National Geographic Traveler magazine is celebrating its 30th anniversary this fall. To commemorate this milestone, we asked 12 of our longtime photographers to select their favorite images shot on assignment for Traveler throughout the past three decades.
Today, we hear from photographer Jim Richardson about the images above, which he shot for Traveler in 2001.
Without a doubt, this has to be the luckiest picture I ever took.
Now, normally I’m the one preaching that photographers should be prepared, do their homework, leave nothing to chance. And when I went to Scotland for Traveler to photograph Whisky Country, I knew every last distillery, every burn from whence their water came, even the names of a couple of distillery dogs. Even knew where to find two shaggy Highland cows (“coos” in Scots slang) without peers amongst their hirsute clannish kin. Rusty and Tufty held court just down the road from Dalwhinnie, sniffing the malt-laden air once in a while, tolerating without fuss the adoring tourists.
But I never expected this. As I peered through the telephoto lens set atop my tripod, this lad strolls into the picture, sporting a leather jacket, Mohawk haircut—and a loaf of bread. Rusty and Tufty seemed to sense a kindred spirit because they stretched out over the fence, and within 30 seconds they had snarfed down the whole loaf of bread (who knew cows ate bread?). With that, the lad was off and I was left to pray that I had gotten the picture in focus and exposed correctly. Pure, blind luck, nothing more.
Just another day in the Highlands of Scotland.
Photo Tip: Don’t count on luck. These sorts of tales make great stories, but it’s a really bad way to make pictures. Obviously, take luck when you get it, but don’t expect good fortune to make up for bad planning and lack of forethought.
Besides, doing the background research is how I extend the pleasure of my travels, getting besotted in advance with lore and legend, poring over maps and charts, dreaming of light and weather, wallowing through the pages of novels best read beside a peat fire.
Nevertheless, I shall never again pass by Dalwhinnie without looking to see if Rusty and Tufty are still fat and shaggy.
See more of Jim Richardson’s work at JimRichardsonPhotography.com.
Hear Traveler photo editors Carol Enquist and Ben Fitch discuss what they love about this image on Travel 365.