Monday, 29 August 2016

Stargazing Scotland - Moonscapes on the Isle of Skye

I've just returned from a wild camping expedition to the Isle of Skye with my partner Helen and my brother and sister. The trip was a birthday celebration for Helen, but I also used it as a chance to get some classic landscape shots with a twist - moonlight. We picked some beautiful spots but the most spectacular was Loch Slapin, near Torrin.

Inspired by the beauty of our first camp spot, we couldn’t resist a swim in Loch Slapin before the tide receded. When the waters lowered and the beach was exposed, the photographic potential increased and I fetched my tripod as the moon ascended.

I love working with moonlight; the ethereal glow of a waxing, full or waning moon is enough to counteract many technical issues associated with low light photography. At the same time the light is gentle enough to allow for long exposures, enabling the capture of movement in clouds, water, people and more.

Helen, Anieka, myself and Jacob relaxing around the campfire under the constellations Ursa Major and Bootes. The brightest star is Arcturus, meaning ‘guardian of the plough.’ The plough is the famous part of Ursa Major sometimes known as the ‘Big Dipper.’

All in all it’s a great middle ground between day photography and dark sky photography. During my photography workshops I encourage people with entry level DSLR’s to get out under the moonlight. Whilst these cameras often lack a full frame and the ISO capabilities required for dark sky photography, they can obtain some great results under moonlight. For beginner astrophotographers there’s nothing like a moonlit shoot to get your foot in the door, especially as it’s much easier to see what you’re doing and compose an image - not so easy under starlight!

Helen and Anieka watching the embers glow under the rising moon.

The moon will also wash away detail in the night sky, but it carries it’s own beauty nonetheless. For example these ‘moon dogs’ or ‘paraselene’ (meaning beside the moon) occur when the moon has a halo. Moonlight is refracted by hexagonal shaped flat ice crystals in the high atmosphere - specifically in cirrus or cirrostratus clouds. An Otter fishing in the moons' dancing reflection in the Loch added to the magic of the celestial display of the moon dogs. We don’t have a word for the road like river of light when the moon shines on water, but the Swedish call it MÃ¥ngata (moh-angata). I doubt even the Swedish have a word for what happens when there’s an Otter fishing in the reflection, but it was beautiful!

Ice crystals in high atmosphere clouds refract moonlight. As the light from our largest natural satellite is split, curved rainbows appear along the lunar halo.

When the tide had lowered enough for me to get level with the foot of the mountains, I ventured out onto the beach, pausing to notice some delicious looking mussels hiding amongst the seaweed (we foraged and cooked some shortly after). Seeing one sky reflected underneath the other is mesmerising, and I’ve tried to do the view from that night justice in this final image.

A calm Loch Slapin mirrors the mountains and Ursa Major.

Jesse Beaman
Stargazing Scotland

Monday, 22 August 2016

Tom Langlands - Three Hours on Lunga

Back in July I headed off with fellow Galloway Photographic Collective photographers - Roger Lever and Allan Wright - for a planned few days on the Treshnish Islands. This group of islands lies off the west coast of Mull with the largest of the group being the island of Lunga. The idea was to camp for a couple of nights and photograph the landscape, flora and fauna of this very special place. Unfortunately, after we pitched tents for an overnight stay on Mull, the vagaries of the Scottish weather presented us with a night of torrential rain. This was followed by one reasonable day of weather and then a further forecast of more heavy rain. We changed our plans and opted for a short three hour stay on Lunga and a visit to Fingal's Cave on Staffa.

As a wildlife photographer I like to explore areas in advance and although I had been to Lunga once before I couldn't be sure what to expect by way of bird life. This combined with the fact that the previous night of rain had left much of the island soaking wet with slippery paths didn't help the available options.

On the boat trip to Lunga I decided that rather than try to cover too many options I would opt for a small area of the island where I knew that there were accessible cliffs. It was a forty-five minute walk there and back and which left me with a little over two short hours to see what I could do. On this occasion there wasn't enough time to study flight directions, animal behaviour or sit and wait for 'something to happen'. This wasn't an ideal situation but I called upon my reserves of knowledge to concentrate on a couple of species and two specific locations. The main thing I wanted, was to get clean backgrounds in order to show off the birds in the images. My first shot was a statuesque shag with the distant backdrop of clear blue water.

Because the light was quite harsh at times I sought out a shaded area of cliffs with almost black backgrounds. This was to be my location for some kittiwake photography. It proved to be the best fun of the short time I had but also the most challenging. I opted for some adult bird shots, some juveniles from this year's brood and also some in-flight photography. The black backgrounds and the white of the birds made for some tricky exposures but I like to think that I got there in the end.

In next to no time we had to head back to the boat and I finished the trip off with a couple of puffin shots. With the bright summer, afternoon light I opted to get down very low and shoot through the yellow, flowering heads of the plants along the clifftops. It was a momentary glimpse of summer in what was a very wet few days.

Tom Langlands

Monday, 15 August 2016

Allan Wright - New material from The Capital City

Recently I set myself to work on new stuff for various Edinburgh projects due for an image refresh. I enjoy city/street work more & more these days and fortunately I never seem to tire of trying to suss out new angles on familiar places, I try to be always ready for the chance encounter I guess I sort of treat it as sport.

The National Monument Calton Hill.

Early start on Salisbury Crags, nothing dramatic going on but noted the warm, low directional light hitting the pillars. I grew more interested in the potential on noting the placid surface water on the Forth & steaming condensation rising from an industrial zone on South Fife. I like it when there is an element of juxtaposition and or “contra” subject matter within an image.

Musselburgh Esplanade

Having gently cycled round from Portobello I was struggling to catch any significant architectural forms to work with so took a moment to chill in a beachfront park area and glanced back towards the city. A partially silhouetted public art curiosity comes to life with some theatrical cloud action and heavenly rays exploding behind it.

The Edinburgh Trams

Some alert jay-walking was required to catch the Edinburgh Trams presence. Their quiet smooth trajectory adds grace to the night scene here on Princes Street.

The Meadows

Always enjoy a stroll through this chilled out zone here in the heart of this elegant city. Its location is a complex crossroads of pedestrian routes and recreational action. Never looks the same it always delivers people watching material in abundance, it’s all going on, all the time.

Fettes College

A bit of a legend for different reasons, its turrets are loaded with pictorial power, gaining notoriety in a scene set in one or other Harry Potter films. Arguably now rather infamous, being the seat of learning for our disgraced ex PM Tony Blair, the stripey red blazers are a conspicuous symbol of privilege especially as more egalitarian principles are hopefully being embraced, at least in Scotland that is. It’s graduates also include Christian Salvesen and perhaps more comfortably on the conscience, it also delivered Tilda Swinson.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

An impressive venue for its illustrious collection I particularly like this bizarre but engaging neon lit statement shouting out from the wooded grounds. A message worth bearing in mind.

Allan Wright

Monday, 1 August 2016

Holly Burns - 8 Things You Should Never Say To A Photographer

As a professional photographer, I have experienced a variety of odd requests and comments which would suggest that the art of photography is often overlooked as a creative and technical skill. In our efforts to promote ourselves and expand our existing portfolio, we can often be undervalued by our existing and potential customers.

I have compiled a list of 8 common comments that are sure to irk any photographer.

1. “That’s a great picture! You must have a fantastic camera...”

This is possibly the most irritating thing a photographer can hear. It’s like going to a high end restaurant and saying “What a lovely meal, you must have a great oven.” Sounds ridiculous and insulting doesn't it! Yet I hear this often from well meaning people. A great photograph is very much more than the components of a camera. It is the culmination of many processes and skills undertaken by the photographer themselves that creates a successful image.

2. “Give me a free photo shoot and I will promote you”

Again, this is a very common request and indeed an opportunistic one at that. It is like going into a supermarket and asking for a free loaf of bread and telling them that you will tell all your friends how lovely it was. Again, sounds absurd doesn't it. Don't get me wrong, there may be times that this scenario may prove mutually beneficial, however, generally selling photographs and photo shoots are a photographer's full time job and it is this what puts food on the table, try not to take advantage of them.

3. “Can’t you just Photoshop that out?”

Yes, technically a photographer can Photoshop things out of an image, however this can take a lot of extra time when if they were provided with the time to get it right in camera it would no longer be an issue. Photoshop should always be used creatively and not depended upon to fix mistakes that could have been avoided with a little more patience. It is important to understand that a photographers process involves setting up, test shots and tweaking light in order to make a client look their best.

4. “Can you Photoshop me thinner?”

Again, yes, technically we can do this however, a lot of photographers are reluctant to alter or adapt a clients appearance too much. Retaining a level of authenticity is important. We want you to look like you! We prefer to work with a client and get the best body posing and flattering light to suit their body type.

5. “I love this photographer, can you do it just like that?”

We all make stylistic choices based on what inspires us. For example, we furnish and decorate our home, often after looking through magazines and visiting different stores in order to come up with our own style and direction. We would never just walk into someones home, decide we love it and replicate it exactly in our own home! That would be crazy!

Photography is a creative medium in which the outcome is based primarily on the photographer's style. Its good to have inspiration in mind or even a mood board to work from, but it is very difficult for any artist to replicate another’s exact style without getting some of their own in there as well. It is much easier to book a photographer because you like their specific style rather than another’s.

6. “I’m so glad you can come to my event! Bring your camera!”

Basically when this is said, a photographer hears “I don't actually care if you come and enjoy the event, I just want free professional photographs.” I would never ask a waitress to my party and then tell her to fetch my drinks all night! It is always best to be clear from the offset if you want someone to work at your event rather than have them think they are a guest. By doing so, the photographer will bring their A game and you will get the best photographs they can produce.

7. “Can I have the reject photos please?”

This will always be a clear and resounding ‘no.’ This is because all of the pictures where you are yawning, blinking or chewing food are not attractive, to anyone, therefore it is not worth the time to edit them. Making the vitoed photographs available for public viewing can also give the photographer a bad reputation as our portfolio is only as strong as our weakest photos.

But don't worry, a photographer will never be holding back that one gem of a photograph that tops all the ones that have already been given to you. We cull to save unnecessary editing time so we can put more time and effort in the best of the bunch.

8. “Anyone can be a photographer, it’s just pushing a button.”

Well that’s like saying I can be an architect because I know how to draw straight lines! There is a reason why we go and study for several years to learn our craft. There is a difference between taking a photo with a camera that does all the work for you and gives you no creative control and how a photographer is able to hone their talents to create something substantial. If photography was as easy as clicking a button there wouldn't be an industry at all.

Don’t worry too much though, us photographers don't take these comments too personally. We will always try to accommodate your requests and when we cant we will explain fully why and what can be achieved to get the photographs you desire.

Holly Burns