We were on holiday in the Far East and I was sitting in a hotel room in Cambodia when the message came through – you’ve won a photography trip to the Cairngorms.  A flurry of messages went back and forth, followed by some diary rearrangements and before I knew it I was confirmed on the trip.  What a fantastic opportunity!  The ‘Classic Scotland’ trip was being organised by Wild Arena and Neil McIntyre and sponsored by Canon.

The weather forecast for the week of my trip was typical for the Highlands in early December, extremely variable!  My drive from the airport was slow, cautious and scary at times as a blizzard swept through the Highlands.  We stayed in a house in the traditional village of Newtonmore and travelled out to various locations in the Cairngorms to photograph birds of prey, animals at the Highland Wildlife Park, Red Squirrels, Mountain Hares, Red Grouse and the delightful Crested Tits.

We had a great week of photography with lots of opportunity and variety, even squeezing in a little night photography and the occasional landscape.  The cold, damp weather meant that outdoor gear was put to the test as much of the photography was out in the open – no warm, cosy hides on this trip.  The regular cake and coffee stops did help warm us up again though.

The red squirrels and crested tits provided hours of entertainment and the coats of the mountain hares were well advanced through their transition from brown to white.  Unfortunately the snow only stayed around for a couple of days, so that ‘red squirrel in the snow’ shot still eludes me.

We did manage to get some great shots of captive birds of prey at a stunning, snow-covered location near the Cairngorms Mountain Railway as well as some amazingly natural shots of Japanese macaques looking very cold in the snow.  Who needs to go to Japan?