on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Extreme Scotland by Nadir Khan

Book Review

Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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Most landscape photographers go out of their way to exclude humans from their photographs. But the landscape that we love is also a backdrop for some amazing sport and leisure activities. Nadir Khan, who you can read about in this issues Featured Photographer, specialises in photographing this interaction between the most intense of these individuals and our fabulous Scottish landscape.

It’s taken Nadir quite some time to put together all of the photographs for this book, to take a set of images created for discrete events - climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, etc - and then to find the right opportunities to round them out into a coherent book. The result is a fantastic cross-section of the best of Scottish adventure sports.

The book is organised around the seasons and as we’re in Scotland, Winter definitely comes first and quite rightly takes up over a third of the book. Nadir’s mini-editorial on “The Hurting XI, 11”, one of Scotland’s hardest mixed climbs (XI, 11 means bloody hard and bloody scary) shows just the sort of bad weather that Nadir ends up in - in this case hanging from a fixed line watching Ines Papert inch her way up a vertical frozen rock face on needle points of crampons and axes at -10 degrees in gale force winds.

Following this theme, we see wonderful images of Scottish outdoor types braving the elements in the vertical domain. It’s that harsh that when you see Blair Aitken skiing down the Nevis Range in blue skies you’re caught thinking “lightweight!” (unless you know the slope).

Interspersed with these images are little mood setting editorial pieces and poems, just a couple of pages of writing from various people about their idea of what Extreme Scotland means.

Spring follows Winter (late as usual) and mountaineering, mountain biking and skiing take over. Wonderful spring weather abounds with low sun and the occasional moody sky. Summer is a lot shorter, mostly images of people running (away from midges I presume) and hanging off cliffs (even more desperate anti-midge tactics). Nadir has a way of setting people against the landscape to the best of both parts of the images. The bouldering images in this section are some of my favourites, glimpses of mountains in the background, great use of off-camera flash to make the most of the climbers.

One of my favourite images of the book is of three sunlit mountain bikers riding a route on Beinn Fhada looking back toward Stobh Coire nan Lochan in the background. A perfect balance of human and landscape.

The final part of the book is a short Autumn section, making the most of the rich colour of the changing season.

This is obviously not your usual landscape photography book but I think it gives a wonderful idea of how people can be included in landscape photography to the benefit of both and a good reminder that for every possible mountain vista we take there are likely a whole bunch of people enjoying ‘our’ world in a completely different way.

A big congratulations to Nadir Khan to producing an excellent book on the denizens of the Scottish landscape.

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