Our recent trip to the Hebridean Islands of Harris and Lewis in Scotland brought many gorgeous views and photogenic subjects to our hard working lenses. Not least this amazing chance to photograph the iconic and ancient site of The Callanish Stones with the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) behind them.
The Stones incredibly date back to 2,900BC and were later used as an ancient burial ground. The truth behind their original purpose is unclear with some suspecting moon and nearby mountain alignment. Folklore suggests, among others, ‘turned to stone’ giants who refused to accept christianity. Whatever the truth behind their existence, visitors to the site are left with an enlightening feeling of hope and relative importance, much the same way as a trip to Stonehenge and other ancient monuments create.
The story behind the shots are, as always, interesting but involved an incredible amount of luck!
After a full days shooting around the Hebrides (or Western Isles) we had returned to our base home for the week for rest and replenishment. During a phone call home later in the evening I noticed an ‘odd’ cloud formation in the dark night sky. As I hadn’t long returned from a trip to Norway’s northern region to photograph the Northern Lights I mentioned to my wife on the other end of the line that “if I didn’t know any better I would say I could see the Northern Lights in the sky up here!” I thought little more of my comment as we finished off our evening conversation.
Returning inside and taking one last look at the night sky, I was even more convinced that it appeared I was indeed watching the Aurora. I sped inside to quickly conduct a ‘Google’ search and lo and behold, there were reports around the country of sightings. My companion and I hastily prepared for another quick trip outside (gear and warm clothing!) in our well used hire car and stopped by the roadside a mile away free from any light pollution (not too difficult up in the Hebrides).
My excitement was complete on the first handheld ‘test’ shot. There was green in that there sky! We set up our camera equipment and took some shots. They were good but not great, we needed some foreground interest. We realised we were 2 miles away from the Callanish Stones so jumped back into the car and headed straight for them.
The resulting shots were amazing for us. We were totally alone (it was by this time 1am) but we combined unlit stones with ‘light painted’ shots using a flash and maglite torch and much trial and error.
Being there that late at night, that alone and with this spectacle occurring before our eyes we got caught up in the moment. This site is nearly 5,000 years old! I favour the ‘Giants’ folklore theory as the magic we witnessed that night means anything is possible!