“Photography is essentially an act of non-intervention.”
For me, I have found some context for my work in the texts of Edmund Husserl such as Ideas and his theory of phenomenology and also through one of his followers Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time.
So, for this post I have decided to use the process of reduction – a fundamental approach in phenomenology – and apply it to my work in terms of the process I use in taking and then making an image. This definition of reduction also used interchangeably with bracketing and epoche comes from Wikipedia:
“Bracketing (also known as reduction or epoche) may be understood in terms of the phenomenological activity it is supposed to make possible: the “unpacking” of phenomena, or, in other words, systematically peeling away their symbolic meanings like layers of an onion until only the thing itself as meant and experienced remains. Thus, one’s subjective intending of the bracketed phenomenon is examined and analysed in phenomenological purity.”
I will conduct my reduction through a series of questions posed to myself before and during the making of the following image. As part of my project I write or record my thoughts similar to the way I have done it below as a means of recalling and documenting the photographic process.
Why the Isle of Skye?
The light is special. So many photographers choose to make their home in Skye. I particularly enjoy the seasons of autumn and winter in Skye and the ever-changing weather that rolls across the island – one of the reasons it is called “The Misty Isle”. In one day the weather can change from sunny to windy, snow and rain with the resultant transitions from one type of weather to another providing the most spectacular light on skyscapes, seascapes, landscapes and other photographic opportunities.
Why the Road to Elgol?
The Road to Elgol showcases the stunning scenery to be found right across the Isle of Skye but this road is special to me. I am drawn to the Black Cuillin – a range of dark, jagged and menacing hills, overlooking and protecting Loch Slapin and forming the backbone of south Skye and a mid point on the Road to Elgol. Every time I drive the road I have to stop, look and become mesmerised by these mysterious, dangerous and foreboding black gabbro rocks. I love the way the Hills are often wrapped in swirling and menacing clouds providing the backdrop to this mystical landscape. But, the road is not just about the Black Cuillin (although much of the attraction for me is in these hills), there are the wonderfully gentle, serene and welcoming Red Cuillin and there are lochs such as Slapin and Cille Chroisd, ruined churches, manses, small settlements and Elgol itself providing sunset vistas across to Loch Caruisk.
Why this image?
I wanted to choose a recent image and one that encompassed the beauty of the Red Cuillin range in order to share my experience of the wonder of the Red Cuillin and their gentle and serene nature. I also wanted a monochrome image which is my preferred approach when photographing the road.
How do you remember the day leading up to taking this shot?
This image was taken in early June on a very hot day after a long walk to the clearance village of Borreraig. The early morning walk from the ruined church at Kilchrist was shrouded in mist. I took the route past the remains of the old marble factory and followed the old railway line used to move marble from the quarries to the quay at Broadford. It was a long climb to the summit where I passed a cairn and looked across at the stunning views to Bla Bheinn. It was a long descent into Borreraig. By this time the mist had lifted and the water on the Loch was sparkling as I looked across to Ord on the Sleat peninsula.
Borreraig was cleared by Lord MacDonald in 1852. All residents were evicted and their houses were burned in order to make way for more profitable sheep farming. It is very easy to see why a settlement had existed here given the beautiful views and countryside surrounding Borreraig. I carried on through the village taking photographs before returning via the same route back towards Kilchrist.
What do you remember about the minutes leading up to your taking this image?
I was tired both physically and mentally from wielding my camera, sometimes with a long lens, for a number of hours previously and carrying my rucksack up hill for a few miles. I was walking back across some heathland looking across to both the Black and Red Cuillin. Cloud was bubbling up in the early afternoon sun. I was sure the hills would again provide me with a wonderful image.
The clouds began to “cascade” over the ridges producing a gentle “waterfall” effect. I was high up in line with the Red Cuillin but had a lot of uninteresting foreground to scramble over. I moved as quickly as I could through the uneven and sponge-like moorland trying to find a good viewing point whilst not losing my chance of a shot.
I finally found my spot. I sat and watched the movement of the clouds over the Red Cuillin. The world was silent, not much bird song just quiet. The Road to Elgol below was silent. That is how I like it. I felt as if I could hear the movement of the clouds as I sat and watched for a moment.
I had been using my camera all day and it felt comfortable in my hands. I changed to my trusty 70-200mm lens as I wanted to get up close to the Hills. I changed the focal length to around 180mm hoping to capture the detail of the scree and soft red rock below.
The sky was blue, the Cuillin was full of pattern and texture and red traces of the volcanic rock glistened in the sun under a hazy sky. The clouds formed for me a perfect “waterfall” and I pressed the shutter. I only took a couple of shots but I knew this would be the best image of my trip. I would not have seen this image had I not been high up on a neighbouring hill. I could have passed it by had I been walking on the road itself.
How did you make the image from the raw file?
I had taken a wider shot of the cascade than ultimately appeared in the final image. I did this in order to ensure I captured every aspect of the “cascade” if I wanted to include it. I also wanted to crop out some of the foreground to give a greater focus on the real subject of the image. I added clarity to the patterns on the hills to enhance the feeling of texture and applied a de-haze brush to the cascade itself. I converted my image to monochrome – when I took the image I conceived it in black and white and saw its potential in those terms.
Barthes, R (1981), Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, Hill and Wang, New York
Sontag, S (1977), On Photography, Penguin, United Kingdom