2017 07 06 - The Quiraing
For myself, coming from the very unlumpy part of the UK (Nottingham), but always yearning for the mountains, Skye has always had a massive draw on me. My personal preference for photography has always been towards the dramatic, whether that be dramatic scenery, lighting, or weather. Because of this I feel very confident in saying that the Quiraing area is one of, if not, the best place in the UK for photography. I’m always very wary about making such a claim, as landscapes are very subjective, but for me the view, mixed with the challenge is something that I have yet to experience elsewhere. Still, there are always other locations to explore so I look forwards to finding somewhere better!Part of the Trotternish Ridge, which runs along the north eastern side of Skye, this landscape has been formed by an ancient landslip and then moulded of the ages by the seasons. Huge cliffs fall to green slopes, interrupted by incredible rock formations jutting out in defiance. The weather here is so changeable, and it isn’t unusual for the area to be shrouded in thick clouds, with the sun beaming through to light some distant peak.
This tree is about as famous as a tree can be! Frequently photographed, causing many a heart stopping moment as it juts over the drop
As a photography location there are all of the elements to build a successful shot. There are the cliffs which catch the early morning sunlight. The peaks remain dark in stark contrast to the lush, deep greens. There are the dramatic clouds, catching the reflections in the lakes. There’s a road that snakes into the scene as a nice lead in line. I have shot this in the gloom, the rain, the sunshine, morning and afternoon, and it works every time.
There are three main difficulties here. Firstly, trying to find a shot that hasn’t been taken before. Fortunately every shot is different. The weather on Skye is so varied that no two days are the same, so you will be guaranteed something that is uniquely yours. I have “ticked” the boxes for the cliche shots, and there is a reason that these are well trodden viewpoints. They yield great results. I have also walked the cliff path, to some of the less visited spots. Next time, I will explore further still. The second difficulty is that weather. You need to be flexible and roll with what you are given. You go there with a shot in mind, the forecast agrees with you – you’ll have glorious sun beams, rainbows and unicorns. When you get there, its raining, wind blowing into your face, clouds obscuring the view. The only option you have is to plough on regardless. Think outside the box and relish the challenge. Shoot for mono, or go small. Try to isolate elements of the landscape. Which brings me on nicely to the third difficulty; the scale! This place is huge. Massive in fact. The view is so open, with enormous elements that can easily be lost. Trying to compose to simplify and retain the scale is very difficult. So give yourself plenty of time to try different compositions. Pixels are free folks, so use them!
Where is it?
The Quiraing is on the North Eastern part of Skye, which is itself an island off the west coast of Scotland. Its a fair distance to Skye, 10 hours from Nottingham by car, then another 1.5 hours to get to the Quiraing. The view point has a large car park (see the map above) and access is very easy, with well trodden paths. If you want to get to some of the other spots you will need good shoes and weather gear, plus your wits and nerves. Some of the onwards paths can be treacherous, with some scrambling needed in places to get over small streams flowing over the path in some of the folds of the cliff face. You can drive to the area either by following the main road north from Portree for about 40 minutes, or cutting across the moorland from Uig, about a 30 minute drive.
If you are in the area you should look up the Old Man of Storr and the Fairy Glenn. Also, I recommend driving the coastal road around the northern edge of the island for some stunning scenery.
The ShotsThis collection of shots shows some of the viewpoints, and a variety of light and cloud cover. One thing to note is that the Quiraing changes colour throughout the year. Early on, the grass and heather is dormant, giving a brown and yellow covering, with a bit of green. In summer the green is so lush and vibrant, with purple heathers, that it is often too saturated.
I still need to explore further here. I plan to walk the ridge line, getting up high with the Eagles, shooting through the heather on the cliff edges. I also would like to walk the southern cliff edges. I would love to see a full cloud inversion here, with the landscape draped in thick fog, and shoot a long exposure.
I hope that you have found this short article interesting and useful, possibly even inspiring. My shots of the Quiraing are by no means the best out there, I haven’t yet had those perfect conditions that we all dream about. But that’s what keeps up going back…there’s always a better shot to be had!
Leave me a comment if you’ve any questions or if you yourself have been. I’d love to see your shots.