Rugged, fresh, natural – these are the words people use to describe Scotland, but nothing quite prepared me for the untouched beauty of its landscapes when I visited this summer. As a travel journalist, I’ve explored countries all over the world – yet nearby Scotland is one of the most striking locations I’ve found myself in so far.
I travel up into the Highlands, then onwards to explore the Isles of Lewis, Harris and Skye in a whirlwind trip that really gets under the skin of the amazing lands known as Scotland. The Scots are celebrating their Year of Natural Scotland in 2013, and it’s easy to understand why even from a short trip.
Landscapes are one of the easiest things to take photographs of, and they’re something you’ll encounter constantly when you travel to far-flung locations in your own country or overseas. Why are they so easy to photograph? Well, if you’re looking across a gorgeous terrain ahead, there’s only so far wrong you can go in snapping a shot of it. But there are a few things you can do to ensure your images aren’t just good, but exceptional.
I spend my first night in Ullapool, an incredibly small town that only exists because of its port. It rains all night, and when I head down to the ferryboat in the morning, an ethereal, misty atmosphere has fallen across the seafront. I walk around the harbour for too long in the drizzle, photographing everything in sight.
The image above is a good example of a technique for getting the most out of a picture with a simple adjustment. I wanted to capture the feel of the habour, but when I tried to photograph all the boats I could see, there was too much going on in the picture. So I took a step towards one small set of the boats and made them a focal point of the image. But by putting them in the corner rather than the centre, I still capture the feel of the place as I wanted to.
The Isles of Lewis and Harris, connected by a single bridge, are the highlight of my Scottish adventure. Time operates differently on these islands – or at least it seems to. There’s a distinctive kind of disconnect in the countryside of the Scottish Isles; it’s strange to see teenagers using iPhones on sidewalks after driving past a house 15 miles from anything at all.
Often, shooting something really simple – like the house above – can give you an excellent picture. To capture this one, I took a series of shots from different angles, trying to take advantage of the natural light. I waited until I was in front of my computer to examine each one closely and decide which worked best. I recommend doing this as it gives you the chance to really consider everything about the image, and you can see so much more on a laptop than a camera screen.
Ocean, lochs and waterfalls are recognisable characteristics of Scotland’s biological offerings, and a journey through the country wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the world-renowned Loch Ness. This place of myth and legend is eerie yet picturesque, and I love how the light shines through over the dark blue water in the photo below. I didn’t get a glimpse of the notorious Loch Ness monster this time round – but I have a feeling I’ll be back in Scotland soon.