Monday, 27 June 2016

Allan Wright - Castle Douglas - Portrait of a Forward Town

Earlier this year and with some trepidation I moved "into town" overturning my long held loyalty to abiding as near as possible to wildness and solitude. I chose "The Forward Town" Castle Douglas and it has been an engaging journey, and one with plenty of unexpected rewards.

Aside from the legendary array of quality shops and the convivial nature of the inhabitants I am struck by the many walks, shortcuts, nooks & crannies that have revealed themselves to me as I explore my new domain. I have been pleasantly surprised to discover that the town possesses some impressive architectural landmarks and this coupled with the privilege of having its "shores" lapped by a unique and captivating jewel that is, Carlingwark Loch.

It was essentially through dog-walking that my eyes and mind were opened to the different layers that compose this cohesive and sure-footed small town. Early morning and later evening sorties fed my growing curiosity and I soon went into full image-hunting mode just as Spring delivered its joyful and colourful expression of the life force. Landscape photography can be a bit solitary but it is also reliably enhanced by chance encounters with like-minded people who are also out walking, walking usually for the simple, meditative pleasure of it. Walking early and late has become both essential "timeout" for the busy mind and useful for feeding my perpetual photo habit.

I have sussed out and savoured numerous views on offer from the surrounding gentle hills & gaps between trees & buildings that surround the town. I have taken delight also in how on the outskirts, both the agricultural lands and the wilder habitats merge into the dwelling spaces in a respectful way. I believe kids growing up here are most fortunate in having real countryside to grow up in. Its feels like one of the most valuable things I can recall from my own childhood experience.

Photography is mostly about seeing, the techy stuff is secondary. A great joy putting this work together is a sense of communion with nature, everyday semi-wild habitats on the doorstep are uplifting, surprising even, but also a connection with nature of human kind. Both of these accompany me when I am delving into new territory, it becomes a sort of mobile meditation. As I devised new angles on the town I relished the way a higher viewpoint elevated the stature of the towers and spires that define and decorate the skylines. I also find it intriguing how places can be immediately recognisable and yet, because of the viewpoint, they appear somehow unfamiliar, it's all about ones' "point of view".

It is with pleasure & privilege I offer this personal exposition of a great little town.

Castle Douglas - Portrait of a Forward Town
Exhibition runs at The Workshop Gallery from 1st - 31st July
183 King St. Castle Douglas (AD Livingston & Sons)

Hardback Book, 76 images, 4000 words, 24 x 29 cm, £20.00. available on line at
or at Livingston's furniture shop.

Launch 7 pm Thursday 30th June at the Workshop Gallery - all friends and followers welcome. (nibbles by Earth's Crust Bakery!)

I will be on hand 11am- 2.30pm Friday at The Gallery for book signing, general chat etc.

Allan Wright

Monday, 13 June 2016

Holly Burns - What a makeup artist can teach us about light

When we think of makeup artists and photography, we often think that the two are completely different creative disciplines that occasionally come together to make magic on a beauty shoot. However, what the make-up artists know about how to light and shade a face with makeup can be an incredibly useful resource in our lighting set up and post-production retouching.

Any makeup artist worth their salts studies the human face and is a pro at contouring key areas. ‘Contouring’ is essentially using face make-up to expertly highlight and shade the perfect spots to most flatter the client. They will highlight the areas they wish to emphasise and use darker tones to minimise others. The rule of thumb in any photography is that anything light will look higher (since light usually comes from above) or more protruding and anything dark is recessing away. In beauty, contouring mostly used on emphasising cheekbones, slimming or widening a nose and giving the illusion of a shorter forehead.

This of course, is a very exaggerated image of the amount of makeup an artist will use, however it shows very clearly the places they might want to highlight and shadow.

So what has this to do with us photographers? Well, don’t we use light and shadow to flatter the clients face?

Fundamentally, the key to creating a beautiful portrait is light. Great light gives dimension, contrast and highlights bone structure, Bad lighting on the other hand will make the model look flat, lifeless and uninteresting. In portraiture, we want to add dimension to our 2-dimensional image.

Understanding what is flattering and what should be highlighted and shaded is something all portrait photographers should know. This knowledge is not just handy for creating beautifully lit sets; it also comes into play when retouching. Those of you who know my work know that although I have dabbled in many genres, I am not a fashion, glamour or beauty photographer as I favour the fine art genre, however, I am a freelance retoucher and as such I offer services for other photographers retouching or airbrushing their images for a fee.

My technique

There are so many different ways to change light in Photoshop, however I mainly accentuate light in 2 different ways. I either pick out certain parts to highlight and shade (local adjustments) or I work on the entire image at once (global adjustments).

In the image above I have used local adjustments to add dimension. I have underexposed the whole image and used the selection tool to pick out parts I wanted to highlight, feathered the selection and then pulled the curves upward, in order to lighten the pixels exactly where I want them.

I did this because I wanted to be in full control of the areas I was adding light to. In the image below however, I have used curves again but instead of selecting certain parts to light or shade, I have done it globally, to the entire image.

Here you can see that is there more contrast to the edited image on the right. This has been achieved by adjusting the rgb in an S shape, bringing more light to the highlights and making the shadows deeper. You have probably noticed that the colours have also changed. Using the same technique, but this time isolating each colour, I have also been able to change the colour qualities of light as well.

Quick, subtle changes such as these can really bring life into an image and allow more creative control.

So there we have it, that’s what a makeup artist taught me about light.

Holly Burns

Monday, 6 June 2016

Kim Ayres - Festival Photography

Dumfries & Galloway is full of music festivals across the summer - from Gatehouse Midsummer Music to Knockengorroch, Electric Fields to Moniaive and many, many more.

Whether you want the complete long-weekend camping experience or just to head off to a pub with a barbecue in a marquee with some good music, there's something for everyone.

And this weekend coming is one of Scotland's coolest festivals - Eden Festival.

Zoe Bestel showing off her new coat at Eden last year

One thing's for certain, this summer social media sites will be flooded with everyone's blurry, grainy photos of their favourite bands.

So how are you going to make sure your photos are the really great looking ones that everyone wishes they had taken? Here are a few tips to help improve your chances.

Keep the camera steady
The art of photography is all about understanding the camera's relationship with light: the sensor needs enough of it in order to get a clear photo. In broad daylight that's pretty easy, but much more difficult in the low light conditions of indoors, marquees and night time performances. To combat this, auto settings on your camera will start slowing down the shutter speed, and this means any movement is more likely to cause blur.

If you don't have a tripod or monopod, then find a wall or post to lean against - anything that will help keep your hands and arms steady. If all else fails, push the camera away from you until the strap tightens on the back of your neck, and that will help a bit.

Get in close
By default all phones, and most kit-lenses tend to be wide angle. This is great for taking in big scenes, or fitting a lot into a small space, but when you're in the audience, the band will appear tiny while most of the photo will be taken up by the stage, and all the people in front of you.

If you want to capture the action and expressions as the singer screams into the microphone, then get as close to the front as you can and use your zoom function. Be aware, however, that zooms exaggerate movement and so the risk of blur becomes greater, so once again, look for ways to keep the camera steady.

Sean Taylor at the Gatehouse Midsummer Music Festival

This is the professional photographer's secret weapon. Light from behind the subject separates it out from the background and makes it 'pop.' It can also create dramatic silhouettes and halos, and if there's a smoke machine - great shadows too.

King Charles at Eden Festival

Capture the atmosphere
While most people can be a bit suspicious of a person pointing a camera at them in the street, at festivals the mood is so different very few people mind. In fact, as everyone is constantly whipping out their phones to take photos, and loads of people take bigger cameras with them, it's completely expected.

So look for interesting shots away from the stages - people in fancy dress and outrageous outfits; groups huddled under an umbrella or covered in mud; someone dancing with complete abandon

Support your local bands
It's not just big name bands that play at festivals - in fact, a large amount of acts to see at any of the events in Dumfries and Galloway will be made up of local musicians.

The Mind Sweepers at Gatehouse Midsummer Music Festival

Until they hit it big, most bands can't afford a professional photographer, so are really appreciative of photos of them looking cool up on stage. So when you upload your photos the Internet, be sure to tag your local bands and let them know on their social media sites.

In fact, my own band, The Cracked Man, will be playing at Eden Festival this Friday at 5.45pm in Rabbie's Tavern. Come along and try out your photography skills on us :)

The Cracked Man at Eden - photo courtesy of Chloe Adams

Kim Ayres