Richard Gaston: A Wandering Gaze at Scotland’s Wilderness
The scenery of the Scottish wild is an understated beauty often recalled in works of fantasy and fiction. Photographer and wanderlust Richard Gaston is back to share his big project on experiencing and photographing the wilderness of the temperate and oceanic country.
Read our one-on-one with Richard here in Lomography Magazine.
Hi Richard! We’re glad to have you back in Lomography. Firstly, how did you get to collaborate with Wild Guide? Have you been shooting around Scotland even before, or is the whole series really for Wild Guide?
Hi, it’s great to be back! Thanks once again for having me at Lomography.
Alongside my close friends — and colleagues so to say in this case — Kimberley Grant and David Cooper, ‘Wild Guide Scotland’ is project we’ve been collectively working on since summer 2015. Only until now (October 2016), the travel compendium has been completed on our behalf leaving the publishers, ‘The Wild Things Publishing’ to make the final touches ahead of its publication in spring 2017.
Individually we have all been interested in the Scottish outdoors for many years prior to this project, therefore it made sense to collaborate together on a mutual interest. It all happened on a single trip to the Trossachs National Park when we had briefly discussed the idea of getting in touch with a mutual contact, ‘The Wild Things Publishing.’ This then came to fruition after we followed up with an email to the publishers and in return, received a positive response with an upcoming project they had coming up. The project then began to take shape after coinciding with many of our personal journeys, alongside specific trips allocated to covering areas for the book
Apart from being the photographer, it’s also mentioned that you’re also one of the co-authors of the book as well. May you share us how you researched for the most exciting places in Scotland?
A lot of comes down to geographical knowledge of the country developed from previous trips where we had located some remote spots along our travels. We really want the book to provide an essence of remoteness as well as being accessible to all ages, so we combined isolated locations with local wonders, overall giving a well-rounded book to all audiences.
Other than prior knowledge, research was done online using various web sources that plot out detailed routes in the highlands. This was then marked onto a paper map as we prepared for our journey into the rolling glens, dramatic coast and secluded beaches. Most of all, we wanted to promote the feeling of discovering places for yourself along our recommended routes — finding the wild camping spot situated almost the valleys of Scotland’s wild and wonderful landscape — just like we have discovered them throughout our personal time exploring the highlands.
May you share us a brief description of how the whole trip went? How many places or stops did you visit?
Initially, we were under the debate whether or not to carry out the project in one simultaneous trip or to make gradual progress over a longer space of time. We decided the latter due to external commitments and logistics, therefore we have been working on this from summer 2015 until Autumn 2016. In total, over the space of around 18 months we have visited (and photographed) about 312 locations and listed around 650 recommended places around the country.
Being so grateful for this epic opportunity, we acknowledge how fortunate we have been to undertake a project as such. Having visited every corner and almost every island in the country we have gained invaluable knowledge that will remain forever — that’s the most important aspect for me personally, not the financial benefits it may have. More than ever, I am in complete awe of Scotland now that my geographical knowledge has developed.
The topography of Scotland is mostly of mountainous terrains and hills, hence traveling around can be challenging. What’s the most difficult part for you when making the series?
The challenge of this publication was mainly finding the balance of what is wild and what is accessible. We had to accommodate to all ages and audiences, providing a well-rounded book that can be enjoyed for those in search of the wildest bothies (a bothy is a basic shelter, usually left unlocked and available for anyone to use free of charge. Often found in remote and mountainous areas of Scotland) or for those looking for a wild swim in the untouched white beaches. We each spend a significant amount of time amongst the highlands, so the walking was no challenge being so familiar with the territory, however we had to assess which listings would be realistic for all readers.
Despite the challenges though, I’m sure you had an amazing time in Scotland. Tell us, which specific spot/place did you enjoy staying in and would recommend most to the readers?
Either in the remotest bothy or in one of the unique hostels. More specifically Kearvaig bothy, a secluded white house nestled amongst to majestic coastline of Cape Wrath — the most northwesterly point of the UK. Separated between 107 square miles of moorland from the mainland, this superbly remote location is one for those looking to experience the intensity of isolation.
Gearrannan Blackhouse Village on the other hand is a unique croft village — modernised blockhouses available as self-catering or a comfortable hostel — idyllically situated in a secluded bay on the Atlantic coast of the Isle of Lewis.
How about activities? May you share us the activities you did in Scotland which you think will also be enjoyable to travelers?
We have included a mixture of activities from hiking trails, wild camping, wild swimming, artisan food and secluded retreats to name a few. Wild swimming is an unforgettable experience to primarily highlight, swimming in the hidden glens under the cliffs or discovering a secluded white beach amongst unspoilt coastline. The elemental Scottish outdoor experience also wouldn’t be complete without a humbling experience sitting by a campfire.
As a landscape photographer, what elements do you usually look for in an image?
My personal work holds a preference in utilising natural light and colour. I aim to illustrate experiences literally as I see them, documenting the peaceful combination of nature and man through composition and the element of secludedness. Throughout my imagery lies a vast sense of overwhelming landscape surrounding the micro aspect of mankind, conveying insignificance and feebleness in the face of epic landscape. My photography style coincides with my views on mountain culture — we are temporary, minute figures spending a fleeting amount of time in the chaos that is nature.
Scotland offers amazing views and scenery. Which among your photographs do you think represent the island the most?
Due to Scotland’s mountains lacking in altitude they can be viewed as hills to those out with the country. However what they lack in altitude, definitely make up for in attitude. Therefore I would like Scotland’s mountains to hold a more formidable reputation, especially in Winter. It’s a dangerous place which requires a lot of skill and knowledge and if misinterpreted the consequences can be devastating.
The four seasons provide and astounding change in appearance, so it’s difficult to capture the pure essence in one image of Scotland due to its ever changing scenery. The topography also varies dramatically throughout all corners, so again is hard to accurately reflect the country in just one image. I’d like to share this image nonetheless, the uninhabited archipelago of St Kilda — the remotest and westernmost point of the Outer Hebrides located over 100 miles west of the mainland. Home to the highest sea cliffs in the country and exceptional landscape, arguably some of the finest in the country.
We also learned you photographed Iceland, the Nordic, among others. Personally, which sort of places do you like to take pictures of?
I tend to warm towards colder climates boasting dramatic and untouched landscapes. Consequently this draws out the purer elements of the world; the lack of human infrastructure, raw conditions, opportunity to witness wildlife and overall, the feeling of isolation. The natural essence of the Arctic accurately reflects what I am aiming to describe here.
Lastly, what’s next for you? Any creative endeavor or work in progress?
From now, I will continue to develop my photography professionally and personally. I will procced to take on new personal projects in relation to the outdoor life and take on more challenging commissions varying from major fashion labels to lifestyle publications.