September 24-27, 2005: The most difficult thing about taking photographs in a strong wind is holding the camera steady enough to focus and frame the shot. The second most difficult thing – when the wind is gale force – is keeping your footing! We’ve had plenty of practice at doing both in the past few days.


September 24-27, 2005: The most difficult thing about taking photographs in a strong wind is holding the camera steady enough to focus and frame the shot. The second most difficult thing – when the wind is gale force – is keeping your footing! We’ve had plenty of practice at doing both in the past few days.
Friday’s forecast turned out worse than expected and even the locals were complaining about the strong wind and driving rain in Lerwick. However, during the afternoon it eased off enough for us to visit nearby Scalloway, the former capital of Shetland and an equally important sea port. Scalloway was the home port for the “Shetland Bus”, a heroic enterprise during World Warr II that transported people and armaments between Britain and Nazi-occupied Norway in small fishing boats – often in appalling weather. The Scalloway museum has an excellent display of photographs, newspaper cuttings and artifacts and receives frequent visits from Norwegians, many of them with family connections in the islands resulting from marriages during the period.


This photograph was taken in a brief gap between rain showers, using the Ixus 750. The small camera proved invaluable in bad weather as it was easy to carry in the pocket of a waterproof jacket and very quick to use when the rain eased off.
Scalloway also boasts one of the best-preserved mediaeval castles (actually a large, fortified mansion) in the islands. Built around 1600 for the Earl Patrick Stuart – a half-brother to Mary Queen of Scots – it consisted of four floors, three of which remain at least partially accessible. The lowest floors are still roofed and give a good feel for what life may have been like for the inhabitants.
Saturday dawned fine and clear and provided us with the best weather we’ve had yet so we opted for the cliffside walk on Muckle Roe, a largish island off the western coast that is joined to the mainland by a narrow bridge. The walk runs for about 6 km along the coast, providing excellent views across the Swarbacks Minn sound and passing through granite moorlands with perched lochans (little lakes) before returning overland to the start. A great opportunity to capitalise on the EOS 300D’s versatility, which was required to cope with the constant variations in light intensity and direction.


Sunlight reveals some amazing colours in the cliff faces along the coast of Muckle Roe. This shot was taken with the EOS 300D using the 55-200mm lens at approximately 70mm. Underexposure of 0.3 EV brought out the full intensity of the colours.


One of the impressive views from the headlands of Muckle Roe. The 55-200m lens on the EOS 300D allowed me to capture the waves breaking on the headland across Swarback’s Minn sound.

A forecast of gale-force winds curtailed our plans for sea kayaking on Sunday and the low cloud that accompanied the wind prevented us from enjoying another cliff-top walk. As at home, it’s risky to go into isolated areas in inclement weather and the opportunities to get worthwhile photographs are limited. Risks to equipment are also considerable as you never know quite when rain will hit – or how heavy it will be.

A walk downtown in the late morning provided several opportunities for taking pictures of the buildings and people in Lerwick. Among the latter was a trio of children, who were at home during school holidays and were keen to show of a dogfish caught by one of them. They were happy to be photographed and the Ixus 750 proved ideal for the task as it allowed me to show them the result on the spot.


The Ixus 750 was also used for this snapshot of some proud little Lerwick fishers. Its large screen allowed me to show the results to the kids on the spot.


Known as “Lodberries” this 18th century building is one of the most photographed in Shetland. It contains private dwellings, warehouses and piers. Taken with the Ixus 750.


Even the smarter sheep take cover when the wind rises to gale force. Taken with the 200mm lens setting on the EOS 300D to avoid scaring the sheep and spoiling the shot.
Monday was even worse than Sunday with driving rain accompanying the strong winds, although Tuesday dawned clear and bright, a check with the weather forecast promised the winds would increase to gale force during the morning with a likelihood of intermittent showers in the afternoon.

As it was our last full day in Shetland, we decided we could cope with a bit of wind and opted for another clifftop walk, this time along the headlands north of Eshaness Lighthouse. This area is part of an ancient volcano that existed on the supercontinent, Pangaea, before Shetland even existed as a series of islands. Most of the rocks that make up the headlands are volcanic in origin and this is clearly seen in their dark and forbidding colour and craggy contours – quite different from the scenery we’d photographed at Muckle Roe, even though the areas are less than 50 km apart (as the crow flies).


The full exposure flexibility of the EOS 300D was required for this shot along the Eshaness coast, with the famous lighthouse in the background. A shutter speed of at least 1/250 second was required for sharp results in the buffeting wind.
The lighthouse is roughly an hour’s drive from Lerwick and, by the time we arrived, the wind strength was at least Force 8! With neither rocks nor vegetation to protect you, you’re exposed to the full strength of the blast as you walk along the headlands. The views are truly spectacular – especially when the sea is up as it was today. The coastline is cut by steep inlets, known locally as “geos”. Some are more than 60 metres deep and roughly half a kilometer long, which makes them very impressive. Getting close to the edges is risky as they’re fragile and likely to crumble (there’s plenty of evidence to prove it!) so we had to stand well back in the windy conditions. This made it even more difficult to judge exposure levels as the deep chasms are at least seven or eight stops darker than the grassy headlands above. I can foresee considerable use of the Shadows/highlights controls in Photoshop to get anything decent out of my shots, even though I did bracket most of them.

Tomorrow is largely used up in traveling as we start our return journey to Australia. We’ll be stopping off in Bangkok again to break our journey but I will probably wait until I’m home to file a final report on my trip.