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.

Winter Photo Workshops 2017

This season's winter photo workshops kicked off in fine style a few weeks ago with a 3 day trip for Pete, Mark and Steve - 3 friends who came buzzing with ideas straight from the On Landscape conference in the Lakes. We had an adventurous night's wildcamp in Glen Etive, when earlier winds than forecast brought down 2 of 4 tents, but otherwise the weather was still cold, calm and mostly clear. I'm hopeful that winter will return soon.

Mark suggested I ran a few photos and some feedback about the trip... if what follows looks and sounds interesting (for yourself or as a gift for someone else), please get in touch.

Mark Sage

An incredible 3 days of photography tuition in and around Glencoe. In stunning surroundings and perfect conditions for shooting landscapes, we learnt a variety of technical and compositional techniques (and plenty of other handy tips) under David’s expert tuition. I came away delighted and feeling that my photography skills had gone up a few much so that I now have the first photo of my own that I’d consider hanging on my wall. If it’s outdoor adventure and top notch tuition you’re after, delivered in a very friendly manner, David’s definitely yer man!

Peter Atkinson

We had a great experience with David over 3 days, taking in locations that are off the beaten track as well as places that are more popular and accessible. David was great fun and a good teacher, much of my learning came from unusual perspectives - not necessarily technique, but more approach. My favourite, the one of the Five Sisters which I took the week after our workshop (last of the 3), came as a direct result of slowing down and paying more attention to light. I also really enjoyed the evening and sense of adventure that the wild camp brought, and I learnt a chunk about Lightroom and how powerful it is.

Steve Ellis

I liked your easy going nature and your willingness and ability to adapt/respond - i.e., have a plan b, c and d. Good evidence of this was the very first morning we met and you sensed the difference in appetite/ability for the trek/camping. I think your style works very well in small groups, like ours was. You can also read the mood of the groups - which is of course important in trying to get the best for everyone.

I think you gave the right level of attention to us when we were taking photographs - giving advice and helping when required, but then leaving us to get on with things if we were fine doing that. This was helped by you getting an understanding of our technical abilities and interests early on. A good example was helping me get the image of the lone tree, which involved getting all of the camera kit across the stream and lighting the tree for extra effect.

Overall a great trip, the dawn photo shoot was a real treat and the walk into the hidden valley a nice way to finish the trip. I’ll also always be grateful to you for rescuing me from my collapsed tent and helping move my stuff in a howling gale.

I tend not to take many photos when I'm teaching, but here's my personal favourites from the 3 days. Many thanks to Mark, Steve and Pete for being great fun, working hard and entering into the spirit of the place. A really enjoyable few days.