Crisp frost adorns the crunching heather./ Moonlight brightens, illuminating every patch of frozen ground, every bare branch./ The night sky, above this small shelter, this haven of home, sheltering us from the brisk cold and wailing winds./ A crackling hearth, the warmth of a wood/ fuelled fire, simple comfort and protection from natural elements we are rarely so exposed to./ The River Spey lies beneath us, its roaring crescendo-ing cacophony of continuous water./ Winding its way down from the hills above through this striking and interwoven patchwork landscape/ of tree roots, thawing cold soil, grass and gravel and heather and rock.
In early January we journeyed up to Inshriach Bothy near Aviemore, full of anticipation, excitement and having gingerly readied ourselves for what promised to be a unique experience enveloped by the landscape in a simple shelter in the Highlands. A week removed from the everyday hustle and bustle, the bright lights and city noise. A time to reflect, to be inspired and restored, to regain focus and perspective and dedicate a rarely found straight week to the creative pursuits we both treasure.
Ian is a researcher, artist and musician. I am a landscape architect, photographer and film-maker. Together we have interests in both the auditory and visual senses that combine with other experiential qualities to help define a sense of place.
During our days at Inshriach Bothy we explored this beautiful landscape whilst the weak winter daylight lasted, and found visual senses dominated – views of far flung snow-topped mountains against the horizon, the almost hypnotising circling swirling of the river, frozen rippled puddles along the path and bare branches swaying in the wind. As dusk turned to pitch black inky night, auditory clues took over to translate the world around us – owls hooting from up above our heads, the crunch of footsteps along winding frosty paths, winds wailing, trees creaking, and that occasional unexpected crunch nearby that jolts you alert, filled with dread of what might be out there in the dark – heard but not seen.
You feel vulnerable, blind without a primary visual sense to guide you, auditory cues magnify in intensity, and instead you retreat to the warmth inside the bothy, lighting lanterns and a fire to give warmth. ‘Outside’ transcends from a serene beautiful landscape and becomes a darkened wilderness of unexpected noises that prey on your overly zealous imagination. Until morning. When you re-awake to views of a peaceful serene landscape once more.
Together we made a film exploring this transition in the way we interpret the world around us, the way our experience of place changes as different senses dominate – day to night, visual to auditory, from an instantly visual and explained world in plain sight, to a primal fear induced by auditory cues we either hear or imagine but cannot see or anticipate.
The audio for this film primarily comprises original field recordings taken by Ian at the Inshriach Bothy site and locale (including piano at the Old Bridge Inn) in addition to original compositions responding to the night scenes and outro. Film and photography was recorded entirely on-site by Jenny. The film represents the collaboration of the senses which combine to create the ‘genius loci’ of this unique landscape as this changes from day to night and back to day again.
Whilst at the bothy I became interested in the notion of layering sensory information, which in combination forms a unique perspective in creating a sense of place. This sense of place is always fluid and personal – a landscape and its experiential qualities change not only with time of day, season, meterological conditions, but also with the specific places someone explores and subjective experiences personal to them within that landscape. In the following series of photographic works, I looked specifically at layering different visual information from varying scales in the landscape around Inshriach Bothy – by combining landscape-wide views and detailed abstractions at the closest scales of leaves, textures and macro elements to combine and create a series of snapshots which together help form a visual sense of this beautiful place and landscape.