James Banks – Isle of Skye

James Banks describes his photography and photographing the Isle of Skye

Could you please provide a little background for yourself?

Absolutely – I’m a long time local resident, based in Takeley for the past 5 years on the outskirts of Hatfield Forest – where I live with my wife and three children. I work in “Technology” and love my gadgets and gizmos.

How did you get into photography?

Very much by accident really – I’ve been fortunate enough to travel widely, and as part of that decided it would be a shame not to take some pictures along the way. An impulse purchase of a DSLR on the way out to Cuba some years ago taught me two things very quickly: a) there is so much to try and capture and b) that I really didn’t have a clue how it all worked!!

I’d probably describe myself as a very keen amateur photographer – effectively self-taught – there are some great tutorials and explainers to be found both in print and on the web – and with some hard work hopefully slightly more capable today than where I started out!

What has joining the Camera Club meant for you?

I’ve only actually been a member of Bishops Stortford CC for a year or so – my first camera club in fact – but it’s been a really interesting year. The club is fantastically run with a great core of volunteers who put huge energy into all sorts of activities – whether organising competitions (with external judging) – or the plethora of regular speakers that cover a great range of subjects – everywhere from the art within derelict buildings and spaces – through the joys of architectural photography and even some of the more interesting outliers like underwater photography.

It’s been really interesting to see the work of a really talented bunch of photographers “close up” – and to have the opportunity to “compete” (in a fun way) across a range of challenges and tasks – and to learn through feedback and critique.

It’s probably worth me highlighting that despite having been a “member” of the club for the past year, I have yet to actually attend the club – or meet any of the members in person – the unique circumstances that have challenged the wider world over the past 15 months have seen the club provide the fantastic range of services and competitions through the medium of Zoom – and full credit to the team behind the club for making it all work so well.

What interests you about photography?

Being fortunate enough to travel to some really lovely locations around the world opened my eyes to what is “out there” – and quickly I realised that my real interest was around “Landscape” photography – and to be honest I find it a hugely relaxing activity – with the images I selected for this presentation, I might have been the only human being for a mile around me – peace, quiet – and lots of patience waiting for the conditions to coalesce into the “right image”.

As my knowledge and experience increased, I rapidly realised that there is a lot of “skill” and “technique” that goes into good images – everywhere from understanding the basics of photography – exposure, lighting, framing, etc – through to understanding the concepts of filters  – when I started I couldn’t have imagined carrying a 20kg bag of kit halfway up a mountain but it’s surprising how much “stuff” you can find a use for!

What I like it being able to capture the essence of a location or a scene – and being able to share that with others through the medium of modern technology.

Why did you select these images?

It was really pleasing to be asked by the club to provide a brief talk to members and overview of some of my experiences – not something I am accustomed to doing – but a great challenge and fun to prepare for. I’d used some of my photographs from the Skye area in various competitions over the year – and they’d done ok – and it probably became apparent that I’d got a body of work from this part of the world!

As part of that exercise – preparing – I had chance to review lots of my old content from the past 2-3 trips to Skye – and I really enjoyed picking out some of my favourites – I even found a couple that I’d overlooked originally and were really quite useable!

What I’m trying to capture and share here is the essence of the area – and the unimaginable contrast across the areas of the island – everywhere from gorgeous beaches that wouldn’t be out of place in the Mediterranean through picturesque peaceful lochs with amazing backdrops of the Cuillin range – and into the great variety of water to be found on the island – rivers, streams, lochs – and even snowy scenes just a few miles from the sunny beaches.

Could you tell us a little about the area – what made you choose the Isle of Skye?

Before I visited the island for the first time, with my family, I really had no idea what to expect – of course it is well known that the island (and indeed the highlands as a whole) is beautiful – but until you experience it for yourself – with the amazing west coast drive once you past the Erskine bridge at Glasgow – there are few parts of the UK to rival it – and it keeps getting better the further north one gets – and then when you reach the island itself – immense rocky structures and stunning vistas – I just knew this was the “place” for me.

The island itself is not small – and a fair amount of planning is needed for successful days – but for anyone that likes photography – or indeed just the great outdoors – I can only recommend it – and the pictures I selected cover only the barest part of what is out there to be discovered on the island – I hope to return later this year – and for many years to come.