Rafael Rojas Photography

Blog of Rafael Rojas Fine Art Photography

Back from the Hebrides!


Hi there! Happy new 2012 to everyone!! I have been hiding and lost, almost literally, in a tiny island lost in the middle of the Atlantic. Well, not really lost for the 90 people who inhabit the island indeed, but a bit out of the radar indeed during 10 great days in the isle of Eigg, between the isles of Skye, Muck and Rum. Eigg proved to be a paradise to connect with simplicity, watch the time go by and, why not, hear the hail, gales and rain make the windows rattle while you stay by the fire with your book and hot chocolate.

For the third year in a row, we have headed out to Scotland for Xmas and New Year. It is incredible how different the conditions have been on these three occasions. The winter of 2010 beat the records of cold and snow, and we found a winter wonderland indeed. Light was fabulous, and the trip turned out to become one of my most prolific photographic trips ever. We covered the isle of Skye and Glencoe that year, to find hoar-frost, ice and snow blanketing every single part of the landscape. The following year, in Torridon and Sutherland, we saw a mixture of seasons in the two weeks we were there. A week of snow and a week or rain mixed with snow storms, when the snow line came down and up offering incredibly varied photographic opportunities. This year, we decided to slow down a bit and focus on a tiny island, Eigg. We rented a little cottage, left the car at the pier in Mallaig and had a wonderful time with no car, no phone, no internet, no TV, no radio, no newspapers...just ourselves, the cameras, a good book and a lot of time to work on my next photography book.

Weather was really Scottish this year: Rain, winds of almost 90 miles per hour, hail, some sunshine, lightning, incredible waves, more horizontal rain...But I do not know why, I had almost expected this year it would be this way. That part of Scotland receives more rain and "miserable" weather than any other, but again when light hits the show is something you cannot find anywhere else, and some amazing light did happen. In any case, even (or most of all) in cloudy and stormy days the very spirit of this land is revealed and I might say that some of my best images were taken during periods of really bad weather and no hint of colour in the sky or land.

Being on that island, working for days along the same stretch of coast was really a great exercise. I turned out to beat all preconceptions and make the most of every single situation. If I could stand on my feet outside, I would go to visit the coast and see how the tides, the waves, the currents and the weather had completely changed, again, the whole setting. I abandoned all "urgency" to make photographs...I was looking more for a connection with the land and the experience of being there than hurrying to find "photographic trophies". Feeling the weather and the rawness of the place made me feel quite alive, and humble.

Technically the trip was quite a challenge to say the least. For most of my photography, I had to put an umbrella (which ended in the bin) in front of the lens, wait for the hail to pass, wipe out the lens, raise quickly the umbrella and make one exposure, lower the umbrella, wipe the lens again and wait for the new wave of rain and hail to pass over me. Light was really transient, and that made the use of my 617 panoramic camera a bit difficult. This camera has only 4 images per roll, and while changing them I really risked losing the 5 only great seconds of light of the day, clouds and light was changing that fast. I could not imagine how a LF photographer might have worked in such conditions.

As I grow as a photographer, I realize that photographing the energy, the flow and the transient in the natural world is really something which hooks me. As somebody said, some of the photographs I like the most are those which are more likely to be missed or ruined, and these quickly changing situations become a real challenge. Seeing a world so alive in front of me is really something I love...as it is the need to react quickly to the environment, to get into a hectic state of connection where improvisation is essential to produce a strong photograph.

All in all, it might not have been the most prolific photographic trip in terms of number of images made...but the experience has really proved to be incredible. Next year, more to come...

To end with the post, here there is one of the images I took while on Eigg. Rum rises in the distance from the stormy seas. It was made in one of those periods of really bad weather, and I think really transmits the feeling and emotions of the Hebrides in winter. Scotland is a place to experience not so the Beauty, but the Sublime...

Great to see you again, and I wish you a 2012 full of incredible light!

Note: Click on the image to see it bigger!