The Her­ald Cal­en­dar of­fer Sharp­shoot­ers cap­ture the nat­u­ral beauty of Scot­land

The Herald Magazine - - etc TRAVEL - RUS­SELL LEADBETTER

WHEN it comes to pho­tog­ra­phy, Ron­ald Stokes’ phi­los­o­phy is a sim­ple one: com­pose your im­age, take your time, don’t rush it.

It’s an at­ti­tude that has stood him in good stead. Although he took up pho­tog­ra­phy only eight years ago he has shown his tal­ents in re­peated en­tries in The Her­ald’s Pic­ture of the Day slot and in our an­nual char­ity cal­en­dar.

This year’s cal­en­dar, which is now on sale, fea­tures two ex­cel­lent shots of his – Buachaille Etive Mor on the cover and the rail­way bridge at Loch Awe as the il­lus­tra­tion for Au­gust.

Stokes, 71, who lives in Dunoon, has been re­tired for 12 years. For 44 years – 38 with his own busi­ness – he de­signed and carved grave­stones.

“We cov­ered the is­lands and up north. We had agents all over the place,” he re­calls. “I took up pho­tog­ra­phy in 2010 be­cause my wife Ileen was get­ting fed-up look­ing at me, and it has given me more of an artis­tic look at life than when I had all the de­sign work I was do­ing with the grave­stones for all th­ese years.”

He was taken un­der the wing of Archie Reid, a Dunoon pho­tog­ra­pher and a friend of his when they were younger.

“Ev­ery­thing is kept sim­ple and ba­sic. Com­pose your im­age, don’t just go run­ning at it. Walk around. I try to do that so that, when I get to the screen, there’s very lit­tle left to do.

“My cam­era is a Canon 50D that I bought from Archie. It’s not like the huge cam­eras you can get nowa­days. I use a cou­ple of fil­ters [at­tached to the front of the lens to en­hance the fi­nal shot] and my favourite lens is a Sigma 17mm-70mm. Archie put me onto it and I can do ev­ery­thing with it. I also have a 70mm-200m Canon, which is a great lens but I haven’t used it as of­ten as I thought I would.

“I al­ways use a tri­pod and a re­mote con­trol when I’m do­ing se­ri­ous pic­tures – I pre­fer not to hand-hold the cam­era in that sort of sit­u­a­tion, in­volv­ing long ex­po­sures. If you’re shoot­ing a wa­ter­fall you might need an ex­po­sure of three or four sec­onds, for ex­am­ple.”

At first, Stokes did wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy “but there is so much time in­volved in it,” he says. “It’s heart­break­ing, try­ing to get a bird to land in a spe­cific place or a squir­rel to do your bid­ding. But land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy has its own heartache as well. You can run down to a scene where there are per­fect re­flec­tions in the wa­ter but by the time you get down to the loch, it is full of rip­ples … and it drives me nuts, but that’s all part of the fun.”

His shot of Buachaille Etive Mor was taken from the frozen river at King­shouse Ho­tel in Glen­coe. And at Loch Awe his eye was caught by the “to­tal flat calm” of the re­flec­tion.

“The two shots were bonus pic­tures, as I call them. I’m usu­ally up at four in the morn­ing when I leave Dunoon and I’m up north in pitch dark­ness, wait­ing for sun­rise. Then I work my way through til about 2pm and I think, ‘That’ll do me’.

“I shot both Buachaille and Loch Awe on my way home, though I don’t think they were on the same day. But it was nice to look at them once I got home.” His work in The Her­ald’s daily pic­ture slot cer­tainly has its fans. One woman has a file of all of his im­ages that have been printed since 2015, and she uses them as pic­ture cards to send to fam­ily and friends.

Other peo­ple have asked him for copies of his pho­to­graphs. He is only too happy to oblige.

“I don’t make any charge,” he adds. “I’m just happy, get­ting back into life and be­ing nice to peo­ple. A lot of peo­ple, af­ter all, can’t get out and about.”

Main im­age: Loch Achray

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