Natural Wonder of a Wild Frontier; Critic's Choice
Byline: TOM KYLE
WILD LAND: IMAGES OF NATURE FROM THE CAIRNGORMS
by Peter Cairns and Mark Hamblin
(Mercat Press, [pounds sterling]25)
THERE is little truly wild land left anywhere in Europe, let alone in Scotland. The Carpathian Mountains, perhaps; or the High Pyrenees; or the remoter shores of Assynt.
The dawn of a new millennium and the designation of the Cairngorms as Britain's largest national park inspired the authors, both of whom are renowned wildlife photographers, to create a visual celebration of the wild natural wonders that can still be found - if you care to look long and hard enough.
Though the A9, Scotland's main road north, cuts along its western perimeter, the Cairngorms National Park still contains pockets of truly wild land. Peter Cairns and Mark Hamblin have sought these out, so the reader can see them in this book - and perhaps be inspired to see them in reality.
Although the images are all-important, this is by no means a book without words.
Each of the eight main sections is preceded by an introductory essay.
These celebrate the Cairngorms in particular, but also conservation in general.
Applying human- led conservation techniques to wild land is perhaps a contradiction in terms, but it is also probably the only way to prevent the remaining wild land from disappearing in the course of our lifetimes.
Simply to open this book at the beginning, as you do, is to get something of a shock. The first few pictures are certainly of wild things in wild land - but they are wolf and bear, wild boar and bison. None of these pictures were taken in Scotland, of course, but all at one time could have been - and could be again.
The reintroduction of extinct species to Scotland is a subject of constant controversy, the most celebrated example being the wolf. Despite the spectacular success of such a move in the world's first national park - America's famous Yellowstone - opposition here often borders on the hysterical.
AS the authors point out, despite extensive research, opinion for and against returning the wolf to Scotland is often ill-informed.
The creature, the epitome of the wilderness, is one of the most studied of all wild animals - yet it remains the most misunderstood.
Such arguments aside, the range of wildlife Scotland does have is impressive enough, and the images in the book are quite simply stunning.
A tawny owl seems literally to grow out of the hollow tree trunk on which it perches, so perfectly do their colours conform. A rare sighting of a young pine marten was one of only two shots taken in a six-week period, which gives the reader some notion of the difficulties inherent in this sort of photography. …