Culture

On the Road with Mark: Thanksgiving Day in Isle of Skye, Scotland

Off the western coast of Scotland, the Isle of Skye is 50 miles long and 30 miles across at its widest point. When viewed on a map, the island with its three peninsulas resembles a large lobster in shape. Skye is part of a chain of islands known as the Inner and Outer Hebrides. Once you sail west past the Outer Hebrides, the next stop is North America.

On Thanksgiving Day 2017, we awoke on Skye to snow on the mountains. Since Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated as a holiday in the UK, the next best thing to do while our family and friends back home are enjoying turkey is to go out and photograph.

© Mark Maio – Leica M9-P w/ 35mm

Skye is only 625 miles due south of Iceland, so by the end of November the sun rises just above the horizon and stays low all day, creating dramatic lighting for photography.

Given the constant moisture in the air, it has an almost physical quality you can feel.

The first image was made along a single-track road leading up to the Quirang, a series of volcanic plateaus often referred to as Jurassic Skye, as the island was formed by volcanos and many fossilized remains of dinosaurs have been discovered in the area. The sky in the east opened up just enough to let the sun scrape across the landscape, highlighting both the sheep and the mountains. The communal stone enclosure is called a “fank” and is used by local crofters to corral and work with their sheep.

© Mark Maio – Canon 5D MarkII w/ Canon 100-400mm

The coast of the island is a mixture of rocky beaches and sheer stone cliffs hundreds of feet high. One site called Kilt Rock, because the cliffs down to the ocean resemble pleats in a kilt, affords a wonderful view of the rock face and waves below. During previous visits, I’ve noticed that there are two sets of waves from different directions converging on a particular rock. Depending on the wind and the force of the water, both sets of waves crash over this large rock hit the rock face of the cliff below, and then bounce back towards the rock to form abstracts patterns around it.

While most people visiting this location concentrate their cameras on the massive cliffs, photographing there has taught me to look beyond the obvious site itself. Rather I’ve learned to make images that convey what I feel about the interface between the land and the sea. 

© Mark Maio – Leica M9-P w/ 35mm

The landscape varies considerably across the island. The southern third of Skye features a series of lower, rounded hills or “Munros” as they are more commonly referred to in Scotland. Numerous lakes or “lochs”, many fed by underground springs are scattered across the island. Others are the result of a river meeting the ocean via what we would normally call a bay. Frequently the surface of the lochs can be mirror-like and invoke a peacefulness completely different than what is felt photographing the more rugged peaks of the north.

I returned from my first trip to Skye telling all my photographic friends about the incredible light that I encountered here, and almost ten years later each day is a surprise of light and weather. I feel extremely fortunate to I have the opportunity to continue photographing in this special place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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