This is the last of my photographs from my 2017 campervan adventure around Scotland.
Not only is it my favourite photograph of the trip, but it’s the photograph I’m most proud of in my ten plus years of serious landscape photography.
Getting myself into a photographic pickle
To cut a long story short, I massively underestimated Northern Scotland’s single path roads, to the extent that what looked like a two-hour journey ended up taking about ten.
This left a bit of a mad scramble to find a suitable photographic/camping location, with me finally finding a spot at Achnahaird Bay, approaching the very north-western corner of the country.
After a very brisk walk down the cliffs to the beach, I – for some unknown reason – thought it would be a great idea to waste half an hour on a rock structure, waiting till it was practically dark before realising I was shooting a red herring.
What I hadn’t spotted was that the scene behind me was spectacular.
Here’s the crux of the story; I was now making a photograph in extremely low light, and it was growing ever darker. This created two serious problems:
- Even with all the tricks in the book, it was too dark to focus, or even verify whether the shot was front to back tack sharp or a blurred mess
- Not only was it too dark to get an accurate meter reading, it was getting ever darker, so even a correct exposure reading at the time of starting the photo would have been wrong by the time I finished it.
This meant that I was shooting nearly blind, with no focal reference and no accurate exposure reading, so I had to make an educated guess on both.
An added problem
I opted for a ten-minute exposure; the slightest vibration to my camera during that time – from the wind, the sea or wired remote shutter would have ruined the shot.
An excruciating wait
Long exposures are really prone to visual noise, so the photo ends up with loads of spots and missing pixels. You can mitigate against this to a large degree using in-camera noise reduction, but that takes the same length of time as the photograph itself, meaning I’d have to wait a further ten minutes before I could check the photo.
With an incoming tide and a trek back along rocks in the dark in a completely new location, I was in a bit of a hurry to head back to the van.
So I packed up and headed back, roughly a half-hour journey.
This meant a half-hour wait without knowing whether I’d messed up one of the most amazing locations I’ve ever photographed, or successfully squeezed out every inch of my photographic experience to grab a stonker.
Back in the van, I could finally see the shot, and this is it.
This is photo 9 of 10 from my 2017 Scotland trip.
Part of the Everywhere else collection.