Located in the northwest of Scotland, the Isle of Skye is a land steeped in story. Its rugged landscape, picturesque fishing villages, and medieval castles inspire awe in a way that is difficult to describe — so it’s no wonder that it’s become somewhat of an iconic photo destination. Hoping to gain insight into how to best capture these striking details, we caught up with photographer Amelia Le Brun who, through her stunning images, has managed to do just that.
Amelia began taking pictures when she was just eight years old, and she hasn’t stopped since. Her photographic style is natural and story-based, evoking a folksy, casual aesthetic that pulls the audience in. This muted quality is what makes her photos so easy to relate to — and so gorgeous to look at.
Needless to say, if you’re in need of some photo guidance (and inspiration) for your next trip to Skye, you’ve come to the right place. Get ready to explore a land where old magic lives on.
Said to grant eternal youth to those who swim (or submerge their faces) in them, Skye’s Fairy Pools are one of the isle’s most magical places, even on the grayest of Scottish days. Amelia says that wild swimming is very popular here, though it’s not for the faint of heart — despite its gorgeous, crystal-blue color, the water remains frigid after flowing down from the surrounding mountains all year long. The photographer suggests exercising caution when trying to reach the site during and immediately after the rainy season. It’s a fair walk to begin with and requires the crossing of a fast-flowing river, which is made more difficult when the riverbed becomes swollen with water during the winter and spring. But though these hazards make photographing the pools incredibly difficult, Amelia insists that they are worth the trek — and the trouble of bringing along your camera.
Because the Fairy Pools tend to get busy, it’s best to go either at the beginning or at the end of the day. This will help you avoid the crowds, and allow you to catch Golden or Blue Hour. Once at the pools, Amelia suggests deciding on a subject and preparing yourself for the possibility of getting wet — the site’s popularity means you’ll have to experiment with interesting angles for your images to stand out, so venture to the water’s edge and use the bright heather as your foreground when framing your shot.
Neist Point Lighthouse
“… A long and winding road down a pot-holed track leads you farther and farther into the Skye countryside, until you finally reach a small hut selling coffee and snacks — although I’ve never seen this place open. By the time you reach it, you’ll be battered by driving rain and strong winds if the Scottish weather is performing normally.”
This is how Amelia describes getting to Neist Point Lighthouse. While the best views are technically up by the parking lot, walking along the headland awards you what she calls the “classic Neist Point shot,” pictured here. If you want to reach the lighthouse itself, go down a set of old steps and be prepared for a 45 minute hike along a concrete track.
When photographing the area, Amelia suggests showcasing the natural textures and layers of the often overlooked cliffs that surround the of the Point. They’re beautiful, and if you go through the trouble of walking to the lighthouse, it’s well worth it to continue a few steps farther and explore the lower cliffs. That being said, try not to let the dramatic bluffs detract from the lighthouse when you’re capturing it. Amelia advises “cropping close, catching the birds in flight, and creating a real focal point.”
Another well-known spot, the Quiraing is vast and strange and beautiful — in fact, it was formed by an ancient landslide. “Early mornings here feel otherworldly,” Amelia explains, “often shrouded in fog and full of sheep.” The landscape provides so many different opportunities for incredible photography, though the most documented angle is the view down onto the winding road near the top of the ridge. Amelia’s pro-tip? Use humans and sheep for scale — it’s hard to do the views justice regardless, but capturing the size of the ridge and the road will help.
The Old Man of Storr
No doubt you’ve seen pictures of the Old Man many times, but thanks to the unpredictable and ever-changing Scottish weather, Amelia says that the views are never the same. Part of the Trotternish Ridge, the Storr is a rocky pinnacle that can be seen for miles on the west side of the island. It was originally created by an ancient landslide, though legend has it that the famous rock is actually a giant’s thumb, left jutting up out of the ground after he was buried on the ridge.
Amelia suggests spending some serious time here to truly appreciate the area’s surrounding beauty. “It’s a long slog but don’t stop when you reach the bottom,” she says. “The truly magnificent views are to be had among the pinnacles, on the surrounding hills, and on top of the huge cliffs. You will need hours here to truly appreciate the incredible beauty of the Old Man.”
When photographing this otherworldly natural formation, Amelia’s main piece of advice is to move. “Take in every angle you have available,” she says. “Using a figure, often in a bright jacket, is another commonly used tactic at this spot — and for good reason. A location this vast isn’t made truly real unless there is some form of scale.”
The Needle looks like a piece of the Old Man of Storr was dropped a few hours’ hike from the Quiraing. Amelia says it’s often actually mistaken as part of the Old Man, though it actually sits alone at the bottom of a small valley. If you plan to visit, be careful: reaching the Needle requires a two-hour hike, a tough scramble up a scree-covered slope, and then a walk in the valley below, though the trek is promised to be totally worth it. In fact, despite the extra effort required to reach it, this is Amelia’s favorite spot on Skye: “The surrounding landscapes are truly incredible and feel more disconnected from the real world than anywhere else.”
If you decide to pay this incredible natural site a visit, be sure to focus on framing as you photograph it. Amelia shares that moving around and finding a way for frame the Needle will draw the viewer into the image. She also suggests adding a slight vignette during the editing process, and accentuating the image’s textures while desaturating the greens in order to give it a more “moody” feel.
Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls
This spot has only recently become popular with photographers. According to Amelia, Mealt Falls is particularly difficult to capture due to the fact that it falls from a cliffside and tumbles into the ocean below. “The viewing angles are limited and often crowded with tour buses,” she warns. “But if you lean over the railings far enough — while being sensible, of course — and are gifted the right light, it’s definitely worth a visit.” In this case, you’ll have to get creative when composing your shots, especially since it’s difficult to get a subject in the frame. But at the end of the day, isn’t that what photography is all about?