Michael Dutson Landscape Photography



Passing Squall

I found myself traversing the A858 main road, journeying from Achadh Mor to Garrynahine after making my way from the western side of Lewis. This road, resembling a Roman thoroughfare, stretches in a perfectly straight line from one point to another. It boasts not only directness but also speed, as local drivers confidently overtook me, showing no hesitation in surpassing speeds of 80mph or more.

On a separate occasion, while heading north after disembarking from the ferry at Tarbert on Harris a few days prior, a noteworthy incident unfolded. I was progressing along the main road to Stornoway when a minivan with a disability sticker on its rear door overtook me. This vehicle, often utilized by individuals with mobility challenges, is designed to accommodate passengers while also providing space for a wheelchair behind the seats. The driver of this particular minivan, however, exhibited an audacious driving style, racing past me at a remarkable speed of over 70mph on a steady downhill left-hand bend. Clearly in a hurry, I decided to tail him, engaging my car’s ‘Sport’ mode. To my surprise, I couldn’t keep up. On straight stretches, he pushed the speed well beyond 90mph, displaying a mastery of the roads with late braking techniques and road width utilization reminiscent of a Formula One racing driver. Whether the minivan driver had, any passengers remained unclear, but if he was disabled, he was certainly proficient and daring, and unafraid to push his Citroen ‘Berlingo’ to its limits. Perhaps potential passengers were wise to decline a ride from him after previous experience made them soil their underwear.

As I journeyed along the A858, the car battled against strong gusts of wind, while rain and hail relentlessly lashed the windscreen. This road traverses the island in an east-west direction and reaches an elevated vantage point. To the south, the road offers expansive views of an uninhabited and inaccessible part of the island, adorned with small lochs and numerous peat bogs. In essence, it is a vast expanse of nothingness.

Storm passing through on Lewis

In the distance, I noticed intriguing light emerging as a storm moved away from the west. It was a gamble driven more by hope than certainty, yet the conditions seemed promising. The cloud cover hung low, and the rain poured intensely, soon to be backlit by the radiant sunshine on the distant horizon. Acting swiftly, I pulled into a small layby leading to a field gate, bringing my car to a halt. Stepping out, I reached for my Páramo waterproof coat to fend off the weather’s onslaught. Next, I retrieved the tripod, camera, and a long lens from the back seat. I walked a mere 20 meters to the galvanized field gate, set up the tripod, attached the camera, and braced myself against the passing weather for approximately 30 minutes, anticipating the play of light.

The cold was more biting than I had anticipated, and the exposed skin of my hands quickly lost sensation. The long lens allowed me to zoom in, isolating sections of the desolate landscape and capturing the small lochans reflecting a shimmering light against the dark backdrop of the peat bog. Although my hope for dazzling sunlight or crepuscular rays didn’t materialize, I found solace in the drama of the backlit storm. I snapped a few shots and took a couple of panoramas, unable to resist capturing the moment.

Once satisfied that the spectacle had concluded, I briskly walked back to the car, stowing the camera gear on the back seat. Climbing into the driver’s seat with water dripping off my coat, I rubbed my hands together vigorously. Starting the engine, I cranked the heater to full blast, hoping to restore feeling to my chilled fingers. I sat for a while, hands in front of a heater vent, observing the storm as it moved eastward and vanished over the horizon and wondering if this is how those asthmatic hand dryers in gents’ toilets were conceived. Once warmth returned, I relaxed back into the driver’s seat, shifted the car into Drive and continued along the A858, contemplating what awaited me on the beaches of the west side of these two mesmerising islands.


    • Thanks Mark. I thought it would be right up your Strasse as Lord of Darkness. It was an interesting half-hour. Just watching the weather unfold and knowing that somebody, somewhere was getting it harder than I was!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *