Thursday, 29 November 2012

30.11.12 South Queensferry

For the final afternoon we can visit South Queensferry, meeting at the car parking opposite the Hawes Inn. Right under the bridge.
I'll meet Leo, Peter and Sharon at Stills at 1.30 and then we'll make our way to South Queensferry as soon as we can.
We have a nice high pressure weather system on us, which usually brings settled weather, and cold temperatures. As it gets darker, the bridge will light up and make a good colour contrast between the warm tungsten light on the red bridge, and the blue of the sky. We may even have some high alto-cirrus cloud for added attraction.
The main decision of the day is likely to be where to photograph the bridge from (assuming that's what we want to do.) This will depend to a great extent, on how wide your lenses are. With a very wide lens you can be close to the bridge, and the distorting effect of the lens can introduce some dramatic spatial effects, as well as allowing you to include all of the bridge and some sky and water too.
With less wide lenses, you would need to be further away, and achieve images that have a similar perspective to our own vision. 
Also we need to consider whether to be looking west or east - it seems a simple enough choice, but it can be very committing.

You might think that the bridge has been photographed once or twice before, and you would be right. But that's no reason not to give it a go. Richard Misrach lives in a house that overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge in California, and photographed it over the course of a year from exactly the same spot. The results are so varied, that when I looked through the book the first time, I didn't realise that it was the same view! Maybe that says something about me though.

Richard Misrach, 2.21.98 4:46 pm (View From My Front Porch)

Tuesday, 27 November 2012


A quick note - David has said he'll bring some prints from the shoots of the past few weeks to have a chat about.
If anyone else would like to do this too, please bring them along - inkjet a or speedy Jessops prints would be fine if time is short.
I'll bring a few prints that I've just made too, although they aren't from this course.
We can have a coffee or something similar in the Hawes Inn to finish - it's a tradition.

Monday, 26 November 2012


A Guardian audio slideshow with photographs by Murdo McLeod, about Harris tweed.

Here's the link: 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Friday Nov 23

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Access to the Broxburn Bings is from the industrial estate, the 1st right junction after the roundabout as you enter Broxburn East Main Street (the A89).
I will meet Leo at Stills at 1pm, and then pick up Sharon at work around 1.30pm and hope to get to Broxburn for 2pm (traffic permitting.)
Peter, do you want a lift from Stills?
Sylvana - I think you were going to contact David. If you haven't managed, you may have the wrong number. Contact me for the number -

The bings are a west lothian phenomenon - the mountainous waste and spoil from the oil shale industry, creating a unique and unusual mini-mountain range, now being colonised by wild flowers and young motorbike scramblers. It's a slightly surreal and in parts steep landscape that lends itself to the style of photography that has been called 'industrial picturesque.'
Josef Koudelka's epic, ominous and slightly disturbing pictures of the forgotten and abused back corners of industrial Europe are a fine example.
Also worth looking at are Richard Misrach's huge photographs of the 'man-mauled' landscapes of american deserts, weapons testing sites and industrial flotsam and jetsam. His early series of pictures of deserts at night, with lit-up cactus could be useful viewing. Judging by the video the book reads itself, so worth £225 just for that.

The bings are accessed by crossing the canal by a bridge, then walking through some birch wood and scrub for a few minutes, then into the bings themselves. Some areas are steep, but these can be avoided if you're not comfortable with it.
It will get dark, and if you have torches, please bring them, as it is a bit rough underfoot, with no street lights. And steep, did I mention steep?
The glow from the town and the evening sky can register in the pictures if the exposure is long enough. There are also wind-blown hawthorn bushes dotted over the bings. We could try doing some long exposure pictures, and light up the bushes with flash or torches - a bit experimental. So tripods if you have them, torches, flash gun too. I have various spare bits and bobs and I'm sure we can cobble something together.
If we're trying this we need to decide on a suitable spot that we can get out of in the dark...
I'd wrap up warm too. Weather looks ok at the moment.
Josef Koudelka - Magnum. Region of the Black Triangle (Ore Mountains.)

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Friday November 16

We could meet in Newhaven tomorrow. There's a parking area just by the Harbour Inn, Fishmarket Square, off Newhaven Main Street. See the map at the bottom of the screen.
There are contrasting environments to explore. Newhaven village itself is an old picturesque village, with a harbour and coastal views west along the Forth and across to Fife. It has its own historical photographic associations with Hill and Adamson. There is also a modern housing development along Wester Harbour, which people seem to either love or hate. It's a waterfront development that I thinks is a bit exclusive, and modern, with clean lines and enclosed courtyards.
The city, its architecture and inhabitants' relationship with the built environment is a rich source of photographic inspiration, which doesn't depend on the subject being conventionally scenic.
Horst Hamann has a fine series of pictures of cities, often using a 'vertical panoramic' format.

Rene Burri engaged in a long-term photographic study of the work of Le Corbusier,

Raymond Depardon, also from Magnum, seemed to have a recurring interest in such apparently unphotogenic subjects as car parks, roads and the infrastructure of motor vehicles.

Raymond Depardon, Magnum Photos
Bernice Abbott created an iconic portrait of New York, in a modernist celebration of a buzzing metropolis.
Bernice Abbott

Many of these pictures are taken in a spirit of celebration, which is a good motivation for shooting, and photography into the 30s was often a celebratory exploration of the physical world and the unique qualities of the photographic process. In fact one later photographer actually said, "I photograph the world to see what the world looks like, photographed." The implication being that the world and the photograph are slightly different.
In the 60s and 70s, in reaction to photographic grandeur and visual drama, many photographers took to exploring the less majestic parts of the city, and also the things that get in the way. Lee Friedlander for example, made a consistent study of the signs, lamp posts, and general visual clutter of a modern city, often shooting in apparently random street corners and junctions of streets. 
So a defining characteristic of landscape photography is the domination of a pictorial style, related to and developing from Romantic painting, whereby the photographer tries to show a landscape at its most dramatic, magnificent and intense; and often being tempted to help reality along in the process by adding a different sky or other elements. The photographers I've mentioned here are presenting a different point of view, less lyrical, less obviously pictorial and in Friedlander's case, he is going in completely the opposite direction. Whatever the rules of the picturesque may be (and there have been rules), Friedlander did the opposite. Gleefully.
Lee Friedlander

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Monday, 12 November 2012

Walk Highlands

A couple of people have mentioned visiting the rest of the country for photographic trips.
An excellent online resource is Walkhighlands:

Walkhighlands website

It has low and high altitude route descriptions, with short and longer, more strenuous excursions. Maps too, and readers submit their own experiences and photographs. I don't work for Walkhighlands, in case you wondered!
The link takes you to Coire Ardair, near Loch Laggan. 
The big panoramic photograph (click on it, if it isn't displaying at full size), was taken at the high lochan  below the summit cliffs on Sunday. A magnificent place, very wild and hidden away, but surprisingly easy to get to, with no navigation worries. It takes a couple of hours to walk there, on a good path.
A panoramic stitch shot, of Creag Meagaidh in unfriendly weather

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Heroic photographers

A group of heroic photographers at work, braving the wind, waiting for the light...

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Friday November 9

So the plan is to visit Swanston village.
The google map here at this link should show the location. It is across the bridge over the bypass, to the Swanston village car park. The bridge is accessible from Oxgangs Road. 
I will be at Stills at 1.30pm for those who are travelling with me, and expect to get to Swanston for 2pm.
My mobile is: 07774 477 058 or email: if you need to get in touch.

The village itself is absurdly pretty, and has historical links with Robert Louis Stevenson, whose 'Picturesque Notes' to Edinburgh makes for entertaining reading, especially his descriptions of the downright meteorological purgatory of Edinburgh weather.
I hope it won't be purgatory, but that's all in the timing. According to the chart, and the forecasts, the cold front should pass around mid-dayish, and that can leave us with mixed sunshine and showers, and varied clouds with fresh cool temperatures.
So thinking about our loose theme for the course, tomorrow we will be in the border area of weather fronts, which can be a visually interesting place to be.
We are also on the city boundary, with urban environment abruptly changing to a 'rural' one, albeit mixed with pylons.
And we are operating in the boundary between light and dark, and some photographers make a habit of shooting during this dusk, or gloaming, period.
I would like to spend a little time walking through the village and up into the lower slopes of the Pentlands. The shape of the land is interesting and varied, giving good views of the city and we can have a look at how the shape of the land compares with the contour features on a map. The red lines on the map are called contours and indicate lines of equal height. If the lines are closely spaced, the slope is steep, and if they form a small circle, a ring contour, this means a summit or high point. So a ring contour next to steep slope can be an excellent viewpoint.
It would be good to come back down to the bridge over the bypass before it gets completely dark to see the moving river of light created by the headlights and tail-lights of the traffic, with the dying light of the sun in the west, and outline of the Pentland hills...Tripods would be good - I'll bring a couple of spares.
See you tomorrow - wrap up warm!
Contour features on a map can help us see the shape of the land before we get there.

Let there be light

Let there be light from Kamil Tamiola on Vimeo.

An interesting and informative video from Kamil Tamiola, an 'adventure photographer' who photographs in the Alps at night. It is full of useful planning tips and explanations of method, admittedly in an extreme environment, but these are fundamental principles of photography.
I particularly enjoyed the small lecture on the inverse square law of illumination, a fundamental law of physics, delivered at sub-zero temperatures, a gale and altitude.
And that's the trick - keeping cool, methodical, in control and creative in difficult environmental conditions.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

A quick link often has interesting stories on all aspects of photography. Here, several American photographers of landscapes discuss what motivated them to produce these particular images...

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Friday Nov2

The Met Office pressure chart shows an occluded front passing over us. It might give us a bit of rain, clearing as the front moves away. So from a photographer's point of view, the light may be a little soft, not very bright and colourful, but with some cloud texture and detail. There may be brighter periods too. 
In this type of light, I would consider working in black-and-white to emhasise tonality - the shades of black, white, grey - even silver. I would also concentrate on the composition and design of the pictures. If you have strong design, and a sensitivity to tone, it is often possible to create strong photographs even in poor light. 
Poor light, but geometric composition and paying attention to the
 pleasures of tonality made an interesting picture possible.
The location will be Arthur's Seat - the mountain in the city. We can meet at Stills, then wander down the Mile, past the Parliament and access Arthur's Seat by the Radical Road. This will give us options (and views), so we can choose to go onto the Salisbury Crags or the lower route by Hunter's Bog. 
It will probably be cold, wet, maybe a bit windy and rough underfoot. A snack would be handy. Dress warm!
Walkhighlands gives some helpful information about Arthur's Seat, including pictures and maps.
It is a volcano, with dramatic crags falling steeply to the city. A volcano! In a city centre! This is pretty dramatic, and so does lend itself to a visually dramatic photographic treatment. A very popular and persistent approach to landscape photography is to attempt to convey the location at its most intense and most visually compelling form. This is achieved by shooting when the light is oblique and clear, usually dawn or dusk, at a carefully chosen vantage point. Photographic techniques are chosen to enhance and accentuate elements such as cloud detail, perspective effects and scale. 
Photographers working in this style tend to use graduate filters, polarising filters, wide-angle lenses, red filters in black-and-white to darken blue skies, tripods to allow the use of small apertures to exaggerate deep depth-of-field effects, slow shutter speeds to exaggerate the flow of water.
Every technique serves to enhance, accentuate and to convey perfection, and many photographers feel that they are conveying the 'essence' of a location or environment. The photographer is very conscious of the visual effects of space, light, scale, visual contrasts, perspective and viewpoint.
For many, this is the default way to do landscape photography, and there are often well-known locations and viewpoints that you can visit.

Lindsay Robertson's picture at Arthur's Seat is consciously
 influenced by Ansel Adams and is a masterclass of dramatic tonality,
space, perspective and scale. Red filters enhance the cloud and sky.

When we work in this manner, we are following in the footsteps of people like Ansel Adams. Good examples of this are Lindsay Robertson, Craig McMaster, Lee Frost, Charlie Waite, Richard Childs, Joe Cornish, Colin Prior.
It can be a pleasant way to spend your time, to visit a well-known photographic viewpoint and to recreate your own versions of the famous views.