Having proclaimed in my draft thesis last week that I had become a serial writer, I find myself not allocating enough time to write on this blog! After putting together the previous blog about the Water Lilies Collection, I have decided to reflect on the Reeds Collection largely through imagery rather than words. As part of the process of redrafting Chapter 2, I have begun to edit all my photographic images taken during the PhD, to form a library resource for my thesis and also as the initial edit for the handmade book I will be producing. Loch Cill Chriosd has been a favoured location for me over the past decade, but it is only over the past four years that I have focused on the Being of the loch, the Being of the reeds, and the Being of the loch and the reeds. I am fascinated by the elementals of the loch and the interaction between the reeds, lilies, water, light, and skies above, and the surrounding environs including silver birch woods, ferns, and mountains and how these elements play a part in my photographic experience on a particular day. I am more interested in natural details rather than the sweeping landscapes of sensory perception. The image below is the first shot I recall taking of the Loch and provides some context for the rest of my images.
“The north wind was chill, and on the upper slopes of Beinn na Cailliche we found little shelter from it. Upon Loch Cille Chriosd, in Strath Suardal, immediately beneath us, the breath of the breeze could be seen to stir the waters, and dark flurries hurried southward in unending succession across the loch.” (Gordon 1929) p12).
These words from naturalist and writer Seton Gordon provide a hint of the chameleon-like character of the loch I have come to know. On few occasions, it can be comfortable and pleasant to dwell for hours on the shores of Loch Cill Chriosd – sitting on a rock, writing my journal, and perhaps drawing to hone my attentiveness, however as Gordon suggests the waters and skies above can change in a moment. While many of my images below capture the tranquil and clear waters and the gentle nodding heads of the reeds, the reality can be cruel and bitterly cold, with the unwary photographer soaked in a moment by hailstones and strong southerly winds, unable to shelter their camera before it too succumbs to the vagaries of the weather on this small patch of water in South Skye. The weather and Island life can be remorseless, dominant, and cruel and it is isolated compared with most parts of the British Isles. It is certainly not for the faint-hearted nor for those seeking the finer things in life, with services and facilities two hours away in Inverness. But the Island pays back those who commit themselves to a remote life of relative solitude. Its beauty can be breathtaking, but its reality captures those quiet enough to persevere, contemplate and be carried away by what Skye has to offer.
During my MA in Photography I changed from literal representation to a focus on form, shapes and patterns in the reeds. However, as my MA drew to a close and in a philosophical turn, I shifted from an interest in phenomenology to a wish to explore Graham Harman’s Object-Oriented Ontology in my photographic practice. In the early days of my PhD I went out in bad weather and experimented with intentional camera movement to emphasise the natural movement of the reeds, and multiple exposures as a means to capture depth and luminosity in my work. I also played with allowing nature to paints its own story by using slow shutter speeds.
As winter set in, the day’s brightened and the temperatures plummeted. I began exploring Ryan’s strategy of fracture in getting to the essence. In the images below, the surface of the loch is frozen and the reeds represent the intersection between plant and water. It also provides a hint of the resilience required by the reeds to survive and thrive in this hostile place.
In the following image taken in the spring, it clearly demonstrates the strength and resilience of the reeds as they emerge from hibernation, having been frozen solid for weeks over the winter.
The colours of autumn at the loch are my favourite, especially the contrast between blues and oranges. I chose the landscape format to give a sense of the scale of the reed beds and its density.
While I continue to visit the loch throughout the year, the images below I believe are some of my most successful. The colours of spring combine with the emergence of the fragile stems, and along with my developed skills with intentional camera movement I believe I capture the essence.
The magic continues with multiple exposure work to capture the beautiful reflections, often captured with slow shutter speeds in the first layer.
These final images demonstrate nature painting its own pictures again with slow shutter speeds.
As the days slip into winter, it is exciting to review some of my images spanning all the seasons at the loch. This exercise has allowed me to make comparisons between years and how the light and colours differ between seasons. My work is not finished. I continue to work at the loch whenever the mood takes me!