What has been happening in my photographic voyage.

Is More Better?


When compiling a portfolio you need to strike a careful balance between achieving the quality you desire or are capable of against quantity – numbers of examples for the viewer to examine. How many examples should be considered a minimum? That is difficult to say, but personally I think anything less than 5 makes it difficult for the viewer (client) to make a reasonable assessment of your work; what you are offering is a small number of individual pieces that may not provide a clear idea of your abilities or indeed potential. So having established that a larger number of examples on show will make it easier for the viewer to form an opinion about your work, particularly from a commercial point of view, should there be an upper limit to the size of your portfolio? Most definitely yes, but what is it? Again, there is no hard and fast answer to this and a lot will depend on who your potential viewers are and how long they will be prepared to spend browsing your work.
This is a problem I have been considering recently. My portfolio on this website has been slowly growing over the past year or so and currently stands at some 105 images spread over several galleries. I am aware that the “People In Places” gallery with only 2 examples is quite light and lacks depth for the viewer; a sort of “take it or leave it” situation, whereas the “Rural” gallery offers a much larger degree of interest. Of course this will only work if quality is maintained as stuffing the portfolio with lesser examples will devalue its overall impact. But even if all the examples are top quality there is a limit to a viewer’s patience or interest when it comes to working through the gallery. My approach to this is that the new image must add value to the portfolio, it must improve the quality or why is it being added in the first place? I also make regular re-evaluations of the images already in the portfolio; are they still worthy of being there? If the answer is “no” – for whatever reason, then the next line must be, “you’re fired!”
One other aspect that needs to borne in mind is that as time passes ability improves (hopefully). To that end, it is always worth looking afresh at older pieces of work to see if they can be improved. I’ve done this with a few images, “Dambuster”, “Against The Elements” and “Edinburgh Castle” are some examples – be it applying a new process or even reverting to colour! Whatever is done I always aim to keep the portfolio fresh and therefore hopefully bring the viewer back tomorrow.

Come On, If You Think You Are Good Enough.


I have always felt that if you are really keen to progress in a particular skill or area of expertise eventually you have to be tested; not quite a trial by combat but certainly an examination in the public eye. I am just reaching the end of a course I have been doing that will lead to a “Diploma of Professional Photography”. The institute delivering the course has had it accredited and I’ve learnt a great deal while completing it. However because it is not from a well-known national establishment its headline value is somewhat diminished. Of course in the purest sense your skill can be proven in the marketplace, but in the current mass of photographers trying to succeed professionally just now it will not always be possible for talent to be full recognised every time. The other route that can be attempted is a national (or even international) benchmark and it is this option that awaits me next.

I have joined The Royal Photographic Society which offers, along with an immense amount of support and knowledge base, 3 internationally acknowledged levels of distinctions: Licentiateship, Associateship and Fellowship. To my mind gaining such an award is an unequivocal statement of your photographic abilities and one which I wish to test myself against. Of course I face the very real prospect of falling short of the required standard and taking the proverbial kick in the teeth that comes with failure. However, I would shy away from taking the easy road of not taking the challenge and kidding myself that I was good enough but avoid the test. This is something that parallels my “day job” where in my particular area of military aviation there exists a similar test; a course that is daunting, challenging, demanding and exacting. Many fail the course but it is seen as what those who would hold themselves to be the best must attempt. I failed this course on my first attempt, but despite the months of hard work and low emotions I went back for another (this time successful) try.

You can enjoy photography without getting too serious about it. I am serious about my photography and attempting to gain a RPS distinction is a challenge I am keen to take on. Whether my photography is good enough is quite another matter though and only the coming months will tell. I’ll let you know what happens.

It was all the Mother-in-Law's fault.


It started last Christmas. A present from the Mother-in-Law was a nondescript cardboard box, but inside were 3 old cameras; a Kodak Brownie 127, a Kodak Duaflex II and a Brownie No2 – the oldest of the 3 dating from 1914. She had included a note: “I hope this is the start of a great collection”. To be honest I hadn’t thought about vintage cameras or collecting them before and even as I looked at the examples before me I wasn’t that fired up to start doing it now. The Christmas festivities came and went without me giving too much thought to the embryonic collection, other than where I was going to store them. Then my wife suggested that I do some research and print out notes for each camera and so build up a reference guide. That was the key. As I googled my way around the web gathering facts about the cameras, I soon realised the history attached to each. In particular, I was able to confirm that the Brownie No 2 I had was indeed an example from 1914. Now whether it was coincidence or design but a new shelf unit soon arrived from Next and I was promised space with which I could display the cameras. Just to make sure the ball really was rolling my Mother-in-Law gifted me another example a month or so later; a Kodak Brownie six-20 Model C.
A pattern was emerging, apart from the No 2; the era was most definitely the 1950s. Other than being the decade of my birth I had no particular interest in the period, but the opportunity to look at what other cameras were around at that time appealed to me. It took me less than 5 mins searching on eBay before I was completely hooked on the project. The first camera I bought myself was a Voightlander Vito B dating from 1959. It was an absolute beauty to behold! Solid German construction with plenty of polished metal on show; it was a cut above the more plastic examples that followed in the 60s and after. And so it started. Several other examples soon followed: Zeiss Ikon Nettar, Zeiss Contina, Agfa Silette, Agfa Isola, Houghton Ensign Selfix, Kodak Retina 1A (and a 1B). Two examples that I particularly prize originate on the other side of the “Iron Curtain”: a Fed 3 (1955) from Ukraine and a Zorki 3C (1961) from Russia; not forgetting the beautiful Bencini Koroll 24S – pure Italian style.
The collection now stands at 18 and my allocated space on the shelving unit has long since being filled. So now there is an overflow display on a shelf in my study and the problem will only get worse. The range of cameras from the 40s and 50s is massive and I’m not inclined to stop now. I’ve obtained a copy of “The Blue Book”, the definitive directory to vintage cameras, which lists their history, rarity, and guide value. Armed with this I go “fishing” on eBay for hours, trying to spot a bargain and there are plenty to be had - for not very many pounds either. Yes you can spend a couple of hundred (or more) hooking a Rolleiflex or Leica, but there are many rewarding examples from that period that can be had for 10 pounds or less.
It all makes sense to me now. As a practitioner of modern photography it is quite natural to look back at earlier periods of the art to gain an understanding of how it developed to where it is today. But above all that, I just love to look at those gorgeous examples of the mid-20th century camera as bits of art in their own right. They certainly make today’s digital compacts look as interesting as a box of matches.

So who is the best judge?


In photography, as with any hobby or interest, you never stop learning. As you start out the learning curve can be quite steep and that is no bad thing as it can give you a real sense of progress and great satisfaction. Encouragement is another important ingredient as you need to know that you are on the right road, but that can only take you so far and indeed can be a hindrance to your development quite quickly. Why so? Well there comes a point where too much positive feedback does nothing to add to your knowledge, just your ego and that doesn’t improve your photography.

So who is the best judge of your images? If you are serious about your photography, then you are. Of course that can be difficult when your knowledge level is at a beginner’s level, but even then you will have a good idea about what you want from an image (if not quite sure how to get it). So where else can you get help? What you need is “constructive criticism” and that comes from other photographers and not just the experts either. Photographers of all levels and abilities should be able to provide constructive criticism on an image. So what does cc give you that Auntie Betty’s “Oh that’s lovely” doesn’t? The answer is how to improve. Cc should not only be honest, pointing out where the image (or an element of it) doesn’t work, but also provide advice on how to correct or improve it. Cc can be quite a face slap at times, particularly if you have had far too much of a rosy self-assessment of your work up until then. Equally a straight forward “that’s rubbish”, without any advice on how to change is also worthless and is just confidence crushing.

Where are these photographers that are waiting to give you cc on your images then? There are 3 main sources:
Friends or relatives who are photographers. In my experience this is by far the best source. Generally they can be frank and honest without too much fear of hurting your feelings and will also give you more feedback more often. I have been fortunate to have had 2 individuals in particular who have given me a lot of advice (and praise at times!) over the past couple of years that has helped me to move forward with my photography.
Local camera club. This is less certain as the quality and vibrancy of the club will depend on the members at the time. That said, you still get the benefit of face-to-face contact and a range of views and competencies. You can benefit from regular interaction and club competitions always generate a good dose of cc for images that have been entered.
On-line image sharing sites (e.g. Flickr or ePhotozine). Here your work can potentially reach many thousands of photographers around the world and the feedback potential is huge. However, the transient nature of on-photo galleries combined with the lack of personal interaction can often mean your image passes without comment and you are left wondering “was it really that bad?” Usually the answer is no, but these sites do suffer from what I term “click groups”. These are a collection of contributors who follow each other’s work and make rosy and sometimes gushy comments on it, knowing that the favour will be returned when they submit an image. That is not cc and it does nothing except to inflate egos. The sites do give you chance to be inspired by others though, through the vast number of images on display.

So there you have it; it all starts with you, but everyone can do with a little help from their friends.

A Year On


So another year passed and in particular, the first year of this website. Many thanks for all your support and for reading the blog. I've learnt a lot and hopefully this will translate into the new images that will appear in the gallery over the next year. As ever, it is onwards and upwards. Thanks for staying with me.

First Time


So my first foray into professional photography commissions is done and dusted and an interesting experience it was too. As I pointed out in the previous article, the task was not too difficult; produce images in 3 cinemas belonging to a nationwide chain for use on their website. However, the differences between capturing images that are defined by yourself and those defined by a paying client became very apparent right from the start.

On my first contact with my employer, the owner of the photographic agency that was responsible for the completing the commission, I received a brief on the job and particularly the timetable I had to work to. It was important that I delivered the images in good time to allow them to be reviewed and if necessary a re-visit made to fill gaps. I was sent a more comprehensive brief via email, which detailed the areas within each cinema that were to be photographed (not the same for each) and what should and should not be included in the images. For example posters for current films should not be shown prominently as this instantly dates the image. Similarly the areas should be tidy, with cleaner’s signs or crowd barriers removed to give an uncluttered appearance. (I still managed to miss this on a couple of occasions when time was pressing). The client didn’t want crowds in the images and if any members of the public did appear, they should not be looking at the camera or be generally recognisable – publication of images vs model release forms.

So armed with contact details for the relevant cinemas that I was to visit, I setup appointments to carry out the shoots. From the brief it was obvious I needed to be at the locations at a quiet time, which generally meant just after opening in the morning. Even so, one location was in a large shopping mall, so it was never going to be totally quiet.

The shoots were planned for 2 separate days as they were in geographically split and as any re-visits would involve quite a bit reorganisation of my schedule, I wanted to make sure I got it right first time. That started with kit prep. There is a strong temptation to take everything, just in case. However, it is worth sitting down and really thinking about what you will use. Of course you might not know exactly all aspects of the job but there were some things I could discount straight away; I was never going to need my zoom telephoto lens, mini tripod or landscape filters. Similarly as I don’t have a modern effective flashgun, my old one stayed behind as well. Essentials were, my full sized tripod, wide angle and standard zoom lenses, a couple of large capacity memory cards (32 Gb each) and a fully charged battery and back up.

Shoot one, in the large shopping mall, went surprisingly smoothly. First thing I did was to take 5 mins to walk around the place and start to get an idea what view points will work and what ones will not. The customer numbers were not too high at the time and I managed to get all the shots done in about 45 mins. It was tricky getting some images without posters for the current films creeping in and I did miss a cleaner’s “bollard” in one. Lesson here is, despite any time pressure, check the shot all over and then check it again. No flash, so the tripod was essential. Also I wanted to keep the ISO rating low-ish to maintain the image quality; all of which tended to increase exposure times. In terms of image capture, there were 2 ways to approach it; in-camera (i.e. manual settings inc white balance) or post production. Given that I always shoot RAW, I chose the later route.

Back home an efficient workflow was essential as I had 80+ images to review and select for post production editing. In the end, it took me about 2 hours to produce 18 images for consideration by the photo agency.

Shoots 2 and 3 were originally intended to be done on the same day. However one of the locations was undergoing refurbishment and so I had come back a few days later to complete it. As with most things, practise made the procedure easier and more efficient, but it was important that I didn’t get too casual. It would have been all too easy to miss something or not get the required shot.

Overall, I really enjoyed it. It was strange at first to be taking pictures under a certain degree of pressure to produce results, but it was a very good learning exercise and it most definitely took me out of my comfort zone. I hope I get the chance to do it again in the near future.

To Boldly Go Where No....


Last week I landed my first professional commission and am about to do the first of 2 photo shoots. So what's the story then? Well I was recommended by a work colleague to a photo agency who are updating the images of a national cinema chain. My task is to get new images for 3 of their establishments in Scotland. On the face of it, fairly simple. But I have to tell you the game changes quite significantly when you are shooting to order, shooting to produce what the client wants - not what takes your fancy.

So I've read the brief, looked at examples of the type of images they are after, spoken to the staffs at the places I'm going, checked my kit. The big mission is on for tomorrow.

I'll tell you how I got on when it is all done and dusted.

The Season of Events


Is summer here? Who knows, but if you look at your local paper you will see that what IS here is the season of events. What sort of events? Everything from Highland Games to horse jumping to car rallies to sailing regattas. If you have an interest in photography, each of these occasions provides you with a challenge to take great images that capture the spirit of what is going on. You don't particularly have to like the activity itself, but that is advantage to help your planning. Understanding what is going on certainly improves your chances of getting better images on the day.
I recently attended a local Highland Games and also a vintage agricultural vehicle rally; both interesting in them selves, but it was a good task to in both cases to try and capture a flavour of what was going on. It doesn't really matter if you come back with very few "keepers" as long as you learnt something from the exercise and more importantly - you enjoyed doing it.
This time of year, no matter what part of the world you live in (Northern Hemisphere specifically) there are going to be loads of opportunities to take advantage of. So get out there and try something a bit different, you never know what you will capture.

I Was Not Alone!


I was heading home from the Central Belt and as I approached the River Forth at Kincardine the late evening light was breaking through the clouds. Its effect was great and I decided to stop in a lay by and try for some into sun shots by the river. The signs looked good and I hauled my bag onto my back confident I had everything I would need to capture some decent images - wrong!

By the time I reached my chosen site I realised I was not alone. Late spring, warm evening, trees and water; the ideal playground for midges. Once again I had forgotten any repellent and was left fighting the squadrons that attacked me, rather than concentrate on the photographic opportunities in front of me. In the end, after grabbing a few hasty shots, I retreated back to the car. I didn't get the images I was after because I couldn't concentrate and the moment was lost, although I did get some images of a semi demolished building of which "The Good Days Are Past" was one.

The old phrase, "for the sake of a nail the battle was lost" comes to mind and I'll pack the repellent next time!

The Machine Gun Syndrome


There is no doubt that digital cameras have made photography more accessible and more popular; at many levels. Gone is the cost of film and the subsequent processing. The memory card, while not limitless in capacity, can easily be cleaned out on-site to ensure a good shot is not missed through lack of storage. Inevitably there is a down side to this and I call it the “machine gun syndrome”.
Because the digital image is cheap compared to its wet film counterpart, pressing the camera shutter a couple more times costs practically nothing. It is a reasonable maxim to say, “better take plenty when there” and that way you have a better chance of capturing the image you were after; whether it be by varying the viewpoint, the camera settings or ensuring the shutter was fired at the appropriate moment. The camera is working like a machine gun. This is particularly true at sports events, where things are happening quickly and sometimes continuously. By keeping working during a sequence you maximise your chances of capturing that one moment that encapsulates what you are trying to convey, rather than trying to anticipate the optimum shutter press. The downside to this approach is you can potentially end up with a very large number of images to review and cull, before you can start your post-processing proper. Some people also argue it makes you lazy in your camera work. It is a bit like throwing a stick of dynamite into a pond and catching all the fish blasted out of the water as opposed to the skilled angler who goes after them one at a time.
I think there is a time and a place for the machine gun approach and fast sports is one. You have to be really skilled to snipe single shots and hope to capture critical images (or get lucky). Whereas a rapid sequence of 4 or 5 images much improves the prospects for lesser mortals of coming up with the goods. However where this falls down and is completely counterproductive is if there is no editing once the shoot is over. There is nothing more off-putting than to see an online album of 90 images, the vast majority of which should have been deleted on first review. The viewer quickly gets bored because of the poor quality and moves on, potentially missing the one good shot in the set. I see this all too often on a rugby club website that I’m associated with and it does nothing to enhance the club’s image. Therein lies the problem of increased accessibility created by the digital camera. At the risk of being accused of being an image snob, photography by the masses should stay in family albums; if you want to put your efforts online you must have standards and always strive to meet or exceed them. Getting your images online should not be for your own benefit but for the viewer and unfortunately far too many people forget that.

Moving On Up


I’ve mentioned here before that I believe the hobby of photography suffers from widespread “kit envy”. The idea that the better the camera, the better the pictures. While improved technical specifications will enhance the quality of the final image, it still takes the person operating the camera to make the picture. As far as Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras are concerned, I’ve been working at the bottom end of the equipment scale for the past 2 years. The Canon I own is most definitely classified as “entry level” or “beginner” by the photographic magazines, but I’ve managed to do ok with it so far I think. A much bigger factor is the lens that you put on the front and that is why I’ve invested in glass first, rather than a swept up camera body – until now.
I’ve decided that the time is right to move up the league a bit and I’ve ordered a Canon EOS 7D. So what will that do for my pictures? I could start listing all the technical differences from my current 1100D, but suffice to say it will put me on a bigger playing field, more options, and more possibilities. However, it will still be down to me to make it work, to see the images and do the business. The 50% increase in sensor resolution will be a big factor though, oh and the twin processors. Enough, no technical lists – I promised.
I won’t try to pretend I didn’t suffer “kit envy”, looking at better spec’d cameras than mine; let’s face it most DLSRs were better spec’d than mine. However, I genuinely believe I’ve learnt the trade on the 1100D and I’m ready to move forward. Hopefully I will be able to give the new camera a try out at the Howe 7s rugby tournament this weekend. I’ll post the results and you will be able to judge if it really was just “kit envy”- I hope not.

Where is the Colour?


I know what you will be thinking, it is springtime and the world is full of colour, so why has he gone back to black and white after that splash of colour in the macro images? Well the answer is that the 2 new images in the galleries needed to be monochrome – honestly!
“Furrows” is not intended to be an image that the farmer would hang on his wall to be proud of his field. Rather it is an exercise in geometry designed to appeal to a much wider audience. I am trying to use the lines of the plough furrows with the screen of trees to produce an interesting geometric image for the viewer. To that end, shape is the important factor and colour is not. As soon as I saw the scene, I saw it in black and white. That is not to say I physically did, but more that I could envisage that colour would not contribute to what I was aiming for. In actual fact the only significant colour in the scene was the mid brown of the field itself, which would actually have detracted from the visual impact I was after. Hence monochrome was the way ahead.
“Bus Stop” is a slightly different case. Here colour could have worked, particularly as those in the scene were quite muted. An image with a low colour saturation (level) would have told the story in a slightly different way from the image I have produced. Personally I don’t like to combine hard grain with colour and as I was going for a gritty image, that pointed towards monochrome. Here is a classic case of there being no “right” answer; it is all down to what the photographer is trying to achieve in the end and of course, personal taste.
There being no “right” answers is what makes this photography game so rewarding.

Getting close and personal


So this Macro game, what’s it all about? Well here is a definition I found:
“Extreme close-up photography, usually of very small subjects, in which the size of the subject in the photograph is greater than life size (though macrophotography technically refers to the art of making very large photographs). By some definitions, a macro photograph is one in which the size of the subject on the negative or image sensor is life size or greater. However in other uses it refers to a finished photograph of a subject at greater than life size.”
As I’ve mentioned before there is a dedicated range of lenses that are designed to do this job, which is essentially to allow a much closer focusing distance and hence produce a much larger and detailed image of a small object. As with most things photographic, these lenses do not come cheap and while they can do the work of a “normal” lens as well it is quite an investment, particularly if you are not certain that Macro photography is going to be something that you will do a lot of. There is an alternative (and cheaper) way into this area of photography; extension tubes. These are basically spacers that fit between the camera body and the “normal” lens, the effect of which is to reduce the minimum focusing distance of the lens beyond its normal. The optical quality remains the same as the extension tube has no glass. The catch? Well, depth of field is very much reduced meaning you have to be really accurate with the focus point. Another potential problem is that generally more light is needed. Those 2 factors pretty much make a tripod essential, even on bright days. At these close distances any vibration is magnified and will attack the image sharpness. The upside is that a set of tubes (of varying sizes) can be had for about £30 and are a good way of testing the Macro water. This is what I’ve done and my first results can be seen in the new gallery “Small World”. I’ve gone for a popular subject to start – flowers. With spring on the way (hopefully) colourful blooms and insects will provide a wealth of opportunities to capture some spectacular Macro images. However, if you stop and think, Nature is not the only subject for Macro photography; there are subjects all around that are waiting to be explored more closely. Your imagination is the only limit.

Your Best Critic


To my mind the best way to improve your photography and get better end results is to listen to your best critic – you. So how does that work if you are just starting out? Simple, ask yourself two questions every time you look at one of your images; do you like it? And regardless of the answer then ask; why? You don’t have to know all the details of the composition rules to know if it looks “right” or not. Even then, all you are evaluating is does it look right to you? You don’t have to know why it does, just that it does.
So, based on the assumption that you want to improve your shooting, here is what I suggest you do. Look at the picture and take the first impression; good or bad? Why? It could be faded colours or out of focus (or focused on the wrong point), a squint horizon that was unintentional, heads or feet cut off, someone blinked as you took the picture. There are many things that could be wrong that you will spot straight away and you can put right next time. There also things that don’t quite seem right because of more technical aspects, such as blurring which can be due to long exposure times and a camera that was not steady enough. Equally using a long focal length lens in dim conditions can result in the same thing. It could be exposure (over or under) or the sun causing deep shadows. This sort of thing does take a wee bit of technical knowledge to work out the solution, but not that much. Surprisingly, the “arty” stuff like composition and even basic subject matter, of which there have been countless books written about (and just as many rules created) can easily be distilled back to where we started; does it look “right”? If it doesn’t, you change things until it does. OK I know that is being a bit simplistic but you should not get bogged down worrying about the “rule of thirds” or the “golden spiral” etc at the expense of taking pictures. Without doubt practise makes perfect in this game – as long as you care about the end result. If you don’t it will not matter what camera you are using, all you will get are “snaps”. If you want to improve your images, ask yourself those two questions every time and you will soon see the difference.

Changing Weather


The weather is changing. The first hints of spring are here and the photographic opportunities are changing as well. Early morning mists and fogs, sometimes combined with a low sun can create fantastic images. I was lucky enough to get a couple that are now in the gallery: “Dairsie Castle” and “Kemback in Mist”. I say lucky but following my own advice in this blog, I used the weather forecast as my cue to cycle to work and gave myself the chance to get the images.
It is definitely cycling weather now. I was out recently with the aim of going to a small village about 7 miles from home. On the way I spotted a potential shot, stopped and took a number of images. As things turned out I got an image that is one of my recent favourites, “Bow of Fife”. You can see it in the Rural Gallery. This was not my intended target but it just shows you that keeping your eyes open can really prove rewarding.
Another aspect of the changing weather is that plants and flowers are coming back to life and that gives me the chance to try out another area of this great game that is unknown to me: macro. I don’t want to buy a dedicated macro lens (just yet) so I’m going down the extension tube road first. These things are “spacers” that fit between your lens and the camera body, the effect of which is to reduce the apparent minimum focusing distance and hence take you into the macro world. There is no loss of optical quality as there are no optics in the tube, just electrical contacts to carry the normal signals to and from the lens. They come in various sizes ( and hence effect) and can be combined to produce further sizes. They are a cheaper way into macro photography, allowing you to experiment and assess before making the bigger commitment of getting a dedicated lens. I hope to get a set of these tubes in a few weeks and I’ll let you know how I get on.

Using a good recipe or being formulaic?


There is a lot of advice out there; in fact there is an overwhelming amount of advice out there for someone looking to progress their photography. Part of that process is to look at images that have been produced by others on a subject that you are interesting in working on, landscapes being a good example. You examine how the composition works (or doesn't) what the light and the colours do for the image and probably the most obvious element, the actual subject of the image. The problem that arises is many new photographers fall into the trap of not using their imagination enough and become formulaic in producing their own images. So what do I mean by that? There is a fine line (but a line none the less) between being inspired by an image or photographer and slavishly following the well beaten path taken by many before and landscape image subjects are an example. If you take a look at the on-line galleries on sites such as ePhotozine, for example, you will soon realise that certain locations feature every day; indeed some to the point boredom for this viewer anyway! Twisleton Scar in the Peak District is a very popular spot and very photogenic. However the viewer of the gallery on ePhotozine might be forgiven for thinking that there is only 1 tree in the area; "that" tree isolated on the rock field. Similarly that there is only 1 mountain in Scotland, invariably misnamed as Buachaille Etive Mor (its correct name is Stob Dearg). The number of images taken of that mountain from the same burn, with the same small flow over some rocks is countless - and quite frankly a bit boring, no matter how technically good the image is. Equally I will not be sorry if I never see another photo of Blackrock Cottage, also in Glen Coe, in my life. It appears to me that people think if I copy that great photo, I will have a great photo as well. What a sad state of affairs.
What to do about it? Use your imagination; open your eyes and look for opportunities to apply the same techniques to scenes that you have discovered. Now I totally accept that if you want to capture an image of the Tower of London you can't do that by going to Cornwall. However, unless you are on a commission shoot, there is great scope for thinking about the subject and coming up with a new angle or viewpoint that will make your image standout from the "postcard" crowd. Colin Baxter would never have made it to the top if he just stood by that burn and took shots of Stob Dearg, no matter how beautiful they looked. We live in a bigger world than that, even on this small island.

A Grand Day Out?


So, the weather has not been too good over the last week or so and despite my own advice about making the best of it, I was finding it difficult to seek out inspiration. Today the light looked like it would offer something new, with the low sun peeping under a wide cloud sheet. So I set off for the South Coast - of Fife that is. By the time I reached Leven it was very overcast and chuffing cold into the bargain. I stopped for a quick re-plan in a very depressing seafront car park in Methil.
What I needed was somewhere that could give potential ideas that did not require great light. I decided to push on towards West Wemyss, somewhere I had never visited before and what a delightful place it is. It is more in character with the East Neuk villages than its neighbours East Wemyss and Coaltown of Wemyss, both of which have never really recovered from the demise of the Fife Coalfield. Because there is a single road into the village it is quite quiet and I soon found myself walking the Fife Coast Way towards a wide stone covered beach. The sun started to break through and the view across the Forth to Edinburgh was already worth the journey. I decided to walk the half mile or so along the shore to Blair Point where I was rewarded with some fantastic rock formations to work on. After about half an hour I decided to pack up and head back to the car, well pleased with what I hoped I had managed to capture. However, the real gold was still to be discovered.
About half way back to the village I noticed a small group of Grey Seals resting on rocks just off the shore. They spotted me quite quickly but using tips I had read, such as keep low/small and move slowly I managed to work my way into some rocks just 20m or so from them. Although they kept a close eye on me the seals continued sunbathing and I was able to take a good number of images. It was also fantastic just to sit and watch. The group eventually numbered 7, with a couple diving in and out of the water just in front of me. When I started to move back I checked my watch and discovered I had been there over an hour.
I’ll get some of the images onto the site or my Facebook page soon so you can see what I experienced. A day that didn’t look to be working out too well delivered in fine style. West Wemyss is well worth a look if you are in the area.

So what is wrong with a bit of Photoshop?


A constant debate, that sometimes degenerates into an argument is the validity of an image that has been "Photoshopped". Even some of the leading exponents of photography, such as Charlie Waite, take an adverse view of digital manipulation, saying it should be done "in camera", not on computer. Well, I think taking that view is a touch hypocritical, not to mention dinosaur like. In the days of wet film there was potential to manipulate all the way through the process. Starting in the camera you could "push" the film; by that I mean use an ISO rating higher than the manufacture intended. A film that was rated at ISO 400 could be used at a rating of say ISO 1600, making it possible to capture images in lower light levels than would have been possible at the normal rating. What was the catch? Increased gain in the final image, but that was often an effect desired by the photographer. A film that had been "pushed" had to be developed differently and so we are manipulating before we even get to the enlarger. Then there was "dodging" and "burning" as well as a host of other techniques such as solarisation that could be employed to produce a vast array of effects on the final print. If that isn't manipulation to produce an image that wasn't exactly true life, I don't know what is.

So then we come to Photoshop. All it is doing is enabling the photographer to exploit the fantastic potential of the digital image in the same way those older techniques were used on the wet film image. However, as with all activities there will always be a certain amount of resistance to change and fear of new technology. Of course there comes a point where Photoshop can transform a photograph into a artistic image and it makes no pretence about its capabilities to do that. This situation came home to roost in one of the major Landscape Photographer of The Year competitions last year. The "winning" image was of a couple of rowing boats pulled up on a beach in NE England and was quite stunning. However on further reflection, the judges decided that the amount of manipulation of the image went beyond that deemed acceptable within the spirit of the competition. Where was that line that had been crossed? Who set the boundary? There is no definitive answer to that, but the subsequent winner (also a good shot) was more conventional in character, a telephoto view of terraced houses in Greenock.

Love it or hate it Photoshop is here and it is a major factor in digital images today, even though it can cost a fortune. The age of digital photography is spread (not equally) between the camera and the computer and that is the way it is. I hope some people will finally get their heads around this and accept it, even if they can't embrace it.

Does Size Really Matter?


When I get back to the computer with a new batch of image files from the camera, one aspect of the post-production that I never consider is the final image size. All the way through my workflow the focus (excuse the pun) is on what is needed to be done to make the image as good as I can possibly make it. In particular, when it comes to cropping the image I never use the tool with a constrained ratio set, i.e. the overall ratio of width to height is maintained. Neither do I check what size the actual full image is until I come to upload it to the gallery. Why? All the cropping work I do has just one aim and that is to get the image looking right; I’m not really concerned what the resulting dimensions turn out to be (within reason).
So what does this matter in the big scheme of things? Quite a lot to the customer looking to purchase a print. Wishing to buy a full sized print they will be faced with the task of getting it framed to a size that is almost certainly “non-standard” and requires a bespoke job rather than using an off-the-shelf item. That is added expense and time. There are other ways around the problem, such as just getting the print mounted but specifying the external dimensions of the mount to fit a “standard” frame. Also it is possible to specify a smaller print size, but if the original ratio is maintained a dissimilar border will be present or if the length of the smaller dimension is defined to fit a frame size then some cropping of the longer side is inevitable. All of which can complicate life for the customer and may even discourage a purchase from being made.
What is the solution? Should I ignore image size when cropping or should I work to “standard” ratios, so prints will fit pre-fabricated frames? How many prospective buyers have already been put off purchasing a print because of the extra expense required to have a bespoke frame made? I don’t know, but I’m sure it has happened already and I’m just not aware of it. I will need to try working with the crop tool set to a constrained ratio and evaluate just what restriction (if any) there is. In the longer term, I will be purchasing my own professional standard colour printer and the logical progression from that is to learn how to make mounts for the prints and then ultimately framing as well? That might well be the way ahead.

Winter Days


At this time of year it would be easy to think that the camera gear would be tucked away in a cupboard, never to be touched until spring days reigned supreme. If that was true a fantastic opportunity would be missed because although it is the time of short days, it is also the time of long “golden hours”. The low elevation of the sun at this time of year means that effects of the sunrise and sunset last longer and even towards midday a rich golden light, very directional in nature, can give the photographer fantastic options for dramatic images. Of course this is only true if the sunlight can make its way through the clouds to the ground. But even if only a little can break through, great images are there to be captured. My picture, “Jacob’s Ladder” is a case in point; only there for a few moments, sunbeams created a magical moment in the Kinross countryside. However, if the skies are clear then spectacular sunrises and sunsets will be the reward for anyone who cares to look for them. “St Andrews Sunrise” was one such example and anyone witnessing it could not fail to be impressed by the magical display of nature’s rich colours.
However, dark skies, heavy cloud and even snow also give the photographer plenty of scope to capture atmospheric images. Of course that presents a new set of challenges such as adverse weather conditions, keeping your gear dry and serviceable, not to mention keeping yourself warm!
It all adds up to a significant set of challenges, but well worth the effort if you do manage to get that special winter image.

Plan? What plan?


There have been lots of words written in photographic articles on the subject of pre-planning, getting organized before going out on a shoot, having a clear idea on objectives. There is much to be said for such an approach, particularly if the occasion will not be easily repeated. In landscape photography the extent of this research can be quite wide. As well as making use of maps, some photographers go further and employ sun tables to ensure that the alignment with a particular feature is going to be just right while tide tables are well employed when planning coastal images. I utilize these tools - sometimes; other times I wing it.

As an exercise, just looking out the window and deciding to go out to see what can be found is quite useful but the chances of getting an image that is a "keeper" are not reliably high. It is quite easy just to wander about without any aim and end up with little or nothing at all. So is there another choice? Yes there is and it is one that I use most frequently. There is some planning but also plenty of adaptability, flexibility and going with the flow. When I head out on a shoot, I will know where I'm going, the type of images I'm after and how I'm going to get them. However, I'm ready to change the plan once on site if new elements emerge. So how does that work?

Knowledge of the area you are going to is very valuable and definitely increases the chances of getting the images required or desired. Where does that knowledge come from? If it is your local neighbourhood then you are already an expert. However it is always worth looking for potential subjects as you walk around it. You will soon build up a mental databank of future projects just by observing your surroundings. This can be extended further afield as you travel. Tied closely to this is the prevailing weather at the time and in particular the light. A good example of this is "Towards West Lomond" in the Rural section of the Gallery. This was an area that I know quite well but have not explored too much beyond the main road that I frequently use. On a particular day as I was passing West Lomond was bathed in light from a low westerly sun, which really accentuated the relief of the hill slope. That was something I wanted to try and capture.

Pre-planning: OS maps to establish where I can get to and tied into that is Google Earth, which really helps to establish the likely locations (particularly street view if it covers that area). The next and probably most important element is the weather and by that I mean light. A regular watch of the forecasts will help you to pick a time to venture out. That is what I did on that occasion; arrived in the general area, walked about a bit, setup and shot. In the end the light wasn't quite what I was after but I still got "Towards West Lomond". Sometimes it can be more reactive. The weather forecast may be such that you will know that a particular location will give you good images today. Fog or mist is a good example of this; fog on the River Tay = atmospheric images of the Tay Bridge and heading to Wormit will give you the chance to capture the curving tracks as they approach the bridge before vanishing into the mist.

There is a time and a place for planning a shoot like a military exercise, just as there is for taking a slightly more flexible approach. It will all come down to the situation and the desired end result and once in a while just look out the window, pick up your gear and go out; no plan, just see what you can find.

Water - Blur or not to blur that is the question.


I do enjoy this photography game but one aspect I don't like is how it is often affected by fashion. Now I don't mean "fashion" as in the clothes industry, although that holds no interest for me. I mean an aspect of photography or a method that is - in fashion and is purveyed by many "experts" as THE way to do or go about something. A case in point is moving water and how to capture it.

If you look in any photographic periodical you will see countless images of coasts or beaches where the sea has been reduced to a milky mist by the use of long exposure times; fine the first couple of times you see such a shot but in my opinion it has been done to death. Quite frankly I am getting a bit sick of the theme. However, there are plenty of "experts" out there who are preaching that not only is it the proper way to record the sea but also the only way to do it, if you want to have an acceptable image at the end of the day. I read one quoted as saying unless the water is blurred it is "messy".

There are specialist photographers who record watersports and have no option, as short exposure times are essential and with that comes "frozen" water and spray. But actually that contributes to the image because sharp water implies power and (peversely) movement. Why? Because we recognise that water captured above the main surface in a wave or a splash has to come down and is therefore moving. If you consider images of storm waves battering a sea wall, all the impact would be lost if the exposure was so long that the waves blurred into a mist.

Of course there is the middle ground compromise; a waterfall being an example. Here exposure times that produces frozen or misty water can work, as does that in between time (~ 0.5 to 1 sec?) that gives the "ribbon" effect. It all depends on the impression you are trying to give to the viewer.

As with most photgraphic subjects, there is no "right" way to go about things and when the current fashion is being touted as being just that, it really does annoy me. Then again, I've never been a dedicated follower of fashion.

A Happy New Year!


I would like to wish everyone a very happy New Year and want to thank you for taking an interest in the site and the blog in particular. I will be working hard to make the images and the blog even more interesting and entertaining over the coming year, so I hope you stay with me on the journey.

This is supposed to be a holiday!


I've just returned from a long weekend break in the beautiful city of York and apart from difficult travel (due to the widespread flooding) the main snag I encountered was getting the balance right between enjoying the holiday with my wife and having my eye glued to the viewfinder. This is something that everyone will have to deal with to a greater or lesser degree, but when you are looking to capture more than just a tourist "snapshot" then time becomes a big factor, as does my wife's patience while I unpack and the re-pack my gear every time I see a shot I want to go for!
Unless you have an understanding partner who will be content to put up with these regular interuptions there are two options; go alone or in a dedicated photography group (not my cup of tea these I have to say) or leave the camera at home and forget photography for a while. Easier said than done in a place like York where I was seeing potential images at almost every turn. Either way it is best to make the decision before you go. That way, if you are going accompanied, your partner knows what to expect - your undivided attention or the constant clicking of the shutter!

Time to go?


It is a bit like trying to decide when to leave the Blackjack table; go now or stay a bit longer in the hope of better luck. In the world of outdoor photography the weather can be quite cruel at times and this does not just apply to those sessions around the "golden hours" either. A cloudy day with the hint of the sun breaking through can be very frustrating if you are trying to get the light just so, or a particular part of the view illuminated. I've spent ages waiting while the clouds stream over, continuing to obscure the sun from the part I need, only to finally give up and head away 5 minutes before the rays finally break through. In cases like that, it is down to luck and your own perseverance. However there are other times when a bit of knowledge will tip the odds in your favour. An example of this is sunset, or more particularly, just as the sun goes below the horizon. You may be tempted to call it a day at that point - you may have to go for other reasons, but if you can you should stay for at least another 20 mins or so. If the sky is fairly clear of clouds you will be rewarded by a fast changing array of colours that will make the extra time spent worth while. I've mentioned looking at the weather forecast before, but learning to "read" the weather as it is happening will also improve your chances of making the right call; stay a bit, as it is going to clear soon or sod it let's go to the pub!

Don't miss it!


Aye, the nights are fair drawin' in. I'm not trying to do an impersonation of Pte Fraser from "Dad's Army" but it is true. What's more the great Autumn light is fading fast as well. This is a fantastic time of year for colour, both from the sun and on the ground. However, it will not last and certainly in Fife, a lot of the leaves are on the ground now. Unlike those "lazy days of Summer" when time is not really a factor, if you are after those "Autumn Gold" shots you need to get out and about now. Look at the weather forecast, plan ahead with your own personal timetable, but you've only got another week or 2 at most before you will be looking at bare trees and grey skies.

So, get it while you can because, "when it's gone, it's gone"!

New Glass


After far too many weeks my lens array is now where I want it to be with the arrival of the Tamron SP 70-300 mm Di VC USD. Why did it take so long? Well, despite the advert stating that it would be shipped from the UK, I quickly found out I was dealing with someone in mainland China. In the end I have received exactly what I wanted and at a very good price, but it was a bit of a difficult road to travel. Certainly dealing with the mainstream businesses (Jessops et al) gives you a great deal of security and confidence, but that comes at a price and only you can place a value on that.

So why I am going on about a lens? Why am I not talking about the next camera I aspire to owning? The fact is, in my mind the most important bit of kit a photographer has is the glass and in a hobby or profession which is rife with kit envey, that idea is sometimes lost. It does not matter how high spec the body is if the image being delivered is being degraded by poor optics at the front. Agreed the sensor and associated processor is important but it can't produce a silk purse from the proverbial sow's ear. On the same tack, investing in a good lens and then putting cheap filters infront of it is similarly self defeating. So my maxim is, get the optics sorted first then worry about the rest of it later.

That said, the best lens in the world will not produce great pictures on its own. No matter how good the equipment is, it is the person using it that is the most important element in the whole process.

Best Time to Take a Picture?


My Great Uncle was born and raised on small farm in the Angus Glens. He worked in agriculture all his life and was very skilled in the countryside ways. One of his specialities was making walking sticks from material he came across. Asked when was the best time to pick a branch to make a stick his reply was, "when you see it" and I think that can apply to photography quite often. Now I don't just mean the photo journalistic opportunities that might happen as you walk down the high street - car accident, bank robbery or alien invasion, but also in areas such as mine (landscapes).

I've mentioned before in this blog how I don't play this photography game like chess, as some others do, but I do acknowledge that to capture good images regularly a certain amount of planning is required. Elements like the weather forecast, sunrise/set times and directions all have to be considered if you want to get a particular shot. However sometimes the weather can throw in a fast ball and you have to be ready if you want to capitalise. Mist or fog is an example. Yes, you might have some warning from the forecast that it could be around, but you will not know how much and exactly where until you are in it! These Autumn mornings are great for producing fantastic photo opportunities if there is fog or mist, BUT you must have your camera to hand or you have lost your chance. My camera bag is in the car when I go to work, so I'm ready to take the picture "when I see it".

Shoot the Messenger!


So this is the fourth time. My new telephoto zoom lens has yet to arrive. It well beyond the original estimate given by the vendor and the lens is not in my hands, which is disappointing. Now it would be easy to blame the vendor but in my case it has happened with 4 different vendors and it is hard to believe they are all at fault. So that points the finger at - The Royal Mail and (in one case) a private courier. They lost my first wide angle lens in transit (it was subsequently replaced) and a print for a client. While a hotshoe spirit level was very delayed. Now you might think that over the years you are bound to get a few delayed items, but this has been 4 in the past month.
I'm not going to get all political here and go on about privatisation of RM, however it does bring into focus that in this (or any) business you are at the mercy of the delivery system and even if you take all the care in the world your client will still not be happy with the non-arrival of the ordered item. Therefore it is down to you, as supplier to make things right as soon as you can. So far my suppliers have done that, I'm awaiting to see what this latest one will do.
Is that the postman at the door? No, I'm still waiting.

Set the Alarm


I've gone on previously in this blog about those photographers who tell you that in order to take great landscape images you MUST use the "golden hours" at each end of the day and I've said - "not true". Having said that, if you do get up early on a day when the weather is favourable then you will have the chance of capturing some dramatic images. My point is you can also get great images at other times of the day as well.
Anyway, this morning was one of those times when I was inspired enough to set the alarm. Looking at the weather forecast is important and today was due to be clear skies and fog - an interesting combination for the photographer. So, out the door by 06:30 and en-route to East Falkland hill. In the event the fog was really a low mist but just as rewarding. I've yet to work through the images taken today but I hope I've got a couple of crackers that I can put in the gallery. But even if I didn't capture a winner, just standing on the hill watching the sunrise over the Firth of Forth this morning was worth the effort of getting out the house.
Clear skies for tomorrow morning? Don't waste the chance to see nature at its best.
Set the alarm!

Wide Angle


With the arrival (finally) of my new wide angle zoom comes the opportunity to capture some dynamic shots using the capabilities that a 10 mm focal length gives. However, if you look in any photo mag you will see plenty of pictures of buildings with converging verticals, shot from the ground looking up, usually with a convenient patch of cloud to fill the sky. In other words it is easy to follow the well trodden trail of wide angle shooting, particularly in the urban environment. Now that is not to say that taking such shots is a waste of time. There is good practice to be had, as well as the pride of having your own version of a familiar idea. But they are unlikely to be standouts unless you can come up with a new angle (excuse the pun!) What I mean is, just like starting in HDR, it is easy with a wide angle lens to be impressed with early results that are actually quite "run of the mill" really. A wide angle shot of the London Eye from below may look good through the viewfinder, but it has been done to death thousands of times.
So what is my point? Well as with any new process or technique, enjoy the thrill of new exciting results but use that period to learn the ropes and the real gold, your unique interpretations, will surely follow. That will be the reward as far as I'm concerned.

To HDR or Not To HDR?


High Dynamic Range (HDR) images have been about for a while but have split the photographic world's opinion. Many love the results, many hate them. Some call it a cheat, some call it a passing fad; other say it is a logical step forward. So why do HDR? To produce images that have a tonal range approaching that of the human eye. Basically HDR attempts to capture a much wider range of tones than can be recorded by the camera's sensor in a single image. How? By combining 3 or more images, each with a different exposure level, to produce a final wide tonal range image. Just as a panorama is made up of several images joined together to produce a field of view wider than the capabilities of the lens that took the images. The problem is that it is all too easy to push the process and end up with a dog's dinner that, because it is so different from the original, initially looks spectacularly fantastic but really doesn't stand up to critical examination. As with most things in this game I think it is a question of balance (not just taste).
Why am I wittering on about this? Well yes, I'm tempted to give it a go. Only I hope not to end up with a dog's dinner or be totally star struck by the whole deal. Time,results and not least your comments will tell!

It's not Chess


I've seen so many video tutorials, particularly concerning landscapes, where the photographer takes ages to get anywhere near pressing the shutter and to be honest, it really annoys me. Now I agree there are certain aspects of this photography game that do need time and thought. If we consider a landscape shot, after the pre-plan it is important to take a wee walk around the location to check the view points and how the light is playing out on the day. However, one photo expert went on to say that it was important to set up the camera on the tripod, check the image through the viewfinder, then take the kit down, move to a slightly different position and set the tripod up again, re-mount the camera and the re-check the viewfinder - really? How about just handholding the camera at tripod height and look through the viewfinder? Same result but much less mucking about. That is one example of the excess faff that is rife in landscape tutorials. Yes you need to think about lots of aspects relating to the image but it is not a game of chess for goodness sake! It is almost as if the photographer is hesitant to finally press the shutter button.

For me, I like to walk the location and take a good look around. It is worth just stopping and letting the place soak into you. But after that, I tend to work quite quickly and start capturing images. Sure, you might have to wait for light, might have to wait quite a while for light, but that has nothing to do with your kit setup.

I'm not a fisherman and I'm not a chess player and I certainly don't go about my photography like one. Pity many others do.

The First Shot


I always seem to find that I never use the first image taken on a particular exercise or session. Why? I don't know really. It is almost as if I need to "warm up" and the first or even second clicks are just that. I guess in these days of digital storage it does not really matter and doesn't cost you anything (apart from a very slight degradation of that part of your storage card). In the case of wet film shooting, that's a frame or 2 gone never to be recovered. So does shooting digital make you lazy and less disciplined in what you capture? I don't think so. I think the freedom digital gives allows you to try more ideas. You are also not so limited in the number of images you take of a particular subject. Trying to get the picture you want of a bird or butterfly for example just right could result in 10 or more images, of which only 1 may avoid the "delete" button.

However, back to my opening point. Why not stop and assess more fully before raising the camera to eye? That way the first shot has a better chance of delivering what you want. Well there are many photographers (particularly landscape) who treat a photo shoot like a game of chess; that is not my way and I'll talk about that next time.

Look behind you!


I've heard this a few times but it was graphically demonstrated to me last Saturday. I was attending the annual Leuchars Airshow and was one of thousands of photographers looking to capture ace shots of aircraft various. A forest of expensive glass was aimed towards the runway and the air above as airborne hardware of all shapes, sizes and loudness swept past. A companion in my small group, who was not an aviation enthusiast or indeed much of a keen photographer did what, as I said as the start, I had heard a few times and that was to look behind. The image she captured was certainly arresting; lens after lens, after lens all orientated in the same direction. So I now know it is true and often an image is waiting for you in an unexpected place - behind you!

The Gallery has not been flooded with images obviously taken with a super wideangle lens this week. The reason is simple - it has not arrived! Indeed the supplier has informed me the courier company has lost it. However I have received a full refund and they have sent me a 8Gb SD card as a goodwill gesture. New supplier found, order placed, so hopefully I'll have the lens in the next few days!

Make a Date?


I was out and about in Cupar recently to take advantage of the good weather. Everywhere was in full bloom as a result of the efforts of a number of people trying to win a floral prize for the the Town. I ended up with some "postcard" type images of the park and the river which set me thinking. There are plenty of calendars for Scotland, Fife or even St Andrews but I've never seen one for Cupar. Is there a market for such a thing? What local outlets are there to sell it?
As a start I composed a list of likely locations that could feature in a Cupar calendar and for an "ordinary" town I quite quickly came up with 14 or 15. Then I started thinking about the type of images that would work. Yes, the postcard, bright colours, blue sky shots would feature but also perhaps winter? - snow certainly but perhaps not rain. Also I think I will have to go "tourist" rather than "art" for the images if a local town or location is the theme; well at least for the first project.
Anyway, I am building a Cupar Project portfolio, which will contain possible calendar images as well as my "Cupar Closes" series and I'll see if something develops.
As ever, I'll keep you posted!

New Kit


I've a couple of new items on the way this week. The first is a Hoya IR filter (R72 to be exact). So what is that all about? Well most digital cameras have sensors that are sensitive to IR light but there is a filter that reduces the effect. Therefore to replicate the images that come from "wet film" IR the usual route is to use Photoshop. An IR filter only lets IR light through to the sensor and opens the door to getting some potentially spectactular images. The downside is that you need plenty of light to start with and a tripod is pretty much a must.
The other bit of new kit is a super wide angle zoom lens (Tamron 10-20mm). I am really looking forward to trying it out, both in the countryside as well as trying to grab really interesting urban shots.
I'll keep you posted!

On Your Bike!


Cycling and photography - a great combination. OK not if your trying to match Wiggo or Sir Chris, I grant you. Nor if you try to shoot and pedal at the same time. What I mean is get out on your bike with your camera kitbag on your back and go and find images. Now unless it is part of a substantial trip, your area of travel is likely to be local but that will still provide you with ample opportunities to get great pictures. In a car it is always going to be more difficult to: 1 spot the picture in the first place and 2 stop, park and then get there. On a bike you have time look, time to go down that wee lane that you have passed so many times and wondered what was beyond the bend, time to photograph. Images in the Gallery that I captured while out cycling include, "Bell's Close", "Suspension Footbridge", "Woodland Path" and the FB title picture "Field Near Kemback". There will be more to follow those, I'm sure. So, reasonable day - on your bike!

Rubbish Weather?


Just as great weather can have the potential to make great photographs (any subject not just landscapes) so poor weather will discourage getting out and about with the camera. However, such days should not be discounted out of hand as there are always great images to be found. For example, the lastest image I have added to the gallery, "Bells Bridge", is a case in point. November, cold and Glasgow City is enveloped in fog - a stay in day - right? I would say not. The picture, which was taken on Pacific Quay, did take quite a bit of effort but I think was worth getting a bit cold and wet for. The biggest problem was the auto focus on the camera was struggling with little or no edge definition. Solution? - switch to manual! A classic case of getting back to basics. Exposure was always going to be a problem but there is a wide latitude here, dependant on what level of detail you want to record in the final image. Take a number of shots at differing exposures (bracketing) to ensure you have the image you looking for or the potential to combine images in post processing.
One point that should not be forgotten is that as well as looking after yourself, don't neglect your equipment. Moisture will attack the camera and lens, mist up front elements and generally get everywhere it can. So make sure you keep your kit dry, give it time to acclimatise to the conditions before using it and make sure it is properly dry before you stow it after use.
Rubbish weather? Why not wander out and see what you can see?

Great Weather


Finally the long anticipated summer weather seems to be here and staying for a while. Great for getting out and capturing images, you would think. However there is a strong line of thought that bright blue skies and sun don't make for great landscapes, which can only be captured during the time of day known as the "Golden Hours". This is the period around sunrise and sunset. True this time of day (clouds permitting) does generate fantastic colours, but I don't hold with the idea that this is the only time to try and get impressive landscape images. Just as I don't hold with the current fashion of recording the sea as a misty smooth sheet, through the use of long exposures. To illustrate my point, take a look at the latest image I've added to the gallery, "Woodland Path". This was taken in the middle of the day and the bright sunlight breaking through the trees is key to the impact of the image. There are great images around at any time of day, you just have to look for them.

Shout Loud


So, after a day or two the site is "live" and the domain name has been linked. Now what? Start talking and let everyone know where the site is. There are timelines everywhere in this game and a word that is repeated many times in the guides is "patience". Apparently it takes 3 or 4 days before all the Domain Servers will have registered "" so that it will be found worldwide just by typing the address. The longer game is potentially the more important one; Google, page ranking and SE optimisation - apparently a science in its own right! It could be up to 2 months before the Google system will start to index and rank the site. Up until then it will just be direct searches or Facebook/Twitter links. To that end, there is a FB page up and running that I intend to use to highlight additions to the site (e.g. this new Blog entry). I've had many kind remarks in the first day or 2 and a lot of help from others spreading the word on my behalf. I'm grateful for this and any advice, because this is all a new game to me.
I'll keep you posted how things go and I hope you find it entertaining or even inspiring enough to give it a try in your field of interest.

The Site is born.


Every journey starts with one step and this is my first. Having explored the world of photography for nearly 40 years I am now in a position to bring my images to a wider audience. My "wet film" days are gone and my darkroom has become digital but my passion for the final image remains undiminished. I look at the world around and I see images, which I capture and bring here. I hope you enjoy them and that they may inspire you to look around at our world as well.