Island Trilogy

Rain and wind are regular companions on Scotland’s west coast and so it was no surprise when on our first day on Harris, the first port of call on our recent Island Trilogy tour, dawn arrived and brought with it the wet stuff. Continue reading “Island Trilogy”


Wild Land: A worthwhile investment

I suspect like me, many of you reading this subscribe to a wide range of conservation bodies.  My susceptibility over the years to join pretty much anything and everything is witnessed by the extensive list of direct debits on my bank statements.   Continue reading “Wild Land: A worthwhile investment”


Highland Odyssey

You can wax lyrical about the Scottish Highlands but the fact is that in autumn, it rains. It sometimes snows too but it always rains. OK, once we’re over that hurdle we can look at the positives. Rain brings discomfort it’s true; it also brings on premature insanity for landscape photographers (there’s only so many times you can wipe your filters dry) but very often, it brings spectacular light against spectacular skies. Continue reading “Highland Odyssey”


Ultimate Autumn Gold Photo Tour 2012

My feet are wet (still), my back is killing me but my heart is full. Now don’t worry, I’m not about to embark on some sort of deep-rooted emotional outpouring (as if) but having just wrapped up our Ultimate Autumn Gold tour – our last of the year – I’m feeling quite…well…if not happy, at least content (I’m told by one of our guests that men are only ever ‘happy’ in short bursts – she may be right).

The 2012 Cairngorms colours were – still are – splendid and although the light could have been kinder, we were given moments of pure magic alongside the inevitable landscape photographer’s curse of self pity when things are “just not quite right.” They rarely are and we’re rarely happy; it’s just the way it is.

Skye was predictably wet (does anyone have an answer to keeping filters dry in driving rain?) but as ever, with hard work and a little imagination, the island delivered. One of my favourite photography locations in Scotland is a remote(ish) beach on Skye’s west coast and if it wasn’t for the rain, I’d probably still be there. Another favourite, Elgol, was full of mood and as each year passes, increasingly full of photographers, which is no bad thing in my book.

We dropped in on Glen Affric along with a seemingly obligatory stop at Ffordes camera shop for coffee and in the case of one guest, an ornamental ceramic cockerel (a vital photographic tool).

So back to happiness…or rather contentedness. There’s something special in sharing photographic experiences with like-minded people. I always say this so forgive the repetition, but we are truly fortunate in the chemistry, dynamics, profile, mix – call it what you will – of our groups. Ultimate Autumn Gold 2012 was no exception. We’re deadly serious about our photography – I hope that goes without saying – but outwith time in the field, there’s nothing wrong with having great fun. And we did lots of that on this tour. It’s important.

These images are not prize-winners but I hope you enjoy them nevertheless. Amidst the wind, the rain and the cold I enjoyed taking them because there’s only one thing better than being in wild places and that’s being in wild places with people who share a sense of the privilege of…well, life really. A sense of humour helps too.

Another year of photo tours draws to a close and with many happy – yes happy – memories in the bank, my thanks on this particular trip go to co-guide Mark Hamblin and (in no particular order) to Margaret (and the pot cockerel), Robyn, Jasmine (check out her cool fashion sense below), Marie, Steve, Kevin, Roger, Mike, Bob, Don, (that) Duncan and Jan for your excellent company. And do remember, men CAN whisk eggs.

If you’d like to join us next year for more photography and frolics in the autumnal Scottish Highlands, our expanded 2013 tour can be booked here

Despite appearances I can testify to the sanity of this strange creature.


When the Skye is grey.

If you want dependable weather, you should think twice about booking one of our Autumn Gold landscape tours. But do you know what? The more I work in so-called ‘bad’ weather, the more I’m starting to enjoy it (see previous blog post). It’s not that I particularly like grey skies or pouring rain (and don’t get me wrong, it’s not like that all the time!), but I do relish the challenge of making something from nothing, It doesn’t always work, but if you persist…and more to the point, if you’re prepared to persist.

Our Ultimate Autumn Gold landscape tour has become an annual event and despite going through a number of changes over the years, the tour fundamentally remains about making the most of this melancholic time of year. I’ve got to say, I love it!

The Cairngorms is a mosaic of forest, moorland, river, loch and mountain. It’s a rich landscape with something for all photographic tastes. Skye is much more solemn and could be described as bleak, although I’d prefer brooding. The cocktail of 4 nights in each location does it for me thank you very much.

Much to the relief of several of our (not so) hardy group (mentioning no names) we only managed 2 early starts with little promise of a decent sunrise on most days. It always surprises me however that although deprived of the ‘classic’ conditions we all yearn for, there are shots to be had if you shun your creative straightjacket. Loch an Eilein at dawn would have been nice, ditto a misty Glenfeshie but it was not to be and we bravely persisted with what was on offer from the weather gods. Loch Insh was briefly majestic and our favourite beech forest glowed in autumnal splendour.

Moving to Skye via Glen Affric (where the sun shone) the forecast was for heavy rain. How come the forecast for rain is always right? Why can’t they forecast misty dawns with the same accuracy? An attempt at the Old Man of Storr was akin to a bad day on Everest with horizontal rain and gusts of wind that bordered on dangerous. Many of our intrepid group climbed the whole way, got their cameras out, immediately put them away and descended with dignity (and cameras) intact. Slighachan worked well though as did Trotternish eventually and although there is a thin line between edgy conditions and outright crap, we trod the right side of that line for the most part.

I’ve never been one for chocolate-box landscapes, preferring instead the moody and broody that Scotland delivers on, especially in spring and autumn. I hope our fantastic guests for this tour agree with me on that at least (we discussed religion, politics, marriage, divorce and birth control during the wetter moments when opinions were not always uniform!) October has been a golden month this year – in experiences if not always colour. Bring on 2012.

If you’d like to join us on the same tour next year (and Mark promises not to bore you too much with his Photoshop tutorial – see below – view details here)


No such thing as bad weather.

I was recently giving thought to the onset of autumn – and then winter – and the roller-coaster of weather we’ll inevitably be dished up. I’ve always been a fan of ostensibly ‘bad’ weather although over the years, I’ve struggled to find people who share such a view. I was buoyed therefore on reading a recent blog post by colleague Bruce Percy, who’s difficulty in filling his winter landscape workshops on Harris & Skye, reveals an apparent widespread reluctance to photographing during the ‘dark months’. As Bruce says – and I agree with him – photographing on the edge of dynamic weather systems is often the most rewarding.

Inaweek or so I’ll be headed off to Harris myself with a group of guests who have ‘seen the light’. I’m sure we’re all hoping for a nice bit of sunny weather to reveal the turquoise Hebridean sea as we sit eating our lunch, but at the same time, I’m hoping for changeable weather providing exciting light. Yes it might rain. I guess it could even snow, but in between, there’s change and that’s when it all happens.

Perhaps we all need to re-arrange our photographic thought processes and spend the ‘good months’ processing the images from the time we spend on the edge during autumn and winter. It can be an unforgiving edge but ‘bad weather’ is only bad for those who aren’t prepared to embrace it.


Ultimate Autumn Gold.

We have just 2 places left on our Ultimate Autumn Gold landscape photo-tour in October. The tour, taking in the very best of landscape locations on Skye and in the Cairngorms, is timed to coincide with the height of the autumn colour and the most dynamic of west coast light.

We are offering either a couple (or friends sharing) a deal whereby one guest goes for half price – that’s a saving of over £500! If you’d like to join us in the spectacular Scottish Highlands, drop us a line on [email protected] Full details of the tour can be viewed here.


Rocking all over…Skye!

Somewhere in the unfathomable depths of our minds, we all connect differently with places, people and cultural trends like music and fashion. I guess it’s what’s referred to as taste. Most would say…well at least my wife…that I’m not over-endowed in that department: she’s seen my 30 year allegiance to Status Quo (try as I might Hip Dizzy Doo-Daa Wotsit just doesn’t do it for me)! And so it is with photographic locations.

Last autumn I visited Skye for the first time (yes OK it’s taken me a while) and I wrote about it in this blog. It was a great trip (fun group of people always helps) but in many ways, not radically different from any other. So why is it niggling away at me? Why is it I can’t wait to get back? Is it that for some reason I connected with the place…or the people? I’m not sure to be honest. What I do know though is that in spite of it’s well-visited iconic landmarks, Skye is somehow tugging at my creative apron strings.

As time goes on working in Scotland is becoming increasingly exciting – I’m seeing new opportunities for creative imagery and perhaps more significantly, visual story-telling. Skye is right up there on my list, a list which in the past might have been topped with ostensibly more rewarding locations much further a field. So perhaps my photographic perspective is evolving (I hope that’s the case) and perhaps too are my tastes. As for the Quo, well some things transcend fickle cultural trends. Down Down y’all.

ps. If you fancy joining myself and colleague Mark Hamblin in Skye, take a look in Photo-tours.


Measuring success.

In this month’s Outdoor Photography magazine, Niall Benvie makes a fair and valid point that nature photographers shouldn’t measure ‘success’ simply by their financial performance. He pleads the case for recognition, legacy and the ‘value’ of experiences.

Whilst not claiming to be anything other than on the bottom rung of the success ladder, I have until recently overlooked the ‘value’ of time spent in the field. Moreover when that time is spent with family, close friends or appreciative tour guests.

Our recent photo-tour to Skye came at an inconvenient time for me. Having attended several major conferences and with notes made at innumerable 2020VISION meetings still piled high on my desk, the tour was something I could have done without. But do you know what? I worked with great buddy Mark Hamblin – something I’ve not done for a long time; the guests were superb company; the weather was good in the most part; we had a laugh and we visited some great locations. I even got some pleasant shots myself. Although I got paid for guiding the tour, the money is irrelevant: it’s a week that I’ll remember, along with many others, for a long, long time. Priceless.