Monday, 23 February 2015

Kim Ayres - Mrs Green's At The Aviation Museum

Mrs Green's Tea Lounge has a wonderfully retro feel to it - from the menus tucked inside vintage children's books, to the 50s style clothing Mrs Green herself is usually wearing. It's not theme specific, or nailed to one particular decade - items of décor range from pre-war to the 70s and beyond - but a general sense of nostalgia hits you at every turn, triggering memories from childhood or even visits to grandma.

The atmosphere and staff are warm and friendly so once discovered you keep going back. For a place that's not been open that long, it has an intensely loyal customer base. A quick check on Trip Advisor shows it ranked number 1 of all the eateries in Dumfries, and it doesn't surprise me at all.

With her love of dressing up and attention to detail, it felt like an ideal match when we started discussing doing a photo shoot.

Chatting with Mrs Green it became clear her tea lounge wasn't so much a place as a state of mind. This opened up all sorts of possibilities - we didn't need to be restricted to the café itself.

Across the summer ideas were bounced back and forth, dates were pencilled in and then rubbed out again, and for a wee while I was beginning to fear it might never happen.

However, I needn't have worried. Not only did it all come together, the time and effort put in by Mrs Green and her staff to make it work, blew me away.

The photo shoot took place at the Dumfries Aviation Museum and involved not just Mrs Green but 6 of her staff who had also gone to great lengths to find retro outfits. The fact they were not only all dressed up, but had given up their Sunday afternoon for the shoot was testament to the passion they all have for the concept.

Editing the photos was a bit of a challenge. I decided I wanted to give the photos a retro feel, which involved playing around with colour overlays, hue and saturation adjustments as well as fading the contrasts to a degree. Additionally, the original seat covers in the plane were bright red, and this meant the wonderful dresses of Mrs Green and Tracy were swamped rather than standing out. It took me a while to find a colour that worked and then even longer to selectively change them all.

And of course, when it came to the cockpit shot, I couldn't exactly leave in place the view through the windows of the car park on a dull day.

Fellow Galloway Photographic Collective member, Tom Langlands, also came along and shot some footage for me so I could make up a wee video of the photo shoot.

I added similar layers of colour and contrast shifts to the video to give it the same feel:

Many thanks to all involved - from Mrs Green and her staff to the Dumfries Aviation Museum and Tom Langlands.

It's projects like this that keep me truly excited about photography.

Kim Ayres

Monday, 16 February 2015

Tom Langlands - Getting into Their World (Part 3)


In the first two parts of this series of blogs about photographing wildlife I wrote about the importance of getting to the same eye level as your subject and about how to get in close or alternatively to show the wider environment in which your subject lives. With these approaches you will draw the viewer into a different world - one that is occupied by your subject.


Now is the time to concentrate on saying something that is very specific about your subject. The viewer has been drawn into the story. Now the story needs to say something.

In this final blog about ‘Getting into Their World’ I leave you with three key ways of achieving that final part of the story: -

Scottish Wildcat (captive specimen)

Engage the eyes.
Make sure that you have your subject’s eyes in focus. It often doesn’t matter if other parts of your subject go out of focus further back or forward in your image. With the eyes in focus you will have a sense of engagement. Beyond that, how you exchange a look with your subject will draw the viewer into the picture. A subject that is staring directly out of the image at you is more engaging than one that has failed to notice you.

red squirrel

Other subtle nuances of eye contact can also be engaging. A sideways glance or curious or quizzical looks are also captivating. The difficulty with wildlife is that you can’t ask the subject to pose for you. You can however elicit responses. Making a small movement will likely get your subject to pause what it is doing and watch you. That wont work for a breaching dolphin but it may work for a squirrel. The skill is in watching your subject’s behaviour and being ready to capture the moment.  

Black Guillemot

A highlight in your subject’s eye also makes it seem more ‘alive’. When the highlight reflects something of the wider environment that can work well too.

Highlight specific characteristics.
If your subject has unique characteristics (and most do) then try to draw attention to what it is that makes your subject different from other similar subjects. Is it the ear tufts on a squirrel or the exotic plumage on a peacock? Perhaps it is the markings on a goose or the yellow bill of a whooper swan. Whatever it is that makes your subject unique emphasizing it can work well.

Malachite Butterfly (captive specimen)

Capture unique behaviour.
Finally, all animals display certain types of unique behaviour. It may be mating rituals, hunting skills, the way it eats, sleeps or sniffs the air. It may be the way it rotates its eyes or pricks its ears. Try to demonstrate what it is that makes your subject unique.


Over this three part series of blogs I have covered a number of key aspects that will bring your wildlife photographs to life. You will seldom be able to employ all of these techniques at once but using them in different combinations at different times will enhance your wildlife images. Have fun…

…and above all enjoy and appreciate the natural world that we share with so many wonderful creatures.


Tom Langlands

Monday, 9 February 2015

Allan Wright - In search of winter

Real winters have become an unreliable occurrence, but of course all the more wonderful when they do appear. A hefty part of my job is producing calendar images which tradition demands contain archetypal wintery material.  We have seen some lean years of late in this regard so when the chance arises I like to get going and stock up. Last week I set off to Skye via Glencoe.  A critical component of this business is watching digital forecasts by the hour, often trying to second guess and plan the most efficient route for the best conditions, a high level of flexibility is de rigueur and plans can change by the hour.

First stop Glencoe and a visit to the classic Buachaille Etive Mor viewpoint. Eight thirty in the morning and there were only 4 other photographers on the job! Wonderfully bitterly cold and crunchy underfoot, it was joyful to be back at work after a dismal January trying to shake off a wretched flu virus. 1st shot in the bag, unoriginal composition I know, but you've got to start somewhere!

Possibly some sun on West of Skye next day pm so made sure I was at The Fairy Pools on time, but the sun never came, so commiserated with the half dozen or so other bereft snappers and invested in a more textural / mono style image. Perched on a rock beneath the harsh majesty of the Cuillins was edifying nonetheless, the cabin fever of the past weeks slipping away nicely.

Driving through the night to Highland Perthshire, where next morning I was promised a glorious combination of early mist, deep frost and bright sunshine, the most heavenly of combinations. Perthshire's landscape can be so dreamy in the way it combines so many elements and this morning it was truly on form. My heart raced as I frantically sought to park the truck and get stuck into this scene before it evaporated.  Farmland between Kenmore & Tummel Bridge.

Glen Clova is the most prominent of the Angus Glens and I have made rather too many fruitless visits to it in the past so my resolve was I high as I planned this particular approach . A Bunkhouse overnight stay with a 6 o-clock rise got me into position for a direct hit from the sun from the South East. Very predictable scenario as the warm light spread down from the crests picking up the shapes and textures of the broad Glen. My only challenge was to get some subtle detail / texture into the foreground, it was all over in about 6-7 minutes, that'll do nicely thanks, back to the truck for a coffee brew, bit of a glow on now.

Stonehaven is starting to annoy me as a overnight stay, overpriced and under-supplied is how I would describe the accommodation on offer but I was determined to get a Dunnottar Castle sunrise in the bag as all looked well on the forecast.  Only 5 other photographers on site, so it seems bitterly cold Sunday mornings do help keep the numbers down. The shot? OK I guess it's in the bag but a I was hoping for some mist or a wee bit more drama - next time maybe.

Arbroath, The Declaration of Arbroath is a declaration of Scottish independence, made in 1320 - just thought I would stick that in to jolly things along a bit. Famous also for the smoked Haddock or "smokie" My instinct was to revel in this symbol a bit and get a "working toon" image that has a whiff of tradition from inside the working harbour - here is what I came up with.

Heading South through a gloriously lit central Fife and on impulse I took a chance on maybe getting a shot of Glenrothes Town Centre.  Thinking logically, high population centre, Fife calendar to produce - got to be worth a go. Words fail me in trying to describe this utterly exasperating experience, Glenrothes has no centre, there is absolutely nothing there apart from a shopping centre that goes on forever.  How hard must it to add a heart to a new town when its being designed?  Getting out of town and back on the M90 south was hideously difficult to boot. An hour and a half of my life I will never get back!

Hungry for some sort of productive closure to the day I took a stab at Culross, Fife, that fairy tale wee village with its oldest of vernacular "Fifey" style architecture, all NTS,  listed & with cobbled streets. Alas I was too late, the light had gone and surprisingly there was no usable street lighting. What the heck, cranked up the ISO to 2500, did a little post production Photoshop work and hey presto I had my "sundowner".

Allan Wright

Monday, 2 February 2015

Giles Atkinson - Creative Wedding Portraiture

Whilst I promote myself as a ‘reportage’ wedding photographer and 85% of a wedding shoot for me is candid photography, I love taking some time out of the day to capture a portrait or two with a wow factor.  Although most of the photo's I take involve little or no thought or preparation, and are simply moments caught as they happen, I enjoy the creative process when preparing for a portrait, taking into account the location, time of day and how adventurous your bride and groom might be!

This shot of Carrie and Scott was taken last year at Friars Carse in Auldgirth nr Dumfries. I had been planning this one and was just waiting for the right venue to try it out, so once the party was in full swing I sloped off to set up my lighting. Once I was happy with the setup, I went back and got the couple and the whole thing was done in less than 5 minutes. I love the outline of Friars Carse.

This shot taken after Nichole and Ky’s Celtic blessing, which took place at Caerlaverock Castle. Both keen photographers themselves they were up for anything! I just love the wonky windows as well as the texture of the stone in this shot.

Lou & Andrew chose to get married in secret, their wedding ceremony took place at Threave Gardens in Castle Douglas. There was no one else there apart from the two witnesses and the minister so once the ceremony was over and we had taken some shots around the gardens, we took off to some nearby woods and using smoke grenades, we created this misty woodland shot. I think it has an almost haunting effect!

Stephen & Cat had prearranged to have their photos taken down at Cardoness beach. The ceremony was timed to allow for the tides and the early sunset. and fortunately we lucked out with the weather! I love the starburst effect of the sun which is set against the couple's silhouette, certainly a wedding portrait with a difference!

My last wedding of the year took place just before Christmas at Mochrum Castle, Suzi & Ed were keen for a shot by Mochrum Loch.  Sunset was about 3:30pm, so we nipped over to the Loch (Ed doing his best on crutches whilst nursing a broken ankle!) straight after the ceremony for this shot. I think it captures the essence of a winter wedding perfectly, and shows what can be done if the bride and groom are up for it.

Giles Atkinson