Behind the Lens: England’s Isles of Scilly

The Isles of Scilly are a Cornish collection of islands with pale yellow sands, nature trails, rocky shorelines, and a slow pace of life that offers a reassuring air of calm. The serenity of these islands is a sanctuary, even for those who live a short distance from them in the U.K.

“Cornwall is a place that seems so close but so far away,” explains Ross Vernon McDonald, a Silversea expedition filmmaker who hails from the U.K. and has explored the archipelago. “It was amazing [during this trip] in the fact that I didn’t really know what to expect. As much as I expected an extension of Cornwall, it seemed its own sort of micro country. Each island is very different and had its own character.”

Discovering the character of each island

McDonald discovered the scents, colors, and animal residents of gardens and woodlands on the island of St. Mary’s. On the east coast of Tresco Island, he observed fishing boats bobbing on peaceful waters, while the powerful Atlantic crashed against ancient rocks along its west coast. 

McDonald conveys the ocean’s relentless force upon these islands from the skies, as expertly documented with his drone camera. With such varied conditions, the Scilly Isles has both wild spirit and tranquility in equal measure.

“Then when we went over to St Mary’s…that was a bit more of a town. It was so quaint with its little streets and fishing boats. You can look out from the island and see these jagged cliffs with lighthouses on them. It’s a very different sort of place.”

Filmmaker Ross Vernon McDonald surveys the landscape of the Scilly Islands.

Seals and dolphins at sunset

A Zodiac trip around St. Martin’s and the Eastern Isles at sunset enabled McDonald to enjoy a cruise along the water with common dolphins jumping out of the ocean and Atlantic grey seals peeking up above the waves to catch a glimpse of visitors.

For McDonald, the ocean represents his happy place when he is behind the lens.

“Being out on the sea is where I feel the most comfortable being an underwater filmmaker. I just love to be immersed with nature and be on the ocean,” he says.

“I think the moment for me was at the end of the day, after we had traveled around these islands and we were out on the boat, we managed to spot this beautiful beach full of seals,” McDonald told us. “They were all sunbathing on the beach and then came out to greet us on the boat; they’re so curious.”