Skye Commercial Photography Goes Projecting
“Are you free tonight, about midnight?”
Not a question I get asked too often – note the too often. Most people never get asked that. In our line of work we only get asked occasionally. To put the question in context we were phoned in the early afternoon of a Spring day in 2021. It was when the Scottish Parliamentary Election campaign was in full swing, about to enter the home straight. The caller was from the famous outdoor projection company Double Take Projections. They were in need of a photographer to capture images of election slogans that were to be projected onto famous Scottish landmarks, tonight was Skye and their usual photographer had become unavailable. Could we fill in. The client would, at this point remain nameless.
“… ” I said
“It isn’t the Scottish Family Party.”
“Oh, then yes, of course.”
I had a fairly good idea of who it was. One of the parties have used projections quite widely in the past and I was pretty sure they were behind this project. I wagered on the SNP. Not that I had anything against Labour, the Lib-Dems or the Greens, I am pretty much a wee bit left of centre in my politics so any of them would have been okay.
Cometh The Hour Cometh The Rain.
At 9pm I arrived at the cemetery car park at the entrance to the Fairy Glen (cemetery car parks are good places to meet up, they are easily identifiable by those not familiar with the local topography) at the same time as the weather decided it was in charge. The drizzle firmed up into relentless, driving, solid, chunky rain. This would be quite challenging.
Steven, our projectionist for the evening was in good spirits considering he had come all the way from Edinburgh just to be assaulted by some sideways Skye weather.
The projector is a great big piece of kit. a big box of techno stuff with a huge lamp on the front housed in a sturdy tubular frame. Once linked to a laptop it can project still and moving images over hundreds of metres onto just about anything that gets in the way. On this occasion it was the famous rocks on the far side of the equally famous little lochan in the Fairy Glen. Supremely picturesque.
The technical side of photographing a night-time projection is similar to photographing aurora. You need a tripod and a long exposure. That’s pretty much it really…
Steve opened the side door of his van, turned the projector round to point out of the door – the projector wasn’t coming outside, it was really wet outside – and tapped a few keys on his laptop. Light exploded from the projector. As bright blue beams streaked across the loch political slogans slowly came into focus on the hill opposite. After a few minor tweaks the words became clearer, a few more taps and the aspect of the words was adjusted from not quite to just right. I leapt into action. I worked fast as although the rain made for an interesting effect on the projection it played havoc with my lens. The rain managed to find a way past the hood on the lens but with the judicious use of my shammy leather (a vital piece of kit in West Highland photography) I was able to clear the glass of rain spots.
We cycled through the list of pithy slogans the client wanted until all had been displayed on the hill. it was then time to find other photogenic spots. I could entertain and delight you with a nocturnal guided tour of the lovely spots of Skye but what followed the fairy glen was a wet and dreich trip round the island with the occasional stop to battle our way out into the slightly improving weather to say “nope” until we reached the bridge where thankfully the rain stopped and the sky cleared.
You would think parking a van on the pavement opposite the village hall in Kyleakin in the middle of the night wouldn’t attract too much attention but when the van is shining intense beans of flickering light across the narrows to the Skye Bridge your chances of a police car stopping are raised. A car did indeed stop and a nice police officer did get out and inquired as to what we were up too. Steve said he was projecting political slogans onto the bridge and I chimed in that i was photographing the projections. With his curiosity satisfied the officer stayed for a wee chat then left us to it. Apparently this happens often…
As the clock struck two we called it a night. This coincided with the clouds finally clearing and stars beginning to appear. As always the Skye weather was having the last laugh. Saying that I had a great time. Possibly the best part of being a photographer is you never know what might happen next. The chances of something new and unusual occurring are high. Reaching the end of a day – or night – having learned something new, been outside a comfort zone, met new and interesting people or experienced an unforgettable moment are perks of the job that I should never take for granted.