I occasionally wonder (usually when I’m atop a mountain in a deep winter freeze) if your current physical condition can affect the photos you’re taking.

If tired from several days consecutive climbing, in physical discomfort due to cold and wind, does that mean you’re not concentrating, distracted from the job in hand and unlikely to produce your best work?

Or conversely does this physical effect of the landscape on your body make you more emotionally aware, more receptive to your surroundings, and therefore more likely to produce work with more atmosphere and a better sense of place?

It’s something I’ll probably explore more in another blog sometime if I ponder it a bit more deeply, but for now all I know is that the conditions at Elgol on this particular morning were definitely not conducive to me producing my best work in camera.

Winter in the UK’s mountains is one thing I’m used to, but summer squalls, rising tides and crashing waves are a bit more of a distraction.

The only previous time I’d been to Elgol it was like a millpond, and as I arrived on the beach in sullen pre – dawn half light, the only sound a gentle lap at the shore, I wasn’t optimistic for anything much more interesting.

I strolled along the beach, clambering over rocks, slipping off rocks, looking for useful foregrounds, and dawn announced itself with a gentle bruising of the sky.

The air began to whip itself ashore with more bluster, and the incoming tide began to crash rather than lap.

I’d wanted to use longish exposures to capture some movement in the water, but the longer the exposure, the more chance there was not just of getting spray on the lens, but getting the entire gear soaked with salty water. Cameras and tripods do not love salt water.

Also, when perched on a rock at the edge of the tide, during long exposures the shore can become worryingly far away rather quickly.

By now the conditions were kind of what I had been wanting, but compositionally I just couldn’t make anything work. The waves were giving me occasionally interesting foregrounds, but with the fast rising water I was struggling to work fast enough to find any way to successfully connect it to the background.

As my area of beach was running out I tried one last longer exposure as a patch of sunlight burst through on Camasunary in the background, which I knew would add a lovely warm contrast to the cool blues of the rest of the image.

In terms of lighting, atmosphere and exposure it looked good in camera, but I knew it was still nowhere near coming together as a cohesive whole compositionally. Far too much empty space on the left with everything happening to the right.

Once I got back home, away from the crashing tide and the pervading thoughts of gear and self preservation, I saw the image straight away.

It was within the last one, but just needed a heavy crop.

If I’d seen, captured and come away with as my in the field composition, I’d have been delighted. As it is I’m still very pleased with it, and you can purchase it as a print in the Skye Lewis and Harris gallery, along with a few of my other favourites from there.


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One Response to Elgol

  1. Tim says:

    Interesting question – FWIW I think I produce better stuff when emotional turbulence combines with activity. The alternative, feeling all happy and buzzing at the scene, either distracts from the photography and/or exacerbates the roller-coaster of rose-tinted specs falling off after a few months.

    Anyway, some places just require multiple visits to work the compositions.

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