Where I Try to Dispel a Few of the Myths and Half Truths You Might Hear, When Considering Coming to Scotland With Your Camera

This Chapter is isn't so much about the location where each photograph was taken (although I will still give you that information as well), it is more an argument against some of the many Myths and half truths you might hear from other photographers, as to why shooting in Scotland is ALWAYS going to be so problematic!

Myth 1 - There are no trees on the Isle of Skye - This is an old myth that is completely untrue and one which I can only imagine stems from the fact, that people who have never visited the Isle of Skye (or perhaps even Scotland), are confusing Skye with the Island of Shetland, which indeed doesn't have many trees growing on it. But this is not its natural state and is only due to all the trees being cleared away centuries ago by man to make way for extensive sheep farming and where this same extensive sheep farming continues to this day. So even though trees can and do grow on Shetland, they usually find it too difficult to become established, due to the sheep munching their way through any saplings as soon as they dare to push their heads up above the grass.

Trees that do grow on Skye however, are usually not very tall due to the low levels of nutrients found in the soil that they grow in (which is often nothing more than a thin layer of peat sat on top of the solid granite bedrock) and which are predominantly Birch, Silver Birch (as shown here on the left - street view - map view), Willow and Forestry Plantation trees etc. There are also a few ancient Scots Pine that can still be found scattered around the Island and which do grow very tall, but these are only the last few remaining survivors of the ancient Caledonian forests that once covered all of Scotland, before they were also cut down for ship building and then later on for sheep farming.

Myth 2 - It never stops raining in Scotland - This is another myth that while

not entirely false (depending on when you choose to come here of course), is one that seems to have become so exaggerated over time, that I now often hear it quoted within the photographic community online as being an absolute fact, rather than the half truth that it actually is. Yes of course we get heavy rain in Scotland and probably more than our fair share if I am being honest, but it is never none stop and instead seems to come in bursts, whereby we will often get a week of solid rain, followed by a week of half rain and half sunshine, followed by a week of sunshine and so on repeatedly. But I would also argue that as landscape photographers, we want the skies to have as much drama in them as possible and the rivers to be gushing with fresh rainwater (as shown here on the right- street view - map view). In fact I would even argue that the worst type of weather for us as photographers, is a clear blue sky day with wall to wall sunshine and that the best weather for us is usually found, during that first break in the clouds as a storm clouds begins to lift.

So to optimise your chances of getting the best shooting weather in Scotland, here are a few suggestions - if you live in the UK, then keep an eye on the weather forecasts and look for a couple of days where the wind will be around 4mph or less, which means you should get the chance to shoot reflections on the lochs and book yourself into a Motel for one night as near to the North end of Glasgow as you can (Dumbarton for Instance) and make sure they will allow you to still check in even if you arrive late, which you probably will do if you are driving up from the South of England. Then the following morning get up really early and set off North up the A82 towards Glen Coe and then onto to Skye if you have the time and book into whatever B&B or hotel you can find on the way. However if you are traveling from overseas, then obviously it isn't going to be so easy for you to react to a recent weather forecast, so the time I would suggest that has the best potential for you, is around the end of October and the beginning of November, because this way even if the weather isn't great, at least you will still have the best of the Autumn colours and also a good possibility of the first falls of fresh snow covering the tops of the peaks.


Myth 3 - The dreaded Scottish Midges are active all year round - This is another totally incorrect myth, although at certain times of the year these highly aggressive microscopic vampires really can be a nightmare, but for most of the year they are nowhere to be seen anywhere in Scotland. But even when they are fully out in summer and hunting for your blood, there are still ways that you can work around them, so here is my advice on what to do about the dreaded Scottish Midge. So first of all let me tell you what I have learnt in the decade I have lived and photographed here - midges in Scotland are found mainly in the North West, they are unable to fly when the wind is anything more than a relatively light 6mph breeze and when they do first come out around the third week of May, they don't initially need your blood to help them produce their first batch of eggs, but do need it for any subsequent batches throughout the rest of the summer and where they will then try to mug anything that has a pulse. They then completely disappear again during the first week of October and on through until late May. So for nearly 8 months of the year, there are absolutely no midges in Scotland.

I have tried sprays, potions, midge nets and jackets and none of them seem to work for me, the sprays are full of toxins and midge nets make it difficult to see, so I find the easiest solution on a calm day in summer, is to just keep moving and accept that I am going to get a few bites. So here is what I did when taking the shot shown on the left - street view - map view. The weather forecast for that day said it would be calm with high wispy clouds, so I knew Elgol would look beautiful, but also that the midges would be out to get me. So I parked in the car park and walked quickly across the beach to this location, where I knew from experience that I would have around 10 minutes before they

locked onto me. So I quickly set up my camera on the tripod, framed up a shot and pressed the remote shutter release as I set of walking briskly in a 30 foot circle away from the camera and back again. I then grabbed the tripod to move my camera into a different composition and repeated this process for several more times until they finally began to overwhelm me. But in the end I managed to get around 40 minutes of photography and which resulted in me grabbing several very usable shots and all for the cost of about 6 tiny bites - and I was wearing a sleeveless shirt as I did this!

Myth 4 - Scottish mountains are too small for photography - I first heard this one around 10 years ago, when I was talking to an American friend about organising a workshop for his group over here and who then went on to start joking with me about the disappointing size of the Scottish mountains at only around 3,500 feet, when he was used to shooting mountains that were three or four times taller than that. And at first I had to agree with him and I even started to feel a little bit disappointed with the limited size of our mountains compared to theirs. But then some time after and around when I was taking this shot shown on the right - street view - map view, I finally began to realise, that far from our mountains being too small, they were in actual fact just the right size. You see with our mountains not being too big, it means it is then up to us to decide how big we would like to make them appear in the shot. Whereby if I put on my longest lens and zoom right in for the detail, I can make any mountain seem huge and entirely fill the frame with it, as shown in shot 1. Or I can make them look really small, but still keep their interesting shapes using a wide angle lens, as shown in shot 3. Or I can make them look just the right size with a medium zoom lens as shown here to the right. So even


though it took me a while to realise it, I would now argue that the 250 or so mountains of 3,000 foot and above that we have across Scotland, are in a sort of "Goldilocks Zone", whereby it's up to us to make them appear to be whatever size that we want them to be.

Myth 5 - Scotland becomes totally full with tourist during summer - I first heard this one only a couple of years ago, so it's quite a late entry onto my growing list of Scottish Photography myths, but none the less it has quickly grown into a really big one and also one that seems to have been swallowed hook line and sinker by the entire world's media and which it then feels compelled to regurgitated every summer like clockwork. But I think this one started after a well known South of England newspaper, decided to cobble together a few stock pictures of the summer traffic jams that can sometimes happen up here, just to fill a few column inches and which then screamed something like: SCOTLAND IS FULL, SO DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT GOING THERE FOR YOUR HOLIDAY!!!! But who knows what their motives really were and so yet again all I can tell you based on the fact that I actually live here, is that this is yet another myth that simply isn't true. Now there are occasions when a road can become blocked by a camper van, that has sunk into a ditch after being driven by someone who doesn't know how to negotiate their way around the many single track roads we have up here, using the passing places provided (as shown on the left - street view - map view). Or it could perhaps have been due to the traffic queues that can quickly form behind a certain type of first time visitor, who for some inexplicable reason thinks that because they are on holiday, it is perfectly OK for them to screech to a halt in the middle of an unrestricted speed limited road, without any warning whatsoever and then nonchalantly get out and start taking shots of the scenery with their smart phones, as any unfortunate locals or delivery trucks etc following on behind them and just trying to get to work, also have to stamp on their brakes to avoid crashing into them, as they continue to shoot the scenery totally oblivious to the utter carnage and mayhem they are causing all around them!

Now there could also be other reasons why this myth continues and which is probably more to do with the fact that Scotland is a very sparsely inhabited region, with only 8% of the UK population living here, but spread across almost half its length. Which can mean that in some of the more remote outer regions of Scotland, a village that looks to be of a good size on the map, turns out to have only 3 or 4 houses in it. So finding somewhere to stay can be a little tricky at times, but only if you haven't taken the time to book ahead.

But all I can tell you as someone who actually lives here, is that even in the height of the summer holiday season, I know that I can walk out of my front door and within a ten minute drive be standing on a beach, that even though it runs alongside the main road into Skye, it still has more than enough amazing views to keep me happy for many hours and that I will also probably have it all to myself (as shown below- street view - map view).

Myth 6 - In Scotland there are only a couple of hours of daylight during the winter months - Well this one isn't very difficult at all to blow several large holes in, so I am not really sure why this one persists, as it doesn't take much effort for anyone of us to look on the net and quickly find out that this is complete bunkum. But if you haven't had time to do that already, then instead just take a few moments to look at the bottom of the last page of the example chapters taken from my book, as linked to here - where I have listed ALL the sunrise and sunset times for the entire year for the North West of Scotland and where you will then see that on the day with the least amount of daylight hours, there are still approximately 7 full hours of them for us to work with. But as a landscape photographer you will also probably know that the best colours in the sky at dawn, can often be seen up to an hour before the sun rises above the horizon line and also up to an hour after it sets. So again looking at this as landscape photographers, this means that even in the depth of winter and on the day with the least hours of full daylight, we can still be out and actively photographing for 9 hours straight. And if we add in let's say an hour of travel time to get to each location and return again at night. this means we can easily spend up to 10 hours per day doing photography. Now I don't know about you, but if I can be out and doing photography or photography related things for 10 hours during the day, then I am definitely going to be one happy puppy.

Also in the depth of winter as the sun doesn't rise before 9am, it means I can set the alarm for around 7am (ish), then take my time preparing and eating my breakfast, before I set off on a leisurely drive to whatever location I have chosen to go to and still be there in plenty of time to catch the first rays of light. And as the sun goes down around 4pm, this means I can also shoot for the entire duration of the sunset from beginning to end including any afterglow and still get home in plenty of time for my evening meal -

--Exif information for each of the numbered shots shown throughout this chapter

--1 - Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports, 1/125th Sec, f/16, ISO 400, Focal Length 600mm, taken on 26th Jan at 10:58

--2 - Canon EF16-35/2.8L USM, 1/50th Sec, f/16, ISO 50, Focal Length 16mm, taken on 3rd Feb at 11:52

--3 - Canon EF16-35/2.8L USM, 30 Sec with a 10 stop ND, f/16, ISO 100, Focal Length 18mm, taken on 9th Aug at 18:57

--4 - Canon EF70-200/2.8L IS USM, 1/150th Sec, f/11, ISO 100, Focal Length 120mm, taken on 7th May at 14:07

--5 - Canon EF16-35/2.8L USM, 1/200th Sec, f/16, ISO 100, Focal Length 16mm, taken on 4th Jun at 14:04

--6 - Canon EF16-35/2.8L USM, 1/15th Sec, f/16, ISO 50, Focal Length 35mm (cropped pano), taken on 1st Jun at 21:03


If you have enjoyed reading these 'Extra' chapters to my Guide Book and think you might also enjoy reading 79 more chapters across 270 pages, that also includes more than 340 Fine Art quality images, along with detailed descriptions and large scale maps to guide you to the exact location of where I took each and every one of them and which then goes onto discuss the techniques and tools I used to process them, but where everything is written in plain easy to understand English? Then please consider buying the Book.