Shutters, Saturation and a Gentle Smile
Judging how successful a day has been is straight forward for many photographers, you simply multiply the hours spent using the equipment by the number of times you open the shutter. For me, the ingredients that go into creating a rewarding day are harder to define.
If you forced me to distill them down into a sentence, then my reward comes from the sheer pleasure of being outdoors in a wild place and revelling in the visual and tactile stimulation of nature's colours, shapes and textures. After all, it is my passion for landscape and the natural world that validates my photography, not the other way round. But I will confess to enjoying using the equipment as well! So on the poorest of days when many choose to leave their camera behind, I venture out and work with the prevailing weather and light, striving to discover a subject that has creative possibilities.
I readily accept that these are not the special top-shelf days, but often I return home with the inner satisfaction of having crafted an image from minimal resources. On days like these I also enjoy the challenge they set and feel that I have been stretched creatively far more than I would have been had the weather gods been smiling.
It was one of those days from the lower shelf when I dropped in to Glen Meodat on the Isle of Skye's Sleat Peninsula heading towards Ord, a favourite coastal location. Skye is often referred to in Gaelic poetry and song as Eilean a' Cheo (The Misty Isle) and it lived up to its reputation as low cloud reached far across Loch Eishort to steal the high Cuillin Ridge from view. I was left with coat hood up and head down to search the inter-tidal zone for inspiration. It took a long time to turn my mind away from the missing mountains and tune in to the smaller scale, but eventually the vivid colours of rain-soaked seaweed began to catch my eye.
There was an abundance of similar texture so it was relatively straight forward to create a crisp outer frame that would not snag the viewer's eye and delay their journey into the image. But I needed to find the strong form and contrasting colour that would balance all that vibrant, super-saturated seaweed.
After a lengthy search, and even longer wait for the rain to ease, I made my image. I doubt whether it will become a long-term favourite, but my eye still feasts on the delicious colours in the print. Then, as an added bonus, my mind races back to a marvellous moment that came after I put the gear back in the Land Rover. If time allows following my photography I always make a point of finding a sheltered place to sit quietly and listen and watch for wildlife. As the ringing cries of oystercatchers pierced through the silent mist, my patience was rewarded by seeing a young otter work the foreshore twenty feet in front of me. With a grace and fluidity of movement that thrilled my eye, it slipped effortlessly back beneath the water and was gone.
On the drive back to Sligachan I replayed my day. It had not stopped raining at any point and I had opened the camera's shutter just once, but the success of the day placed a gentle smile on my face.