Monday, 24 April 2017

Laura Hudson Mackay – Save the Date! Spring Fling 2017, Studio 49 on the Orange Route.

Dumfries and Galloway’s Open Studio weekend Spring Fling is just a few weeks away! The event will showcase the work of 90+ artists throughout the region from May 27-29, 10.30am - 5.30pm each day.

This will be my third year taking part in Spring Fling, from my studio in New Abbey, where you can see the latest work from the ‘Visions of Time’ series, along with images from the November 2016 trip to the Sahara Desert with other members of Galloway Photographic Collective.

There will also be the opportunity to see the first photographs and stories from the Upland project Confluence and Celtic Storyteller, Anne Errington will be at the studio telling stories and talking about the project, on Sunday afternoon (stories start at 2pm) and Monday morning (11am). Children of all ages are welcome!

Come and find out more as I open the doors of my working studio, gallery and darkroom for Spring Fling. Cake and refreshments provided, within the peaceful grounds of Abbots Tower, a 16th Century Tower House.

Directions: From Dumfries, follow the A710. Just before the village of New Abbey, turn left and follow signs for Landis Farm. Take the driveway to the right of Landis Farm entrance. Abbots Tower is situated approx 200m along the driveway, behind the farm.

Laura Hudson Mackay

Monday, 17 April 2017

Kim Ayres – Using your camera for video

Most cameras these days have extremely good video capability. But creating bad videos seems to be even easier than creating bad photos. It’s not just poor lighting and out-of-focus images you have to deal with, but movement that can make you feel seasick too!

But don't let this put you off. If you tap into your photographic skills, then you can have quite a bit of fun with video too.

There are 2 different ways to film with video – one is to follow the action with the camera, while the other is to keep the camera still and allow the action to happen in front of it.

It’s this second style that suits photographers particularly well. If you compose the frame as you would with a photo – paying attention to light and composition – then anything that happens within the frame has a good chance of looking OK.

You can also use Photoshop for basic film editing, and it has the advantage that you can apply a lot of the effects, such as manipulating the colours and contrast too. Do it right and it almost becomes moving photography.

But before you decide to create your own epic 3 hour film, it's a good idea to start with something short to try things out.

My friend, the poet David Mark Williams, was bringing out a book, so we decided to do a series of short (around 1½ minutes long) videos of him performing his poems to camera.

With "The Solace of Cupboards" we did a very simple setup with the camera on a tripod, Mark (as he’s known to his friends) against a black backdrop, and a single light, which he clicked on at the start and off at the end to hint at the idea he might be in a cupboard. And in the editing, I converted it to black and white and darkened down the shadows until only the highlights remained

"The Devil’s School of Motoring" required us to leave the confines of the studio into the cramped conditions of the car. However, by using a wide-angle lens, and Mark leaning into the camera, it created a very claustrophobic atmosphere, which was ideal for the sense of discomfort you might have if the devil himself was your driving instructor.

Getting ever more ambitious, for "I Don’t Know The Address" we roped in Mark’s wife, Val, to drive us around the town while we did the shoot. And this time I filmed him performing it from 3 different angles to edit together aftewards. I might have done a 4th, but unfortunately bouncing around in the car while constantly looking through a camera lens made me feel car sick, so we cut our losses rather than make a mess of their car.

The point of this post is to encourage you to get creative with your camera in other ways. If you know how to light and compose an image, then you can use these skills for video too.

And if you need a subject to experiment on then local bands, who are always skint, will be delighted if you can help them create a video for their music.

Or find yourself a poet…

Kim Ayres

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Tom Langlands - Small But Beautiful


The wren is not the smallest British bird. That definition goes to the even more diminutive goldcrest. However the wren along with the goldcrest present interesting challenges for the photographer. Apart from being very small they are also quite flighty and tend not to sit for long in the same place.



This is a great time of year to photograph either of these species as they tend to be quite active hopping about hedgerows and in the case of the wren foraging in the reed-beds at the edges of ponds.


As spring moves into summer their habitats tend to get more overgrown making it harder to find them and even harder to get those nice clean shots with uncluttered backgrounds.


For its size the wren has a remarkably loud call that makes it easier to locate.


With both of these species patience is the name of the game and it takes good fieldcraft and lots time and patience to locate the right environment, find spots where the birds appear reasonably regularly and wait for that combination of the right light and the right pose.


When it all comes together I find it hugely rewarding to get shots of these very small and very active little birds that are such a lovely and important part of our natural world.


Tom Langlands

Monday, 3 April 2017

Roger Lever - An Hour in the Woods

What a difference a good spell of weather can make!
Location. Culrain, Sutherland.

The woodland behind the cottage was made up mostly of Scots Pine, Larch, and Silver birch. In March none of these trees have yet come into leaf. This allows plenty of light into the wood itself through the canopy. At 6.30 in the morning the sun had not risen but the sky was clear and a gentle frost hung on the ground.

Rosie our dog trotted along in front of us sniffing the scents of wild animals and vegetation. We both spotted the red deer hind at the same time.

Rosie made a brief dart in its direction but it was soon lost in the denseness of the woodland and we all continued our stroll up the path towards the small lochan about a quarter of a mile through the trees further up the hillside. Before we got there the sun had risen its rays illuminating small trees

Patches of mossy earth and the old mans beard (Osnea) dangling from the branches of the old birch trees. Osnea is a lichen which often grows on sick or dying trees. It is very sensitive to air pollution especially sulphur dioxide. Where the air is unpolluted they can grow up to 20cm long as I saw in the trees on the lower reaches of Mount Kilimanjaro a few years ago. This lichen also has medicinal properties as an antibiotic and is used as a dye producing various shades of orange, green and blue.

When we reached the lochan the far side was lit by the morning sun and there were geese and ducks in pairs skirting around a little island at the far side.

A frog was swimming breaststroke along the waters edge in front of us and came to rest on a small rock not far away.

It created gentle ripples that extended way out to the island and not seeming to lose any of their original momentum until it got there. This created small gentle undulating wavelets with reflections of the loch side trees creating an upside down abstract impressionistic painting in the water.

After lingering a while on the bank watching the ducks come and go and the odd heron flying by we made our way down the steep path next to the burn. An isolated little primrose had just come into flower

the surface of the rough water glistened as it plummeted down the hillside burn. The waterfall forming masses of bubbles on its tortuous path between the rocks.

Then just a gentle walk home listening to the birds and watching the suns rays illuminating the trunks and branches of the trees before tucking in to a hearty breakfast.

Roger Lever

Monday, 27 March 2017

David Moses - Why aren’t your pictures good enough?

This is a question that we all ask ourselves from time to time (at least we do if we are working hard enough). And it’s a difficult one to answer. But it’s not so difficult to do something about - and that is infinitely more important.

So what can you do? Find something on your doorstep to throw yourself into. Find a subject that doesn’t require you to go far away to shoot. This way you have no excuses. There is always something on your doorstep that is worth photographing. It may not be grand or fashionable, but it will sure as hell be important.

Find a way to photograph it that gives it meaning - don’t look for the obvious shots. This requires you to ‘work the scene’. By all means, shoot the obvious shots, if only to get them out of the way and then keep shooting. Stay with your subject, return to it time after time until you feel something click.

For example, we have entered lambing season. We live in a rural area so there is plenty of potential for imagery. I knew that I didn’t want an image of a lamb gambolling with an out of focus daffodil in the background. That kind of imagery has no meaning. This image is not an easy one to love, it takes time and effort to see it’s beauty (at least it did for me) but it most definitely has meaning and resonance.

I wanted something that represented life, death, seasons, hope, despair, time, youth, sadness, age, meaning, chance, cycles, change, beauty - all the things that Spring is about. I can see all of that and more - when I look at this image I see the earth, literally the earth spinning through space. I see the lakes and rivers and the oceans and the bones of the earth. It took me 3 weeks to shoot this image. It was worth every second.

So if you want your pictures to be good enough - get out and throw yourself into something until you shoot an image that excites you. That makes youclutch at your heart.

David Moses

Monday, 20 March 2017

Stargazing Scotland - Viewing and Photographing Celestial Events of 2017

Each year a large number of different celestial events occur in the night sky. Meteor showers, lunar phases, the aurora: different celestial events happen for different reasons, and each has it’s own unique beauty. In this blog I’m going to briefly explain some of these events before highlighting a few tips about how to view and photograph them.

Lunar Phases
On an Autumn night the full harvest moon rises as a giant, wobbly orange ball. Get up before dawn on the approach to new moon to see a slender crescent ascending from the East. Not only are lunar phases regular, they’re magnificent. With a bit of careful planning around the lunar calendar it’s possible to predict where and when the moon will rise and set. Combine this with a planned composition, get lucky with the weather and it’s possible to capture this beautiful phenomenon in all its cosmic glory. gives an accurate lunar forecast specific to your location. From March 29th, look West after sunset to see the evening crescent moon sinking into the horizon.

The Aurora
A description of the aurora is not necessary for the readers lucky enough to have witnessed this elegant form of space weather. For the readers who haven’t seen it, any description I can offer will fall utterly short of the ethereal dance of the northern lights. The sun ejects charged particles (solar wind) into the solar system, these are attracted to our magnetosphere and directed to the poles. They react with the atmosphere, making it glow in green, white, red, purple, yellow, blue…

Following will give a reliable solar wind forecast. There are other sites too but this is a good starting point. For reasons not fully understood, around the Spring and Autumn equinoxes a large aurora display can be triggered by the most gentle solar wind. Because of this, the best times to ‘chase’ the lights are the equinoxes. Time your trip with a new moon to maximise the detail in an display you see.

Meteor Showers
Comets originate from the outer areas of our solar system. When they enter the inner solar system radiation from the sun heats their core, stripping away parts of their bodies to form a tail of ice and dust. Sometimes these fantastic objects pass through Earth’s orbit, leaving their tails behind. Every year, Earth passes through the tails of past comets. As our planet ploughs through such a tail, ice and dust burns in our atmosphere as meteors.

With a little planning it’s possible to witness and photograph these amazing celestial events. The ‘peak’ of the meteor shower is when Earth passes through the thickest part of a comet’s tail. Because Earth is travelling in a specific direction through space, the shooting stars appear out of (or ‘radiate’) from a specific part of the sky. This is called the ‘radiant.’ Meteor showers are named after the constellation from which they radiate. Download the free planetarium software - Stellarium - by following the link below. You can use this to learn about the constellations for meteor shower viewing.

Below is some information about two of the best annual meteor showers. Also, follow this link to find out about other showers.
Any photographers wanting to capture shooting stars should plan a composition (at an area free from light pollution) to include the radiant. Then, during the peak of the shower, use an external shutter release to capture hundreds of images in succession. This will maximise your chances of a meteor appearing in your frame.

Perseid Meteor Shower
Peak: 12th - 13th August
Radiant: Perseus
Origin: Comet Swift Tuttle

Geminid Meteor Shower
Peak: 13th - 14th December
Origin: Comet 3200 Phaethon

The planets orbit the sun. Because of this they constantly change position in the sky; the name ‘Planet’ originates from the ancient Greek word for ‘Wanderer.’ It’s easy to follow the movement of the Planets, use Stellarium (linked above) to track their movements across the heavens. Below are some good dates to see some of the famous planets in our solar system.

April 7th. Jupiter at opposition. On this date, the largest planet in our system will be at it’s closest approach to Earth and therefore at it’s brightest. A pair of binoculars should also reveal its largest moons.

June 15th. Saturn at opposition. This is a good summer opportunity for stargazers and photographers. Saturn remains in the area of the sky close to the heart of the galaxy; a brilliant opportunity for any photographers wanting to capture two of the most beautiful celestial sights in one image.

I have covered just a few of the many exciting things available to view and photograph in the changing 2017 sky. If you have any questions about these events and how to photograph them please feel free to contact me.

Jesse Beaman
Stargazing Scotland

Monday, 13 March 2017

Allan Wright - Skye – A Photographic Communion

Renowned worldwide for having some of Scotland’s finest landscapes, Skye looms large on the landscape photography map. I had kept it in reserve until the time was right and so finally in August 2014 I commenced my exploration which extended extended over a two-year period totalling seven or eight weeks. The result is a new book with the title: Skye – A Photographic Communion published at the end of this month in softback at 130 pages it is available online at price £20.

Here are a handful of images and extracts of text from the book.

Up and over to the West of Carbost through Glen Oraid is the photogenic gem of Talisker Bay. On my chosen day in August, after a few dry runs, I got my chance to celebrate the beauty of this place. I arrived in time for a nicely-centred crimson sun dipping below the horizon out on the Western ocean. The bay made a fine subject with its shapely foreground rocks and a prominent stac, all strewn harmoniously along the shore. Long exposures were in order - during which I took a ‘slainte’ moment with a wee ‘deoch an dorus’ of Talisker spirit before ambling back to camp in semi-darkness. A perfect end to a perfect day.

Near the Point, an encounter with a roofless but otherwise fine stone cottage brings on a melancholy moment, despite the drama of its setting. In such moments, the sadness inherent in these places feels palpable: the truth behind the loss of former inhabitants, the stories of past lives and the hardships or abuses suffered pierces through nostalgic illusions of Hebridean tranquility. What was the story of this cottage, I wonder? Is its dereliction the result of non-sustainability, or was it abandoned through the ruthless actions of some Laird or other?

A huge variety of coastal subjects presented themselves to me on Sleat: and a lonely wee inshore fishing boat working quickly on ominously grey water ahead of an encroaching storm. Rising behind the mountains of Knoydart.

A couple of miles inland from Uig lies the Fairy Glen, a notoriously magical place. It has been labelled ‘preternatural’ - which, according to Wikipedia, means ‘suspended between the mundane and the miraculous’. This heavily-glaciated landscape evoked instant curiosity and showed great promise from the beginning. In practice, though, the Fairy Glen did not give up its secrets to me easily. It took me eight visits over two years before some special dawn light delivered a result. I am not big on superstition, but on this day I saw and felt the power of this magical place.

Uig is a busy ferry port on the north-west coast of the Trotternish Peninsula. From here Calmac ferries serve the Outer Hebridean ports of Tarbert, Harris and Lochmaddy, Uig served me well as an overnight stop, offering both logistical convenience and generous photo opportunities. On one particularly restless day and purely by chance I caught the widest of rainbow arcs linking both sides of the broad bay.

Allan Wright

Monday, 6 March 2017

Laura Hudson Mackay - You Can Find Me in the Forest...

Straight out of fairytales, forests are places where people can hide away or get completely lost. They are silent and beautiful in a weird and ancient-feeling way.

Spending time photographing in forests takes me back to my childhood and hearing my parents say those wonderful words ‘Once upon a time’. When they read to me, a doorway opened in my imagination that has never closed. As an adult, I still read fairytales, but also study them, researching folklore, myths and all things magical.

Bringing together my love for these stories and photography, I’ve begun a journey, crossing cultures and linking both the traditional and modern Celtic and Arabian storytelling themes. The project, ‘Confluence’ is an international collaborative project, which sits within Upland’s overarching programme of international development.

Together with Scottish storyteller, Anne Errington, Moroccan photographer, Houssain Belabess and Moroccan Storyteller Mehdi El Ghaly, we are creating a body of work based on the many themes, which link our traditional stories and cultures. And, just like the characters from fairytales setting out on a long journey, over the sea and mountains, and finally descending through thick forests, to eventually arrive at their destination, ‘Confluence’ is an exciting adventure leading us on a journey of discovery.

You can follow the story here  or search #confluenceupland 

Laura Hudson Mackay

Monday, 27 February 2017

Holly Burns - "Small, Fearless"

A very interesting and exciting opportunity unexpectedly arose through a simple request from my 7 year old son. During the opening night of Galloway Photographic Collective's November exhibition at Shambellie House, New Abbey, he asked me the question: "Mummy, why are there never any photos of me at your shows. Can I be in the next one?'

I was hesitant to say the least. My work tends to be very emotional and is an outward expression often dictated by my inner thoughts and experiences. Much of my work was created princibly for therapeutic benefit and I wasn't sure how I could integrate my son into this. As a brave hearted 7 year old full of innocence and little awareness of the big bad world, the only thing that I felt could possibly make him vulnerable was his small size.

I soon realised that the concept for an image based on him was staring me right in the face - I would create something that showed strength, rather than weakness, despite his small frame. The challenge for me was how to convey this concept of youthful strength within an image that suitably fits with my other work, as he wanted to be in the exhibition after all.

Just days later my friend told me he had come into possession of a taxidermy bear, not something that you often come across, and he immediately thought of me. I, in turn, saw my opportunity and swiftly captured those necessary shots of the bear. What better way to emphasise the small frame of a 7 year old than to place him in a position of authority next to this huge and wonderfully powerful animal. I wanted to show no matter how big and scary the opposition was, he could tackle it through his sheer bravery. In the GIF below, you can see the images that were collected and how I constructed them together to create the finished piece.

(refresh the page to see it again)

The work was completed and became apart of the collection for the current exhibition running at the Whitehouse Gallery, Kirkcudbright. Seeing his picture presented 4 feet squared on the wall has made him a very happy boy! Funnily enough, he was more comfortable in the limelight than I and was very open to discussing his modelling with visitors! Since then, he has also enjoyed seeing the image in print thanks to D&G life magazine.

On a personal level, nothing makes me happier than making my little one happy so I shall consider this image to be a success! On a professional level, this experience has opened my eyes to the idea of working in a manner that I wasn't very familiar with. I've realised that adapting my methods of working offer new opportunities to create and on this occasion it has proved very rewarding. As photographers we should always be open to considering taking different paths, be that on a conceptual or technical level. The outcomes of these endeavours can be very successful.

Holly Burns

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