Edinburgh Night Photography Workshop

Often when the sun goes down, photographers pack their cameras in the bag but those few hours after sunset can be really productive if you know how to use the available light and have a good sturdy tripod. The Edinburgh Photography Workshop Night Photography session is a great way to learn how to take great photographs in the blur hour and beyond.

The workshop starts as the sun is setting on Calton Hill where we can see the colour temperature change before our eyes with the warm glow of the last rays of the sun being seen at the same time as the onset of the purples, blues and eventually black as night falls. We then head down to Princes Street where Sir Walter Scott becomes the subject and we look for different angles to capture this famous statue as well as capturing the light trails of the buses and trams.

We continue in the Old Town of Edinburgh which lives up to its spooky reputation by capturing a ghostly apparition rising from Barrie’s Close. Before heading to the most haunted graveyard in Scotland where we play with different sources of light and,  if you are really lucky, have the second opportunity of capturing a ghost in the colour of your choice!

Here are just a few photographs taken on the workshop and if you’d like to book the experience for yourself then head to the booking page.

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Introduction to Landscape & Seascape Workshop – February 2018

We had a cracking day for the first Seascape & Landscape workshop of 2018. Picking up from the centre of Edinburgh in the early hours we got to see the night start to move into the day just as we were set up and ready to go in the lovely location at Elie. From this viewpoint, we can see almost the entire day before us with the ending location close to the Bass Rock visible across the expanse of the Forth estuary.  After a quick cup of coffee to warm up after the biting wind of the coastal path we headed back toward the south side of the river stopping to have some fun with in-camera motion blur at a small copse of birch trees and starting to understand how ND filters can help to change the look of water at the old pier in Aberdour.

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Once back over the new Queensferry crossing we were able to practice taking panoramic pictures of the three impressive structures that span the Forth, the Queensferry Crossing, the Forth Road Bridge and the beautiful Forth Bridge – built in the 19th century it still carries rail transport between Edinburgh and onwards into Fife and further North so we also have a stop to capture this special piece of engineering.

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Heading eastwards we spend some time at the Newhaven Lighthouse and Portobello Groynes, the tide times are perfect for capturing the movement of the water over the wooden structures that help to keep the beach a place for dog-walkers and handy sun-worshippers coming back month after month, even when the weather wasn’t as good as this.

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Our final two stops of this full-day workshop are in North Berwick, firstly around the Old Pier and harbour area before making our way to the secret beach that looks onto Tantallon Castle where we were treated to a subtle sunset.

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The next Introduction to Landscape & Seascape workshop is on March 10 so if you would like to experience expert tuition and great locations you can book at bit.ly/EPWSea

The Edinburgh August Walking Challenge

I originally posted this a few years ago on a different site. The workshops during the festival period have been really busy and it is a challenge getting around the city with so many people visiting. Here is a tongue-in-cheek guide to the way that tourists block the streets of Edinburgh to prevent us getting around. In my research I have identified the top 11 (top 10’s are so passee) tactics that I have seen working well. Feel free to let me know if I have missed any and I’ll add to the list.

1. The Walk Apart

This is the simplest of the tactics and involves the tourists walking side by side. There are two key elements to the walk though, the first is velocity which will be at dawdling pace and the second is spacing – it is key that the distance apart is just insufficient to allow the local to cut between the two tourists and also sufficient to ensure that the gap between roads and buildings doesn’t allow a sidewards overtaking manoeuvre.

Fig 1. The Walk Apart

2. The Chicane

This is a variation of The Walk Apart and is again a dawdling paced tactic. Here the tourists not only create a gap that is impossible to cut between, they also create an added dimension of one walking slightly ahead of the other, making the overtake much more difficult.

Fig 2. The Chicane

3. The Diamond

We are now getting into much more complicated patterns and using larger groups of tourists. I have noted that this one is particularly popular with the latin tourists (possibly due to the size of families) and is a combination of The Walk Apart and The Chicane. The tourists create a diamond shape which contains all the blocking difficulties of the first two tactics and brings them together into one of the hardest formations to beat.

Fig. 3 The Diamond

4. The ‘Look, Edinburgh has a Castle’

This tends to be a Princes Street tactic, and is most successfully deployed by the asian tourist. They lure the unwitting local into thinking that the tourist is ‘one of us’ by walking at a good pace – this is the case until they spring the surprise manoeuvre of stopping instantly to stand and stare at the Castle that suddenly appears from nowhere. The effect is almost impossible for the local to avoid.

Fig. 4 The ‘Look, Edinburgh has a Castle’

5. The Crab

A variant of The Walk Apart which requires the tourists to walk in the same slow pace, however, as the local approaches for the attempted overtake, the tourists start to veer toward the road forcing the local to either slow down or move into the road and face the wrath of the Lothian Transport driver.

Fig 5 The Crab

6. The 90 Degree

This isn’t too dissimilar to The ‘Look, it’s Edinburgh Castle’ but can take place on any street that contains the tourist tat shops. As the tourist is drawn to the shiny things (or more likely tartan and ginger things) in the shop window they create a much larger obstacle as they stop and turn. The key element here is that one of the tourists will stand in the middle of the pavement whilst the other one stares.

Fig 6 The 90 Degree

7. The Umbrella

Really only used during the Fringe period when the annual monsoon season arrives. Here the cunning tourist uses the umbrella as a weapon to prevent any local brave enough to attempt to overtake The Walk Apart. There are, of course, many variants of this tactic as it can be used with any of the other manoeuvres.

Fig 7 The Umbrella

8. The Child

Here the weapon of choice is a small child. The tourists look to have created The Walk Apart poorly and have left a gap large enough for the local make the cut-through overtake. However, at the last minute this is blighted by the appearance of the small child who will invariably undertake their own Look, Edinburgh has a castle and stop sufficiently quickly to allow the tourist to plough into the child who is able to deploy the head to the groin.

Fig 8. The Child

9. The Suitcase

This tactic tends to be deployed close to Waverley Station and requires the tourists to find the busiest time of the day and drag an over-sized suitcase through the streets. It is always good for the tourist to deploy this in conjunction with The Crab. This is another manoeuvre which can result in physical injury to the local and is therefore highly popular with the tourists.

Fig 9 The Suitcase

10. The Street Performer

The next two tactics are generally deployed on High Street (or Royal Mile as the tourists prefer to incorrectly call it) and are aided and abetted by performers. The first is the large crowd that will gather around yet another person creating a tight-rope by two of said tourists and then walking across it whilst juggling sharpened knives or fire. The tourists gather in droves to ensure that there is no way for the local who has to walk along High Street to perhaps collect a parking permit from the council offices (no local would choose to walk along High Street in August).

Fig 10 The Street Performer

11. The Drama Student

Again a High Street tactic, this time involving a second year drama student who believes that the most innovative way to hand out flyers is to lie in the middle of the street or stand on a bollard, after all, nobody has ever thought of that before.. The tourist will interact with this display and cause an impossible blockage for the council office attending local to pass.

Fig 11 The Drama Student

I am sure that now the tactics of the tourists have been revealed that there will be some new ones that will appear. I urge any resident of Edinburgh who identifies either a way to combat the above tactics or identifies new ones to be deployed so that I can provide a public service to the locals of Edinburgh.

Telling a Social Story

I ran a different workshop to usual yesterday in the Gorbals with Oatland Development Trust. The aim of the session was to show how you could take more effective photos on fairly simple cameras that can then be used on blogs and other social media platforms. As with most of my workshops there was a small amount of theory and then quite a bit of practice before we reviewed the images taken by the attendees. It was great to see everyone really thinking about the photos they were taking, using all the composition techniques we talked about and then being happy to decide which of their photographs should capture  what happened in the workshop.

I can easily tailor this session to any organisation who would like their volunteers to help provide images that allow supporters to engage more. Just drop me a mail if you would like more information.

Here are a few of the photos from the attendees.

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Wilkie_J001I just wanted to share the progress that attendees on my Switch to Manual Workshop can see in just four hours. This shot was taken today by Julie Wilkie who attended the workshop having only ever used the automatic functions on her Panasonic Lumix Bridge Camera. Yes, in just four hours Julie had gone from allowing her camera to control her creativity to deciding herself how she wanted her image to appear. I think you’ll agree, this is really impressive!

If you’d like to see this kind of improvement in your own photography, book now to attend a Switch to Manual workshop.

Take a photo a day

Just like playing a sport or a musical instrument, the way to taking great photos is to practice. Find a reason every day to capture an image and you’ll soon start to see scenes that people will like to view. This was a quick five minute snap walking to the train station and shows that Edinburgh has superb opportunities for photographs outside of the Castle and Calton Hill.

St James Walkway bridge example of photography practice

Rain won’t stop play

Edinburgh has a reputation for its weather with all four seasons occurring within a few hours. The attendees on the Switch to Manual workshops this weekend experienced sunshine, showers and torrential rain, yet despite this, kept shooting and produced some great images. I find it so rewarding that people attend the sessions with a fear of the M button on their camera dial and leave four hours later with a really good understanding of how to take a well composed and exposed photograph and vowing never to return to the A button.

Thanks to Joyce, Audrey and the two Johns for allowing me to share some of the photos they took over the weekend.

If you would like to learn how to become more creative with your photography there are workshops held most weekends and we shall shortly be expanding to seven days a week. An availability calendar is on the Switch to Manual Workshop page.

Edinburgh Photography Workshop Switch to Manual attendee image

Edinburgh Photography Workshop Switch to Manual attendee image

Edinburgh Photography Workshop Switch to Manual attendee image

Edinburgh Photography Workshop Switch to Manual attendee image

Edinburgh Photography Workshop Switch to Manual attendee image

Edinburgh Photography Workshop Switch to Manual attendee image

Edinburgh Photography Workshop Switch to Manual attendee image

Edinburgh Photography Workshop Switch to Manual attendee image

Sunshine and Showers

It was great to wake up to sunshine this morning in preparation for a Switch to Manual workshop with Angela. However, as can always be the case with Edinburgh, if you want to see different weather wait five minutes. Angela coped magnificently with changing weather conditions and it was brilliant to see her really get to grips with understanding how to expose an image using all the manual controls after expressing her fear of the buttons at the start of the workshop. As you can see, she did a great job after only four hours!

Example of Leading Lines on Edinburgh Photography Workshop

Royal Mile Piper

Example of framing and thirds on Switch to Manual Workshop

Victoria Street Arches

Twelve months of Photographic Lessons

I follow a number of websites on twitter to find really interesting articles. This one tells the story of a photographer who decided over twelve months that he was going to improve his photography and really hits the spot for me. If you are based in Edinburgh the Edinburgh Photographic Society is a great way to do Steps 1 and 2 but I think the most important tip was in Step 3 and 4 – Get to know the basics of composition and learn to use your camera – This is exactly the purpose of my Switch to Manual Workshop, so why spend 12 months getting better when you can fast-track all that learning into three or four hours?