Fumbling in the darkness, dimly aware of the howling wind outside, I turned off my 6am alarm and switched on the lamp. Immediately, a warm cosy light shone across my room at the Uig Hotel, our base during a week of learning about photography. After staring at the ceiling for a few moments I threw back the duvet and headed for my pile of clothes; thermals, several layers, waterproofs, thick socks, gloves, scarf, and hat. Ten minutes later I was downstairs in the hotel entrance with other similarly clad people and our camera gear, ready to head out into 50 mile-an-hour winds.
Half an hour later we walking up to The Quiraing, a landslip on the north-eastern corner of the Isle of Skye and our viewpoint for an early morning session of landscape photography. This morning, we had been told over dinner the night before, was for the tutors to see what level of skill each person was at, to enable them to tailor the week-long course to each individual through a series of group outings and one-to-one sessions. We set ourselves up at our chosen viewpoints and waited patiently for sunrise, watching the landscape before us change with the light.
This was the reason I was here – to get to know my camera and to learn how not to just capture a scene, but hopefully capture a moment with a story behind it. Having had my Nikon for just over a year I had decided it was time to learn how to use it properly, instead of having my camera setting on ‘Auto’, pointing and shooting and hoping for the best. With perfect timing, a place had become available on one of Marcus McAdam’s photography academy’s on the Isle of Skye. Travel and photography in one: perfect.
Fast forward a few days and our group, who by now had gone from strangers to good friends with whom we could joke around with, was slowly thawing out from another early morning photo opportunity, again up on The Quiraing. After a delicious and hearty breakfast we sat around tables with cups of tea and coffee in our hands whilst we waited for the next theory session to begin. Having covered composition and focus in previous theory sessions, this morning’s lesson was about exposure.
Theory sessions were designed to build upon the previous days teachings, while the mix of early morning, afternoon and evening sessions were spent putting our newfound knowledge in to practice. The wind, if possible, grew even stronger at times so that we could almost horizontal against it, but we were assured it could be a lot worse… It was certainly exhilarating.
Marcus and his team members, Harry and Nick, were fantastic tutors, each specialising in a slightly different aspect of photography and each more than happy to answer our seemingly endless questions. Information was pitched to the right level of skill for each person and they were friendly, knowledgeable, patient, encouraging, and inspiring. The Uig Hotel was a wonderful base for the week; beds were comfortable, showers were hot (very important!) the staff were welcoming, and the food was extremely tasty and cooked with local produce. Perfect after a day out in the fresh air!
Over the course of the week we also visited Talisker Bay, Kilt Rock, Portree, and that most photographed of castles, Eilean Donan, practising landscapes, portraits, long exposures, and some wildlife and macro photography too. Our patience was rewarded one evening with a beautiful sunset over Uig bay, with one eye on the colourful sky and the other on our tripods to make sure they remained upright in the face of a strong sea breeze. Unfortunately, earlier lessons seemed to have gone out of my head and all my photos that evening were incredibly out of focus – I hadn’t realised that the lens was focused on the small patch of grass immediately in front of my camera, so everything else was very blurred. Ooops.
All photos taken by Rachel Bates.
For details on other photography courses and holidays visits Marcus’s website Marcus McAdam Photography.