How Ruairidh McGlynn Takes Stunning Landscape Photos With His iPhone

I’m really excited to share this interview with Ruairidh McGlynn, a talented photographer from Scotland who takes incredible landscapes photos with his iPhone. With a passion for exploration and adventure, he captures the beauty and solitude of the mountains in dramatic weather and light. In this interview you’ll learn more about Ruairidh, and how he hopes to inspire people to embark upon similar adventures by sharing his journeys through Instagram.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I currently help run a small architectural lighting manufacturing firm based in Scotland. I live in Edinburgh and my background is in product design.

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How did your iPhone photography journey begin?

It all began back in the winter of 2013. I joined my brother on a trip up into the highlands to climb a Munro. After a couple of hours into our climb we entered what was to be an entirely different world, and I recall it being -15°C. The frozen landscape was a stark contrast to where we had started from in the city only a few hours before.

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At that moment, with my iPhone to hand, I began to document the journey. I’d been introduced to Instagram a few weeks before and the two seemed like a good way to tell this story. Upon returning home I put up the images, received some great feedback, and from that moment on I was hooked.

What inspires you to take photos with the iPhone?

Having the ability to capture, process, curate and publish all on one device makes it an extremely useful tool. I enjoy capturing candid landscape shots, generally in fairly harsh conditions.

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The iPhone is compact and easy to store, the lens is well protected, and the user interface is intuitive and therefore quick to use. These qualities lend themselves well to those conditions.

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Looking ahead and reading up on the latest developments which include being able to shoot in super low light and major megapixel increases, it’s an exciting time for mobile photography.

You take incredible landscape photos with your iPhone. What draws you to this genre of photography?

Thank you. I enjoy getting out of the city and up into the highlands as often as possible. It’s a place where I can clear my mind and find new visual inspiration.

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There’s no better feeling than embarking upon an expedition into the unknown, discovering new places and having the ability to share those with others.

Do you have a favorite time of day, season and type of weather for landscape photography?

Every season has its benefits, but the winter conditions in the Scottish highlands have to be amongst my favorite. Scotland is well known for its variable weather, and combined with the short days and low winter sun you’re almost guaranteed to come back with some interesting work.

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A recent trip to Ben Nevis where we set off in bright sunshine and ended in a whiteout of snow was the perfect example of how quickly things can change.

Many people find it difficult to convey the beauty and scale of vast landscapes in a photo. What composition tips would you give to those who want to capture the landscape at its best?

I always like to include a subject that will provide a sense of scale to the landscape. A small subject set against the overwhelming scenery helps exaggerate the surroundings and adds the mystery and solitude that I love about exploring the hills.

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For me, learning about leading lines and the rule of thirds is also important. They’re simple ideas and principles, but get you thinking more before you take a shot. In the end, having thought those through will help you produce better results.

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You mentioned that you like to include a human subject in your landscape photos. How important is this in your photography?

It’s very important to me. I’m recording the human experience of being in the hills, and therefore to effectively communicate this in my photography I often include a figure or another aspect of human life.

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I think this inclusion places more emphasis on the landscape, adds more depth and meaning, and allows people to make a stronger connection to the image.

Where do you go to find such amazing landscapes to photograph?

Fortunately I live only a few hours from the highlands, and only a few miles from some diverse coastal scenery. So I don’t have to venture very far. I have a pocket guide that covers the Munros, so quite often I’ll look to that for local inspiration.

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For places further afield, I’m currently fascinated by very contrasting locations that range from sparsely populated untouched landscapes, to rapidly developing growth markets where the landscapes are evolving swiftly. I hope to have the opportunity to capture both in some upcoming projects.

Let’s talk about photo apps. Are there any apps that you use for taking photos besides the native camera app?

I always like to try out new apps, but since the addition of the exposure control to the native camera app, probably 95% of what I output is captured on that.

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What are your favorite apps for post-processing?

VSCO Cam effectively covers most of my requirements. Its user interface is well designed and it offers a comprehensive variety of presets. They’re always receptive to feedback and are constantly adding new features. That said, I’ll occasionally utilize Snapseed and TouchRetouch.

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Do you use any iPhone photography accessories?

I’ve been enjoying using the Moment lenses. They’re robust, well designed, and easy enough to clip on and off when required. I find the wide angle lens particularly useful for my needs. You can very quickly increase the amount of landscape you can fit into your frame, without needing to run 100 metres and potentially missing your shot.

Can you briefly explain the story and editing behind your three favorite iPhone photos?

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Whilst on a trip to Qatar earlier in the year, I met up with a photographer that I’d connected with on Instagram. We ventured out into the desert bordering Saudi Arabia and as the light faded and the mist set in, we passed lone outposts and camels in search of the perfect tree.

On the horizon a faint yet unique outline caught my eye. We headed for it, jumped out and discovered the most magical tree in what were perfect conditions. I captured the following image on my iPhone and then processed it in VSCO Cam with one of the E series presets.

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This photo was taken on a recent trip to Ben Nevis. The day started off under a bright blue sky, but as we progressed the temperature dropped, the wind picked up and the snow really started to fall.

This was captured at the start of the day and I used the exposure control to over-expose the sky. I then opened the image in VSCO Cam, applied a preset, dropped the saturation and increased the exposure to eliminate the blue sky.

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This image was captured in the Cairngorms and it’s one that will stick in my mind for a while. I’d started the day really early after a cold and sleepless night in my tent. I left two of my friends to go climb, and for four hours I’d walked on my own and not seen a single person.

After making it through the mist and having crossed the Cairngorm plateau, upon my ascent of the second Munro I looked back and waited for these three climbers to walk into the shot. I took a few exposures and on the bus journey home I dropped this into VSCO Cam, applied a black and white filter and increased the contrast a little.

You have over 64,000 followers on Instagram. How has Instagram influenced your photography and what does this online community mean to you?

It’s a platform that has certainly helped me develop my photography and raise my profile. Being able to engage directly with people from all around the globe and instantly access new inspiration has been key to this development.

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It’s provided the opportunity to connect with like-minded people from across the globe, helping me develop and in turn allowing me to help others.

What tips do you have for beginner iPhone photographers who want to start taking more creative photos with the iPhone?

Identify what you like, and follow those whose work you admire, both on Instagram and professionals that operate outside the platform.

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The best way to grow is to head out and practice, push yourself to experiment and try out new things, whether that be through the subject, composition or post-processing. Have fun, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes as you’ll learn from them.

Which iPhone photographers do you admire the most?

In the world of iPhone photography, I’m constantly impressed by the work produced by Michael O’Neal, Dan Cole, Chris Schoonover and Kevin Russ to name but a few (check out our interviews with Chris and Kevin).

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For others seeking inspiration, I’d recommend looking at both the One By One mobile exhibition and the Apple world gallery.

Where can we see your iPhone photography?

My primary publishing point for my mobile photography is Instagram @ruairidhmcglynn, but my work can also be seen over on my website or on VSCO.

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It's easy to take a quick snapshot with iPhone, but most people don't know how to take full control of their iPhone's camera. That's why we created a free video revealing 7 hidden iPhone camera features that every photographer should use.

  • Thank you Kate for sharing this wonderful interview with us. How amazing is Ruairidh’s photography? I just love the photo of the perfect tree.

    • Glad you enjoyed seeing Ruairidh’s work Rosa. His photos are breathtaking aren’t they!

    • They certainly are Kate.

  • tracymg

    Always jealous of those who have access to geography and terrain like these scenes in Scotland and beyond. Inspirational gallery – thanks for bringing these images to us armchair travelers.

    • Glad you enjoyed seeing these beautiful landscapes Tracy.

  • ACelticDragon

    I’ve followed him on Instagram for quite a while now. I’ve been to various spots around Scotland a couple of times, so I recognize some of the locations where he shoots. Most of my Scotland shots are DSLR but I have some from my last vacation there two years ago that I took with my iPhone. Can’t wait to go back.