Here’s a story of a photo that I came within seconds of missing. It’s a story of being prepared and being not prepared all at the same time.
After leaving Glencoe, Scotland, I had one more stop planned before arriving on the Isle of Skye. My stop was in Kyle of Lochalsh, which was the closest accommodation I could find to the Eileen Donan Castle, about 15 minutes away.
I stopped at the castle on my way there during the afternoon, scoped it out, and decided on a few compositions I liked. But honestly, I’m not that big on castles. I thought it was just okay.
While I was there, I got talking to a couple of guys who work there and told them of my plan to come back for sunset. They burst into laughter and said “Sunset??? HAHAHA, Darlin’ I haven’t seen the sun since March!”.
Granted I hadn’t seen the sun since I got to Scotland and not one bit of colour in the sky either. Maybe it was just the wrong time of year for the shot I wanted. Also, the tide was high, which meant the tide would not be high later in the day when I was hoping for a reflection. Sigh.
I continued on, checked into my hotel (which turned out to be 30 minutes drive and not 15) and proceeded to laze about for awhile. I was tired. I looked outside and saw a white sky. So I went downstairs to the pub for dinner and decided to just rest up and go back to the castle for sunrise instead. Back in my room, I thought I would go on the internet and look up photos of the castle to find out if the compositions I chose were unique or if they were already overdone. Scrolling through the images, I suddenly became aware of something I didn’t know before.
“OMG … THEY TURN THE LIGHTS ON AT NIGHT!!! $HIT!!!”
That changes everything. I had no idea about the lights. How could I have missed it?
I jumped up and looked out my hotel room window. “OMG clouds! $hit!” I looked at the time. 30 minutes to sunset. 30 minute drive. $hit!!
I grabbed my stuff, ran out to my tiny rental car, and drove as fast as the speed limit would take me back to the castle, all the time looking in my mirrors at the sky where colour was starting to appear. I wondered whether those guys that worked at the castle would remember me when they saw the only sunset of the season that night.
When I got there, there was a line-up of photographers!!! Where did these people come from? A photo tour. $hit.
But look … they are all farther down from the spot I chose that afternoon. I literally ran up to my spot, slapped down my tripod, ripped open my bag, grabbed my camera, it was already set it up the way I like it, I got the composition I had already decided on, and took the shot.
30 seconds later, it was over. The colour was gone. GONE! 30 SECONDS, I KID YOU NOT.
I was so thankful that I got the shot! I checked my LCD … “please be in focus, please be in focus … YAY!”
With that razor thin amount of time, it was good planning that I had already chosen my exact position on the ground and the composition that I wanted and my camera was clean and set up the way I like it. But I almost didn’t go!
Lesson learned. After that I kept going to my locations no matter what the weather did (except that hurricane – it kept me inside one day).
After the colour was gone, there was still some drama in the sky, and the lights on the castle made all the difference, so I made some more images using the other compositions I chose earlier in the day.
For the image above, I added some spit toning in post-processing to bring some colour back into the sky.
For the image below, I took the opposite approach and desaturated it for a more dramatic look.
The next day, I did go back at sunrise, but it turned out to be a little underwhelming. Again, I was so glad I got the shot the night before or I would have been mad at myself for the rest of the trip! Still, I made this one photo that I quite like.
Next stop, the Isle of Skye!