SIMON MAYSON HAS enjoyed a natural love affair with Scotland for the past 23 years – it may have been the rich and diverse landscape that drew him here in the first place, but it was meeting his sweetheart Caroline (now his wife) that has firmly kept him here. However, together, they have explored our shores, with Simon capturing the very best of Scotland’s land and seascapes along the way.
Born in Yorkshire, and growing up on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, Simon has an ingrained love of countryside. Indeed, it was the influence of various family members, but in particular his grandfather, that inspired him to pick up a camera and capture the natural beauty of his surroundings.
“My great-grandfather was a chemist in the early 1900s and as a side line he did photography – that was in the days of the old plate camera with a hood,” says Simon. “He taught my grandfather, Bob Mayson, how to do photography and how to develop plate negatives. In the Second World War my grandfather joined the RAF and, with his photography skills, was enlisted to do aerial photography of Iraq – it is from that work that we got maps of Iraq. He was seconded to the Canadian Air Force and was part of the teams that went up to set up the cameras for aerial photography.
When he came out of the RAF he got a job as a manager with a print works for Kodak and eventually became UK manager for Kodak’s developing and printing side. My grandfather influenced me a lot. He bought me my first camera at the age of nine – he said ‘you must always have a camera with you’, and I always have.”
He adds: “I still have the grainy negatives from school trips and family holidays in the late 1970s. As my hobby developed I became drawn to photographing landscapes.
I was not always successful, particularly early on, but with perseverance my skills developed and it has only been more recently that I have become really satisfied with my work. As any photographer will tell you, the challenge is part of the appeal.”
Simon’s father taught Film and TV at Leeds University, perhaps influencing his decision to study Film Photography later at Dundee College. His 20-year-old son George is now also following in the family’s footsteps and happily accompanies his father with his own camera on trips around Scotland. Though Simon has enjoyed a full career with the civil service, he has consistently produced landscapes and sold work through his website.
However, he is now committed full-time to his love of photography – his dentist has become one of his biggest fans.
“Visit Scotland has used some of my images of Arran, but recently my dentist bought a number of large seascapes from me for his surgery,” smiles Simon. “He also has a screen that shows 100 or so of my images for patients to watch when in the chair.”
Living in Broughty Ferry, near Dundee, it is to be expected that Simon has used his local surrounding area as suitable subject matter for his work. Loch Tay through the seasons, the stoic Tay Bridge, Balvaird Castle in Perthshire, the pier at St Monans in Fife, and the Angus beaches have been captured in their most dramatic and moody moments. In particular, the former village of Auchmithie, just north of Arbroath, is one of Simon’s favourite spots for photographing the unpredictable sea as it crashes against the cliffs and shoreline.
“Auchmithie, which is the original home of the Arbroath Smokie, is three miles up the coast from Arbroath,” says Simon. “There is an old harbour there, but this is where they first produced the Arbroath Smokie by smoking the fish in the barrels on the beach – they eventually moved that industry down to Arbroath. I was lucky enough to capture a rainbow emerging over Auchmithie, and often go there at dawn and dusk to capture the sea and sky. The east coast is dramatic with its cliffs, and with its agriculture inland, but for me the west coast is quite spectacular.”
While Skye is a cherished place to return for its skyline, the island of Arran is where he would one day like to lay his hat. “Arran is my favourite place in Scotland for a lot of reasons,” he admits. “My wife and I met there, we honeymooned there and went back often when our son George was young. We still visit regularly and one day we would like to move there, perhaps when we retire.
“There are still places in Scotland I would like to explore – the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland in particular. I love going to Skye and was blown away by it when I went there to photograph the Old Man of Storr. It has to be one of the most dramatic landscapes in Scotland. That is why it draws so many photographers. I remember going to Elgol, which is beautiful, but there must have been another 20 photographers there at the same time. Skye is a photographic mecca.”
Simon acknowledges that clients love his seascapes for their unmitigated theatre, but he is continually challenging himself in other directions. “Last year I did a lot more woodland work, which is very challenging as woodlands are extremely cluttered places to photograph,” he says. “I like finding places that haven’t been photographed before and seeing what I can do with it. I love the experience of being out on my own in a remote area, often at dawn or dusk with just the wildlife for company. You become so focussed in what you are doing you forget about all the stresses and strains of modern living.
“I love sharing what I see through my work – it means everything to me. If other people like what they see too then that is a bonus.”
*To see more of Simon’s work visit www.simon-mayson.co.uk