Isle of Harris Workshop

I've just finalised some plans for a 5 day long week workshop on the Isle of Harris, situated in the outer Hebrides. I was really taken with this island on a recent visit. The beaches are expansive and really photogenic and the light there is something else.

The trip is scheduled for the later part of November - the 20th to the 25th. We'll be staying at the lovely Harris hotel in Tarbert, which is a good base for exploring the entire of Harris and also making a stop over on Lewis to photograph the Calanais stones.

If you're interested in coming, it would be a good idea to book earlier rather than later, because you can get some really cheap deals on flights from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness to Stornoway on Lewis (I will be picking you up from there)  for as little as £25 one way if you go with FlyBe.com.

The trip is limited to six places, with single occupancy of the rooms and the price is £1,100 for the duration of the trip.

I expect that we will get a lot of varied weather on Harris in November and this should present us with some dramatic light over the duration of the course. Please email me if you're interested.

Eigg Workshop - 1 Space available

One space has become available for my Isle of Eigg workshop! So if you were thinking of coming along, now's your chance to secure that spot :-)

I'm particularly looking forward to this trip as it's for a whole week on a beautiful island.

We've got our own place to stay for the week where everyone can come and go as they please. So if you fancy a bit of time on your own to explore the island, you can.

I'll be bringing a digital projector and laptop so we can cover critiques of the groups images as well as tutorials on my own workflow - how I arrive at my final print from RAW or Film capture.

The trip is due to commence on the 14th of September, ending on the 19th of September, priced at £779. If you are interested, email me.

Hebrides & other stories

This has certainly turned out to be a year of productivity for me. I started January in India then moved onto Nepal in February. March saw me return to Patagonia for my annual photo workshop and just before leaving South America, I managed a non-stop tour of the Bolivian altiplano. Tráigh Niosaboist Rocking Horse

But for years I've felt that I've neglected my own country too much. Scotland has a lot going for it and after all the traveling I've done, I have come to appreciate its beauty more so than I ever thought I could. We have such changeable weather here which has a direct impact on the quality of the light.

So in March I visited the north west of Scotland during a flurry of Snow and caught some rare shots of places in really wintry conditions.

Now this summer, I've managed to tick off a few islands that I've always wanted to visit : Orkney, Harris and Lewis. So this post is really about them. I now have a new collection of images from these islands as well as some shots from Knoydart - a remote peninsula on the north west of Scotland.

I hope you enjoy these images as much as I enjoyed making them.

Dusk on Borvemore Beach

What I love very much about photography is the surprises that are waiting for me. Sure I do a lot of planning and I'll research maps to find places of interest, work out logistics such as travelling times between locations and I'll often go to places middle of the day and make notes to return at 3am because the light is bland and I really think the place has potential later on. I seldom shoot middle of the day, but when the light is overcast, its softness is kind to the film I use. Harsh shadows are avoided and blown highlights don't get a look in. I'm always studying the light and watching, waiting for the conditions I know my camera's film can handle.

Shooting at 11pm in twilight and then back up at 3am to capture the light from the east does take its toll. It's at times like these that I do question my motivations.

But there is something very contemplative and enjoyable about being on a deserted beach just listening to the waves and watching the colour temperature go from cold to warm. I think my private thoughts and lose myself in what I'm doing and I can't really say there is any better way to disconnect from the pressures of life for a few hours.

I simply love it.

Contact Sheet - Summer Adventure

This summer I visited Knoydart peninsula and the islands of Orkney, Harris and Lewis. The last two islands are part of the Western Isles or more specifically the outer Hebrides. Orkney is at the very top east of Scotland. Summer brings long evenings in which to shoot and early mornings which are torturous - a 3am start always makes me feel a little bit 'wobbly'. It is at times like this that I start to feel rather 'out of it' and do question my motivations for making images.

Here is a contact sheet of the images that have made it to the final selection for my web site. I'll be putting them up in a new portfolio titled 'Summer Adventure' to mirror my 'Winter Adventure' portfolio.

I'm always looking for concepts as I find it helps me focus my efforts when shooting and also helps me figure out how best to present the new images when I'm ready to publish them.

I'm tempted to head out to the Uists this Summer if time permits. They too are also part of the Hebrides, a long tail of islands joined by ferry or causeway, each stunning in their own right (I should be getting some money from the Scottish Tourism Board for this!). The downside is that it's often expensive and very time consuming. I've lived in Scotland all my life and it's only this summer that I've managed to venture out to these places. But what beauty I've encountered there.... I don't feel it will be my last endevour there.

Eigg, Harris, Lewis & Orkney

I've been busy working on my new images from Harris, Lewis and Orkney. So this post has a nice preview of some images from those trips, but before I show you them, I have some important information on my Isle of Eigg workshop for September.

Isle of Eigg Workshop - Only 1 space left!

I know plenty of you have been telling me for months that you are intending on coming along on the Isle of Eigg workshop.

I now only have 1 space left, so if you are still thinking about coming - now is your chance.

Laig Bay, Isle of Eigg

Don't worry

TThe good news is that I have set up a second Eigg workshop for the 19th to 24th of April 2010, in case you can't make the September trip because I've been overrun by a stampede to get the last place ;-)

See : http://www.lightonscotland.com/pages/eigg.html

Harris & Lewis & Orkney

I thought I'd show you a preview of some new images I shot on Harris and Lewis & Orkney earlier this Summer.

This image was shot on the main Orkney Island at the rings of Brodgar.

Rings of Brodgar, Orkney

And this one is of Seilbost beach on the isle of Harris:

Seilebost Beach, Harris

And sometimes you find strange things on a beach. I loved the 'rocking horse' shape of this dead tree:

Seilebost Rocking Horse

But I think I was most impressed by the Callanish Stones and happened upon them one summers evening while the moon was rising:

Callanish

Callanish, Isle of Lewis

Callanish, one of Scotland's 'must see' ancient sites is situated on the Isle of Lewis. Lewis is part of the Western Isles, or the outer Hebrides. I came here two weeks ago to photograph the place and the island. I just thought I'd share this image with you all while I busy myself working through all the images from my trip.

Callanish, Lewis

The islands of Harris and Lewis are very photogenic. And it just so turned out that I was there one evening while the moon was rising.

Shot on Fuji Velvia 50 with my trusty Mamiya 7 and 80 mm standard lens. Straight from the scanner with no dodging or burning.

New Portfolio – Winter Adventure

Hi All, I have a new portfolio winter adventure

This march, I spent a few days sitting in a damp caravan on the isle of Eigg, hoping that the rain would abate and perhaps I’d get a glimpse of the Cuillins of Rum.

eigg7

But I couldn’t have planned it better. On my second day of nursing a chest infection in my nice wee damp musty caravan (great for chest infections), the weather turned wintry and for the first time in a long while, I got to experience Scotland covered in a blanket for snow.

Timing is often everything.

I hope you enjoy these images. I’m busy working on new images of Scotland and as part of this, I’m now venturing further afield onto the islands. I’ve always wanted to visit, but travelling distances and shortness of time often means that it is an impossible task. But as I write this, I’m glad to say that I’m in the Hebrides.

Expect some new images from Harris and Lewis in a week or so. I’ve been short of sleep again. With the sun setting around 11pm and rising at 3am, I’ve been up at 2am to photograph the Callanish stones with pink light in the sky and a full moon in the frame, unplanned, but what a catch!

And the beaches are something else. Time and space to reflect on where I’ve come with my photography and where it is heading, it’s been another adventure.

Torridon Photo Workshop

I'm in the process of setting up a photo workshop for Torridon, for this October, November. The light at this time of year can be particularly wonderful and Torridon is a special place for me with great views of lochans, mountain ranges and some cracking views from Applecross bay towards the Cuillins of Skye.

If you're interested in this trip, just pop me an email to bruce@brucepercy.com

I'll have more details up soon.

bruce-torridon

Elgol

Whilst I was away up north, back on the Isle of Eigg doing some research for an upcoming photo workshop I have scheduled there this September, the weather turned for the better. An unexpected snow flurry for a whole day left the majority of the west coast covered in a blanket of white. Whilst on Eigg I looked back to the mainland and sure enough, I could see that the Cuilins of Skye were totally white. So I had to get there!

Elgol

As soon as I left Eigg, I took a three hour drive north and reached Elgol in complete darkness. I pitched my tent a few hundered metres away from this location with no idea what to expect the next morning. I awoke to the sound of rain and thought 'oh, here we go again'. But when I got out of my tent, I found that the rain noise was actually the sound of snow. It was very overcast and still too grey and dark, but I got up and with bleary eyes after a cold night in sub zero temperatures (with two sleeping bags lined inside of each other for warmth), I headed down to the bay.

I shot several pictures, and each time I did, I was always looking for a new composition. Sometimes you think you've nailed a composition, only to find a stronger one a few minutes later. But I think what made it for me was the surf in the foreground and that lovely little bit of light hitting off the left hand side of the Cuilin range.

On a technical note: Mamiya 7, 50mm lens, 2 stop hard grad placed 1/3 of the way down, long exposure with reciprocity adjustment added so I could get movement/drama in the clouds. Fuji Velvia 50 RVP.

Mountains, Sky and Rocks were all provided for me.

Who says rainy weather is bad?

I went back to the Isle of Eigg a week or so ago, and while I was there, I went back to the bay of Laig on the north western edge of the tiny island. The weather was the usual mix of atmospherics that I've experienced before with Eigg. One minute dry and sunny the next,  storm cloud brewing.

So here's a new landscape image, kindly scanned by a friend of mine, as I managed to break the glass tray for my Coolscan scanner.

Laig Bay, Isle of Eigg

When I get images back like this, I know that the Mamiya 7 is a superb camera and I should not give it such a hard time. I do get frustrated with it at times, but as always, the final results always make me fall in love with it.

There is a stream coming down from the land to the sea, and in this shot, the left hand side of the image is actually the widening stream as it enters the sea. I deliberately used a long exposure to soften the current of the stream, so it blends in with the textures in the sand on the right hand of the shot.

It was raining quite a lot, and the sky as you can see was very overast, but soft also. All these things, plus using a nice wide angle to accentuate the foreground sand detail result in a lovely image.

So who says that rainy weather is the time to put away the camera?

Winter in the Highlands

Photographing in winter can often be a miss rather than a hit. The weather here in Scotland can tend to be mild, damp and grey for days upon end. I'm quite frustrated at the moment because for the last month, we've had clear skies, beautiful sunsets and cold snaps abound. But now I have some free time to head off into the hills, the weather has turned very mild and grey. Not the kind of weather you want for landscape photography. So I'm house bound today.

3.jpg

So it was nice to head round to a friends house to get this image scanned in. It's a Large Format transparency and I don't have the means to scan it myself. We had a good chat about the state of photography and I thought I'd show you this image. It is a picture of the Buchalle Etive Beag, a mountain in the Glencoe region of the highlands. It was taken a few years back.

I'm a real sucker for this kind of light. Winter can provide some of the most beautiful light of the year. Those pink tones and blues are seldom repeated throughout the year. I just thought this image would make up for me not being able to head off into the hills. Until the weather improves, this will be my yard stick for what I would like to accomplish in the following weeks ahead.

I'll be up in Applecross on Thursday to meet Mark from BBC Scotland's Great Outdoor Show. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the dawn will bring something special. Until then.....

Interview with the BBC

Hi All, I'm off to the Isle of Eigg on Sunday to stay in a £10 a night caravan - no expense spared for me. This is part of my 2 week trip up into the highlands.

As part of my trip - I will be meeting Mark from the Outdoor Show (BBC Radio 4) on Thursday morning for sunrise. I'll let you all know how it goes and whether they decide to broadcast any of my musings.

Until then......

An old, but new Image

This is a shot of Duncansby Head, a location in the far north east of Scotland - literally only a few miles away from John O'Groats, which although is not the furthest northerly point in the British Isles, has the reputation of being so. bruce-ducansby-head2.jpg

This was taken around 4 years ago. I forget when exactly, and it's been sitting at home along with a pile of other 4x5 (large format) images that I shot over the space of a few years with a very beautiful Ebony 45SU camera.  I just didn't have the means to get it scanned - scanning by a pro lab is ridiculously expensive here in the UK (see KenRockwell.com for more information on cheap scanning options in the US).

If it hadn't been for crazy costs of anywhere around £40 to £80 to get a high res scan of a single image, then I would maybe have percevered with large format, but I suspect that the reason why I gave up large format was simply because it didn't suit my temperament.

You see, although I may state that 'the camera does not matter', which is my efforts to get people to stop focussing on the 'gear' side of photography and to focus more on the 'emotional' aspects of it, the truth is cameras do matter.

Cameras in general, are a hindrance; a barrier between you and the image. If you have the right camera that suits your temperament, then it is less of a barrier. That's why I seem to always return to my Mamiya 7II system. I'm comfortable with it, I can work fast (at my own pace), and I'm very happy with the results.

Back to the image. I met up with an excellent photographer recently - Michael Stirling-Aird, based here in Edinburgh and he kindly offered to scan some of my large format transparencies for me. So I dug them out and what I found interesting was that this particular image really caught my eye, where in the past it had not. I can only assume that the reason for this is that I've completely forgotten what my aspirations were at the point of capture.

In essence, reviewing your work straight after a shoot is hard to do, because it's hard to be objective. Sometimes you need a little distance.

I've had around 4 years distance between shooting this image, and publishing it. I'm very happy with it now, and I can't remember why I rejected it at the time I made it.

Perhaps it was part frustration at trying to compose upside down (I remember not being able to achieve compositions that would otherwise have been second nature to me with my Mamiya 7II), I'm not sure.

Anyway, it just goes to show that every now and then, it's worth going back over your old images for a review : an old image will often take on a fresh meaning for you, when reviewed after you've given it some distance.

And that's just great.

Scotland - on landscape photography

What does landscape photography mean to you? Is it a verbatim recording of a scene, captured for posterity, or is it something more? In this podcast, I use a few select images from my Scotland landscapes to illustrate what landscapes mean to me, and why I chose to shoot them the way I did.

Please click on the image to play the podcast

 

New Portfolio - Sandwood Bay

I've just completed a new portfolio, this time of Sandwood Bay in Scotland. _mg_5483.jpg

I also have a few other portfolios in the pipeline which I will be uploading over the next wee while:

Morocco Portraits Los Glaciares National Park, Patagonia Torres del Paine '08 Workshop

In the meantime, please feel free to view my new portfolio.

Sandwood Bay, Scotland

Just last weekend I spent some time in the beautiful Sandwood Bay in the highlands of Scotland. For those of you who don't know, I live in Scotland. _mg_5497.jpg

A four mile walk into a lovely remote bay with ample sand dunes, expansive beaches and even the story of a ghost, it was a must see on my list for some time.

Doing a lot of traveling, it's often easy to neglect your own country but I have to say that over the past eight years, I've become more and more appreciative of my home land. Nothing else seems to beat it (but I'm sure that's just my own patriotism coming into the equation).

Anyway, these were all taken with the 5D, some ND grads and a good tripod. The evening light on Saturday was really beautiful and we'd just got there, so it was hard to find a vantage point while the light was fading, so I ended up running around the bay like a madman for a couple of hours. I like to work quickly - that's where the excitement comes in.

_mg_5532.jpg

But what are you trying to do with your photography? When you take an image, do you have a reason for doing so? i.e, what drives you forward?

For me, I think we go about our daily lives - living within a set of parameters that don't give us time to think beyond that. I love going out side those parameters - just being on a remote beach late at night gives a different sense of perspective to my life. Listening to the waves crash, feeling isolated on that beach, I find that I'm aware of being in a different existence. I'm no hippy, but there is something rather compelling about spending time on your own in a beautiful, remote place. I also like to produce images that are a departure from the everyday, and shooting late at night or during nocturnal hours can provide that. Look at the last image in particular, the moon is in the sky, the light is low and the tide is moving in fast. I don't often get to experience moments like this throughout my daily life, and that is why photography is so great. It gets you out there, not only to make pictures, but to experience an existence outside of the parameters of your normal daily life.

You don't need to spend £££ to make fine images

This is the first image I made and thought 'wow'. I was around 22 years old at the time and I didn't know very much about photography at all.

largefivesisters.jpg

I'd just got my first camera for a year - a Canon EOS 650, which at the time was very sophisticated. It had autofocus and a really impressive built in meter. But I was always coming home with really crap shots.

And that wasn't the cameras fault.

Then one day, I learned something that changed everything for me. I discovered the magical qualities of light and composition. I'd never really thought about it before, but if you get great light, great subject matter and are able to compose a shot in such a way that it just seems to 'work', then you're potentially on your way to creating a very fine image indeed.

So this was shot on Agfachrome, which I bought cheap in a bargain bin at my local photo place, with an EOS 650 camera which you can pick up for around £60 here in the UK, with a wide angle lens on it.

That was it. Oh, and stunning lighting, an exceptionally thunderous August evening around 9pm plus some great subject matter. I'm going to give myself a little credit too - an operator that recognized a potentially good image and after some stumbling around a field searching for a good angle of view, was able to pull off a nice composition.

I took other shots that night and although they all have the same lighting, and subject, this one really stood out because the composition was just 'right'.

So if you want to make good photographs, you just need a tool that you are comfortable with and gives you good enough resolution that you are happy with (I have this printed up to 24 inches wide, framed in my home).

But above all else, you need a desire to get out there with what you have and make pictures. That's what it's all about really.