Cairngorm Commission

A few weeks back I took a call from an Edinburgh based photography library. “Could I do a shoot for HIE in the Cairngorms? Sure, when’s it for?” I asked. “Uh, today!” was the reply.

The brief was to showcase a few alternate winter activities in Strath Spey, given the unfortunate status of the Funicular right now. I took the call at about 10am and was photographing at the first of several sites by 12.30pm. I spent the following 2 days chatting to the public, sitting in muddy burns, bumping around in the back of Land Rovers and willing my pretty-swanky-but-nonetheless-landscape-orientated mirrorless camera to damn well hurry up and write that last burst to the card, already!

The commission was well supported on the ground by Cairngorm Mountain and Rothiemurcus Estate, and we had the time and space to photograph real people enjoying the surroundings, rather than just work with models, which tends to make for more authentic pictures. We also had great light for the second of the two days, just in the nick of time.

It’s been a while since I did one of these, and it was a pretty different assignment to my more usual environmental and mountain storytelling work, but I really enjoy the people side of photography and it was lovely to meet more of the local people running small businesses, who live and work in the National Park - we’re neighbours, after all.

I’ve had a couple of people wrinkle their noses when I mentioned this piece of work, but… I met biologists working out of Landmark (the butterfly house, shown in the last photo below) and rope access experts for the Treetops activity at Inverdruie (the first pictures). Clay pigeon shooting isn’t my thing personally, but it’s far more sustainable than some of the neighbouring estates running driven grouse and pheasant. Apparently, they are moving over to 100% biodegradable clays as of next year… so you live and learn.

Here’s a small selection from nearly 300 photos that made the cut.