No pain, no gain.

Without realising, I’ve been dashing around Scotland for the last 20 years with my head wedged firmly between my buttocks (too much detail?). I’ve not intended to be blind to the landscape in front of me but rather than look, see and ‘feel’, I’ve rather tended to simply consume. Recently however, I’ve forced myself to explore the Scottish landscape afresh; to put it in a wider perspective; to understand and appreciate it better, or more fully.

Continue reading “No pain, no gain.”

Languid Lofoten

You would think that even in these days of meteorological uncertainty, snow above the Arctic Circle could be relied upon in February. Alas no. The normally snow-laden Lofoten Islands in northern Norway were bare this year; naked; bereft of their white mantle; lacking in the wow factor that I’ve become accustomed to. Still, there’s no point in griping (although I’ve always found it helps), one has to do one’s best. Continue reading “Languid Lofoten”

Wolfless out West.

Robin, a very likeable tour guest with an ever-so-slightly over-active analytical gene (de-brains just about anything), recently took me to task over a comment I made in a previous blog post. Referring to our Winter Yellowstone tour, I remarked that we returned ‘wolfless’ having had no sighting of the enigmatic predator. According to Robin this suggested a trophy hunting mentality which took no account of the thrill of being in such a wild place in the knowledge that wolves were out there, somewhere. It’s a fair point, my wrists are duly slapped and it perhaps hints at an increasing tendency towards measuring the success of any trip in terms of images made or sightings bagged. A sign of something I’m sure.

Robin was one of the guests on our recent Wild West Coast landscape tour from which we returned sunsetless. Sure we had brooding clouds, aquamarine seas, sun-kissed white sand beaches and pretty much the place to ourselves but for me, the clouds were the wrong clouds, the sea was the wrong shade of sea and the sky was too clear, and then not clear enough. The fact is that the photographic bar marches inexorably towards the heavens taking expectations (including mine) along with it.

These pictures won’t win any prizes but is that the point? No, no and no again. We were based in the delightful family-owned Harris Hotel (thanks guys), enjoyed great food, good craic and the islands of Harris and Lewis as a spectacular backdrop – hardly a disaster. The fickle Hebridean weather deprived us of a decent sunset but it delivered so much more as it always does. Wolfless and Sunsetless are a state of mind, one which Robin’s analysis has helped me recognise. A good philosophical slapping from time to time does the world of good!

Thanks as ever to our group for their company, to Calmac for getting us home (eventually) and to Lewis and Harris for being such splendid places (too many sheep in my view but that’s another story). Thanks also to Paul and Andy from Aspect2i, a fellow pho-tour company who showed none of the petty rivalries that so often dogs this business – check them out, they’re good guys.

If you fancy getting your fill of the Wild Western Isles, join us next spring for our Island Trilogy tour taking in Harris, Skye and Eigg. Can’t promise any wolves or in fact sunsets, but I can promise a photographic adventure – it’s what we do.

Favourite images of 2011: No.1

The great thing about the still image is that it transports you back to the time and place you shot it. I try to discipline myself not to let that experience influence my objectivity when evaluating images, but in reality it’s damned difficult.

This was a moody broody evening on top of Sumburgh Head on Shetland and if truth be told there was an air of disappointment within our tour group as the cliff tops were almost bereft of puffins. Where there’s mood and brood however, there are pictures and as the sun peeped through the billowing clouds I could see gliding fulmars silhouetted against the golden sea. I like this type of picture and I like this particular picture because it was a something from nothing situation. Despite my pleas I’m not sure too many of our group shot it. Perhaps they didn’t like it – which is one of the other great things about photography!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look back at 2011. The images I chose are not my best necessarily but represent a personal emotion, a memory. That for me is what photography is all about.

Have a great 2012 shooting new memories!

Creative therapy

It was a long, hot day with too much driving and too many meeting deadlines. At the end of it, I was not just tired, but weary. And I still had to muster some mental energy to take some pictures. Arriving on the coast, the prospects looked OK – not brilliant but OK. I half-heartedly checked out a few viewpoints but nothing really set me alight if I’m honest. But I was on site and a job needed doing.

As the sounds and smells of the sea permeated my disenchanted mood, I started to lighten up. After 20 minutes of standing alone on a windswept headland, I felt more alive than I had done all day.  And as the sun dipped towards the horizon, painting the mudflats in  delicate pastel shades, the troubles of the day were long forgotten. Throw in a 10-stop ND filter to soften the image and I was verging on euphoria.

Creativity in the outdoors: the most effective tonic for life. Without charge.