ICM (or Intentional Camera Movement) is a creative shooting style wherein movement is introduced to an exposure whilst the shutter is open to create abstract pieces or to add a bit of movement to an otherwise flat & lifeless scene. It’s a really fun technique to experiment with & the results can be jaw dropping once you know what you are looking for in an exposure.Read More
As a photographer putting my work out in both the physical & digital realms, I regularly receive messages of support & adulation. Whilst it’s often hard to reply to everyone when they first get in touch with me, I’m humbled & honoured that my work is being appreciated by many others across the world!
I received one such message from a supporter, a poet from East Kilbride named Kit Frank Duddy. Kit had written a poem for three images that I had recently shared through my Facebook channel & I wanted to take the time to honour his time & effort by showcasing them here on my website.
I can’t express enough how happy such interaction makes me; the level of satisfaction goes beyond simply saying thank you! Kit’s prose is not simply fantastically written, but is highly personal to him as an individual & I am greatly honoured that my photography has served as inspiration or as a creative spark in his imagination.
You can read more from Kit on his Facebook page here
”Take a bough”
In midst of woods a lone tree stood, apart from all the others. It’s boughs were bent and branches rent and seemed lost without it’s
Tall pines and firs a circumference made as if to bar escape, our tree
stood tall not afraid at all, though it seems to have arrived of late.
Those trees with fronds around their grith, stood around as if in mirth, discomfort to enjoy. Our
tree however bent a knee and was climbed again by boys.
No longer just a branch, a bough or tree, a mast of a Spanish galleon!
Those stumps and branches made steps of rope as masts had been
Imagination can take flight in nature’s wild abandon, in copse
in bush, in tricks and ruse, let imagination
Lack of Destination
Softest crunch of the path as aimless feet tread, shale and pine cones mark out
Bracken discovered tween green grassy blades, softens
the edges of wooded highways.
Youngest of saplings hover the track, while others like gymnasts bend over their back.
Light seeks the crannies neath the skirts of the pine and mist softens denuded branches dried
by the clime.
No path ever entered brought nought to the step, a whisper of life,
song, stave or a clef.
When life has no meaning a road has no call, take nature’s
meander doesn’t that just beat all.
Lasting presence of a taste of life gone bye.
A glimpse of romantic interlude a tear drop slips the eye.
A heart so torn by longing a pain no eye may see.
That tore you from my arms heartbroken I may be.
A vestige of such a moment there for all eternity.
There the mind of an artist now for all of us to see.
“𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝑜𝑛𝑙𝑦 𝑡𝑟𝑢𝑒 𝑏𝑜𝑟𝑑𝑒𝑟𝑠 𝑙𝑖𝑒 𝑏𝑒𝑡𝑤𝑒𝑒𝑛 𝑑𝑎𝑦 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑛𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡, 𝑏𝑒𝑡𝑤𝑒𝑒𝑛 𝑙𝑖𝑓𝑒 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑑𝑒𝑎𝑡ℎ, 𝑏𝑒𝑡𝑤𝑒𝑒𝑛 ℎ𝑜𝑝𝑒 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑙𝑜𝑠𝑠.”
Photographically, I’d been planning a trip to Smailholm Tower for a wee while; watching the weather & holding back until the nights were a bit longer so that I could spend more time finding potential compositions & watch the play of light. Located just outside Kelso on the Scottish / English border, Smailholm Tower is a fine example of a “pele” tower which is currently maintained by the National Trust for Scotland. The tower stands upon a bed of rock overlooking the lands that surround it & features many different compositional opportunities. From my research I had found that the tower car park would be closed from 17.00 - but after studying my map I found that there would be plenty of space to park courteously on the farm track that runs past the site. This meant that I wouldn’t need to concern myself with time limitations when I should be focused on making photographs instead. Another consideration I had was that of livestock. The lands surrounding Smailholm Tower are working farms, which would again mean that accessibility may be limited. I was lucky on the day though, as all of the main fields were empty & I could roam freely; closing all gates behind me of course.
I arrived at the tower in good time & set about finding compelling compositions. It’s easy to be influenced by a feeling of sensory overload in new locations so I made sure that I took my time & thought critically whilst using my intuition or ‘eye’ to guide my search. My first stop was at the only spot that I had really planned for - a small reed-filled pond which offers slithers of reflection if you take the time to find them. I wanted to make a photograph from the pond with the tower reflected on the waters surface with framing at the sides utilising the reeds in the pond & the rock faces that surround the pond. My main goal was to photograph the tower in moody, overcast conditions so as to aesthetically accentuate the historic nature of the location & the weather was ‘perfect’ in this respect. The rain managed to stay off whilst the clouds were heavy & ready to burst so while I had the opportunity I set up my camera on the tripod, screwed on my polarising filter to dial in the reflected light on the waters surface & applied a 0.6 soft-edged graduated ND filter for a natural reduction in the highlights above the tower. I made my exposure & happy with the image I moved on to see what else I could find.
I first circled the perimeter around the tower surveying the scene through a wide lens, looking for potential angles. Due to the height of the tower & the warped perspective though, I didn’t find anything that was very attractive to me & I opted to move a bit further out & try longer focal lengths for a more realistic perspective. As I climbed over the hills, two potential sites caught my attention. The first was a small plateau facing towards the tower which was carpeted in lovely wee violet flowers, though I’m sorry to say I couldn’t identify them, there was also a decent sprinkling of gorse bushes & a few scattered boulders to work with. The second subject which caught my attention was a summit cairn with a beautiful backdrop featuring the hills spanning the Scottish/English border. The sky was just right to make an exposure there and then, so shooting at 300mm, I found my composition & made my exposure through a 0.9 graduated filter to reduce the exposure in the sky & add a bit of drama in-camera.
For my exposure on the plateau, I waited until the Sun was setting - as the clouds were beginning to glow nicely & I knew that they’d “explode” with colour. The position of the Sun meant that the North wall of the tower would catch the light & a large grin forced itself onto my face as everything turned flame orange & the shadows grew nicely creating some lovely contrast across the frame. Compositionally, I wanted to frame the tower & the lower frame with the diagonal cloud base & capture a bit of foreground - so I shot low to the ground, using an 85mm lens for a slightly wider perspective with a nice crop.
With the colour draining from the sky & blue hour now settling in across the landscape I descended from the hills to return to the car. Upon reaching ground level I had a last look at the sky & decided to quickly move back to my first composition featuring the Tower at the pond. I set up very quickly, with the same composition & no filters. I made an exposure, not thinking that it’d be as good as my first after it was processed but upon editing the image it’s become my favourite of the day - so much for all of my planning & taking my time!
"𝐿𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑑𝑎𝑟𝑘 𝑡𝑜𝑢𝑐ℎ 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑎 𝑓𝑒𝑤 𝑚𝑜𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑠. 𝐼 𝑢𝑠𝑒𝑑 𝑡𝑜 𝑤𝑖𝑠ℎ 𝑑𝑢𝑠𝑘 𝑤𝑜𝑢𝑙𝑑 𝑙𝑎𝑠𝑡 𝑙𝑜𝑛𝑔𝑒𝑟,
𝑏𝑢𝑡 𝑖𝑡𝑠 𝑞𝑢𝑖𝑐𝑘𝑛𝑒𝑠𝑠 𝑠𝑒𝑒𝑚𝑠 𝑡𝑜 𝑎𝑑𝑑 𝑡𝑜 𝑚𝑎𝑘𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑖𝑡 𝑠𝑝𝑒𝑐𝑖𝑎𝑙.”
Camera & Optics by Sony / Samyang / Nikon / Olympus.
Elite Filter System by SRB Photographic.
Tripod by Vanguard Photo.
Bag & inserts by Karrimore UK / Lowepro.
Outdoor Clothing & Boots by Jack Wolfskin / Karrimore UK / Forclaz.
Post Processing performed in Adobe Lightroom & Affinity Photo.
Transport by Land Rover.
Before I get into my creative process, I’d like to provide a wee bit of background information regarding the shoot. The scene consists of M.V. Dayspring, a shipwreck on the banks of the Corpach shoreline, lapped by the waters of Loch Linnhe & featuring a jaw-dropping backdrop including Fort William & Ben Nevis!
I’d only visited the location once before & made a photograph during a period of rather dreich conditions across the Scottish Highlands. I appreciate the photograph, with it’s monochromatic blue tones & moody atmosphere; but it wasn’t the shot I was after.
Luckily, the opportunity to return to the location arose & armed with the knowledge that conditions were to be 10x better I opted to organise a sunset shoot. After spending the day exploring Glencoe, I headed North towards Fort William & eventually the coastline at Corpach - with plenty of time to plan & observe the conditions as they developed.
Composing the Image & Setting Up for the Final Exposure
The first thing that I did upon reaching the pebble beach was finding my composition. I tried a couple of positions with different lenses for different perspectives & once I’d settled on my final position & a focal length of 85mm (full-frame) I experimented with my camera on the tripod - high, medium & low. I wanted to utilise the natural ‘S’ shape of the coastline to lead the eye, but I didn’t want the water to create too much negative space, so I opted for the lower position which gave me a nice aesthetically balanced composition.
I found that shooting at 85mm gave me a very nice crop, allowing me to balance the image without any of the elements within the frame weighing one way or the other. I positioned the vessel on my right hand thirds & tilted the tripod head to ensure that the shoreline on the lower left hand side was placed just off the corner.
Once my composition was finalised, I dialled in the camera settings, opting to shoot at f11 with an ISO value of 50 to keep any unwanted noise to a minimum in the final exposure. Initially, I used a .9 ND Graduated filter to lower the exposure of the sky, but this was a bit much & I opted to use a .3 Soft Grad instead. With the addition of my polarising filter to key in the reflected light on the waters surface I ended up with an exposure time of 1/15th of a second. I checked that my focus was pin sharp & then fixed a 10-stop ND Filter to give me an exposure time of two minutes & fifteen seconds; enough to soften the water & clouds & really allow the main elements of the photograph to come into focus.
Waiting for the Perfect Moment
As the Sun began to set, I was able to quietly study the landscape in order to ascertain the ‘perfect moment’ to pull the shutter. Golden hour began & the natural shadows across the scene began to grow as the Sun made its way towards the horizon behind me. Whilst the yellowy tones were beautiful, I found they were a bit too harsh for the shot that I had in mind, so aside from a few test exposures, I waited.
The yellow began to darken into a burnt orange & I was nearing the point of no return. I kept waiting though, as Ben Nevis was in deep shadow due to the low-altitude cloud. I maintained my composure, crossing my fingers & hoping that as the Sun got just a bit lower it would cast some light on the snowy peaks..
It happened! I let just a tiny bit of light begin to creep through the valley in front of Nevis’ peak & then pulled the shutter. As my exposure completed, the Sun dipped below the mountains behind me & everything began to lose it’s warmth - I checked the image preview & a massive smile forced its way onto my face; I’d done it!
After some very light editing, I sat with the final image & contemplated how it had turned out. A detail that I hadn’t noticed on-location suddenly struck me; follow the ‘S’ curve from the bottom, towards the bush & then notice that the shadow from the neighbouring hill actually leads the eye towards the vessel - framing it in ever such a subtle way!
I really love this photograph, from the rich ochre tones of the final light in the foreground, to the soft lighting upon Ben Nevis, it is very well balanced, super sharp & overall puts a smile on my face; that’s what really counts! If I’d waited any longer, I’d have missed the best of the light - it always pays to research in advance & know the fall of light to the best of your ability. You may be able to edit your way out of un-perfect conditions, but you can’t replicate the perfect harmony of beautiful lighting upon the landscape! :)
If you’d like to join me on a workshop, or order a print of this photograph, please get in touch!
“𝐸𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑦 𝑑𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑚𝑒𝑟 𝑘𝑛𝑜𝑤𝑠 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑖𝑡 𝑖𝑠 𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑟𝑒𝑙𝑦 𝑝𝑜𝑠𝑠𝑖𝑏𝑙𝑒 𝑡𝑜 𝑏𝑒 ℎ𝑜𝑚𝑒𝑠𝑖𝑐𝑘 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑎 𝑝𝑙𝑎𝑐𝑒 𝑦𝑜𝑢'𝑣𝑒 𝑛𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑟 𝑏𝑒𝑒𝑛 𝑡𝑜, 𝑝𝑒𝑟ℎ𝑎𝑝𝑠 𝑚𝑜𝑟𝑒 ℎ𝑜𝑚𝑒𝑠𝑖𝑐𝑘 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑛 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑓𝑎𝑚𝑖𝑙𝑖𝑎𝑟 𝑔𝑟𝑜𝑢𝑛𝑑.” - 𝐽𝑢𝑑𝑖𝑡ℎ 𝑇ℎ𝑢𝑟𝑚𝑎𝑛
It’s 1am & I’ve been keeping my eye on the weather forecast for Callendar & Aberfoyle tomorrow. There are yellow warnings in place from the Met Office due to an incoming weather front named ‘Storm Gareth’ - but whilst the wind is to be very strong from the wee hours onward, the rain isn’t to start until early afternoon. I’m hopeful for some really dynamic conditions & I prepare for the journey.
[ S L E E P ]
Now morning, I layer up, fill my flask with strong coffee & set off. I drive North, hitting a squall of nasty weather on the Fenwick moors - but this is normal as you will know if you’ve ever been there, haha! Everywhere else is relatively clear with some interesting formations in the clouds. Once I’ve broken free of the morning traffic heading towards Glasgow, my journey continues smoothly & I reach Aberfoyle in good time. I stop to stretch my legs & to consult my map; deciding to start my days photography at Loch Arklet, just West of Loch Katrine & Ben A’an.
I drive along the beautifully quiet road, lined on both sides by the ancient Caledonian Pine Forest. I fight the urge to stop & explore the woodlands as my time is limited if I want to avoid the inbound storm, though I do make some voice memo’s to remind myself. The road twists & turns as I near my first location & out of nowhere, the enigmatic Arrochar Alps suddenly dominate my view. I’m amazed at just how beautiful the scene is as heavy banks of freezing fog roll swiftly across the snow covered mountain peaks. The peaks themselves are fantastic - sharp, jagged & full of natural character as the light breaks through the thick clouds. Still in awe, I pull in to the side of the road & strap on my bag. I’ve reached my first location;
Location 1. The Abandoned Corriearklet Boathouse - Loch Arklet
After hopping a small fence & scramble across the boggy banks of Loch Arklet I find a promising spot to begin composing my photograph. With the Arrochar Alps forming such an impressive backdrop, the scene simply begs to be photographed! Instead of just jumping in though, I take a moment to study the landscape & contemplate what I want to achieve. Careful consideration is key in moments like this, as it’s too easy to end up with sensory overload which leads to poor photographs. I’d originally planned to make a panoramic if the water was still & glassy - but that isn’t the case now that I’m here.
I decide that I will shoot at 85mm from chest height. This allows me to slightly crop into the scene & really focus on what I want to achieve with the image. I carefully frame the boathouse with the mountains & make use of a simple S-shaped leading line from the waters edge on the right. This divides the frame nicely & leads the eye towards the mountains. I apply a polarising filter to really nail the definition in the water & to sculpt the light on the mountains & a 0.8 soft edged graduated ND filter to add some drama to the clouds & to accentuate the light on the peaks. Once all of this is completed, I check my exposure & boost my ISO to give me a shutter speed of 1/125 whilst shooting at f11. It’s very windy & I’m not leaving anything to chance by shooting at a slower shutter speed.
I make a couple of test exposures & wait for the light to hit the boathouse at the same time that the mountains are relatively clear. The rain comes & goes- but then the light appears & I make my exposure. Moments later, the boathouse is in darkness & the mountains are obscured once more by the fog. Job done!
Leaving my camera set up I make my way back on to the road & make an exposure of the scene that lays before me after setting my focus. Image number two - complete.
Location 2. Rob Roy’s Viewpoint - Inversnaid
My next location lies a short drive along the road. I cross a narrow wooden bridge as I turn off the main road & park the car in a small clearing before setting off up the hill towards the viewpoint. The hike is absolutely wonderful. The trees block any wind & the air is still. The morning rain has left everything vibrant & inspiring, with moss twinkling underfoot like lumps of emerald. There are many little streams cutting through the woodland & the puddles on the path are a rich red ochre due to the peaty earth, lumps of quartz from the hillside lie scattered throughout the trail & it all feels very mystical!
I stomp my way through a peaty bog & then begin to ascend up through the trees, using a natural stairway in the roots & stones to pull my way up through the mud. The ground begins to level out as I pass through a pine archway & up the final couple of meters towards the viewpoint. The wind suddenly hits me like championship boxers right hook as I break through the trees & cast my gaze upon the epic views across Loch Lomond..
With the wind this strong & with the storm now in front of me, I hurriedly set up my tripod, camera & filters. My first photograph is a panoramic view of the Arrochar Alps, comprised of; Ben Narnairn, Creagg Tharsuinn, A’ Chrois, Beinne Ime, Ben Vane, Beinn Dubh & Ben Vorlich with Kenmore Wood framing the bottom of the range. There is a small band of light running through the peaks & this helps to set them out against the dark woodlands & the quickly darkening sky. I make a series of 5 exposures, to be stitched together in my post-processing software whilst weighing down the tripod in the wind.
My second (& last) composition is a wider view of the viewpoint itself. Shooting at 28mm, I compose my image to include the lonely bench & the bare Birch trees in the foreground with Loch Lomond & the rolling hills to the South-West filling out the background. Needless to say, there were no boat tours on the go!
With the wind now severely picking up, I quickly pack away my gear & head back down the hillside to the car. I drive down to the waters edge at Inversnaid Hotel & the rain comes down on me like steel rods as I watch the roaring waterfall ferociously pushing its way into Loch Lomond. I decide against making photographs & retire into the hotel for a cup of coffee & a freshly baked scone by the window instead. By the time I leave, Storm Gareth is in full force, the mountains are no longer visible, the weather is becoming dangerous & I make the decision to (slowly) make my way home.
All in all, I made more photographs than I expected to. I’m very happy that I made the effort to get out there, even with weather warnings in place. It certainly pays to explore in all conditions - even in the face of abject conditions. I often find that my favourite Landscape Photographs are made just before or just after a storm!
Camera & Optics by Sony / Samyang.
Elite Filter System by SRB Photographic.
Tripod by Vanguard Photo.
Bag & inserts by Karrimore UK / Lowepro.
Outdoor Clothing & Boots by Jack Wolfskin / Karrimore UK / Decathlon.
Post Processing performed in Adobe Lightroom & Affinity Photo.
Transport by Land Rover.
On a recent editorial style portrait / headshot shoot in Prestwick International Airport with Frank Gormanley - Vice President of the Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce, owner of marketing / business growth firm Forever Great & all driven individual - I was asked if we could make some photographs that were centred around an article that he had written for the Ayrshire Magazine, an Ayrshire-based publication with a focus on business, events, fashion, food & lifestyle.
The article (You’ve got to Nourish to Flourish, Publication #27, March/April 2019) discusses the importance of allowing one’s business to flourish through a well-developed & keen growth mindset, using resources such as industry-pertinent podcasts to consistently broaden the horizons in a positive manner. With this in mind, Frank wanted to capture moments that show him on the move, ready to embrace the world in order to develop himself. To accomplish this we left the cosy Airport lounge & headed out into the cold wind.
The photograph chosen to accompany the article, which has now been published & printed, depicts Frank leaving the airport with his laptop bag, looking sharp & ready to accomplish his goals. I worked very quickly to ensure that we achieved a photograph that felt like it was ‘on the go’ - framing Franks upper body with the vertical lines of the wall & suggesting movement by utilising the diagonal / horizontal lines in conjunction with his movement through the frame. We used all-natural light, with Frank looking towards the Sun - or rather, the metaphorical beacon of potential opportunities outwith the Airport grounds. No need for modifiers when the light is good ;) After delivering the final images, Frank left me a very kind review on Facebook;
”Pleasure working with Scott yesterday! His eye for detail and direction was spot on. What was unique was the excitement in trying out different styles and techniques across the shoot. Scott’s passion and drive for the discipline shone through. Here’s to working again in the future...” 🏅✔️
Seeing one’s work in print (especially within a publication) is always a fantastic feeling, as it brings the creative process to its natural conclusion. Sometimes, simply posting images on social media or viewing them on a screen removes the personal attachment one may feel with a piece of work - but seeing it in the physical realm in a medium that can be held is a very precious thing indeed in a world that is always moving at breakneck speed!
“𝐷𝑜 𝑛𝑜𝑡 𝑏𝑒 𝑎𝑛𝑔𝑟𝑦 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑟𝑎𝑖𝑛; 𝑖𝑡 𝑠𝑖𝑚𝑝𝑙𝑦 𝑑𝑜𝑒𝑠 𝑛𝑜𝑡 𝑘𝑛𝑜𝑤 ℎ𝑜𝑤 𝑡𝑜 𝑓𝑎𝑙𝑙 𝑢𝑝𝑤𝑎𝑟𝑑𝑠.” - 𝑉𝑙𝑎𝑑𝑖𝑚𝑖𝑟 𝑁𝑎𝑏𝑜𝑘𝑜𝑣
I’m standing on the Auld Brig of Ayr - in the doorway of a small café that leads out onto the cobbled path. The rain is interspersed with heavy sleet & is falling like steel rods upon the windswept & empty streets. It’s a rather bleak scene but it’s perfect for the photograph that I wish to make; so I must wait.
The brig itself is dated 1236 AD, though it is actually older than this. It spans across the River Ayr as it cuts its way down through the town - through the hills & gorges of Ayrshire & meeting the sea not a quarter mile from where I’m currently standing. Having crossed the ‘Auld Brig’ countless times in my life thus far, I’m aware that the world-famous Ayrshire Poet & Bard Robert Burns actually wrote a poem dedicated to its legacy, found HERE.
My favourite stanzas within the poem are taken from the latter section, wherein the old & new bridges are hurling insults at one another. It’s worth noting that the ‘New Brig’ is much wider than the old, featuring a two-way road whilst the ‘Auld Brig’ is much narrower, accepting only pedestrians in the modern day;
"Auld Vandal! ye but show your little mense,
Just much about it wi' your scanty sense:
Will your poor, narrow foot-path of a street,
Where twa wheel-barrows tremble when they meet,
Your ruin'd, formless bulk o' stane and lime,
Compare wi' bonie brigs o' modern time?
There's men of taste wou'd tak the Ducat stream,
Tho' they should cast the very sark and swim,
E’er they would grate their feelings wi' the view
O' sic an ugly, Gothic hulk as you."
"Conceited gowk! puff'd up wi' windy pride!
This mony a year I've stood the flood an' tide;
And tho' wi' crazy eild I'm sair forfairn,
I'll be a brig when ye're a shapeless cairn!
As yet ye little ken about the matter,
But twa-three winters will inform ye better.
When heavy, dark, continued, a'-day rains!”
Robert Burns | The Brigs o Ayr
I’ve waited a wee while to make this photograph as I’ve been considering various compositions - I knew that I wanted to shoot the bridge from the North side, I also knew that I wanted to include the enigmatic spire of Ayr Town Hall, with its giant lion sculptures guarding each corner. With this in mind I’ve set up my tripod & I’m shooting at 28mm to capture a wider scene. I’ve chosen to shoot today as I want the photograph to demonstrate the general atmosphere of the town in the modern day. With over a hundred empty shops, the town is now beginning to look a bit bleak. The dark skies & the soaking wet paving stones help to convey this.
I’m shooting at f11 for a balanced focus across my frame & with a polarising filter to make the wet masonry pop I have an exposure time of 1/20th of a second at ISO 50. With a two-second timer I’m careful to fire the shutter whilst the wind drops so as not to blur the tree to my left too much but apart from that I’m not bothered at the longer shutter speed. Looking good!
I decide that to balance my exposure a bit better, to really capture some shadow detail, I need a graduated filter. I select a 0.8 soft edged filter from my pouch, slip it into my filter holder & make another exposure - much better.
The final image may lack the same wow-factor as a shot from a mountain ridge or a coastal sunset, but it’s a moody depiction of a location steeped in local history & folklore. That, to me, make it worth it! Even after hundreds of years, the Auld Brig o’ Ayr still stands strong & that is reason enough to capture it in a contemporary photograph - a recording of the present if you will.
Camera & Optics by Sony / Samyang.
Elite Filter System by SRB Photographic.
Tripod by Vanguard Photo.
Bag & inserts by Karrimore UK / Lowepro.
Outdoor Clothing & Boots by Jack Wolfskin / Karrimore UK / Decathlon.
"𝐷𝑜 𝑛𝑜𝑡 𝑔𝑜 𝑤ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑝𝑎𝑡ℎ 𝑚𝑎𝑦 𝑙𝑒𝑎𝑑, 𝑔𝑜 𝑖𝑛𝑠𝑡𝑒𝑎𝑑 𝑤ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑖𝑠 𝑛𝑜 𝑝𝑎𝑡ℎ 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑙𝑒𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑎 𝑡𝑟𝑎𝑖𝑙." - 𝑅𝑎𝑙𝑝ℎ 𝑊𝑎𝑙𝑑𝑜 𝐸𝑚𝑒𝑟𝑠𝑜𝑛
Whilst out in the old Carrick Forest in South Ayrshire searching for a Neolithic chambered cairn that I’d missed on a recent commission, I found that the hills in the surrounding glens had a nice dusting of snow on them. I decided to abandon my search for the cairn & climb Rowantree Hill instead. I’d visited this hill before, making photographs from the road for future reference - but today I was going to scale it!
I started my ascent by trudging through a sodden peat bog, there is no path up & the near vertical hillside was slippy & arduous. I slowly scrambled up in a zig-zag formation for better grip; there were points where I had to grab hold of the bracken to physically pull myself up, but I eventually reach the plateau of Glenapp Hill wherein it was a simple slog to the summit of Rowantree Hill. As always, Coops led the way, bouncing up & down the hillside in the knee-high snow whilst I struggled along… The first 3/4’s of an ascent is always challenging, but on the final leg you experience a second-wind when you realise that you’re almost there.
I took the opportunity to rest on a glacial boulder, sipping on a refreshing drink whilst soaking in the 360 degree views, from the Galloway Forest to the East, the Carrick Hills to the North, Ailsa Craig to the West & the hills to the South. The wind had a chill factor of -2 degrees & my boots were soaked through thanks to the moss & the snow, but I was still glowing from my ascent & I was feeling great!
Once I’d re-energised I began to explore the summit, knowing that I wanted a composition that would compliment the side-lit range to the North, namely the Rig of the Shalloch. The snow clouds were moving along beautifully & were very dynamic - the light was changing all the time. I found a small Loch in a section of peat-bog, with beautifully frozen edges & I set up my camera to make my exposure.
Settings wise, I knew that I wanted to capture the dynamic scene in sharp focus with a well balanced exposure to capture the detail in both the highlights in the sky & the shadows within the bracken. I chose an aperture of f16 & focused a third of the way into my frame for optimal focus throughout & applied a circular polariser to dial in the reflected light on the Loch’ surface & to bring out more detail in the clouds before adding a 0.8 soft edged filter just to balance the exposure a bit more. Nothing too drastic!
I made a series of photographs as the light developed across my scene so that I had a good selection of exposures to choose from once I got down off of the hill. I wasn’t leaving this one to chance. My descent was slow as I had to tread carefully on the snow - I actually ended up sitting down & sliding most of the way, though I very almost lost control. I eventually reached the bottom of the steep slope & drank from the Brandy Well - a thoughtfully placed freshwater spring.
Standing at the top of that hill, I considered the mostly unseen beauty of Carrick & South Ayrshire. Not many people really explore what is around them & it’s a shame, because there is so much to discover. Many think that they have to travel to the Highlands to find vast glens & mountain passes - but what they don’t realise is that if they just travelled for an hour within the area they’d discover a whole new world; without the crowds!
Camera & Optics by Sony / Samyang.
Elite Filter System by SRB Photographic.
Tripod by Manfrotto.
Bag & inserts by Karrimore UK / Lowepro.
Outdoor Clothing & Boots by Jack Wolfskin / Karrimore UK / Decathlon.
Business Portraiture. There’s a fine line between what is & isn’t acceptable as a professional headshot - especially in the corporate world. One must observe power dynamics within the operational hierarchy, taking great care to ensure that the director is well defined from the workforce. When it comes to small businesses though, a much more creative approach is often the key to differentiating your subject from the pack - albeit subtly.
I’ve learned that there is much more to business portraiture than simply meeting a client & shooting photographs with some nice lighting. As a very creative & philosophical individual, I have to check that my direction meets the need of the client rather than fulfilling some artistic vision that I may have. I strongly believe that headshots & portraiture are entirely dependent on a clients unique personality from the offset. It is my duty to observe how much of this personality should shine through in the finished photographs.
By way of example, I was recently commissioned to make photographs for Heather Thomson, ND; a medical professional & naturopath based in Prestwick, Ayrshire. Heather wanted professional, yet informal, portraits that would convey her character to prospective clients. We met on Prestwick beach, the weather was rather bleak with a storm blowing in from the West. We chatted whilst I shot some nice locational portraits, getting to know each other a bit better before we escaped the storm for the shelter of her clinic where the real work would be done.
Heathers personality was professional, but she is a very funny & warm individual, so I wanted to make photographs that balanced this nicely. I set up some lighting, bouncing a speed light from the rear wall for some fill-light & using a softbox to light Heather, casting a very subtle shadow for a bit of definition. I opted not to pose my subject, instead capturing exposures as we made jokes & discussing things like acupuncture, ‘cupping’ (a traditional Chinese method which sounds a bit strange) & Chi. I made sure to show Heather what I had captured so as to reaffirm any sense of doubt as the session progressed - once we felt that we had captured the best we finished up & headed home.
The most important factor within this particular shoot was the confidence that we shared due to our meeting on the beach. While Heather was able to grow comfortable with me, I was able to determine the characteristics that I felt would benefit her portraits & express her personality to prospective clients across social media & on her website.
I delivered my work within the timeframe that I’d predetermined & Heather was over the moon - no edits!
Visit Heather’s site for more information at;
Over the last couple of weeks the weather on the West Coast of Scotland has been rather dull. Cold winds, overcast skies & endless rain have sapped any semblance of productive local photography & I’ve been working away in the studio, making portraits for commercial clients & corporate leaders.
Finally, there was a break in the localised cloud. I travelled up the coast to Inverclyde where I enjoyed a full day of making great (ahem) photographs - from coastal panoramas, intimate seaside shots, hillside portraits & even some abstract sunset work to top it off..
I don’t often suffer from a lack of creativity, but when I do, it’s usually because the weather prevents the creation of unique photographs. I suppose that’s just reality here on the West Coast.
My advice would be to either a) leave the camera alone & do some research to pass the time or b) focus on making photographs in a different style, fine art for example. This will help to keep your mind working whilst the weather passes by.
The image below distilled all of the abject weather into a panoramic image which both tells a story & highlights the different weather patterns that we face on the coast - Argyll from Cloch Point, Inverclyde.
In this blog, I will underline my process for shooting Mycological ‘portraits’. Why use the word portrait? Maybe it’s because I’ve been fascinated by mushrooms since I was young; but, if you do a little research you’ll find that they in fact share some similarities with humans! As with shooting portraits of people, it’s always a lot of fun to experiment with different lighting techniques when shooting mushrooms; generally they live in dark places so it makes sense from a photographic point of view too.
Given that it’s now Autumn, the time is right to head into your local woodland to discover a world largely unseen. The woods really come to life in the Autumn, with stunning displays of colour, succulent scents & plenty of little scenes for you to explore!
1. Choosing your Location;
Though you’ll find mushrooms growing in both deciduous & non-deciduous woodlands, I prefer to explore deciduous locations as there’s often a lot more on offer, a lot more variety & a lot more space to explore. I’ll generally explore woodlands that are close to a river, with steep embankments - this usually means that conditions will be reliably damp & I’ll have plenty of opportunities for shooting/lighting at different angles.
2. Choosing a Subject;
Once you’ve explored your location, you’ll want to find a subject that pique’s your interest. Look for interesting formations, colouration, contrasting visual traits or characteristics such as relationships between a group of mushrooms. You’ll want a scene which isn’t too cluttered, so look for subjects that have a clearly defined space within their landscape. Personally, I won’t enhance a scene by moving undergrowth debris etc as I don’t want to affect the ecosystem at all.
3. Composing your Scene;
Now that you’ve found your subject, you’ll want to compose your scene. I generally look at my subject from every angle & experiment with perspective until I find a position that really enhances the scene. Once you have your position, look at your foreground/background in relation to your subject; do you want it in focus or do you want it blurred? I like to shoot at larger apertures (lower f-stops) as it allows me to draw attention to my subject. It also has the benefit of creating an attractive blur or Bokeh around the subject. However; sometimes you’ll want everything in focus and a smaller aperture (higher f-stops) will help you to achieve this.
With mushrooms you have the choice of shooting from above for an overhead perspective, full frontal for an ‘eyeline’ perspective or from below for a really intimate & interesting perspective that isn’t usually seem. Each of these different perspectives offer exciting opportunities for lighting, so keep this in mind when finding your camera position.
Note; You’ll want either a lens with a close focusing distance, macro capabilities or a couple of ‘extension tubes’ to really get in about your subject at an intimate level. When shooting intimate scenes at close range or on a macro spectrum, I’ll generally use a lens with a variable focal distance (or zoom) as this allows me to easily pull in/out of a scene & recompose without having to move my tripod in tight situations.
4. Setting Up;
So, you have your subject, you’ve composed your shot & you’re happy with your perspective. Now you’ll need to look at lighting the scene. Firstly, think about the message you’d like to convey. Would you like a brightly lit scene resplendent with vibrant colour? Would you like a moody scene draped in deep shadow? Once I know what I’d like to say with my photograph, I’ll use a video light with variable intensity/temperature controls to find my lighting angles.
Generally, lighting with harsh, cool temperatures allows me to define where my shadows will fall within my scene. I then use warmer temperatures to fine tune the lighting positions in a much more natural sense. I’ll set up my master flash, using a wireless trigger for off-body shooting & then make test exposures until I’m happy with my main light source. Most of the time, I’ll use a small soft-box or diffuser on my master flash as this softens the light & allows it to ‘wrap’ around my subject.
Once you’ve got your flash in position, you may want to think about a secondary light source or ‘slave’. I generally use a slave to provide a bit of rim-lighting (back light) as this helps to add depth to my subject. I’ll also experiment with coloured flash gels, using the colour wheel to see which colours work well with my subject. Generally, woodland scenes will be of a warmer tone, therefore Blues & Greens tend to work well. It’s purely down to your personal aesthetic though! I like to use a large circular diffuser when backlighting a subject too, as this helps to soften the effect.
5. Exposing your Photograph
When using flash, you’ll want to remove any ambient lighting. To do this, you’ll want to shoot at higher shutter speeds; anything above 1/80th of a second in usually fine in woodland scenarios. Keep an eye on your shutter speed though - depending on your flash system your shutter speed can be too fast for the flash & this will cause a black bar across your image where the physical shutter blocks the light on the cameras sensor. Speeds below 1/200ths of a second without HSS (High Speed Sync) are generally fine. Once I’ve balanced my shutter speed & my aperture, I’ll usually set my ISO to 200/300. This means that I can reduce my exposure without having to change my other settings if need be!
I hope that this piece has helped to expand your photographic skillset & inspired you to get out there & explore the macro world that is the woodland undergrowth! Please remember to roam responsibly; leave as you came & respect that you are a visitor to the environment. Happy hunting!
Go Outside, It’s Good For You!
It was a lonely day on the shore front; the lighting was exceptionally flat & the low-altitude blanket of cloud meant that any hope of decent colour during sunset was null & void. Instead of leaving the beach empty handed however, I opted to change out my wide angle lens for something a bit longer to pick out any smaller details in the landscape. I soon spotted a composition that I liked, a single solitary soul wandering along the beach defined only by their silhouette. At that point, I decided that I'd try something a bit different.
To create the image I had in mind, I had to capture two photographs. One was of the figure striding along the beach at a fast shutter speed of around 1/200th of a second & the other was to be a shot with a longer shutter speed of approximately 1 second, which allowed me enough time to shoot with 'intentional camera movement'. Basically, I had my camera on a tripod, level with the horizon. During the longer exposure, I rotated the head of the tripod so that the scene seemed to smear across the frame.
Once I had the two exposures that I needed, I headed home & fired up Photoshop. I opened the two exposures, placing the shorter exposure on top of the longer. I then used tools such as the selection tool & the eraser to leave only the man and the Arctic Tern (100% as shot) on top of the 'smeared' layer. After some basic colour editing and exposure tweaks, the photograph which you see now was what I was left with.
The entire process was very simple, yet the final result is very interesting & visually arresting, with the sharp lines capturing your attention & dividing the frame as the figure seemingly moves through it - hounded by the Tern!
Short Exposure : 85mm - 1/200' Exposure @ f 1.4, ISO 100
Long Exposure : 85mm - 1' Exposure @ f 11, ISO 100 + Polarising Filter
I recently shared the following photograph on my Facebook page as a bit of an experiment & I was taken by surprise when one of my followers left the wonderful poem below in the comments field. I am honoured that a piece of my work has inspired someone else to create something & that they were compelled to compose a poem based on their experience of my output!
[The photograph itself was an experimental street fashion shot for Glasgow based fashion label Social Recluse.]
"Hint of Light"
There in the shadows wry,
smile on his lips, the frame
was denied me, disguised
identity, memory digs.
High brow raised eyebrow
gave out no hint, tshirt now
shapeless of the light just
With no greater knowledge
of the shadowy shape I
stepped in the shadows
resigned to my fate.
Poem Written by Kit Duddy for The Eye of God Photography. You can follow Kit and read more of his wonderful prose in the following link;
While it is true that the ready availability of information on the web has catalysed the development of many a keen mind, it has also given rise to a steady decline in articulation across the board. Those whom previously may have fallen by the wayside, due to a distinct lack of quality in their work, have been given a platform by which they can saturate their chosen markets, without the hindrance of personal reflection and/or learning curves.
As creative professionals, we no longer need to study our chosen subjects in order to develop an unspoken understanding of our field. Instead, if something comes up that we don’t understand, we can open a browser and look it up - or, if we don’t want to make that sort of commitment to our craft, we can simply start a thread on a social media platform and let others do the legwork for us. The same rules also apply to those under a course of study. A subject or technique is briefly discussed before subsequently becoming the go-to until the next is introduced to the individuals (of which there are many).
Though it’s very easy to be cynical in a society which is (increasingly) cut-throat at best, the important thing is to figure out the issues at play and to set about incurring change. Even if it’s only on a personal basis. As creatives trying to develop our skills and to forge a path for ourselves in an increasingly difficult working environment, we must strive towards excellence. In the age of availability, we are told that the hustle is more important than quality of work, and this, is a integral part of the problem we all face.
We must focus on our artistic integrity, while nurturing our own creative development. We must stoke the fires of productivity in order to compete, yes, but we must also place an unwavering value upon our work without the incessant need for ‘content’ clouding our collective judgement. We must resist crossing the threshold unto falsity in order to meet targets and instead rely upon our skills to get the job done to the highest standard possible at that point in our development. We must never give in to the pressures of the modern age, wherein beautiful works of creative expression are nullified within seconds.
In order to truly forge a path for ourselves in the modern age we must look at our working environments with a cynical eye. Social media, online profiling, marketing & all of the modernistic tropes are simply tools by which we may solidify our place in the world. Without a well planned and critical approach we are doomed to fall by the wayside, leaving nothing behind to account for our endeavours. No matter what you are trying to do, you must first consider how your output will benefit your growth. Nurture your efforts and allow them to bear fruit. Strive to reduce the dross in which you will become consumed and allow yourself to operate on a level which is both conducive to your own personal targets and to those around you.
PT. I - The Events as they Occurred.
In the past week I’ve encountered two different scenes that I deemed worthy of press and as such, I shot both scenes in gross detail. Scene one consisted of a large fire which had had spread through a pine woodland and gorse bushes near Irvine, North Ayrshire, due to a period of rather intense heat & distinct lack of rain. I was on my way home from a productive business meeting, cruising alongside the expansive & bustling beach park. I’d travelled approximately half a mile from Irvine harbour when I found myself driving through a dense cloud of acrid yellow smoke and heavy, grey ashes.
As I turned the next corner I came upon four fire engines & stopped the car. I got out & headed into the brush, following the trail that the firefighters had left behind them as they rushed to tackle the blaze. I got as close as I could to the woodland, to the point I could see and hear everything that the firefighters were doing and saying, without impeding them or diverting their attention from the task at hand. I shot a series of images & a short video before heading back to the road and phoning my contacts for the local press.
Fast forward fifteen minutes and I was back at Irvine harbour, seated in a local coffee shop & editing the photographs before utilising the free wi-fi to upload my work. Tipping generously for the lemonade I’d just drank I left and went home. Between leaving the coffee shop and getting home, the story had gone from local to regional press!
Scene two consisted of a relatively serious RTA (Road Traffic Accident) that took place at Prestwick Train Station. After a lazy Sunday morning I was on my way to my Grandmothers house (directly across the street from the train station) when I found the road down to my usual parking space cordoned off & blocked from view by an ambulance and road traffic Police vehicles. I quickly parked my car elsewhere and rushed to the scene, praying that my nephew hadn’t run onto the road or any other terrifying scenario which races through ones mind in a situation such as this one.
As it happened, a (rental) box-van had attempted to pass under the railway bridge at speed & being too high (the maximum height for vehicles is well signposted), collided with the bridge & very almost split in two upon the sudden impact. Once I had established that the passengers were OK I retrieved my camera from the car & proceeded to make photographs of the scene while onlookers gathered around the Police cordon, phones at the ready. I then rushed into my Grandmothers house, made a phone call & sent the images to the press for their approval.
PT. II - A Question of Motive.
“The picture that you took with your camera is the imagination you want to create with reality.”
— Scott Lorenzo
Primarily a Photographer that specialises in Portraiture, Product Photography & Landscape Photography, I am usually able to establish an idea for a shot, plan my compositions to the n’th degree & execute my designs in a relatively controlled manner. However, photojournalism is almost entirely spontaneous - requiring immediate response & a keen sense of ’sight’ in order to capture a situation effectively.
It was on both of the above-mentioned occasions that I felt compelled to document the events that were unfolding before me. I also made the conscious decision to exhibit their happenings on the broader spectrum, choosing to connect with those whom were able to amplify my experiences in a daze of pure adrenaline & some underlying & multifaceted psychological driving force. I wonder, then, what it is that compels the mind to act in such a way. Yes, it is true, that on both occasions I made sure that the situations were under control before I reached for my camera, however, I still query my own motives for doing so.
“We are making photographs to understand what our lives mean to us.”
- Ralph Hattersley
I have found that through the lens of critical self-reflection, there exists an egomaniacal satisfaction in being the first to document a scene; even more so wherein one becomes the one & only source of its visual documentation in the public eye. Becoming the conduit by which others may experience the existence of an incident outside their own private lives promotes a sense of self-importance, or of power, in the individual.
In the thinking mind, cognitive dissonance manifests itself between the act of documenting a scene and its subsequent amplification; whether it is undertaken purely as an act of collective altruism or as a personal conquest. What then, is the driving force behind making a photograph of someone else’s misfortune, or, of natural devastation? Is it an instinctive urge to make ones tribe aware of danger? Is it revelry in the face of misfortune given ones current position of safety?
“Essentially, the camera makes everyone a tourist in other peoples reality,
...and eventually in ones own”
- Susan Sontag
It is on this particular wavelength, that whenever I see a phone raised to capture a snapshot of a scene that is unfolding before an individual, I can disdainfully (& with ease) envisage some dystopian future wherein the individual seeks not to aid those in peril or to enjoy a pleasurable experience. Instead, they compulsively reach for their smartphone in order to duplicate a moment in time in some vain attempt at proving that they, in fact, existed.
I'll conclude this piece with another compelling excerpt from Susan Sontag's thought provoking compendium of essays 'On Photography'. Thanks for reading!
" The possession of a camera can inspire something akin to lust. And like all credible forms of lust, it cannot be satisfied: first, because the possibilities of photography are infinite; and second, because the project is finally self-devouring. The attempts by photographers to bolster up a depleted sense of reality contribute to the depletion. Cameras are the antidote and the disease, a means of appropriating reality and a means of making it obsolete."
“A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it. It is, in a word, effective.”
— Irving Penn
There are many ways to create a portrait for a client, whether your remit is to capture a photograph which is naturally true to life, a bit more polished & contemporary or highly experimental in nature. This all depends on your relationship with the client, their personal tastes and their faith in your work as a paying customer & as an individual.
On this particular shoot, I had no real knowledge of who Anthony was apart from what I could lift from his professional output. I was also very limited by time as I had other portraits to make on the day. So, with this in mind, I decided to take ten to fifteen minutes to get to know Anthony’s business; wandering around his yard & exploring his workshops in order to form an image in my head and to find a good background for my composition. I then spent five minutes chatting to him about the processes of smelting & reforming lead for use as ingots which informed my choice of how the portrait should look.
Given that the mid-day sun was positioned almost directly overhead I thought about how I could use this to my advantage. I knew that I wanted to use a dark background so that Anthony’s weathered features would be exaggerated & I also knew that I wanted to showcase the definition in his strong, ash covered features. To achieve these fundamental elements, I positioned Anthony in one of the workshop doorways. The workshop itself gave me the dark backdrop & the overhead sun illuminated the face; with the skipped bunnet providing a nice bit of shadow from the top of the face down.
Once I found my composition, I then used my video light which features light-temperature controls to extend my shadows and to fill a few select areas across the face. I like to use this light, as it offers me a constant light source which I can then manipulate to fit a composition when I’m required to work quickly. I set the light to cast some natural ‘warm’ light across Anthony’s face as this was more in tune with the saturation offered by the sunlight.
I guided Anthony through the process by asking him to smile through his eyes more than via his mouth which meant I could capture the natural character in his personality. I worked very quickly, capturing a series of shots in quick succession in order to maintain the organic sense of warmth and personability that exuded from him - especially after I mentioned that the shots reminded me of the old pictures of Fred Dibnah.. haha!
Though this shoot was rather rough & ready, limited for time & a tad rushed, I captured on that day one of my favourite photographs to date (& an example of why I love Portraiture); a beautiful portrait of a hard-working & highly skilled man in his element - amongst his soot ridden workshops, heavy duty & well used machinery & beautifully crafted ironworks. Needless to say, when my Grandmother expressed a desire to install wrought-iron fences in her front garden I recommended she contacted Anthony Morrell at Morrell’s Forge in Maidens, Ayrshire.
If you've got a passion for the art of smithing, please show some support by visiting Anthony's business page at : https://www.facebook.com/MorrellsForgeBlacksmiths/
Today I’m shooting photographs of the Buck '221 Creek Knife' & in this blog, I’ll run you through my general process for crafting a final image.
Ok. To set up my composition and to frame the product, I first consider what I would use the product for in the real world. In this case, it’d be survival or outdoors activities. I decide that it'd be best to focus on the theme fire-building, opting to reflect the process of creating fuel for a camp fire. To do this, I’d wear my thick, ‘blade-proof’ gloves, use the (very sharp) knife to carve kindling & a durable, refillable lighter to ignite it.
Now that I’ve established my theme, I choose my background, opting for loose bark as fits nicely in to aesthetic of my image & features a nice rich pallette to play with. I set up my composition, using only natural light as this is empathetic with the scenario in my head and the idea which I wish to convey.
The Knife takes centre position, set diagonally against the flat background. The Gloves and the lighter are then introduced, set diagonally at the opposite angle to aid the eye in finding the knife (leading lines). I’m shooting at 85mm, with an aperture of f11 to optimise my sharpness across the frame. My white balance is set to ‘cloudy’ as this is truest to the scene & I’ve got a shutter speed of 1/13th of a second. I don’t have any need to boot my ISO from 100, as I don't have any movement in my scene. I take the shot & then open the image in Adobe Lightroom.
Original RAW File. Unedited.
Editing Pt. 1 - Overall Image Balancing in Lightroom
Before I start to balance my image, I picture how I want the final image to look. I want a gritty, modern looking image that appeals to all audiences with earthy tones & clean detail. I also need to be mindful that the company may want to add text & logos. With this in mind, I select a crop that is aesthetically pleasing & frames the subject well.
I double check my white balance & colour tint, which are both fine. There are no obvious changes to the original colour of the Knife & I can move on to adding a touch of contrast to enhance the richness of the colour palette across the frame.
Balancing my light settings is a subtle process with this image, as everything is relatively well balanced. I reduce the highlights by about 25% & boost the shadows by 5% to draw out some detail before adding a 15% boost to the images clarity. This helps to define the overall structure. I then drop my vibrance & saturation by 5% & 15% respectively - now I’m starting to shape the overall colour of the shot with respect to my original concept.
Dialling in the hues of the colour palette, I then desaturate the yellows, reds & oranges this draws more attention to the blues of the knife, where I boost the luminosity of the blue in the handle. I have no use for split toning in this particular shot, so I move onto sharpening the image - this adds a wee bit of grit which will come in handy in part two of my process. The last action I perform is the addition of a very subtle vignette - further leading the eye towards the centre of the image and the logo on the knives blade.
At this point, I’m happy with how the image is shaping up. I’ve sorted the fundamental balance of the image & I’m now ready to implement part two of my processing - polishing (or ‘mastering’). To retain all detail & digital information I then open the image as a .TIFF copy in Photoshop via Lightroom.
Editing Pt. 2. Polishing The Final Image in Photoshop
The first step I take is to make a duplicate of the original layer, performing some additional (but subtle) noise reduction. I’m careful not to affect the overall sharpness of the image, as NR can be quite destructive. This layer is then merged with the original and I can start to creatively edit the image.
Generally, the next step for me is to add contrast layers, one for overall contrast & a second for more localised edits. I tease out the finer details by making subtle boosts to the mid-range contrast, which adds to the earthy feel of the shot. Next, I hone in on the knife, making sure that everything remains natural. By editing the product alone, I’m able to make it pop out of the image - making it the prime focus. I usually aim to have my opacity set between 10/50% on this layer. This means that it blends nicely into the frame.
I add a subtle layer of ‘Dehazing’ just to reduce any leftover light-distortion. This helps to define the image since I’m using natural light. At this point I notice a slight blue hue to the blade & opt to reduce this locally by adding a colour cast mask - this reduces the blue tint & makes the metal look more grey which is closest to the original colour. At this point I’m pretty much done. I tighten my crop - being mindful of the gaps in the corners, burn my shadows slightly to add a bit of richness & add a final vignette - using the eraser at an opacity of 50% to sculpt my corner shadows.
The final step in the process is to add the fade which gives the image a cinematic feel, concurrent with modern processing. To do this, I create a curves mask & pull up the blacks (or crush them) in a heavy handed fashion. I dial this in across the image by reducing the opacity to 10% & export the image as a full-resolution JPEG file & a watermarked half-resolution JPEG for sharing purposes.
Final Image. Processed JPEG.
While it’s generally true that only the best photographs from a shoot will appear before the public, I thought that in the name of transparency it might be a good idea to put out some of my failed shots. Nothing is ever perfect - sometimes things go to plan, but most of the time they don’t. The weather in Ayrshire and in Scotland changes rapidly and sometimes without warning, as does the light required to add that special touch to a composition.
The first image I’ll share in this series is an exposure made upon a headland on the Heads of Ayr, which you can see below.
The air was quite humid with an element of fog which remained unseen until I switched on my headlamp to head back across the fields towards the road. I was shooting from a very exposed headland wherein the wind changed direction inconsistently - both blowing my tripod (which was weighed down) and pushing dense cloud across the sky & obscuring what little stars I could actually see.
That morning, I had purchased a 10-20mm lens, which has an amazingly wide field of view. The main issue I faced with this lens however, was that I had bought a Nikon fit (which I’m adapting to fit my Sony body with a ‘dummy’ adapter). This means that to change aperture, I have to manually set the aperture pin on the base of the lens until I either a) purchase a manual adapter with aperture control or b) purchase an electronic adapter. Having just shot in Dunure, I’d set the lens to f 3.5 - reducing the depth of field & allowing more light to enter the sensor.
A few issues arose in the moment, such as being unable to magnify the stars in order to attain pin sharp focus (I’ve since rectified this issue) and being unable to truly gauge my exposure (+2 stops was equal to -2 stops underexposed) - making up for this with a high ISO which in turn, introduced some colour ‘noise’ - which is anathema to me! With all of this in mind, my image suffered from shake due to the high winds, lack of focus due to my inability to hone in on the stars and high noise due to using a high ISO and boosting the exposure in post production. The result is an image which is both soft and features trailing of the stars.
I do love the juxtaposition of the clear blue night sky against the cloud which is glowing orange due to the light pollution from Dunure/Girvan/Cars - the colour is exactly what I’d hope for. I also like the composition, which has a lofty atmosphere - so it’s not all bad. All in all, I was able to rectify the issues that befell me on the night. I’ll return when the conditions are a bit more favourable for long exposures and get the shot I wanted that night! Without the f*** up’s, I wouldn’t have the skills to ascertain what the issues are. It’s a simple case of trial and error - which will pay off when a shot comes up which requires immediate attention.
As I sit and look over a soothingly calm sea, towards the well-lit mountains of Arran, I feel the heat of the afternoon sun warming my back as it slowly begins to descend towards the horizon. It’s been cold and bleak so far this year and today is the first day that I’ve been able to sit comfortably on the sand in just a t-shirt, soaking up the ambience of the coast.
I’m sitting on the beach below Culzean Castle at low tide and I’m waiting for the sun to set for the day. I’ve got a nice composition set up, my camera locked in place on its tripod, filters carefully selected and settings dialled in ready for the brief moment of golden light that will illuminate the scene, bringing it to life. So far, everything is looking good for a clear sunset, though the wind has begun to pick up and there’s a worrying amount of rain clouds passing overhead across the sea (it’s been blue skies all day)!
An oystercatcher soars somewhere abovehead, calling out to the others foraging amongst the rocks. The sound reverberates and echoes around the shallow bay, amplified by the rocky cliff face before diffusing amongst the trees on the outermost cliffs - a wondrous effect! Everything else is silent, barring the gentle ebb and flow of the waters edge and the tweeting of songbirds amongst the trees.
Unfortunately, as time drifts by, the clouds have grown much heavier and are now diffusing the available sunlight. This is worrying. Though my plans were now under threat, I seize the opportunity to capture a very moody monochromatic shot of the castle from the sands of the beach - briefly lit by a break in the clouds as they drifted westward. Kneeling in the wet sand to capture this shot, I notice little trails which I discover are caused by molluscs travelling between the rock-pools at low-tide - something I’ve never seen before!
I go back to my original composition as it’s now Golden Hour - though the cloud has become so thick that the light is all but useless for my composition. I decided to leave and simply edit a daylit long exposure shot that I’d captured earlier on.
Do I regret wasting hours of my life waiting for the final image? No. By simply being in the moment I witnessed a brief but dramatic change in weather, enjoyed the sun on my back while gathering agate on the shoreline, met new people and generally found time to think about my overarching plans for The Eye of God Photography. While I didn’t get the shot I had planned, I got a couple that I’m very satisfied with instead.
- Go Outside, It's Good For You!
Oaft! It’s the first of January 2018 - A new year, a fresh start and another 365 days worth of opportunities to be embraced!
Having met with the Princes Trust, attended in-depth business seminars and submitting a rough copy of my business plan / proposal to their funding panel, I’m happy to announce that I will be receiving the funding that I require to take The Eye of God Photography to the next level - to run it as my first business. This is a venture which I am extremely excited to explore - to ride the tiger, as it were.
I have a lot to do to make this happen in January though. I need to finish my website, sort out my finances, get in touch with the Inland Revenue and put the final touches onto my plan for the year. However, once these small hurdles have been cleared I’ll be ready to get out there and get stuck in.
I’ve got some pretty big things planned, things which I can’t reveal as of this moment in time - but, what I can reveal is that I aim to get my YouTube channel off the ground (having posted my first video in December here; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SovGqZFF2_Q&t=3s) with more videos detailing my photographic journey to come, to start offering one-to-one photographic workshops, to work with a lot of interesting people and to generally grow as a person and as a professional - I also plan to get out a lot more. This means full on and intensive extended trips into the Scottish wilderness (Rain, Hail or Shine), journeys further afield than I’ve previously been thus far and generally discovering places that I haven’t seen before. Most folk want to visit other countries, but I want to devour my homeland before I go anywhere else. I want to explore every nook and cranny and to experience everything that this amazing place on Earth has to offer.
It's with all of this buzzing around my head that I enter a new year. I’ve never enjoyed Hogmanay before, but standing on the harbour, between the land and the sea - embracing the winds of Storm Dylan with Chelsea in my arms and Cooper at my feet - I was actually excited for the clock to read 00.00.
The image below, taken while everyone was out celebrating, details a sculpture in Ayr town centre known locally as ‘The Fish Cross’. The sculpture stands amongst a slew of empty shops - a dismal spectre and representation of the town today. The figure stands, looking down at the fish in his arms - symbolic of the Ayr of yesteryear; a successful place built upon local trade - now just a shadow of itself, falling apart all around him.
I took this photograph not to revel in Ayr’s creeping decrepitude, but to inspire myself to enact positive change - no matter how small a fish I may be (pun intended). I personally remember Ayr as a thriving social hub full of small businesses and that’s the way I’d like the future generations to remember it too. It is for this reason that I pledge to donate a portion of my profits as a business into local development charities and into local food banks.
Why the food banks? Well, during the process of starting all of this up I was owed a considerable sum of money. I was rapidly reaching the point where the money I was borrowing was running out, my overdraft was breached and I was really struggling both financially and mentally. Though I knew the money I was owed was coming, I realised how bad it must be for those who live in that constant state of desperation through no fault of their own. Walking through the supermarket a week before Christmas feeling sorry for myself, I came to the realisation that there were people in my community that were truly suffering; and I wanted to actively combat such a corrosive social ailment if I could.
While the powers that be seem to act in a manner that suggests that we don’t matter and that our towns are simply a hindrance to their plans, it is up to us as a COMMUNITY to support those greatest in need around us - the Princes Trust are helping me, so it is only right that I extend a helping hand too. Should you have the means, I’d implore you to do the same.
It may be an un-realistic Utopian ideal, but lets actually do something for each another in 2018, so that no one needs to wake up in the morning feeling like there is no point in carrying on.