Ecologist - Writer - Photographer

When the Wind Blows: Wild Shetland

Fethaland Sea Stack
In August’s Outdoor Photography Magazine I asked the question 'imagine a world without trees' – in October I experienced a world without trees: Shetland.

I travelled on the Northlink Ferry from Aberdeen to Lerwick (Shetland), picked up a hire car, and embarked on a mini-road trip. It was more of a walking trip than a road trip, but a car was necessary to explore and access Shetland’s expansive coastline, voes (narrow sea inlet), inland lochs and barren tree-less landscape. Shetland is one of only three European Geoparks in Scotland. My visit was concentrated in the north-west of mainland Shetland and I enjoyed the place-names as well as the landscape: Eshaness, Ibister, Braewick, Vementry, Skeld, Scalloway, Grobness.

Conditions throughout the week were challenging; with Shetland experiencing a yellow weather warning during my visit. I barely saw the sun, and any hope of glimpsing the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) were lost in the same blanket cloud cover. It also rained. However, the overwhelming memory of the week was the wind. At times standing up or standing still was difficult enough – so consider the challenge to photography. Nevertheless, the wind dramaticized the landscape, alongside prompting a more creative and artistic approach to photography. The tripod was more of a danger than a useful piece of kit in the hurricane-like conditions.

The implications of the wind for my photography went beyond an artistic change of approach. I lost the use of a lens and a polariser (on another lens) to wind-borne incidents. On each occasion, despite a tripod weighed down with my camera bag and kit within, the tripod, and the camera on top, were blown over. The damage proved to be more lasting the loss of use of a lens and a polariser. Half way through the trip my lens release button ceased to function and I found myself limited to the use of the lens jammed on the camera. Whilst frustrating, I was philosophical about this limitation. It was not the end of the world – I could still take photos. Until, a couple of hours later, when I slipped and fell. As I lost my footing, I was aware of the tripod head (and therefore camera) hitting the rock behind me, and then I saw most of the lens catapulting over my head and rolling down slope in front of me... whilst the remnants of the base of the jammed lens remained still locked to my now cracked camera body. That was the end of my photography for the rest of the trip. The camera was inoperative.

In spite of the loss of use of my camera, I had a great time touring the barren Shetland landscape in the stormy autumnal weather conditions. It was lonely and quiet; an elemental experience. The landscape, with its lack of trees, was a challenge in itself, but the real test – was the wind.

There will be a Gallery of Shetland images posting on the website in future; but for now enjoy the taster photos below.

The Wave @ Shetland

Wave spilling into gap in rocks near Mavis Grind, Northmavine, Shetland.

Dore Holm Stack and Arch

Dore Holm stack and arch offshore between Tangwick and Stenness, Northmavine, Shetland.

Storm off Hillswick

Stormy seas off Hillswick Beach, Normavine, Shetland.

The header image of sea stacks (click Blog if you cannot see it) was taken from Fethaland Bay near the most northernmost point of mainland Shetland.

To learn more about visiting Shetland:

Visit Shetland

Geopark Shetland

Shetland Heritage