I returned to Eilean Donan Castle after 29 years almost to the exact date,. I have a particular affection to this Castle for all that it represented to me the first time I came here. It is interesting the way we almost expect things to remain the same over time while we are elsewhere. Everything changes all the time. Some times the change is slow and subtle. Other times it is quick and drastic. The same holds true for Eilean Donan. While I immerse myself in the atmosphere of this place it occurs to me the change here many dimensions. As I observe a deeper personal self discovery is also triggered.
In the morning at low tide
North face at sunset
South face at sunset
A different Eilean Donan
The most immediate difference that strikes me is a physical one. The old bridge connecting Dornie with Ardelve left way to a new one only 3 year after I was here. A functional visitor centre is now available since 1998. It strikes me how when I was here in ’89 this whole village had a unique traditional feel to it. These new structures don’t seem to fit with it. I understand the positive implications of both structures. They improve accessibility to Eilean Donan Castle, provide visitors amenities, and bolster economy. Blending architectures to the village’s charisma would have achived the same result. Both structure feel so out of place, almost disconnected from the castle and the village.
When I first came here I arrived from Ardelve by bus and the castle held my attention at all time. This time I arrived by car from the opposite direction and it felt the castle was dropped there by chance. The castle restoration is now complete. All the rooms now feature a more realistic experience of that the castle might have been like in its prime. I found particularly interesting the way they reproduced the activity in the kitchen. With very well crafted details down to smells and sounds.
A different set of expectations at Eileen Donan
I wanted to replicate the one picture I took of Eilean Donan Castle 29 years earlier with the gulls taking flight in front of the castle. This time I had more sophisticated equipment, better understanding of photography, and composition. The one crucial element missing this time were the gulls. I could only see a couple of them flying alone, nothing like the flocks that were here last time. I was there in the afternoon, in the evening and in the early morning. with high tide and low tide, but no sign of the large flock I was hoping to find. I can’t help but wonder what happened to them. The large contingent of tourist could have caused them to relocate to a different place.
I took several shots, from every angle I could imagine. In the end I capture many very usable pictures, the ones I’m publishing here are only the ones I like best. Yet none of them seem to quite give me the same satisfaction I got from that one shot I took in ’89. It is all down to expectations. I didn’t know what to expect 29 years ago, this time around I had a picture in my mind and reality seemed to have changed. The context and circumstances are different. It all brings to life Cartier-Bresson’s meaning of “Capturing the defining moment”. It goes beyond the technical quality of an image. it defines the purpose of its existence at least in the eye of the photographer.
A different outlook on Eileen Donan
The one thing that emerged for me was the realisation that I am different. The way I look at things is different than 29 years ago. I learned to plan my photographs timing, location, composition, light all very important. The motivation behind the photography I do has also changed. Learning about photography, took away the spontaneity of exploration and discovery. Curating every aspect of a picture seems like a good idea to take high quality images. Yet it also reduces the emotional impact and importance of the subjective experience. Do I photograph what I see? or do I photograph to see? Am I photographing what’s around me? Or am I photographing what’s in my imagination? Either way posing such questions feels worthy enough to continue exploring.
As I take one last look at Eilean Donan Castle and I get the feeling of being home, the exact same feeling I felt the first time I was here.