Ian Evans at Ratagan beside Loch Duich

About Ian Evans

Ian Evans is a mountaineer, photographer and writer on the mountains of Britain and The Himalaya. Born and educated in Liverpool, he now lives and works in the village of Invermoriston in the Scottish Highlands. Ian has been an active mountaineer for more than 45 years; an interest in mountains and photography, awakened in 1972, was inspired further by images published from the British Everest and American K2 Expeditions in 1975. This would subsequently encourage Ian to research, organise and then lead trekking, climbing and photographic expeditions to Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, Sikkim, India and Pakistan.

In 1986 I established commercial relationships with several travel companies, including ExplorAsia, The Ultimate Travel Company (formerly known as Worldwide Journeys and Expeditions) and KE Adventure Travel, and for the next 20 years worked in the travel industry as a trekking consultant, professional trekking guide and expedition leader. As a frequent visitor to The Himalaya, I have accumulated an extensive collection of photographs of the region, particularly of the great 8000 metre peaks – the very highest mountains in the world.

My written work, much of which related to travel in the Himalayan regions, accompanied by a significant amount of photography, appeared in the major climbing magazines of the 1980’s and 1990’s, namely ‘The Great Outdoors, Climber and Hillwalker, Lakeland Walker, High and Trail Magazine. My images have also appeared high profile works by other writers, including ‘On Top of the World’ by John Cleare, ‘The Magic of the Munros’ and ‘The Call of The Corbetts’ by Irvine Butterfield, ‘Exploring the North-West of Scotland’ and ‘Wild Walks’ by Richard Gilbert and ‘Wilderness Walks’ by Cameron McNeish.

As a consequence of exposing my work to a wider audience, either at public lectures or in climbing magazines, I decided to publish a selection of images in the form of prints. As a resident of Fort William at the time, the print I chose to launch onto the market was ‘Ben Nevis in Winter Raiment‘. It was an instant success; it led to the development the wider range of products that continues today and, in 1983, gave birth to my business Mountain Images.

Ian Evans at Glencoe beside Loch Leven
Ian Evans beside Loch Leven

My portfolio as a mountain landscape photographer extends beyond the accepted boundaries of landscape photography. I am a ‘mountain man’ through and through, and so my images are taken from that perspective. I am a sensitive observer of landscape and light, and I hope that my love for, and understanding of this environment is reflected in every image.

Success in the field is founded upon good research and careful preparation and planning beforehand. When working in Britain I check out all my viewpoints, weather and lighting conditions before setting out for a location. In many cases I will have previously visited a proposed location to confirm my theoretical findings and to check conditions in the field such as the proximity of road access and availability of footpaths or nature of the terrain underfoot.

Things were never quite as controlled in the Himalaya where conditions varied considerably, and there was seldom any opportunity to do much pre-location planning. Although no hard and fast rules could be applied, following my fundamental principles of careful research and detailed preparation usually achieved an acceptable outcome.

The Magic Hours

Given the opportunity I much prefer to work during the ‘magic hours’, the period shortly after sunrise or before sunset when the quality of the available light is usually at its best. This often involves driving through the night to reach or return from a location and also ascending or descending a mountain in the dark. In Britain the months from October through to May offer the best colours and conditions for photography and, if I have a preference, I like to work in Scotland in the autumn and Snowdonia in the spring. In the days of my youth I would always seek out an elevated viewpoint, but sadly the passing years have been unkind to my legs so today I often have to be somewhat less ambitious.

Obtaining the image that was planned or envisaged does not always happen at the first attempt as conditions on the mountains can vary from hour to hour – that is when mountain photography becomes a matter of sheer determination and dedication. Sometimes it is simply necessary to make speculative visits to a preferred viewpoint time and time again. Then of course there are other occasions when one can simply be lucky and find oneself in the right place at the right time.

In most of my subjects I look for optimum depth of field in subject detail combined with edge to edge sharpness across the whole frame. This inevitably requires small aperture settings with each camera and lens combination and the associated slow shutter speeds; a substantial tripod and versatile ball-head is therefore an essential accessory. I rarely use corrective filters in the field. However, neutral density filters, be they fixed or graduated, are important filters and can be useful in handling scenes of contrasting light such as sunsets and sunrises or when a very slow shutter speed is required. I will also use a circular polarising filter when I feel that an image would benefit from its use. However, now we are in the digital era and given the capablilities of software such as Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop, many minor imperfections encountered in the field can be corrected post capture at the development stage back in the studio.

Although working in the digital era has probably been much more productive for me, I must admit that I do miss the suspense and the thrill involved when employing one’s specialist skills to obtain a good image on film, particularly in challenging weather or lighting conditions. The suspense is then extended through the days of hopeful anticipation of a successful outcome waiting for the developed film to return from the laboratory. I firmly believe that the lessons I learned through the use of a basic film cameras have been extremely useful throughout my career.

My Cameras
My Cameras (L to R and not to scale) Olympus OM1, Fuji 645Zi, Fuji GX617, Nikon D850
My Cameras

My very first camera was a Praktica LTL, a fully manual 35mm SLR with an internal battery powered exposure meter; it was an uninspiring piece of kit but tough and reliable, or so I thought. On reflection the results I achieved were poor, so much so that most of my early material eventually found its way into the bin. It was the decision to go to trekking in Nepal that made me change to Olympus OM35mm systems, a move for which I shall be eternally thankful.

Between 1977 and 1989, I captured all of my material in 35mm format using Olympus OM system cameras and lenses which I chose because they were simple to use, light and compact. They proved to be very reliable cameras and perfect for the conditions in the Himalaya with its extremes of temperature and altitude. My first Olympus camera was the legendary OM1, chosen because of its reputation built on a successful performance on Chris Bonington’s expedition to the South-West Face of Everest in 1975. I later moved on to using the OM2 and finally the titanium bodied OM4Ti. The lenses I used were a combination of Zuiko fixed length and zoom units ranging from 28mm to 150mm.

Having compared his 645 format images with my own 35mm offerings, it was a member of my 1986 Imja Tse expedition who persuaded me to move up to medium format. The camera I bought in response was a Pentax 645, but to my frustration I struggled with its weight, bulk and multiple lenses. A few years later I finally followed my friend’s advice and example and exchanged it for the Fuji 645Zi. With its 55-90mm zoom lens, the Fuji fitted my needs perfectly for the same reasons as the Olympus cameras. I used the Fuji645Zi as my main camera at home and abroad for more than a decade. Film stock in those early days was Kodak Ektachrome Professional 64, but later Fuji Velvia 50.

The Fuji GX617 Panoramic Camera

In 1998 I decided to experiment with panoramic format and made a major investment in the specialist Fuji GX617 camera and its three fixed lenses, the 90mm f5.6 EBC Fujinon SWD, 180mm f6.7 W Fujinon and 300mm f8 T Fujinon. The expense did not stop there; a specialised graduated filter, a separate exposure meter and a new Gitzo carbon fibre tripod followed. I also had to adopt a whole new approach to my photography when working with the Fuji GX617; aware of the need to carry all this weight and bulk I became more particular in my pre-location planning and organisation.

The results from Fuji GX617 were superb, and the return of any Velvia transparencies from the laboratory was always a rewarding event even if there were only four images to every roll of 120 film. These large, pin-sharp and beautifully saturated images were twelve times the size of the 35mm images that I had once been accustomed to. However, the Fuji GX617 came with its own problems; not only its weight and the complexity of setting it up on location but also the need to carry those three heavy and unwieldy prime lenses.

The Digital Era

Upon the arrival of the digital era, the demise of the GX617 was inevitable. For practical reasons I was inclined to convert to digital media as soon as I knew the technology could produce images of merchantable quality. It needed to be a sound commercial alternative to film for the professional photographer working in the outdoors, particularly at high altitudes. And so, in 2002, with a sad heart and against the advice of some of my fellow professionals, I finally sold the Fuji GX617 and with the proceeds purchased the 12 megapixel Canon EOS1Ds. In so doing I became one of the first outdoor photographers to identify the benefits of working in, and moving to, digital format. I have worked exclusively in digital format since 2003 and without any regret.

That first Canon EOS1Ds was replaced in later years by successive versions of the Canon EOS5D as development of this model steadily progressed. However in 2014 I converted to Nikon with whom I have been very pleased. My current camera is the Nikon D850; its 46 megapixel sensor produces stunning images of up to A2 in size, with a superb dynamic range that handles well the high contrast light and shadow detail that is an inevitable characteristic of so many sunrise and sunset images. I have been tempted to experiment with the latest mirrorless cameras; however I have not been moved to invest in one. So far I have not found anything that handles as well and is as reliable as my faithful Nikon D850.