Elgol, neutral density gloves, and the end of the Earth.

March 25, 2013  •  1 Comment

Elgol is a photographic magnet. I don't think I've ever visited when there hasn't been at least half a dozen tripods looking across Loch Scavaig to the Cuillen Hills. Fishing boats, Loch Scavaig, and Gars-bheinn

Today is no exception, there's a good gathering of people standing around tripods bundled up again the cold wind. I go for a wander along the beach of rounded rocks towards the far end. I'm just looking at the moment and I'm careful not to stray into anyone's carefully planned composition.

Despite the wind the sea is remarkably calm, and there are three small fishing boats moored just off the slipway. I move back along the beach towards the quay side where the car is parked and set up for a shot leaving the others to the rocks and sea for a while.

The sun is getting low in the west and it lights a shower passing in front of Gars-bheinn across the loch.

A quick exposure before the shower makes its way across the loch just to make everyone wet.

Eventually, the sun sets and some of the photographers decide to drift away to somewhere a little warmer. I head back down the beach again to see what's left before the light fades completely.

Wet Rocks, Elgol, Isle of Skye, Scotland

I find a nice arrangement of foreground rocks, wet in part by the occasional splash for the waves and from the shower that passed a little earlier. I set up the tripod quite low and fit the 17mm TSE lens. (You may have gathered by now that I like using this lens quite a lot!!)

Using a little forward tilt angles the focal plane giving me a depth of field from the end of the tripod legs to infinity. it's getting quite dark now and the exposure last several seconds. I've captured the foreground rocks nicely but the sky has been badly overexposed.

This highlights one small issue with the 17mm lens. It has a bulbous and protruding front element which makes it impractical to fit a filter. I believe it is possible to buy filter kits to cope with lenses like these but no doubt they will be expensive and more to the point I don't have one here and now.

Then I'm reminded of a tip I read in a photographic magazine. Because of the long exposure time I can effectively use my hand to hold back some of the light from the sky. It also happens that I'm wearing black gloves which are perfect for the job. I position myself so I can get my hand in front of the lens in the right position, easier to do if you have the live view function switched on.

Then I start moving my screening hand if front of the lens being careful not to touch the camera then open the shutter. I count the seconds to myself as the exposure progresses gradually revealing more of the sky as the seconds pass. It is effectively like dodging a black and white print in the darkroom allowing the exposure to build up in the darker areas while holding back the light from the brighter areas. it's all a bit hit and miss thought as I can't see that my hand is in the right position once the shutter on the camera opens. I try and hold the right position whilst keeping my hand moving to avoid leaving an outline and ensuring I expose all the sky. The shutter clicks closed then the image appears on the screen, miracle of miracles it worked.

It's starting to get really dark now so it's time to start heading back to the warmth of the car and a warm flask of milky coffee. I stop for one last shot on the way back, trying the neutral density glove technique. it's not so successful in the landscape mode, the lens is too wide, or my hands are too small, whatever the results just don't look right.

Instead I just try one long exposure to see what results.

By exposing for the dark foreground rocks the sky is bleached almost white. What's more, it has reflected off the moving water resulting in an almost seamless merging of sea and sky.

Edge of Oblivion, Elgol, Isle of Skye, Scotland The Isle of Skye is a magical and mythical place and, for me, this photograph remains me in way of those old maps which portray a world which was flat, tall ships plunging over the edge of a never ending waterfall.

The dark rocks just offshore seem almost to hover in the void. 

I feel as though I'm standing on the edge of the earth.


These and other photographs from this years trip to the Isle of Skye are available here in my Skye Gallery.




Julian Tomasso(non-registered)
Like the Photos and especially the tips on the way you have taken them, Inspiring work, keep it up Tony.
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