Monday, 30 March 2015

Tom Langlands - A Stream of Opportunities

I love water and I love wildlife. This is the time of year when these two things come together to provide some interesting and fun photo opportunities. If nothing else, then a breath of spring air and a walk by a rippling stream is a wonderful way to rejuvenate the spirit after a long grey winter.

Grey Wagtail
Small birds can be both fun to photograph and at the same time challenging. I have a few favourite species and amongst them I definitely include dippers and wagtails. They can be found on many quiet, rural (and some not-so-rural) freshwater streams. With thoughts on nest-building and raising this year's brood, spring is a time when it is often easier to get closer to some species than at other times of the year.

Dippers and wagtails are territorial. Once they have established their home patch they will patrol it and seldom move far away. As with all wildlife photography it is important to put the welfare of the animals first. I start by leaving my camera at home and searching for a stream where dippers or wagtails can be seen. Although I have a few favourite places I always look for new ones too. Then I sit down and just observe. I will learn more about my subject and increase my chances of getting good photographs by spending several hours just looking and learning. This is especially true if it's a new location.

Dippers are often found around old stone bridges or the remnants of stone piers. I look for the tell-tale signs of the nest. It is usually a clump of moss and ferns dangling from a hole or crack in the stonework. I never get too close to the nest. Once the female has laid her eggs the male will find a shady spot on the riverbank and stand guard for days on end. He will have a favourite place and often it is a stone at the water's edge. In the stream he will hunt for larvae and small insects taking them to feed the female and young in due course. His approach route to the nest is often the same every time and may involve jumping on a specific stone for a final look round before flying into the nest.

Grey Wagtail
Once I have worked all of that out I have the location for my shots. I then need to work out where I will hide, what will make a good background and what direction the light will come from at different times of the day. Morning is often the best for light quality and bird activity. After I've done my homework I leave the shoot for another day. I go home and give some thought as to how I am going to handle camera settings - particularly exposure. Dippers have a habit of getting tucked against dark banks and under overhanging trees. They also have very dark brown bodies and the contrasting white bib of the chest plumage all makes it tricky to set the correct exposure.

Grey Wagtail
Grey wagtails with their distinctive bobbing motion and that flash of beautiful canary yellow render them a terrific subject for stunning photographs. They too have a favourite territory with stones from which they will leap acrobatically into the air to snatch flies on the wing.

Pied Wagtail
If I'm lucky, hunting for grey wagtails will often throw up a place where pied wagtails are seen. Sometimes I can manage images of both these types of birds in the same place. I try to use the water for capturing reflections and also for showing the environment that these wonderful creatures live in. 

Pied Wagtail
Above all, I just enjoy nature and springtime. It is wonderfully invigorating.  

Tom Langlands

Monday, 23 March 2015

Allan Wright - Skye at last 3

I seem to spend a fair bit of time rambling over mundane moorland but I am always alert to instances where commonplace elements all seem to come together to elevate the moment of encounter. An example of such occurred at Point of Sleat with these two blackface sheep. juxtaposed with familiar heathery tussocks and a Rowan lush with berries.  Added value came in the form of a recent sale of this image to a Skye vet practice!

I kept hearing about magically sounding "Fairy Pools" so after a quick check on sun angle v aspect,  a mid afternoon visit looked promising.  After negotiating the now familiar parking mayhem I took a stroll up the burn to see what all the fuss was about. A classic Scottish mountain burn issuing from foot of the magnificent Cuillin massif, what's not to like?  I watched and waited while the hoards came and went, I figured dinner time would clear the decks and the late low sun would work its magic, which both did.  I love the ruggedness set off by the tasty colours in the foreground, I'll be back.

Same evening I head north from the Fairy Pools up the side of Loch Harport and happen upon a subject that's been in my head for decades, Gesto Farm. Truly iconic for sure, but what I find myself asking is, were the original creators of this farmstead aware of the pictorial power they were also generating?   Blessed be the rainbow that lands on things at just the right moment, a rare and wondrous kind of feeling.

The Quiraing of Trotternish gets heeps of attention, it's a geological masterpiece and strong images are on offer to all with a camera - all you need is the light. I was lucky with the August colouring enhanced by the dappled texture from scattered cloud cover. I took lunch in the balmy air with a sense of quiet satisfaction.

Turned a corner just out of Portree and had to do a second take as I clocked the ghostly mirage of a monster cruise ship sitting still in the shelter of the bay early one morning. Is it the incongruousness of the shape in situ or the promise of lucrative tourist spending that triggers the thoughts here?

During the trip I spent a fair few nights around Uig in the North, I have a fascination with ports and boats and found myself drawn back to this classic scene in various modes. Church-going maybe in serious decline these days but the perceived significance of these buildings in landscape imagery is no less important. There is a special point at dusk where the "ambient" fading daylight is equal in strength to artificial man made light, it only lasts minutes but that's a productive time to work.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Roger Lever - Beyond the photograph

Ok, so you have your photograph as good as you can get it. What now?
Who’s going to see it?
You, of course but you can be as proud or as self critical as you like, its not going to impact anywhere until someone else sees it.
How are you going to show it off?
Dare you show it off?
OR - are you just too scared in case someone criticises it or even worse, you get no response at all.

As photographers we all ask ourselves these selfy questions.
Ok, if you are actually doing a commission or a wedding for someone then you have to show them to the person involved and one invariably shows several options that they can choose from.
BUT it is all the other stuff you shoot. What about that?
The wonderful sunset you took on holiday, the amazing natural sculptures that occur on a snowy day, the lighting effects at a gig you were at or whatever.

Well, lots of people put their images online these days, especially onto Facebook and all your friends come on board and say silly things and “wow, that was a great shot Rog”  But was it?  If it creates feedback at all then “yes” it was or at least the content of the photo was interesting enough to create comment. It is the content which is arguably the most important thing and secondly how you have captured it.

If you are feeling a bit more confident you could consider entering a competition such as  Countryfile which runs every year. There are hundreds of competitions out there of course, its just choosing the right one. You usually have to impress a panel of judges. Its always a good idea to look at some winning images from previous years entries and see if you feel up to the mark.
Are you good enough? You wont know unless you try!

You could of course join your local camera club and enter the competitions there using your digital images. This costs nothing other than your time and membership fee. It is a good way for other photographers to look at your images and hopefully give you constructive criticism. It also gives you chance to see what other people are producing and it will trigger your imagination.

The next step is to print your images. That starts costing you money. Simple prints are ok but if you have what you think is a good image and you have been told so by your critics then there are a whole lot of ways of displaying it. Choosing the best way is actually quite difficult and depends at the end of the day how much you are prepared to spend on it.

Once you have something physical in whatever medium you have decided upon then you can exhibit it in galleries and with any luck someone will like it and buy it. Once that happens you can start giving yourself brownie points because an individual has come along, looked at you picture and said I like that and I want to put it on my wall.

Roger Lever

Monday, 9 March 2015

Giles Atkinson - A Pinch of Tiger

I've always had a camera, well, as far back as I can remember! I haven't always been a wedding photographer. I have always enjoyed photography in any form and I really don't need much of an excuse to whip out a camera and start shooting! For this blog I've decided to show something other than wedding photographs.

Back in November, last year, we decided to take on a rescue dog from the Canine Rescue Centre in Dumfries and unwittingly he has become the latest subject for my photography which no doubt has come as a great relief to my, long-suffering, children!

’Chilli’ is a 10 month old lurcher, although being a rescue we're not entirely sure what mix he's made up of. Looking at his size and markings he’s probably Greyhound crossed with a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and I suspect there’s a pinch of Tiger in there too!

Lurchers, originally bred for hunting deer and other small furry animals, are traditionally half sighthound and half working dog, making them both fast and intelligent. So the real challenge for me has not just been trying to capture Chilli in motion but just capturing him at all!

A beautifully agile creature who's most happy when he's running flat out through the woods or in a field. I'm looking forward to improving my 'wildlife’ photography over the next few years!

Giles Atkinson

Monday, 2 March 2015

David Moses - Photographing a dancer with one light

I have photographed many subjects in my career.  But none quite so fascinating as dancers.  Their ability to be by turns delicate, tough, unexpected and, frankly, impossible makes the pictures you create very special indeed.

You see it’s all about what is unsaid, unseen and only hinted at.  So how do you photograph them then?  Fortunately for photographers, all the hard work is done by the dancer (in this case, Molly).  Dancers can communicate ideas and emotions in a uniquely visual way, which is why photographers love working with them.  The Herzogian ecstatic truth is far more interesting than any mere absolute truth.

The actual details of how to photograph it seem humdrum when compared the sublime, but that’s what photographers are for.  So I chose a single speedlight off camera, held by an assistant.  I like this setup because it allows me to be quick and mobile.

This was an especial advantage because the weather was freezing cold and pouring with rain (we had to wait and catch the breaks).  Molly was wrapped up in a huge dressing gown and wellies to keep dry and warm :)

I have a huge amount of respect for how hard dancers work.  Repeated explosions of energy in a graceful manner are exhausting but Molly never complained once.  In fact I've never come across a dancer who has shied away from effort.