Inside this issue
Richard Childs finds unchartered territory after a bridge closure
Ok, I admit it. I'm a bagger, a list ticker, a trophy collector. I've accepted what I am and I'm not going to change. Over the years I've collected lots of different things from Matchbox cars, tin soldiers and beer mats as a youngster to sea-washed bricks, mountain tops and footpaths as an adult. I love nothing more than pouring over one of my extensive range of maps while listening to one of my extensive collection of Classical or Jazz CD's while drinking from a selection of ground coffees, planning my next hill walk, mountain climb or even footpath to add to my extensive collection. And, I love cataloguing and listing these collections too. Beside the total satisfaction of using a view camera I believe that is the reason I am more than happy to stay firmly in the analogue photography camp for now. I am able to amass a collection of images on celluloid; to hold them, cherish them, file and catalogue them, count them up and work out how far they would stretch if lined up end to end (OK, perhaps I'm revealing a little too much about my personality now!).
Photography evolved out of my passion for the outdoors and I feel incredibly privileged to be able to work in my favourite places, at my own pace and for the most part without commercial pressure dictating the style or substance of my imagery. Photography has also enabled me to indulge my tendency to collect by pursuing a number of personal projects. These include climbing to photograph all 284 Munros ( Scottish mountains over 3000ft) with my Large Format gear, visiting and staying in all of the mountain bothies ( a perfect partner to the previous challenge) and most recently producing an extensive body of work from the vast tract of spectacular, empty land that I am so lucky to live on the boundary of.
A year or so ago an over-height truck tried to cross Connel Bridge which lies just two miles south of my home. The bridge had be closed for a considerable time while the vehicle was dragged back out from beneath the giant steel structure and for structural engineers to travel up from Glasgow to inspect the
damage. During this 36 hour period anyone south of the bridge wanting to get home had to divert around the 100 mile perimeter route provided by the A85, A82 and A828. Within this huge circuit lies a great tract of land, virtually uninhabited with only four minor roads penetrating in at Glen Etive, Forest Lodge, Glen Creran and Bonawe. The entire area is however criss-crossed by ancient drove roads, stalker paths and landrover/forestry tracks that have become the target of my insatiable need to explore, discover and 'collect'. This area has more 3000ft mountains than Wales and England combined (25 in total), an equal number of Corbetts and a fair number of smaller mountains that provide excellent vantage points to view their larger cousins. To date I have climbed about 25 peaks in the area but am now dedicating two or three days a week when I am based at home to exploring its ridges and glens.
It's interesting that around the edge of the area are a number of Scotland's most iconic views, all of which could, if you felt so inclined, be photographed from the comfort of your car. Blackrock Cottage, Buachaille Etive Mor, Castle Stalker, Glencoe and Kilchurn number among the most photographed views in Britain and will continue to be for years to come, and yet behind these locations lie a whole world of possibilities just waiting to be discovered by the photographer. Looking at road maps all of the upland regions of Britain are divided up the same way by major roads creating many 'island' wildernesses for us to venture into and discover.
Unless you live in the South-East of England you are rarely more than 2-3 hours from a National Park or similar area and while all of these will have their popular spots for photographers they will be able to provide a wealth of material and probably a lifetime's work if you are prepared to go the extra mile required to get away from the crowds. So, I would advise that you make yourself a good cup of coffee, put on a CD, get out a map and start planning your next trip to somewhere local but new.
The Letter from Scotland is brought to you by Richard Childs, a landscape photographer who works with a large format camera and is based around the West coast of Scotland. If you want to see more of Richard's work or take a look at his excellent workshops, visit Richard Childs Photography