Monday, 29 December 2014

Kim Ayres - Fantastic Mr Fox

I met wildlife photographer and author Polly Pullar at the Wigtown Book Festival last year, and we got chatting about the Authors as Characters series of images I'd been working on.

In subsequent emails she decided Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox would be one she would love to try. As well as having a love of foxes she also has a bit of land with sheep, a deer and some laid back hens. Gradually the idea formed of doing a shoot with Polly dressed up with tweed jacket, plus-fours and face paint, with a chicken under her arm coming out of the hen house.

She lives near Aberfeldy - up into highland Perthshire - with her partner, Iomhair, and invited me up to stay for a couple of nights to do the shoot. I arrived late afternoon and as Iomhair was preparing dinner Polly gave me a tour of the grounds and buildings so we could start thinking about the best place to do the shoot.

We looked at the hen house and the barn, but then we climbed the hill to where this lovely old, gnarled tree, surrounded by lichen and moss covered rocks, jutted out of the hillside. And in the early evening sunlight it was just stunning. There wasn't time to do the shoot there and then before the sun disappeared but we both knew the combination of tree and light would be perfect. We just had to hope the following evening would offer up the same conditions.

Fortunately luck was on our side. It was overcast until mid afternoon, but then the sun started to peek out from behind the clouds and by early evening the skies were clear. Polly changed into her outfit and her friend, actress and playwright Anna Hepburn, set to with face paints.

Quite quickly it became clear the hen house option wasn't going to work. The size, layout and difficulty with lighting meant I couldn't create out a way to make the cool photo I had envisioned.

We shifted into the barn and used hay bales to create a backdrop for some shots of Polly as the fox with a couple of chickens under her arms. While they were fun, I still didn't feel I was getting the awesome shots I really wanted. So then we climbed the hill to the tree.

The moment I took my first test shot my heart leapt with joy - the light could not have been more perfect. Polly clambered into place on a rock with her back against the tree and in a act of serendipity I could never have planned, a couple of her sheep came wandering up to see what was going on.

Here are a selection of the final photos. Click on them for larger versions, or follow the link through to my Facebook page for the full set -

I couldn't have arranged those sheep if I'd tried

"This is my chicken, not yours. Go find your own..."

Even Ruby the deer made an appearance

In the barn...

Photographer, fox and the remains of a bottle of wine

Kim Ayres

Monday, 22 December 2014

Tom Langlands - Getting into Their World (Part 2)

In the first part of this series of blogs about photographing wildlife I wrote about the importance of getting to the same eye level as your subject. This will immediately make the viewer feel that they now ‘occupy the same space’ as your subject. At this point you will have engaged the viewer. How do you then build on that engagement and draw the viewer further into the image? A big part of the answer to that question has to do with how you crop the image and also being aware of the background.

Fill the frame with your subject. Either get in close at the time of taking the shot or crop in tight afterwards. Sometimes the latter is the best approach especially where birds are concerned. If you zoom in too tight on a bird at the time of the initial shot you will have a problem if the bird suddenly spreads its wings and you find the wingtips missing in the final shot.

The point of getting in close is it removes superfluous clutter or unnecessary open space in an image and helps focus attention on your subject. Combine this with a shallow depth of field to throw the foreground and background out of focus and the viewer has little option but to be drawn into the main subject matter which fills the frame and is also the only sharp part of the overall image.

Working with aperture priority and fully exploiting depth of field are key to good wildlife photography. I spend as much time watching the background in my shots as I do watching the subject. Avoid messy, cluttered backgrounds unless they say something that is essential to the story.

Red Squirrel
Show the wider context
The alternative approach is not to crop in as close and instead show the subject in its wider environment. When adopting this approach the wider context must say something specific about the environment and habitat that is your subject’s world.

Northern Gannets
It should enhance the understanding of how and where your subject lives but not detract from the subject itself.

White-tailed Eagle

Tom Langlands

Monday, 15 December 2014

Allan Wright - Skye at Last - 2

My approach to any given piece of landscape, at least for my paid professional work, generally requires a good deal of driving and map study. I will usually drive from end to end of the selected region making copious notes on aspects, points of interest and in particular how the main iconic features might best be approached. I often find the most northwesterly part of an island delivers a wildness and solitude that helps me settle in and on this recent trip to Skye I headed straight for The Vaternish Peninsula.

I often find myself getting under the skin of a place just by being receptive and engaging with locals and happily this time a chance encounter revealed a whole new dimension to landscape appreciation. Here I met Sheila Parnel, an energetic and knowledgeable lady farmer, working for the RSPB and managing pasture specifically for the benefit of the recently resident but iconic Corncrake, that famously shy and elusive symbol of Hebridean agricultural ecology. Today she and some volunteers were gathering & burning the poisonous Ragwort prior to late silage making for the local herd of Highland Cattle. I joined in for a while and shot the breeze on this balmy August day, I so love my job on such days.

The wide curve of Ardmore Bay below promised rich pickings as I noted the herd of peculiarly near-white Highland Cattle, a nicely positioned ruined farmhouse and a beckoning cliff top to boot. The cattle were amazing, appearing freshly shampooed and very content. Highlanders are snapped thousands of times in a tourist year but I still love to have a go myself, after all, good shots still sell consistently well and these near albino versions were lovely. Turns out the ruined farmhouse is used as a warehouse by the local wine club distributor, a gentleman in his 80's who, with his wife who has the cattle, moved here from down south 20 years ago - now that is a lifestyle choice if ever I saw one!

Over to the cliff top where I was promised a view of "The Dragon" drinking from the Atlantic, I saw it instantly but I am not sure how easily others see it?

Feeling energetic still I jumped on my bicycle, sometimes the best tool in the bag, and headed to the East side of Vaternish. Can't help but be fascinated by housing styles on the island from stunning new eco builds to vernacular "tumbledowns" sitting side by side it is clear Skye is having its own housing boom. Back to base camp(er) and a day spent reading whilst the rain hammered down. Next day a glance at the ferry timetables directed me to Armadale and the chance of a shot at the Mallaig-Skye Ferry. Planned a shot for later with specific conditions but caught the atmosphere with shot through the trees.

North on the Sleat Peninsula are the captivating hamlets of Tokavaig & Toskavaig, an archway to a ruined castle on a promontory,

a cute little rainbow and the Cuillins slipping in and out of view made the day, made a note also to return at my earliest convenience, mmh, Skye - I am starting to understand what all the fuss is about.

Allan Wright

Monday, 8 December 2014

Roger Lever - Alpha1 and Still Breathing

On a recent trip to Glencoe filming for my 1000 Faces Scotland project, my friend Ash and I stayed at the wonderful Clachaig Hotel which nestles just off the main road near the bottom of the glen. Our evenings were spent in the bar eating, drinking and meeting visitors and locals. One evening a good looking young guy with a broad Highland accent came up to me and asked if I would be interested in filming his friend. “She’s just over here. I can introduce you.” We wandered across the stone floored room to a group of young people who were chatting away. “Lindsay, these are the guys doing the 1000faces project” “Lindsay’s a very special person” said the young guy. In front of me stood a shortish very good looking young woman with frizzy medium length blond hair dressed in the classical highland Berghaus mountain gear everyone seems to wear in the Highlands these days. She was also wearing breathing apparatus in the form of plastic tubing inserted into both nostrils. Her big smile greeted us and before we knew it we had organised for her to come into the Visitor Centre next day for a film shoot.

Next day arrived and Lindsay appeared on queue with her friend. We made the normal preps for the filmshoot and sat Lindsay down, hooked her up to the lapel mic and introduced her to the aims of our project. There she was in front of the cameras smiling as she does with her tubing in situ. “Now Lindsay” said Ash, “is there anything you would like to talk about that you feel the rest of the world should know about you?” For the next 15 minutes Lindsay talked about herself and her life with Alpha1 Antitrypsin Deficiency Syndrome. Ash and I stood there speechless jaws hanging whilst Lindsay described how this rare condition had transformed her life, how it took so long to diagnose, her life in a hospice preparing to die at any point, how she attempted suicide on more than one occasion and how she then decided to take this debilitating condition and deal with it in her way.

At the age of 45 Lindsay has been a police inspector, suffered severe injuries in a car accident, attended Glasgow school of Art becoming a top model, having 5 children by 2 fathers and diagnosed with Alpha1 after her fifth child. This condition essentially destroys lung function. There is no treatment except the possibility of a double lung transplant which may extend her life for a short time should she survive such a very complex risky operation.

Brought up in the Highlands amongst the most amazing mountain scenery and with mountaineering in her blood, Lindsay decided to take her life by the scruff, reduce her drug intake to a minimum and start climbing again. ‘climbing!!’, grade 1 rock faces at that, when she struggles with 22% lung capacity doing what you and I do daily without even thinking about it. Give her a sheer rock face however and with her oxygen supply she spiderwomans her way up them with apparent ease. How on earth does she do that? She does things normal people would not even contemplate. ‘A crazy woman’ some people might say but being crazy has kept her alive and not just living! Lindsay awaits her call up for a lung transplant knowing that she could suddenly deteriorate and die at any time.

Read More

Roger Lever

Monday, 1 December 2014

Giles Atkinson - 10 Christmas ideas for the photographer in your life.

Everyone knows a photographer, whether they be an old hand or a budding new talent, well if you are stuck for Christmas present ideas this year, here's a few ideas that might help!

1. Photographers Coffee Mug - You can't beat that first cuppa in the morning, unless of course it's served up in one of these fancy photographer mugs.

2. Gorilla Pod - The amazing Gorillapod when you need a tripod to work in the most awkward of positions there's only one tripod you need.

3. iPhone Camera Lens Kit - The iPhone camera is pretty fantastic but add one of these lens kits and it become something really special!

4. Lenspen - Regardless of what camera you use, at some point you are going to need to remove dust or greasy fingerprints of the lens. I can highly recommend the Lenspen.

5. Digital Picture Frame - A great way to show off photos, rather than having them sitting hidden and unseen on a computer drive somewhere.

6. Camera Bag - You can't fail with a Lowepro camera bags and they even come with with a lifetime warranty.

7. Handmade Camera Strap - What about a new camera strap? Have a look at some of the beautiful handmade camera straps on the Etsy website.

8. Inspire 1 Drone - This should keep 'em busy! the latest drone from DJI a snip at just £2380 will shoot up to 4K video and capture 12 megapixel photos with the built-in Inspire 1 camera.

9. GoPro - Who wouldn't want a Go Pro? Get the latest Hero 4 Full HD Action Camera.

10. Portable Drive for storing images - It's always advisable for every photographer to backup all their photos to an external drive(s), you only need one computer crash and all your images to be lost forever to appreciate this! I always use Toshiba drives.

Giles Atkinson

Monday, 24 November 2014

David Moses - 5 Tips for Taking Better Photographs

One of the aims of The Galloway Photographic Collective is to help promote photography in Dumfries & Galloway. Part of that involves helping you get better at photography. In fact, all photographers want to get better. Good photographers never stop learning.

There are too many things to teach you in one blog, so keep an eye for these at regular intervals.

1 - Never stop photographing.

Take pictures every day, even of the incidental things. The best way to get better is to shoot every day. Your command of the camera will become second nature and you will be free to think about things like composition, emotion, storytelling.

2 - Get Closer.

Robert Capa said “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” It’s so true. He was of course talking about emotional closeness as well as physical.

3 - Buy education, not gear.

Having the best of gear does not a photographer make. I have seen and shot some of my favourite pictures using a phone. It’s all about knowing what you want to do. With strong knowledge you can make amazing pictures using the most basic of gear. Learn more!

4 - You’re Kidding Right?

A well timed joke or anecdote is much more effective than asking people to smile. You don’t want your subjects to mug for the camera, so don’t ask them to.

5 - Engage With Your Subject.

Take time to make your subject comfortable. Talk to them, let them know what to expect and what you re going to do. They are probably really nervous and it is your job to provide them with an enjoyable experience.

David Moses

Monday, 17 November 2014

Launch Night

A great evening was had by all at the Launch of the "Friends" themed exhibition at The Workshop Gallery last Thursday evening, with plenty of money and awareness raised for the Dumfries and Galloway Befriending Project

Gillian McMinn gives a brief talk about the work done by the D&G Befriending Project

With many thanks to all who attended, all who bought raffle tickets and all who donated prizes to help raise funds for this wonderful cause.

In addition to each of the members of the Galloway Photographic Collective, the hall of fame for donations includes:

Sunrise Wholefoods
Clience Studio - Angela Lawrence
Castle Douglas Post Office
In House Chocolates
Posthorn Gifts
Bard Vets Ltd
The Whitehouse Gallery
Pure Beauty
Lily Knowles Florist
Kirkcudbright Picture Framers
A D Livingston and sons
Spoilt at Smiths, Gretna

To find out more about Dumfries and Galloway Befriending Project, visit their website here:

Monday, 10 November 2014

Charity Raffle Night & Exhibition Launch

D&G Befriending Project and The Galloway Photographic Collective
Charity Raffle Night & Exhibition Launch ~ Thursday 13th November 2014


The Galloway Photographic Collective have joined forces with D&G Befriending Project, to host a charity raffle and exhibition launch on Thursday 13th November at The Workshop Gallery in Castle Douglas.

Doors will open at 7pm, and the event is free.

The Galloway Photographic Collective comprises of some of Galloway's finest photographers, who have come together to promote their work across a range of disciplines including traditional landscape photography, wedding and portrait photography, editorial, wildlife, and staged narrative, fantasy photography.

The event will offer an opportunity to hear the seven members of the Collective give a short presentation, as well as view their latest photography exhibition. To complement the chosen charity, the exhibition is taking on the theme of friendship, with each photographer offering their own unique interpretation.

There will be a chance to win top quality prizes in the raffle, including framed prints, portrait sessions and limited edition prints. These prizes will be announced on the GPC Facebook & Twitter pages in the lead up to the event.

All profit made from the sale of raffle tickets will go to the D&G Befriending Project, a charity which enriches young lives by offering mentoring opportunities throughout the region.

Raffle tickets will cost £1 each, and can be purchased online as well as in a range of outlets including The Whitehouse Gallery in Kirkcudbright or A&D Livingston's in Castle Douglas. Tickets can also be purchased on the night.

To purchase tickets online please visit

For more information, please visit us at


Monday, 3 November 2014

Lynne Atkinson - Photographing Eyes

One thing I always like to do when photographing a person is to get at least one shot when I have them looking deep into the lens. Eye contact is a really effective way of drawing the viewer into the image, and making a connection with the subject.

I have my set of tricks which make this possible with the younger kids, and I would say that almost 99.9% of my sessions I can manage to tame even the wildest of child and get them to do this.

What I love about these shots are that they show a true glimpse of that individual's character. This does depend on how I've enticed them to look into the lens, as sometimes I'm asking them to look and see if they can see something I've suggested may be in there, so their look is inquisitive or curious. Sometimes I may just have wrapped a silly 'lens pet' around the lens which will show signs of amusement or intrigue. Mostly, however, unless they are older and perhaps more self conscious they do tend to forget they are being photographed for a second or two, and that's when you can get these true glimpses into their character and how they are feeling. In the case of this little girl, it was very early on in the session and she was feeling shy which is also suggested by how she is holding her hands, but I like the coyness of this image.

The trick with photographing the eyes effectively is to catch the light in them, incidentally called catchlights. Without the catchlight in the eyes, the person's eyes look lifeless, and this takes the vitality out of the portrait.

Catching the light in the eyes can be achieved by finding where the light is coming from, then photographing the subject facing towards its general direction, although taking care not to have them facing a bright light which will cause them to squint. It's most useful to find some open shade on a sunny day to achieve this, such as under a tree or in the shade of a building. This image was taken down a lane in the middle of a sunny summer day. Open shade not only makes the eyes pop, but gives the person's complexion a lovely even tone.

Another way (and one I use often) is to ask the subject to look up to the camera if they are crouched down and you are above them, as this always lets the light in and results in the most wonderful eyes. Reflectors and careful lighting can also bounce light into the eyes, and many different types of interesting catchlights can be achieved by angling the light in different ways.

With close up portraits, I will always focus on the eyes so that they are sharp, as without this the portraits fails. I will often shoot with a wide aperture, sometimes as wide as f1.8 which means that much of the background is out of focus. This draws even more attention to the eyes which are in focus, so effectively jump out of the image as the main focal point.

Hopefully this has gone some way to highlighting the importance of eyes in portrait photography, and these tips will help you create some wonderful portraits of your own.

Lynne Atkinson - Alice Rose Portraits

Monday, 27 October 2014

Tom Langlands - Getting into Their World (Part 1)

Red Squirrel

We all observe wildlife from time to time. It may be sitting at the window watching the birds on the garden feeders or it may be heading up the hills or into the woods in the hope of seeing a deer or perhaps a red squirrel. Hundreds of thousands of images of our nation’s fauna will be taken on such trips and yet many people looking at their photographs later will feel a bit disappointed. Somehow the photograph they took doesn’t quite capture what they were seeing. Why is that and how do you go about getting good wildlife images?

One of the main reasons many people will be disappointed with their first attempts at wildlife photography is that they took the picture ‘from their world’ of a subject ‘in its world’. Good wildlife photography bridges that gap. Wildlife images become more believable and much more powerful when you convince the viewer that you are inside the world of your subject.

Common Lizard

There are a variety of techniques you can use to achieve this illusion and over my next few blogs I will give you some pointers. Like all rules they don’t work on all occasions and they are not always applicable but they are a good starting point.


Let’s start with one of the most basic:-

Get to the same eye level.
Many times I see people standing upright while looking down on an insect or maybe down on a friendly squirrel on the ground or a lizard on a rock. The problem is that as bipeds our height distances us from the very thing we want to photograph. When we take a photograph from that viewpoint we are taking it from our perspective and not from the perspective of our subject. We become observers rather than participants.


If your subject is a fish get in the water beside it and share its environment. If you can’t realistically do that, then make it appear as if you are in the water with it by photographing it through the side of an aquarium. Alternatively, if it skims around on the water surface get down to the same level and occupy the same space.

Cabbage White Caterpillar

If you are photographing an insect that crawls about on the ground or low grasses then get down there with it. If it crawls about on the reeds at the edge of a pond get down beside it. I carry a cheap camping mat around with me for that very reason. It protects me from the worst of the cold and damp. I also carry midge repellant!

Whooper Swans

If your subject is a bird then either get down on the ground beside it or use a high vantage point to create the illusion that you are flying with it. This latter technique can be highly effective and I have used hills and observation towers to make it seem as if I am in the sky with them.


Getting to the same eye level is probably the best of all advice for creating the illusion that you are in the same world as your subject. The resultant photograph will make your viewer feel that they too are inside your subject’s world and once you achieve this your wildlife photographs will begin to come to life.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Dumfries and Galloway Life Magazine

A double whammy for the Galloway Photographic Collective this month with the November edition of Dumfries and Galloway Life (now on the shelves)!

Collective member, Kim Ayres, had several of his images featuring James Ewart Racing in the D&G Life Business Edition, including the cover photo. You can find more about his experiences on his own blog here:

However, for the Collective as a whole the big news is we are now going to be providing a regular column for Dumfries and Galloway Life magazine.

Each month a different member will be writing something to tie in with the season, events or special editions of the magazine.

In this edition, an introductory feature meant we had a double page spread with each member offering a top tip. Next month, tying in with the Christmas Special, our very own family portrait specialist, Lynne Atkinson, will be writing about how to improve your chances of capturing that special moment when your kids (or nephews, nieces or grandkids) are diving into their presents.

If you live outwith Dumfries and Galloway don't worry - the option to subscribe to the magazine is also available - - and at only £20 for the first year it's an absolute bargain!

Meanwhile don't forget to keep coming back here every Monday evening for insights, tips, tricks, stories behind photographs, and the different approaches to photography each of the Collective has.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Roger Lever - 2003 A year to remember... or forget

When I qualified as a Vet in 1973 little did I know that many years later I would be killing nearly as many animals as I had saved in my whole career, and all in the space of one year.

That’s a hard pill to swallow. The Foot and Mouth epidemic of 2003 had to be tackled with a vengeance and we in Dumfries and Galloway had more than our fair share of the disease to deal with. In the midst of the slaughter I carried my camera. Needless to say some of the images were pretty gruesome. Most of them were of the numerous funeral pyres that were burning around our beautiful countryside.

My camera lenses were not as good as the ones I now use but I suppose these particular images are more about creating a documentary record rather than making beautiful pictures.

In May of that year just as the above trauma and stress of that situation was reducing somewhat I decided to go to one of my favourite places, Dingle in the south-west corner of Ireland. There I encountered the best cure in the world for a troubled mind and engaged once more with the natural world in a more normal way.

Just off the tip of the Dingle peninsula lies the Great Blasket Island, a lovely place which has the best beach in the world, the White Strand. As our little boat approached the old landing stage I spotted a friend of mine swimming
with a young woman out in the bay. I noticed he was filming her as well. Then a dolphin appeared. After watching them for about half an hour the pair boarded their boat and left the dolphin swimming around on its own. I had just a short time to decide - NO DECISION- I stripped off to my underpants and jumped in.

AAAAAHHHHHH! In May the water off the Blasket is still freezing cold. Within seconds the dolphin was there at my side. I swam around for a while with it and then it came right up to me, so close that I could put my arm round it. Being a vet my natural instinct was to think that there maybe something wrong with it of course but then I realised it was not the dolphin but myself that had the problem.

I was frozen and shivering and the dolphin stayed with me until I could take the cold no longer. Reluctantly I had to get out.

I never got a photograph of it. If I had had my camera in hand it would have been blurred anyway due to camera shake!!

It is difficult to describe such an experience in words. You have to feel it.

The dolphin moved on to Wales and down to France after that, sharing its very special powers with other fortunate individuals along the way.

Roger Lever