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Isle of Harris and Lewis - The Verdict.

Having just spent the last week running a photography development workshop on the Isle of Harris and Lewis, I thought it appropriate to commit my thoughts about its virtues as a landscape photography destination.

The Butt Of Lewis - 14mm - 20 seconds, f11, iso 100


There is no doubt that it is stunningly beautiful from the amazing turquoise waters that lap up against the shores of beaches that are reminiscent of the Caribbean, (all be it without the palm trees. I doubt they could survive the wind) to the rugged hills and mountains. Then there are the abundant sea stacks, countless tarns, winding brooks and flowing waterfalls. The skies some of the darkest I have ever seen with no light pollution making it a paradise for astro photography and with its northern location then photographing the northern lights is always on the cards. The Isle of Harris and Lewis has it all in my opinion.


Hushinish Beach - 16mm. - 10 seconds, f16, iso 100


But and there is a but. If you hit lucky with the weather then it will be amazing. If you don’t then potentially you will have featureless skies, howling gales and horizontal rain. We had a mixture of both which added to the experience. I am sure you will have heard about the West Coast of Scotland Midges, thankfully we didn’t have any trouble with them but were prepared with plenty of repellent and midge net hats incase they appeared. Do come prepared and keep them with you at all times. You have been warned!

Mangersta Sea Stacks - 26mm, 20 seconds, f8, iso 200


From a wildlife photographers point of view then there are abundant opportunities. Without really looking we encountered Golden Eagles, White Tailed Sea Eagles, Gannets, Little Auk’s, any amount of wading birds, Seals and I am sure that there must be Otters somewhere on the Isles, of course a lot depends on the time of year.

Northton Saltings - 16mm, 15 seconds, f11, iso 100


From a landscape photography perspective then the majority of my images were shot using the 16-35mm F2.8 L lens which is my go to lens. This focal length range will be ample for all you need. I did shot a few images at 12mm but having a lens this wide certainly isn’t a necessity although it does open up creative opportunities. The 24-70mm was used on a few occasions and I have recently taken the 70-200mm lens out of my bag and replaced it with the 70-300mm L. This is just a personal presence as I find 200mm isn’t quite long enough at times. Camera body wise, all images would taken on a 5DSR or a 5D mark iii both of which a full frame. I had planned to use the astro modified 70d but unfortunately that didn’t react to well to the Atlantic when a wave swept up the beach! The perils of being a landscape photographer and in all honestly a stupid mistake that I tell clients about all of the time. Practise what I preach seems to be an appropriate phrase.


Luskentyre Beach - 18mm, 30 seconds, f11, iso 100


Filter wise then a good polariser and some ND filters are recommend to create those longer exposures. I would normally recommend grads but I find that now I am getting my head around more complex post processing in photoshop along with bracketing then I am using them less and less. It’s all about personal choice but the use of grads is a destructive workflow. As ever a good and sturdy tripod is needed. Don’t bring the £20 special from eBay or Amazon as they won’t be up to the job. A good set of spikes for your tripod feet can be advantageous especially on wet and boggy ground. Out of interest I have seen numerous people attaching a bag to the bottom of their tripod for added weight. This has merits, if and it’s a big if you can have the bag on the ground not suspended in mid air. It acts like a sail if you do and just makes things worse.

Seilebost - 12mm, 25 seconds, f16, iso 100


Other essentials are good waterproofs, wellies and walking boots. On the waterproof front, I recently invested in some Arc’terex ones. The price was a eye watering. However they have handled the worse of the what Harris and Lewis could throw at them without missing a beat. They are without the best waterproofs I have ever owned. Not one drop of water got through, including when I was stood on deck on the way to Harris in a force 7 gale with driving rain that was like being hit by tiny needles.


Callanish Standing Stones - 16mm, 10 seconds, f8, iso 100, focus stacked


It was been a great trip to the Island. The purpose was to discover locations for future workshops and when they would best to optimise the light and conditions. To that extent the trip was a total success. I would have liked better light but then you have to work with what you have and it sure beats being at work. The Isle of Harris and Lewis have it all. I would not hesitate in recommending you plan a trip. Personally I would avoid peak times and the kids summer holidays. With more and more people holidaying in the UK due to COVID travel restrictions, I would also image that accommodation would be limited at peak times along with inflated prices. I will be going back without doubt so look out for details of upcoming workshops.


Milkyway Over Lacklee - 16mm, f2.8, 15 seconds, iso 6400, 20 stacked images

Stay a' Phris Arch - 18mm, f14, 10 seconds, iso 100

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