The Herald Calendar offer Sharpshooters capture the natural beauty of Scotland
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