Calmac Commission

Earlier this year I was approached by David Reid, Creative Director at the Lane Agency about developing a portfolio of images for Caledonian MacBrayne. The brief included both lifestyle photography with models in island locations and also photographs of some of their ferries amidst iconic landscapes. Based of the client’s wish list and my own knowledge of the Hebrides, we narrowed down our selection of islands to Arran, Islay, Jura and Skye and worked closely with Colours Agency to provide models for each of the shoots. With what has been one of the best years for location photography I can recall, we managed to time the shoots to coincide with periods of stable weather, which was instrumental in helping us to create a comprehensive library of images for the client.

We began in Arran, shooting mountain biking, canoeing, rock climbing and archery, which took advantage of a period of settled weather. This trend continued when I photographed the Western Isles ferry (MV Isle of Lewis) as she sailed down Loch Broom towards Ullapool, with An Teallach towering high above – the loch was so calm that the reflection of the ferry can be seen in the water. In was on Islay however, that luck appeared to be firmly on my side. I had identified a location from where I wanted to photograph the ferry and contacted Dunlossit Estate who kindly gave me access to photograph from a high point overlooking the Sound of Islay, close to Port Askaig. I arrived in good time and saw the ferry some miles away entering the Sound – the weather was superb, the almost clear sky responsible for the turquoise hues in the sea as I had visualised. As I waited for the ferry to approach my ‘firing point’ I noticed cloud to the east, which at first appeared to be benign (not a threat) but which I quickly realised was rapidly moving west towards me. It suddenly became a race between the speed of the ferry and that of the approaching front and it was with less than ten seconds to spare that I managed to capture the MV Finnlaggan approaching Port Askaig with the Paps of Jura behind in the most perfect light. Triumph, plucked from the jaws of defeat – in location photography there’s always a fine line between success and failure.

Over the years, I have spent a great deal of time in the Hebrides and am continually inspired each time I go back. There’s something very special about a ferry journey to the Scottish islands – I find the physical separation of leaving the mainland and crossing a stretch of water allows me to mentally let go of everyday life and is a powerful stimuli for creative thought. There’s also a hint of self-indulgence there too and I’m prone to think that this is ‘me’ time, which in fairness, everyone needs from time to time – a stress-buster. I often liken the chain of the Hebrides to single malt whiskies – each having their own distinct character and none really that bad! Take the Small Isles for instance – the islands of Muck, Eigg, Rum and Canna which occupy a geographically small area but which display such diversity.

Some of my greatest experiences of the natural world have taken place in the Hebrides. They offer endless opportunities for exploration and discovery; in mountains, on sea cliffs, along beaches or amongst the relics of the past. They abound in something I have spent my life in search of – undisturbed places, which satisfies my innate fascination for the relationships that exist between the elements of the natural world.

Agency: The Lane