Talisker Means More to Me than a Pity Whisky

My second trip to Talisker Bay was not a pity!

Everyone who knows me, does my love for the western Scottish island called the Isle of Skye. I love this place so much I gave its name to my own daughter!

I cannot count the times I have made the journey there over the past 8 years that I have lived in Scotland. I must go there about 5-6 times per year with my photography workshops, however, each time I discover something new. This summer it was Talisker Bay. If Talisker rings a bell to some of you, it might be because of its Whisky distillery (not to be confused with the blended whisky brand “Isle of Skye”). The distillery produces some interesting single malts, and my favourite is the 57 Degrees North, so if any generous soul reading this…

But this summer was not only about the whisky. There is this bay I knew about but had never explored (too many things to see on Skye) so during one of my trips this summer I went to scout it. The light was not on its side that day and left me rather uninspired despite is black sand and the interesting needle at the end of the south cliffs.

Here is a non-edited rather boring quick long exposure shot I did that day:

long exposure Talisker Bay - Canon 5DIII, TS-E 24mm II,  F10 ISO 200 127sec.
long exposure Talisker Bay – Canon 5DIII, TS-E 24mm II,  F10 ISO 200 127sec.

The shot above was purely for reconnaissance purpose, and while the cardinal orientation was interesting, I did feel so so about it.

Last week I was leading a 4-day photography workshop across Scotland, and we stayed 2 days on the Isle of Skye. I decided to bring my students to that bay and challenge ourselves with it.

What a surprised! When we arrived, there were about ten photographers all posted next to each other, pointing all their 70-200mm lenses in the same direction (the setting sun). There must have been no more than a meter between each of them. I found the scene rather obscene absurd. Nonetheless, with my students, we found a spot farther away on the beach and too tried to create something interesting.

While the light was better than on my first visit, I was far from being enchanted by the place and started producing the same “crap” which my might smell rather identically to what the other ten photographers were making in a chain. I know I am assuming the worse from them, but you should have seen them, packed up on this 10m square zone of that wide black sandy beach.

I even tried to introduce some patterns with rocks poking through the sand, but when it is “crap” one ought to call it like it is:

test shot at Talisker Bay
test shot at Talisker Bay

Maybe I should not be so derogative towards the above shot as it did lead me to an epiphany: About 5m on my right there was a stream finishing into the bay and on its path, many big black pebbles. I decided to change my angle of view and capture the stream with the needle rock in the far end and the remaining sunset light over the South Uist island.

I must admit I have fallen in love with my new Canon TS-E 24mm II lens and look forward to talking to you about it. It is clear to me that I would have never been able to achieve such compelling result ( throughout sharpness) with an other lens.

Talisker Bay on the Isle of Skye in Scotland
Canon 5DIII, TS-E 24mm II, F10 ISO50 25sec


Once again, the resulting photograph teaches us that a compelling photograph is not made of thin air and requires time and an open mind. I do believe that failing to make a creative exposure on my first visit did carve something into my subconscious which led me to reject the obvious frame and forced me to challenge my viewpoint when I came back to the Talisker Bay. While Talisker is famous for its pity whisky, I must admit my second trip to its bay was not a pity!

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