In Focus: Richard Gaston Talks Landscape Photography and the Wonders of Scotland

Our Spring/Summer '19 campaign imagery for our new Explorer collection was shot by the incredible landscape photographer Richard Gaston. Richard is an expert when it comes to capturing the beauty of Scotland and in February he travelled to the Scottish Highlands with Troubadour co-founder Samuel Bail. Together they put the new Explorer bags through their paces: swimming, climbing, cycling and running, from loch to peak.

We asked Richard to share his insights about what it takes to shoot successfully in Scotland and how his expertise played into this one-of-a-kind photoshoot…

Are there any particular challenges of a photoshoot in the Scottish Highlands?

The weather in Scotland is unpredictable and this can be frustrating – there have been plenty of occasions when I’ve failed to get a shot because of changing conditions. It’s important to be ready to capture a fleeting moment, so patience and persistence are essential. As the old saying goes, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

That said, Scotland offers easy access to beautiful landscapes. It’s a place of rugged beauty and atmosphere and I’d like to think my photos show the country in a different light compared with traditional landscape photography. I hope a modern approach to shooting Scotland can be taken from my work.

"Scotland’s unpredictable weather creates unique moments, such as the instant when sunlight beams through a break in the clouds and onto a mountain summit."

What are your guiding principles when you're photographing people in a landscape?

One of the hardest things about working in a beautiful location is fitting everything you want into one frame. It’s best to focus on a tight composition, with the figure as the main subject and the landscape as a backdrop.

For me, a great landscape image is one with a subject as the foreground, but off-centre – it might be a person, some wildlife, or a tree – and a rolling landscape as a background. This is known as the ‘rule of thirds’ in photographic composition. Alternatively, if there is no subject in the foreground, a cleaner image can be created by focusing just on the vastness of the landscape.

Minimal backpack for biking
Men's cycling bag
"I like to create diptychs or triptychs, pulling together two or three similar images of the same subject, using contrasting compositions."

How does the weather affect your work?

In landscape photography, I think the weather is responsible for 50 percent of the final image, with composition and depth of field each accounting for another 25 percent of the end result.

On a bright day, I focus on the lighting being behind the subject to create a soft and dreamy feel. In bright weather I tend to shoot landscapes at sunrise or sunset, because the light in images taken during the middle of the day can be too harsh. On an overcast day, it is mainly about the composition and depth of field.

"The best shots are about working with natural elements and wildlife to create an image that can’t be replicated."

Any special memories of this shoot?

The weather was almost consistently sunny, which is virtually unheard of in Scotland in February! Sunshine brings its own challenges – the subject can be too bright. So for most of the images I had to make sure Samuel was backlit, because any side lighting was just too bright.

"This was my first experience of a brand being dedicated to shooting in all types of landscape, including climbing in extreme terrain. The biggest challenge – notwithstanding the logistics of shooting on a mountain – was to capture all the different sports in a similar style."

To see more of Richard’s photography, take a look at his website – highly recommended!