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Mairi’s mesmerising macro photographs bring nature to life in the north-east

Neil Drysdale
Mairi Grant has taken many stunning images of nature in miniature. All images courtesy of Mairi Grant.
Mairi Grant has taken many stunning images of nature in miniature. All images courtesy of Mairi Grant.

Mairi Grant’s eyes light up whenever she starts talking about the joys of nature and the creatures of all shapes and sizes which are living in her photography studio.

Ever since she was a child and took possession of her first camera at the age of 11, this redoubtable north-east woman has been pointing her lens in a million different directions and discovering new treasures with the enthusiasm of David Attenborough if he was living in Turriff, spoke Doric and was bringing up five children, including three teenagers, in addition to being a clinical counsellor and working with young people.

Sometimes, it’s hard to imagine how Mairi manages to combine these varied roles, but as somebody with her own photographic business, specialising in weddings, portraits, events – such as the Echt Show – and everything else from capturing stunning vistas of the Northern Lights over Banff to atmospheric sunsets at Fyvie Castle and puffins, gannets, starlings and turnstones in the Scottish countryside, she has her own motivation for bringing glimpses of wonder and magic into the lives of others.

Turriff’s Mairi Grant is an expert in macro photography.

As she said: “I started posting pictures on Facebook during the pandemic and people were looking at them from all over the world. I remember one day when I hadn’t put up a photograph and somebody from Australia contacted me and asked: ‘Are you alright?’ So I started to realise just how much these images meant to folk.

“It has been a tough time for so many in the last few years and yet there is so much beauty in the world. And one thing has led to another to the point where I am now organising workshops and people are asking if they can come along and learn a few tips. Social media sometimes gets negative publicity, but it has been the opposite in this case. Nature is a wonderful thing to get involved in, because you never stop learning.”

Small is beautiful in Mairi’s world

Mairi’s fascination has proved infectious in her own household, but here’s where her story veers off down a curious cul de sac. Many of her compatriots are perfectly happy to roam the fields, hills and coastlines which abound throughout the north-east, pointing their cameras at deer and squirrels, or mountain hares and a miscellany of birds, but precious few are enthusiastic about delving under the surface, examining wildlife in its most miniature forms, and filming tiny creatures at close quarters.

But that hasn’t proved any obstacle to Mairi and her husband Calum – who has been “hugely supportive” of her photography and other endeavours – as they and their family derive enjoyment from stick insects, praying mantises, harvest mice, jumping spiders, geckos, a bearded dragon and a rich collection of other bugs.

They are all looked after meticulously – and the needs of reptiles are different from rodents – but, once again, if this sounds like a rather unusual domestic set-up, Mairi regards it as the most natural thing in an environment where she can photograph them and create an abundance of photographs which are quite simply mesmerising.

I didn’t train to be a photographer

She told us: “I was interested in photography right through my teenage years and spent a lot of time out with the camera. This was a hobby which continued into my time at university and into my adult years.

“It was during the time when our children were young that friends suggested I should think about becoming a professional photographer and, soon afterwards, I did start taking photos professionally and this grew and grew over the next decade.

Mairi Grant specialises in macro photography, such as this image of three harvest mice.

“Although I didn’t study photography as a subject and instead opted for psychology and clinical counselling, I am qualified with the Guild of Photographers and The Society of Photographers as well as being a member of the Royal Photographic Society.

“In more recent years, I was asked more and more about doing workshops to help teach beginners how to get the best out of their photography, and after some persuasion from friends, I started running them around three years ago.”

All creatures great and mostly small

Mairi is a specialist in macro photography, which involves extreme close-ups, usually of very small pieces of wildlife and living organisms such as insects, in which the size of the subject in the photograph is greater than their size in reality.

She said: “It was during the Covid lockdown that I really discovered my passion for macro photography and my children and I found lots of new things to experiment with.

“People quickly became interested in the photos I was posting and asked if they could photograph the microbeasts, which led to the birth of the workshops I now run, allowing people from beginners to professionals to photograph something they otherwise couldn’t in the UK and learn a few tips or an introduction to macro photography.

“My love of nature extends back to early childhood and wildlife is perhaps my favourite subject to photograph, so it seemed like a natural progression to move to taking pictures of microbeasts, because my kids had owned various pet bugs such as praying mantises and stick insects all the way through their childhood, so it was from them that I got the idea of buying some more microbeasts to photograph.

“After all, we had had two decades’ experience of looking after them, so why not?”

The idea has attracted lots of interest

Many of the results of her countless hours with a camera speak for themselves; the little harvest mouse on a flower, the fragile ripples from a drop of morning dew, the gossamer-thin spider’s webs and the spectrum of colour in rainwater all testify to Mairi’s philosophy that genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains.

Mairi Grant has captured nature up close and personal.

In recent months, she offered her experience and expertise to youngsters in the region and was impressed with their fledgling attempts, as were her social media followers. Indeed, it’s obvious she cares about far more than just her own family.

But she has also encouraged both her own children and her students to spread their wings beyond the latest computer game, TikTok fad or Netflix series.

These creatures have their quirks

Mairi said: “We acquired a few rescue reptiles in need of a loving home, so now we have quite a collection of jumping spiders, six praying mantises, three geckos, a bearded dragon and a few other bugs.

“All of our microbeasts live in their own purpose-built bioactive homes and we also have a small group of harvest mice, who are amazing to watch and have provided endless entertainment.

“It is an absolute pleasure owning these creatures, every single one of them is amazing and they all have different characters. It might be difficult for some to believe, but even insects and spiders have their own little personalities.

“The more that other photographers learned about us owning these creatures, the more the interest grew in them wanting to come and take pictures of the beasties and it has now become a very popular photography workshop which is attended by beginners, amateurs and professional photographers alike.

Nature has so much to offer

“My workshops have expanded to include landscape, wildlife and night sky sessions which have all been very popular, but the macro workshops have been the most popular, because people are astounded by the intricate detail we only find when photographing these little creatures up close.

“Even after all this time, I still think it is amazing to capture all the colour and detail not seen by the eye alone and share the photos with people who may never otherwise see such creatures. And when they do and are thrilled by it, I am thrilled as well.”

Mairi Grant also excels as a wedding photographer and has just won an award.

Mairi is now back working full-time with Children’s Services and she accepts that, for a while at least, the photography will have to be organised around her new schedule.

But the workshops will continue as normal, alongside her wedding and portrait photography – she has just won the award for wedding photography in Aberdeenshire and Deeside which she regards as a “lovely achievement”- and she insists she will still do her best to ensure she finds sufficient time to go out with her camera for leisure and as a means of relaxation.

Why wouldn’t she when the fruits of her labours are so dazzling? As she concluded: “Being in amongst nature is my happy place and the place I unwind.”

Further information is available at:

Mairi Grant is a successful macro photographer in Turriff.

Mairi’s tips for taking pictures

“Find a decent DSLR [digital single-lens reflex] camera. A good-quality second-hand one can be a great start and is all you need to get going. I always think that starting with a decent DSLR and really learning the fundamentals of photography is a better foundation than getting the fanciest camera which does a lot of the work for you”.

“The same can be said for lenses. Good quality second-hand is a good place to begin. Start out with a general landscape lens to get a feel for taking photos, then perhaps consider a macro lens to open up your options into macro or wildlife photography.”

Award-winning photographer Mairi Grant.

“Get involved in a local camera club to get tips from more experienced people or join an organisation such as The Guild of Photographers to gain valuable experience and advice from professionals and award-winning practitioners.”

“Find a friendly local photographer who would be happy to advise you or have you accompany them on photo trips or jobs. It’s a great way to gain experience – I personally do this quite a lot for newer photographers and they find it immensely helpful.”

Mairi Grant has just won a photography award for the quality of her wedding photos.

“Go along to photography workshops where you can be given one-to-one help in getting started and moving forward in your new hobby.”

“Most importantly, get out and about and enjoy the beauty of nature, the peace, the health benefits and the friendships that you will find along the way.

“Remember that it’s never too late to start a new hobby.”