In a career spanning thirty-eight years, Colin Prior photographs and captures sublime moments of light and land, which are the result of meticulous planning and preparation and often take years to achieve.
Prior is a photographer who seeks out patterns in the landscape and the hidden links between reality and the imagination.
He has produced nine books that include, The World’s Wild Places and Living Tribes, which were published internationally and has just completed a seven year project in Pakistan’s Karakoram Mountains. His most recent project, Fragile explores the links between birds, eggs and their habitats and will be published in September 2020 by Merrell. Colin has been the subject of three BBC documentaries entitled Mountain Man is Patrons Ambassador for the RSPB.
We are absolutely delighted that Colin has kindly given us some of his time and insightful thoughts on his native land, Scotland.
How did your journey into photography begin, and how did growing up in Scotland influence that?
Ironically, my journey into photography didn’t begin on dry land but beneath the waves. Having spent time in the Scottish sea lochs and in the Red Sea, I won best newcomer to underwater photography in an international competition and that was the catalyst that changed my life. Thereafter, I decided to follow a career as a professional photographer and set up as a freelance, working mainly for PR and advertising agencies, however, I spent ten years establishing my reputation as a commercial photographer before I began to explore the landscapes of Scotland. The proximity of the Highlands and islands had a great influence on the development of my personal work and as someone with a passion of the natural world, I began spending time in Scotland’s wild places.
You must have photographed Scotland extensively; can you reveal where your favourite area is and one which you feel is under-rated?
Most of my time is spent in Wester Ross which is where the most dramatic landscapes in Scotland exist – it is a huge area, rich in both mountain landscapes and seascapes and one of which I can never tire. Part of its charm is due to its underlying geology which is predominantly Torridonian sandstone, laid down in estuaries and lagoons around one billion years ago which imbues the mountains with a pleasing red-brown patina.
There are many areas in Scotland that could be described as under-rated, which is normally the result of them not being known. For many, places such as Morvern or Knapdale are not on their radar screens, however the upside of this is that for those of us who do know about the treasures to be found in these places, means that we can continue to enjoy the solitude.
We’re constantly working on our environmental policies; how do you see the impact of tourism on the environment and what positive changes do you think that increased tourism could make to businesses?
Tourism is obviously good for many businesses, including my own, and for rural communities and there is great opportunities to develop many types of ecotourism throughout Scotland. These include wildlife watching, photography workshops and other specialist interest holidays as well as the myriad cultural experiences, such as whisky, castles and golf tours. Notwithstanding this, over the years I have witnessed some of the negative effects of increased tourism on the landscape which is being systematically trashed and, in some locations, destroyed by the volume of footfall, which is unsustainable. The drive for increased tourism in not being met by the necessary investment in infrastructure and services which is having a negative impact on the environment and what is most worrying that there is no safety valve.
If you had to choose the seven wonders of Scotland (natural and man-made) what would you pick?
The Cuillin of Skye
Old Man of Storr
Isle of Canna
Borerary (St Kilda)
Stacs of Duncansby
What sets Scotland apart from all other tourism destinations, or makes us unique for visitors, what do visitors love about Scotland?
I’m told by researchers, that visitors associate mountains, the colour purple and whisky with Scotland. I also believe that people visiting Scotland see large parts of it as being unspoiled and natural, even though the landscapes they see are the result of man’s intervention. There is no doubt that the diversity of landscapes to which people have full access to – mountains, forests and the sea is something that is quite unique, particularly with the right to roam – something that in many parts of the world would be unthinkable. If you are prepared to get off the beaten track, and away from the laybys of Glencoe, it is not difficult to find solitude and silence.
What is it about Scotland that you feel is unique and what are your hopes for the future?
For me, Scotland offers such a diversity of landscapes and my fascination has always been about the relationship between the elements of the natural world: trees, rocks, rivers, mountains, flowers, rock pools etc., all of which can be found in abundance within Scotland. I spend my life looking for what I refer to as ‘undisturbed places’ where the elements exist without human disturbance and where it is possible to capture unique convergences. These places largely exist because of their remoteness from centres of population and usually require effort to reach and they bestow on us a glimpse of what the past may have looked like.
Going forward I would like to see more of these locations being given protection and a higher level of investment being made into re-instating some of our ancient coastal forest together with the removal of invasive species, such as rhododendron. As cities and towns continue to expand outwardly into the countryside, it is crucial that we make a concerted effort to sustain and expand reservoirs of biodiversity, otherwise our legacy will be to pass on an extremely impoverished natural environment to future generations.
National Adventure Awards, Winner Business Category, 2015
Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture, 2020.