From late August to early September of this year, I once again spent two weeks on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides working on content pieces for the television show that I’ve been developing with friend and colleague David Jackson for the last few years.
The trip began with the stunning Scottish weather that we’ve all come to love by looking at postcards and coffee table books. A few days later however, the battle of the elements was on. As stunning as our remote location in the Uig Sands area was, patience was the word of the day. It could get frustrating and funny at times to watch the location lose a stop of light with each step that the host took on camera. There were times when we spent 20 minutes waiting to get a 6 second shot. Then, the rain would come back. For those that don’t know, the weather in the Outer Hebrides moves in all directions at once and there are almost always clouds in the sky. Keeping a consistent exposure from shot to shot was a real challenge. The heavy cloud cover created an exposure situation that kept the shadows deep and to get a decent exposure, was almost certain to blow out whatever highlights were in the sky. But when the sky was clear, it was epic for shooting!
On foreign travel gigs like this one, we keep things tight as far as crew and equipment. Part of the fun is that you never have everything that you need. You must do your best work with what you have on hand. Airline baggage limitations keep us from being able to bring too much equipment. With a crew of two that includes just a Host/Producer and DP/Director, we both end up handling numerous tasks at once. One moment you are the host of a TV show and the next you are a human grip stand. It’s nice to be the DP and director, but I’m also the pack mule and trash man at times. You just have to do what needs to be done. The small team must conquer all.
Planning, scheduling and logistics are not always our friends. You have to be loose and flexible in an international production scenario with weather concerns, but we always start the day with a well thought out plan.
Historical Tidbit for the Isle of Lewis:
The Lewis Chessmen were discovered in early 1831 in a sand bank at the head of Camas Uig on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. There are various local stories concerning their arrival and modern discovery on Lewis.
Malcolm “Sport” MacLeod from the nearby township of Pennydonald discovered the trove in a small stone kist in a dune, exhibited them briefly in his byre and sold them on to Captain Roderick Ryrie. One reported detail, that it was a cow that actually unearthed the stash, is generally discounted in Uig as fabrication. After the Isle of Lewis was purchased by Sir James Matheson in 1844, Malcolm Macleod and his family were evicted and the district was transformed into sheep farms.