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The Cryptic Landscape Shoot

http://ithu.se/?author=7 Posted in Blog

Why You Should Take the Chance to Meet Your Heroes

The Cryptic Landscape Shoot
In March of 2013 a good friend of mine, who happens to be an author, sent me a cryptic email.
"I'm emailing you all on the off chance that one of you has a particular type of photo of Scotland.

It's not for me, but for a friend of a friend. I'm not even allowed to say what it's for, at the moment, but if you did have a suitable picture, I think you'd be pleased with what it was used for. We're looking for something that evokes a sense of isolation."

I have plenty of landscape shots that evoke isolation, particularly from my time spent on North Uist, but further questioning revealed that it should be a rocky landscape, not too specific, and with a figure in it. This is something my portfolio singularly, and deliberately, lacks. But I was more than intrigued enough to make an effort and capture a suitable image for my friend and his friend.

But something was niggling me....

It just so happened that March 2013 was one of those nice, late-Winter months in Scotland. Crisp and cold, but beautifully clear and bright. And I live on Skye, so no shortage of rocky landscapes. The only downside being it was a bit of a rush job, words that are usually rendered meaningless by the vagueries of island weather. However, I headed up to the Trotternish ridge, near the Quiraing, as it has quick access to the ridge top and 20 miles of jagged landslips and dramatic peaks and troughs to choose from.

But still something was niggling me....

The ridge already looks like the aftermath of a recent geological cataclysm (because it is, relatively), and this was further enhanced by the seasonal heather burning, which, from some angles, rendered it as the smouldering ruins of a self-destructive volcano. I also had to battle against the freezing wind and an extremely awkward model, the only one I could get hold of at such sort notice and one who possessed the required air of disappointment and truculence, namely myself. It's okay, they were all distance shots.

Burning Heather - Trotternish

But, despite the precarious nature of setting the camera on a tripod in a gale, putting it on timer, and then hoofing it far enough across rough terrain and perching myself on the edge of the ridge in as natural a pose as possible, it was an enjoyable few hours. And I only broke one tripod.

I got back, prepped the photos and emailed some proofs back to my friend.
After the usual toing and froing, fine adjustments, composing, cropping etc,..we had something he was happy with. And so I left it to him to it.

It was Saturday, so that evening I went to the pub and chatted about what had happened, what was it for, who could it be?

Then the niggle took solid shape.

As I mentioned, the friend in question was an author, and we often have discussions about authors we like, but there are few that we have in common, in general he's fantasy and I'm sci-fi, and there are even fewer that I know he is connected to. In fact, there was only one.

It was now the 1st of April and I received another cryptic clue -
"There's going to be something in the news on Wednesday, which is kinda loosely related to all this. Sad news, I'm afraid."

On the 3rd of April, 2013, the news broke and even though I had figured it out, I still strongly hoped I was wrong.


I had the chance back in 2006 to speak to Iain Banks at my friend's book launch, and I chickened out, afraid of turning into a fan-boy, or just not having the intellect to hold a decent discussion with him. I regret it. They say you should never meet your heroes as they usually disappoint, but I can honestly say that I would much prefer that disappointment to regret.

The photos didn't get used, events moved far quicker than anyone thought, and there's no guarantee they would have been used anyway. I'm not ashamed to say I would love to have had one of my photos used as the cover of any Iain Banks novel, much less his final one, but that isn't exactly important in this context.

I'm glad I had the chance....even if I didn't entirely know it at the time.

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