"Scotland is a veritable paradise for the nature photograph lover"
Nature photograph lovers have a ball in Scotland – either taking their own pictures or revelling in the magnificent grandeur of the photos in books, calendars, postcards and CD-ROMs available from some of the top nature photography experts in the world.
In a country with so many unspoilt landscapes and all kinds of wildlife, it is not difficult for any reasonably skilled photographer to come home with a picture they can be proud to show their friends and family. And probably you'll have quite a number of them, as opportunities for great shots abound here.
Digital or film?
You may prefer to work with a good digital camera to get that perfect nature photograph – be it a Canon, Kodak, Nikon, Pentax, Yashica, Konica, Olympus, Sony, Samsung, Fujifilm or HP Hewlett Packard – in which case you'll have instant results you can even share right away via email, a blog or a site like Flickr, MSN Spaces or Yahoo 360°. Also, you won't have to deal with the hassles of having enough of the right kind of film, or worrying about damage to your exposed film on going through airport x-ray machines.
Or if you are a purist, like many professional photographers I know who use their shots to create beautiful high quality coffee table books and calendars, and to publish in magazines, you may want to capture that ideal nature photograph on film with a traditional film camera. Again, names like Pentax, Canon, Nikon, Minolta, Praktica, Yashica, Konica, Olympus, Fujifilm and of course Kodak are the most well known here. Fujifilm and Kodak are the obvious film brands that spring to mind, while many have a preference for Agfa.
Transparencies are best for reproduction purposes
Again, for reproduction purposes, including publication in glossy magazines, and in particular where high quality enlargements are required, I, and most pros I know, prefer to work with slide film, i.e. transparencies, rather than negative film for prints. Most publications I have dealt with (including the one I published myself for many years!) prefer slides because they are more flexible. If you need prints it is no problem to take them from slides, whereas if your nature photograph, or any other image for that matter, is in print form and you need a transparency, e.g. for a slide show, the results may be disappointing.
If you do need your images in digital form, e.g. for a website or a PowerPoint presentation, transparencies can be easily digitized at a reasonable cost. These days most scanners come already fitted with the necessary accessories to do this yourself, or you can get it done at your local photography store. Naturally, not everyone is looking to produce a top class photography book, but I feel that with slides you get the best of both worlds (or should I say all three – slides, prints and digital images).
Of course, if all you are looking for in a nature photograph is simply something to put in an album or send to a few friends who have shown interest on hearing about your trip to Scotland, then you may find that prints made from negative film or using a digital camera are more than adequate for your purposes.
Where to go in Scotland to take your ideal nature photograph
Now with regard to where to go in Scotland to get that ideal nature photograph, the answer is just about anywhere! Anywhere outside the major urban areas, of course, although even in the cities you will find plenty of opportunities if you keep your eyes open.
These could range from flowers or birds in a city park or private garden to e.g. the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh or Kelvingrove in Glasgow. Outside the cities the possibilities for getting a good nature photograph are sheer endless, ranging from close-ups of plants and flowers, animal or bird shots to whole landscape panoramas.
You could go into the hills and mountains, explore the coast and islands, try the many lochs in Scotland, or ramble through beautiful gently rolling farming country on one of the many walking paths the country has to offer.
For the one that got away – professional nature photographers have plenty to offer in Scotland
As I mentioned, even if you don't manage to get the nature photograph you are looking for – or not enough of them! – there are a number of really good professional photographers in Scotland whose work you can either buy in the country itself, or online.
Alan Wright, for example, lives in the same part of Scotland as I do, in Dumfries and Galloway in the Southwest. Much of his work depicts the region, in particular his beautiful large format postcards and calendars, and his pictures adorn our house (in fact, before we moved to Scotland I surrounded myself with his poignant images!). He also does books and calendars covering the rest of Scotland, as well as "digital" journeys through Scotland on CD-ROM with accompanying soundtracks. The nature photograph is something Alan does extremely well, and this is what his work primarily focuses on.
Landscapes and golf courses
Another well known name in Scotland with regard to the nature photograph is Donald Ford, a former soccer professional and professional accountant who is now considered one of the country's leading landscape and golf course photographers.
Donald is based in Livingston in West Lothian, near Edinburgh, from where he travels the country in search of dramatic landscapes and lighting to add to his portfolio. A chance conversation with friends some years ago led him into the field of photographing golf courses, and his books and calendars covering this subject are highly sought after.
These are just two of the more well known proponents of the Scottish nature photograph whose work is readily available around the country as well as online.
There are of course a number of others, and I will be adding information as this site develops, so if you are keen to learn more, make sure you bookmark this page and come back at regular intervals to get an update on Scotland and the nature photograph.