The smell was quite simply overpowering
The Outer Hebrides is an odd kind of place – don’t get me wrong I think it’s wonderful but this windswept outcrop is a little strange. No trees. Just lots and lots of weather. It does however have some of the oldest rocks in the world – the wonderfully named Lewisian gneiss, a mere 3 billion years old. I’m not much of a geologist but you do end up having slightly more than a passing interest in rocks if you spend long enough looking at them.
Which is either suffering for your art or just a hairs breath away from insanity, looking at rocks for a long time that is.
But that’s what I was embarking on, very very early on one June morning. The Hebrides have the same magical quality as Iceland in that at that time of year the sun never really sets. It just bounces nicely off the horizon. The beach at Gearrannan (northern Lewis) is a remarkable place to photograph, but trying to make sense of the chaos that evenly sized, similarly coloured rocks present is tricky. It’s a bit like making a photograph of spaghetti hoops interesting.
After much rock gazing I had found a composition that worked, naturally it was just near a decomposing seal. It stank of rotting fish. A lot. What to do? Photograph or not…Luckily I came equipped with the most trusty piece of photographers kit – my T shirt which was employed as a (rather ineffectual) haz-mat across my mouth. I was willing myself to believe that it was working…
What I will say is that it concentrated my mind but using a view camera is not necessarily a quick process. It can be if needed. But photographing rocks at close quarters with a tripod that was doing it’s best as a gymnast is laborious.
Still the end result was worth it and “Red and White” has been one of my more popular images in portfolio. Now you know the back story of how it was made / smelled.