Adventurous photographer Dan Bell is exploring Scotland’s great outdoors in a new series of Facebook vlogs, discovering the journey is just as important as the destination.
The 20-year-old from Linlithgow is catching trains deep into the Scottish Highlands to snap photographs of remote beauty spots. He’s now following through on some friendly advice and has begun filming his trips.
Dan’s unique brand of internet humour pairs up well with the loneliness of the Highlands and now his videos have won him hundreds of thousands of views as he winds his way up through the wilderness on his bike with his camp strapped to his back.
Videos on his Facebook page, Dan Bell Photography, have received between 30k and 80k views and the sudden surge in popularity has taken the cameraman by surprise.
“I was at work just checking my phone,” he says, “and saw one of the videos – which I’d just posted that morning – was at 14,000 views and this was more than anything I’d ever had before.
“After that I saw an opportunity and I don’t think there are many other folk that are doing a similar thing on Youtube or Facebook. There’s obviously people who enjoy it who want to see more of it and as a result I just kept going.”
Dan’s videos have taken him scenic routes through rural Scotland on his bike, with popular uploads being his cycle through Glen Etive and hiking through snow to snap a spectacular sunrise on Mull.
Two years ago, he couldn’t have imagined coming face-to-face with wild deer or camping on the same shoreline as Harry, Ron and Hermione in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows movies.
“I was at uni in Glasgow really not enjoying my course,” he recalls, “and decided I just really wanted to get out of the city. I realised that from Glasgow there are so many trains that will take you out to the middle of nowhere.”
“I really enjoy that feeling of being in a place with absolutely no-one around.
“I started taking photos on these trips, realised I had a skill for photography and started posting photos to Instagram”
Dan’s followers on the social photo sharing app provided him some much-needed feedback. He continued uploading for a year before deciding to take a year out from his degree to focus on photography. Further to striking up photography partnerships with outdoor clothing brands, Dan’s social strategy has shifted to video.
“One of the videos that properly popped on Facebook is now at 80,000 views or something,” he says, before admitting “it’s just weird.”
Dan is alluding to his most popular video, which seems him cycling through Glen Etive and have some close encounters with the local wildlife and visits some scenic spots you may recognise from the silver screen. Word of mouth and social sharing have helped the comedic snapper get noticed on Facebook.
“I got a message from this guy on Facebook,” he recalls, “saying ‘thank you so much for letting me be in your video’.”
The message was from a man walking along the Glen Etive road who only appeared in the clip for a few seconds at most.
“I think his sister’s friend had shared it on Facebook, so it had obviously popped up on his Facebook and he’d seen himself in the video,” he laughs.
He’s also heard back from a man building a new house who Dan asked to refill his water bottle, and his hysterical skit on pronouncing cagoule earned him a cameo on a kayaking vlog.
Dan’s enthusiasm for scenic wilderness is built around proving how accessible those destinations are to anyone thinking of getting some country air. As a learner driver so he’s used to making the most of public transport links and it’ll take more than a few impromptu nights camping in his one-man tent to keep him away.
“As a result, I’ve found out that you can get to a lot of places in Scotland solely by using the train, jumping on the bus or just biking it,” he says.
“I really do need to get a car and everyone’s telling me I need to start driving, so me and my driving instructor Ian… we’re sorting that one out. There’s quite a famous beach called Sandwood Bay and that really requires a car. There was something on Wikipedia about it being one of the most pristine beaches in the UK.”
Dan draws much of his inspiration from the web, like his ‘Exploring Loch Tulla and Beyond’ video, which saw him track down his “favourite two trees in all of Google Maps”.
“I’m quite picky about my trees,” he explains in the video, “and these two trees up the road are up the scale, along with… whatever other trees are up top.”
The likeable lad’s combination of on-camera shenanigans, awkward monologues, internet memes, photography tips and his rough approach to editing ensures every video maintains a steady pace while you can’t help but take in the spectacular scenery at every twist and turn of the road.
Dan’s trip vlogs serve as a worthwhile reminder that Scotland extends further than the Central Belt, and public transport makes postcard-ready destinations accessible to everyone. If you’re ever fed up with being a slave to big screens, little screens, pocket screens and wrist screens, disconnecting yourself in the heart of nowhere with two top-tier trees and a stag for company might just be the breath of fresh air for what ails you.
- Click here to like Dan’s Facebook page.
- Click here to add him on Instagram.
- Click here to subscribe to his Youtube channel.