Shetland Selection

A collection of my images from remote places is going to be on show in The Boiler Room at the Jam Factory in Oxford from 12th November 2013 until mid-January 2014.

Over the last  few weeks I’ve been publishing a blog post about each of the three regions I’ve covered in the exhibition where I told the stories behind a few of the images.

Part I was an Arctic Assortment, Part II was an Antarctic Aggregation

This is Part III, images from Shetland.  This selection doesn't reflect all of Shetland, which is over 100 miles from end-to-end, in fact the four images here were all taken within circle about 2 miles across at the extreme south end of the Shetland, my patch on the islands.

Curious Puffin, Sumburgh Head

One of the big tourist draws on Shetland are the puffins at Sumburgh Head.  There are numerous places on Shetland where puffins nest, but the RSPB Reserve at Sumburgh is not only a busy location (in puffin terms) it also provides several points where puffins and people can get close together.  At times when I'm not quite sure if the tourists are there to see the puffins, or vice versa.  If you sit still the birds will come very close to get a good look at what you’re doing.  The RSPB reserve is also very close to the main airport on Shetland and during the summer it's very common for people to head straight up to Sumburgh Head as soon as they arrive, and to try and fit in a final visit to the puffins just before leaving.  We know from experience that it’s about 7 minutes from the reserve to the airport check-in desk!

Quendale Bay Sunset

Shetland is roughly 60 degrees north.  This means that during the summer it doesn’t really get properly dark (the locals call it Simmer Dim), and in the winter it feels as if it doesn't really ever get light.  The other ‘quirk’ is that the direction were the sun sets changes quiet dramatically during the year. In the middle of summer, not only do you need to stay up pretty late to see the sunset you also need to find somewhere with a clear view to the northwest rather than the west.  In the autumn however, the sun does what it’s supposed to do and disappears due west of the islands – and if you are lucky and the weather is clear to the west, you might just see the sun dropping into the sea.

Loch of Gards, Scat Ness

One of my favourite places on Shetland is Scat Ness.  This is one of the two south-pointing peninsulas at the south end of Shetland, the other is Sumburgh Head.  Scat Ness doesn't have the same dramatic cliffs that Sumburgh Head does, nor the Stevenson-era lighthouse for decoration, but neither does it have the volume of visitors.

Scat Ness is a place to go for peace and quite, and for a spot seal-watching and otter-spotting along with nesting terns and numerous other birds dropping in to visit the freshwater Loch of Gards.  In the background is Fitful Head, the highest point at the south end of Shetland.

Scat Ness Storms

It would be an understatement to say that Shetland can be windy.  

The wild winds ensure that there aren't too many trees around on Shetland, and that the buildings are all built to be capable of withstanding winds that would wreak havoc elsewhere in the country.  When the storms blow in they generate huge waves that usually batter the west side of the islands.  However, the storms don’t last forever. Every storm eventually passes, and the days after a storm are some of my favourite days on Shetland.  Sometimes the sun shines, and there are still big seas blowing in from the storm.  

On these days, I will regularly go out onto the more remote parts of Scat Ness and watch the waves barrelling in against the rocks, spinning up a mist of salty spray and providing a reminder that wave power might just be worth considering.

The exhibition

If you want to see these pictures and more, the exhibition runs from 12th November 2013 to 12th January 2014 – there is more information about the exhibition on the Jam Factory website

Images from this collection are also available on the new North South Images website.

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