The beauty of darkness.

I’ve been doing an ongoing documentary project on inshore fishermen on the lovely island of Mull off Scotland’s west coast.

For those who choose to do this its hard hard work, in an economically and socially deprived area; but an area that the residents are committed to, and devoted to the way of life required to survive there.

I’d been out with the fishermen during the week, fishing for brown crabs, which were stored live in a series of cages in the bay. On the day the refrigerated truck comes to take their live catch to markets in the south, to England, France and Spain, the men rise early. Pre-dawn on a bitterly cold and pitch-black December morning they begin to sort the crabs for export.

No electricity supply here so the only light comes from an arc lamp and petrol generator. The men worked in a pool of golden light, the constant hum of the genny accompanying their banter and craic. I used a flashgun on my camera to gently fill the shadows as I followed their labours.

Then my batteries packed in and I needed to get more from my vehicle. As I walked from the pier my eyes adjusted to the darkness….which I realised with astonishment was no longer total blackness, but a gloom-filled dawn casually ambling in to chase away the night.

I turned and looked back at the workers in the light. Ahhhh! A picture!


Sorting brown crabs. Mull. © John MacPherson


I ran for my camera and set up my tripod and timed it, one two three four CLICK! And again. And again. And finally I caught what I wanted – the men doing ‘something’ and each one separate and distinct, and in the distance the pinprick blinking of the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse, the most westerly point on the British mainland, miles away across the Sound of Mull.

Sometimes being in the light conceals from you the exquisite beauty of darkness.

Author — John Macpherson

John MacPherson was born and lives in the Scottish Highlands. He trained as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards, before completing an apprenticeship as a carpenter, and then qualified as a Social Worker in Disability Services. Along the way he has cooked on canal barges, trained as an Alpine Ski Leader & worked as an Instructor for Skiers with disabilities, been a canoe instructor, and tutor of night classes in carpentry, stained glass design and manufacture, and archery. He has travelled extensively on various continents, undertaking solo trips by bicycle, or motorcycle. He has had narrow escapes from an ambush by terrorists, been hit by lightning, caught in an erupting volcano, trapped in a mobile home by a tornado, kidnapped by a dog's hairdresser, rammed by a basking shark and was once bitten by a wild otter. He has combined all this with professional photography, which he has practised for over 35 years. He teaches photography and acts as a photography guide & tutor in the UK and abroad. His biggest challenge is keeping his 27 year old Land Rover 110 on the road. He loves telling and hearing stories.

Discussion (6 Comments)

  1. Cracking shot John and a documentary project I really look forwards to following.

  2. Time…..the most important part of the documentary process.
    Nice story, great shot and I look forward to seeing it.

  3. FK says:

    Knockout last sentence with a picture worth framing as well.

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