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Black Dots Rab Competition

Black Dots has now sold out on Another Place Press. Thank you so much to everybody that purchased a copy. Rab are currently holding a competition to win one of three signed copies. View the below social posts to find out how to enter...

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Lens Culture Emerging Talent Awards

Thrilled to finally be able to share the news that I have been named as a winner in the Lens Culture Emerging Talent Awards 2017 alongside 49 brilliant photographers from around the world.

Images from Black Dots will be exhibited in New York at Klompching Gallery in March 2018 (details to follow).

To view the work of all the winners, please follow this link:

www.lensculture.com/2017-lensculture-emerging-talent-award-winners

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'Black Dots' on Avaunt Magazine

Nestled deep in the heart of Britain’s wild spaces; beneath looming crags and on secluded shorelines, small shelters lie camouflaged against a backdrop of rock and earth. Flickers of amber glimmer in the darkness and the air is filled with the smell of wood smoke, funnelled down the glens by the cold winds of winter. These shelters, or ‘bothies’ as they are called in the United Kingdom, offer precious accommodation for those with a love of wilderness and a desire to explore.

I sat on a Vietnamese sleeper train and wrote a piece about 'Black Dots' for Avaunt Magazine. It was surreal re-living those cold Scottish winter nights whilst trundling through the humid Vietnamese countryside! You can check out the full piece by clicking here. 

Recent Features

'Black Dots' has been doing the rounds online lately, and I've been terrible at updating the blog as I've been travelling through Asia with limited access to WiFi! I'm now back in the UK, and so for those of you who are still interested, here's a list of recent 'Black Dots' features from the past few weeks:

Aint Bad - 'Nicholas White'
ignant - 'Camping With Nicholas JR White'
Booooooom! - 'Photographer Spotlight - Nicholas JR White'
Thisispaper - 'Nicholas White: Black Dots'
Paper Sea - 'Black Dots - Bothies Project'

Black Dots - The Cairngorms, January 2017

Ryvoan 

 

Arriving in Scotland in January, you could have been fooled into thinking winter had been and gone. A light dusting on the distant tops did nothing to entice the numerous climbers & skiers who frequented the living room of Aviemore’s youth hostel. Clouds hung over the Cairngorms, bringing with them a sense of anticipation that maybe, just maybe, the season would soon arrive.

I visited The Cairngorms in March 2016 on a trip that was unfortunately cut short due to a misunderstanding between my right knee and a large boulder and I have been determined to return ever since. With my long suffering friend Andy arriving a couple of days after me and with some fairly long hikes scheduled, I began this trip with a short walk - heading North East from Glenmore, following the Ryvoan Pass towards Nethy Bridge. A mere 40 minutes through woodland and past the idyllic Loch Uaine and I reached Ryvoan Bothy – my home for the night.

Nicholas White, Black Dots, Ryvoan Bothy, Cairngorms, Scotland

Scottish-flag bunting adorned the walls above the fire, and the usual assortment of gas canisters and tinned food lined the windowsills opposite the sleeping platform.  With the sleeping bag laid out, I headed back down the footpath in search of some firewood. There’s plenty of woodland within walking distance of the bothy so it didn’t take long for me to source enough fuel for the evening. I utilised the last of the evening light to scout some possible shots for later in the week. If the snow did arrive, there were definitely some interesting images to make here but unfortunately the current conditions didn't do much to encourage me to unload the camera gear. I bedded down for the night with the bothy to myself, and left early the following morning to meet Andy from Inverness. 

Nicholas White, Black Dots, Ryvoan Bothy, Cairngorms, Scotland

Fords of Avon

 

The hike into Fords of Avon follows The Lairig an Laoigh, the slightly less dramatic little sister to the nearby Lairig Ghru. The beauty of this landscape however, lies in it's bleakness; remote, undulating open moorland climbs away from Ryvoan Bothy and over the Western slopes of An Lurg. From here, the track winds it's way beneath the magnificent tors of the Barns of Bynack before eventually descending alongside the burn.

Nicholas White, Black Dots, Fords of Avon Refuge Hut, Cairngorms, Scotland

Fords of Avon Refuge Hut is exactly that - a refuge hut. Strictly speaking this isn't a bothy and certainly doesn't try to disguise itself as one either; a tiny shed-like structure with boulders flanking its sides offers very basic accommodation for those seeking shelter when the weather turns against them. The conditions had been kind to us on the hike in, and aside from the negative wind-chill that stalked us all the way from An Lurg, the worst of the weather seemed to be lingering further south down the mountain pass towards Derry Cairngorm and Ben Macdui. This suited us just fine and arriving early evening, we stood at the hut and watched these conditions develop. Powerful gusts taunted us, bringing with them mild flurries of snow that hinted at harsher nights to come. One by one stars began to show themselves, gradually filling the vast skies that the Cairngorms are famed for. With the arrival of nightfall came a considerable drop in temperature, which was enough to initiate a retreat inside the refuge hut. 

Nicholas White, Black Dots, Fords of Avon Refuge Hut, Cairngorms, Scotland
Nicholas White, Black Dots, Fords of Avon Refuge Hut, Cairngorms, Scotland
Nicholas White, Black Dots, Fords of Avon Refuge Hut, Cairngorms, Scotland
Nicholas White, Black Dots, Fords of Avon Refuge Hut, Cairngorms, Scotland

Despite it's limited facilities, with two people inside and the door firmly shut the wooden interior of the refuge hut offered a relatively good level of comfort and warmth, (assisted of course by multiple layers and the steam of a jetboil!). With no windows, we opened the door the following morning half-expecting to see at least the faintest dusting of snow on the ground surrounding the hut. To our surprise, there was no change from the day before, even the puddles of rain which collected in the well-trodden peat remained defiantly-unfrozen. In a similar act of defiance, I set up the 5x4 and began composing for a couple of frames despite being secretly disappointed & frustrated by the lack of snow. So far, Scotish winter had evaded us but with the MWIS reports becoming increasingly more hopeful, we hiked back to Aviemore feeling relatively positive that this trip might still pay off.

Nicholas White, Black Dots, Fords of Avon Refuge Hut, Cairngorms, Scotland
Nicholas White, Black Dots, Fords of Avon Refuge Hut, Cairngorms, Scotland

Corrour 

 

Parking at Lin O' Dee brought back many fond memories of my time here last March. The conditions back then were perfect and offered me my first real taste of winter in Scotland. Although I bagged a successful image of "Hutchy", much of the snow stayed on the eastern side of Macdui, with the melt well underway in the Lairig Ghru where Corrour is positioned. I was never happy with the work I shot at Corrour and vowed to return at the end of the project. So here I was, once again keeping everything crossed for a big dump of snow. The Mountain Weather Information Service had predicted heavy snowfall that night, so the plan was to get to Corrour in advance and effectively snow ourselves in for two nights. Three days and two nights requires a lot of kit so weight saving was a priority here: limiting the amount of loaded film I carried, strict rationing of fuel and the rather questionable transfer of Talisker into a plastic babies feeding bottle - the lightest and largest vessel we could find at the Aviemore stores! 

Nicholas White, Black Dots, Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms, Scotland

The walk to Corrour is beautiful, yet the lengthy stretch of Land Rover tracks can get a little repetitive after a while. The mountains remained in our sights however, and before long we were crossing the Luibeg Burn and tracing the southern contours of Carn a'Mhaim which gradually brings Corrour into view. The snowline was still quite high, sitting at around 800 meters which made for an easy final approach to the bothy. Entering Corrour, we were greeted by Sebastian and Phillip; two German hill-walkers who were spending a week backpacking across The Cairngorms. 

Nicholas White, Black Dots, Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms, Scotland

First light. Raising my head from the sleeping platform and squinting through the condensation, I could see through the window that winter had finally arrived. I sat and watched the snowflakes build on the windowsill and as my eyes adjusted to the white light the extent of the nights snowfall became clear. The 800m snowline had crept down from the munros and up to the bothy door, covering the Lairig Ghru - it wasn't deep by Scottish standards, but certainly enough to convey a sense of winter in photographs. Corrour sits beneath the 1004m Devil's Point, an impressive lump of black rock that dwarfs the bothy. In order to capture both of these elements, I climbed the western slopes of Carn a' Mhaim to get some elevation. 60mph gusts were funnelling down the mountain pass bringing with them painful waves of spindrift. Taking cover behind a conveniently placed boulder I hunkered down and began shooting. 

Nicholas White, Black Dots, Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms, Scotland
Nicholas White, Black Dots, Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms, Scotland
Nicholas White, Black Dots, Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms, Scotland

Large Format is a slow process, but it's amazing how fast you can move when the conditions play ball. Spindrift whirled around Devil's Point and the sun did it's best to penetrate through the grey and white. Brief breaks in the cloud allowed the rays to light up the bothy, which appeared overwhelmed by it's surroundings. Satisfied with the shots I'd managed to get we picked our way through the frozen heather towards the bothy, crossing the River Dee and arriving just as another set of powerful gusts thundered down the hillside.

Nicholas White, Black Dots, Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms, Scotland

Today was Andy's birthday, which also coincided with our last bothy-night of the project. With some impressive winter-shots in the bag, we spent our evening celebrating outside Corrour and reminiscing over some of the journeys this project has taken us on over the last two years. With the entire glen to ourselves, we stood in the snow drinking whisky out of the trusty feeding-bottle with the slightly unorthodox soundtrack of Metallica's 'Ride The Lightning' playing from Andy's iPhone. As the evening rolled on, the freezing gusts and spindrift did little to deter the mood despite knocking us off our feet on more than one occasion!

Nicholas White, Black Dots, Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms, Scotland
Nicholas White, Black Dots, Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms, Scotland
Nicholas White, Black Dots, Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms, Scotland

The following morning, the intense conditions that had buffeted us for the last few days were replaced by blue skies, bright sunshine and not a breath of wind. The frozen ground squeaked and cracked under the weight of our boots, and the sound of Ptarmigans echoed around the pass. The peace and tranquillity was only briefly interrupted by the roar of a low-flying RAF Typhoon which cut through the air just outside Corrour. As the jet disappeared behind Ben Macdui, the stillness returned. We navigated the short trip south along the track we came in on to try and bag a couple more images of Corrour from a slightly different perspective before loading up our packs one last time and beginning the long trudge back to Lin O' Dee.

Nicholas White, Black Dots, Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms, Scotland
Nicholas White, Black Dots, Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms, Scotland

Naturally, as soon as we set off the wind and snow returned ensuring that we had some unfriendly company hampering our journey! The rapidly changing conditions made for some great photographic opportunities however, and I walked with the D-SLR in hand. catching the continuing battle between rough & fair weather playing out over Beinn Bhrotain. Reaching the car as night fell, we eventually found a road that hadn't been closed due to snowfall and drove back towards Aviemore.

Nicholas White, Black Dots, Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms, Scotland
Nicholas White, Black Dots, Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms, Scotland
Nicholas White, Black Dots, Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms, Scotland

Return to Ryvoan

With Winter now in full swing, I decided to spend my final day back at Ryvoan bothy to attempt some compositions I'd scouted at the beginning of the week. It's incredible how quickly the landscape can transform in five short days. The green and brown tree covered walls of the Ryvoan Pass were now a stark, cold contrast of black and white and ski tracks cut there way through the powder snow that now dressed the footpaths.

Nicholas White, Black Dots, Ryvoan Bothy, Cairngorms, Scotland
Nicholas White, Black Dots, Ryvoan Bothy, Cairngorms, Scotland

Arriving at Ryvoan, I sat on the flat rock beside the bothy and gazed out towards An Lung and the route Andy & I took to Fords of Avon at the start of the week. "Nice day for it!", came a voice from the bothy door. An older gentleman in a large blue down jacket and mittens strolled over towards me. Clasping his hands against his face and exhaling in an attempt to regain some sort of sensation in his nose from the cold air, we began chatting. Lindsay works on maintaining the footpaths over on the Glen Feshie estate but had taken some time out to spend a number of weeks walking and bothying in the Cairngorms. Moving back inside the bothy, Lindsay had a good fire going and a pot of fresh coffee which he handed to me. One by one the bothy filled up and in typical bothy-fashion, the coffee continued to be passed around accompanied by a selection of biscuits, chocolate and whatever else people had carried in their packs. I took Lindsay and another walker, Lucy, outside and after a rushed portrait session dashed up the 810m Corbett behind Ryvoan - Meall a' Bhuachaille to set up the final shot of the project. The light was perfect as I tried to reach a suitable spot - the sun was setting behind Cairn Gorm and casting a stunning golden light down the pass and directly onto the bothy but the light was fading fast. I anxiously checked over my shoulders as I climbed and upon finding the perfect location, I rammed the tripod into the snow and fumbled around with the camera trying to compose, focus, meter and load the film before the sun disappeared for the evening.

Nicholas White, Black Dots, Ryvoan Bothy, Cairngorms, Scotland

Packing up the 5x4 for the final time and walking the snowy tracks towards Glenmore, I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I began this project in April 2015 in the Lake District and spent my first bothy night there in October of the same year. Since then, I've been fortunate enough to spend all of my available time travelling the United Kingdom, discovering these beautiful remote shelters and meeting some of the most incredible people I've ever met.

Teeming with character and history, these remote shelters are tirelessly maintained by volunteers to allow us the opportunity to enjoy some of our most wild and lonely places. The landscapes of the British Isles hold many stories. Bothies and the culture that surrounds them is just one. Thank you for coming on this journey with me, and I hope the work encourages you to head out into the hills to become part of that story. 

Nicholas White, February 2017

Nicholas White, Black Dots, Ryvoan Bothy, Cairngorms, Scotland

Black Dots - The Lake District, April 2015

 

Leaving Devon at midday on the Sunday, the 6.5 hour drive was pretty uneventful. As the panoramic view of the fells revealed itself over the M6  it was only a short journey via Keswick before I was on the winding roads beside Derwent Water. I've only ever visited the Lakes twice before; once on a climbing holiday with the family in 2008 and again on my own in 2010, so I am unfamiliar with the vast majority of the park.  I'm fortunate enough to live on Dartmoor National Park so have around 360 square miles of open land on my doorstep, but the Lakes are different. I guess it's the closest thing we have to "proper" mountains in England and as a result, everything feels absolutely massive! 

I arrived late, and spent my first night at the Langstrath Inn, Stonethwaite - a small country inn nestled in the Borrowdale Valley. It's a great little place tucked away at the end of a winding country lane with fantastic views of the surrounding fells. It's pretty much everything you'd expect from an inn in the Lakes. You can check out there website here

Fuelled by a decent nights sleep and a traditional Cumbrian breakfast feast, I made the short drive towards the village of Buttermere. The drive is spectacular and takes you through one of the treasures of the English landscape - Honiser Pass. The Pass is the location of the famous Honsiter Slate Mine, and traces of this mining history are strewn across the steep slopes either side of the road. I'd like to avoid this journal from becoming a holiday guidebook, so if you want to know more about the mine then please head over to the site, here. That said, I did attach a GoPro to the roof of the car and film the drive through the pass:

I made my way to a small campsite in Buttermere, which is overlooked by High Crag and High Stile. Despite the blue skies and sunshine, the weather report had warned of "snow & hail showers, risk of lightening" - welcome to Springtime in Cumbria. After pitching the tent and packing up my kit, I began my first trek towards Haystacks. Somewhere below Haystacks lies my first bothy, a tiny construction with a slate roof that looks like it can only take a small group of people at any time. From what I have seen from satellite imagery, it appears to be pretty well camouflaged; with its rear wall tucked right up against the fell. Locating a building constructed from rock, on the side of a huge rock covered with smaller rocks is always going to be difficult. I didn't have a full day so opted for a shorter trek up Scarth Gap Pass (on the right hand side of the below image). I thought that route would give me a great panoramic of Haystacks and would help me to try and locate the bothy, whilst also offering up some great opportunities to shoot a few frames of the pass.  

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Up to now the weather had held off, but as I explored Scarth Gap trying to spot the bothy on the adjacent fells the wind began to build and I spotted the first few flakes of snow landing on my jacket. No sign of the bothy, and the fells kept disappearing and emerging again through the waves of mist. I managed to find a sheltered spot to shoot a couple of frames for Black Dots on the 5x4 before making a hasty retreat down the trail and back to Buttermere. Shooting 5x4 in those sorts of conditions is pretty impossible when you're that  exposed and to be honest, huge stormy landscapes aren't what I'm looking for for this series.That didn't stop me taking a few shots on the digital on the way down though. A solid introduction to the Lake District and although the weather stopped play, I'm excited to finally have this project under way. 

I ended up spending the night in my car after the tent got flattened by wind - hopping around a rain drenched camping field in my thermals trying to find tent pegs wasn't my finest hour. I spent the first half of the morning drying everything out and trying to figure out the correct porridge-water ratio. I got it wrong. 

The weather had calmed down by mid morning, so decided to walk in a similar(ish) direction as yesterday on the lookout for the popular Warnscale Head bothy (approx. 5km from Buttermere village as the crow flies). Again, I wasn't too bothered about finding it as the project is as much about the journeys through the landscape as it is about the buildings themselves. Following the marked bridleways around the lake via Burtness Wood offers some great views and is a pretty easy going walk for those who don't fancy tackling anything too strenuous.

Passing the base of Fleetwith Pike you're greeted with the infamous White Cross which serves as a reminder to all that the fells can be as deadly as they are beautiful. 

The following is taken from the National Trust website:

"The white cross on the side of Fleetwith Pike and overlooking Buttermere marks the sad story of Fanny Mercer. Fanny was a young servant girl who worked for Mr. Bowden Smith, a school teacher from Rugby, and accompanied his family on their summer vacation in the Lakes. One fateful day in September 1887, the party were walking to the top of the crag above Honister Quarries and were descending down the steep ridge of Fleetwith Pike. Fanny was not an accomplished walker and during this part of the journey she jumped down from a ledge and lost her balance. She fell a distance of around twenty feet amongst rocks and rabble until she reached the bottom of the fell side. By the time the others had reached her, she was badly injured and taken to the nearby Gatesgarth Farm, but sadly died before medical assistance could arrive. Her body was returned to Rugby where she was buried and the white cross erected in her memory in Buttermere. To this day the symbol stands as a warning to walkers that the mountains of the Lake District can be perilous unless you are alert and mindful of the dangers."

The walk around Fleetwith Pike and Striddle Crag was pretty easy going. I'd spied this bridleway yesterday when I was up at Scarth Gap so was able to orientate myself pretty well. At Warnscale Bottom the footpaths split into two - one way leads up around the back of Fleetwith (and onwards to Honister) and the other takes you almost directly up Green Crag/Haystacks (east), following what I  assume is an old mining trail which traces a waterfall almost to the very top. I reckon I walked as far and as high I could on that particular path before the scree slopes began to crumble away under my boots. A few hairy moments were prevented by grasping frantically onto the tiniest sprigs of heather and swearing under my breath, followed by laughing at how stupid I must look to people down below. The views that extended North-West out to Buttermere and Crummock Water were breathtaking and totally worth the struggle.

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When you're out shooting for a project, it's easy to get so caught up in making the right images that you forget to actually stop and enjoy the journey. There's always time to sit down and just spend a few moments appreciating how beautiful the views are. This is one of the advantages of shooting landscapes on large format (I'll post something about that at some point). It's such a slow process that you're almost forced to play a waiting game. Once I'd set up the 5x4 on the tripod, focussed and loaded the film I think I must have sat there for nearly two hours waiting for the right conditions. As you can see from the behind the scenes shots, it was really cloudy, overcast and the last bits of snow were still clinging onto the higher fells. The sun was poking through occasionally, shining a few diffused rays down into the valley below. I shot a couple of frames, but I'm a little worried that the wind and unsteady ground will result in a blurry mess. Guess we'll find out in a few weeks...


For my fourth day, I began my hike from the Honister Slate Mine. From the mine, there is a clearly marked trail which if followed for a few hours, eventually meets the trail I passed on Day 3. This route takes you through some of the mine workings and past some pretty large slag heaps. There are two bothies on the hills around Honister; Dubs Hut and Warnscale Head. The latter is the one I have been skirting around for the last few days and is only a short distance away from Dubs Hut. They are both old mining buildings which have been handed over to the MBA to be maintained as bothies. 

'If' slate engraved poem on the hills above Honister Pass

'If' slate engraved poem on the hills above Honister Pass

Dubs Hut is the first bothy you'll get to if you're approaching from Honister - it's a fairly large building with enough room to sleep a decent sized party. It was a great feeling to finally reach my first ever bothy after reading about them for so long! I shot a few frames inside before finding a suitable location on the high ground behind the bothy. Up until now the weather had held off, but the approaching storm hovering over the summit of Brandreth had me and a number of other hikers on the hillside taking cover. 

I moved on, leaving Dubs Hut behind me and heading towards Warnscale Head. The track was easygoing, crossing small streams and large areas of grassland; a welcome relief from the past few days. I found Warnscale Head nestled beneath a large stack and patches of brown heather. It's infamously difficult to locate and I totally understand why! This tiny, unassuming structure can probably only sleep 3-4 people and comprises of 2 sleeping platforms, a small fire and one tiny window which looks down towards Buttermere. It's incredibly cosy, and due to its small size probably doesn't take long to warm up. I haven't really met anybody yet on my walks, and both bothies have been empty, but you can paint a pretty vivid picture of the individuals that have been there before you by observing the items they have left behind. Food, clothing, toys, books, drawings in the visitors book and other little oddities tell a story all by themselves. 

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My final two days in the Lake District saw me leave the North Western area of the Park, and move eastwards towards Haweswater. From Haweswater reservoir you can take a half-days walk S/SE to Mosedale Cottage - perhaps the most well known of all the Lakeland bothies. The walk to Mosedale began with a steep climb through the gulleys beneath Artlecrag Pike and Harter Fell - it's a magnificent gulley with some massive views.

The landscape surrounding Mosedale Cottage is different to that of the previous two bothies. Mosedale sits alone, at the foot of Great Grain Gill in a vast sweeping grassy valley with large herds of deer grazing on the slopes. A small waterfall trickles behind the cottage, leading towards Mosedale Beck. Scandanavian dialect is common in the Lakes, and Mosedale is a great example of this, meaning mossy valley. I spent most of my last day at the bothy, taking photographs and reading the visitors book. There were about 6 leather chairs, all positioned in a semi circle around the fire with an empty bottle of wine on the mantelpiece. The cottage is large, and there are a number of separate rooms - I'd say you could probably sleep about 12 people here comfortably. 

I didn't take many digital shots on these final two days, but I did film a great deal of it on my GoPro so maybe I'll upload an edited video from that footage. All in all, a pretty successful week in the Lakes and a good start to the project. I imagine that I'll return here again in the Autumn to explore some different routes to these bothies. Cheers lakes, it was a good one!