Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Kim Ayres - Café Largo

Café Largo are a fun-loving band with a latin-jazzy feel, who were looking for a strong 'Signature Photo' for promotional purposes, last winter.

Ideas were bounced back and forth and the one that grabbed my attention and enthusiasm the most involved shooting a scene on the beach, with a slight nod towards Jack Vettriano.

Of course outdoor shots are notoriously difficult to set up in Scotland, especially in Winter, and even more so because of the sheer number of wild, wet and stormy days we'd been having on the run up to the shoot. So looking for a dry day when everyone would be available had me fearful it could be May the following year before we'd be able to go ahead.

However, we provisionally set a date in early December and amazingly, in a week full of even wilder, wetter and stormier weather than usual, it turned out to be the only dry day.

We set off for a small beach at Mossyard, near Gatehouse of Fleet, which we had to ourselves for the morning, apart from one woman walking her dog who hurried past and didn't ask what we were up to.

Although it wasn't raining, it wasn't sunny and it wasn't particularly warm either, so I did all the test shots with everyone still wrapped up in coats and scarves, and it was only when I was pretty sure of my composition and lighting set up did we move everything into place and do the actual shoot.

Click on the image for a larger version

Liz, the wife of Alex - the waiter in the photo - very kindly shot some video for me using my old camera, capturing the process of putting the photo shoot together. I edited it down to 2 minute video, overlaid with "La Bamba" performed by Café Largo themselves. It's quite fun and really does give a good sense of the experience of the photo shoot.

Kim Ayres

Monday, 13 February 2017

Out of the Flying Pan...

It's always good to try different things and go for new challenges. Panning is a technique that I use from time to time along with other methods of Intentional Camera Movement. With Icelandic whooper swans being in the area at this time of year I decided to spend some time working on in-flight panning shots of these birds. It was a project that was to last for three or four days.

As a regular visitor to the reserve at WWT Caerlaverock - where I run photography workshops - I was familiar with the best locations to find the birds and also had the knowledge of when and where they would fly. I also have the advantage of having studied their behaviour over many years so can predict with relative ease when they are about to lift-off. That takes a lot of the guesswork and difficulty out of this kind of photography.

However, it doesn't make taking the photographs any easier. For this type of work I normally prefer to use a sturdy tripod with a gimbal head. For those not familiar with gimbal heads they enable the camera to be fixed to the tripod with a head that, once adjusted correctly, enables fluid movement of the camera in any direction. It is perfect for following birds in flight. Unfortunately, on this occasion the hide I wanted to use and the angles that the birds would fly at precluded the use of this invaluable piece of kit. So, the first challenge was that photographs would have to be taken hand-held.

For the technically minded I have experimented over the years with different shutter speeds and lenses and have worked out that my best success rate with panning shots of these birds is achieved with a hand held 300mm lens and a shutter speed of 1/40 second. For that reason I always take these shots with my camera set in shutter priority mode. Panning requires that the camera tracks the bird at exactly the same speed as the bird in flight. If I achieve that then the head of the bird will generally be sharp while I will get a sense of movement both against the background and also in the flapping wings.

However just to add to the challenge, whooper swans - and other long necked birds - don't always keep their head steady and level in flight - it will often bob up and down as they flap their wings. Experience tells me that 1/40 second at 300mm is the optimum arrangement. Also, still for the technically minded, I don't want to shoot with the aperture wide open as the depth of field can become too shallow when I'm not sure of exactly which part of the moving bird the camera focus has locked on to. Consequently I usually shoot with an aperture of around 5.6 - 6.3.

Of course, the hard bit is learning to lock onto the bird either as it takes off or in-flight and to ensure that the panning action is fluid and steady. Here's a top tip if you want to try this technique for yourself - position your body facing where you anticipate the panning sequence ending. Don't orientate yourself facing where the panning sequence starts otherwise you will get tired and in an awkward position towards the end of the pan - which is generally the position where you want to take the most shots. If you do that you will end up running the risk of increasing camera shake - not good!

All of the shots here were taken using the techniques I have just described. Swans are big but graceful birds and this technique gives them a sense of movement and gracefulness that static 'frozen' images alone can't convey.

Try it for yourself and have some fun but be warned it takes a bit of practice...

Tom Langlands

Monday, 6 February 2017

Roger Lever - Waxwing Winter

Waxwings are one of our most beautiful winter visitors. They arrive usually from Scandinavia or Russia in October on the east coast and work their way inland and south through to March.

In Dumfries and Galloway we often see them between November to January and in flocks of 20-50 birds, occasionally more.

They are attracted to trees with plenty of berries, usually Hawthorn, Rowans and Cotoneaster.
In December word soon got around via 'twitcher jungle news ' about a flock of birds feeding heavily on the bright yellow berries on a single ornamental Rowan tree near Heathhall.

When I arrived early that frosty morning there were nearly as many photographers as waxwings. The waxwings had a sort of routine whereby they would arrive in a big flock, perch on a nearby tree and then visit the berry clusters in ones and two's before taking off en mass across Heathhall I assume to another tree full of berries. They would then return some 15-20 minutes later. Just what the signals were passing between the birds I don't know but there was a definite coordinated response. They appeared to ignore our collection of green clad birders with big lenses attached to tripods pointing skyward into their 20ft tree at the side of the road.

This was my first ever real chance at getting a half decent image of one of these wonderful little birds. As luck would have it I did have my camera with me that day.

I joined the crowd and hoisted my long lens. One hour later I was happily driving home with a bunch of images I couldn’t wait to look at on my computer.

Needless to say there would have been thousands of photos taken during the period it took the birds to strip the tree bare of its berries which I guess would have been about 1 week. The weather conditions couldn’t have been better with early frosts and a bright blue cloudless sky. I was happy with my results but there must have been many outstanding images taken that week.

Roger Lever
Lever Photography

Monday, 30 January 2017

David Moses - Day in the Life Photography Sessions

With documentary family photography, it's all about taking time and enjoying the day to day routines and little moments. Finding the things that your family does and recording them is what Day in the Life is all about.

Having a professional come and spend time documenting your family is a very different thing to taking photographs yourself. When you invite me to come to your home and work this way, you are in the pictures too. The images become about the relationships in your home, the interactions and the emotions.

Who are Day in the Life sessions for? Families who don't want the usual 'say cheese' images. Parents who want to preserve their children as they are right now. Families who want to do something fun, unique and special. Parents who are creative and appreciate photography.

So how does it work? I arrive for breakfast time and stay with you until the kids go to bed. You will have a day of doing whatever you want - if you want to stay at home then that's great, if you want to go for a bike ride, to the shops, walk the dog, play board games, bounce on a trampoline, read books, walk in the park, whatever your family wants to do.

To book now and for further information click here - http://davidmoses.photoshelter.com/p/day-in-the-life

David Moses

Monday, 23 January 2017

Viridian Skies - Breaking Free from the Milky Way Cliche

The Milky Way galaxy is all around you. The sun, planets, moon, visible stars and the Earth are all part of a disc like structure of billions of stars spinning around a central point. Considering this, if you take a selfie on a smartphone then you’re a ‘Milky Way Photographer.’

But when I use the term ‘Milky Way Photography’ I’m referring to the use of a DSLR and tripod to capture 26 000 year old light from the brightest part of our galaxy; the spherical central bulge. In recent years photographing this has become so popular that it’s now a bit of a cliche. It’s often impossible to use the term ‘Astrophotography’ without conjuring those typical images of the galactic core.


There’s far more to Astrophotography than the pursuit of the Milky Way’s centre. Planets, the Moon, the Aurora, Meteor Showers and Constellations are just a few subjects appearing in different parts of the sky at different times of the year. Venus for example, is currently in the twilight evening sky.


Recently I have focused on refraining from relying on the Milky Way to create a successful composition, and I have found the process full of rewards. I feel like I have improved on my photographic abilities through experimentation with many elements of night photography, including experimenting with different light levels from the moon.

One of the hardest parts of Astrophotography is getting enough of an exposure to light your foreground. Often I must take several 15-30 minute exposures, edit them, layer them, edit them again and then blend them into my sky exposure to squeeze foreground detail out of an image like the one below.

Winter Mist

The moon can be used to address this issue. The only problem is the fact that it constantly changes in shape, brightness, size and position in the sky. This causes drastic changes in the colour and amount of light it sheds each night as it circles through its monthly cycle, not to mention the angle of light in relation to a planned composition. Another thing to consider is that too much light from the moon will wash away almost all other detail in the night sky; a problem if your focal point for an image is a subject in the cosmos.

Wigtown Reflections

Through experimentation I have found that a three day old moon (appearing as a waxing evening crescent) provides the perfect amount of light to maximise foreground detail, whilst still retaining detail in the sky. Using this method I was able to capture my favourite image from the Winter; ‘Orion.’ Making use of moonlight to enhance a composition instead of relying on the spectacular view of the galactic core can result in a more subtle composition.


The core of the Milky Way is not visible in the Winter in Scotland. Using this as an excuse to experiment with my photography has proved beneficial, and I will be entering the ‘Milky Way Season’ of 2017 with a fresh outlook on night photography.

The Galactic Core is breathtaking and I will continue to view and photograph it for both personal and business reasons, but from now on I will remember to think more creatively. The night sky is after all our window into infinity; it would be ironic to then photograph a single part of it over and over again.

Jesse Beaman
Viridian Skies


Monday, 16 January 2017

Laura Hudson Mackay - Shooting Film in the Sahara

On the recent Galloway Photographic Collective tour of Morocco, I shot exclusively using Black and White (6x6cm) film, with a Medium Format Hasselblad camera made 60 years ago in 1957.

Once there, I quickly realised what a challenge it was going to be, given the tour was with other members of the group who all shoot digitally. There were times when I did struggle to keep up. For me, taking quality photographs with any type of camera is about the process, slowing down and seeing more, taking time to capture an emotion or evoke a mood, and film photography does this particularly well.

On the road trip to the Sahara desert, the other members readily leaped from 4x4’s, with their digital cameras in hand, having noticed yet another fabulous vista to capture. I too would leap from the car, shoot one or two images, but then realise there was only one more exposure left of just twelve on the film. By the time I had loaded another, the digital shooters were back in the cars and on their way! They took many images at each location and over the course of the whole trip, collectively, this ran easily into the thousands. By comparison, I shot only 14 rolls of film (168 exposures total) as I had to overcome the challenge of taking longer to get set up at each location, the lack of any automatic functions on the camera and having to use a separate light meter.

Each evening, once settled back at our accommodation in Morocco, there was a buzz to share and edit images taken that day and to even post a few on social media, but not mine as I had to wait until I was back home to process the films before seeing the results. But that waiting, that anticipation, was exciting, if a little nerve wracking.

Other working trips in Morocco are planned, plus I am currently collaborating with two Moroccan artists on a joint art project. For each trip, the same type of film and camera equipment will be packed. I’m oddly even looking forward to waiting at the airports, while members of security hand check each film individually.

Compared to using a digital camera, a film camera requires the flexing of different ‘photographic muscles’ and by working these muscles, it is possible to get more out of photography and explore the craft to a deeper level of learning. Being more focussed, by the limitation of exposures on each roll, pushes the photographer to shoot with a clear goal in mind. 

Disconnecting from the digital life once in a while is rewarding and refreshing. Not every camera needs to have an LCD screen and batteries to produce great photography!More and more photographers seem to be getting into analogue photography. There is a re-emergence of film being used in fashion shoots and fine art photography. The movie industry is also getting on the band wagon with high profile directors such as Martin Scorsese, JJ Abrams and Chris Nolan recently using film in the production of Hollywood blockbusters such as Silence and Star Wars - Rogue One.

Why despite its cost and apparent inconvenience is film photography growing as a medium, particularly amongst many young photographers? Perhaps it is because many have grown up using modern technology and are now favouring using film as it’s harder and more challenging to use. We appear to have reached a point at which digitally produced images we see have become indecipherable from reality and no longer represent trust. Viewers and creators are again looking for authenticity from photography.

LHM Loading Film in Sahara from Scott Mackay on Vimeo.

A collection of Medium Format Film photographs taken on the recent photography tour of Morocco will be on display at The Whitehouse Gallery, Kirkcudbright, in the GPC exhibition ‘The Art of Photography’ from 4 February - 4 March 2017.

Laura Hudson Mackay

Monday, 9 January 2017

Allan Wright - Using Reflection

Fairly recently I have become more aware of the subtle power that the element of “reflection” can contribute to the success of an image. For the longest time I confess I maintained a rather dismissive approach which regarded the use of conventional reflection as a bit of a cliché. Not necessarily creative in itself just a reliable feature of physics and nothing to get overly excited about. Learning to be more open to possibilities is I believe part of the journey to upping one’s game in photography.

Scallop Dredger homeward bound River Dee, Kirkcudbright.

As the boat turned I noticed how the soft curves of its wake picked up and gave a curious little swirl to the reflection of a nice lumpy big white cloud. I find it interesting because it is the secondary element in what is otherwise a simply pleasant description. To me there is a lingering fascination in the serendipity of the shapes, you can look at either aspect as your inclination takes you.

The riverside path from Palnackie at dusk.

It was fine for an evening stroll although heading seawards the light was not looking very productive. A call of nature meant I was looking back towards what seemed to be a rather reluctant sunset, however after a minute or two observing it as it matured, the colour intensified and I saw how the characteristic shape of the estuarine phase of the river was responding to the reflection on the water. These happy combinations are not easy to control or predict, open eyes and an open mind in photography is worth cultivating.

Portling, low tide rockpool.

The Solway Firth offers unlimited scope for shoreline detail in all kinds of light quality. Deconstructing this image we note the eye predominantly drawn to the starburst reflection on the water surface (no filter used). From there we might then scan around enjoying the graphic shapes and textures. Underlying how these elements work however is a less conscious awareness of the sky’s reflection, we cannot see the sky but we accept its presence, thus all is well with the world.

Carlingwark Loch, early dog walk.

The components are all in place, i.e soft warm light and a touch of moisture giving a misty feel. Add to that human/canine interaction and we have a picture. If you cut out the lower half, the image still works still but we lose the holistic symmetry that the tree reflections provide. In fact the reflection has much more content to savour that its source, above, offers.

Southerness Lighthouse.

This iconic structure gets plenty of photographic attention through any given season. On a recent visit I become motivated at the shoreline response to the cool haar-like mist that was lingering in the late afternoon. Although engaging this mist was not in itself sufficient inspiration to get busy. Knowing there some handy rockpools at its base I sought opportunity to use reflection for that extra little dimension. Note how an awareness of the lighthouse reflection arrives only as a subsequent aspect to viewing the image.

Allan Wright

Monday, 19 December 2016

Florence & Finch - Wedding Photography

Galloway Photographic Collective members, David Moses and Holly Burns, have joined forces to create a new Wedding Photography Business: Florence & Finch

Hi there, we would like to introduce ourselves, we are Florence & Finch Wedding Photographers. We are a male-female wedding photography duo who offer a full wedding photography service throughout Scotland.

We will provide you with a bespoke selection of photographs that you can look back upon 50 years later and reminisce fondly on one the most important days of your life.

What can Florence & Finch offer you?

Well, as the name suggests, there are two of us, both on hand during your wedding day to capture all of the magical moments that ensue. Through our close teamwork we can ensure every aspect of your wedding is considered prior to and during your day. Throughout the wedding, we take up a variety of different positions, allowing for comprehensive coverage and a more dynamic telling of your story.

If you have ever been involved in a wedding, you will know that things can get pretty hectic and unexpected surprises can occur. You are, of course, marrying your best friend and the love of your life and you should be able to relax and enjoy every second of this celebration. You can entrust our photography team to suitably respond to any challenge and still deliver a wonderful album of photographs.

An often overlooked point is that energy is important during the day and by sharing responsibility we can keep fresh and motivated for the entire duration of the wedding. Our method ensures that all aspects of the event receive our full and undivided attention.

We offer a variety of packages tailored to suit your needs, from the earliest stages of getting ready right up until your first dance or indeed for however long you need us.

Similarly, we have a host of products to choose from including albums, digital files, framed prints and canvases and we will provide straight-forward advice and hold your hand through the whole process, making it stress free and simple with no hidden costs.

If you are interested in discussing available spaces for 2017 please do not hesitate to contact us and we will be happy to assist.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Florence and Finch
email: florenceandfinch@gmail.com
telephone: 07826 099669
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/florenceandfinch/

Monday, 12 December 2016

Kim Ayres - Creating a Christmas Selfie

For most people, a quick snap with their phone while wearing a Santa hat is all that's needed for a perfectly adequate Christmas Selfie for their Facebook page.

Unfortunately, when you're a professional photographer, especially when you're known for moody portraits, everyone's expectations tend to be bit higher...

So last year I found myself setting up off-camera flashes on stands, getting tangled in a string of fairy lights, adding coloured gels to the flashes and playing with textured overlays in Photoshop afterwards.

I have a top hat and round glasses that I wear on stage when I play in my band The Cracked Man. I decided stringing a set of fairy lights around the hat ought to do the trick.

It took about 15 shots to finally get one I was happy with. Part of the problem with doing a self portrait with a DSLR camera, rather than your phone, is you can't see what the image is going to look like until after you have taken it and walked round to the other side of the camera to take a look on the screen at the back. Consequently it takes a few shots just to get your head and the lights lined up where you want them

Once I had a shot I was pleased with, it was into Photoshop to crop it, remove the cord running down from the back of the hat over my shoulder, and add a couple more lights to fill the gaps.

Then it was a case of finding a processing style that would fit the mood I was trying to create. In this case, it involved playing with the sharpness, colour, saturation and contrast, highlighting some areas and darkening down others.

Next I wanted to place the same image into the glasses, instead of having the reflection of my studio floor in them (and the same image within the glasses of them too).

Finally I created a textured overlay to add a bit more mood and atmosphere.

For a bit of fun and silliness I was quite amazed at the response - it became my most popular avatar ever - until the one where I was wearing a turban on a camel...

Whatever your cultural or religious beliefs and practices, and whatever the weather is like where you are, I wish you all the very best over the festive season and for the year ahead!

Kim Ayres