Blog, Prints & Photography Lessons from Edinburgh and the Lothians

Archive for June, 2011

Photographing the Red Arrows over Edinburgh

Unless you live near an airbase or in near of the events the Red Arrows regularly visit the opportunity to photograph the RAF’s display team doesn’t come around that often. With the announcement that the Red Arrows would be performing over the skies of Edinburgh as part of the Armed Forces Day celebrations this was simply a chance too good to miss. Of course, I could make the trip to the Leuchars Airshow any year and catch them less than 2 hours drive away but to get them over your home city was something quite special.

Edinburgh Council recommended viewing points of Calton Hill, Braid Hill, Corstorphine Hill or Cramond Promenade, none of which were particularly near the display or particularly great viewpoints. Calton Hill at a push would have been ok but too far from the actual action and would have meant using a monster lens all the time.

With the display centering on Leith the best options seemed to be either the roof of the Ocean Terminal car park or down on the sea front at Newhaven. Figuring that the Ocean Terminal side would be busy I went for Newhaven instead. Down here if you drive past all the flats you can get parked up close to the old lighthouse right at the sea entrance to Leith Docks, from here it was a perfect vantage point over the docks and the Firth of Forth where the bulk of the action was to take place.

Having never photographed anything like this before it was a bit of a learning curve to say the least. Obviously, the important thing here was going to be getting a fast enough shutter. To get this I put the D90 on Shutter priority mode at 1/800th and let the camera pick the aperture. I did try auto ISO as well limiting the range to a max of 800 but the camera seemed to always want to be on ISO800 when it could easily have dropped a lot lower than that. The light wasn’t helped either by the big black cloud moving over at display time although it did accent the smoke trails nicely!

Lens choice was simple; I went for the Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EX HSM. Perfect lens for this sort of stuff. Mega quick focus, no extending barrel and very sharp. I had also planned to use the 2x teleconverter but on getting to the location it was simply too much zoom, especially on a crop sensor DSLR. I had intended to use spot metering but trying this on test shots of planes coming into Edinburgh Airport the sky was way overexposing so I went back to metering the scene and compensating to +1ev so as to not underexpose the sky, which in the event worked out almost spot on.

I let the D90 handle the auto focus, using 3D tracking and a wide area centre point which worked perfectly paired with the 70-200mm lens. Days of photographing fast moving rally cars with this lens proved to be valuable experience!

One the display started I tried to concentrate on the smoke trails rather than the actual aircraft, figuring the best shots would come from the wider shots with the swooping trails rather than close-up’s of the jets. I did get some closer shots, even switching to using the 2x teleconverter for some. With a 24 minute display there was plenty opportunity to test out a few different things and get some variation in shots. In the main though, the 70-200 was more than enough and coupled with the D90’s high speed shooting I rattled off in the region of 500 shots over the 24 minutes.

One thing was very evident over the course of the display, the D90’s buffer was WAY to weedy for this stuff. After about 5 shots in RAW it was starting to stutter so I had to be careful not to waste the high speed shots too early or risk missing the perfect moment.

At the end of the day, the display was awesome, the only way to describe it and I was well pleased with the shots I came back with. The only thing I missed was trying to get a shot of the close pass of 2 planes with the 2x on to get closer in. I’m planning a visit to Leuchars in September though so hopefully I’ll get another chance at that particular shot.

Best of the weekend’s shots below:

Red arrows, Edinburgh 24th June 2011

Red arrows, Edinburgh 24th June 2011

Red arrows, Edinburgh 24th June 2011

Red arrows, Edinburgh 24th June 2011

Red arrows, Edinburgh 24th June 2011

Red Arrows Edinburgh June 24 2011 6

Red Arrows Edinburgh June 24 2011 5

Red Arrows Edinburgh June 24 2011 4

Red Arrows Edinburgh June 24 2011 7

Red Arrows Edinburgh June 24 2011 8

Red Arrows Edinburgh June 24 2011 2

Red Arrows Edinburgh June 24 2011 1

Red Arrows Edinburgh June 24 2011 3


Photography Location Guide – The Gormley at Ocean Terminal

Ocean Terminal is best known in Edinburgh as the last docking point of the Royal Yacht Brittania. If you’re so inclinded you can board the Queen’s cast off boat for a tour down here or if that’s not you’re thing, Ocean Terminal itself is a huge many floored shopping centre with plenty of shops, coffee houses, restaurants and even a cinema to keep most people entertained.

For photographers however, there is a much better prize on offer in this unlikely setting. To find it, continue past the front doors of Ocean Teminal and either park in the surface carpark at the far end at the Debenhams or if that’s full there’s the multi-storey right next to it. Just to the side of this is a path named Britannia Walk which runs right along the side of Leith Docks which in iself can be a nice photographic opportunity depending on what’s docked in here at the time.

Continue down the walk and you’ll see Britannia docked on your left, straight ahead though is what we’re here for! Leading out into the docks Western Harbour is a derelict wooden pier, which in it’s own right is an intersting enough subject but a couple of years back an Anthony Gormley statue (think Angel of the North) was installed at the end of the pier as part of the Gormley 6 exhibition which placed 6 statues of the artist at strategic points along the water of Leith with the last one being situated here.

This area can be a magnet for local photographers so don’t be too surprised if you’re not the only one here with a camera. The pier itself isn’t great for access as it’s in a very deep section of the docks and the only option of a shot of it is over the railings which isn’t a great hardship here. It’s ripe for long exposures but do watch out for light reflection up of the shiney railings which will be under your lens which can have an effect on images. You can shoot this pier in a variety of ways some of which are showen below.

While you’re here though, take a look over the harbour to the flats on the other side, these make a great shot in still conditions, especially at night. You might also be lucky enough to see some of the cruise boats that visit Edinburgh in here, not the bigger ships as they dock typically at Hound Point at South Queensferry but some sizeable liners and naval vessels make regular appearances in here too.

Again, it’s a nice shot for sunset in summer, late May to August typically being the best time to attempt this shot.

Sunset long exposure shot along the pier:
Gormley Sunset 26 April 2011

Long exposure to the left of the pier:
Old Pier Mono

Closer shot of the Gormley:
Gormley 6

Effect achieved by twisting the zoom on the camera during the exposure:
Twisted artwork

Newhaven Flats on a still day:
Western Harbour Reflections

Newhaven Flats on a still night:
Western Harbour Night Reflections


Photography Location Guide – Newhaven Harbour

Newhaven Harbour is one of these undiscovered gems that 9 out of 10 tourists will never find with they visit the city which is a pity as it’s one of the most attractive areas along the Edinburgh coastline. Situated just to the east of Leith Docks and west of the larger Granton Harbour this small harbour provides a wealth of photographic opportunities.

Getting to Newhaven is easy; simply head along the A901 which hugs the Edinburgh coastline, if the Firth of Forth is on your left coming from the west of the city or on your right coming from the east then keep going and you’ll eventually find it. There’s lots of free parking in the area, either in the free bays along Starbank Road to the South of the Harbour or if you turn hard left just part the harbour and follow the road around you can park on the cobbled area right next to it.

By far the most striking feature of this small harbour is its lighthouse. One of the best and most accessible local examples you’ll find in this area. You can walk right out to the base of the lighthouse and it’s hard to take a picture of Newhaven without if featuring in some way or another.

At low tide the harbour all but drains of all it’s water creating plenty of opportunity for long exposure shots of the boats as they beach on the harbour’s muddy bed. At low tide to the north of the lighthouse the large jaggy rocks of the sea defences are exposed and a bit of careful exploration can take you over the seaweed line right down to the rocks for some dramatic shots up to the lighthouse.

At high tide the harbour fills up quite a way and the water will come quite far up the cobbled slipway which is again a popular shot with local photographers. The boats themselves at the harbour are mainly leisure boats but there is a mix of working boats in there too although you don’t that often see many boats coming or going from here.

You can get pretty unrestricted access around the north, west and south edges of the harbour, only the eastern edge is restricted access. At low tide if you’re careful you can pick your way around the seaweed covered walkway at the bottom of the slipway right around to the lighthouse, be warned though, it’s exceptionally slippy!

Newhaven is one of the best locations in Edinburgh for a summer sunset; the sun comes down over the Firth of Forth giving ample opportunity to photograph the lighthouse or boats at sunset without any other objects in the way of the sun.

This is one of my favourite locations in Edinburgh and one that I visit often, especially during the summer months. Below are a few examples of shots you can expect to take away from Newhaven.

Long exposure of the lighthouse at sunset:
Easter Monday Sunset

The slipway at high tide:
Newhaven slipway

Looking along the exposed rocks at low tide:
Lighthouse Low Tide 2

Boats at low tide:
Newhaven Low Tide

Boats at high tide:
Newhaven Harbour 2


Photography Location Guide – Aberdour Old Pier

This is one of those locations that just begs to be given the long exposure treatment. The Scottish coastline is littered with these old piers if you know where to look for them and they make fantastic subjects as they age and deteriorate.

This particular pier gave me some amount of issues trying to find how to get access to it but once you’ve found it it’s really rather easy!

Arriving in Aberdour from the East drive though the village and you’ll go past the railway station which is on a large S bend. Around 100 yards on your right from there you’ll see signs pointing to Silver Sands down Hawkcraig Road. Follow the road down until you arrive at a large car park. Drive to the far end of the car park and park up to the left where you’ll see an opening in the trees. Walk though here and turn immediately to your left and follow the road. After a very short walk you’ll get to a little fork in the road, keep left and walk down the very steep hill towards the houses at the bottom. Continue along the little gravel lane and when you come out from between the houses that’s you at your destination!

The beach here is all medium sized loose rocks, a bit tricky to walk over to make sure you exercise some caution which approaching the pier. When I visited here, it was about an hour before high tide and it was a pretty good guess at a decent time catch the subject. You have good access all round and indeed even underneath the pier so you can get shots from a good range of angles.

While you’re here don’t forget the view you also get of the Edinburgh skyline where you can clearly make out landmarks such as Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh Castle, the Hub spire, St Giles bell tower and the Balmoral Clock. A range up to around 200mm will get you a reasonable shot of Edinburgh from here.

This location is also interesting for the views of the various little islands dotted around the Firth of Forth including Incholm and its Abbey and the “back end” of Cramond Island. Again, a longer lens will let you get something of them from here too.

This location is best for sunsets in the winter, in the summer the sun sets off up to your right over the harbour.

All in, a nice location with loads of potential if you find yourself over on the Fife coast!

To the right of the pier:
Aberdour Pier 2

Directly underneath:
Aberdour Pier

View towards Edinburgh:
Storm clouds over Edinburgh


Photography Location Guide – The Longniddry Wreck

This was one of the subjects I’d seen other interpretations of on Flickr and felt it was too good to miss. Finding it though was pure change. On a run down the east coast one night heading to Longniddry Bents 3 I caught a glimpse of the wreck on the breach not far outside Port Seaton and before the Bents 3 car park. It never actually registered at the time but a search for the wreck on Flickr confirmed what I thought I had saw and a quick look at Google Maps also turned up what might be the subject in question.

On further exploration, the wreck is found near the Bents 1 car park, just outside Port Seaton. Easiest access is to park up to the right hand side (near the toilets) and walk down onto the beach from there, the wreck is about 100 yards to your left. You can also go off to the left and park, cross the little wooden bridge and clamber over the dunes and its right there in front of you. Not hard to spot by either route, unless you get there at high tide. All you’ll see at high tide is one little rib of the boat sticking up out the water, quite a way out.

To maximize your chances of getting some decent shots here I’d say be at the location around 2 hours AFTER a high tide. When you get there, the wreck should be visible but still mainly under water. Over the next while though the tide recedes quite quickly and you’ll get nice easy access to it with water still around and in it.

It’s a hugely interesting subject which has obviously been there for quite some time slowly rotting away. Sadly, I have no idea on the history of it! While you’re here though, the rest of the beach is worth an explore with lots of rock formations and the imposing sight of Cockenzie power station off to your left. The Longniddry Bents are also a nice location for summer sunsets with the sun coming down directly opposite the beach.

A worthy location of a visit if you ever find yourself down the East Lothian way!

Longniddry Wreck 3

Longniddry Wreck

Longniddry Wreck 2

And a more general shot of the beach at this location:
Longniddry


The stress of upgrading a DSLR!

A couple of months ago I made a decision that it was finally time to move on from my trusty Nikon D90. Now, this is the camera that really helped me make the leap from snapshots to “proper” photography. At the time I bought it, its 12.1mp sensor and feature set made it THE affordable DSLR. The fact it’s still so popular and on sale 2 years down the line is testament to just how good it is, especially as it wasn’t exactly the new kid on the block when I got my hands on it.

As with all things though, technology moves on and in this case, my understanding and photographic know how have also moved on and it’s time to move up the scale, just like I did with my Nikon D70 before.

You’d think this would be a fun move, getting some new kit. How wrong you can be! It’s a minefield out there of camera’s, megapixels, full frame or crop, specs etc etc. Bewildering almost.

Around a month ago I was passing a local branch of Jessops so nipped in for a look at the Nikon D7000 and D300s. The D7000 was originally what I really wanted. Surprisingly for me, the sales guy actually recommended the cheaper D7000 for my purposes but it looked so small next to the D300s which felt like a real proper camera. I was so taken with the D300s if I had the cash I’d have bought it there and then.

For weeks I’ve been researching D300s prices as I tried to assemble the cash to buy it outright, and then out of the blue came a possibility of increasing the budget to anything up to £3,000. Not certain yet but I had to put the camera on hold until I knew, this changes everything.

At this point the first thoughts of going full frame started. I’d always discounted it and I’d also need to change my Nikon 18-70mm AFS DX and Sigma 10-20mm lenses, the 2 main ones I use. With a bigger budget though…

Into view came the Nikon D700. Essentially, a Nikon D3 that’s a touch slower and doesn’t have the fancy body, or the price tag. I also figured I could replace the lenses with quality 2nd hand’s from the likes of Greys of Westminster and figured around another £700 should see me good.

Then when I though it was all clear in my head, I spotted the price of a used Nikon D3. Not the D3s or D3x they are well out of range but the original D3 was coming in at only a couple of hundred quid more than a D700! Top of the range, the holy grail of Nikon and it COULD be mine. Finances would be tight but it might be worth a compromise here and there to get one of the best DSLR’s on the market.

What I should have done then was to leave the internet well alone. I started reading comparison reviews of the cameras and came to the conclusion that a D700 would be just as good as a D3 and I could get it brand new for less than a used D3. Sorted, choice made.

Or was it?

Nope, after some more reading it seemed that full frame was overkill. I’m not a pro, probably never will be so what do I need with full frame? Nope, a D300s would be perfectly adequate.

A D300s it was then. Decision made. As a result of the lesser expenditure I could also probably get myself a Nikon 17-55mm f2.8 DX, the prince of DX format lenses, a Speedlight SB900 and a set of Lee grads and polariser.

BUT, something was nagging at me. The D300s is a 12.1mp camera. Essentially the same one as the Nikon D90 I already have. Of course there are many other improvements but the Canon 7D is in the same price range and its 18mp! I know megapixels are not all that counts at the end of the day but more would be nice. So what else could I get?

I even contemplated a full scale switch to Canon so I could get a 7D but this would be a nightmare with so much Nikon gear so the only other thing I could do was buy the Nikon D7000. After reading the Ken Rockwell review of the D7000 my mind is made up. By all accounts, it appears to be a remarkable camera and while I still don’t really care for the dinkyness of it, I’ll add the battery grip to give it a bit more satisfying bulk for me.

Add in a 2nd hand 17-55 lens to replace my aging 18-70, Speedlight SB900 and the Lee filters and I’ll be just over the 2k mark for all this nice new kit and no issues having to replace lenses left, right and centre.

So that’s it, D7000 it’s going to be.

At least till I start reading other reviews tomorrow…


Photographing the Belhaven Bridge

For a good while I’d seen this bridge on Flickr. Never paid much attention to it but it did feature in some pretty cool images. It’s not your normal bridge; this bridge was slap bang in the MIDDLE of the water with no visible means of access either side. Weird!

After a bit of research I found the location, in Belhaven Bay just to the east side of Dunbar. Take a look at Google maps for the exact location; you can actually see it on there quite clearly. I also discovered that the bridge actually does have a purpose, at low tide it spans the Biel Water where it empties into Belhaven Bay and the North Sea, at high tide the water effectively cuts the bridge and the sand flats beyond off. Makes a lot of sense if you see it at low tide!

The obvious time to photograph this place is high tide, so check the tide times before you make a trip out there. Ideally, a tide of 5m+ is what you’re looking for to make sure the small walkway to the bridge is under water.

The location itself is pretty accessible. Lots of parking about and the bridge itself is just feet away near the high tide line on the beach.

The traditional shot here is a mono conversion long exposure, such as this:
Belhaven Bridge Revisited 2

If the tide isn’t quite high enough then this is more what you’ll get, not so bad with the path leading you into the picture:
Belhaven Bridge

Ideally, you’ll need to lenses to get the most of this location, a super wide and a wide with a little zoom. If the tide isn’t covering the walkway, the super wide will be your weapon of choice, if it is and your forced further back from the bridge by the water then you’ll wish you had a little zoom at your disposal.

If you visit here at low tide then the bridge itself is a worth subject and you can use the better access to the bridge to find a few different angles. This was a low tide shot on a VERY windy day:
Belhaven Bridge - Explored

Of course, if you’re lucky you’ll get a preferential tide to coincide with sunset, I’ve yet to manage this perfectly but this is as close as I’ve got to the 2 at the right time:
Belhaven Bay Sunset

High tide 45 minutes earlier and I’d have been onto a winner; still it does give me an excuse to visit the location again in search of that perfect shot!

A quick note about this location, it’s a great place to be and on a nice night, it’s one of the best spots with easy access I’ve yet to find but if the weather is bad you’ll be really exposed, high winds and rain and not that uncommon, it took me 3 visits till the wind dropped enough to use the 70-200mm lens to get a shot of the Bass Rock from here that wasn’t blurred due to the wind blowing the lens about!


Photographing the Cramond Causeway

For a fair few months now I’ve harboured a desire to capture the causeway to Cramond Island, on the outskirts of Edinburgh as the tide was just going out. If you’re not familiar with the location, from the esplanade there is a raised walkway that the tide never covers for maybe around 200ft, then at the end is a set of small steps and then you’re down on the lower level of the causeway where a half mile walk or so will take you over to Cramond Island at low tide.

Now, I’ve photographed Cramond MANY times and it’s distinctive causeway too many times to count. The causeway itself it lined with a set of old WWII sea defences which were designed to stop small boat attacks further up river at the Forth Bridge and Rosyth Naval Yard, the other side of the island to Fife was protected by anti submarine nets. All that remains now is the distinctive line of pyramid structures right out to the island which get covered more or less to within a couple of feet from the top at high tide.

The challenge though, was the photograph the tide as it came in over the causeway. It’s fairly safe to do so as long as you keep your wits about you. You need to be on the causeway itself around 3 hours before the high tide time. If you get there early the water will start to flood the sand flats either side and sit around the bases of the sea defences. You need not go to far out to get a load of interesting shots of the defences.

Cramond Defences

However, soon you will see the water start to gently spill over onto the causeway about half way along. If it’s between you and the mainland, get back quick. If not keep and eye on it and you can move up a bit and you’ll have plenty time before it reaches you. From the first signs of water on the causeway to needing to get off it you’ll get around 30 minutes. As it starts to properly flood you need to be up near the elevated section of the causeway where you can make a sharp exit to safety. Remember, the water gets around 8ft deep here at high tide.

Get yourself up near the steps and you’ll have plenty time to rattle of shots of the tide as it advances towards you. It’s a perfect place for long exposure shots especially. Just keep an eye on the water as it comes in very fast and once it starts to reach your feet it’ll be a few inches deep in minutes. Get it right and you get these sort of shots.

Around 5 minutes before the tide will arrive at your feet!
Waiting for the Tide

Getting closer still…
The Tide Arrives

Time to go!
Timing of the tide

Get your timings right and it’s well worth a visit. Even after you need to get up on the elevated section it’s still worth hanging about as there’s still interesting shots to be hand from up here.

Cramond High Tide


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,412 other followers