Alex Roddie reviews a coffee-table photography book showcasing the complex moods and mountains of Skye
The popularity of Skye has exploded in recent years, with tourists flooding to the island during the summer months to enjoy its varied coastlines, villages and mountains. It’s long been a popular location for photography too, thanks to an unrivalled variety of spectacular landscapes. This collection of images is dedicated to “the predominantly sombre weather conditions, which I believe enhance the magnificent scenery” – and it’s fair to say that, while there are plenty of beautiful images here, many of the best depict the island’s darker and more chaotic moods, from storms to night landscapes.
The book is divided into three chapters grouped by loose themes: sea, land and sky. There are many panoramic images, some spanning both pages of the landscape-format book, and these have considerable impact, particularly the image of the peaks of the Cuillin standing above an unbroken cloud inversion. Many of my favourite images are in the ‘land’ and ‘sky’ chapters. There’s a fantastic panoramic shot of Loch nan Eilean in ‘land’, and an excellent image of the Inaccessible Pinnacle in ‘sky’.
This book keeps things simple. The captions are extremely brief and descriptive, occasionally witty, with no technical information on camera gear or settings used (which is only ever of interest to other photographers). The book focuses 100% on the enjoyment of the images themselves, which is exactly how it should be, I think.
While the popular honeypot locations do get some coverage – there are several very nice images of Elgol and the Old Man of Storr, for example – I was also glad to see shots from less familiar viewpoints. There’s a good mix of classic Skye views and simpler, more minimalistic compositions taken away from the popular tripod holes. I think this balance is effective; a reader buying a book of photos from Skye will want to see a few from familiar locations, but it’s also important to see something new. Some of the images here have an understated brilliance that’s compelling.
Morten Hansen has lived on Skye since 2011, although he has been visiting since childhood in the eighties and has spent a good deal of time mountaineering and climbing in the Cuillin and elsewhere on Skye. “Thanks to modern technology,” says the author’s biography, “a mobile camera was ever present on these trips. After a while, camera gear and tripod got lugged up the mountains too.” Skye, Cloud Island is the culmination of six years of photography on the island.
Skye, Cloud Island by Morten Hansen is published by Skirinish Publishing (£25, hardback)