FRAGILE by COLIN PRIOR
Colin Prior is one of Scotland’s best known and acclaimed landscape photographers. His framed images of the Scottish landscape have been gracing our living room walls for over 30 years. He has also produced many stunning books adorned with spectacular landscape photography during his long, successful career.
Colin’s latest publication may come has a surprise to some. Fragile is a beautifully crafted book showcasing the amazing colours, markings, shapes and sizes of Scotland’s wild bird eggs and their remarkable relationship within the landscape.
From the opening paragraphs Colin Prior tells us of his childhood appreciation of wild bird life and nature close to his home on the outskirts of Glasgow. Like many of us he has seen big changes of declining bird populations and species. Within a relatively small-time scale of 50 years some of the birds that we all once regarded has common are now in serious decline. This is a book that not only shows the beauty and intricate detail of bird’s eggs, but is also a timely reminder that we are living in a period where many species of bird are in real danger of disappearing from our countryside. Human influences of deforestation, farming practices and climate change are just some of the key factors in this demise of birds and crucially their habitat.
The stunning images of the bird eggs have all been photographed from collections in the National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh. Collecting wild bird eggs was a ‘normal’ and accepted activity during the 19th Century and even the earlier part of the 20th Century. These eggs, from various collectors, were bequeathed to the museum. Wild bird egg collecting is now, of course, illegal. The museum in Edinburgh houses one of the largest collections in the world. The book reveals these beautiful and fragile objects of nature in a way that has never been documented before.
All of Colin’s photography work is meticulous, expertly researched and time consuming. Fragile is no exception. A 10-year project in the making from conception to publishing. The book explains how it was possible to photograph and capture a pin sharp image from front to back of every egg. It required special equipment and photographic software. Every image was produced by a composite of 40 to 80 individual frames to achieve these almost 3 dimensional photographs. Each of the eggs are displayed in a diptych with a stunning photograph of their habitat. The location images were taken at specific times of year where the colours and textures of the landscape closely match the eggs markings. This is portrayed beautifully. It gives us a real sense of the birds’ surroundings.
There are 8 location chapters ranging from Mountain and Moorland to Sea Cliffs and Rocky Islands. Each has their own diverse environment. Throughout the chapters there are occasional images of the actual birds themselves which is also pleasing. I especially like the Ptarmigans, my favourite bird.
The book is packed full of information. Facts include actual sizes of the bird eggs, dates they were collected, clutch size and their Taxonomy.
Within the book are essay chapters from two leading experts in their field. Professor Des Thompson who is the Principal Adviser on Science and Biodiversity at NatureScot (formerly SNH) and Bob McGowan, Senior Curator in the Natural Sciences Department at National Museums Scotland. These two chapters give some excellent background information to the birds, habitat, ecology, conservation and the eggs themselves. It is clear that Colin has worked closely with them to produce this fully researched book.
Most people will probably never have seen many, if any, of these beautiful avian eggs. Would you have known there are collections of wild bird eggs in the National Museum, Edinburgh? This is a fascinating and wonderful collection of the highest quality images you will ever see. This beautifully produced book is unique. It belongs on everyone’s bookshelf who has an interest in Scotland and the UK’s birds, wildlife, conservation, ecology and, of course, those who appreciate stunning photography.
You can buy Fragile online via Merrell. More details from Merrell the publisher can be found here.