I’d actually been to St. Kilda on 3 separate occasions, prior to this trip. St. Kilda is renowned for it’s bad weather, but on each occasion I’d been, I’d landed on a bright, sunny, warm day so I didn’t feel that my images had captured to true essence of the place.
I’d been captivated by the look and feel of the island from the first time I went in 2010 and I wanted to experience that feeling of true isolation, but I also wanted the opportunity to create some images that I felt showed the real character of these islands on the edge of the known world. Day trips are fine for getting a taste of the island, but staying overnight would mean that I’d have an opportunity to produce some images in softer end of day light.
My old boss often used to say, “be careful what you wish for” and I must say this was in my mind when I was wishing for atmospheric conditions. Now, being a novice camper, having warm, dry conditions did make my camping experience that much more enjoyable, so I was reasonably glad I didn’t have the damp, misty, windy conditions that often prevail on the islands.
Once set up it was a fascinating experience to watch the boat I’d arrived on, leave. I was totally on my own in the campsite, so if my stove didn’t work, I’d have to survive on cold food. However, I needn’t have worried, the stove was fine and my Wayfarer packet meals were quite pleasant to eat. Which is more than I could say for my reserve de-hydrated meals which I’d have to eat to survive, rather than for pleasure if my ride home was delayed!
So camp set, meal eaten, it was time for a recce. One of the drawbacks to photographing St. Kilda is, if you want to shoot into the sun at sunrise or sunset, then you must climb a minimum of 900 feet. As it turned out the sky clouded over, so the sunset was a bit blank that first evening, meaning I got to bed a bit earlier than I might have done. I set my alarm for 3.15 and had a remarkably comfortable night’s sleep thanks to my Thermarest inflatable mattress. 3.15am dawned heavily overcast, so I reset the alarm for 5am, but woke to dull, damp, grey conditions, so I lie in was in order.
By the time I’d had my breakfast and a shower in the very warm, smart ablution block, the sky had cleared and it was time for more exploring. I climbed the 1300 feet to the radar station and found a good location the evening’s sunset shoot. The hoped for nice soft light materialised late in the afternoon allowing me a chance to get some nice images of the village, before setting off on the 1200 foot climb to shoot the sunsetting behind Soay. This proved a steep climb and not helped by the attentions of the Skuas (Bonkseys). Once in place the location proved great and the light promising, but once again it clouded over before sunset, so I arrived back nearer 11pm, rather than the midnight that it might have been.
I had planned to do an overnight time-lapse, but the cloud cover rendered this a non-starter. 3.15am the following morning soon came around and proved to be very overcast, so back to sleep again, before being awoken by glorious light streaming into the tent as the clouds broke around 5am. Needless to say I was up, dressed and out in flash. The light looked gorgeous in the bay, so I followed the light towards the Mistress Stone and spent a fantastic hour or so enjoying the “photographer’s” dappled light over Ruival.
I wandered back to camp for a quick breakfast before heading out to make the most of this lovely light in Glen Mor, then all too soon it was time to break camp and make my way to the boat. Packing up in the dry was a pleasure and I hate to think what it would have been like if it was raining! So, whilst nice weather definitely had it’s upsides, I still haven’t come away with any mood, misty images of Boreray or the sea stacks. Who knows, I might just have to go again to get those images. It’s taken me a long time to achieve my ambition to camp on St. Kilda, but it was worth all the trouble and heartache, as the experience lived up my expectations. One of the wonderful things about achieving your ambitions, is that it allows you to have some new ones! So, roll on the next adventure.