Me Now.

During the run up to last years Scottish Independence referendum I grabbed a rare half hour with my 19-year old son to quiz him on which way he was voting. He was a resolute No. I naturally assumed he’d considered the wider implications of a No vote to public services; the consequences to social and cultural cohesion; the likely impact on the economy and perhaps even, what Independence would mean to Scotland’s environmental policy. I was wrong. It turned out that as a representative of Team GB in alpine sports, he liked the tracksuit. He was voting on the future of his own country solely on the basis of an item of leisurewear.

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The box of believability.

Image processing: there’s a thin line between aspiration and desperation. The former sees a photographer pushing the boundaries of technology to expand, or improve, his/her style and the latter sees the same photographer crossing that boundary and free falling into a pit of ridicule.

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Lofoten 2015

Any tour guide with even half a conscience will recognise the gut-wrenching feeling of lying in bed listening to the wind howling and the rain pounding outside. If it happens once or twice on a tour, the guests will likely sympathise but night after night and I start to stress. Arctic Norway is never going to be straightforward in winter and that’s why we go, but a constant near-gale south-westerly with all that it brings, isn’t good news.

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The forest with no trees.

Four hours ago I was stood barely upright on Stac Pollaidh, one of Scotland’s most characterful mountains. Such was the ferocity of the wind at my back, I almost needed to crawl into the lee of the hill to gain some respite and a chance to drink in the spectacular views over Inverpolly Forest. Of course ‘forest’ is an ironic and misleading term as there is barely a tree to be seen for miles and miles…and miles.

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Even the branding is annoyingly cute.

Benviebooks: For people who know their art from their elbow.

Oh yes that’s clever.

It’s not often that you feel compelled to smile whilst reading a book on nature photography. That book has to be out of the ordinary and by implication, so does its author. When friend and colleague Niall Benvie sent me his latest eBook, You Are Not a Photocopier, I knew I’d need a cup of tea and a few choccie digestives (sorry Niall but if you’d wanted me to accompany the reading with Charlotte’s chocolates, you should have sent some).

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A.M.A.N.D.A. Happy Days.

It’s been a busy few months up here in the frozen north.

The Steading, the home base for our photographic tours, has endured many a hard winter and has seen hundreds of photographers cross its threshold shaking off snow from their boots and jackets. The front entrance can no longer bear the pressure of eager photographers keen to get their mits on our homemade shortbread after a hide session with our local red squirrels. An extension was in order and in November, the builders moved in. And so did the snow. Happy Days.

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On the road again.

I rarely seem to have time these days to read all the magazines that drop through my door; I’m sure it never used to be the case. One headline however, recently caught my eye: “Make the weather in Photoshop”. Apparently, for those who know what’s what, ice, sun, mist and rain can all be plucked from the digital heavens and inserted into an image with no one being any the wiser. Is that what it’s come to? Is that what nature photography is now about?

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The plan that no one dares to make

One of the traits that makes us human is the ability to plan – to look into the future and envisage the consequences of our actions. We’re obsessed with planning. Businesses plan cash flow and marketing strategy; charities plan fundraising and volunteer recruitment; even nature reserves have management plans dictating which species should live and those that shouldn’t. And as individuals, in an effort to make the best use of our time and resources, many of us plan to the nth degree. As a society we don’t like to leave anything to chance. We strive to ensure wherever possible, positive and sustainable outcomes. It all makes sense but with all this detailed planning going on, you’d think that we’d have a pretty comprehensive plan in place for our future as a species. Not so. This is the elephant in the room, the plan that no one wants to make.

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Cosmetic surgery for the soul.

A huge debt to our lead guitarist’s father, who’d misguidedly invested in a bunch of egotistical hairys, who could barely play but were nevertheless accomplished posers, meant that my dream of becoming a rock legend at 18 was thwarted before it really began. From the ashes of our well intended but naïve aspiration, my working life began but the damage to my vanity ran deep. Without the band, I was deprived of a public platform, an opportunity to bathe in the glory of public adulation. It was a bitter pill for a young man with carefully nurtured waist-length hair to swallow.

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No pain, no gain.

Without realising, I’ve been dashing around Scotland for the last 20 years with my head wedged firmly between my buttocks (too much detail?). I’ve not intended to be blind to the landscape in front of me but rather than look, see and ‘feel’, I’ve rather tended to simply consume. Recently however, I’ve forced myself to explore the Scottish landscape afresh; to put it in a wider perspective; to understand and appreciate it better, or more fully.

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