Venkatramana Temple Erg Chebbi, Ziz Valley, Sahara Heinabergslón Snæfellsjökull at sunset

Islay & Jura – Landscapes and Wildlife in Scotland’s Hebrides with Niall Benvie

Highlights include…

  • Common and grey seals in Portnahaven harbour
  • Thousands of barnacle geese wintering on the island (Feb only)
  • Rock formations in Saligo bay
  • Big seas near Portnahven
  • Red deer on Jura
  • Pretty fishing villages
  • The Paps of Jura
  • Huge sandy beach of Machir Bay
  • Coastal scenery around Loch Indaal
  • Light painting the Port Ellen Lighthouse
  • Big skies
  • Possibility to see and photograph aurora (Feb only)
  • Superb home cooked meals

General Summary

Islay the ‘Queen of the Hebrides’ has long been a favourite destination for birdwatchers although it has surprisingly been overlooked by the outdoor photographic community, so we are thrilled to offer this workshop tutored by Niall Benvie and hosted by Charlotte Benvie.

One of the most beautiful and varied island landscapes in the Inner Hebrides, Islay is something of a photographer’s dream location. The Jura skyline as seen from Islay is defined by the Paps, three conical mounds of quartzite rising to over seven hundred metres, below these mountains the endless moorland hosts over five thousand red deer; this is one of Scotland’s last wildernesses. Much of our attention will focus on the coast, the animals that live there, the patterns to be found in sand, rocks and the ocean itself. We will find pretty unspoilt fishing villages, vistas of wild mountains, dramatic coastal landscapes, on the February departure there are huge numbers of wintering barnacle and white fronted geese, seals and spectacular sunrise/sunset locations. There will be opportunities to practise low light photography and particularly the northern Lights as the Hebrides are an ideal locations as they have very low light pollution due to the low levels of population. The summer dates take full advantage of long daylight hours and the island bursts into life, particularly with flowers and nesting birds.

This is a dynamic, exciting environment that provides a perfect backdrop for Niall to teach his proven “method” – a programme that will enhance your understanding of the creative process and your ability to make the images you want. In addition to regular photographic work you will be offered the opportunity to try some innovative approaches including landscape deconstruction and field studio artifact photography. Working with Niall will enable you to return home with a fine portfolio of unusual and well crafted images.

Brief Itinerary

For full details download the trip description PDF

Our itinerary will depend on the weather conditions and state of tides. We plan to visit all the destinations described at least once. Evenings will be spent editing, post processing, viewing our images and of course enjoying a splendid meal cooked by Charlotte. Our aim is to catch dawn and dusk each day unless the forecast is poor. We will spend the days outside in all but the worst of conditions. If we have to stay indoors, we work on our images and enjoy more photographic tutorials. If there are clear skies and a good aurora forecast we will go out to a remote north facing shore to photograph this magical phenomena.

Portnahaven

This little village in the very south west of Islay is sheltered from the full force of the Atlantic. There are lots of interesting details to photograph around the village. This is also one of the most reliable places in Scotland to get close to seals, they are nevertheless wild animals and can’t be taken for granted. A little further up the coast is a splendid place to photograph large rollers if there is a big sea. Ideally, we are looking for a strong easterly to blow the spray away from us. Nearby “Milkshake Gully” is noted for the incredible froth that is beaten up as the sea hammers into the narrow channel. This makes for some striking images.

Machir Bay

Here we find is a long west facing sandy beach and a large sand dune system. Given a falling tide with a dramatic sunset it is a stunning location, in reality we find pictures there whatever the conditions.

Saligo Bay

A fascinating location where we encounter interesting patterns where quartz and other minerals have extruded through the lava rocks that dominate this part of the coast.

The RSPB Reserve around Loch Gruinart

Expect to see huge numbers of wintering barnacle and white fronted geese. They flock into the loch at dusk making for some fine images.

Loch Indaal

The large bay of affords many scenic opportunities on still days, while the white-washed shoreline villages of Port Charlotte, Bruichladdich and Bowmore are attractive, interesting photographic subjects.

The Mull of Oa

The empty moorland, high cliffs and big seas of the Oa afford dramatic landscapes. Depending on the fitness and willingness of the group, we may make the 5 mile round trip to photograph the little known Soldier’s Rock – an imposing, half-concealed sea stack.

Claggain Beach and Port Ellen Lighthouse

The character of the south east coast of Islay is quite different from that of the rest of the island. Following a drivie past famous distilleries we enter a gentle landscape of small bays backed by low hills, bogs and some old hazel woodland. Claggain Bay itself has a long beach of grey pebbles that come alive after sunset. Light painting the square lighthouse at is an interesting project.

Jura

Weather permitting, we will spend one day on Jura. Accessed by ferry from Islay, the landscape is generally austere and wooded only along the road. Perhaps there will be an opportunity to photograph the deer on open moorland.

What’s included

Accommodation – we stay in private, comfortable, self-catering accommodation. All rooms are twin and en suite. Single rooms will be limited and may be available depending on the number and make up of paricipants. There will be a small supplement for this, please ask at the time of booking.

All Meals – Charlotte will ensure that you are looked after well and fed to a very high standard throughout the tour.

Tuition – photographic tuition with Niall Benvie

Transfers and Transport – this will be in a nine seater minibus

Complete Itinerary and Full Details

This page is only a brief summary. A complete itinerary and more details can be found in our trip description PDF
It is important that you read the full day-to-day description and further information for this holiday before making your booking. If you require more information or would like to reserve a place please contact us