Coast to Coast with Carla Regler
Last year, landscape, seascape and aerial photographer Carla Regler took a massive leap of faith, moving from the quaint fishing village of Porthleven in Cornwall, up, up, up, to the Outer Hebrides – to start a new life on the Isle of Uist.
Famous for ‘That’ Porthleven storm shot (and many other beautiful images!), Carla talks to us about her move from one coast to another, her photography, workshops and the guest house she and her partner now run.
‘I moved to Porthleven, Cornwall in 2010 to open a restaurant with my partner, who is a chef. We instantly fell in love with the scenery and outdoor environment of the area. We really enjoyed walking the dogs and taking the camera – which lead to taking more and more pictures and starting to explore photography in more detail.
‘I started reading lots of photography magazines – as back then, information online wasn’t quite as comprehensive as it is today. I am very much self taught and so would often want to find out why certain things did or didn’t work! I also went on some photography workshops, which really started to inspire me to capture more images and understand my camera.
‘At this time, the restaurant space also allowed me to sell some of my work. I only printed a few images and had them sat about the restaurant walls in cello wrapped mounts – but I was both surprised and delighted that they sold! I started printing more and more as the demand for the images grew and eventually we turned the upstairs area above the restaurant into a small gallery.
‘I continued taking pictures every day, living in Porthleven meant it was very easy to walk out of the door and capture something stunning. Though for a long while, I was longing to see the infamous ‘big waves’ – and eventually in 2014 that came true with the massive storms.
‘The image ‘Porthleven Washout’ (above) led to widespread press coverage of the images and I also won the weather category of the British Life Awards.
‘As a result, I also became a tour leader for Charlie Waite and his photography tour company Light & Land, utilising the skills I’d learnt from running the restaurant, business and customer relations and enjoyment of my photography, printing and editing.
‘This was a real turning point for my photography and I had to learn to juggle the restaurant and photography. In 2016, I went full time as a photographer and stepped away from the day to day running of the restaurant, to focus on my own photography.
‘I also stepped away from Light & Land to run my own workshops both in Cornwall, and worldwide with Iceland and Norway featuring heavily. The time with Light & Land was fantastic and I met so many amazing photographers, leaders and clients – but it was time to go it alone and cover more areas worldwide, those which suited the requests of the clients I’d connected with.
‘By 2019, I was spending my winters teaching and travelling and my summers back in Cornwall to help at the restaurant (although I wasn’t there so much but I was still behind the scenes!) I had the most amazing team of staff at the restaurant and gallery, which allowed me to be away with the tours and also have both businesses running smoothly in Cornwall. I feel incredibly lucky to have had these experiences especially with what’s happened throughout 2020!
‘I also had opportunities to run tours with other photographers and built up a strong reputation with repeat clients. Regularly working with co-leader David Clapp allowed travel to amazing locations including North Iceland, South Iceland and Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone National Park was such a highlight of the tours so far and the start of what should have been an amazing year for tours for 2020/2021 – until of course, Coronavirus struck and well… everyone knows the uncertainty we are in now!’
The big Coast to Coast move, THAT famous storm shot & what lead you to move all the way up to the Outer Hebrides?
‘We lived in Porthleven, Cornwall for 10 years and although not originally from Cornwall (Wiltshire is where I grew up) we always felt like Porthleven was home – and it will always have a special place in our hearts.
‘But it was time for new opportunities and sometimes to achieve the dream, you have to take a big leap – and boy, did we do that! This really was a coast-to-coast move – I’m not sure we could get much further apart in UK waters. Shetland next maybe?!
‘Anyway, we sold the restaurant and had a trip planned to the Outer Hebrides for an explore, we also booked a few property viewings while we were there to see what we could get in comparison to Cornwall prices, as we liked the thought of a quieter way of life.
‘Some might find this odd, but the Hebrides also works better for airport connections! Previously I always had to drive 5+ hours every trip, each way, to London Airports. Where we are now, it’s half an hour to the airport and I can get to the mainland within 45mins for a connecting flight for worldwide travel.
‘We fell in love with the islands and in particular a house on South Uist, big enough to run as a guesthouse, once we had put our mark on it. Within 8 weeks we were driving north for our new life!
‘The island is stunning, with walking and beaches everywhere. It’s a quieter life for sure, you have to just accept the weather and the fact that there’s only a few shops, but for us that’s all we wanted. It felt like we could switch off from a life that had become so busy in Cornwall and just escape to a more basic way of living – the dogs absolutely love it too. Living near the coast is my happy place, so when we considered moving, it wasn’t really ‘where’, it had to be on the coast, but it had to be in a location that was quieter and a property that Chris would be able to work from. So you could say the house/guesthouse pulled us here!
‘Making the decision to move wasn’t as hard as we first thought, but it was hard to leave an area that had become home and taken my photography journey to where it is now. But we knew if we didn’t jump at the chance to try something new we might never do it!’
‘Ah, yes the famous storm shot, ‘Porthleven Washout’. I’d been after seeing those big monster waves that the locals always spoke of, I’d quite often be wandering around the harbour and would chat to locals going about their business, they would always say ‘the big waves will come soon’. But the 2014 storm was something else.
‘It turned the inner harbour into a washing machine effect, crashing boats into boats and breaking moorings, the surge was so strong it snapped the baulks (large wooden gates basically that slot into place to protect the inner harbour during storms) caused damage to houses along the seafront and created havoc up and down the coastline.
‘I’ll never forget this morning, the gigantic waves had arrived! I got so much sea spray on the camera and lenses; I shot over 5000 images easily that morning, but there was one image when I flicked back through the camera that caught my eye.’
What do you love most about where you live now, what photographic projects are you working on? Spoil us with those crystal waters!
‘Actually, as beautiful as the islands are it’s harder to capture ‘the perfect image’ than when presented with iconic locations such as Porthleven or the Godrevy Lighthouse in Cornwall. But this I love, it makes you appreciate what’s around you and look for more than the obvious.
‘Yes you can create beautiful seascapes, white sandy beaches and turquoise waters but there are also some stunning traditional croft houses and mountain ranges that can be easily overlooked. I love exploring the island and local areas, looking for unique angles and using the drone as well for some aerial work, as I’ve been commercially licenced for some time now.
‘I’m also looking to create images that are not the same as everyone else’s. On the ‘iconic’ beach in Harris it’s very easy to come away with the same as everyone else, but one image that I really enjoy is ‘Hebrides Whispers’, this is captured using ICM and hand held, to me it captures exactly what I wanted but its not your typical image of that stunning beach!
You’ve just purchased a Canon EOS R5, lens and converter from Wilkinson Cameras – what’s tempted you to this new mirrorless system?
‘I have, it was time for a change and after hearing so much about this setup I was finding that I needed longer lenses. I’d also been waiting to see if I really warranted the additional megapixels – at 45MP that’s quite high and usually has some factors such as noise, which can be off putting. I think what swung it more, was the option to achieve the longer lens lengths but not increasing the lens size too much. The 100-400 Mark II was always my go to lens for a lot of seascape photography: I find that 70% of my images are captured using a long lens and since moving to the island it was becoming more obvious to myself that I needed the longer lengths especially for the birds up here.
‘The Canon EOS R5 partnered with the Canon RF 100-500mm f4.5-7.1L IS USM, together with an inbuilt crop factor (and also the option to add a converter) means the lens reach is incredible and I can fit it all into my smaller camera bag too – which means I can take it on walks everywhere.’
‘It’s always when you don’t take your camera that you get an opportunity!’
‘Now I’m certainly not a bird photographer but when you have white tailed eagles on your doorstep who isn’t interested?! There is also a fabulous autofocus system on the Canon EOS R5 that has tracking for wildlife with eye detection, this works even on really small birds such as Finches, it’s incredible (I must say I wasn’t a convert until I tested this!).
‘It also allows you to pick the left or right eye if you have both eyes in view, great for those portrait photographers out there!
The additional stabilisation means that even at nearly 500mm this image shouldn’t of been sharp as my shutter wasn’t quite fast enough (oops!) but it’s pin sharp at these settings: Canon EOS R5 100-500mm f4.5-7.1L IS USM @ 430mm, F8, ISO 1600 1/350 sec
‘So am I a convert? Yes. Although there are a few settings that are different to the DSLR which need more investigation!’
How are you finding the transition – first impressions?
‘Lovely and easy, but I find if you’re switching between Canon models then you’re usually fine. The menu system is a little hidden so I’ve added some quick action buttons and this helps enormously. The tracking mode is superb; you get an option for animals/people and eye detection – it amazed me that it will eye detect on the smallest of birds!
‘Being further north also means my love of night skies, in particular the Northern Lights, could be fulfilled. We’ve had so many chances to witness and enjoy the Aurora here and on a clear night the stars are incredible. A few nights ago we had fabulous Northern Light activity – so much so I wasn’t expecting it but a Kp5 on the islands is pretty impressive!
‘This was interesting as I’ve not had the Canon EOS R5 for long and haven’t shot at night with it, so it was a very quick learning curve, but it has some fabulous differences to the viewfinder – including the live view and focusing when comparing to the DSLR Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, which have already made capturing images quicker and more enjoyable.’
You were featured on the Canon website regarding your printing – is this still a big part of what you do? Tell us about your studio in the new place.
‘Absolutely. I really enjoy printing and have invested in the Canon imagePROGRAF Pro-1000 (A2) printer. Although there are plenty of printing companies, nothing beats printing yourself if you enjoy it.
‘I have printed a couple of images from the new system and the detail is impressive. Especially if you like to print ‘big’ to have the extra megapixels in the Canon EOS R5 really allows the bigger images to work without pushing the files too far. You do need a computer that can cope though, as the file sizes are now massive and if you like to capture panoramic images…well that’s a lot of required hard drive space!
‘But as with any image file, whether captured on DSLR or mirrorless as long as it’s sharp and well exposed you’ll be surprised how big images will print. The biggest plus for me personally is having the extra megapixels to allow me to crop into the images for the right part of the wave or to crop away too much background, while still maintaining a decent file size.
‘Seeing your work printed in front of you, on your favourite paper, seeing the detail and texture in your print – nothing can beat that. It also takes a little longer to get post out here, so it made sense to be able to print client orders myself and then I could check them before they are shipped. Right now I don’t have a studio space other than online, but we’ll see what happens this year, there could be plans in the future to change this!’
What does next year hold? Workshops, travel plans, personal aspirations/projects?
With everything happening right now all tours, workshops are on hold. However, hopefully by the end of 2021/early 2022 travel will be back to operating safely and we can get back to where we left off!! We’ll also be looking to run photography workshops from the guesthouse here on the island – where I can guarantee the food will be amazing too!
‘Yellowstone, Lofoten and Iceland 2022 should all hopefully be in the planning stages in a few months, once we know a little more … It feels like it’s been a long time since travelling in early 2020 but it’s also been great to take a step back and think about all the incredible places I’ve been able to share with clients and the incredible people we’ve all met along the journey so far…
‘The guesthouse will also continue once restrictions lift and I’m sure this will keep me busy for the season!’
To find out more about Carla’s work: www.carlaregler.com
Or to check out the guesthouse: https://www.grianaighouse.com/