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198 Pages ~ Hard Back Cover ~ Signed by Author ~ Optional Personal Message

Lavishly illustrated with 100's of stunning images.

Chapters include 'Rivers & Lochs', 'Forest & Woodland', Moorland & Heath' and 'The High Plateaux'.

Other sections are 'Species in Focus' and 'Field-notes'.

 

Cairngorm National Park is a massive area of mountains and passes, rivers and forests, settlements and wild land, located in the heart of Scotland in every sense. A unique environment, it is home to many species of animals and birds, some permanently resident and others seasonal migrants. It is a place of special interest to walkers and climbers, but also to mountain runners and bikers. In 2019 it received a whole year’s attention from the BBC. Its scenery is glorious. Andy Howard has enjoyed an intimate relationship with the area since childhood, exploring its most hidden places and developing a close understanding of its wildlife. His photography displays the deep empathy that makes him a unique and sensitive guide.

 

Andy Howard is one of Britain’s leading wildlife photographers, specialising in the animals and birds of the mountains and coast. For many years, both his work and his preferences have taken him to the most remote areas of Cairngorms National Park. His first book, The Secret Life of the Mountain Hare, published in 2018, was an immediate success. He contributes to many periodicals and websites, as well as television programmes such as The One Show and Countryfile. He lives near Inverness with his wife, Lyndsey.

 

The Secret Life of the Cairngorms by Andy Howard

Book Review

by Audrey Coldron

Hard on the heels of the publication of his acclaimed The Secret Life of the Mountain Hare comes another astonishing volume from the award-winning wildlife photographer, Andy Howard. It is an extraordinarily beautiful book. I turned over page after page of stunning photographs of birds and animals, many in close-up showing every detail of feather or fur, some gazing directly into the eyes of the beholder, or vividly in action, taking flight, or running past the lens, against luminous backgrounds, and in the craggy mountain wilderness.

This is however much more than a collection of skilfully-wrought aesthetically pleasing pictures. They have been thoughtfully curated by the photographer with accompanying text that provides illuminating commentary and anecdotes.

The Cairngorms host the highest, coldest and snowiest plateaux in the British Isles and are home to five of the six highest mountains in Scotland. Distinguished writer Cameron McNeish, who lives in their shadow, writes in a foreword: ‘This beautiful book perfectly illustrates what you miss if you continue to walk with your eyes proverbially closed. The exquisite images, the rewards of Andy Howard’s infinite patience, remind us that these hills, scoured by wind, frost and snow, sculpted into corries and skirted by the finest natural forests, are like no others in our northern land.’

In the Introduction that follows Andy Howard narrates how his relationship with that extraordinary landscape was nurtured over many years and how he developed his interest and expertise in photography. He talks of being ‘a working artist with a camera’, responding to the environment and the wildlife, and of his ‘communion with a wild place and a hint at how the place enters the person as much as the person enters the place.

“Extraordinary”

The main body of the book is laid out in four sections. Loch and Rivers, Woodland and Forest, Moorland and Heath, and finally, as we reach the highest region, The High Plateau. Each section is prefaced with a couple of pages of text offering insights from his personal experience of the terrain, the habitat and its denizens – he’s an artist with words too – followed by the photographs of those denizens, taken in all weathers, along with occasional shots of the landscape, and grouped in such a way that I experienced them with new eyes, through Andy’s lens.

Each collection of pictures is interspersed with what he calls Field Notes to elucidate specific photographs. The first such note accompanies an extraordinary action photograph: What on earth is going on in this whirl of feathers? The note he titles ‘The tale of the osprey and the duck’ explains it all. An amazing encounter caught by his patient watchful camera.

There are creatures he finds especially attractive and in each section he features what he calls ‘Favourites in Focus’. In the watery world of the first section, Lochs and Rivers, he features the osprey. He lays out some ornithological information about the bird followed by a series of remarkable action photographs.

I was delighted that among other favourites in the Moorland and Heath section he featured one of mine, the mountain hare shown in both white winter coat and summer brown and in some unusual postures.

Implicit throughout the book, but articulated in Andy Howard’s Coda: ‘Seasonality and Schedule 1’ is his respect for the fragile environment of the Cairngorms and the creatures that depend on it. Not only is climate change a threat but the human footfall, especially tourism, or visitors thoughtlessly tramping through the terrain. He is clearly so in tune with his subjects that he knows not only when and how to approach them but especially when not to.

I think the fittest way to conclude my comments on this beautiful, enriching book is with Andy Howard’s own words: ‘My intention in the field is to meet nature with all that I have that is human including the science of the camera, and so to become more fully human.’

I have been truly enlightened by this book and recommend it in the very strongest terms.

 

The Secret Life of the Cairngorms is published by the lovely people at Sandstone Press


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