Landscape art – of any kind – shows you not the end result of creativity, but what inspired it.
At first it seems to be entirely result-oriented, but it is being in the presence of nature and feeling the urge to capture that through creative expression which is the true goal. Photography is not a way of making something beautiful but of experiencing it.
Note from the Editor – This is the 4th in our series of Best Landscape Photographers in Scotland. David Russell, based in the Cairngorms, shares his drive for trying to capture that endless moment.
- The first episode in our landscape photography series – Colin Prior.
- The second episode in the series – Eilidh Cameron.
- The third episode in the series – Somhairle MacDonald.
- The fourth episode in the series – Lucy Hamilton.
David Russell – The desire to be surrounded by nature is a desire of spirit, not of mind. To question it from a perspective of the reasoning mind leads me nowhere. I do not ask why I go to the wild places. I only know I must in order to be whole, and this is enough of an explanation.
I use the word spirit, though I do not believe in God. But I have a worshipful love of nature that runs deep. When I submit to it there is no space for ego or pride, and the profound belonging I feel with my surroundings fills me with contentment. Perhaps that is the same experience that religion seeks. In that case, the natural world may be the source of all such feeling.
Watching the sun set then rise again, and set and rise again, I feel myself in an everlasting moment. You can feel it also when listening to water running in a river, knowing it has made that same sound since time immemorial. I think wild plants and animals live always within that moment and understand it – but we no longer do. Even our language does not allow me to adequately explain and convey this sensation. You will only understand by feeling it. Think like a mountain, or like a tree. Is there truly any difference between today and tomorrow?
The beauty of that endless moment – the sky, the silence – is real to me when I am in its presence. Yet I can not remain with it always. My life is half removed from nature so I have no choice but to disconnect. When I am no longer there, it’s reality fades from me. The things I create are perhaps an attempt to keep it – to be aware of its reality even in its absence. I try to snatch a piece of eternity and hold it still. It seems as real to me, at times, as if I had gone there again in fact. But this not because I captured a piece of it, rather it is because it has captured me.
Nature, however, is endless and constant change. So that moment I try to hold on to will fade and fall away, to be replaced by something new. This is why it is never enough to be in nature once, or to create only one thing. I must return and look again, start afresh, and join myself to the everlasting moment once more.
I only know of one way to do this. We each carry a silence within us. Still your mind and listen – it’s there, a quietness inside. The most profound feeling I know of is finding and recognising the quietness of nature, and joining it to this silence within.
Climbing the Sgurr of Eigg – that most peculiar of Scottish island peaks – we came to a place and time of silence. We were eleven in all, yet without a word spoken each of us took a seat on the ground. Some lay in the grass and closed their eyes in the warm sun, some of us sat with knees hooked in elbows and looked out across the sea. The clouds passed us by quietly, casting their shadows on the bright waves far below. No-one spoke, but we all understood what was not said. We continued on our way again, but we carried that moment on with us and carry it still.