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

Monday, 6 October 2014

Allan Wright - Skye 2014

Skye is big on the landscape photography map, it has a worldwide reputation for being spectacular, so in some ways it is surprising it has taken me almost 30 years to get round to "having a go" myself. I confess I had been put it off because I was daunted by its magnitude and reputation, in effect deferring the task to a time when I could do it justice and so I took 18 days this August to see what I could come up with.

My initial reaction was of shock as I drove over the Skye Bridge and found myself in the midst of an ad hoc convoy of 19 camper vans (from which I did a sharp harp exit at Kyleakin). It got worse, the whole place was bursting at the seams with tourists, roads were chokka and parking chaos at the main attractions was insane. I was not prepared for this and quickly acknowledged that in terms of dear old Galloway's quest for tourism growth, I was heard muttering to myself on Galloway's behalf to "be careful what you wish for!"

What also struck me hard though was just how compulsive visitors are these days about taking photos, it seems an insatiable reflex has entered the human condition. I confess I am a little bemused by this, everything seems to be a potential subject with cameras instinctively brandished without hesitation. Maybe this abundant snapping is because Scotland is so stunning and people are heightened in their enthusiasm and expectation, I feel an urge to engage with folk to find out what drives them and how they see the end product being used ? I am genuinely curious to see where this photo mania is leading us.

On the other hand I was also struck by the plethora of photographers actively promoting themselves as fine art photographers through their real time and online galleries visible throughout Skye, in fact someone even told me there were upwards of 40 photographers presenting themselves as professionals. I am I confess staggered by the popularity of photography and the ease with which many have evolved themselves from the status of amateur into "professional". I have on occasion found myself cautioning enthusiastic amateurs to consider the true meaning of the word amateur - i.e. from the old French "lover of" and that the pure uncorrupted passion felt from the act of producing images is to be revered and that the step into commercialisation does not come without risks at least in terms of a potential loss of that early passion.

The logistics and planning involved in successful landscape work are numerous but here is quick resume of a few; tides, angle of sun, cloud style, humidity, season, time of day, aspect, access, mapping, safety, fitness, equipment, market potential, patience, ferry times, let alone camera and post production technique etc ..... these all more or less play their part. Photographing Skye had these issues in abundance, an OS map and up to the minute i phone weather reports along with a readiness to drive huge mileages were absolutely crucial. I had an amazing time I admit but on reflection I scarcely had a minute to myself during the 18 days. I hope to show more of my Skye images in a series of blogs and share some of my experiences in the coming weeks but meantime I have chosen 4 images that seem on the face of it to be more or less spontaneous but in reality were underpinned by a combination of many factors.

I plan to offer a series of 6 blogs about my experiences of Skye over the coming weeks with associated images & their background stories.

Stormy shore and cliffs at Staffin with lone explorer
Point of Sleat with Eigg & Rum on horizon
Looking South from Neist Point to Waterstein Head & Moonen Bay
Toskavaig, sunset and my travelling home

Allan Wright