Scotland is a wonderful country; and a place of remarkable contrasts. For many who live here, the best it has to offer can be found in in the mountainous areas of the north and west. We've spent decades enjoying these areas (and, in the process, learning that other parts of Scotland also have a huge amount to offer, but that's another story). Our enjoyment has taken the form of walking with, at most, a little gentle scrambling when unavoidable in order to get from glen to summit or back again. But we are well aware that for many that would sound a very tame existence. Scotland's mountains have long been the haunt of climbers and skiers who, in the modern era, have been joined by mountain bikers, fell runners, kayakers, and others, all intent on enjoying the landscape in their own particular way.
"Extreme Scotland: A photographic journey through Scottish adventure sports" by Nadir Khan is a marvellous book that gives the more sedate amongst us a much deeper understanding of those with whom we share the wilder parts of our country. The book is essentially a collection of photographs of people doing remarkable things we'd never dream of doing ourselves. The quality of the photography is outstanding and it is organised into sections themed by season. But while this book does revolve around its photographs, there is more here too. We found author's sections on "composition" and "gear" very interesting. It was while reading the latter that a rather obvious thought occurred to us. Taking photographs of people doing extreme things in extreme situations often means that the photographer has to be in those same extreme situations. While carrying one or more cameras. And while trying to capture a fleeting moment in adverse weather or light. It's when you begin to think that through that you begin to realise just what an impressive achievement this book really is.
The other thing that shines through is the author's love for the landscape and the activities he portrays. In his introduction he says: "I saw my first 'mountain' when I was four years old. My first thought was that I had to climb it and see what the world would look like from its lonely summit... 'Topping out' set alight a flame that's never been extinguished, and started my journey... When I discovered photography as a student at Glasgow university, it was a natural progression to begin photographing my pals as we muddled our way though early adventures and misadventures in the mountains. That first mountain was in fact an old slag heap behind Law Hospital doctors' flats where we had moved shortly after coming to Scotland as immigrants, my father being a surgeon at the hospital. Inspiration is found in unexpected places..." It can certainly be found between the covers of this book.