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Author interview: Nadir Khan, Extreme Scotland

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

The ‘ten-minute tree’ on the walk in to the north face of Ben Nevis. This beautiful tree is a marker at the end of a long day on the Ben as you know you’re nearly back at the car.

Award-winning photographer Nadir Khan has worked with some of the world’s top athletes, capturing Scotland’s awe-inspiring mountain landscape and the adrenaline sports to which it plays host. Extreme Scotland is a portfolio of his life’s work and an insight into his photographic experience and inspirations, alongside contributions from climber and author Nick Bullock, Tom Livingstone, Elana Bader and more. 

Since the book's release last week, Nadir took some time out from balancing his careers as an oral surgeon and a top-class photographer to answer some quick-fire questions: 

It's quite a transition to go from a full-time specialist oral surgeon to an adventure-sports photographer, what inspired you to take up photography as a second career? 

I had been a full time hospital based specialist oral surgeon working in Maxillo facial trauma and reconstructive surgery departments. It was great work and I found it interesting and challenging and very rewarding on a personal level but things changed at the hospital I was working in and the work became less interesting and I decided to leave the NHS in 2011 and work part time as an oral surgeon in a specialist referral centre and that gave me the flexibility to develop my photographic career alongside continuing to work as an oral surgeon. It was one of the best decisions I made. 

What do you enjoy most about your work?  

I love the outdoors and from a young age was drawn to the drama of light in the landscape and as I started on my own journey in adventure sports I was inspired by photographers who were able to capture the essence of the emotions we experience when immersed in this amazing world we live in.

Do you have a favourite extreme sport to photograph? 

Not really , I enjoy it all, and each sport brings its own challenges and rewards, some sports are more technically difficult to photograph but I love the challenge of capturing the beauty and brutality of adventure sports.

What is the most extreme situation you have been in in order to capture the perfect shot? 

The toughest shoot I did was the Ines Papert ascent of the Hurting in the Cairngorms in 2015. The conditions were horrendous, gusting up to 100mph, at times zero visibility, minus ten degrees and my breath was freezing on the controls of the camera. Snow was being blown around, covering the lens and eye piece as I was jumaring up a rope alongside Ines. I was amazed we got anything at all on that day. But anything on the North Face of the Ben can be pretty tough in winter.

Your favourite place to photograph is the Isle of Skye, what makes this area so special? 

Skye has a quality to the light that is very special and the clouds move across the landscape quite quickly due to its closeness to the sea, the ruggedness of the Cuillin, the variety around the island and the sheer drama and scale of the place means that it never disappoints and even on bad weather days, photographically there's still going to be something special going on with the light and landscape.

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