SCOTLAND THROUGH A LENS: David Queenan – May 2023

Lauren Murie speaks with David Queenan, a talented landscape photographer who features in the May 2023 edition of Scottish Field…

Tell me about yourself.

I mainly shoot Scottish landscapes, although I am working as a freelance graphic designer. The landscape photography is a hobby more or less rather than what I do as a business. I started photography years ago when I was back at college. I studied at Dundee College of Art. I did graphic design there. Photography was part of my course – I spent one day a week doing photography. I learned with the black and white film of the 1980s.

When I left college and started working as a designer, I didn’t do much photography for a long time. Mainly because we needed the dark room facilities in those days and so you were really restricted as to what you could do with the film. I didn’t do much until Photoshop came along. As a graphic designer I learned PhotoShop because I worked on a lot of brochures and photographs with professionals. That got me back into photography. I got a digital camera at that point and it all grew from there. Gradually with my background in graphic design and Photoshop, it all came together. I do a little bit of commercial photography as well.

Have you always been interested in photography, given that it wasn’t what you set out to do in the beginning?

Yes, I always remember having my dad’s old cameras. He had these old Kodak box brown things – the old sort of cameras you looked down into and all these flaps opened up. I used to just play with those, even when there was no film in them, pretending to take photographs around the house.

How did college photography transition into landscape photography for you?

It’s something I’ve always been interested in. I enjoyed looking at landscape books. It’s something that anybody can go out and do. You don’t have to have a studio. You don’t have to travel very far. I’m not much of a people photographer. I did a couple of weddings, years and years ago, but I didn’t really enjoy directing people around. Landscapes were a good break as well. You got away from the graphics, you got outdoors, away from the office, into the fresh air.

How often do you get out to take photographs?

It can vary. Sometimes, if you’re busy with work or the weather is not great, you just don’t get out very much. I try and get out once a week if I can, particularly at weekends. Quite often with landscape photography you try and do it around sunset and sunrise. Particularly in the winter – it gets dark so early in the afternoon that you don’t really get the chance to go out in the evening.

What are your favourite places to go as a photographer?

We stay local as we’re quite lucky where we are. Forth Bridges are probably my most favourite haunt because it’s only 10 or 15 minutes away in the car, especially if I’ve not got much time. Even if the sun rises early enough, say six or seven in the morning, I can get down there and take a couple of shots and be back home for 8 o’clock and work from home which I usually do.

We’ve got Linlithgow Loch nearby as well. A lot of my shots I found during COVID times over the last couple years. Where I stay is near the water so I can be down at the water’s edge within a couple of minutes. I can be looking right down at the river to the bridges only six or seven miles away. I can still get a good view of them using a longer lens. I’ve found quite a lot of local spots as well, just on the shore.

You mentioned that sunset and sunrise was something you look out for. What else do you look for?

With landscapes the best light is at sunset and sunrise. If you go in the middle of the day it tends to be a bit harsher. It’s not to say that you can’t do it, you just have to focus on different things. If it’s the middle of the day and there’s a bright blue sky it tends to be a bit boring. Sunrise is generally quieter as well – less people around, less traffic around, more chance of getting peace and quiet.

Do you ever bring family or friends out with you?

I have a couple of friends that I try to meet up with, other landscape photographers. We share a lift somewhere especially if we are a bit further afield. If you’re going out early morning or late at night, it’s nice to have the company sometimes.

What is the best thing about photography?

I think it’s getting outdoors. Spending some time getting out and away on your own. Sometimes I do go with friends but quite often it’s a solitary thing and you get away on your own, just to get out and about. Sometimes it’s just nice to be out in those early hours of the morning watching the sunrise. It’s a nice way to start the day. And then sharing the pictures online, on social media, there’s a good community of photographers in Scotland especially. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – everyone knows each other. It’s nice that you can recognise each other’s shots before you see the name on them.

Where else would you like to go in the next few years? Any goals?

I’ve always said I’ve never been up much further than Glencoe. I’ve never been to Skye or Harris. Even down to The Lake District. I’d really like to do something like that as a two- or three-day break as they’re quite far away. If you’re going for a sunrise, Glencoe is two hours away so you have to be up in the middle of the night to get there. But it would be nice to go somewhere and do these further afield places and stay over for a few days.