So I have just spent a week in the Scottish Highlands at a photographic workshop – The bigger picture – photo book and portfolio making workshop – it felt like a month (in a good way). What a great venue in Mellon Charles at the Perfume Studio it is amazingly equipped and reviewing an OS Map doesn’t prepare you for the beauty of the surrounding landscape – breathtaking.

The Team

The team of tutors were fantastic and friendly and I had a great laugh! Joe Cornish needs little introduction not only is he a deeply knowledgeable person but a great artist and I learnt a lot about light. Eddie Ephrams seems to be Mister Publisher in the photographic world and introduced me to layout and style. Paul Sanders having spent 10 years as the Times picture editor looking at thousands of images a day summarises your efforts in seconds but in a fashion that feels great and leads to support in the field next day fixing that ‘issue’. Owner of the studio, Adrian Hollister,  was also helping out brilliantly until he tried to take his head off with the garage door – nice one Adrian glad you were OK.

My fellow tutees’ were a great mix of professional and amateur photographers who all had varying learning goals. We all collaborated brilliantly and we really had some belly laughs, drank a few glasses of wine and worked and worked (sometimes from 0530 to 1900 !).

The Workshop

I choose to do the portfolio group, led by Joe, which involved creating a selection of 5 images which for me summarised the area. I am also going to use these images and a few more to create a book with InDesign and publish through Blurb – coming soon.

I arrived in Mellon Charles from the Isle of Skye after a few days taking photo’s in Elgol and the Cullins (see my Scotland gallery). There was a lot of snow on the mountains and the drive takes you through beautiful but desolate landscape. By the road there are intermittent remnants of a past age which seem not to be cleared presumably due to their isolation and they obviously rust. So I decided to take my theme from ‘Breathtaking Beauty and Dilapidation’ the hardest part was capturing alluring images of dilapidation and this was a challenge for me – Joe and Paul where a fantastic help and very supportive. In the end the beauty was ‘easy’ but these images are coming in the book matched with dilapidated  (Beauty and Beast) – you will have to wait and see in a future blog – sneak preview in gallery!

My Portfolio

So here are my selection – thanks to everyone who helped.


Old Boat at Cove


Abandoned Lobster Pots at Cove


Abandoned House at Cove


Disused Petrol Pump at Aultbea


Harbour at Aird Point

Of course it wouldn’t do not to tell you what, Sharon (wife), my greatest ‘critic’ had to say:

Well I wouldn’t give them wall space

Update 24th July 2013: Book now published

Personal learning notes:

  • Feel the landscape and explore not just the geomorphology but at your feet and the sky.
  • Spend time exploring the composure of each image – though in great light just take it – and then carry on reflecting on the composure.
  • Painting with light (dodge and burn) is such an old part of our craft and the new tools in Lightroom and Photoshop are easy to use.
  • Take on a challenge and don’t stay in your comfort zone.
  • Be careful – I slipped and damaged my Zeiss 21mm and smashed my big stopper – a few days later the wind also blew over my tripod when my back was turned.
  • Fundamentally find a group of like minded photographers, have fun, share and collaborate.
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Skye is probably my favourite place in the World! For the last 30 years I have returned many times and enjoyed the Isle especially the Cullins and my favourite whisky Talisker. I have done several winter ascents and scared myself on a few occasions the last interesting moment was in summer a few years ago with Sharon climbing Sgurr Alasdair on a windy day – you have to take the Cullins seriously but boy are they rewarding!

So I have never been to Elgol but stayed nearby when I did a winter ascent of Bla Bheinn – anyhow with my photographic workshop coming up I thought I would drop into Elgol given its ‘fame’ and get the boat across to Loch Cornisk where I have never been but seen from above. My real hope was a star field shot of the Cullins from Elgol.

Shore Cottage at Elgol in Isle of Skye

It was impossible to find a B&B with space so I really ended being very lucky to stay at Shore Cottage in self catering – Joanie McKinnon made me very welcome and I had the freedom to come and go at all hours plus it is a fantastic place and right on the beach above the pier!

I have to say Elgol lives up to its reputation with the Cullin backdrop and great beach and shoreline. Met several photographers on the beach include some great blokes from Essex who were telling me about the JCB (Joe Cornish Boulder – named after the shot on the front of First Light: A Landscape Photographer’s Art) and where it was – cool.

I got the Misty Isle Boat across to Loch Cornisk and was rewarded by some great panaroma’s as well as sightings of red dear and common seals.

Loch Cornisk


Scavaig River flowing into Loch Scavaig in Isle of Skye - B&W

Cullins in Skye over Loch Cornisk with  Scavaig River

The beach has large pebbles and rocks but are not that slippy and nor are the rock past the point – the point is navigable with any tide except with a high spring with low pressure and given I was round it several times, including at 0230, this was great.

Sunset at Elgol in Skye

Cullins in Skye from Elgol

Not only did I get the shot I went for but I caught the Cullins with the Northern Lights behind them – I spent two hours marvelling at my D800 as whilst I could see the Cullins were back lit it was confusing until I got the exposure right, as I could not distinguish the Northern Lights with my eyes and there is no light source North of the Cullins!

Star Field and Northern Lights over Cullins in Skye from Elgol

Anyhow hope you enjoy some my other shots below.

Sunset at Elgol in Skye Elgol Elgol Sunset at Elgol

Cullins in Skye from Elgol Cullins in Skye from Elgol Elgol Beach with Cullins Behind
Lobster Pots on Elgol Pier

Click icons on map below to see Shore Cottage and photoshoots – zoom out for Loch Cornisk

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Can you believe it Josh got up at 0545 to go take photo’s – well done dude. He’s been talking about learning photography for sometime now and the start was this morning.

It was a cloudless morning so nice sunrise and catchlights.Josh Purves

Teaching Josh I managed to get most of my pre-sunrise (bar one) and actual sunrise out of focus I opened the aperture a touch and forgot to shift the focus anyhow as you can see I swapped lens just after sunrise and spotted the error when I stuck the Zeiss 21mm back on – what a numpty – I ordered new glasses last week!

Josh’s shots

 St Mary's Lighthouse at Dawn Old Harley

 St Mary's Lighthouse at Dawn North Pier Tynemouth

Not a bad start he even did his own edits in Lightroom going to pick up on some of learning needs tomorrow.

My shots

 St Mary's Lighthouse at Dawn St Mary's Lighthouse at Dawn St Mary's Lighthouse at Dawn

 St Mary's Lighthouse at Dawn St Mary's Lighthouse at Dawn -Prof Ian Purves-20130302-0825

The second of the right was my first shot with a Lee Big Stopper had to adjust white balance a bit – I must get round to that filter blog I keep talking about.

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