Edges of Ardnamurchan
In March 2020 I spent a week staying in Grigadale, Ardnamurchan on a residential workshop.
It was a surreal place to be whilst a global pandemic was breaking out, and the chaos I came back to at home just highlighted how remote and peaceful it was on the very Western end of the peninsula.
During the week I settled into a project, capturing edges and transitions between the elements which told the story of the landscape for me.
I’ve presented the project in a pdf eBook, which you can download below.
This is free to download, however if you enjoy the images and can afford to, I would like to request that you make a donation to either Shelter, Médecins Sans Frontières or a local charity of your choice which is helping those who need it in the community during this difficult time.
A year later I self-published a small run of physical books of Edges of Ardnamurchan. These were A4 landscape format with an updated image selection and sequencing compared to the PDF eBook. Head over to the Biblioscapes library for a page turn video of the complete book.
The photographs in this book were taken over the course of one week spent in Grigadale, Ardnamurchan.
On arrival it took a couple of days to become accustomed to the remote surroundings, so different to my usual photography around the woodland of Nottinghamshire. I couldn’t process the physical scale of the place, big vistas just didn’t do it justice, making it seem small and simple. It demanded a different approach.
Driving for several miles through the magma chamber of an extinct volcano, you can’t help but appreciate the forces and timescales that went into creating the landscape we see today. Everything felt slightly overwhelming.
I’m used to distilling the landscape down to smaller details and that was my initial response here too. The subjects may have been different; sea, sand, rock, woodland and skies, but it was a much easier approach for me to point the camera at the floor than try to make sense of the wider view.
Whilst photographing each detail individually said something, the recurring theme became the edges between them.
Where sea met sand. Where sand met rock. Where rock met sky.
Transitions between the elemental parts that made up the story of Ardnamurchan.
For someone from the Midlands, a flat landscape consisting mainly of arable farmland, these transitional edges were important. They explained the nature of this otherworldly location. The shoreline is the most obvious of these, being on a long peninsula surrounded by sea on three sides and including the most Westerly point in the UK mainland.
In some cases, these edges aren’t represented in a single image. I searched for repeating patterns, shapes or textures which tied one location to another, maybe using a completely different subject or scale. This allowed a portrayal of the connection between elements in a less literal sense. A small rock echoing the shape of the vast volcanic ridges, or a sandbank taking the form of the crest of a wave.
While the human element is hidden from the majority of images, it was an important part of the landscape. It was surprising in a remote location like this how often I was trying to avoid telephone wires creeping into the edges of a composition. A nuisance at times for a photographer but a lifeline for the small local settlements, giving them some connection back to the outside world.
Because of this it felt right to include some signs of habitation within the photographs, as the human impact on a landscape over time is often as important as the geological processes.
This human element was only reinforced by the fact the time in Ardnamurchan ended just one week before the UK went into the first lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Even in the remote Scottish landscape we were checking news feeds and emails to keep track of what was unfolding in what seemed like a completely different world.
Ardnamurchan is the kind of place you yearn to be in times like these.