The Stones at Callanish

The Stones at Callanish

The Stones at Callanish

I had read about the stone circle at Callanish when I was researching a trip to Scotland a few years ago.  Authorities say that they were erected somewhere between 2900 BC and 2600 BC — maybe a few hundred years before Stonehenge.  Callanish is located on the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland.  Photos by Emma Mitchell and others inspired me to want to make some photographs of my own.  In my vision I could see images of the stones silhouetted against a magnificent sunset.  Or, perhaps, a sunrise through the morning mist.

We managed to book an excellent B&B in the little village of Callanish.  We arrived just after dark and, to our surprise, our host said that the stone circle was less than a half mile away and that we would be able to see it from our room.  Excellent!  I would get up bright and early next morning and get some great images.

Except that…well…sunrise was 4:20 and I didn’t make it.  No problem — I’d get the sunset.  Though rain was forecast we headed out to spend the day at the Atlantic coast just west of Callanish.  By-the-way, this is a great part of the world to shoot seascapes — even dodging the rain showers.

That evening it was raining like crazy — no sunset pictures of the Stones.

Next morning, woke early, more rain, back to bed.

That evening (day two) it wasn’t raining but it was socked in so thick that there wasn’t even a hint of a sunset.  Portraits on overcast days are great but I wanted an interesting and/or dramatic sky for this landscape.  I was beginning to get concerned.  Had I fought the urge to sleep in that first morning I would have been able to get my photos.  We had one more chance and then there was a ferry to catch.

On our third and final full day we awoke to rain (it DOES rain a lot in Scotland) but our B&B host told us that the North Atlantic weather could improve late in the day.  And he was right.  Around eight o’clock (sunset wasn’t until after ten PM) the sky cleared to a brilliant blue.  We went to the Stones and waited for the low, warm light.  Now this is more like it!  The grass was a deep green — no doubt from the rain — and we could see some clouds beginning to drift in from the west.

I made a number of compositions but the one that I was most proud of was a less traditional view along the line of stones trailing off to the south-west.  I situated my camera so that I could use the stone on the right to block the sun from hitting the lens directly.  Using my tripod, I made the exposure at 1/4 second, f/19 and ISO 100.  The image won an award at the PSA sanctioned competition of the Delaware Valley Council of Camera Clubs.

If your travel plans include Scotland you will want to visit Lewis and photograph the Stones at Callanish.  Incidentally, there are many, many more ancient sites on Lewis.

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tom peck - Lovely shot. I had exactly the opposite experience on Lewis. I had gone expecting storms and moody shots, and got 4 days of complete sunshine. Unexpected to say the least!

skeeter - Thanks, Tom. Yes, I guess you can say that the weather in the North Atlantic will surprise you — no matter what you were expecting (or hoping for).

Terri Foster - A beautiful photograph John. Although I have travelled around Scotland many times over the years, I have yet to visit the Hebrides. I look forward to doing so. And yes it does rain a lot up there ;-)

skeeter - Thanks, Terri. I’ve traveled a lot over the years and must say that the Hebrides — in fact all of Great Britain — offers a paradise for the photographer. And…the people are cordial to the traveler!

Guy Davies - Nice shot! Glad you got something in only three days. I once spent a week in May on Harris (southern end of Lewis) and got wind, rain and hail. Cleared up the day we left! However, there are still some good shots to have. And yes, in high summer the days are very long with very early sunrise and very late sunset.

skeeter - Thank you, Guy, for the compliment. Yes, it was May when we were there also. I guess one takes the luck of the draw when visiting abroad. We’re going to Portugal in May of 2015 — probably have much the same chance of getting rain on the Atlantic Coast.

Ian bosworth - Just returned from three weeks in the outer Hebrides. Weather was brilliant. Those beaches are wonderful as are the sunsets. Didn’t see too many sunrises, no dedication to the cause.
Keep up the good work.

skeeter - I have the same problem, it seems, with sunrises. We always stay at B & B’s which, by definition, starts the photography day well after sunrise — unless, of course, I manage to get in some shooting before breakfast. Seldom happens!

Margaret Quayle - Fascinating,encouraging, and makes me want to go and do it!
Thank you

skeeter - Thanks, Margaret. It’s a long ride but well worth it. Go there if you can.


Tanya Cox - Great image! I am planning a trip to Scotland in 2016 and was hoping to get to Lewis to see the stones. Any other places you consider “favorites” on any of the other islands?


skeeter - Thanks, Tanya. I am sending you some Word files on Mull and Lewis & Harris. See my blog in a few weeks about “Places…How to find them”. The title might not be exactly that (I’m still writing it). Anyhow:

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