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Landscape Photography - the first 120 minutes of a day in the life.

Updated: Sep 2, 2023

People often ask me how I get time to spend hours in the hills or at the coast when I have kids, a wife and a furry lighting assistant to support.

Oscar at the beach (mono)
Oscar, my 18% grey Lighting Assistant

The simple answer is that it's not possible. Instead I have developed a split personality. There's the family man , who when he sees a great opportunity for a photograph, tries (mostly successfully) to not resent the missed opportunity.

And there's the dedicated and passionate photographer who thinks of nothing else other than about the outdoors and the images he can gather, who forgets to eat and neglects to sleep as he chases down the shots. I physically separate these worlds, setting aside a few days every now and then to totally concentrate on the togging.

When the urge gets too great I start planning a trip. And thanks to a very understanding family, I go off on my own for a few days. It's a system that stops the family putting up with the constant snapping on holiday and allows me to take my time and maximise the chances of actually getting a half decent shot.

I've been doing this for a few years now and it works great. So what do I get up to when I'm away? Most people think I have a lovely wee holiday, but actually it's the hardest work I do. Let me describe my last trip to the Isle of Skye.

The best bit of advice I can give to any landscape photographer is to take your time, get to know a location and plan your shots. Too many times I have driven around taking lots of shots with potential, but nothing that was quite good enough for the portfolio. So with this in mind, I decided to spend 3 days within one very limited area of the North tip of Skye, resisting the temptation to go to Elgol and Glen Brittle and Sligachen and all the other great places that will form another trip.

I chose the northern tip, a) because I could get cheap and basic accommodation and b) because there are just so many locations there. I HAD to do the classic view bagging but that part of the island has everything I love. Mountains, coast, wildlife and dawn AND dusk potential.

Sounds lovely doesn't it? Now the reality - firstly, being a one car family, I had to hire a 2nd car (expensive). I drove non stop for over 6 hours to get to my single room, uninsulated £45 per night, decorated shed. Literally a shed, clean, painted, with a cooker, shower and a bed installed, but still a shed. No matter I was only there long enough to cook some noodles before I was heading off for some photography (about 6pm). Sunset was due after 10pm and I wanted to choose locations and do some exploring before hand. Some togging ensued and I got back to the (very cold) shed at 11pm. After a delightful dinner of sparkling water and biscuits, I was snoring by 11:30pm...

DRRiiinng! The alarm went at 3:30am. I'm one of those people that can't rise easily in

the morning. You know, I roll over hit the alarm, lie there day dreaming, trying to wake up,

Cleat and the Trotternish Ridge
Cleat and the Trotternish Ridge, around midsummer at 4:19am.

drift off, resurface, put off getting up and eventually get up when there's no time left to lounge. But not on a photo weekend. The bell goes and I plant my feet on the floor before I switch it off, haul myself out of bed and into yesterday's clothes, grab the bag I packed last night and go to the car. Then I sit and let myself wake up in the cold and the dark. On this morning I wanted to be at the top of the Quiraing ahead of sunrise, and I did. I got there, parked up and hiked to the spot I'd planned all by 4am. The sky was already colouring up and I thought maybe I'd left it too late. But no, beautiful light arrived, snaps were snapped, adjustments made and snaps resnapped. Then I looked up at 4:30am and found no fewer than 5 other photographers flanking my prime location. Thus is the Quiraing... It's to be expected. A bit. I mean... busy at 4:30am!!!

After a quick chat with a German bloke who had slept out all night and still missed the sunrise, off I went, (unattractively smug), and heading for my next pre-breakfast location, Kilt Rock.

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