A few weeks back, I went out to Scotland’s highlands for some winter adventure, landscape photography, and hiking. I based myself in an area I had never been to before and stayed in a wonderful little ‘eco-hut’ on the side of a loch. There were flurries of snow, heavy rain, and even a bit sunshine – in short I couldn’t have asked for more dramatic conditions, ideal for black and white (and colour) photos.
I spent the first day simply wandering on foot to get a sense of the area. Exploring on foot gets me into the right mindset to make photographs. I get tuned-in to experiencing my surroundings (or perhaps it is tuned-out of modern life?); walking becomes an almost meditative practice that brings my attention back to nature – I walked about 14km the first day. I begin to notice the small things and look a little closer at light and detail. Perhaps this is why I’m leaning less and less towards photographing the big vistas. I noticed (posthumously) that my images all had an intimate feeling despite the fact that I used a wide range of focal lengths (24mm – 165mm).
It can take a little while to get into this zen-like state with walking, and even still you can fall in and out of it. For instance, I went out on one particular hike with the intention of summiting a Munro. I had mapped it out, planned my timings, looked at weather forecasts. Nothing is certain though. I made it about 10km before having to turn back due to some really harsh winter conditions that came in almost out of nowhere. With the snow and wind coming down with a vengeance, I realised I was glad to be forced off the mountain. I had set the wrong intention from the outset. Getting to the top of the mountain wasn’t important. I had forgotten to look around at the beauty of the place I was in and be present to my surroundings. The blizzard that turned me around was, in the end, what reminded me to experience the stunning glen I was walking in.
All of the photos I shot that weekend had some sort of connection to water, little streams, snowfall, rolling mist, trees on the bank of a loch. I’m trying to photograph an emotional or even spiritual connection to a moment in nature that grabs my attention. To clarify, sometimes the composition is instinctual, other times it takes a little finesse, but staying in that moment of wonder is important to my experience, to the outcome of the final image, and hopefully to your experience of viewing the images. So, if anything, I hope my photography can help you see the beauty in nature and your surroundings.