Learn a bit more about Richard...
How long you’ve worked for Shetland Photo Tours and why you enjoy your job?
I am fascinated by the natural world that surrounds us and we are part of. Inquisitive by nature, I love being outside following, watching and observing animal behaviour. Early morning is one of my favourite times when most people are asleep, but outside of our warm cosy houses a whole world is waking up. It’s a quiet time away from manmade noise, the sounds of the natural world dominate the soundscape. Beautiful light falls across the land, a sense of wilderness and isolation is overpowering. It feels, smells and looks magical, and it’s what I enjoy most about my photography, being out in these wild places watching nature.
One of my favourite places is the coast as it has a wide variety of habitats, species and dramatic seascapes. For me the sea encompasses the power, turmoil and beauty of the world in which we live in. Studying marine biology and marine ecology has allowed me to develop an understanding of this dynamic environment, whilst my passion for SCUBA diving and photography has allowed me to explore and record the life that lives there.
I studied Marine Biology at the School of Ocean Sciences, University of Wales Bangor, before moving to the west coast of Scotland to the Scottish Association of Marine Science where I undertook a PhD in marine ecology. However, I did not go to university until I was in my late twenties. I was obsessed with aquatic habitats and fish, and initially went to Broksby College to study fisheries. The more I knew about the ecology of these habitats the more I wanted to learn. It was an incredible journey for me and I learnt so much about freshwater and marine ecosystems. Worked with several leading scientists, undertook different research projects and produced several scientific papers. During this time, I used my interest in photography to document many of the animals and habitats I studied. In my spare time I would SCUBA dive, photographing Scotland’s marine life, track and photograph otters and spend many a weekend on the Isle of Mull.
Most of my life, even from a very early age, has been spent outdoors and as I got more deeply involved in scientific research the more time I spent sat in the office behind the computer. The digital era was taking over and the sense of creativity being able to take digital images and be in full control of all the processes of image making took a hold of me. The longing to be out the office grew stronger and stronger, and I found myself spending more and more time exploring the natural world through my camera lens. I loved it but I also loved science. I believe in an evidence-based world where decisions made on how to manage the environment are based on rigorously gathered evidence, instead of hear-say. The dilemma built in me and I found myself debating science or photography, but the enjoyment of being in the field working on photographic projects won.
It has been a great fifteen years, a voyage of discovery in ecology and myself. I do not even see I have a working life, because I enjoy what I do so much that is it is part of my life. I have found ways to combine both photography and science and explore the ecology of the world through the lens. I hope that I tell stories about places, the environment, and the animals and plants that live there. Whether I manage this or not is up to you to decide, all I know it’s incredibly enjoyable trying.
Tell us something we didn’t know about the business, and why it’s a great place to go on a trip?
Shetland offers some of the UK's most unique wildlife and photography experiences. It is the only place in the UK where you can be photographing otters on the shore, we have the highest density of otters in Europe and a pod of killer whales appear hunting seals. Not uncommon to see pods of 100 plus white-sided dolphins or pilot whales and we see minke whales every day. The most northerly point in the UK, Hermaness on Unst is spectacular both in the scenery and its thousands of nesting seabirds, it literally takes your breath away.
What are you most looking forward to – will you be holidaying in Scotland this year too? Where’s your favourite place in Scotland to visit?
My family and I love holidaying in Scotland and for the last 10 years have been nowhere else. I have a love for islands and the west coast of Scotland - western Isles Uist, Harris and Lewis. Diving the sea lochs or the outer islands as far as St Kilda and North Rona and Sula Sgeir. We often have a week’s holiday diving Loch Carron during the winter, amazing shore dives. We did plan to go to north-west Scotland this summer with the kids but that has been put back till next summer and we are holidaying on Shetland this year.
What's your favourite experience that can be found only in Scotland?
Coastal wildlife is my love, both underwater and above, diving Scottish sea lochs is unique, both for the marine life and the experience. Surrounded by mountains, the scenery just blows your mind and then underwater unique seascapes with abundant marine life. Killer chase, when killer whales are spotted we have an excellent social media update that keeps everyone informed of where the killer whales are moving. The excitement of catching up with these incredible animals and then following them and watching their hunting behaviour is unique to Scotland. There are several production companies from around Europe now working on programs about Scottish killer whales.