Wolfless out West.

Robin, a very likeable tour guest with an ever-so-slightly over-active analytical gene (de-brains just about anything), recently took me to task over a comment I made in a previous blog post. Referring to our Winter Yellowstone tour, I remarked that we returned ‘wolfless’ having had no sighting of the enigmatic predator. According to Robin this suggested a trophy hunting mentality which took no account of the thrill of being in such a wild place in the knowledge that wolves were out there, somewhere. It’s a fair point, my wrists are duly slapped and it perhaps hints at an increasing tendency towards measuring the success of any trip in terms of images made or sightings bagged. A sign of something I’m sure.

Robin was one of the guests on our recent Wild West Coast landscape tour from which we returned sunsetless. Sure we had brooding clouds, aquamarine seas, sun-kissed white sand beaches and pretty much the place to ourselves but for me, the clouds were the wrong clouds, the sea was the wrong shade of sea and the sky was too clear, and then not clear enough. The fact is that the photographic bar marches inexorably towards the heavens taking expectations (including mine) along with it.

These pictures won’t win any prizes but is that the point? No, no and no again. We were based in the delightful family-owned Harris Hotel (thanks guys), enjoyed great food, good craic and the islands of Harris and Lewis as a spectacular backdrop – hardly a disaster. The fickle Hebridean weather deprived us of a decent sunset but it delivered so much more as it always does. Wolfless and Sunsetless are a state of mind, one which Robin’s analysis has helped me recognise. A good philosophical slapping from time to time does the world of good!

Thanks as ever to our group for their company, to Calmac for getting us home (eventually) and to Lewis and Harris for being such splendid places (too many sheep in my view but that’s another story). Thanks also to Paul and Andy from Aspect2i, a fellow pho-tour company who showed none of the petty rivalries that so often dogs this business – check them out, they’re good guys.

If you fancy getting your fill of the Wild Western Isles, join us next spring for our Island Trilogy tour taking in Harris, Skye and Eigg. Can’t promise any wolves or in fact sunsets, but I can promise a photographic adventure – it’s what we do.

Wild Wild West!

Sometimes, just sometimes, words (and pictures for that matter) are just not enough. “Can we just stand and look?” came the request from two ladies on our recent Wild Wild West tour to Lewis and Harris. We were perched high above a remote beach with an angry sea boiling beneath us. Occasionally the sun pierced the bank of scudding clouds, lighting the bay and painting the crest of each rolling wave yellow. It was, as they say just across the Atlantic, awesome. But standing and looking is just not on when there are pictures to be taken. Oh no, we were having none of that fluffy nonsense on a Northshots tour.

There is definitely something about islands and yes, the weather can be rough out here on the edge, but for a photographer, it’s a tiny price to pay for a slice of solitude and some truly spectacular vistas. Wildness for me is like a drug; I just have to get a regular fix and it doesn’t get any better than staring out across a sea that stretches almost beyond our limited imagination. Sharing the experience with a truly great bunch of guests…well, it’s just the business.

From our cosy and welcoming base at the Harris Hotel in Tarbert (thanks for the recommendation Paul), we explored all four corners of both Lewis and Harris taking in remote windswept beaches, rocky headlands pounded by the Atlantic, and of course the famous Callanish Stones. For one of our days, the rain was more persistent than usual but we found sanctuary in a charming deserted croft house followed by coffee and cake at Skoon Art Cafe, a perfect respite from the inevitable Hebridean squalls.

We all got pictures of course and I hope you like the images above, but do you know what, our two guests, Julie and Sue were right. It’s the images that have etched themselves on our minds that will persist long after the photographs have lost their appeal. Standing and looking is no bad thing.

Thanks to the Wild West bunch of 2011. If you’d like to join us next spring when we return to the Wild Wild West (and I have to say, I think you should), you can book here