Nothing is for ever.

Way back in 1998 via a collection of rather bizarre circumstances, I found myself running a photo tour company in the Scottish Highlands. In the intervening 20 years, along with my wife Amanda, my working partners Mark Hamblin and more recently James Shooter, I’ve been privileged to have travelled to many different parts of the world with hundreds, if not thousands of guests. Those experiences have shaped and enriched my life in ways that I couldn’t have imagined when I took my first tentative steps into this rather quirky business.

Today the marketplace is very different and 20 years on, so am I. In recent years my passion for conservation photography, for doing my bit to try and make a positive difference, has increasingly challenged the time and energy needed to run successful tours and something had to give. Arriving at something of a crossroads, sadly but perhaps inevitably, I’ve decided to close the door on Northshots Photo Adventures. The constant plate-spinning was starting to take its toll.

Those of you who know me won’t expect any sort of emotional outpouring so I won’t disappoint you on that front. I would however, like to thank a few folk for their contribution and company along this remarkable journey. Mark Hamblin and I enjoyed laughing until it hurt. Sharon Cairns, our long-standing cook, has kept us fuelled at all times of day and along with her husband Alan, has got us out of a fix more than once. Emma Brown’s technical and marketing support has been fundamental, as has Neil Wakeling who has been stuck in our digital dungeon for years – does anyone know what Neil actually looks like? More recently James Shooter has become an accomplished guide and friend. Speaking of guides, we’ve worked with many over the years and without exception they’ve been great company and delivered superb service – thanks to all of you. The bedrock of the business however, has been my wife Amanda who many guests have come to know. Amanda is very much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get type of girl and what you get is sincerity and a genuine commitment to please everyone who has walked through our door.

More than anyone else, I’d like to thank all those who have trusted us with your hard-earned money and signed up for a tour these last couple of decades. Your custom and company have been appreciated and whether it was red squirrels in our own backyard or polar bears in the high Arctic – I hope you’ll agree that it’s been a blast.

So that’s it, the end of a chapter but contrary to popular myth, I’ve not lined up my pipe and slippers just yet, nor have I quite turned my back on photography tours. I’m going to be running a couple of landscape retreats each year – there still won’t be any souvenir shopping but we might stop for a few more cappuccinos than before – that’s the retreat bit. If you’d like to join me, I’d be delighted. You can find the details here on this very site.

For the foreseeable future, I’ll be channelling all my time into SCOTLAND: The Big Picture – if you’re not familiar with this exciting initiative, check it out here. Again, it would be fantastic if you could join me on that journey – if it’s half as rewarding as the last 20 years, hold on to your hats!

Have fun. Do good.

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21 thoughts on “Nothing is for ever.

  1. Hi Pete & Amanda
    Just read your ‘letter of retirement’ and as I was reading it various pictures of you Pol and I together in Yellowstone, the Arctic, Finland and other places passed through my mind. I remember when you and Mark approached us and said you were thinking of doing your own thing and would we be interested and we then joined you both on your very first venture in the Steading. Since then you have given us both the opportunity to see and experience wildlife and places that we never dreamt we would see, memories that will stay with us forever. We have also had many laughs along the way and we like to think that you and Amanda have become a true friends and we wish you both every success and hopefully some relaxation time together in the future – THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES and a few decent pictures along the way!
    Chris & Pol

  2. Hi Pete and Amanda,
    Just a line to wish you well with your future ventures and to echo what Chris and Pauline say above. There have been some very special moments, whether it be in Scotland or with polar bears in Svalbard or grizzlies in Alaska!!! Happy times and memories that will last forever.
    Take care,
    Gordon and Judith

  3. Good Luck with the change of direction.
    You deserve to do your own thing, after all the travel-trips you’ve done. We hope your sense of freedom matches what ours was, when we did our final wedding and just kept the Sports jobs
    You’ve given us some great experiences and photo-opportunities, and while it is goodbye Northshots….we’ll always have Scotland!

  4. Hi Pete, Amanda,

    We wish you well for the future. Thanks for the awesome trips, and also thanks to James and Mark who made sure we had the same joyfull experience on our trip to Yellowstone as we had with you and the polar bears. Yours is one of the few companies I would recommend to others. I can understand you want something else after 20 years. All the best!

    Peter & Caroline

  5. Hi Pete and Amanda! I actually just stopped writing… trying to think what to write, due to all the feelings and emotions that come along after reading your words. So much that brings to mind “just” for those photo tours we joined in an unprecedented situation 8 years ago. And somehow we managed to keep talking for so many reasons for all these years. It had to be the portugueses guys, again!!! 🙂 Well… I honestly believe that the real lesson goes far beyond the photo opportunities (that were great in all possible ways – remember the Mountain Hare? 😉 The thing that I would really like to thank you is the way you taught me how to deal with life in some ways. The way we must face conservation, people, life, jobs… but mainly, all the possible ways of dealing with wildlife and make some (good) use of human intelligence to overcome the obstacles. From “Wild Wonders of Europe” to “2020 Vision” and now “Scotland: the big picture” you showed that it is possible to surpass all the possible “mistakes” in order to keep trying to achieve what we really believe in. I actually remember a phrase that you told me during our late night conversations – “you can do it, it is not rocket science”. And Pete, so do you in all the ways. So, despite the sadness of knowing your decision, I am not going to say it was totally unexpected. I have been reading you since 2010 and following your thoughts and now is the time. So, let it be that way and please do follow what you believe is best for you. I believe you are a different man now and those things actually matter in the chronology of life. I wish you all the best for your next “assignment”, waiting for the next time we will meet in the Highlands! 🙂

    One last word: Northshots is and will be reminded for years to come. And that is the result of an outstanding couple, a great sense of hospitality, hours and hours of dedication and a huge love for wildlife.

    Rúben Neves

  6. Hi Pete & Amanda
    From a purely selfish point of view this is a sad day ; I much enjoyed your and James company, advice and instruction on the autumn trip to Iceland. The little nuggets of instruction have stuck and I try to apply them on a regular basis. I had hoped for more trips in the future ( maybe a landscape retreat beckons !) but looking forward to the Hebridean trip in May. See you then.
    I wish you much success with Scotland : The big picture.

  7. I’m sorry to see this end as well. I had great trips with you and Mark and will never forget the first one: The “Trailers and Toilets” Tour as my friend, Anita (who like me is from the U.S.), and I started calling it. I do believe it was supposed to be called the “Castles and Seabirds” tour (some crazy-not-very-creative-name like that) but we liked T&T better. We visited a lot of toilets on this trip and saw the most beautiful one somewhere in Scotland (you boys know it well) . The trailers you ask? We ate our box lunch one afternoon with the trailers in our viewing area – the most beautiful view indeed (LOL). I did Svalbard with both of you and Norbert Rosing, an absolutely fantastic trip and met more wonderful people who I still keep in contact with, and then to Japan where I met one of my very dearest friends, another Anita but from England. We got along so well that we decided to go to Svalbard with you. All these trips were wonderful and bring back many happy memories for me and I know for my two Anitas as well. You boys and Amanda will be greatly missed. My best to all of you and those behind the scenes and all of your future endeavors!

  8. Hi Peter and Amanda

    I wish you both the best of luck and happiness in your future career and thank you both for the enjoying workshops you have supplied for myself and many others.


  9. Thank you for the happy times I have been with you, both in the comfort of the Steading and on workshops overseas. You have made me feel very welcome and I have appreciated your help in expanding my skill as a photographer. It was good to see Amanda having a “holiday” on my last foreign visit with you (driving the second car) instead of running the show at home filling up the squirrel nuts. It is difficult to know when the time is right to change course but I wish you every success in your decision to channel your energy into conservation work with Scotland: The Big Picture first.
    With my best wishes to you, and thanks to all the people who have helped make firstly Wildshots, and then Northshots, such a well run company.

  10. From my perspective this is sad news. However I wish all of you the very best for the future. Thank you for providing me with excellent photographic opportunities, and I hope our paths cross again one day. Regards. Erica Martin.

  11. Life is all about change, but some changes are not as good as others, and the ending of Northshots tours is definitely a sad change for me. You introduced me to Crested Tits and the Black Grouse Lek which were both “firsts” for me – and will be long remembered. I’m so glad I’m booked on on the Squirrel/Crestie weekend that’s around the corner and look forward to be able to say to you “Thanks for the memories”! 🙂

  12. Over the years I’ve attended quite a few photographic workshops (or tours) with different companies and leaders and I’ve enjoyed the lot but there is one company that (even after quite a long period of time) always draws me back and that of course is Northshots. I have always had a good time, the company has been excellent and your leadership exemplary and with Amanda to back you up what more do you need. I do hope to see you again on one of your landscape retreats. I’ll leave you with the memory of my one and only joke about the Army which ends with immortal words ” Smith where the ****ing Hell do you think you’re going”. I don’t know about Smith but I get the feeling that you know exactly where you are going and what you are doing and I wish you and Amanda the very best of luck.

  13. What can I add that hasn’t been said in previous posts?
    I’ve always enjoyed my tours with Northshots and am pleased that I am coming up shortly to have another go at photographing the squirrels.
    It’s often said ‘to go out at the top’ and you are!
    Good luck to all your team and best wishes to Amanda and yourself in your future lives.
    Lee Myers

  14. Pete, your decision may well be based on sound business sense, but I do very much hope that your passion for communication and conservation continues to thrive and flourish – the conservation sector has few real communicators – and you are one of them.
    All the best for the future,
    Pete J.

  15. Thank you for your very kind comments folks – it really is much appreciated. I’ve also received a number of equally gratifying e-mails, but I do feel I need to address a particular term that one guest has used: Slowing down.

    Slowing down? How very dare you!! Seriously, this is just a change in focus resulting from circumstances; there’s no plan to do any “slowing down!” The very thought of it!

    James Shooter is carrying on running our hides and Amanda is welcoming more guests than ever to the Steading (just not ours!). We’re very much open for business. For me, I’ll be doing those couple of retreats I mentioned but primarily, getting out into the magnificent Highlands to photograph and film. Slowing down indeed!

  16. Pete, Amanda,
    People would say to me, “What, you signed up with a Scottish touring company to guide you through the Canadian Rockies? And you live in upstate New York? Are you mad?” And I said that the best tours, the best, most fun, most rewarding tours were with Northshots, with Pete and Amanda and Mark. I will never forget the stories of Amanda’s mom, nor the surprise birthday cake on my 75th. I remember Pete, saying he was surprised I could get out of the van.
    Thanks to you for enriching my life. I hope to see you at your place, maybe next year.
    George and Bonnie

  17. So glad that you clarified you will not be using the Stannah just yet ,we could not envisage you with pipe and slippers riding the stairwell at your time of life!
    Thank you for some very memorable trips in wild places.
    Ye ha and all that.
    Mark and Sheila from Pocahontas Country.

  18. Pete and Amanda I hope you enjoy your change of focus. I would not dare to suggest that you are retiring or taking it easy!! I don’t think they are words that you understand. On a purely selfish note I am devastated. I have so enjoyed my various trips with Northshots. Amanda’s impecable organisation and personal touch. Your energy and enthusiasm and humour Pete. I can honestly say that I have never laughed so much as I have on your trips. The wonderfully funny stories and the way you tell them are stuff of legend. I am sure you will keep us posted on your new ventures.

  19. Hi Pete & Amanda, I’m really sorry to hear about the closure of Northshots having had many very happy times on quite a few trips with you. However we all do change, and I do wish you every happiness and success with Scotland: The Big Picture.
    Thanking you all for all your help and support, not to mention the fun and laughter over the years.

    All the best,

  20. Hi guys,

    wish you all the best with your new adventure !
    I will surely stay in touch and support your initiatives !


  21. Bit late to the party but sound as a pound, Pete! We had some fab times and some truly good laughs, and I’ll always be thankful for the absolute top notch way Wildshots and then Northshots treated me, the vegan nosh was always fab.

    All the best mate, you never know, might still pay you a visit sometime!

    Pete and Amanda Cairns – proper legend! ❤

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