find they do allow a larger and heavier bag for hand luggage than the limit would suggest - however, this is not guaranteed. If the flight is full and there is not enough room, they may insist on putting your gear in the hold - our understanding is this is done at the time of boarding the plane and your bag is handed back to you on landing - so there should be no problem.