Michael Dutson Landscape Photography



Mystery Tour

As I navigated the roads crisscrossing the islands of Harris and Lewis, my primary focus was on scouting for suitable subjects to capture through my camera lens, all while ensuring I didn’t impede the flow of local traffic on the swift roads. The weather conditions on that particular day provided an ideal backdrop for photography. Blustery storms intermittently swept across the landscape, punctuated by fleeting moments of radiant sunlight and captivating rays. However, these brief interludes were swiftly replaced by heavy rain and hail downpours.

While my description of the weather as “great” might not align with the conventional notion of pleasant conditions, it perfectly suited my preferences. Unlike those who revel in extended stays in popular summer destinations drinking cold lager in the tattooed jungle, my appreciation for weather stems from its ability to introduce infinite variety to a specific composition. Some places I explore offer only a single captivating shot, regardless of how much I traverse the area. Yet, other locations boast numerous compositions, especially when coupled with an ever-changing sky and dramatic lighting—such moments are a photographer’s delight.

The day I captured this particular shot epitomized the latter—a day where opportunities for striking compositions seemed boundless. However, the drawback of such days is the inevitable consequence of ending up thoroughly drenched and chilled to the bone. The constant need to dry off equipment arises whenever a brief respite from the elements allows.

Abandoned Croft on Lewis

As I drove through the days, I encountered several recently abandoned crofts, each telling a silent tale of bygone eras. Many of these humble abodes, I suspected, once housed elderly inhabitants who clung to ‘the old ways.’ It seemed that with their passing, the properties had been inherited by their children, who either no longer resided on the islands or lacked the time and resources to return and breathe new life into the ancestral homes.

My watchful eye scanned the landscape, revealing a scattering of these old crofts in various states of decay. Some stood with missing roofs and tumbled-down walls, while others, though clearly uninhabited, retained a semblance of structural integrity. Observing these abandoned buildings, a melancholy settled over me, prompting my mind to wander through the corridors of vanished events.

In a time long ago, when these houses were first erected, they undoubtedly stood as the owners’ pride and joy. It’s likely that they, along with their families, played a role in the construction, manifesting a house-proud attitude that maintained a spotlessly clean and orderly interior. Births, family gatherings, birthdays, letters written, and significant life milestones like baptisms, marriages, and, regrettably, funerals—all transpired within the four stone walls. Now, however, the once-sturdy structures crumbled, and these events linger only as unnoticed shadows of life’s celebrations long passed and the echoes of these events now fading away and forgotten.

This Lewis residence stands vivid in my memory, as I distinctly recall the initial drive past it, followed by a prompt U-turn to revisit. Despite my familiarity, pinpointing its location on a map proves challenging and lacking a high level of certainty. In an unusual departure from my usual routine, I refrained from lingering for an hour, patiently awaiting the perfect play of light. Instead, I opted for a handheld approach, with the tripod relegated to the back seat of the car. In and out. Bish. Bosh. In the bag! Done!

The tempestuous winds swept through the surroundings. This ‘thin wind,’ whilst wearing a light fleece emphasizing swiftness, necessitated a quick photographic pursuit. The tripod’s abandonment was a deliberate choice, as any endeavour exceeding a mere five minutes risked a shift in the predominant keyword from ‘speed’ to ‘wet,’ given the unpredictable weather conditions. I was feeling quite risk averse at this point of the day.

Having hastily captured a series of bracketed shots, I briskly traversed the asphalted road. After swinging open the car door, I eased back into the driver’s seat. Pausing for a moment, I reviewed the shots on my camera, involuntarily mumbling to myself. Nodding in agreement with my own muttered commentary, I contorted myself between the two front seats, placing the camera on the back seat before shifting the gear into ‘Drive.’ Moving onward, I embarked on the journey to another location, one that might materialize unexpectedly in the captivating expanse of this rugged island. This trip is turning into a bona-fide Mystery Tour.


  1. I remember this croft, a real gem for togs. It looks to have deteriorated considerably since I saw it. You didn’t venture over the fence? When I did, Barb was laughing as I crossed at the old gate that was held in place by bands of twine at each end. Your image has me pondering another Outer Hebrides holiday.

  2. I didn’t hop over the fence (yes, seeing me hop would be amusing in itself!). Have you posted your shots of it on Flickr? I’ll have to have a trawl through your photostream to find it. It is amazing how many farmers use baling twine as gate hinges – they usually work up to a point and then the gate hits you in the shins when you least expect it.
    Thanks for commenting, very much appreciated. 👍🏻

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