1. Fine and Dandy

    Shot on Sony a57 (18-55mm kit lens) 
    Taken on 9 June 2013 near The Palace Grounds, Hamilton
    Settings: f4.5 - 1/500 - ISO 100 - 30mm
    Edited using Photoshop Elements 11 with Silver Efex by Nik Software 

    This is one of the early photographs from my Sony. I got my a57 early to mid May 2013 so had only been shooting for a month or so. 

    I can still remember taking this quite clearly despite it being exactly a year ago. I had been walking from Motherwell to Hamilton to meet Dee, when I set off I had loads of time. Turns out this was because I misjudged how far I had to go and was actually cutting it a bit fine. Despite this when the snail caught my eye I knew I had to stop and capture it. At first I tried taking it on my iPhone but I couldn’t capture the image the way I wanted. I love the camera on the iPhone but it lacks the control I want sometime. In this instance I could not get the shallow depth of field I wanted. 

    Luckily at this time I was carrying my Sony with me everywhere I went. So although stopping would make me a bit late I took my rucksack off got my camera out and went to work.  I would have been shooting in aperture priority, which is still my go to shooting mode, and although I had learned roughly the effect different f numbers would have it was still a lot of trial and error. I took several shots, pretty much all with the same composition but different apertures. Maybe moved about slightly to make sure there were no distracting out of focus poles in the background until I got the shot I wanted. 

    In terms of how I edited the shot my memory isn’t as clear. I would have adjusted some levels and know it is done on Silver Efex pro but I didn’t have this when I took the shot so I probably did it a month or two later. If you have seen a handful of my images it will come as no surprise that I like black and white edits. I think with this shot it was needed though. The background blur/bokeh is quite colourful in the original image and pretty distracting. But in grey tones I think it becomes quite elegant.  

    Since I was happy with my image (my sounding board of Dee was too) and it was taken in South Lanarkshire I decided to get it printed so I could enter it into the South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture Annual Photography Competition 2013. I had been along to the exhibition previously and knew that the standard of entries was pretty high and that a lot of local professionals entered. So I hoped that a couple of my images would get exhibited (I entered four) and maybe get a commendation. So on the night when I got a commendation for ‘Running Late’ (a picture taken at Rutherglen train station) I was over the moon. But then I came third and first in the Wild/Cultivated flowers and plants section with ‘After the Rain’ (a holly bush just after a downpour at sunset) and ‘Fine and Dandy’ respectively. I was really blown away by this. 

    While still composing myself from this the judges moved on to the overall winner. I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing… They were saying that ‘Fine and Dandy’ was the overall winner… I mean I like the picture and everything but it just seems surreal, even now. You might be reading this thinking it’s only a local competition, which is true but I thought highly of it even before I picked up a camera, so to win it was more than I had wished for. 

    I did get lucky with the shot in some ways. I’ve never seen a snail on a dandelion before or since and would never have thought of placing one there. But as I mentioned earlier in the post I put a lot of effort in to get the shot how I wanted, it is no mere snapshot. I was shooting mainly on instinct, using snippets I had picked up from YouTube videos by people like Mike Browne.  

    I have mentioned before that my inspiration for photography is Dee (http://photography-a-to-dee.tumblr.com/) and this image is no different. When I finally met her in Hamilton the first thing I did was show her the picture I had taken, partly to explain my lateness but mailing so see what she thought. And without her encouragement I probably wouldn’t have even entered the contest. So just wanted to say thank you Dee. You make me want to be a better photographer and better all over. 

  2. Stripped for Parts

    Shot on Fuji X20
    Taken on 26 May 2014 at Lesmahagow, South Lanarkshire
    Settings: f4 - 1/30 sec - ISO 100 - 8.3mm (32.5mm ff equivalent)
    Edited using Photoshop CC and Analog Efex Pro 2

    I like this photo but seem to have writers block. This is not snapshot, I took my time framing the image, trying different perspectives and focal lengths etc. I really should have something to say but I’m struggling. Let me change tack and rant about what is wrong with this, despite me liking it.

    Now I went out with a purpose in mind, if not an exact image. Back in January I won the South Lanarkshire Photography contest 2013 with an image called ‘Fine and Dandy’. I really need to write up a blog about the image since it’s my crowning moment in photography… well so far anyway. At the award ceremony one of the organisers told me that nobody has ever defended their title, with intended or not set me a challenge. So the purpose of my trip to Lesmahagow, or the ‘Gow as it is know locally was to get images in South Lanarkshire worthy of entry to the competition. Now as I mentioned I like this image but it does not fit into any of the contest categories, so it fails it’s main objective. I may have other images from the day that are usable, but this is probably my favourite and it can’t be used.

    Another reason the photo bugs me… Actually no, this doesn’t bug me but it is something that is on my mind. They style of editing I enjoy most is using the Nik Collection, specifically Analog Efex Pro 2, even more specifically Wet Plate filters. ‘Filter’ make it sound as creative is Instagram but it is a lot more sophisticated regarding the control you have over the effects. But in essence it is doing the same thing, imitating styles from vintage cameras. Recently I have found myself more and more drawn to this wet plate style, possible influenced by the videos over on Vimeo of Ian Ruhter. Have a look at his work if you get a chance. He has basically turned a van into a giant wet plate camera and the results are beautiful.

    In his first video, ‘Silver and Light’, Ian mentions that when he moved from film to digital photography he felt like he lost something he loved - using his hands to create images. Now I’ve not shot film since I was 14 with a point and shoot on holiday with my parents, so I can’t relate to this. That said I am feeling like something is missing. I’m making images like this one and liking them, but I know that they will only ever be an imitation of wet plate.

    Even with my black and white images I feel they lack something. Maybe I am just comparing my digital conversions with old photos by far superior photographers but film images just seem more interesting. I don’t know. Maybe I am being a bit pompous thinking the old ways are the best ways. I’m not quite ready to run out and buy a wet plate kit, or even film developing equipment. Despite my rant I wouldn’t want to give up my digital cameras, I’m just worried that I’m missing out…

  3. Lost and then I was Found

    Shot on Fuji X20
    Taken on 20 May 2014 at St Mary’s Star of the Sea, Leith, Edinburgh
    Settings: f5.6 - 1/170 sec - ISO 100 - 11.7mm (46mm ff equivalent)
    Edited using VSCO and AfterFocus

    Between the picture and the title of this blog you’d be forgiven for thinking that the post is going to be a bit preachy. Or maybe the opposite and it would be a bit sarcastic. I don’t intend for it to be either. The lost then found reference in this instance is meant in a literal sense. On my meandering walk at lunchtime I got a little lost, not to the point of concern but I thought I was going to hit a dead end. Then I stepped through an opening in a wall and saw this statue. Since I only know of one catholic hurst in the area, St Mary’s Star of the Sea, the statue of Christ with the sacred heart I figured out where I was.

    I hope nobody thinks I’m belittling faith with the title. My viewpoint on religion has changed in the past nine months or so. I was brought up catholic and that has never left me. How involved I have been in my faith has varied a lot over the years. Generally speaking I always went to mass on holidays of obligation but Sunday mass became an occasional event at best. I don’t think there was a specific reason for this, I just got caught up in the modern world where religion isn’t valued the way it use to be. So I became part of the problem. Then towards the end of last year I moved home and into a new parish, St John Baptist in Uddingston. I went along to mass the first Sunday I was in the area and something changed. That sounds like I was instantly devout but that’s not what I mean, but something about the parish made me want to go back. The reason I keep going now isn’t because I think going to mass makes me a good person, it’s because it gives me a chance to learn about the messages my faith teaches me. After this it is up to me to apply these lessons to my life.

    I quite enjoyed sharing something personal, but this is a photography blog so I should probably talk about the photo. If I’m honest (which given the tone of the blog I really should be) I messed up taking this. The aperture I used should probably have been about f2.8 which would have focused on the statue but blurred the background, as you would with a portrait. For some reason, maybe laziness or my mind being elsewhere, I just snapped away with the settings I used from my previous photo. Luckily on Saturday I was introduced to a clever little app called AfterFocus which allows you to either add or enhance depth of field in your photos. As much as I aim to get photos right in camera I don’t think post production is cheating, but then I’m a bit of a geek so like playing with software.

  4. On Sunday I attended my second instameet and probably enjoyed it more than the first one. I think this is because there were a lot more people there this time that were not first-timers. There were people there that I had met during the Glasgow meet up back in March. I was less snap happy with my photos, mainly because the location. As we were in Edinburgh, around Princes Street Gardens, the photography is more considered, you need to look for the shot. Whereas at the Riverside Museum was bursting at the seams with subjects screaming to be captured. I don’t think either is better, they just engage the brain in different ways.

    The other reason I took less is that I was more engaged socially while walking. Along with Dee (@xdeex) I explored the area with three other instagramers - Iker (@IkerAudicana), Diego (@DiegoVivas) and Elsa (@ElsaAlin). I take a lot of photos when I am alone so it is refreshing to have people to talk to while walking about. Having other people about also means you have some models to snap which is no bad thing. My favourite shot of the day was one I took of Iker and Elsa (although they never knew I was taking it) as they walked through a close ahead of the group. This edit was done using VSCO on the iPhone of a photo from my X20. I have put the contrast up pretty high as you can probably tell to emphasise the shadows in the close which frame the highlight of the sunlit buildings on the other side. As well as being my favourite shot of the day it is probably in my top 5 pictures I’ve taken. It is as yet unnamed but I’m sure I’ll come up with something.

    As I mentioned the last time I attended a meet up like this it is well worth going to something like this. It makes me feel part of a community rather than the slightly disconnected feeling just posting online gives. Instagram is where I do most of my sharing but I know other photo sharing services like EyeEm and Flickr have communities that arrange meets so look out for them. If you want to see more of the shots from the day head over to Instagram and search #instameetedinburgh. The account that arrange the event was arranged by Steve (@Wilde_Oats), a moderator of @IgersEdi where you’ll find a group photo of everyone who attended. Although if you want a more interesting group shot check out Simon’s pic @SimonJuho.

    The pictures I’ve posted are a mix of photos from my iPhone 5 and Fuji X20 with edits done on VSCO or Snapseed. If you are a geek like me and interested in the camera setting then please ask.

  5. Triangles at 4.1mm

    Shot on iPhone 5
    Taken on 15 May 2014 at Leith Docks, Edinburgh
    Settings: F2.4 - 1/1506 sec - ISO 50 - 4.1mm
    Taken and edited using VSCO

    Jings! It’s been ages since I posted a picture taken on my iPhone. I fear I’m becoming a camera snob. So today I’ve brought myself back down to earth and slummed it with a camera phone that hasn’t been cutting edge for a whole two years!!!

    There are a couple of reasons I decided to shoot on my phone instead of a camera. First, I recently read an article a out VSCO, the makers of VSCO cam app, securing a substantial investment for growing their business. It turns out they also make film simulation packs for lightroom/photoshop too. From what I can see these look pretty impressive, but having already invested in the Nik Software Efex suite I can’t justify the price. So I decided to see what the iOS app was like, it’s sat in my photo folder for a while gathering dust and now I’m wishing I’d played with it more. The ability to set focus and exposure at different spots opens up a area of creativity that I wouldn’t otherwise have. Plus the editing tools delight my inner hipster in a way Instagram and Snapseed can’t every hope too.

    The other reason I shot on my phone today was because of a question poetic_mouse posed over on Instagram. He asked if Instagram should be used exclusively to post phone pics or was ok to post picture taken on something like a DSLR. This came from an article on the subject that he read. My opinion, and that of nearly everyone that commented, was that it doesn’t matter. Personally, as I’ve blogged about before, Instagram was how I started my journey as a photographer when the only camera I had was an iPhone 4. I’ve grow since then to use a DSLR style camera and an advanced compact but Instagram is still a lot more appealing to me than the likes of Flickr so I’m going to keep putting my best work on Instagram (and Tumblr of course).

    Oh yeah I’ve got a photo to write about haven’t I. To be honest I’m not blown away with it, I mean it was taken on a phone! Only kidding! It’s not generally the kind of photo I would take there are lots of geometric shapes that I am drawn too. I’ve seen people do a much better job of picture of structure where all you see are beams and the like but I know I am missing something. I’m just not sure what…

  6. Risky Crossing

    Shot on Fuji X20 
    Taken on 14 May 2014 at Seafield, Leith, Edinburgh
    Settings: f8 - 1/34 - ISO 100 - 7.1mm (28mm ff equivalent)
    Edited using Snapseed

    Second blog in three days, I’m impressing myself! My week has been ok, not great but I’m not feeling too stressed which is allowing me to flex my creativity a bit. It feels good. I have every intention of keeping up the posts and photos. Generally speaking I am happy with the results I’m getting from my photography just now, my pictures aren’t perfect and I know I have a lot to learn still. But just now enjoying it is the most important thing for me. If I don’t enjoy it I won’t do it then I won’t learn and my cameras will collect dust.

    When I left the office today I was going to go to the usual haunts, down by the shore probably but then I took a notion to go in the other direction. I like going into the unknown, well within reason at least, I was still in Leith and on the beaten/Tarmaced path. For anyone that knows the area I walked along Seafield Road and went just beyond the cemetery. When I was walking along I could see what looked like a disused railway line and I was looking for an interesting shot of it. I considered jumping the wall but nothing jumped out at me that was worth trespassing for so I turned around to head back to work.

    Walking in the opposite direction meant I found a fairly overgrown entrance to the railway lines’s pedestrian crossing bridge. It looked pretty unused and in a state of decay, and I am a big fan of run down stuff! So I decided to go up onto the bridge to see what I could see, and it didn’t disappoint! It gave quite a good view of the train tracks I had been looking at but when up there I realised that the bridge itself was much more interesting. It clearly is barely used, there are plants growing through it that haven’t been trampled down, there is more moss than path now and the railings are pretty heavily weather beaten. All this gives a pretty creepy feel to the pictures I took, a feeling not harmed by the overhanging trees around the bridge.

    Personally I don’t mind blown highlights and I don’t think it ruins this photo but I know some people would be critical of the sky here. I accepted that with a moody, detailed sky the picture would be enhanced but this is what I had to work with.

  7. A Safe Return

    >Shot on Fuji X20 
    Taken on 12 May 2014 at Commercial Quay, Leith, Edinburgh
    Settings: f4.5 - 1/350 - ISO 100 - 12.7mm (50mm ff equivalent)
    Edited using Snapseed

    I’m becoming rubbish at keeping this blog up to date. I’ve had a lot on my mind recently which has meant that I’ve not been motivated to shoot as much, and when I do I’ve not had the mental energy to write about it. This is particularly frustrating since photography is meant to help me take my mind off my problems. Basically I’ve fallen out of my routine and I need to get back to it.

    That’s my rant about myself over, now to the today. Lunch started with a sandwich on a riverside bench then a nice wee wander. I didn’t go very far or discover anywhere new as such but since my walks have been a bit of a failure of late it was just good to get some nice pictures. It certainly made me feel better. Even sitting on the train editing the picture and writing this is calming me down as I have some butterflies I’m my stomach over things on my mind this week.

    Let get more specific, to the photograph. I took this down by Commercial Quay in Leith and have walked over this bridge a few time but it was the first I’d seen it from this angle. It doesn’t look the safest and some modern barriers have been placed on it. These are no doubt needed for safety reason but they ruin the look of it for me; however I took the picture anyway. At first when I took the picture there was nobody on it but when I saw the two workmen approaching I knew I had to take another snap. Being able to compare the images side by side the figures definitely add interest, not just on the bridge but also in the reflections on the water.

    I’m pretty happy with the image. Last week I tried to force some shots to blog about but was not happy with them. I had been dealing with some fairly technical issues which I think stifled my creativity. So looking back I’m glad I didn’t post for the sake of posting, I want to get back to blogging daily but don’t want the quality of my pictures or writing to suffer just so I had up the quantity.

  8. Not my Week

    Various settings

    So far this week I’ve taken the least amount of photos since I started this blog. Other than a couple of snaps taken for reference the four pictures here are the sum of my creativity this week. Only the top one was taken on a ‘proper’ camera, my Sony a57, with the rest on my iPhone.

    I am happy with the two coffee cup shots but not so much the landscapes taken through the train window. I may have said recently that I wanted to take more #CoffeeaDay photos but I don’t want them to be the only work in happy with.

    Tomorrow is my last chance to salvage my creative flow this week, if not I’ll be looking for the reset button over the weekend.

    If anyone has any tips on what to do when you are missing your creative spark then I’ll accept suggestions on a postcard!

  9. on the look out

    Shot on Sony a57 (70-300mm)
    Taken on 25 Apr 2014 at The Cruz, Leith, Edinburgh
    Settings: f5.6 - 1/125 - ISO 200 - 300mm (450mm ff equivalent)
    Edited using Snapseed

    So it’s been a good few days since I last blogged. Sorry I realise everyone will have been panicking, wondering what’s wrong or if something happened. I started by missing Friday because I was out taking photos in Edinburgh with Dee and it was after midnight when we got home. Since the weather had been awful when we were out on the Saturday we went again to take more photos, and again stayed out too late for me to blog. Saturday I’ve no excuse for, although it is traditionally a day of rest. Then on Monday and Tuesday I had a cloud hanging over me because of work so I had no motivation or desire to take pictures or blog. Today I fancied taking some pictures but I forgot to lift the freshly charged battery for my X20. Plus I didn’t see anything that caught my eye when I was out that I wanted to shoot on my iPhone. But I wanted to get posting again so here is one from Friday’s lunch break (not from the shoot with Dee).

    As I was meeting Dee later on specifically to take photos I had taken my Sony with me to show I was serious! I had a smaller lens with me but I want to get more use out of my 70-300mm as I’ve generally been more comfortable with the 18-55mm kit or my amazing Minolta 50mm f1.7 prime. I always thought I’d only need the longer lens to shoot far away but I’m now learning that it just give a different look to things not so far away. In this shot the boat is only a few meters away so it could have been taken on a 50mm and cropped in. If I did that though the background blur wouldn’t have been as nice nor would the pigeons and boat have as much detail.

    For regular readers you won’t be surprised to discover this was taken at the floating office complex in Leith. It’s a lifeboat attached to ‘The Cruz’ with was the subject of ‘Getting On Board’, and it has highlighted to me that not enough bars and restaurants has life boats! When I first lined up the photo I didn’t realise their were birds in the boat, I just liked the look of the boat with its peeling paint and the reflection of the water on the underside. But I’m glad the pigeons were there because otherwise the shot might be a bit boring.

  10. Robert Got Lucky

    Shot on Fuji X20 
    Taken on 24 Apr 2014 at Constitution Street, Leith, Edinburgh
    Settings: f2.8 - 1/1000 - ISO 100 - 28.4mm (112mm ff equivalent)
    Edited using Snapseed

    Well I wanted a full colour picture by Friday this week and I’ve done it with a day to spare! It only took an 18th century poet to bring me into the 21st century. The scots reading this should realise who this statue is of, you’ll have studied at least one of his poems in school and sung one of Hogmanay. Of course it’s Rabbie Burns, or Robert on a Sunday. If you plan to read any of Burns’ work grasp of the Scottish dialect would certainly help. I struggle with some of it myself since they aren’t words you often see written so would recommend listening to a recording, there are a few albums on Spotify which I’m listening to as I write.

    I have been leaving my X20 in normal JPEG mode, no monochrome or film simulators. This was in the hope I’d be inspired to take some coloured work. I’ve maybe been more inclined not to just take black and white pictures but they’ve not been bursting with colour either. But today was so bright and sunny it finally clicked with me. Granted Robert is black and there are a lot of dull colours in the bricks but the blue is beautiful to me. That said I’m glad there is a fair amount of cloud breaking it up because I generally find clear blue sky’s really dull.

    When I took this picture it was quite over exposed, I couldn’t say by how much off hand but would guess close to two stops. I had other pictures that were better exposed but this was captured a lot of details that the others seemed to miss, so I decided to try editing to see if I could recover the highlights. Personally I think it worked fine considering I’m editing a JPEG on Snapseed, if I was to look at the RAW files I’d maybe pick a different file.

    Oh the reason Burns is lucky is because if a bird poops on you then it is meant to bring you good luck. And he’s definitely been pooped on here…

    Lady Onlie, Honest Lucky by Robert Burns (1787)

    A’ The lads o’ Thornie-bank
    When they gae to the shore o’ Bucky,
    They’ll step in and tak a pint
    Wi’ Lady Onlie, honest lucky.

    Lady Onlie, honest lucky,
    Brews gude ale at shore o’ Bucky;
    I wish her sale for her gude ale,
    The best on a’ the shore o’ Bucky.

    Her house sae bien, her church sae clean,
    I wat she is a daintie Chuckie!
    And cheery blinks the ingle-gleede
    O’ Lady Onlie, honest lucky.

    Lady Onlie, honest lucky,
    Brews gude ale at shore o’ Bucky;
    I wish her sale for her gude ale,
    The best on a’ the shore o’ Bucky.

    Source http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/robertburns/works/lady_onlie_honest_lucky/