The Scottish Banner speaks to Tristan Cameron Harper
Tristan Cameron Harper is a photographer and mountain guide with a passion for Scotland’s incredible outdoors. Tristan took the time to speak to the Scottish Banner on his love of the Scottish Highlands, being a former professional ice hockey player and Munro Bagging.
Tristan you grew up in Dundee and have had a passion for sport your whole life. This passion led you to becoming a professional ice hockey player both in Scotland and abroad, can you tell us more?
TCH: Being a Scotsman playing Ice Hockey then eventually turning professional doesn’t really fit the expected narrative as ice hockey isn’t a common sport in the UK even though it’s gaining more momentum due to Great Britain doing well on the international platform and the professional league in the UK becoming more established. For me personally, l started off playing Rugby in school always enjoying the physical aspect of it until one day a family friend introduced me to the world of Ice Hockey. At that moment a chord was struck and l never really looked back, l felt this deep calling, imagining one day that l would play in Canada or America with some of the best and then hopefully making it to the NHL following in the footsteps of a few of my favourite players at the time Wayne Gretzky and Pavel Bure.
Luckily for me l was fortunate enough my mum and dad let me go to an ice hockey training camp in Toronto during the summer months when l was about 14 years old where l was noticed by a former NHL player Roy Halpin who thought l had the skills to progress in the hockey world. Without his help l would not have gotten the chance to play prep school hockey in Canada developing my skills further which took me back to Europe signing my first professional contract then back across the pond playing a few seasons between America/Canada, finishing my career in the UK. I had the passion from day one ever since hockey was introduced to me, as cliché as it sounds it was as if a fire had been ignited in my heart and all l ever did was live, think and breath hockey until I reached my next chapter in life.
Your grandfather would take you as a boy to the Cairngorms and around the Highlands. How has that early exposure to Scotland’s natural setting stayed with you as an adult?
TCH: I don’t think l will ever forget those days when l was a wee boy, and my grandad would drive through parts of the Highlands while l sat in the back of his old classic Volvo wondering where he was taking me. Every time l sat in the back of that Volvo it seemed like an adventure and every time l got out there was always something new to see, he would talk about the Grampian Mountains religiously telling stories while stopping off in small Highland towns on route taking me to some great local bakeries and museums trying his best to educate me on all there was to know about the clans and the Highlands.
So, l would say he did a pretty good job leaving an imprint of adventure, Scotland and how much history our land holds which to this day is a constant interest and passion of mine.
You have a passion for Scotland and the incredible outdoors. Having travelled so much of the country can you tell us some of your favourite places, or where you recommend a tourist to Scotland should visit and why?
TCH: Definitely not an easy question to answer as there is so many beautiful places and many special places to visit when in Scotland and especially during certain times of the year with how much the flora and fauna changes from season to season. Scotland is filled with an abundance of mountains, lochs, castles, stunning beaches, delicious local food, great pubs, and wonderful cities plus more. My best answer I could give for this question would be what do you want to get out of Scotland? Do you want to try experience elements of it all in one go? Do you want to get lost exploring the highlands maybe finding yourself sleeping in a bothy deep in the Highlands wrapped up in your sleeping bag sipping on some whisky?
Do you want to take a dip in the refreshing Atlantic Sea on a lovely golden sand beach or maybe even do a bit of coastal cave exploring in search of folklore that may get shared around the campfire?
Or would you like to find yourself in a local pub down one of the narrow cobble streets tucked away in Edinburgh dancing the night away with locals in a ceilidh and attending festival shows. There is so much to choose from, and it can be like jumping from different worlds, but if l had to name a few of my favourite places l would say the Orkney Isles are special, filled with beautiful beaches, ancient standing stones and broch’s, amazing local produce, an abundance of sea birds and sea life and of course friendly local Orcadians.
Must not forget the Orkney Science Festival either which is fantastically put together with some amazing talks and events. As for the mainland, l love the mountains, how raw they are and how much the geology differs from the west to east, on the west coast in particular you have Torridon an epic part of Scotland that has a tremendous selection of mountain ridges and climbing at hand. And the Cairngorms the heart of the Highlands, the largest of National Parks in Scotland and someplace l would recommend exploring if you really want to immerse yourself in this raw terrain giving you that feeling of solitude away from all. And then one of my favourite lochs, Loch Coruisk, a once hidden gem located on the Isle of Skye along with a fair share of spectacular sites to explore on the Island including some caves, beaches, mountains, waterfalls and castle ruins.
You also share some of your favourite places with visitors to Scotland with tours that explore the beauty of the nation, can you tell us more?
TCH: Of course, l am a fully qualified Scottish Mountain guide who offers day/multi day tours and bespoke packages with my business North Guides. It can range from hiking mountains, camping in the highlands, visiting select sites, to going off the beaten track whilst remaining respectful of the landscape and locals exploring places that you would not normally see, chatting flora and fauna along the way and giving you the experience you hope to achieve while in Scotland.
I offer a range of packages, it doesn’t always have to be hiking big mountains, it can be exploring forests, castles and going to areas that the big tour buses don’t take you. North Guides tries and aims to be as inclusive as possible to help individuals and families explore Scotland, be they Scottish natives or from further afield, and to make the outdoors as accessible as possible. For me it’s a pleasure to take clients to their dream locations as my main goal is to inspire you as best l can with my homeland and hopefully leave you craving the opportunity to come back and explore Scotland again.
Tristan you have been crowned Mr Scotland, more than once, and competed at the Mr Universe competition. Can you tell us more and what opportunities this has created for you?
TCH: Yes you caught me, l was indeed Mr Scotland for 3 years from 2016 getting the chance to attend Mr Universe, I finished 6th overall in the world at the event and got to meet some lovely gents from all over the world who I still remain in contact with to this day. It was a pretty cool opportunity but definitely not something l had intended to do, it all happened by chance.
It took me further in the modelling industry, walking in fashion events in New York and even appearing on The Real Housewives of New York and other TV appearances, more people wanting to work with me and came at a time when l was just about to retire from the sports world. It gave me an opportunity to see what path it may lead me down and what I wanted in life; it was a learning experience. A fun chapter though, some lovely folk along the way and I made a lot of connections local and further afield throughout the world at the time as a result.
In 2017 you attended the New York Tartan Day Parade, how was it to be part of such an event and connect with international Scots?
THC: What an event to be part of, never did l imagine how much support us Scots would get in the Big Apple and how many people love us across there. It was all quite overwhelming but equally awesome at the same time to be part of it and getting the chance to march down 6th Avenue.
I have only attended this event on two occasions and both times l had an absolute blast, the event itself and events after are amazing, absolutely wild and filled with fun, and the amount of lovely people you meet along the way, it’s great. I shall look forward to the next time l make it out for the New York Tartan Day Parade.
As a Qualified Mountain Guide you have climbed some of Scotland’s most iconic mountains, would you call yourself a Munro Bagger? And which of Scotland’s munros (mountains over 3,000 ft/914.4m) are your favourite to climb?
TCH: There was a point l might have deemed myself a Munro Bagger as I was reaching for each of those peaks one by one, l have about 200 Munros under my belt and probably done some of the same mountains a dozen times if not more. But it’s not about bagging as much as I got to the point l just love being in the mountains regardless, l love the rawness and how peaceful they make you feel. I have quite a few friends who are Munro Baggers so there is probably a good chance l will end up completing all of the 282 Munros with them just because I am happy to go for a walk in the mountains with my friends, but I don’t hike to tick off a list, I do it because I enjoy it as much as I love a challenge.
A few of my favourite Mountains are An Teallach on the west coast which has an amazingly beautiful ridge walk and even better if you manage to walk the ridge during a cloud inversion. A little more inland l would say Aonach Eagach in Glencoe and my favourite in the Cairngorms and probably in Scotland is Carna Mhaim, not a particular hard Munro but a special one as its located right in the middle of the Cairngorms and almost like you are at the heart of the Highlands.
You have a passion for photography and your website and social media is full of incredible images of Scotland. What is it about Scotland do you find makes it a photographer’s paradise and do you have a favourite time of year to shoot around the country?
TCH: The thing about Scotland is that the weather is incredibly dramatic even at the best of times, and we have an abundance of glens located throughout the Highlands and each kind of has its own microclimate. It’s a unique country as there is so much to photograph from a nature point of view. l love how you can visit the same place a dozen times throughout the year and each time it feels and looks different giving you a different moment to capture with your camera.
I believe from my perspective this is how l get the majority of my clients as l try as best l can to capture those special moments in time that might inspire people to explore places they would not think of. If l had to pick a favourite time of the year l would have to say l love photographing in autumn going into winter, everything is gearing up for winter from tree leaves turning bright yellow/red and animals such as the red squirrels developing their thick darker red coat plus those fresh crisp clear starry nights.
And finally, Tristan your connection to the outdoors and your love of Scotland is obvious to see. How does it make you feel to be an ambassador for Scotland and be able to show so many people around the world all that Scotland has to offer and highlight its incredible natural beauty?
TCH: I feel extremely privileged l get this opportunity to do this for a living, the people l meet and how l can inspire someone through my photography, and guiding groups in person with my knowledge and understanding of the land. Each day that goes by l am thankful l am from such a beautiful country, and how much magic we have to offer and how many feel this way about Scotland and how far the passion of the Scotsman/woman travels throughout the world.
And I hope it inspires others to treasure their own homelands, discover what’s on their own back door too and get into the outdoors in general, as well as visit my beautiful homeland.
For more information on how Tristan Cameron Harper can take you on an adventure via his photography or Explore Scotland Walking Tours see: www.north-guides.com