Why a Wonder: Mealt Falls (aka Kilt Rock Waterfall) emanates from freshwater Loch Mealt and plunges 55 meters in a free vertical drop over a sheer cliff directly into the Atlantic Ocean (Sound of Raasay). The view is special because it is somewhat rare to see a waterfall of substantial height plunge in a free drop into the sea. Kilt Rock is a 90 meter rock face that is said to resemble a pleated kilt.
Where: Mealt Falls is located on Scotland’s Isle of Skye, near the village of Elishader, and along Road A855. Prominent signage ensures that you cannot miss the exit to the Mealt Falls. From the parking lot, it is a short walk to an overhanging platform where you have a great view of Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock. The source of Mealt Falls is Loch Mealt, which is located on the other side of the parking lot.
The town of Portree is a popular base to lodge when visiting the Isle of Skye. Mealt Falls is a 15 minute drive from Portree. Portree is a 4.5 hour drive from Scotland’s capital city of Edinburg.
When: May and June are ideal times to visit the Isle of Skye. July and August are somewhat warmer. There is a lot to do and see. One day is enough time to see the best of the island. In three days or more, the majority of the Isle of Skye can be experienced. Of course, for those who are seriously into landscape photography, more than three days would be necessary to capture the best light at the most interesting locations.
Photography: Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock can be captured in one shot in an effective composition. Mealt Falls is located on the eastern shore, so the rising sun nicely illuminates the waterfall. However, beautiful images can be obtained any time of day due to the often moody light conditions on the Isle of Skye.
The wind is often extreme on the Isle of Skye. At times it can be difficult to keep the camera still – whether on a tripod or handheld. Under normal wind conditions, it is typical to turn off the camera or lens image stabilization function when using a tripod. However, during extremely windy conditions, keeping image stabilization turned on when using a tripod is often actually helpful in terms of image sharpness.
Of course, the necessity for doing so not only depends on the tripod, but also on the surface on which the tripod is based. For example, one of the best locations to view the Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock is from a platform that extends out over a cliff. And at times there is slight platform vibration and sway during extreme winds.
The platform can get very busy with people trying to photograph the waterfall and Kilt Rock, so getting a tripod in there for a long exposure can be difficult. If intending to use a tripod, then one may have to wait for an opening.
From the platform, using a tripod will not allow the very best vantage point. But, of course, it will enable long exposures. If there are many photographers present, there may not be room for a tripod. The platform is rectangular, and the tripods become concentrated on the side directly facing the waterfall and Kilt Rock. Standing on the side of the platform facing out to sea actually provides a better vantage point (when reaching out over the railing) because it is not so flush up against the cliffs, as is the location where photographers use tripods. From that seaward location, and with a steady hand, one can reach out over the platform with the camera and shoot handheld (and still obtain a long exposure of the rapidly moving waterfall with a ¼ second exposure and image stabilization).
If there is room for a tripod, one could ideally shoot three separate exposures and combine them into a final image: 1) a long exposure for the waterfall; 2) a longer exposure for the surface of the sea; and 3) a very short exposure to freeze the movement of the vegetation in the extreme wind.
Learn More: Visit Kurt’s website.