The Best Landscape Photographers in Scotland – David Russell
Posted on Apr 06, 2018 by Rupert Shanks
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.
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, its 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.
Loch Maree, where the water caresses the shore
At the place where the dark spear stands
And the light shines on the waves.
The water is moving there even now
Though I’m not there to see
Far away, Loch Maree.
Most views of Loch Maree are dominated by the spectacular peak of Slioch (visible on right of the image), and I’ve always gone with the intention of doing something with that extraordinary mountain. But this image demonstrates one of the things I love about photography – it’s total unpredictability. You can never know what will inspire you. That’s one of the things that makes it tricky to teach.
Standing on the shore and waiting for the anticipated sunset I instead watched curtains of rain sweep over the hills of Beinn Airigh Charr and Beinn Lair, falling from steel grey skies. Some images are about the subject, some are about the setting, and so the island at Loch Maree had to take second fiddle to the sky.
Scots Pine – Rothiemurchus, Cairngorms
On a typical cloudy day, the forest unexpectedly filled with thick mist during the late morning. It is very unusual for this to happen any later than dawn, after which it burns off quickly in the rising sun. But not then. The sunlight that broke through the clouds streamed into the mist and suffused the forest with a golden glow. I watched tiny drops of moisture swirl around me suspended in the sunbeams.
This particular composition was no accident. For years I have visited this prominent and beautiful pine in hopes of being able to make an image that did it justice. Framing it directly in front of the sun and the epicentre of that incredible light, I was finally able to capture something that reflects the way I feel about this place.
Sea Pink – Wester Ross
Along the shore of northwest Scotland you can find great quantities of Thrift, also known as Sea Pink. During the summer months when it blooms the daylight hours are long. On a clear night you can remain awake and simply watch the red glow in the north as the sun takes a brief dive below the horizon. Rising at 3am, I was on the beach to watch the sun rise over the mountains to the east. But instead of that vista, it was the simple colours of the Sea Pink that captured me that morning in the beautiful morning light. A sea breeze blew sweetly, making them dance. I used a slightly long shutter speed to capture a little of that motion and of the sea behind. By 5am I was back in the tent.
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