Colin McPherson

Photographer and Visual Artist

Posts tagged ‘Argyll’

Guest blog by Louise Tickle

In November, I will be hosting a short, residential writing course with award-winning journalist Louise Tickle, someone who I have worked with on various assignments over the last decade. Here, Louise talks about her appearance this week on a popular BBC Radio 4 programme.

Easdale island, Argyll on Scotland’s west coast. © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved

“How do you even begin ‘writing to challenge and change your world’? 
This is the title of a three-day intensive course I’m running on Easdale island in November, so I thought I’d jot down some thoughts as to how I try to approach the question in my own work, by describing a process I’ve just undergone over a concentrated 24 hour period.

On the morning of Tuesday 2nd July, I was invited to appear as a “witness” on Radio 4’s The Moral Maze. It would go out, live, the very next evening. The programme would deal with the issue of anonymity in our legal system, which pertains directly to the issue of how to protect people’s privacy in family courts. I am a strong proponent of greater scrutiny, accountability and openness in family court hearings, which in this country are almost always held in private. Requiring our family court system to be more open in order to hold the state to account inevitably however increases the risk to the anonymity of vulnerable children and their parents. It’s a genuine dilemma. 

Anyway, I said yes to the researcher’s invitation, and then realised I was trembling. This lasted a couple of hours. I know from previous broadcast experience that it can be hard to articulate nuanced arguments under pressure of time, live in a studio, with very smart people challenging you. 
In that 24 hour period however, I undertook a version of the preparation I might well do in order to write a comment piece. This involved:

  • emailing for help from people who know more than me on the subject at hand, and vitally, also have differing perspectives and starting points than my own.
  • reading two academic articles on the subject which gave a thorough historical perspective on the campaign for greater transparency and the arguments against.
  • reading through several of my own blogs and articles on the subject, to see how I’d constructed my arguments.
  • reading through the submissions made in my recent challenge in the court of appeal  so that I had a firm grasp of the legal basis on which freedom of expression in family cases had been justified in past cases.
  • writing out, and then reading out, the points I thought were most compelling in the case for more transparency, and writing out, and then reading out – by this time I was in a Paul cafe near Broadcasting House an hour before broadcast – my responses to the opposing view. I wasn’t very succinct, in fact it was all a bit rambly, but at least I felt clear in my own mind. 

Once ushered into the studio, the seven minutes in front of my interrogators flew by, as I was told they would. And it was lots of fun. More importantly, I am told that I got my arguments across. 

So, what does this experience show?
Writing – and communicating – to challenge and change your world is about so much more than being able to string an impassioned sentence together. I’d actually argue it is rarely, if ever, going to be about using florid rhetoric, or declaring how you feel, and far more about deep engagement with and research into the subject you care about, evaluation of the evidence, and very importantly, engaging in good faith and in detail with the facts that are strongest in support of the position opposite to your own. 
From Lucy Reed, a friend, a family barrister and chair of the charity The Transparency Project – Lucy has represented me in court – I have begun to learn the power of understatement when putting forward a point of view: from my (rightly) demanding editors at the Guardian over the many years I have been writing for them, I have learned the importance of basing my work on facts that can be evidenced. This is vital to all good journalism, but it is particularly so in comment writing that seeks to persuade: it is crucial in this situation to base your opinion on facts, particularly if you are going to say something that will outrage certain interest groups. See this article  I wrote about how the state kidnaps children: it was highly controversial and some people really didn’t like it, but my logic could not be picked apart because it was tightly based on verifiable facts.

Probably most importantly, look hard at the facts that don’t help you. How do you persuade the people who base their view on those facts? How do you find ways to change their minds or alter how they act? This is about being imaginative, empathic and willing to think creatively around a problem. Is there something you can offer that works for them, or that addresses their concerns (which may well be perfectly well-founded). I’ve found that while I can do the empathy, and am very willing to try to think around difficulties, I’m not actually all that great at coming up with creative solutions. However… I am really good at asking other people for their ideas and persuading them to help me, and then going hell for leather to make the good solutions they come up with happen. (Always, always give the people who help you the public acknowledgement and credit they deserve).
Finally, think big and go high. I’m not bad at this, for which I need to thank the RSPB for giving me my first job: a major national charity aims to influence at the highest levels, and being in this environment at the age of 24 set my expectations of what is achievable if only you dare to stretch.

So… in conclusion, effectively challenging and changing your world is never going to be only about the writing: it is also about preparation, a willingness to learn, and having the gumption to dare to ask for a lot, rather than a little.

But we will, absolutely and definitely, be doing lots of writing on Easdale as well as talking about attitude, ambition and persistence – and for anyone who fancies wild swimming in quarry in November, bring your cossie! 
More information on the course and bookings details here:

Hope to see you there!

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Summer 2018 photography courses on Easdale island

“I‘m so happy I attended the weekend photography course on Easdale island. In addition to their wealth of technical experience both Colin and Adam are patient and supportive instructors. They made sure everyone felt comfortable regardless of their experience level.”  AE, Edinburgh

We are delighted to announce the dates for four photography courses to be run on Easdale island in June and July, 2018.

Hosted and led by photographers Colin McPherson and Adam Lee, the courses will follow the same, successful format which proved so popular with participants last time round.

These short courses are aimed at people who love photography and want to take their practice to a new level. The island is our inspiration. Your teachers will help you explore what makes a great photograph and how to take one. Enjoy a restful and relaxing visit to one of Scotland’s hidden treasures – Easdale island.

We look forward to welcoming you to Easdale island, a stunning and unique location on Scotland’s west coast which will inspire you. Our aim is to share our knowledge and experience with you, to spark your creativity and to give you the confidence to explore new ways of seeing and making photographic images.

The course is run over two full days (three nights), and allows you time and space to explore and photograph. You will be given one-on-one support and the opportunity to share and discuss their work with others in the group.


Easdale is a lively place, with plenty to see and do, both on the island and in the immediate area. Once the centre of the Scottish slate mining industry, the abandoned quarries and tiny white-washed cottages give the place an historic atmosphere. Access to the island is via a three-minute passenger ferry which serves as a lifeline for the 65 permanent inhabitants. There are no cars on this inner-Hebridean island, but it does have a pub, tearoom/restaurant, museum and plenty of people coming and going. Set against dramatic coastal and mountain scenery, it is the perfect place to get inspired and take stunning photographs. It can be reached by train on the dramatic and beautiful railline from to Oban, or is a pleasant two-and-a-half hour drive from Glasgow.

The course is hosted and run by professional photographers Colin McPherson and Adam Lee, both of whom have distinguished careers and a wealth of experience in teaching and running practical photography workshops. Participant numbers will be between five and six per course and you will be accommodated in one of two beautiful cottages (Chattan and An Rubha) which look out over the Firth of Lorne to the neighbouring island of Mull. Each participant will have his/her own separate bedroom.

We welcome anyone on to the course who has an interest in taking photographs, even if your chosen camera is a Smartphone. Although there will not enough time to teach individuals about the basics of cameras, we can offer to guide you in many of the basic rules of image making which will help you  create stunning pictures.

Your arrival will be timed for late-afternoon on the eve of the course. We will use this time to introduce ourselves and each other, eat, relax, chat about photography and fimilarise ourselves with our surroundings. We’ll even have some fun doing light painting, using long exposures and flashlights to create beautiful images at twilight. The following morning, we begin our journey.

“I just wanted to say again how much I enjoyed the course, a truly inspiring experience… I’ve been doing lots of reflecting about what we covered and trying to put it into practice!”
SM, Argyll

On Day 1 we will look at simple, practical techniques to improve your photography skills… including best ways of composing photographs (the rues and how to break them!), understanding the light and photographing people. The day will be a mixture of easy-to-follow teaching and practical exercises which can benefit your existing skills. You will have time and space to explore the island and take as many photographs as you want. The day will be broken into three, with refreshments and advice available throughout.

On Day 2 we will put what you have learned into practice… we would like you to set yourself a little project for the day: whether it be a human-interest story, a set of themed landscapes (or seascapes?) or indeed anything which has sparked your interest. We can advise you on how to tell stories through multiple images, portraiture and how to create your own distinctive, personal style of photography.

Each participant will have plenty of time each day to put what they have learned into practice and you will be encouraged to make and share their work with the other participants at the end of each day. Adam and Colin always on hand to offer advice, guidance and cups of tea. There will also be plenty of down time – an opportunity to socialise and share stories and experiences – and to ask lots of questions. We’ll talk about what inspires us to take photographs, how we can turn ideas into stories and how to undertake and complete projects. You will have the chance to have your portfolio reviewed by both Adam and Colin, so please bring some examples of your work with you if you wish.
Meet the tutors…
Colin McPherson –
Born in Edinburgh, Colin McPherson has been photographing at home and abroad for a quarter of a century. He undertakes long-term projects alongside commissions and assignments for a number of newspapers and magazines and is represented by the Getty agency. He was a major contributor to the The Independent for over two decades, covering news, features, sport and entertainment for the paper. In 2012, he was a founder member of the Document Scotland photography collective. His work is published internationally and held in archives and collections such as the Scottish national photographic archive. His photography has been featured in more than 30 solo and group exhibitions and his project entitled When Saturday Comes was shown as part of Document Scotland’s The Ties That Bind exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh from September 2015 until April 2016. He is currently on a year-long assignment that is taking him to all five continents of the world, including working in more than 35 countries, which will be completed in April, 2018.

Kinnaber, 2000. © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Mull, 2009. © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Eigg, 2004. © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Holm Show, 2013. © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Adam is a freelance photographer and photography facilitator based in Liverpool. His work has been published in a number of national newspapers including the Observer, the Independent on Sunday as well as commissions for other magazines such as Aeon and Earthlines and clients such as Granta. Aside from commissioned work, Adam also undertakes personal projects, which have been exhibited across the North West of England. As a facilitator Adam works with a wide range of groups including adult and young people. His clients include Blackpool Museum, Liverpool City Council, Preston City Council, The Library of Birmingham, Redeye the Photography Network, Halton Borough Council and Halton CGG amongst others. Much of this work involve teaching photography skills to groups so that they can tell their own stories and advocate for the issues that affect them. Adam has received Art Council England funding for a number of these projects. Recently, Adam has started undertaking long distance walks, which included walking 600 miles along the Pamir Highway in Central Asia. He is currently working to train a donkey to walk the length of Britain in 2018. Adam has written extensively about his adventures.

You will stay on the island for three nights and departure will be on the morning after day two of the course.
What is included:
  • All teaching, guidance and encouragement to take great photographs. We have a large communal lounge with big screen for looking at and reviewing work. Theory and practice will take place both inside and outside, so come prepared to be on the move.
  • Your accommodation. We have six bedrooms for participants, in two separate cottages, Chattan and An Rubha. (Adam and Colin will stay in separate accommodation on the island). Each cottage has its own well-equipped kitchen, generously-sized bathroom and communal area for socialising. Both cottages have gardens, with Chattan also having a patio to the rear.
  • Meals. The following will be offered as part of the course fee: continental breakfasts on the three mornings of your stay, including day of departure. A light lunch, consisting of soup, sandwiches and salad on each of two full days of the course. Two simple evening meals, which will be eaten communally. Tea, coffee and soft drinks will be provided.  On the third evening, we recommend the short trip to the island’s award-winning Puffer restaurant to sample some of the finest local seafood and other produce from Argyll. We encourage all the participants to join us for the meal (this is not included in the course fee).
  • We can arrange free travel to-and-from Oban, the nearest major town to Easdale island (15 miles by road). Oban has railway and bus stations and is a two-and-a-half hours drive from Glasgow airport.
What is not included:
  • Travel to and from Easdale island. You will be asked to make your own way to either Oban or down to the island and to time your arrival for the late afternoon before the day the course commences.
  • Cameras and other equipment for your use. We recommend you bring your own camera, with a small selection of lenses if appropriate, a tripod or stabiliser, flashlight and suitable clothing for all weathers, including robust footwear. Either a laptop or external hard-drive to store images is essential.
  • Your personal insurance. Easdale Experiences, who are facilitating the courses, have all the necessary insurance policies in place for your protection, however, we recommend you have your own travel and personal insurance in the event that you are unable to attend the course after booking, are delayed in your arrival/departure or that your equipment becomes faulty or damaged.
We are offering courses on the following two dates:
Saturday 23rd until Tuesday 26th June, 2018
Wednesday 27th until Saturday 30th June, 2018
Saturday 30th June until Tuesday 3rd July, 2018
Wednesday 4th until Saturday 7th July, 2018 – all are three night stays on the island.
We are delighted to offer places on either course for a fee of £375.
Payment can be made by bank transfer, credit/debit card or PayPal and once accepted on to one of the courses, participants would be asked to pay 50% immediately to secure your place, with the balance due by two months before the course. Cancellations and refunds will be possible, however, deductions would apply.
We look forward to hearing from you. If you have any questions, wish to know more about the island, the course or the teachers, please get in touch using the form below.
“Thank you for organising such an enjoyable and stimulating trip, and for all the patient teaching and encouragement that you and Adam offered.”  MD, Manchester
“This was a fantastically engaging course which I couldn’t recommend enough for a person of any level of experience to do. Colin and Adam were excellent hosts and teachers.”  EC, East Lothian

Join the converstation on our Easdale Island Photography Courses Facebook page.

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Looking for inspiration…?

Sunset over Mull, from Easdale Island, 2013

Sunset over Mull, from Easdale Island, 2013

What inspires us to take photographs? And what stops us?

These are just two of the questions I’ll be seeking to answer if you join me on one of my two-day photography courses which I am launching in September 2016 on the magical and unique island of Easdale on Scotland’s fabled west coast.

The course will encourage you to explore fully how you can make the most of our existing knowledge and how we can build on what we know to take our photography to new levels. If you feel stuck we will look at creative resetting to allow you to develop an enhanced understanding of seeing what is around you and capturing it with your camera.

Easdale is the perfect location for photography: a stunning coastal environment on a car-free island, far from distractions yet with plenty to see and do. With 65 permanent residents inhabiting a square mile, daily life flows and people come and go on the three-minute ferry crossing from the neighbouring island of Seil. Formerly the centre of Scotland’s slate mining industry, the island has been reborn in recent years and is now a popular destination for holidaymakers and day-trippers. Away from the houses, the island is a tranquil haven, with abundant wildlife and a stunning, rocky shoreline.

The course will be delivered by two experienced and engaged practitioners both of whom bring interest in, and enthusiasm for, their own and other people’s work. You will arrive the day before the course, which will give everyone a chance to settle in and get to know myself and Adam Lee, my fellow tutor – and meet your fellow participants. The following two days will be divided between looking at some of the theory of taking good pictures and – more importantly – getting out there and testing your knowledge and abilities. Adam and myself will be on hand at all times to lead, guide and evaluate and there will be plenty of time to look at what we have achieved and how we can improve.

We will also have a chance to talk photography, what influences us, what inspires us – and maybe even what intimidates us! We’ll try to break down the barriers to making photographs and send you on your way invigorated and enthused.

The maximum number of participants on each course will be six. We cater for all levels, all we ask is you bring with you enough knowledge to operate a camera beyond point-and-shoot mode! Each participant will have their own bedroom in one of two spacious and comfortable cottages and will be free to make their own provisions for food, although we will offer home-cooked meals on two of the three nights. On the final evening you are encouraged to join us for a meal at the island’s award-winning restaurant at the Puffer Bar.

I look forward to welcoming you to Easdale. The two dates for the courses are:

Saturday 10th until Tuesday 13th September (three nights) and

Wednesday 14th until Saturday 17th September (three nights).

Your accommodation, two evening meals, light lunches and breakfast – and all the tutoring are included in the fee. All you have to do is get to Easdale (or nearby Oban, where we can pick you up from). The all-inclusive cost is £350 (excluding evening meal at the Puffer) and there are just a few places left. Please get in touch via the form below with any questions or is you wish to reserve your place on either course. There’s also more information on our Easdale Experiences website.

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