Capturing the Moment on Islay; Queen of the Hebrides

I was thrilled to be invited by Vogue to contribute to the stylish photography feature, ‘Capture The Moment’, in the January 2016 edition of the magazine, which is in the shops as of today. The feature showcases a selection of hand-picked high-end photographers from landscape to lifestyle photography, and wedding to children’s photography. 2016 sees Vogue celebrate its 100th birthday, making this an exciting time to be part of the magazine.

Here’s the story behind my featured photograph, ‘Saligo Bay, Islay’…

Saligo Bay, Islay
Saligo Bay, Islay

I have countless missions in life inspired by Scotland’s great outdoors. One of them is to visit as many Scottish islands as possible (and, of course, to photograph them along the way). In June 2011, I ventured out to the islands of Islay, Jura and Colonsay for the first time. Sitting due west of Knapdale and Kintyre and south west of the neighbouring island of Jura; Islay is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebridean chain and is known as ‘The Queen of the Hebrides’. Islay certainly made an impression on me during my week-long camping stay at Port Charlotte. The memories which immediately spring to mind are the friendliness of the locals (all the drivers wave as they pass by on the road!); the sheer abundance of birdlife and the ‘crex crex’ call of the elusive Corncrake; and the ever-present temptation to indulge in one of the island’s eight whiskies (I finally succumbed to a tour of Bowmore distillery; after all, their 12 year old malt is one of my favourites!).

I explored Islay in sunny weather, going bird-watching at Loch Gruinart; attending a wildlife talk at Bruichladdich; cycling around the Rinns on a hired mountain bike / instrument of torture in my pre-Pendleton bike days (!); walking out to the impressive cliffs at the Mull of Oa at the southern end of the island; stepping back in time at Finlaggan, the historical centre of the Lordship of the Isles; visiting Islay’s pretty white-washed villages; all topped off with day trips to the beautiful neighbouring islands of Jura and Colonsay.

Re-branding!
Re-branding!

The terrain on Islay is very flat, particularly when compared to Jura, its mountainous neighbour. Islay is renowned for its wildlife and whisky distilleries; not for its landscapes. I knew that capturing exciting images was going to be a challenge; however the beautiful beaches of Laggan, Machir and Saligo gave me reason to be optimistic. During the long days of the summer solstice, the prospect of shooting a sunset was far more appealing than capturing a sunrise during the wee small hours. I was stunned by the spectacular waves rolling in off the Atlantic on my first visit to Saligo Bay on the island’s west side. Unfortunately the thick sea mist was also rather impressive! I combed the beach in search of a composition in the hope that I could return on a clearer evening. I re-visited Saligo the following night, in the absence of sea mist, in time to capture the sun setting behind the crashing waves and casting pink hues into the darkening sky.

Pride of place in my 2016 calendar, 'Images of Scotland', available to buy for £12 at http://karenthorburn.com/shop/

This image instantly became one of my favourites. A framed A2 print now has pride of place on my living room wall and I chose this image for the cover of my 2016 calendar and my recently re-branded business cards. I selected it for the Vogue feature as it seems to sum up my photography well – a colourful, simple yet striking, three-dimensional composition captured on the Scottish coastline.

 

Looking at it now and thinking back to my holiday on Islay four and a half years ago, it makes me want to return to the Queen of the Hebrides and the neighbouring islands, armed with my new Nikon D810 in my camera bag, my new Viking Vistron binoculars around my neck, my beloved Pendleton Somerby bike on the back of the car, and – one of my next missions in life – a kayak on the roof rack!

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14 thoughts

    1. Thank you for dropping by and commenting! Yes, being featured in Vogue was certainly a big milestone! I’m very fortunate to live in such a picturesque part of the world. I’m glad you like the photographs and I’m sure I will enjoy reading your blog too.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. That’s a beautiful photograph and I enjoyed reading how you came to take it. The weather is hugely unpredictable so not easy to get just that right before everything else. I visited the three islands you wrote about a few years ago and was absolutely blown over by their beauty, serenity and peace – and the friendliness of the local and whisky too! Congratulations on being featured in Vogue, that is absolutely brilliant!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Annika! I was thrilled to be featured in Vogue and selecting this photograph of Islay brought back lots of happy memories. Like you say, the friendliness of the locals is second to none and the scenery and atmosphere are very special. I look forward to returning to Islay some day but am keen to spend more time on Jura and Colonsay too next time around. You’re right, the weather can be very unpredictable, particularly on the west coast of Scotland! The weather forecast doesn’t always get it right and I sometimes think your best bet is to go with your gut instinct!

      Liked by 1 person

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