Chris Higgins
Chris Higgins

Passing Place: A Hike Through Skye, Scotland (Part 1)

Chris Higgins
Chris Higgins

I spent most of May 2015 in Scotland with my wife, Rochelle. We spent several weeks on the Isle of Skye in small cottages, going out for hikes when the weather permitted (and hunkering down during the blustery gray days).

The most memorable hike of all was a long trek through two ruined villages, Boreraig and Suisnish. I brought my camera; here's what I saw.

The hike starts at Cill Chriosd, a ruined church closed in 1840. It is overrun with sheep.

It's also surrounded by a graveyard.

Inside the church, vines have taken over and the roof is long gone. (Note the lumps on the ground—sheep poop.)

Plants are taking over everywhere.

A plastic-coated booklet tucked between some rocks.

View from inside the church.

Sheep in the graveyard.

A particularly regal sheep.

A grove of trees still stands by this monument.

There are several plaques like this. The cemetery is populated with war dead.

Leaving the church, we faced a mountain range. It would be a long day.

Although most of the land is covered in scrub, a few trees thrive. This one is surrounded by some ruins.

One of the many, many waterfalls along the way.

On the way to Boreraig is an abandoned quarry. This is part of it. Keep an eye out for these rocks later.

The remains of a winding wheel; it pulled trains up the steep incline we had just ascended, in order to fill them with quarried stone.

More piles of stone.

From a small hill, I saw this ruined house in the distance. This was taken using a very big zoom lens.

We called these "Star Trek rocks." They look like polystyrene rocks you'd see on an alien planet. I checked; they're real.

The hike often went uphill; this was the first time we saw water in the distance. (Boreraig was a coastal village.)

Approaching Boreraig, there are some ruined stone houses (lower right) barely visible. This is Loch Eishort.

The first one we encountered, up close. Many of the houses were missing walls, all had long ago lost their roofs. The village was forcibly cleared in 1853 by Lord Macdonald, who preferred to use the land for sheep. He burned the houses.

Inside a house, storage cubby holes are still intact. Plants are taking over. In the background, another hut.

In this structure, the wall facing the water is almost completely gone. This was one of the bigger huts; many of them were 60 square feet at most.

Another ruined hut.

Someone has propped up a stone over the former doorway. Virtually all the doorways are intact as openings, but missing their top stones.

This is the view residents of Boreraig had.

More ruined buildings.

A sheep shown for scale. The walls are very low; standing inside a house, I was head and shoulders above the walls. Presumably the roof would have made these considerably taller and more livable.

I noticed that there isn't any mortar in these rock walls. They're just carefully laid.

Detail of a rock wall.

Rochelle stands inside one of the largest structures.

Perhaps this tree grew because of the windbreak of the walls? (Note the distinct lack of trees in the background.)

Heading away from Boreraig, we approached the coast. Throughout the hike we had to ford small streams; this one had a beautiful stone crossing. The best we got on the rest was a half-broken piece of wood, or a few strategically placed stones (that were often an inch underwater). Boots were very necessary.

We started walking up the coast. We'd have to go halfway up and around this mountain.

There were a few more ruined buildings down by the water. This one still had a window intact.

Looking in another window, we see some trash. Plastic washes up on the beach. Somebody decided to put this bucket inside a house.

Amidst the rocks on the beach, some blue and yellow plastic.

The sheep had no problem navigating rock-strewn beaches. We stuck to grassy areas and paths (often muddy).

Rochelle takes a picture as we begin the ascent.

Next up: Part 2, featuring insane photographs of the sky over Skye, as the sun comes out and we encounter hundreds more sheep!

Live Smarter
8 Pro Tips for Taking Incredible Pictures of Your Pets

Thanks to the internet, owning a photogenic pet is now a viable career option. Just ask Theron Humphrey, dog-dad to Maddie the coonhound and the photographer behind the Instagram account This Wild Idea. He gained online fame by traveling across the country and sharing photographs of his dog along the way. But Maddie’s impressive modeling skills aren’t the only key to his success; Humphrey has also mastered some essential photography tricks that even the most casual smartphone photographer can use to make their pet look like a social media star.


Based on her Instagram presence, you’d guess Maddie is either in the middle of a road trip or a scenic hike at any given time. That’s no accident: At a pet photography workshop hosted by Adobe, Humphrey said he often goes out of his way to get that perfect shot. “You need to keep situating yourself in circumstances to continue making great work,” he said, “even if that means burning a tank of gas and going someplace you’ve never been.”


Dog and owner on a couch.

That being said, it’s important to know your pet’s limits. Is your dog afraid of flying? Then leave him with a pet sitter when you vacation abroad. Does your cat hate the water? Resist the temptation to bring her into the kayak with you on your next camping trip, even if it would make for an adorable photo opportunity. “One thing I think is important with animals is to operate within the parameters they exist in,” Humphrey said. “Don’t go too far outside their comfort zone.”


Not every winning pet photo is the result of a hefty travel budget. You can take professional-looking pictures of your pet at home, as long as you know how to work with the space you’re in. Humphrey recommends looking at every element of the scene you’re shooting in and asking what can be changed. Don’t be shy about moving furniture, adjusting the blinds to achieve the perfect lighting, or changing into a weird outfit that will make your pup’s eyes pop.


Two dogs in outfits.

Ella and Coconut Bean.

Trying to capture glamorous photos of a moving, barking target is a hard job. It’s much easier when you have a human companion to assist you. Another set of hands can hold the camera when you want to be in the picture with your pet, or hold a toy or treat to get your dog’s attention. At the very least, they can take your pet away for a 10-minute play session when you need a break.


The advent of digital cameras, including the kind in your smartphone, was a game-changer for pet photographers. Gone are the days when you needed to be picky about your shots to conserve film. Just set your shutter to burst mode and let your camera do the work capturing every subtle blep and mlem your pet makes. Chances are you’ll have plenty of standout shots on your camera roll from which to choose. From there, your hardest job will be “culling” them, as Humphrey says. He recommends uploading them to a photo organizing app like Adobe Lightroom and reviewing your work in two rounds: The first is for flagging any photo that catches your eye, and the second is for narrowing down that pool into an even smaller group of photos you want to publish. Even then, deciding between two shots taken a fraction of a second apart can be tricky. “When photos are too similar, check the focus,” he said. “That’s often the deciding factor.”


When it comes to capturing the perfect pet photo, an expensive camera is often less important than your cat’s favorite feather toy. The most memorable images often include pets that are engaging with the camera. In order to get your pet to look where you want it to, make sure you're holding something your pet will find interesting in your free hand. If your pet perks up at anything that makes noise, find a squeaky toy. If they’re motivated by food, use their favorite treat to get their attention. Don’t forget to reward them with the treat or the toy after they sit for the photo—that way they’ll know to repeat the behavior next time.


Person with hat taking photo of dog and dog food.

According to Humphrey, your pet’s eye should be the focus of most shots you take. In some cases, you may need to do more to make your pet the focal point of the image, even if that means removing your face from the frame altogether. “If there’s a human in the photo, you want to make them anonymous,” Humphrey said. That means incorporating your hands, legs, or torso into a shot without making yourself the star.


This is the mantra Theron Humphrey repeated throughout his workshop. You can scout out the perfect location and find the perfect accessories, but when you’re shooting with animals you have no choice but to leave room for flexibility. “You have to learn to roll with the mistakes,” Humphrey said. What feels like a hyperactive dog ruining your shot in the moment might turn out to be social media gold when it ends up online.

ESA/Hubble, NASA
Hubble Telescope Image Shows Two Galaxies Colliding 350 Million Light-Years Away
ESA/Hubble, NASA
ESA/Hubble, NASA

Since launching in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has captured some magnificent images of our corner of the universe, from neighboring planets to distant nebulae. An updated picture released by the European Space Agency shows two galaxies colliding 350 million light-years away, a process the ESA has been tracking for 52 years, Gizmodo reports.

Galaxies are constantly changing shape and creeping through space. When two of these massive networks cross paths, their stellar material begins to intermingle, and they eventually merge into one entity under the force of gravity. In this image depicting two barred spiral galaxies in the Cetus constellation, the two nuclei are still separate, but the explosive merging process has already been set in motion. Long tidal tails—streams of gas, dust, and stars—feather out from the top of the cluster. The bright blue patches indicate "stellar nurseries" where gas and dust stirred together by gravity are producing new stars.

The photograph was first released in 2008, but this latest version has been updated using Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). According to an ESA statement, the galaxies "are like a natural experiment played out on a cosmic scale, and by cataloguing them, astronomers can better understand the physical processes that warp spiral and elliptical galaxies into new shapes."

Galactic mergers are a vital part of the evolution of the universe: Even the Milky Way is on course to crash into a neighboring galaxy 4 billion years down the road. But the process, though violent, is slow-moving. It will be millions of years before these two galaxies in Cetus settle down into one.

[h/t Gizmodo]


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