When most people think of Scotland, they think of the Highlands and Scotch whiskey, and enjoying the occasional meal of haggis. Well, maybe the haggis not so much. As for myself I enjoy the Lowlands, which includes Glasgow and Edinburgh. Within the Lowlands, I particularly love Southwest Scotland.
Over the past few decades I have had an opportunity to spend several occasions in the area of Southwest Scotland, especially around Castle Douglas and Kirkudbrightshire (Cur-COO-bra-sheer). I especially love this area of Scotland because I can walk and observe and take photographs.
As the world gets more and more crowded, and it seems that people can’t go for one minute without checking their iPhone or iPad or whatever smartphone or tablet, a walk along the roads of Southwest Scotland which are generally, free of traffic, can be walk back in time. It is also a time to be free of the distractions of everyday life and to just enjoy your surroundings. Don’t misunderstand me, because I, too, love all the benefits of iPads, e-mail, Skype, and the methods of communication that modern society offers, but once in awhile, it is nice to be out of touch with your everyday life and sink into a slower rhythm of life.
I have been to Southwest Scotland in every season. Summer is a wonderful season there, because the weather is better, although to be fair, I was probably just lucky to have sunny days. Well, at least, it was a little warmer. The one problem with summer is that the days are long, which means getting up really early and stopping late at night. The winter is fine but bitterly cold. The spring is nice but still a chance of snow and cold. Now, my favorite time is later in the autumn, November in particular. Yes, the weather can be miserable and cold, but if there is a break in the weather, the light is always perfect. I like the fact that anytime between dawn and dusk the light can be ideal for photography. It usually is a full day from 9 to 5. During the days of film, I once walked out from the place I was staying and walked a mile or so to the left and took photographs.
In the afternoon, I did the same but walked to the right. The photographs I got were used in a Japanese magazine and included the cover photograph. It seemed to me the beauty of the area made the job very simple because it lent itself to photography.
A few years ago I was visiting the Castle Douglas area but was only staying a couple of days. I made myself rise early and do some photograpy as the sun came up. After flying from Washington Dulles to London Heathrow, then driving seven hours to my destination, I was very tired. The next morning I really wanted sleep, but the weather was good, so I had no excuses to make. So, there I was roaming the roads at 5 AM. Now, normally, I can wander and the sheep and cows just look at me with little interest, unless I try calling them with my own versions of moo-ing and baa-ing. Well, this morning was a little different because all the animals seemed to be calling me, or, in reality, warning other animals that a stranger was around. During this time, I was really hoping that the local farmers were early risers, because animals were making such a cacophany of sounds that I was sure that all the farmers would call the local constabulary about the stranger with the camera in their neighborhood.
Well, as it turned out, I saw no one and wandered happily with all the animals calling after me.I did find out the reason for the constant bellowing at the sight of me. All the animals had been in barns for the winter, and during the first few days that they experience freedom they sound off at any strange figure out and about. After a few weeks they are back to their routine of ignoring early morning strangers.
Although there are places in the world that I would rather live (with the weather being the main factor), I wish I could spend time in Scotland every year and in any season to photograph its beauty. For me, around every corner and every bend in the road is another wonderful photograph. It could be escaped cows being herded home, sheep through a raindropped window, or a lovely Scottish road with a grassy median. No matter when you visit, Southwest Scotland offers unending photograhic opportunities. All you need to do is get out and wander with camera in hand.
Guest blogger: Ron Colbroth
Ron Colbroth is an editorial, travel, landscape and fine arts photographer, whose images have been published in numerous magazines in the US and around the world. He has a passion for cooking and enjoying wonderful wines.