Saturday, 30 November 2019

Three nights on Eigg

After 22 hours of travel I finally arrived at my base for the next three nights, an off-grid static caravan at the Bay of Laig on Eigg.

Eigg is a small Scottish Island with a population of 100 people lying just south of the Isle of Skye. It boasts some amazing volcanic geology and striking coastal views.

The epic journey had brought me from Cambridge over 600 miles away via train, bus, another train, ferry and the final 4 miles on foot. My intention was to take some landscape photos and to get away from it all for a few days. With no electricity, mobile phone signal or TV it sounded idyllic.

Laig Bay Caravan
Laig Bay Caravan
3 landscape shots stitched
Canon 5dmk4, 24-70mm, 1/40s at f11, iso100, handheld

It was an amazing late September day, warm and sunny hardly a cloud in the sky and not a breath of wind. More importantly no midge! After unpacking my rucksack, I lit the gas stove, popped the kettle on and sat down to a well deserved cup of tea. I had uninterrupted views across the deserted Bay of Laig to the mountains of Rum. Not a single person as far as the eye could see.

Enough relaxing I was here for a reason. I grabbed my camera, filters & tripod and headed out across the beach and the rocky shoreline to the North. One part in planning this trip I had overlooked was the state of the tides. The realisation that high tide would coincide with every sunset during my stay was a little disappointing.

Scrambling over the foreshore on a rising tide I tried a few different compositions and various ND filter combinations, but the sun was still quite strong and the shadows a bit harsh. I was better off scouting out some suitable compositions with lead in lines and interest for a little later on. This was quite tricky on a fast rising tide with many of the interesting features disappearing underwater.

Lead in lines to Rum
Lead in lines to Rum
Canon 5dmk4, 16-35mm, 1.6s at f11, iso100, Kase 0.9 ND grad filter

Fading light over Rum
Fading light over Rum
Canon 5dmk4, 16-35mm, 2.5s at f13, iso100, Kase 0.9 ND grad filter

As the day drew to a close and the glow over Rum faded I headed back to the caravan for some food and drink.

Sunday morning (day 2) I was greeted by grey skies and set off to climb An Sgùrr, the biggest hill on Eigg. Not huge by any standards 393m, but quite a dominant peak on the skyline. The walk over to the Sgùrr from Laig Bay is about 4 miles, then there is the 4 mile climb followed by another 4 miles to get back. My rucksack was much lighter than the previous day, but nevertheless with extra clothes, waterproofs, camera tripod and water it soon adds up. I completed the first 4 miles quite quickly, but failed to pick up the path climbing the Sgùrr. The heather and shrubs were a nightmare to fight my way through on the steep slopes. I eventually managed to rejoin the right route which was made progress much easier. The Sgùrr is has a impressive eastern end, over 100m of sheer volcanic pitchstone at first sight it appears an impossible climb. However, to reach the top you skirt round the back up a gully before a relatively gentle walk to the summit.

The Sgùrr
The Sgùrr
Canon 5dmk4, 24-70mm, 1/30s at f10, iso200, Kase 0.6 ND grad filter, handheld

The views from the top are far reaching across to the mainland, Muck, Rum and in the distance South Uist just over 40 miles away. Pausing for lunch and taking a 360 degree panorama I headed back down the Sgùrr to Galmisdale and a much needed snack from the general stores. Just the 4 miles back to the caravan. By mid afternoon I had made it back and the few breaks in the cloud combined with the low tide revealed the wide wet sands of Laig Bay. The light was a little bland, but good for some long exposure black and white shots and an opportunity to use my 10 stop ND filter.

Reflections in the sand
Reflections in the sand
Canon 5dmk4, 16-35mm, 64s at f11, iso100, Kase 0.9 ND grad & Kase 3.0 ND filters

While the tide was still some way out I headed across the bay a short distance north where there are some striking sandstone concretions formed of calcite. Like giant marbles scattered on the rock ledges they have been eroded from the surrounding rocks over millennia. These form an amazing foreground offset by some dazzlingly bright green seaweed with Rum as the ever present backdrop.

Concretions Eigg
Concretions Eigg
Canon 5dmk4, 16-35mm, 0.8s at f13, iso100, Kase 0.6 ND grad & Kase 1.8 ND filters

The helmet
The helmet
Canon 5dmk4, 24-70mm, 0.6s at f13, iso100, Kase 0.9 ND grad & Kase 1.8 ND filters

I was eventually forced back by a rising tide and my evening meal and a well deserved bottle of beer. The beauty of staying right on the beach meant that I was able to dash out day or night and grab shots at a moments notice.

Moody sunset from Eigg
Sunset bag of Laig
Canon 5dmk4, 16-35mm, 8s at f11, iso100, Kase 0.9 ND grad filter

Milky way over Rum
Milky way over Rum
Canon 5dmk4, 16-35mm, 30s at f6, iso6400

Monday morning (day 3) started to follow a similar pattern. Wake up, light boiler, shower, boil kettle, breakfast, wash up, brush teeth, switch boiler off, head out. The plan was to head North to the Singing Sands a mile or so up the coast. The Singing Sands are so called as when you walk on the sand it makes an intriguing sound as the grains of quartzite rub against each other.

There is an amazing little waterfall which has cut an almost canyon like slot into the rock exploiting the geology to dramatic effect. I tried as best I could to keep my feet dry, but even my gore-tex boots were starting to feel decidedly damp.

Eigg canyon
Eigg canyon
Canon 5dmk4, 16-35mm, 10s at f14, iso100, Kase polarizing filter

Moving on I scrambled northwards along the rocky coast. Pausing briefly to take a long exposure panoramic shot of Rum.

Rum panorama
Rum panorama
3 landscape shots stitchedCanon 5dmk4, 24-70mm, 70s at f11, iso100, Kase 0.9 ND grad & Kase 3.0 ND filters

Soon it was time to head back for lunch.

By afternoon it had clouded over a bit so I decided to try and climb up the ridge at the back of Laig Bay to a rock pinnacle called God's finger. It really was a steep climb, but soon leveled out with spectacular views down to Cleadale, Laig Bay and across to Rum. I followed the path along the escarpment with distant views of Skye opening up on the horizon. I was briefly joined by two Golden Eagles circling overhead, an amazing spectacle. The sense of remoteness was inspiring, wild places do still exist you just need to search them out.

A few miles later and I was back at the caravan, another brief sit down and another brew. No time for relaxing though as the cloudy skies were starting to clear. I headed back down onto the beach to capture some patterns in the sand left by a small burn on it's last leg to the sea.

Patterns in the sand Bay of Laig
Patterns in the sand Bay of Laig
Canon 5dmk4, 16-35mm, 1.6s at f13, iso100, Kase 0.9 ND grad & Kase 1.8 ND filters

Another full day, capped off by a moody sunset.

Moody sunset from Eigg
Moody sunset from Eigg
Canon 5dmk4, 24-70mm, 10s at f11, iso100, Kase 0.9 ND grad filter

Tuesday (day 4) was my last day on Eigg. I packed up my rucksack and headed off first thing passing along Laig Bay, the bothy, Laig Farm and onto the Giants Footprint lochan. Climbing up through the bracken I paused to take one or two final snaps of the bay on my phone. Twenty minutes later after losing another path! I broke free from the undergrowth onto the road. I diverted briefly to Kildonan Bay, but unfortunately the sands were covered by the tide. Arriving back at Galmisdale and the ferry I had just enough time to enjoy some haggis for my lunch before catching the ferry and embarking on the 600 mile journey home.

An amazing trip, excellent weather, some great photos and an opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.


Eigg Flickr album

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Halide app - Shot on an IPhone

I recently updated my ageing IPhone 5s for an IPhone SE. Most folk would dismiss that as an upgrade, but I like the small form factor and the upgrade only cost me £150.

One thing I was keen to try out was taking RAW photos on my phone. Would they be usable? Could there ever be a time when I could leave my heavy SLR at home and still get a half decent shot?

After a little bit of googling I discovered the Halide app "It gives you a tactile, intuitive, yet powerful way to take beautiful photos" Well for a penny shy of 6 quid I thought I would give it a go. First thing I did was switch on RAW capture and flick through the online quick guide. It's not rocket science, it's easy to use. 

I was not disappointed, slightly mush jpg's were much improved if you saved them as RAW files and took a few extra minutes to run them through Lightroom. You can see for yourself a comparison at 100% between a standard jpg & a RAW file. The only adjustments I made were to colour correct the RAW file to match the original jpg.

jpg file - note the slightly mushy look, telegraph lines are absent.

RAW file - slightly more noise, but more detail. Both Images taken at native ISO 25

When I was up in the Lakes recently I manged to take this shot up on Lingmoor Fell. I was really pleased with the IPhone output. I'm sure if I wanted to print a 15"x10" it would hold up well.

Lingmoor Fell
Lingmoor Fell. Shot on an IPhone.
Processed in Lightroom & Silver Efex Pro

I have to confess I was still carrying my SLR and took a few comparison shots. Maybe there will come a time when I just head out with my phone!

The only improvement, if the guys from Halide are listening is to have the option to change aspect ratios, I really like the square format.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Frosty morning Cambridge

I've not been out much recently so it was really good to get a text from a good friend Phil asking if I wanted to pop out into Cambridge early on Sunday morning. The weather forecast was for a heavy frost and clear skies. Sunrise was not likely to amount to much, but nice frosty conditions can be really photogenic.

I arrived in town at just after 7:15am, Phil about 2 minutes later. We parked up just the other side of the river (free until 9am) and headed over to Jesus Green and the fabulous avenue of London Plane trees.

Jesus Green avenue of trees

We only had a few minutes before the streetlamps switched off. There were a few hardy folk out and about. The following shot is 3 images combined. One at iso3200 to catch the man walking and then two iso100 shots blended into a hrd image.

Morning stroll

It was very cold (car had reported -6 on the way into town), but there was no ice on the Cam. I've only seen ice on the Cam twice in 10 yrs.

Spot the punt

The shot above was the fist I've taken with my new Kase filters. I used a 0.6 soft ND grad for this one to balance the sky. The Kase filters replaced some rather scratched Hitech resin ones which have lasted well, but seen better days.

Heading into town I was able to capture an obligatory bike shot.

Locked up

After wandering around town seeking inspiration we headed back towards the cars. The sun was starting to burn through a slight mist over Midsummer Common.

Midsummer joggers

It was fast approaching 9am and time to head home for a cup of tea and some breakfast. A lovely if slightly chilly morning to be out and about.