My previous visits to Skye have often proved rather dismal due to inclement weather conditions.
Spring this year (2016) however Skye enjoyed some of the best weather in the country with temperatures into the mid 20’s. Driving to the Isle of Raasay from Dalbeattie usually takes about 7 hours on a good run but on this day a rather tragic accident had blocked the road just north of Broadford. The road system on Skye does not allow any alternative route north so it was a case of sitting it out until the police decided it was ok to allow traffic to move.
We arrived at the boat terminal at Sconser just in time to catch the last ferry to Raasay. The short 20 minute crossing has been a relatively new route created by CalMac since Raasay House Hotel opened on the Island in 2013. Raasay House has undergone a complete renovation following a fire which gutted it in 2009. The setting, the friendly atmosphere and the good food all make this a must go to hotel next time you plan a trip to Skye. This day however that was not our destination.
View from the front of the Hotel overlooking the ferry Terminal with the Cuillin Hills behind.
About half way along the island on the one track road there is a path leading to the summit of Dun Caan, a distinctive upturned bucket shaped mountain which can be seen from miles around.
It is a while since my friend Joe and I had camped at the summit of a Scottish Mountain but something we have longed to do again since camping on Suilven more than 10 years ago.
Whilst Joe remains as fit as ever I have suffered serious back and knee problems which have restricted most of my sporting activities in recent years, so carrying a heavy backpack proved quite a challenge for the one and a half hour climb. With lots of huffing and puffing and groaning I did make the summit.
I had done this once previously with my wife Judy 2 months prior to this trip but without the heavy rucksack. It was somewhat easier then but the weather was more arctic like. The views however from the summit were spectacular.
From Dun Can.
With snow still on the mountains it is important to take a number off different exposures so you have a choice when it comes to editing. It can then be possible to combine more than one image for best results. With that and a little giggery pokery on photoshop CC I managed to create the feel of the place. It was cold, with snow flurries but we still had a magnificent panoramic vista in front of us. In these situations a dedicated panoramic camera such as the Fuji 645 Rangefinder (used by Colin Prior in the old days) would give phenomenal results. This image of course is cropped from my Nikon D800 NEF image.
Having rested and admired the 360 panoramic views Joe and I had to find a suitable place for the tent, preferably sheltered from the then cold northerly wind. There was only one such spot which proved to be perfectly adequate.
We were bother ready for food after pitching the tent. Our previous attempts at preparing a meal on another trek had failed miserably when the few matches we did take along proved too damp and our fry up never happened. Guess what, the same thing happened again. I didn’t see the look on Joe's face but i am sure it must have been one of “oh God No, not again, disgust, what a plonker etc. etc.” What I hadn’t told him was that I had slipped a lighter into my pack at the last minute before leaving home. After about 10 minutes going through about twenty damp useless matches finally piped up ‘Oh, I’ve just remembered something” and proceeded to lift the lighter from its hiding place.
The look of relief on Joe’s face was choice. We proceeded to enjoy our unartistic mix of bacon, egg, black pudding fry up and a cup of weak tea followed by a couple of mints. Anything on the top of a mountain in these conditions tastes absolutely wonderful.
With the light and the temperature dropping rapidly I grasped my camera for a tour of the flat peak of the mountain. The sun was beginning to set over Skye to our West with the light changing by the minute. Here are just a few of the shots I took.
In this shot the tent is blocking out most of the harsh light from the sun but in doing so it also allows the colours in the sky to be more visible as the tent remains in silhouette. Adding a little on camera flash exposes the tent just a little and lights up the reflectors.
Taking shots into the setting sun can be rewarding or darn right disappointing. Again it is important to take variable exposures once you have picked your position. Sometimes a graduated filter can help to get a balance of exposure between the relative underexposure of the foreground and overexposure of the sun.
We both slept well even though there was a continuous cold wind flapping the tent about for most of the night.
By morning the wind had eased and as luck would have it I stepped out to relieve myself just as the sun was rising over the Scottish mainland.
In this shot I had to drag out some of the detail in what was underexposed foreground. The sea was relatively calm but creates an interesting pattern on this exposure taken on a tripod.
Turning the camera round the little bit of sun from behind me in the East was creating some nice highlights on the Cuillin mountains. Again it was a case of dragging out some of the detail in the foreground and getting more definition and drama by making it into an HD image.
I dived back into the tent for my camera, donned a few extra layers and waited for the display. Unfortunately the sunrise wasn’t that amazing as there was much more in the way of cloud cover. Shafts of light moved along the Eastern horizon creating an ever changing pattern of light. Even though I was shivering I managed to grasp a few shots as the scene changed. Resting the camera on large boulders acts as a very suitable tripod in these situations. With a little editing I was well satisfied with some of my images and well worth the effort to climb that wonderful little mountain.
A well earned rest and just a little indulging in a special brew.
We had a very enjoyable real meal at the hotel before catching the next boat back to Sconser and home.