"I'm motivated by the search for unexpected beauty"

The sun shines through dark clouds at Faraid Head, Sutherland, Scotland, 2019.
Architectural photographer Quintin Lake has been walking and photographing Britain's 10,600km coastline for The Perimeter, a personal project that will take him five years to complete. He has been able to capture a diverse range of images charting the UK's changing weather and landscape, such as this shot of lush grass and rolling clouds at Faraid Head in Scotland (a detail from the full image). Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens at 22mm, 1/1000 sec, f/13 and ISO2000. © Quintin Lake

As personal projects go, Quintin Lake's The Perimeter is one of the most ambitious – walking the entire coastline of Great Britain, a journey of around 10,600km. Alone and unsupported, Quintin photographs the beauty he encounters along the way on a route that will take him five years to complete.

Why did he take on such a physically and mentally demanding, as well as time-consuming, challenge? At the beginning of his coastal journey he said he hoped to learn more about "our mysterious" island nation. "I can't think of anywhere else where each footstep leads to such different surprises, beauty and strangeness," he says.

Walking about 26km per day, he's tackled the route in sections so he is only away from his family for a month or two at a time. In between, he resumes his day job as an architectural photographer, which helps fund The Perimeter, along with the sale of fine art prints of images shot during his journey along the coast.

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An extraordinary journey

Quintin's photographic approach on his expedition varies considerably from his day job. "Architectural photography is slow and careful," he says. "It's about understanding what you're seeing beforehand and visualising what you're going to create. On The Perimeter, I wake up in the morning and I don't know what I'm going to find or what's going to be inspiring. That's the joy of it – undiscovered moments."

The Perimeter began at St Paul's Cathedral, London, in April 2015 and Quintin hopes to complete the trip when he returns to his starting point in 2020. As well as setting himself goals for time and distance covered, Quintin has laid down a series of rules, such as always following the path closest to the coast and not travelling in vehicles of any kind, including boats and ferries.

It has been an extraordinary journey, during which he has struggled through often challenging conditions – from the heat of summer to being battered by gale-force winds and driving rain in the depths of winter. On the way, he has photographed densely-populated areas and wild and remote regions. His images showcase the natural world from landscapes, seascapes, beach scenes and cliffs, but also reveal a plethora of man-made features including beach huts, groynes, piers, lighthouses, dockyards, industrial plants and power stations. He's capturing the British coastline in all its rich variety.

The timber ponds of the River Clyde in Scotland with Dumbarton Castle just visible in the background.
The timber ponds of the River Clyde in Scotland with Dumbarton Castle just visible in the background. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with a Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens at 244mm, 1/1600 secs, f/13 and ISO1600. © Quintin Lake
The sun sets in front of Dylan Thomas Boathouse in Laugharne, Dyfed, Wales.
Dylan Thomas Boathouse in Laugharne, Dyfed, Wales. The house where the poet lived for the last four years of his life is set in a cliff overlooking the Tâf estuary. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens at 20mm, 1/1000 sec, f/13 and ISO800. © Quintin Lake

High-resolution with the Canon EOS 5DS R

Walking such great distances every day means Quintin has to keep his gear as light as possible. His backpack weighs between 14kg and 20kg and he carries a tent, a sleeping bag and all the food and equipment he needs for about five days at a time, which includes a satellite communicator to keep in touch with home and power banks to keep his phone and cameras charged. "I'm obsessive about weight – I'm that guy who cuts his toothpaste in half and tries to save grams wherever I can," laughs Quintin. "But one area I couldn't compromise on was my choice of camera."

The prints he sells are up to 1.1 metres square, so he needs a high-resolution camera and robust lenses that can withstand the tough conditions. "For me, the only choice for this project was the Canon EOS 5DS R and Canon's L-series weather-sealed lenses," he says. Quintin bought the camera as soon as it was released, being particularly attracted to its 50.6-megapixel resolution.

Constrained by weight, he uses the same two lenses on his travels – a Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM and a Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens. "It's incredible to me to have a 16-300mm range and I don't miss the section in the middle," he says. "It means that I can interpret any landscape in an amazing number of different ways, from super-wide to telephoto, with just two lenses."


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He's found the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens particularly enjoyable to shoot with. "I use that for the majority of my work because I really like to compress landscapes," he says. "It enhances the abstract quality, which is what inspires me about the coastal landscape. The geometry of the underlying image gets emphasised, whereas a wide-angle lens tends to have more in it, so you need to be more selective to make a successful composition."

On a long and arduous trip such as this, wear and tear takes its toll. Quintin has worn out six pairs of walking boots and his camera kit has taken a similar battering from rain, sand, frequent use and even being dropped when Quintin has slipped and fallen.

"I've had the tripod socket torn out, I had a front element smashed and replaced and the top cover smashed and replaced," he says. "When something is broken, I've found that Canon Professional Services can fix it, which means I can keep working with the minimum delay."

The search for unexpected beauty

Although Quintin is an experienced long-distance backpacker, this journey has at times pushed him to his limits. A split tendon and shin splints each put him out of action for months at a time, while he's been at risk of hypothermia when camping out after long days of walking alone in cold and remote areas.

One of the biggest challenges has been the coastal weather. "In Scotland, it's often raining for days at a time," Quintin says. "Gale-force winds are more normal than not. When you get into shelter, you feel this silence in your skull because the wind isn't battering your head any more. It's quite relentless."

As well as covering a set distance per day, Quintin also has to ensure he has enough mental energy to be creative. He aims to spend around three hours a day shooting as he progresses along his route, finding inspiration in different locations, buildings or objects.

The sky is streaked orange and pink behind the outline of Ben Nevis in the Highlands, Scotland.
Ben Nevis from Kingairloch in the Highlands, Scotland. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with a Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens at 300mm, 1/4000 sec, f/13 and ISO1250. © Quintin Lake
The bright blue waters of Gourock Outdoor Pool in Inverclyde, Scotland, under grey storm clouds.
Gourock Outdoor Pool – a saltwater public lido in Inverclyde, Scotland. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens at 25mm, 1/500 sec, f/13 and ISO800. © Quintin Lake

"Either it's something I've never seen before, and I get a tingle up my spine and think: 'That is just beautiful'," he says. "Or, more academically, I think: 'This is a really unique portrayal of this island', and I just work at it to try to find an image in that subject."

Quintin shoots about 450 frames each day and to date has shot around 140,000 frames, editing each day's images down to his favourite 16. Every few days, he chooses one that he thinks is a "profound, beautiful image". So far, he has selected about 800 images to showcase on The Perimeter's website, to generate both interest in his project and print sales. His end goal is to produce a photo book and a touring exhibition, which will travel around the places he has visited.

"Each day has been so different," he says, looking back on all the steps he's taken. "That's been the revelation. The unique geography and geology of this island varies as much as the accents. I'm motivated by the search for unexpected beauty. Each headland hides some potentially beautiful thing and trying to find that keeps motivating me one day to the next."

Autor David Clark

Quintin Lake's kitbag

The key kit pros use to take their photographs

Quintin Lake with a Canon EOS 5DS R camera.


Canon EOS 5DS R

A camera that's designed to deliver the ultimate in DSLR image quality, with 50.6-megapixel resolution and a low-pass cancellation filter that maximises the sharpness of the camera's sensor. "For me, the only choice for this project was the Canon EOS 5DS R," says Quintin.


Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM

Capture stunning landscapes and architectural images using this compact and lightweight, high-performance, f/4 fixed aperture lens. "The combination of wide angle and image stabilisation means you can get sharp handheld shots in surprisingly low light situations," says Quintin.

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 L IS USM

Performance excellence with a versatile zoom range and superb image quality in a robust and compact design. Quintin says: "This weather-sealed lens is reliably sharp across the range and crucially right out to 300mm, all in a relatively lightweight package."

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