This winter on Skye has been challenging with a large number of storms as well as heavy falls of snow and many days that justify its description as “The Misty Isle”.  While living on Skye I have learnt that one can never predict the weather (nor believe the forecast) from one second to the next and certainly not from one day to the next.  In many ways, that is its charm but also its challenge.  While we live amongst stunning scenery, its mountains are treacherous in winter, its roads are gridlocked in summer and sometimes closed because of ice and snow.  It is hard living on Skye with services most people in the UK would take for granted, such as dentist or haircut appointments or visiting larger shops, involving a four-hour round trip.  Although the Island is linked to the mainland via a bridge it remains dormant and effectively closed during the winter months.  Many hospitality outlets are closed and there are few places offering food and shelter.  It is a hard life but for those that take a chance and try it the rewards are a wild and beautiful environment with moments of wonder and awe every day.

I feel the urge to return to the loch today and capture the reality of the Island on what appears to be a quieter day weather wise with a faint glimmer of sunshine.  I love to visit the loch in the early part of the year when a flash of sunlight can transform its surface or bring the reeds into sharp relief against its inky blue water, or a sudden and sharp gust of wind that might momentarily lift me off my feet and send threatening waves through the reed beds.  There can also often be some menacing shadows cast by the Cuillin that lie beyond the southern end of the loch.

It is bitterly cold, and the water is very choppy.  The reeds move frantically in the wind painting a blurry picture as they do so.  It is a day to allow nature to paint its images onto my sensor.  While I often use a relatively slow shutter speed such as 1/10, 1/20 or 1/30 of a second, today I have decided to slow it down further.  Very slow shutter speeds are not a technique I use very often but today I want to see what emerges from 1, 2 or 3-second settings.  I realise that the frantic movement of the wind and the water combined with slowing down the shutter speed of my camera may resemble sludge, but I feel the need to experiment. . .

I take a few test shots to try out my plan.

A Dreamy Winter’s Day 1 – Alison Price, February 2024

A Dreamy Winter’s Day 2 – Alison Price, February 2024

A Dreamy Winter’s Day 3 – Alison Price, February 2024

I note in my journal that my practice at this stage is very much conscious rather than intuitive and although there are times when I begin to drift, the cold wind combined with the experimental mode of my practice, on this occasion, locks me into an intentional mindset.  The early images on the shoot show me how the combination of movement in the subject and a slow shutter speed produces a milky and rather dreamy aesthetic and while the reeds are blurred there is a clear sense of the upright position from which they sway.  The reeds remain recognisable and yet the slow shutter speeds provide a sense of their frantic movement.  Meanwhile, the loch’s surface is milky while retaining an allusion to the choppiness and relentless pummelling by the wind.

As I move around the edges of the loch, the promise of a glimmer of sunshine recedes, and the water takes on a threatening tenor.  At the same time, I realise that my fingers are cold and almost incapable of operating the camera.  This revelation brings me back to consciousness and with it little hope of drifting into the zonal flow that is so important to my practice.  Although, as my hands begin to thaw the occasional flash of light emerges momentarily between the clouds.

A Dreamy Winter’s Day 4 – Alison Price, February 2024

A Dreamy Winter’s Day 5 – Alison Price, February 2024

A Dreamy Winter’s Day 6 – Alison Price, February 2024

As I sit on a rock recording my thoughts at the end of the shoot surrounded by sheep, I do not see it as successful from the point of view of the images I have taken. My ability to lose myself in the landscape such that my shots might uncover allure has been thwarted on this occasion.  However, for all the times that I work in various locations, I have to be realistic that being able to enter the zone, or my dwelling place on a particular day is limited.  The conditions need to be right, both internally and externally.  I need to be comfortable in the wider sense of the word and at one with the landscape and the focus of my attention.  As I recorded in my thesis, I need to feel as if I am curled up in a battered leather chair, old yet comfortable, to dwell!

Alison Price

Alison Price

My name is Alison Price and for the past ten years I have travelled the world photographing wildlife, including Alaska, Antarctica, Borneo, Botswana, the Canadian Arctic, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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