During our tour we’ll explore the remarkable ways that past and present collide at the crossroads of the Celtic and Viking worlds. A cluster of 5,000-year-old archeological sites on the archipelago are collectively designated as a World Heritage Site called The Heart of Neolithic Orkney. The main sites consist of two major circles of standing stones, a massive chambered cairn, and the remains of an ancient village that was exposed on a clifftop during a storm in the 19th century. Orcadians live with these monuments in their backyards—these relics are part of the cultural, as well as physical, landscape that influences the way the locals interact with the world.
May 16-23, 2020
This is a 7-night, 8-day photography tour. Including travel days to and from Orkney, it is an 8-night trip, and you’ll be arriving home late on the ninth day.
Standard room (5 available) $4,495
Deluxe room (3 available) $4,695
Suite (1 available) $4,995
Bring a partner/friend in any room. The suite has only a king bed. (3 available) $3,295
Open to all who have an understanding of the basic principles of photography and of their cameras.
12, with 2 instructors — 6:1 ratio
Deposit of $1,495.00 is required to reserve your Standard Room.
Deposit of $1,695.00 is required to reserve your Deluxe Room.
Deposit of $1,995.00 is required to reserve your Suite.
Deposit of $295 is required to add a second person to any room.
Balance of $3000 per person is due on February 14, 2020. Pay balance here.
Last day for a cancellation request is February 13, 2020 (see cancellation and refund policy).
The tour fee does not include transportation to and from Orkney, admission to Folk Festival events, lunches and three dinners.
It does include transportation after arrival on Orkney, admission to all World Heritage sites on Orkney, accommodations in Orkney’s best hotel, seven breakfasts and four dinners.
The Orkney Experience
It is said that Orcadians are farmers who fish, and that Shetlanders are fishermen who farm. It’s certainly true that Orkney is rich and fertile farmland, and its gentle rolling hills are well suited to dairy and grain farming. It’s also true that being surrounded by the chilly waters of the North Sea provides the islands with plenty of seafood. For us, that means we’ll have our choice of beef, lamb or fish!
Our time on Orkney will be spent primarily on what they call Mainland, which is actually the largest island in the archipelago. We will visit most of the main archeological sites during the day to learn about the history as well as to photograph, and also to get the lay of the land for our night explorations.
And speaking of night––we have intentionally scheduled this tour during the period known as Simmer Dim, when most of the night consists of glorious nautical twilight that is perfect for photographing the architecture of the towns and villages of Orkney. It’s dark enough for light painting, but light enough that the streetlights of the towns are balanced with the natural light of dusk.
The endless twilight of Simmer Dim is also prime time for working with graduated neutral density filters in the landscape. The use of 6- to 15-stop neutral density filters for daytime long exposures is another technique that works well with landscape photography, especially at the water’s edge. Lance and Tim will provide instruction and guidance on the use of these filters to help you get the best possible images.
We’ve also timed this trip with the Orkney Folk Festival, which draws traditional musicians from all over Europe to play at various small venues across the islands. We will have the opportunity to see and hear several concerts during the week. But if folk music is not your thing, we will have two tour vans, so some of the group can choose another activity if they wish. In either case, be prepared for long nights. We’ll be out photographing into the wee hours.
A typical day starts after a late breakfast when we head out to visit any number of attractions on Orkney Mainland. This might include archeological sites, the famous Churchill barriers built during WWII to block German ships and submarines, the Viking St. Magnus Cathedral, a small museum of traditional island life, a visit to an artist’s studio, a distillery tour, or a walk on a beach.
We’ll take our lunches at local pubs, cafes or restaurants, and eventually make our way back to the hotel for a bit of downtime before dinner. On four of the nights, we’ll eat at the hotel (included); the others nights we’ll eat at restaurants in Kirkwall or Stromness (not included).
After dinner, we will have a couple of opportunities to attend performances at the festival (not included, but not expensive) before going out to photograph. Some nights, we’ll just go out and photograph––either at the standing stones, or in one of the towns or villages. With two nine-seat vehicles and a maximum of 12 participants, we’ll have the flexibility to accommodate diverging interests, but we will travel as one unit most of the time.
As this is a tour rather than a workshop, there is no classroom instruction. We believe that if you travel to another country, your time is better spent in the field than in the classroom. Lance and Tim will provide photo assistance in the field day and night for those who want it.
What You Should Know
Participants must have at least basic photo skills, know their cameras well, and be comfortable shooting RAW in manual mode with a DSLR or high-end mirrorless camera. A trip like this is not a good time to be trying to learn how to use new equipment.
The days and nights will be long, and most nights you probably won’t get 8 hours of sleep. We will let you catch your breath, and you can always opt out of an activity if you’d like. People often take a half-day off on these tours, and that’s fine.
If you would like to attend this tour but are unsure whether you have adequate night photography skills, we can offer tutoring to get you ready for your adventure with us. Alternatively or additionally, a few of us have written books that may be productive pre-tour reads.
What You Will Learn
You’ll go home after the tour with an appreciation of the fascinating history and contemporary culture of Orkney and its place on the cusp of Scottish and Scandinavian cultures. You will have made many photographs, both during the daytime and at night. We want you to improve your photo skills, and Lance and Tim will guide you as much or as little as you’d like.
The primary emphasis of the tour will be on creating images rather than learning new techniques. If you are relatively inexperienced, we will provide you with field instruction, and as time permits, impromptu image reviews. We’ll give room to explore, but not leave you on your own. Each participant will have the opportunity to work one-on-one with Lance and Tim in the field.
We do not tell our attendees what to photograph, and won’t line you up in a row to all shoot the same thing. Instead, we encourage you to use what you have learned to create your own unique images, and to let us guide you through the process should you desire. We do not teach you to do what we do, but rather how to develop your own night vision.
Night & Light Conditions
Your journey begins with an overnight flight to the U.K. on May 15, and a connecting flight to Kirkwall as early as possible on May 16. We’ll meet you at the airport and take you to the hotel to check in and rest up before heading out for our first exploration.
From the U.S., you will need to fly to Glasgow, Edinburgh or London, and connect from there. It may be less expensive to purchase a separate ticket from your U.K. arrival airport to Kirkwall. Please wait until you receive an email from us with recommended flights to Kirkwall before booking your flights. You’ll receive notice once flights options have been extended to May of 2020.
You could choose to stay overnight in your arrival city, and connect to Kirkwall on the next day. If you do so, you will be responsible for making your own arrangements, and for booking the correct flight to Kirkwall.
Food & Lodging
We’ll be based at the exceptional Lynnfield Hotel in Kirkwall for seven nights, from May 16 to checkout on May 23. This 10-room boutique hotel has a combination of standard rooms, deluxe rooms and 1 suite. The different ticket prices reflect the room types. Select your preference from the available choices. If you don’t see tickets for a suite or deluxe room available, it means they have already claimed.
If you wish to share your room either with a partner or friend (participating or not), choose your room type and then purchase the reduced-rate share ticket for the second person in your room. The suite has a king size bed, there are two deluxe doubles, an accessible deluxe twin, and the standard rooms consist of two twins and three doubles.
A full cooked breakfast is included each morning, as are four dinners at the hotel. All other meals are not included in the tour pricing.
Temperatures may range from the upper 40s to upper 60s F, with the possibility of showers or wind at any time. It could be gloriously sunny every day, or it could be cold and wet. British weather is always unpredictable, Scottish weather even more so, and Orkney weather … well, it just is what it is.
Casual clothes that can be layered, sturdy waterproof walking shoes, rain gear, a sweater and a packable puffy coat are the norm. You might want a base layer, hat and gloves just in case. It’s unlikely that you’ll want shorts or a bathing suit, but Lance has been spotted swimming in the North Sea on occasion.
Most of our locations will be a short walk from the car, but there may be a few longer day hikes of a couple of miles. You should be comfortable carrying your own equipment over uneven ground. There is no climbing on this trip.
Please read our FAQs section for more information about skill and gear requirements, and other information that pertains to all our events.
If you have questions, please contact us—we're happy to talk it over with you.
If Stones Could Talk ...
My first visit to Orkney happened in 1995 when I was on a jump-on/jump-off minibus tour of Scotland. I jumped off at John O’Groats on the north coast of the Scottish mainland, and took the passenger ferry to Orkney.
I had no idea what to expect, no knowledge of this strange place, and no preconceptions. I stayed in a hostel, rented a bike and explored the main island with my camera and a bunch of 120 black and white film.
I hadn’t been to Stonehenge, (still haven’t) and I wasn’t prepared for the amazing Ring of Brodgar and the majestic Stones of Stenness. These giant stones planted in the landscape and standing for 5,000 years spoke to me, and I spent every night I had on Orkney wandering amongst them, and attempting to do them photographic justice. Being there alone at night, on a desolate moor, in a place so rich with history and so many unanswered questions … it all had my mind, and my heart, racing. Yours will be too.
Those stones still speak to me. They’ve been calling me to come back for the last 24 years. In the time since that first visit, I’ve brought about a half a dozen groups to Orkney as part of a broader Scottish tour, either combined with Shetland or the Isle of Skye. Each time, I’ve always wished that I had more time on Orkney. There’s just so much to see and do––even if you just stick to the Orkney Mainland and ignore the other islands.
I’m truly excited to be able to share this tour with you, and to be able to spend an entire week getting a bit beneath the surface, making new friends, new discoveries, and new images.