Black & White Photography Abstract Landscape from Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye on Black and White Film

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About this Post

In this article I discuss the art of black and white film photography using the Isle of Skye, the largest island on the western coast of Scotland, as the photography subject. The locations explored include castles, cemeteries, seaside cliffs, waterfalls, a shipwreck, and more. This reading is for anyone that is considering visiting the area or just curious to pick up a couple of photography pointers. In addition I also provide a small collection of 35mm film photographs I took during my visit to Isle of Skye and Glasgow. See photos from the image collection below. At the bottom I have included a hi-res free desktop wallpaper as a thank you to the reader.

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Image Collection

Out of the 30 rolls of film I brought along to the UK this trip, here are a few I have selected to illustrate Isle of Skye on Black and White Film.

Reasons to capture Isle of Skye on Black and White Film

Similar to my post about Photographing cemeteries in Edinburgh, the scenery in the Highlands makes you feel like you are living a real life enchanted folk tale. You are surrounded by muted earth-tone color palettes, foggy backdrops, waterfalls, castle ruins, old bridges, fishing towns, wild ravens, extinct volcanoes, pine meadows, silver lochs, and the list goes on.

The excitement from a trip like this is especially exciting because, as an wanderlust explorer, legally you are allowed to trek anywhere due to Scotland’s All Access Law. For example if you want to go to Talisker Falls, you have about 2.5 mile walk and you have to go through the yards of local residences. You won’t have anyone chasing you off with a broom but if you hit a swarm of Midges it might be a show-stopper. Aside from the changing weather and navigation hurtles, the weather might be a hangup for some.

The scenery throughout Isle of Skye is very diverse and so is the weather, especially in the fall. It’s not uncommon to experience all 4 seasons several times in a day and it can happen quickly. A torrential downpour could move in and a few minutes later suddenly stop as if someone just shut off the faucet and let the sun come out. You get to witness awe-inspiring visuals every few minutes. Since travelling abroad can have it’s moments complications I thought I would outline a couple examples below.

Challenges of Photographing Isle of Skye on Black and White Film

Departing the UK with exposed film

This was at the top of my list of stressors so I thought I’d cover it first. Airport itself was nice from what I could tell but I was thrown for a loop when I had to get through security checks with my exposed film before we departed. I would still recommend keeping your film in a separate ziploc bag and request a hand inspection but if they deny you the hand inspection like they did with me and they push all 36 rolls of film through the X-ray (without your consent)…..don’t panic. I felt like they might as well have tossed all my film down a well until I read later that the British Photographers‘ Liaison Committee (BPLC) had conducted tests on the scanners to verify that film with ISO lower than 1600 could pass through multiple times safely. All my film was totally fine.

UK Navigation

Getting to Isle of Skye is easiest if your flight lands in Inverness and travel from there. A car rental is highly recommended but there’s buses that are more cost effective. I picked up a rental car just before leaving Edinburgh and made the lengthy trip to Inverness. It took a long time because I was making frequent scenic stops to admire the landscapes before stopping at a hostel to stay overnight. Early the next morning I drove into Isle of Skye. I still wasn’t used to driving on the left though.


Learning to drive on the left took getting used to. There are a few habits to relearn, such as looking over your left shoulder instead of your right. Even seeing oncoming traffic pull around the corner on the right hand side might be alarming. Then you have the roundabouts, which are a little more complicated that in the midwest. All this is maneuvered with a manual transmission. I was lucky to have already learned driving a stick because in Scotland they are common even with car rentals.

Weather

As previously mentioned, there are sudden shifts in weather in the Highlands. If you are an landscape photographer or normally photograph outdoors in general then you probably already know to bring a rain jacket (not an umbrella). If not then look for one that is built to last. It’s worth the investment – don’t skimp for a cheapo. The jacket I have is a Northface. Not my favorite brand today but it has lasted me through several backpacking trips in the Rockies over the years without getting ripped or punctured. My camera bag also has a rain fly but when I was climbing Old Man of Storr it was raining off and on so frequently it was easier just to zip my jacket over my camera. Next, locals in the highlands are great to mingle with but send a mean mug glare at tourists who fumble with scottish lingo.

UK Lingo

As previously mentioned, there are sudden shifts in weather in the Highlands. If you are a landscape photographer or normally photograph outdoors in general then you probably already know to bring a rain jacket. If not then you’ll definitely need one. I would highly recommend against getting a cheap one. and umbrella’s don’t last long, too windy. The jacket I have is a Northface rain coat and it has lasted me through several backpacking trips in the Rockies without getting ripped or punctured. My ThinkTank camera bag does have a rain fly but when I was climbing Old Man of Storr it was raining off and on so frequently it was easier just to zip my jacket over my camera.

Recommended Non-Touristy Locations to Photograph

I recommend the below locations where you won’t have to deal with crowds of other tourists. Places like, castle ruins are great but there’s usually too many people in your way or they won’t let you bring a camera inside. For example, Eilean Donan was very crowded and they do not allow cameras inside.

Black and White Film Photograph of Isle of Raasay

Culross

This small town gets its character from the white-harled houses, red tiled roofs, and cobblestone streets. It is a very picturesque burgh and has become a well known attraction since the rise in popularity of the television series Outlander. It’s located just north of Edinburgh in Fife.

black and white film photograph of Culross

Clachan Duich Burial Ground

Located about midway between Edinburgh and Inverness, this church-ruins and cemetery is just off the side of the highway. It was one of those spur of the moment photo stops that I didn’t see anywhere online before the trip. See image down below.

black and white cemetery photo clachan duich burial ground

Trumpan Church and Cemetery

This is in my top five favorites. It is a bit of a drive along the Waternish Peninsula but so worth it. This ruins is an old church/cemetery or ‘kirkyard’ and it sits at the top of a hill overlooking a small town with the island of Eigg out in the vistas. It is worth mentioning that “The Battle of the Spoiling of the Dyke” took place here somewhere around 1578 – one of the many feuds between the McLeod and McDonald clans.

Trumpan Church and Cemetery on black and white film

Old Boat of Caol

The story is that this shipwreck was beached between the villages of Corpach and Caolin in 2011. It is 26 meters long and understandably a popular photography subject. The beach it sits on is accessible to the public and it is free.

old boat of caol on black and white film

Castle Stalker

I stopped here after visiting the Old Boat of Caol in Fort William. What I enjoyed visually about photographing Castle Stalker (Stalcaire in Gaelic) is that it is that it has occupied a small island since the 1300’s. This property has been taken over by several highlander clans: for example the McDougalls, the Stewarts, King James IV, and King Bruce. It sat vacant for many years. Until recently it is now privately owned.

black and white film castle photography

Talisker Falls

This waterfall is on an Isle of Sky seaside cliff not that far from Talisker Distillery. It requires a relatively lengthy walk from parking the car on the road then hike through a private home’s property to get there. In Scotland, it is legal to trek just about anywhere including privately owned land. At the time I visited this location, the waterfall was dry so the photos were, meh. Nonetheless, I never turn down a walk to a seaside cliff.

Talisker Falls black and white photograph on 35mm film

I would recommend this approach if you are wanting to to capture as many locations in Isle of Skye on Black and White Film as you can. They are easy to get to and there are usually accommodations close by. The downside, of course, is that you might have to share it with a crowd. To avoid this situation just arrive as early in the day as possible. For, example, Old Man of Storr is not that far of a drive from Portree. My wake up time was around 5am and arrived to the trail head around 5:30 to be the first one there.

Old Man of Storr

Just outside of Portree is the trailhead to ascend up 205 meters to the rock formations of Storr. Some parts of the trail had rocky stairs making it easier to enjoy one of my most favorite views of Skye, The Islands of Raasay and Rona.My arrival time was around 6am so there was I think one or two other hikers I saw on the way up.

old man of storr on black and white film

Glenfinnan Viaduct

You might recognize this from Harry Potter Hogwarts. For getting photos of the Jacobite Steam Engine train crossing the viaduct check the train crossing times before you go and allow ample time to hike out.

Photograph of Glenfinnan on black and white film

Sligachan bridge

Accessible right off the highway as you head towards Isle of Skye. There are mountain ranges in the background and also a quaint house just behind if that is a detail you would like to include in a scenic photo. There is a hotel just across the street so you could imaging the kind of foot traffic that gravitates to this iconic landmark. Definitely an easy photo if you are driving through.

sligachan bridge on black and white film

Fairy Pools

The drive to this destination is a good example of narrow roads that are common in the Highlands it is just wide enough for a single car but there frequent pullover checkpoints to let passers by. I’m not sure if I will add it to my agenda to go back. My recommendation for this site is to arrive early to beat the crowd. There is plenty of parking. Photogenically, it wasn’t what I had expected but early morning light or fog might have changed that.

fairy pools on black and white film

Fairy Glen

I wanted to check out, this spot because I thought the castle rock was very unique, and it definitely is but the vegetation and small hills throughout that small area added to the overall majestic vibe. I could see how much of a strong influence this had on Scottish folklore or the possibility that fairies legitimately inhabited this land once upon a time. If I stumbled onto this type of scene many centuries ago with no knowledge of its origins I am sure I would have said the same thing.

Fairy Glen on black and white film photography

Kilt Rock and Mealt falls

Just like any other outdoor photography destination, timing played a big part in the visual experience of this seaside cliff water fall. There is virtually no hike to get to it. Just park and there you are looking down at the waves smashing against the rocks at the bottom. To the left is the falls spewing over the edge. The site that I will always remember, photo captured or otherwise, was the wall of heavy rain storm at the horizon you could see approaching the land. In the other direction was a bright sun beam peaking through the clouds. By the time the rain was right above I was in the car loading another roll while waiting for the crowd to clear out.

Mealt Falls black and white photograph

Quirang

If you have the chance to try this I highly recommend it. The views are right in front of you from the trailhead. It’s even a common spot for couple to elope. The next time I am driving the Trotternish Peninsula in Skye it will be one of the first on my list to go back to since I didn’t quite make it out to needle point since I was on a tight schedule. The hike itself is rated as Medium in length (6.8km) and Hard in the Difficulty class. Skye recommends 2 hours to hike. I walked halfway out and did what I could with photos in that amount of time but I would recommend going early. I’ll try a before dawn hike next time I go.

Quirang photograph on black and white film

Dunvegan Castle

This is a touristy castle but cameras are allowed inside. Since the mirror lockup on SLR’s are kind of loud I stayed selective with quick snaps in certain rooms. The yard out in the back, which overlooks the sea loch of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, has a few small details I enjoyed photographing. The water well that was actually a dungeon below was where I ended up firing a few frames.

black and white photograph of Dunvegan castle in isle of skye

Conclusion about the Highlands

There is no shortage of pristine photo opportunities to get Isle of Skye on Black and White Film. 10 days in the United Kingdom is simply not enough time. For me personally, I will be going back very soon…with lots of film. I will invite my family and friends since I proposed to my fiance at the top of Old Man of Storr and the ceremony will be in Edinburgh, the book author capital of the world (nod to Harry Potter fans). For any photographers out there thinking about going, please do. And don’t mind the rain. It only lasts for maybe 30 seconds before the sun comes out. Sometimes.

Straight Photograph

black and white film photograph of trumpan church archway

Location:

Trumpan Church & Cemetery
of a former medieval town of the McDonald Clan


Abstract Double Exposure

black-and-white-Eilean-Donan-photograph-1

Location:

  • Eilean Donan Castle
  • Stairway downward
  • Cameras not allowed inside castle

Photo Gear I Used in Isle of Skye

Camera Body & Lens

  • Canon AE-1 Silver
  • Canon AE-1 Black
  • Canon 50mm f1.8
  • Vivitar Extension 80mm
  • Sekonic L-308 Meter

Optics

Developing

  • ilford microphen developer
  • ilford rapid fixer
  • cinestill developer
  • Epson v600 flatbed
  • Digitaliza film mask

Bag

Film Stock

  • Cinestill 800t
  • Cinestill 400d
  • Cinestill BWxx 250
  • Illford HP5+
  • Kodak Tmax

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I am interested in what readers find useful or not useful in my posts. Feel free to leave comments & critiques and if you would like to see future posts please consider signing up for my newsletter. For those interested is checking out previous projects I can be found on social media or my digital art blog. Thanks for reading. There is a desktop wallpaper for download below. Have a great rest of your day.

Regards,
-Lance

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