Nine Months On Skye

13 December 2016

Although I had visited the Isle of Skye on several occasions previously, last August I visited the island again, to attend a one to one Pro Workshop with Marcus McAdam, someone who has an immense knowledge of the area, having lived there for over eight years. No matter what level of photographer you think you are, you can always learn from others; and I continue to book myself on workshops with other photographers, whenever possible.

The workshop I was doing with Marcus was split in to two sessions, one for sunrise and one for sunset, allowing me to get the best possible light of the day, what with days being so long during August. During the morning session we were chatting, and Marcus asked what I did for a living etc. At the time I was a web developer, something which was a means to an end really. I always wanted to work outdoors in some capacity, however never really did anything about it. During the evening session Marcus out of the blue, said that he would be looking for someone to join his team in 2016; and asked if it was something I would be interested in.

At that point, photography was simply a hobby for me; however something that I am passionate about, and to get the chance to share this passion with others, and to call somewhere like Skye my office was an offer I couldn't turn down really. Now, I was aware that this wasn't going to make me rich - that is not what it is about for me. Like I say, to have the great outdoors as my office, and to share my passion with others, that is what it's all about.

Over the winter months Marcus and I were in contact, discussing the ins and outs of my move from east Yorkshire up to Skye; and he kindly sought out accommodation for me, saving me endless 1000 mile round trips.

So, the day arrived, and on March the 5th I arrived in Portree where I would be staying for the next 9 months. Although as mentioned, I had been to Skye on several occasions previously, my first couple of months would be shadowing my colleague Harry on workshops, and getting out on my own, exploring the island further - finding my own spots where I could take clients to.

The weather and conditions were great in March and April with snow on the mountains, and more snow falling even in early April. I was able to get out and explore further, areas such as Glen Sligachan, and the Quiraing on day walks; and of course get out during sunrise and sunset to start building up a portfolio of my own images from Skye.

I was given the chance to start doing workshops by myself in April, with a diverse range clients coming from Norway, the USA, and of course the UK, and from beginners to pros wanting to be taken to the best locations which Skye has to offer.

May and June were quite busy months, and in June, I also got the chance to lead my first guided walk for Marcus's sister company Skye Wilderness Safaris, where we take people out for walks of around 10 miles long, through areas such as the Quiraing, Glen Sligachan, and along the Trotternish Ridge to Storr. May and June were also when Skye had it's summer, whilst the rest of the UK were actually a bit chilly. We had days where the temperature reached 24 degrees, however this at times had its own challenges as we were also working with blue sky days. Saying that though, the majority of clients were happy with this weather, especially those coming from afar, as of course they were prepared for the infamous Scottish weather.

July and August were a fair bit quieter compared to the previous months, however I did managed to get some photographs myself during that time, which I am really pleased with. In August I had a client, Beathe, from Norway, who was staying in Portree for a week, and had her workshop at the start of the week. We had some really nice conditions at the Quiraing in the morning, however even better conditions in the evening (apart from fighting off the midges), where I got some of my best sunset shots from Elgol, during my time nine months on Skye.

As I wasn't very busy with work, and would be heading out to try and get my own shots, I offered to take Beathe up to Storr for sunrise during her stay. Whilst up on the Storr ridge one morning we noticed what looked like a cloud inversion up towards the Quiraing. After we got some shots of the Old Man of Storr we drove up to the Quiraing, however the cloud had lifted, and was now just a light mist.

I mentioned to Beathe that I would be heading out the following morning to see if there was another inversion, as the conditions looked good for it; and asked if she wanted to come along. As we left Portree the following morning in the dark, we were driving through fog, so we were both starting to get excited. As we reached the Quiraing that excitement soon disappeared as there was nothing, however looking down toward Staffin, it looked as though the inversion had actually not reached land, and was spread across the sea from Skye to the mainland. It was not a case of driving down the road between Staffin and Portree, trying to find a suitable spot to get some shots, of which we did.

September picked up again with workshops, and the weather was rather changeable, making some ideal conditions for moody photographs. October slowed down again a bit, with November only providing a couple of workshops.

However, during the third week of November we had the inaugural Skye Photo Academy, a week long residential course for up to twelve people. Here, the clients are based in the lovely Uig Hotel, in the north of the island, for a week filled with classroom theory, whilst getting out with the camera as much as possible (weather permitting). We had a great week with rather mixed weather, which ended with a boat trip in hope of photographing the sea eagles. The clients were treated to cracking showings from both a male and female sea eagle. I unfortunately had to loan my camera to one of the clients as hers stopped working, however she did come away with some cracking shots of the female in flight; making for a happy client, so a happy me.

During my nine months I have met a varied clientele, from beginners through to pros, to people who simply want to see as much of the island as possible in a day, to groups of people wanting to explore parts of the island on foot. I have had clients from all over the globe, from Canada and the USA, all the way over to Australia; with many countries in between - Philipines, Japan, Korea, Russia, Norway, Germany, France, Netherlands, Ireland, and of course Scotland and England. I even had a client all the way from the south of Skye, whos's son had bought her a camera for her christmas, and wanted to know how to use it better.

And to top it all of, my now girlfriend is a client who I met in September. She was on the island with a friend, are both hill walkers, and wanted help with taking better photographs whilst out on their walks. We instantly hit it off, and the story has started from there. Of course she now gets free photographic tuition whenever she wants.

I am now back in East Yorkshire living with my mum for a few months, before returning to Skye in March or April 2017, for a second season; and am very much looking forward to meeting many new clients, and of course the clients who return time and time again.

  • River Sligachan and Sgurr nan Gillean
  • Colourful sunset at Elgol
  • Old Man of Storr reflected in Loch Fada
  • A moody Fairy Pools
  • Glamaig and the red Cuillin, reflected in a small loch, just before sunrise
  • First light on Cleat and the Trotternish Ridge, as seen from the Quiraing
  • Sligachan Falls and the black Cuillin
  • A cloud inversion stretches across the sea from Skye to the mainland

Keywords: skye, workshop

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