This is the Old Man of Storr, on the Isle of Skye, from a different viewpoint. The classic viewpoint is up The Storr to my left. That view gives a dramatic aspect showing giant boulders atop a scree covered slope with miles of seascape and landscape behind and, usually, to the left [East] of the Old Man. You can even see the Skye Cuillin sometimes.
Not being one to merely follow in the footsteps of others I decided to blaze my own trail and capture something different. Inspiring even! And so after sweating my way up to the Old Man I took a good look around. Higher is better I thought, but not in the usual direction. Two options presented themselves. Both could be achieved in a single venture. Ideal.
And so it was that I found myself nearing little plastic signs stating that it is not a good idea to go past this point due to falling rocks. Falling rocks? Doubt it. Onwards. A little way beyond were more signs stating that only dafty’s would go beyond these signs due to the falling rocks. Not me. I can go anywhere!
At this point the sensible man (or woman) would look at the large collection of small rocks lying at the base of the cliffs in front of me and consider the signs may in fact be valid. Not me. I can go anywhere!
So followed a scramble over rubble and then up a very loose slope where I had to use my tripod as a pick to stop from slipping back down the slope. Again the sensible person would re-consider as I was slipping on small sones and rocks that had clearly fallen from the cliffs now towering above me. Not me though … etc …
Finally reaching the highest point I could, without resorting to full blown climbing, I scanned around to get the most interesting viewpoint. Something in my head (probably my ears) started to warn me there were rocks falling somewhere close by. Surely it must be sheep scrambling about on the rocks? I had seen a few earlier on. That will be it. Setting up tripod, attaching camera, filters, all the good stuff. Definitely rocks falling somewhere close by.
Now my pulse was racing. You see I am stupid when it comes to photography. You knew that already though?! And so the important thing for me now was to wait and take a photograph. Not run and hide from the rocks which I had now actually seen passing close to me. Okay so the rocks are close, but not actually hitting me. Yet. Waiting, waiting. Focusing, wondering if the light will become a little less harsh. Something to eat perhaps? A snack has been earned after all.
Bang crash wallop … And there was the brown trouser moment. Large rocks passing within around 20 feet of me. First one side then the other. Pack everything away. Quickly. F@ck it leave it all and run (I seriously considered this option). But run where, there is now rubble falling either side of me and the easiest way out has the rubble funnelling into the path that makes it the easiest way out! Panicing now as the noises get louder. Are they closer or just bigger?
In my opinion once a decision is made that could affect your health, it is best to stick with that opinion. No point heading one way then doubling back to increase your exposure time. Camera still on tripod, brutally slung over my shoulder, rucksack hanging off me, I moved as quickly as my dodgy ankle would allow down the way. That’s all that mattered; down. Skidding, sliding, maybe even upside down at one point! And came to rest amongst a pile of large rubble that offered some protection from the dangers up above.
There was a moment as I reached safety where I could hear nothing. Did I imagine it all? But no, once I turned to look back up the hill it was clear I had not imagined it. Rocks were still falling. Everywhere. I had made the right choice. Well that is if you exclude the wrong choice that saw me up there in the first place.
But from my airy perch the photograph on this page was made. An all time great? Nah. A bestseller? Nope? A competition winner? It has never even been entered. So was it worth it? Well the picture here is still a personal favourite. It is not a viewpoint you see much -!- and most people that view it like it. So yes from a personal point of view it was worthwhile. Would I do it again? NO!
Top tip folks. If you are in the hills in Scotland and a sign slaps you in the face telling you not to be an idiot. It is there for good reason. Don’t be an idiot.
Learning from others could save your bacon one day.