Former printer Keith Fergus talks to Michael Alexander about his move in to full-time freelance photography and writing– a journey that has taken him everywhere from the East Neuk of Fife to Skye.
Keith Fergus was in his early 20s when he got into hill walking – taking in the Arrochar Alps within a couple of hours’ drive of his Glasgow home and taking his camera with him to capture candid pictures of friends and family amid dramatic scenery.
It was purely a hobby for Keith, now 45, at a time when he was working as a plate maker in the printing industry.
Even when he had a photo of the River Clyde from the Lyle Hill above Greenock published by The Scots Magazine 15 years ago, followed a year later by a hill walking article, he did not think of it as anything other than a “way to make a few extra quid”.
However, by the time Keith was in his mid-30s, he began to realise he could perhaps make a living from his passion.
“People had been saying to me I had a bit of a talent for photography, and at that point I was not really thinking of anything as a career at that point, “says the now full time freelance outdoors writer and photographer.
“But then one of my favourite photographers Colin Baxter produced a number of postcards. By that point my parents had moved down to Galloway and I produced a number of postcards using my contacts within the printing industry which took off.
“Then the year after that I produced a calendar for Galloway as well.
“The Scots Magazine was taking a few more articles and the TGO (Great Outdoors) were taking hill walking articles as well. It was then I started to think I could make a living from it.”
Inspired by landscape photographers like Colin Prior, he studied how they composed images and used light.
He started planning photography trips to more remote areas.
“I really began to think about the photography composition rather than just snaps – I started to build up a bit of portfolio,” he says.
“I used a lot of maps – working out where the sun would be at certain times of year on certain time of day. If I was on top of Ben Lomond for instance in October the sun would rise at a specific point. This would then allow me to get the best shot at this time of day.”
Autumn is Keith’s favourite time for photography.
“Even if the weather is not great you’ve got these incredibly vibrant colours,” he says. “They can really work – even in overcast conditions.”
His favourite place, meanwhile, is either the mountains of Arran or Skye.
“I absolutely love the Old Man of Storr on Skye,” he adds. “Those are two really stand out places for me that I’ve visited many times. “
His latest project, however, has taken him across Scotland. Great Scottish Journeys: Twelve routes to the heart of Scotland, published by The Scots Magazine, includes various photographic journeys including a route through the East Neuk of Fife from Lower Largo to St Andrews.
“The East Neuk is a place I’ve always loved,” he says.
“I used to go there with my grandparents when I was five or six years old. They used to stay in the Craws Nest Hotel in Anstruther and my mum dad, brother and myself used to go for long weekend in the summer holidays until I was 10 or 12 years old.
“I’ve always really loved the beaches and the feel of the place. I’ve always really loved that laid back feel and lovely little villages – it’s an exceptional stretch of coastline.”
Keith explains that a lot of the East Neuk photos had been picked up over the last 15 years. But he had fresh material to add too.
“When the book commission came I had four or five I still wanted such as Pittenweem at Dawn and the Swilcan Bridge at St Andrews,” he says. “I really wanted to look at the golf courses in St Andrews as well.
“It was just a matter of keeping an eye on the weather – a wee ridge of high pressure coming in over Fife – leaving home about 5am and making my way up to Largo, making my way along the coast, picking up the shots that I needed and possibly a few more I hadn’t thought of and finishing off in St Andrews around 4 or 5 at night just as the sun was setting – a good long day but very much worthwhile!”
*Great Scottish Journeys: Twelve routes to the hearty of Scotland, by Keith Fergus, is published by The Scots Magazine, priced £16.99, www.scotsmagazine.com
It is available to purchase via the DC Thomson shop: https://www.dcthomsonshop.co.uk/our-brands/the-scots-magazine/great-scottish-journeys.html