Finding the light

Highlandcowwindow

Nature photographer Fran Mart shares his insights on how to nurture creativity in young people and in ourselves

Words: Aimee-lee Abraham | Pictures: Fran Mart

Fran Mart is a photographer from Spain, now living in Scotland. Inspired by the natural light of the Highlands, he spends his days wandering mountains and glens, searching for details others might miss. Turning to photography at a time of loss, getting behind the lens proved to be an unexpected healing process, and before long, his passion became a profession. We called him to chat about the value of embracing wintry weather, camera in hand, and to see if he had any advice for budding photographers in Scouting.

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Your work focuses on your love and appreciation for the natural world. Do you remember where this interest started?

I grew up with the ocean on one side and the mountains on the other, and even as a child I was absorbed by the beauty and complexity of life on, above and beneath our planet. But it wasn’t until much later that I realised the impact nature had on me. Photography awakened my longing to explore.

Were you always creative, or is it something that developed over time?

I was always a bit of a daydreamer, but I spent 10 years working as a mechanic in my father’s garage before I picked up a camera. After losing my younger brother in a motorcycle accident, my priorities changed. I was inspired by a friend to start taking self-portraits and I soon found it was a way to express both my feelings and creative imagination. I’m completely selftaught and attribute everything to those early days of experimentation.

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You talk openly about how photography helped you cope with loss. How did learning something new improve your wellbeing during that diffcult time?

Photography allowed me to see life from another angle and channel my emotions differently. At frst, there was a sense something new was forming within me but hadn’t quite developed, a bit like a negative from a roll of flm. When I moved to Scotland, the intensity of the weather, changing seasons, and shifting light resonated so much with me, giving me a sense of stillness and freedom. The beauty of photography is that I have a visual reminder of those feelings that I can return to whenever I look at my pictures.

Volunteers may be wondering how they can encourage young people to explore their creativity. What skills are most important for an aspiring photographer?

What is it that makes your young people feel that little pang of excitement or wonder or nostalgia? Whatever it may be, encourage them to start taking pictures of it, then get them to think about light. Light creates colour, texture and mood. Understanding how to use it in a photograph builds emotion and a sense of story. 

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Any advice for young people who don’t know where to start with photography?

Find photographers who inspire you, play with different editing tools, and develop your own style. You don’t need fancy equipment, just enthusiasm, and a willingness to accept that you probably won’t be brilliant at it the frst time.

Which items are always in your kit bag?

My go-to camera is a Canon 5D with a 35mm lens. I always carry a torch, spare batteries, memory cards, plastic bags, and plenty of snacks.

Do you have a favourite season or time of day to work?

Despite the wind and rain, I’ve always thought autumn and winter are when the soul starts to feel most alive. The distance between the land and sky feels ‘thin’ and the light appears more delicate, especially when the sun’s about to slip behind a mountain, and its golden rays bounce off the landscape.

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