Stop me while my phone is in my hand, and chances are you’ll catch me scrolling through Instagram images of far-flung countries, dramatic cityscapes, artfully arranged food, and fashionable stationery (a writer’s vice if ever I saw one).
The photo sharing mobile app is one of the world’s fastest growing social networks. Launched in 2011, Instagram now has more than 300 million global users, and is being used professionally as well as personally, with big brands like British Airways, Starbucks, and Topshop using it to promote their goods and services.
As a traveller, and someone always on the lookout for new local adventures, I find Instagram not only inspiring, but useful too. If I see a cafe, a restaurant, or a monument that looks interesting, I can click the photo’s listed location (officially called a ‘geo tag’) and see it on a map. This is how I found my two favourite New York brunch spots, discovered nut boxes at a bakery in Boston, and ended up eating delicious Greek food in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Plus, now that I wake up to a view of Manhattan’s skyscrapers and not the sunrise over the Minch, Instagram is a great way for me to get my fix of stunning Scottish landscapes. Thanks to the fellow Scots who are capturing scenes across the country and sharing them with the world, I’m only a swipe away from a slice of home.
So without further ado, here is a quick tour of Scotland, courtesy of five of my favourite Insta-photographers in Scotland. I’m sure that these photos will inspire you to visit Scotland – or, if you’re already there, to stop and appreciate the wonderful sights that surround you!
Iain Maclean, Isle of Harris | @iainsranndach
Although he hopes to explore more of Scotland in the future, camera by his side, Iain’s Instagram feed currently features gorgeous photos of what is one of my favourite places on earth: the west coast of the Isle of Harris. He joined the Instagram community in 2012, and uses a DSLR camera for most of his shots “with the odd photo from my phone… Instagram has definitely made me more interested and given me the opportunity to share my photos.”
“I couldn’t pick a specific area of the West Coast, as each place has its own beauty,” he says of his favourite photography spot. “I like taking photos here because of the ever-changing landscape and weather. It has stunning beaches, big seas, and amazing scenery.” I couldn’t agree with him more, and it seems his 3000-plus Instagram fans feel the same way. And for that money shot of the sunset, Iain says you can’t beat Strond, in the south of the island.
Sam, Edinburgh | @bean_nighe
While it’s clear she loves to travel (you’ll often find classical shots of European cities in her feed), Sam’s main focus is what she describes in her profile as “my beautiful Scotland.” Based in Edinburgh, Sam has been sharing striking photos from across the country since she joined Instagram three years ago.
“I’m inspired by beautiful places, history, architecture, and literature, so the majority of my photos are me waxing lyrical about the things that make me stop and go ‘wow’,” she says. “I’ve always loved art, but working in the 9-5 of the rat race it’s difficult to find the time to sit down and draw or paint. With an iPhone I could snap a photo quickly, then add my own personal slant to it using apps, so it was like painting a very quick picture.”
Now, she uses a Canon DSLR to capture the country’s best side. “I started on iPhone only, then bought a little Canon super zoom digital after about a year,” Sam explains, adding that “most of my recent shots are Canon DSLR (a wee present to myself), with the odd iPhone snap thrown in from when I can’t be bothered to lug a camera bag around.”
There are many places in Scotland she loves, but she favours “the scenery of the West Highlands and the Hebrides” above all: “I crave remote places and love the tweedy colours you find in them, the blues and greens and russet reds.” Sam “adored” Lewis and Harris, which she visited this spring (her photos were so good that they made me homesick); and Islay and Jura blew her away last year – but it’s Mull which has truly stolen her heart. “I’d live there in a flash if I could.”
David Sutherland, Glasgow | @_dsutherland_
I was shocked to discover that all of David’s photos are taken on the same iPhone 4S he used to join Instagram with back in 2011. “I am way behind, I know, but I quite like the fact I need to work extra hard in order to make my pictures look good,” he explains. “The quality of the newer iPhone pictures is in a different league! I should really probably upgrade… but I’m now reluctant to stop using this trusty phone that has lasted me so well!”
His companion has certainly served him well: David was made a Suggested User by Instagram in March of this year, a sort-of ‘badge of honour’ for the users they think are sharing the best photos out there. So what inspires this Scot, who until encountering Instagram had never expressed an interest in photography?
“I am inspired by the vastness of the mountains to the way the light hits off a particular building at George Square in Glasgow. I like to document my adventures through pictures that almost give you a sense of what it would be like to be there. I like to travel as much as possible and being somewhere new always inspires me to try new things with my photos.”
“I am super lucky to have a job which often places me in very remote and beautiful places at special times of the day such as sunset or sunrise. I work as an ecologist and that has been a big factor in exposing me to some amazing sights to photograph and some very memorable ‘pinch me’ moments!”
At home, however, his favourite location for a spot of photography has to be Glencoe. “There is a point when you are driving the A82 and the road meanders uphill and suddenly just opens up across the Rannoch Moor and it’s like ‘wow, this is wild Scotland’. From then on you are presented with such amazing sights that look amazing in any weather. Scotland has so much to offer for a photographer, you are really spoiled for choice!”
Lucy, Oban | @loosemooose
Originally from Cornwall, Lucy has called Oban home for the last 20 years, and since joining Instagram in 2013 has built on an early love of photography – and deepened her appreciation for her adopted home along the way. Although she does own a DSLR camera, most of her photos are taken on her iPhone S6, photos that make me want to pack my bags and pay this wee west coast town a visit.
“I can see the themes developing from a young age – I was brought up in Cornwall so have a real soft spot for cliffs and waves and beaches, and living in Oban gives me lots of subjects to photograph!” enthuses Lucy. “Since joining Instagram I have taken a lot more photos, and I think I have improved my style looking at so many gorgeous pictures every day, and seeing what can be achieved in that little square – you can convey so much about how it felt to be standing there at that moment!”
“I’m sure it’s made me love Oban more too, and I don’t dread the winter in quite the same way as the light here is so amazing in the winter, as you know, and everyone likes a moody shot!” Oban, of course, is her favourite place to photograph too.
“It really does have everything right on my doorstep – sea, beaches, cliffs, woods, hills, fabulous west coast sunsets, fishing boats, Northern Lights if I’m lucky, islands, ferries…. Bliss! I work a minute’s walk from the harbour so I don’t have to go very far to get a bay shot! I love thinking that I might have inspired people to come and visit our lovely wee town!” Lucy has certainly inspired me to add it to the Stories My Suitcase Could Tell travel list!
Bee Leask, Coatbridge | @bumblebambi
“I started using Instagram about 18 months ago, and I’m so glad I did, as I’ve made and met loads of wonderful friends through it,” says Bee Leask, who in little over a year has amassed not only friends (like Lucy, above) but almost 100,000 followers too.
It’s easy to see why her photos are so popular, with her Instagram feed featuring image after image of iconic mountains, beautiful beaches, and spectacular sunsets. Most of her photos are, in Instagram speak, ‘iPhone only’, with a small scattering from her Nikon D3200. “There would probably be more if I could figure out how to use my camera properly, but I’m a bit of a technophobe.”
“I’ve always taken photos, and currently have 20849 on my phone!!” she reveals. “So I suppose I have always liked it, but joining Instagram probably gave me more of a love of it. Plus it encourages me to take a better picture and think more about what I’m doing.”
Although currently based in Coatbridge, Bee is an islander, and like most islanders, never likes to be too far from the sea. “I’m originally from Shetland so I always like to head towards the sea as much as possible, as I’m not used to being more than three miles away from it.”
Unsurprisingly, her favourite place in Scotland for photography “has to be Shetland. I’m heading home next month and can’t wait to show off how amazing it is. The landscape, history, weather is all what makes Shetland unique and interesting. Plus the wildlife, can’t forget the sheep!”
And don’t forget… you can follow Stories My Suitcase Could Tell on Instagram too!
I may now be ‘A Scot in the States’, but I still share plenty of photos from my beloved Outer Hebrides over on my Instagram account. Follow along at @katiecleod for images of two very different islands – Lewis and Harris, and Manhattan!
Do you use Instagram? Do you have a favourite spot in Scotland, or a Scottish location you’d like to visit?