When wildlife photographer, Stewart Dawber, was 16, something happened that changed the course of his life (writes Roz Skinner).
He explains: “I saw a kingfisher on the river near to where I lived and that was me hooked on wildlife.”
Stewart was keen to photograph the bird. His father gave him a camera for his birthday and that gift ignited in Stewart a passion for wildlife photography.
That enthusiasm led Stewart to earn a HND in photography and a BA(Hons) in wildlife photography. His love of kingfishers has remained!
Stewart now lives and works in the Isle of Skye, running his company, Skye High Wildlife. As well as being a professional wildlife photographer, Stewart assists people who would like to see the diverse and beautiful range of wildlife on and around Skye.
Stewart's wildlife-watching sessions place a heavy emphasis on minimising the disturbance to the landscape and the wildlife. Stewart says: “I run bespoke tours, with a maximum of around four people. A small group means you are able to get that little bit closer to wildlife with minimum impact.”
Working closely with the Fearann Eilean Iarmain estate and its full-time gamekeeper and stalker on Skye, Stewart is able to take people to see local wildlife, including majestic deer. “The effort and work they put in to manage the deer and the biodiversity of animals of the hills, woods & lochs is so beneficial,” Stewart explains.
Working with Fearann Eilean Iarmain has the added bonus of introducing his clients to a tasting session at the Gaelic Whisky company. Stewart says: “I provide my skills for their wildlife walks and we enjoy Photo Stalking the deer and watching other iconic Scottish wildlife. We have access to a Bothy with a wood burner and I am able to take clients there, where they can sample a dram of whisky along with the tasty foods I provide in the hamper!”
Skye High Wildlife has year-round appeal, with each season offering something different. Stewart points out: “In autumn, we have the stags rutting. Eagles tend to show themselves more as the days get colder. Otters become easier to spot and seem less shy in the winter. However, summer is a good month for sea birds, dolphins, basking sharks and seals.”
Stewart's Highland Cow Tour has been enthusiastically received by his clients. He remarks: “I had a group of tourists and I have never seen anyone so excited. They jumped out of the car before I could stop and stayed with the cows for about an hour!”
The experience Stewart has gained as a wildlife photographer, combined with his natural teaching ability, means he is well-qualified to pass on his skills to others. Teaching people who would like to improve their wildlife photography skills is an exciting part of Stewart's work. “I teach people wildlife photography, taking them through the paces and helping them to work with the camera manually,” he explains.
Learning about Skye’s wildlife with Stewart is a real pleasure. He has a gentle, friendly approach and his love and respect for birds and animals is clear. So, if you want to witness the magic of Skye wildlife and perhaps enjoy a wee dram, why not visit the Skye High Wildlife website at www.skyehighwildlife.com and join Stewart on a tailor-made adventure!