The Neolithic landscape
I was not convinced that our planned day at the Callanish standing stones on the Isle of Lewis would prove fruitful. The conditions weren’t ideal. It was wonderfully warm but also incredibly sunny with only the smallest amount of hazy cloud in the sky. And as we made our way north to the stones, the sun was heading further and further towards the zenith.
I had been to the location before, almost three years ago during my first trip to the island. I was enchanted by the place then and although that time we were there in time for the sunset, we were treated instead to rain showers and a menacing sky. Conditions that, despite having us running to and from the car each time the heavens opened, produced some atmospheric photographs and unforgettable memories. The place definitely got under my skin that evening. Although in my mind I think I was still longing for my never had sunset shot and we definitely weren’t going to get that today.
I tried to put my negative thoughts to the back of my mind. If I arrived with a preconceived notion that I would not be able to see any photographs, then it would become a self-fulfilling prophecy and the day would be wasted. I would spend my time there feeling frustrated and anxious, and not make a single image that really communicated the emotion I felt about the place. But I need not have worried, because as soon as we pulled into the car park, my excitement at being back again overwhelmed me and I eagerly ran up the path towards the stones.
Obviously, the vista was not going to work on a day like this, so I decided to focus on recording the details. The stones at Callanish are made of Lewisian gneiss, a beautifully ancient rock that over the aeons has been bent and folded, creating fascinating patterns in the banding. But I was in no hurry to just point my camera at the first rock I could find. So I took my time, took in the scene and the atmosphere. I walked around with my eyes open and my mind receptive, until I found my image.
Eventually, I came across a rock that had a large crack running diagonally across it near its base. The crack was on the shady side of the standing stone, which meant that there would be no harsh shadows from any bumps and grooves on the stone’s surface. I composed the crack so that there was a sense of balance and harmony within the composition yet at the same time recording the elemental rawness of the rock, its texture and the lichens growing on it.
Happy that I had made an image, I relaxed and enjoyed the sunshine.
1 May 2008