The Isle of Skye, Scotland


My relationship with the Isle of Skye was love at first sight, and since my first 2009 visit I have been back every year – often multiple times a year – to interpret the Isle’s spectacular landscapes. Neist Point, the Isle’s westernmost location, is an extremely inspiring location and one I am always looking forward to going back to. “Fearlessly Westward” is one of the strongest B&W images of Neist Point I created there in over a decade of repeated visits. In this article, I’ll tell you all about the idea behind the image, as well as what it took to create it, both artistically and technically speaking. Above all, this article is about the passion driving me, the force that makes me go out day after day chasing that elusive, perfect image.

“Nothing scared them, neither the unknown, nor the seemingly endless road awaiting, nor the darkness, nor the storms. One day, unexpectedly, their journey came to a stop. Nothing ahead but the ocean, no more land to explore.

Fearlessly moving westward, they arrived at lands’ end. Unable to keep going, their mission became to help the journey of others; for over a century, that’s what they did, their bodies standing guard in the lighthouse.

Their souls, still moving fearlessly westward.”

In April 2017, after spending two weeks on the Isle of Arran, I drove the beautiful road from Glasgow to the Isle of Skye, where I arrived after a few days’ stop in Glencoe. The road is as spectacular as it is familiar to me, having used it for over a decade now. Once on Skye, getting to Neist Point is fairly easy, if you don’t mind driving along the narrow, winding one-lane roads of the Isle. While it takes just a short stroll from the parking lot to the cliffs above the lighthouse, walking there is often made quite difficult by the boggy, wet ground. On the other hand, photographing Neist Point is often made very problematic by the strong, westerly winds relentlessly blowing against you. When the ocean is rough, they also bring a never-ending flow of salty mist, that needs to be kept out of your lens or filter’s surface if you want to get sharp images. On one cloudy day, the weather conditions looked right to create a dark, moody image I had been thinking about for quite some time.

Arriving on location, I walked the scene as I always do. Along the cliffs, there is an infinite number of vantage points that can be used to photograph this scene. For this image, I envisioned a curvy composition done with a very wide angle, using the way wide-angles render the relative sizes of near-far objects in the frame to relativize the size of the lighthouse and making it look farther into the frame.

After carefully composing my image, I waited for a moment when an opening in the lower clouds would let some light through to paint the lighthouse and the surrounding ocean, and I took my shot.

There’s nothing like black & white photography, for me. It is timeless, powerful and expressive, and I believe it to be the best medium to reveal the true nature of the planet’s landscapes through my photographic interpretations. Black & white landscape photography is a lifelong passion for me and it’s what I most love doing. Over a decade of love and dedication working with black & white photography’s composition and post-processing are what makes my black & white Fine Art photography unique.

Removing colour from a photograph is an incredibly powerful process in terms of the expressive possibilities it opens, one that requires a completely different approach to seeing the world around us. It brings photography to another level, requiring a craftsmanship in the field, an attention to composition and an ability for abstract seeing, that colour photography doesn’t necessarily need. For me, the decision is made long before pressing the shutter; when a landscape is revealing its monochromatic nature to inspire me, I just can’t help it but let go of the colours.

Processing my black & white work, I first prepare my RAW file for conversion following a dedicated workflow, completely different from my colour work. Then, I convert them to black & white via DxO Silver Efex Pro, using my own processes and presets. One thing I always found lacking in most black & white photography, both film and digital, is the treatment of mid-tones, which are normally flat and lacking depth. During my film days, to create my images I used a self-mixed, Pyro-based developer that rendered a truly amazing tonal range. For my digital work, during the last decade I developed my own Silver Efex presets to recreate the deep, rich tones that I loved on film.

The ability to control shutter speed, carefully selecting different exposure times according to each shooting situation, is one of the most powerful tools we have available to create our photographic interpretations. This is even truer for black & white photography, where we can’t rely on colours to create interest.

For Fearlessly Westward, I needed my shutter speed to do one thing only, transforming the moderately fast-moving clouds into shapes and lines, creating complementary lines to those of the foreground under them, so that everything – the curve, the clouds, the light – would lead the viewer’s eye to the lighthouse. Looking at the clouds’ speed, my experience told me that I needed a shutter speed between two and three minutes.

Working in the field, I aim at creating photographs as close to the final image as possible. While there are many ways to get to the same result, personally I prefer to get everything right in camera rather than spending hours doing post-processing.

To make this happen, filters are fundamental for me. In particular, for this image I used a polariser, a Grad ND to slightly darken the top of the sky, and finally an ND filter to bring the exposure down to 150 seconds, the exposure time I needed to create the effect I envisioned.

Neist Point (Scotland, 2017)

For NFT lovers, “Fearlessly Westward” is available as 1/1 edition NFT on MakersPlace, following the link: FEARLESSLY WESTWARD.

Join us for one of my GLENCOE & ISLE OF SKYE PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOPS to create your own amazing photographs of Neist Point and many more locations while learning all I know about Fine Art landscape photography. Attendance is limited to just THREE people!

Glencoe & Isle of Skye Photography Workshop

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