“J.M.W. Turner is said to have strapped himself to the mast of a boat in a storm. It was his way of fully experiencing the conditions.” Landscape Photographer Julian Calverley is talking about one of the greatest inspirations behind his own work.
Julian has been returning to North West Scotland, and the Isle of Skye in particular, for the past 11 years in order to capture the essence of what he experiences in this majestic environment. “I chase bad conditions,” he says, and he’s chosen the right place, the weather up here can be ferocious.
“Every time I’d driven the 12 hour trip to this region from my home near London, it had always been in a Discovery,” Julian explains. “But this is the first time I’ve driven the All-New Discovery so I’m pretty excited.”
“I like to come here in the winter, between September and March,” he says of the Isle of Skye, “I set out each morning well before dawn, so I can be pretty sure I will be alone. That solitude plays a big part in the process of making landscape photographs – being alone, feeling perhaps a little vulnerable in these big spaces, witnessing the power of the weather.”
“My initial impulse was simply to come to Scotland and try to capture this amazing landscape,” says Julian. “But I quickly realised I needed to embrace the atmospherics of the place. I’ve made a commitment. I’m not going to stay in the hotel just because it’s raining and the clouds are down.”
Julian checks over his kit list by torchlight in the pre-dawn: a beautifully crafted, purely manual camera made by the Swiss manufacturer Alpa; a tripod from northern Italian camera accessory experts Gitzo; the precision mechanics and spirit levels of the Swiss-made Arca tripod head; a vented storm umbrella he can hold in one-hand to protect his camera while shooting with his free hand; a waterproof covering for the camera “my least expensive piece of kit, but the one I return to the hotel for if I forget it”; merino wool base layer and full waterproof outerwear; maps, compass and, to get around, the trusted Land Rover Discovery.
“I might be standing where I have set up for more than an hour,” says Julian. “Yet the moment can come and be gone within a minute. That’s how quickly the conditions can change out here – and that might just be it for the rest of the day.”
In such tough conditions, with the possibility of so little reward, what’s the hook? “Bad weather is exciting,” says Julian.
“You have to brace yourself and you do have to be aware and look around. But I tell you what: if you can pull off a shot, it’s really satisfying.”
Julian on location in the Isle of Skye.
It is also about judging the right moment to pull back to safety. “It got to the point where I thought, okay, I’ve got it now, I’ve got to get out of here,” he remembers. “When it really closes in out there, it’s good to know I’m in one of these.” He taps the heated steering wheel of the Land Rover Discovery.
Julian’s Discovery has the same attention to detail as the rest of his equipment. Just as he selected the individual blocks of rosewood for the handgrips on his Alpa camera, so too he can select from oak, titanium and aluminium finishers and premium leather and fabric materials, including the finest Windsor leather, finished off with tailored twin-needle stitching for the interior of the car. It’s a nod of acknowledgement to those looking for the same as Julian: quality hidden in even the smallest of details.
- Land Rover vehicles have become a key fixture in Julian’s life.
- Julian's bespoke photography kit ensures the perfect shot.
“I’ve always driven Land Rovers,” Julian recalls. “I learned to drive in a lightweight ex-military vehicle. The day after I passed my test, I drove from Land’s End to John o’ Groats. I liked the idea of Land Rovers, the look of them, the utilitarian nature of the vehicle.”
As Julian’s circumstances have changed, so have his Land Rovers. From a Series I, he graduated to a Defender 90 and then up to a Defender 110. As his family and photography work grew, he eventually moved onto a Discovery 3 and then ultimately a Discovery 4.
“The design is beautiful,” he says simply of All-New Discovery’s dynamic front end and rising belt line. “And it’s comfortable,” he says after his first drive. “It’s luxurious without being ostentatious.”
Comfort, he stresses, is also a question of reliability. All-New Discovery’s versatility and off-road capabilities offer him the freedom to take it where he wants. “It’s a vehicle that’s at home in all environments. I’d be confident taking this vehicle anywhere,” he says.
- Travelling in comfort: Julian Calverley drives to the Isle of Skye in All-New Discovery.
- The remote but beautiful Isle of Skye.
Days don’t last long on the Isle of Skye in midwinter. Light is fading fast by three and is usually all but gone by four in the afternoon. Yet in these final moments, further mutations can appear as the clouds constantly shift, bathing a distant mountain or expanse of water in sudden, unexpected sunshine.
As Julian opens the boot of All-New Discovery, he explains how the new Intelligent Seat Fold fits his life. “When putting together your equipment list as a location photographer, the vehicle is an important part of it,” he explains. “This is not simply a seven-seater, it can be whatever you need it to be. The configuration gives me complete freedom to utilise a combination of seats and floorspace depending on the amount of gear I’m carrying.”
“It’s about flexibility, in any situation. When alone and on the road, as here on Skye, the cabin also offers a feeling of security and calm that can be helpful in rough conditions,” he says.
“In winter, weather conditions can change very quickly. But I know I’m safe in here. I can warm up very quickly.” And should the perfect storm come rolling in, offering up that one unique opportunity for capturing the perfect shot, the new robust, waterproof Activity Key wristband gives Julian the confidence that he will be able to get back into the vehicle and take off quickly, without rummaging for keys.
Once back in his heated seat, he can rely on the connectivity of the Touch Pro infotainment system, the latest generation of Ingenium engines and Terrain Response 2 system that will monitor the driving conditions and automatically select the best mode to tackle them.
All-New Discovery provides comfort and capability in the toughest conditions.
His love of the Scottish landscape and the Land Rover vehicle reveals an appreciation for a certain kind of enduring solidity and elegance. “Using equipment I am comfortable with and that I know I can rely on gives me the space and freedom I need to immerse myself in the scenery,” he says.
It is this that draws Julian back, often to the same remote places, time and time again. “People think you can visit a spot, take a photograph in 15 minutes, and that’s it, you’ve experienced it,” he says. “But I have found that the same place constantly changes with each visit. Capturing those moments gives me real satisfaction. I’ve seen something no one else will see. And I didn’t just see it. I captured it. I made a photograph.”
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