I am a mountain landscape photographer and writer on the mountains of Britain and The Himalaya. Born and educated in Liverpool, I now live and work in the village of Invermoriston in the Scottish Highlands.
I was born in Liverpool and educated at the Merchant Taylors' School, Crosby. I first took an interest in mountain landscape photography in 1972 when I married Shiela, moved to, and then lived and worked in North Wales. My photographic skills are entirely self-taught, and I learnt the fundamentals of my craft during an intense and detailed exploration of every corner of what I now regard as my 'native' Snowdonia. This fascination with photography and the mountain landscape soon grew and before long had extended to include the mountains of the English Lake District and The Scottish Highlands.
My interest in the world's greater mountain ranges was inspired by images published from the British Everest and American K2 Expeditions in 1975. This inevitably led to a rejection of a traditional Alpine apprenticeship in favour of one in the Himalaya, and I made my first visit to the Himalaya - to the Khumbu Region of Nepal - in the spring of 1979. Further expeditions Followed in quick succession and by 1986 I had visited and photographed many of the 8,000 metre peaks of the Himalaya, the world's very highest mountains.
During this time I had established commercial relationships with several travel companies, including ExplorAsia, The Ultimate Travel Company (formerly known as Worldwide Journeys and Expeditions) and KE Adventure Travel. For the next 20 years I worked in the travel industry as a trekking consultant, professional trekking guide and expedition leader. This would subsequently encourage me to research, organise and then lead trekking, climbing and photographic expeditions to Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, Sikkim, India and Pakistan.
Whilst developing an international reputation as a mountain landscape photographer and trekking guide, I became a regular contributor to all the specialist UK outdoor magazines of the time, namely 'The Great Outdoors', 'Climber and Hillwalker', 'Lakeland Walker', 'High', 'Trail Magazine' and 'Country Walking' both as a feature writer and as a source of photographic material.
My written work included articles on the mountains of Scotland, Wales and the Lake District, trekking in the Himalaya and small team climbing in Nepal. 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 by travelling nationwide with a series of widely acclaimed public lectures and audio-visual presentations, I decided to publish a selection of images in the form of prints. As a resident of Fort William in the north-west corner of the Scottish Highlands, to where I had moved in 1981, the print I first 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.
Operating as Mountain Images I originally sold inexpensive poster prints to tourists through local retailers in Fort William, but with the arrival of the internet and on-line shopping I now specialise in producing high quality giclee photographic prints that I sell on request and exclusively from this website.
The business of Mountain Images continues to this day from my home in Invermoriston which provides the ideal base for regular photographic excursions into the wonderful mountains of Scotland's north and west. Sadly, the days of foreign travel are over but on reflection I must say that I enjoyed every minute of my time in the Himalaya. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to go there and to meet its peoples, particularly the Sherpas, many of whom became and remain good friends. The experience has had a profound effect on me and I can say without reservation that it not only changed the direction of my life but also my very outlook on life itself.
However, even having visited foreign lands and enjoyed so many wonderful experiences, nothing gives me greater pleasure than to be out on a still, frosty and colourful dawn somewhere in Snowdonia or the far north-west of Scotland. It is the enigmatic nature of the British mountains that makes them so fascinating and such a challenge to capture successfully on film.
My portfolio as a mountain landscape photographer transcends 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.
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 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
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.
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 1999, 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 dynamic range far superior to that of any of its competitors.