Monday, 30 June 2014

Allan Wright - Ailsa Craig

It's that iconic volcanic plug that sits there so conspicuously as the gatekeeper to the Firth of Clyde, familiar like an old friend, yet I suspect few have actually visited it, indeed it's on my own list of "places in Scotland to visit before I die". I have enjoyed it many times from Ayrshire and from Arran, as it provides the ideal anchor point on the horizon, helpfully decorating many a seascape.

Image 1

Continuing my "Galloway Revisited" project I recently took a couple of days down on the Rhins of Galloway, that spindly shaped part of Wigtownshire down by Stranraer. It's a longish haul along increasingly narrowing roads in my lumbering beast of a camper van but I just made it on time to catch a nice fiery sunset behind Corsewall Lighthouse on the north western tip of the Rhins. All places have their own special feel and this quiet corner of Galloway and here during the summer solstice it glowed in many ways, but in essence it's all about farming, ferries, quiet seclusion and views of the "Craig".

Image 2

In Landscape Photography there can be a strong element of strategy, i.e. narrowing the odds by studying weather, sun angle, tides, ferry timetables and seasonal colour etc etc. It can be an all-consuming task, so much so, that at times I forget to eat and lose track of the established rhythms of the day perhaps at this time of year having to nap in the afternoon to avoid sleep deprivation. Having said that one of the best parts of my job is the "unexpected encounter" when the elements of a picture just seem to fall together just like that. It has been called serendipity I believe and this is how image 2 came about. I just turned a corner on a wee back road and there it all was. To me it sums up the uniqueness of the North Rhins, but it was fleeting - 2 hours later the cows had moved on and the magic was gone.

Image 3

Image 3 was an exercise in strategy that only half worked. The elements are all there and I am happy with the dynamics and the composition but the light was less than enhancing. In my experience it may take perhaps 3-4 return trips to nail this kind of shot with the kind of great light these subjects deserve.

Safely back home and with many hours of image editing ahead of me, It's not uncommon to be asked "did you have a good holiday?" I confess I have sort of given up trying to explain that my job is not exactly a holiday, I have grown to quite like the idea that people think I make a living by going on holiday, it makes me chuckle.

Allan Wright

Monday, 23 June 2014

Kim Ayres - Black and White or Colour?

Over the weekend I was at the Gatehouse Midsummer Music Festival and during a conversation a friend asked me, did I prefer black and white or colour?

My answer was, it all depended on the photo.

In some ways that seems obvious, but in other ways not so.

Local newspapers, for example, rarely accept black and white these day - they are convinced their punters prefer colour. A huge amount of art photography, on the other hand, is in black and white. Indeed, when colour photography first arrived there was much debate about whether a colour photo could ever be considered as art (and in some circles that debate still rages).

Sometimes circumstances can force your hand though. Very often when shooting bands performing on stage, the lighting is quite low and lots of coloured gels are used. Occasionally that splash of colour adds to the impact of the image, but often it detracts.

To give an example, here are a couple of photos I took of the lead singer of local band Sparo and The Yahs in both colour and black and white versions

In the first example you can choose which ever appeals to you the most. Personally I prefer the colour, I think that splash of magenta on his jacket and backlighting his face and hair add something which is lacking in the black and white.

(You can click on the images for slightly larger versions)

In this next example, however, the light is just making everything a bit too pink. There's not a great deal of contrast in the colour, but there is much more of a contrast between the light and dark, creating interesting lines. So as well as converting to black and white, I've also adjusted the levels/curves/contrast so the lines and shadows become much more exaggerated, making it darker, moodier and a bit more iconic

Do you have a preference - are you generally drawn more to bright colours, muted colours or black and white photo? Feel free to leave a comment

Kim Ayres

Monday, 16 June 2014

Rosie - by Roger Lever

For those of you who do not already know about Rosie then read on.

And for those of you who don’t know that I am a Vet as well as a photographer then read on.

In August 2009 I was operating in the surgery where I work in Dumfries when there was a lot of commotion, nurses running about and doing what nurses do when they are worried about a patient. I had just finished my operation so I went next door into the prep room to see what the fuss was about. There were 3 or 4 people leaning over the table on which there had been deposited a black plastic bag. “I don’t know if its still alive Roger, please have a look.”

The black plastic bag had been opened and inside was small curled up creature covered in diarrhoea, urine and fleas. It was breathing and no more. We removed it and placed it on a thick soft towel. The little greyhound type bitch was just skin and bone with little evidence of any fat or muscle covering. It was adult but only weighed 7 kg, the size of a small poodle. Normally an adult greyhound weighs between 20 and 30 kg. We gave her a warm bath and set up an intravenous fluid drip, a life saver on many occasion. It was in this case.

4 years on Rosie weighs 18 kg and lives life to the full. Here she is having ‘a burn-up’ on one of Tiree’s beautiful long beaches.

As far as the photography was concerned it was about capturing that sense of freedom and life she now possesses. I think I did.

For a more complete story go to the following link.

Roger Lever

Monday, 9 June 2014

Kim Ayres - Photographing a Blacksmith

Earlier this year I was photographing Adam Booth as part of a project about the River Urr, which runs not too far from here. I was recruited by Davie who, along with a couple of others, is looking at the history and the people of the land surrounding the river.

Adam is an artist blacksmith with a forge in nearby Kirkpatrick Durham, where he heats, hammers and shapes metal into decorative, organic shapes. Some of his gates have become listed as soon as they have been installed. A warm and friendly guy, he talks with great enthusiasm about his passion for his work, and the alchemy of how the properties of metal change from completely solid to a clay-like malleability when exposed to the right level of heat.

I have to admit, there's something quite primal watching metal being thrust into blazing coals, glowing red and golden and hearing the sounds of it being hammered on an anvil. Trying to figure out how to photograph it, however, was not easy.

The fluorescent strip lights were designed for him to be able to see his tools, not to cast interesting shadows or create an atmospheric environment. But introducing more light would have its own problems - too much and the glow of the metal would be lost; not enough and the shutter speed would be too slow and everything would blur.

The solution was to have a slow shutter speed (about half a second) to allow the ambient glow to be felt, but also to use an off-camera flash to capture the action. The resulting effect was to freeze part of the image, but ghostly echoes sometimes followed any movement.

Below are a selection of images - feel free to click on any of them for slightly larger versions.

Kim Ayres

Monday, 2 June 2014

Allan Wright - Misty Old Ayrshire

Rather illogically our neighbour county of Ayrshire has very rarely been in my viewfinder.

This fact belies the frequency of my "just passing through visits" over the past 35 years in total and at a rough guess it must be into four figures. However last year the Photo Collective I am part of was invited to submit certain images of Ayrshire for a project on our local Biosphere. This got me started but was soon followed by a request from my principle calendar customer to produce images for an Ayrshire Calendar for 2015, green light was definitely on now.

I chose a promisingly crisp, bright but slightly foggy day in February last year to get started and headed North with intent. First stop was the Scottish Industrial Railway Centre near Patna. Deserted of course but eerie and atmospheric with curious combinations of rusting machinery old locomotives and iconic industrial revolution chimneys fading into the distance and spooky crows alighting noisily here and there, my kind of place then. I have intended to visit here since forever and here I was at last - steeped in imaginative historical energy, a fine venue for image making, glad I chose today.

The trip got better as I dropped into the splendid environs of Culzean Castle a place I thought I knew quite well. It was a dream ticket as the morning haar-like mist very slowly burned off revealing the subtlest and sweetest of colours with magical and ethereal shapes emerging as sometimes familiar and other times as absolutely brand new. I cannot recommend more highly the rare, but reliable, few days each year that start off like this, a photographic banquet of opportunity.

Other gems revealed themselves even as the haze lifted I discovered the joys of the River Stincher, the countryside round Pinwherry followed by an exquisitely tranquil Duntrune and a pristine Girvan Harbour. The following day was equally rewarding with a mystical showing from Burns Cottage and the romantic Brig o' Doon topped only by a wonderfully pastel coloured presentation of The iconic Turnberry Lighthouse. Mostly skipped the urban bits round Ayr, Irvine, Troon, Ardrossan etc. and finished off with the late sun kissing the upbeat traditional resort that is Largs with its Millport Ferry and famous ice cream heritage.

Ayrshire - I will be back soon - why did I leave it so long I ask myself?

If you want to see a more complete set of images from this trip go to

Allan Wright