Return to Skye

I recently spent 3 days with Bernard from Lyon in France, crossing Skye twice and discussing photography and ‘wild’ camping techniques, as well as the inevitable politics, whisky, life and art! Teaching is always thought provoking for the teacher (if I’m doing it right) but I really enjoy these slightly longer trips, and find the cultural exchange enriching, wherever people are from.

Below are a few photos I took along the way, most often as teaching aids or part of what we were discussing or working on… as well as the testimonial Bernard kindly offered afterward. Please do get in touch via the contact form if you want to do something similar yourself.


“I spent three marvelous days with David, hiking and camping on the Isle of Skye. I learned a lot - I thought technically I was more or less proficient, but David pushed me to switch to manual exposure and this was a huge impetus to be more careful and involved in what I was doing. He also stressed the importance of framing and composition techniques, and we applied this approach to various photo opportunities we encountered. I came away with a lot to mull over, and a deep desire to continue improving my photography. In addition, despite the occasional rain - part of the experience actually, the hiking was great and the landscape magnificent.

Three splendid days of learning in good companionship. Very highly recommended!”

Bernard Frangoulis

Signup for the bimonthly newsletter, for news, book and gear reviews, and long form writing not available on the website - click here.

Mountain gold

A few photos from a two day trip in the North-West. Not exactly off the beaten track, but not the usual honeypots either (although you'll see a fair few of them on the skyline). Big, rough and tumble country, a natural circuit around a rugged glen, a high camp and no midges. The sun never quite sets in the mountains at this time of year. It's pretty perfect if the weather works out.

I went with a photography client, but when the company and conditions are this good, it's not work - or at least, it's not hard work! Matt has an interesting job working for the planning department at SNH, and for me personally it was energising to spend time with someone who has a layered understanding and appreciation of wild places. Whatever people come with is great - the range of experience is one of the best things about tutoring - as for Matt, he was pretty familiar with camera technicals, and more than able enough in the hills, which allowed us to cover some burly ground on foot, as well as (I hope) some alternate ways of looking and seeing.

I can't wait to go back for the Corbett, and to camp in the deer paradise underneath, studded with lochans and stuffed with craggy ribs of pink granite.




Boots on the ground

Some recent pictures and a few thoughts (click on the pics to open)


Since I've been out a bit more over the last few weeks, some thoughts about my photographic footprint have arisen... about what images are for, as well as how I take them. These thoughts aren't new, perhaps just newly expressed. 

I have few rules that I don't break myself at times, but in no particular order...

I try not to give away locations on social media without further context or unless it's important to something else the image is implicated in. The modern take on this seems to be to tell the viewer everything about the location and story behind the picture (imagine the horror, being accused of elitism!)... but that might also have something to do with the machinery of awards, tours, personal gratification, dopamine addiction and income generation. The Buachaille waterfall is an embarrassment to us all, and social media has become the bitter end. I'd rather not be part of photography's growing environmental and psychological footprint... or at least, minimise my own impact.

In other words, "Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints" may no longer be good enough. Ethics should be at the heart of how I make pictures, not an adjunct.

Next, access... the last photo in the next small group was reached after a waist high heather wander at 10pm several degrees below zero, before camping and dinner at midnight, to be 'at the location' at dawn (although the photo here was taken much later). Who would have the patience for that on a big photo tour? Personally I try and avoid the roadside shots and give the guidebooks a miss - there's the matter of boots on the ground, and then there's the matter of developing an art of seeing beyond X marks the spot. Besides, sometimes it's not about the pictures for heaven's sake, it's about being there.

Last, picture making can be about joy, self expression and/or have a social and environmental purpose, or it can promote envy and covetousness. This is not a tick list and I am not a miner. If photography becomes another extraction of finite resources from fragile places then we've truly lost our way. 

post-script/disclaimer (6.3.18) - the timing of this post has nothing whatsoever to do with a national competition just announced (the morning after it was written), and everything do with me getting back to taking a few more pictures after a partial layoff. Like many photographers I have mixed feelings about comps - I did enter this time around, and didn't get a badge, in case your wondering. Very well done to all who were awarded, I think there are some fantastic pictures in the mix.

Photo guiding in the Cairngorm National Park

Just a few shots I took while working with Matt on the weekend, who was up from Perth for some photo tuition, and was great company.


The weather was terrible on Friday so we postponed a day for the weather window, making a virtue of necessity maybe, but it worked, and we caught a few chinks of light in between the showers and the midges. It was my first time working nearer home - the Cairngorms, and it felt good to show it off, even though I'm sort of new here. What an incredible place.

As regulars here will note, I'm enjoying taking lots of monos right now. It might just be waffle but I think it informs the colour photos in the long run. Back and forth, tones and graphic, we're all learning. 

(click to make bigger)

My workshop info is here. It's flexible, not fixed... but I'll throw this out there: The best stuff happens on an overnighter. That's when it turns into an adventure.