Cairn Dearg

Stac a  Phris, Isle of Lewis

Enjoying a visit to a favourite Scottish island, Ross Scott uses a long exposure to create an evocative sunset image featuring one of the Hebrides  best natural arches

The coast is by far my favourite subject to shoot, and the Scottish Outer Hebrides are a photographerplayground. These islands, in particular Lewis and Harris, boast some of the finest beaches and best rugged coastlines in the UK.

I have been visiting Lewis for about five years now. Due to its remote location, I only tend to manage one visit a year, which I make during the summer months.

I am fortunate to have the luxury of staying in our family cottage, which is situated within the small, Gaelic - speaking crofting village of South Shawbost (Siabost bho Dheas), 18 miles from the main town of Stornoway, and approximately one hourdrive from Harris.

Like anywhere else in Scotland, the weather can be highly unpredictable. Lewis is particularly renowned for its strong winds and rain, but when the sun does shine, the light can be quite magical, and as close to paradise as one can get.

This image was taken on the west coast of Lewis. This part of the island, in my opinion, is where most photographic opportunities occur. Stac a’Phris, with its fine rock arch, is only a 15 to 20 - minute walk, along a wonderful coastline, from my familycottage.

On this particular evening I looked out of the window and noted that nothing much seemed to be happening with the sunset, and there was a lot of cloud blocking out the sungolden rays. Given that my departure from the island was imminent, and this location was high on my hit list, I decided to head there in the hope of creating a moody black & white image at the very best. The clouds were moving fast, making for an interesting sky, and I knew the rugged coastline would add drama to the image.

While walking along the coastline, I noticed that the clouds were beginning to separate, allowing the sunrays to give them some colour. I increased my pace in an effort to arrive on location as quickly as possible. I had a feeling these conditions were not going to last long.

On arrival to Stac a’Phris, I was challenged with some compositional considerations. Due to the interesting patterns in the rocks on the cliff edge and the hue of the wild clover, which complemented the colours in the sky,

I decided to include some foreground in the shot, as well as plenty of sky.

The utmost concentration was required at this precarious cliff face. To complicate matters, an oystercatcher was exceedingly agitated by my presence, and swooped over my head every 30 seconds or so, warning me off. I guess I must have been too close to its nest for comfort! I decided to use my B+W ND110 filter, as I am particularly fond of long exposures and

I like the warm feel that this adds to images. I hoped to capture a good sense of movement in the sky.

Within five minutes of taking this image, the clouds had grouped again, blocking out the sun. Next time, I thought, there would be less cloud, golden light illuminating the arch and cliff face, and huge surf. If only it were that simple! But that, for me, is the all part of the challenge of landscape and seascape photography.

Where is it?

Stac a  Phris natural arch is on the west coast of Lewis, near the small village of Shawbost (Siabost), on the coastal walk to Dalbeg.

 Cairn Dearg

Planning your trip

How to get there Follow the A858 to Shawbost (Siabost) and take the turn off to South Shawbost (Siabost Bho Dheas). Follow the road until you hit the sign to the beach, then turn left and park your car at the top of that road. The coastal path is well marked out, and the arch is within a 10 - minute walk.

What to shoot Lots of rugged coastline, some wonderful beaches, and nature at its best.

Best time of day Being on the west coast, sunset is best.

What to take Walking boots and a wind - resistant and waterproof jacket, as the weather can be unpredictable.


Other times of year Summer is the best time to visit the island when therethe chance of better weather, but it is also very dramatic during the other seasons.

Ordnance Survey map LR 8

Ben Nevis, Highland

A mammoth trek up into the Grampian Mountains is worth the effort for Paul Holloway when he reaches the top and captures a breathtaking view of the UK s highest peak at 4,408m, Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Britain. There are several possible translations of its name but the one I like most is mountain with its head in the clouds’; this is very often the case! Ben Nevis apparently attracts over 200,000 walkers each year, most of whom attempt to climb it via the Pony Track. This route ascends in a seemingly endless series of zigzags up the western flank of the mountain.

Following this route, however, means that walkers miss out on the mountainfinest feature - the magnificent northern cliffs. One of the best viewpoints is from the neighbouring mountain, Cairn Mor Dearg. Because it is north - facing, summertime provides the best chance of late evening light on the cliffs. So, last July, having checked the forecast, I drove up to the village of Torlundy, just north of Fort William, and parked at The North Face car park. Following signs for the Allt apath, I ascended through woods, and then alongside the Allt ariver. I then branched off and began to make my way up to the ridge of Cairn Mor Dearg. It was a hot afternoon and it took me nearly four hours to get to the top.

I quickly saw that the ridgeline of the Cairn Mor Dearg arete provided a great lead-in line, as it snakes its way towards the cliffs of Ben Nevis. The sun had, by then, come far enough around to illuminate some of the cliff face, and the light on the ridge in front of me was great.

Using a three - stop ND grad to balance the exposure, I took the image at 9.30pm, just before the evening light began to fade. I had decided to stay the night on the mountain in order to be there for sunrise, so found a spot to set out my bivvy bag. I sat watching the twinkling lights of Fort William as dusk set in around me and the sunset glow slowly faded from the sky above Loch Eil.

Crantock beach, Cornwall

Ignoring the lack of other beach - goers, Matt Whorlow walks straight into the teeth of a sand storm, but succeeds in capturing an atmospheric image of this quiet Cornish bay all me lazy if you will, but I often feel a special appreciation in my heart for viewpoints that I can park close to. Even if the old maxim about the best viewpoints being less than 50 paces from the car is a little far fetched, I do like the convenience. The good news with Crantock is that the car park is right behind the beach, even if you do need to negotiate some large sand dunes to get onto the beach proper.

 cliff face

Given the convenience of getting there, itvery surprising how quiet this beach can be. Crantock is a wonderfully picturesque little village, with a sedate pace and lots of thatched roofs on view.

In short, itthe sort of place youpromise yourself to move to if you ever make it rich. Itamazing to think that this is all just a short distance from the popular resort of Newquay. Flowing between them, though, is the river Gannel, and itthis natural barrier that ensures Crantock remains free from the hustle and bustle of its big neighbour.

The beach itself is nestled between two headlands - Pentire Point East and Pentire Point West (not to be confused with Pentire point, at Polzeath). It is a great location for patterns and textures in the sand - created by the sea, as the tide goes out leaving behind ripples and sand pools, and the wind, up on the dunes where it shapes and sculpts the dry sand.

Ispent many an evening relaxing in the dunes, photographing the sunset, smelling the barbecues cooking away around me, and listening to the circling seagulls. Crantock is a great place to head for after a long, hot day. This day, however, was not like that at all.

The weather was most inclement, and I was hoping to give the photography a miss. The weather, however, had other ideas. When a spectacular sunset erupted unbidden into the evening sky 1 duly leapt into the car and headed the short distance to the beach. The fact that there were no other cars in the car park should have given me a clue, but I didnpause to think. I climbed the dunes as fast as I could, only to be hit by the full force of the wind when I reached the top.

The wind was so strong that it was picking up the dry sand and whipping it into my face, stinging my eyes. This abrasive torrent was so bad that I could hardly look up at all. While shielding my eyes, I found a path pointing off in the right direction through the dunes, towards the sunset. I cannot have gone more than 50 paces from the car, and I had my viewpoint.

Where is it?

Crantock is on the north Cornish coast, three and a half miles west of Newquay.

Planning your trip

How to get there From the A3075 west of Newquay, follow the siqns for Crantock. When you get to Crantock, take the first right down into the village, and then left by the post office. Follow the road down to the beach.

What to shoot Landscapes and close-ups of beach details, plus surfers enjoying the waves.

Best time of day Late afternoon and evening.

What to take Tripod and filters, plus beach shoes and clothing for any weather (this is Cornwall!).

Nearest pub The Bowgie Inn, West Pentire, Crantock, TR8 5SE, 01637 830363, www.bowgie.com.

Nearest accommodation Fairbank Hotel, West Pentire Road, Crantock, TR8 5SA, 01637 830424, www.fairbankhotel.co.uk.

Ordnance Survey mao LR 200 or Explorer 104

Comments are closed.