When Alan Rowan finished his shifts as a national newspaper journalist at midnight, he was too wired to sleep. Also an avid mountaineer, after leaving the newsroom he began heading straight out onto the Scottish mountains. Ascending in the dark, he would watch the sun rise, “without another soul in sight” and descend as the rest of the world was waking up.
“One of the wonderful things about walking at this time of night is that the day comes alive with you,” he says.
Alan’s unique lifestyle suited him so well that he maintained it for 20 years, fitting his passion for the mountains around his work schedule and climbing a total of around 300 peaks by night.
Now a freelance journalist and author, Alan has published two books about his midnight adventures and is currently working on a third about his mission to climb a different mountain during each full moon this year.
His passion for nocturnal summiting means that his bag remains packed, ready to set off to any one of the highest peaks in Scotland at a moment’s notice – adventures he documents as the Munro Moonwalker on his blog and across social media.
A Canon compact camera, small enough to slip into his jacket pocket, always accompanies him on these trips to capture mountain views. “You want to walk as light as possible, which is why I like a really good pocket camera,” says Alan. “I’m going out to see mountains and to take pictures, I'm not going out to take pictures and to be on a mountain – there’s a difference. I don't want to be messing about with changing lenses and things like that. That’s why pocket cameras are perfect for my needs.”
"Every picture tells a story – it’s a log of where you’ve been and who you are"
Alan has been using the PowerShot SX740 HS for capturing memories on the mountains. As well as being portable and easy to use, the camera packs in a number of powerful features from 4K video through to its remarkable 40x optical zoom – meaning he can photograph details close by as well as wildlife and subjects in the distance.
“Photography is so important for me,” he says. “Every picture tells a story – it’s a log of where you’ve been and who you are. It’s also a way to show other people what they miss. There are so many times when you get to the top of a mountain and you think, ‘I wish so-and-so could see this.’ It’s a great legacy – the pictures will be passed on and hopefully my grandchildren will enjoy seeing what I did.”
Alan’s nature photography tips
1. Take a big zoom with you
Alan’s climbs take him to vertiginous locations where staying safe requires sticking to well-worn paths. “A good zoom means that when you spot wildlife such as deer or birds of prey, you can get a lot closer to it,” he says.
“If you see something a mile away, you can't suddenly decide to go there to photograph it because it will have gone by then. You need to be able to capture the shot from wherever you’re standing.”
The Canon PowerShot SX740 HS fits 40x optical zoom into a compact body, allowing detailed capture of distant objects, while ZoomPlus technology digitally doubles the optical zoom to achieve 80x with little loss of quality compared to other digital zooms. In the images above, the 80x zoom was used to capture rust detail on the hull of the distant boat.
It even allows Alan to take close-up shots of the sky at night. “I'm working on a book all about being on the mountains in the full moon,” he says. “Having a camera with a powerful zoom enables me to get closer shots.”
2. Be ready for action
Burst modes can come in handy up in the mountains. “You’re in this massive landscape, but you can often spot movement quite far down and you've only got a few seconds to do something with that,” Alan says. “If you spot a flash in the heather, you want to close in on it quickly. So, the Canon PowerShot SX740 HS's continuous shooting speed gives you a big advantage in capturing the action.”
Suited to moving subjects, from wildlife through to school sports days, this 10-frames-per-second burst mode captures more of the story.
3. Make sure you can capture the fine details