Archive for November, 2011

My photographic highlights of the year

With most of the year over and not a lot likely to be happening in December I thought it might be an ok time to look back over my photographic year and pick out my favourite shots by category. I’ve tried a lot of different stuff this year and been generally pleased with the results. I defintely feel I’ve improved as a photographer which is what pleases me most.

Sunset

Up until a week ago this would have been won by one of the Newhaven lighthouse shots I took this year but at the last minute I reckon this sunset from Calton Hill tied it for my top sunset shot so I’ll nominate the pair of them.

November Sunset from Calton Hill

Newhaven Cobbles - Explored

Sunrise

No contest in this one, I only manged a single sunrise all year but luckily, I do like it a lot. From the Cramond causeway.

Cramond Sunrise

Seascape

This long exposure shot of the wreck on the breach at Longniddry in East Lothian is my clear favourite, the Heliopan 10 stopper put such a nice colour on the shot.

Longniddry Sunset - Explored

In the city

I liked this one as it took me about 3 goes to get the shot I wanted, that’s going back 3 nights in a row, not taking 3 shots…

Holyrood X

Night

This shot of the Scottish Executive building reflecting in Victoria Quay on a still night was a real high point. A single exposure with the zoom effect coming from twisting the zoom during exposure.

Scottish Executive Streaks

Twilight

Another shot from the Cramond causeway gets the vote here. I figured out how to time the tide coming up the causeway fairly accurately this year so got a few variations on this shot.

Time to go

Macro Flower

I really felt I started to make some good inroads with my macro photography this year and this shot taken lying flat on my back in the Botanics was my favourite of the year.

A Brace of Coneflower

Macro Insect

I got a fair few decent insect shots this year, this bluebottle I stalked in the Botanics for ages and got a stack of shots.

Sooking the Hairy Leaf

Panoramic

I’ve got this one on a huge canvas in my hall, enough said.

Bridges Twilight

Danbo

Danbo didn’t get so much of an outing this year but I reckon the Buttercup Bokeh shot was the best of the year.

Danbo and the Buttercup Bokeh

Specialist Lens

Contenders in this category had to be from either my Lensbaby, digital Holga or M42 something or other lens, and the winner was… the lensbaby.

Edinburgh with a lensbaby

Street

I’ve done a stack of street stuff this year thanks to my side project Real Edinburgh, this was one of my favourites.

Any Spare Change

Abstract

Normally this would be a railings shot, I have a thing about photographing railings. I liked this shot of chained up bikes taken during the festival though.

Bicycle Bokeh

Monochrome

I took stacks of mono stuff this year, especially when I was learning long exposures. This from Calton Hill is one of the standouts to me.

Its all about the clouds

Documentary

The Red Arrows performing in Edinburgh was a highlight of the year and not something I’ll forget in a hurry, however I think this shot from the Leuchars Airshow pips the Edinburgh shots to the post.

Red Arrows Leuchars 2011

Fireworks

I love photographing fireworks and hiking 2 SLR’s, 2 tripods, 6 lenses and various other bits and bobs up Arthurs Seat for the festival fireworks this year really paid off.

Festival Fireworks 1

Scrappy

Finally, my wee dog, Scrappy, always features heavily in my photography. This is my favourite of him this year, soaking wet on a beach in Berwick with the mother in laws dog in the background.

Scrappy and Ollie at Berwick


Ask yourself, do you really need a full frame DSLR?

Ask yourself that question; do you really NEED a full frame DSLR? Not want, NEED?

If the answer is yes then ask yourself this. Am I a professional photographer? If you answer yes, then you’re dismissed, you do indeed need full frame for which the benefits are well documented and obvious.

If you answered no then you don’t need that full frame DSLR, you merely WANT it.

Don’t get me wrong here; I’d kill to get my hands on a Nikon D3x but at 6k for the body only that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

With the advancements made on crop sensor cameras these days I just cannot for the life of me understand why an amateur photographer would need a full frame DSLR other than for bragging rights. Newer bodies such as the Canon 7D or the excellent Nikon D7000 have closed the gap from crop to full sensors enough to negate the benefits to the amateur when compared against the cost.

I went through this dilemma heavily a few months back. I was going to be in a position to upgrade my Nikon D90 and had identified the D7000 as the likely object of desire. However, over the space of a few weeks I found myself shuffling finances to try and make a Nikon D700 possible instead, and when I got that to add up, I started looking at used D3’s as they were around the same price. The killer though was the collection of DX format lenses I already had.

Not being made of money I had to think long and hard here. Buy the D700/D3 and get a couple of used middle of the road lenses to get me by or keep the existing kit and go for a Nikon D300s or D7000. I was all but convinced I HAD to go full frame until I took a good look at myself.

I’m an amateur photographer, I do it 99% for the personal enjoyment. I had a collection of reasonable DX format lenses already. Spending nearly 3k for a new body and a couple of lenses simply didn’t make sense at the end of day. I don’t have that requirement for perfect noise free images and any roads, I shot on a tripod at ISO100/200 most of the time anyway so the low light performance wasn’t the killer blow to the crop sensor for me.

In the end I bought a Nikon D7000 and added a MD-11 battery grip. It worked with all my existing kit, I got the newest Nikon technological advances and as I hadn’t broke the bank I was able to upgrade my filter system and a few other bits a bobs. So happy with the performance of the D7000 I was, I added a Nikon 18-200mm VRII lens to the collection to replace an aging DX format mid range zoom and couldn’t be happier with the combination.

I’m glad I went this way in the end, new kit with warranty has to be better than second hand just to get that full frame. I took a while but thankfully I managed to separate the WANT from the NEED and got what was right for my ability, intended use and budget.

Don’t fall for the hype; get what’s right for you. A properly used crop sensor DSLR will outperform a badly used full frame every day of the week. Don’t be that guy with a D3 who takes snapshots better suited to a compact camera!


How to take the piss out of an amateur photographer

Top 5 tips for commercial operations to take the absolute piss out of any amateur photographer:

Pisstake 1. Tell them you found them on Flickr and you think their work is GREAT! You’d like to use one of their pics in print, you can’t pay for it but you’ll get LOADS of exposure.

Pisstake 2. Tell them you love their work but there’s simply no budget for photography but they’ll get a full credit and a link back to their website that will drive them LOADS of traffic.

Pisstake 3. Need a particular image? Search Flickr for the pictures you want and just take them. Don’t worry about the copyright thing, nobody ever bothers about that. If the amateur photographer finds out, just ignore them, they’ll go away eventually.

Pisstake 4. Don’t fret if the amateur photographer doesn’t have the picture you want, chances are they will go and get it for you. Let them, whether you intend to use it or not. Not like you have to pay them anyway.

Pisstake 5. If you’ve pushed the amateur photographer too far and they start to get uppity, just cut all contact and wait about for a few minutes, there will be another one along all fresh and ready to flannel in a minute.

Any or all sound familiar?

The amateur photographer should respond to these pisstakes thus…

“Pisstake 1. Tell them you found them on Flickr and you think their work is GREAT! You’d like to use one of their pics in print, you can’t pay for it but you’ll get LOADS of exposure.”

You say: “Go fuck yourself, pay for it or piss off.” This my amateur snapper friends is the biggest lie in the book, you might have a full page shot in that publication but if won’t do diddly for you, nobody reads the credits except you and your mum

“Pisstake 2. Tell them you love their work but there’s simply no budget for photography but they’ll get a full credit and a link back to their website that will drive them LOADS of traffic.”

You say: “I’d like your product for free as there’s simply no budget to pay for it but I’ll be sure to tell everyone how good it is”. THERE IS ALWAYS A PHOTOGRAPHY BUDGET, everybody else involved gets paid, why not you?

“Pisstake 3. Need a particular image? Search Flickr for the pictures you want and just take them. Don’t worry about the copyright thing, nobody ever bothers about that. If the amateur photographer finds out, just ignore them, they’ll go away eventually.”

You do: You do a Google image search; drag the thumbnail into Chrome and it’ll search Google Images and show you where it’s used. Invoice each and every one of the websites there and then demanding payment for unauthorised use. You’re images will be removed so fast you won’t have time to blink, don’t expect any money though.

“Pisstake 4. Don’t fret if the amateur photographer doesn’t have the picture you want, chances are they will go and get it for you. Let them, whether you intend to use it or not. Not like you have to pay them anyway.”

You do: Either cut all contact and refuse to work with them again or force the issue and invoice for the work anyway. Learn from mistakes and always get a guarantee of payment in writing in advance.

“Pisstake 5. If you’ve pushed the amateur photographer too far and they start to get uppity, just cut all contact and wait about for a few minutes, there will be another one along all fresh and ready to flannel in a minute.”

You do: Well, there isn’t much you can do about this one…

Exceptions?

I personally never had any problems helping out charities or non-profit organisations. Never make an exception for any commercial operation, no matter what story they spin you; it’s simply not worth it. If they want your work to appear in something that’s for sale or advertising something for sale then you should be PAID! Stick to your guns and get what YOUR work is worth.

Written by an AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHER…


How much would you pay for a photograph?

From my own experience, it’s not very much. With places like Ikea pushing large canvas prints at prices lower than it would cost me to print my own shots to canvas people just don’t seem to want to spend money on original prints very often when they can get this mass produced stuff for a fraction of the price.

I was recently asked for a canvas print and I quoted £90 for the print. The person enquiring about the print immediately retorted with a comment about being able to get a same size canvas in the shops for £14.99. I had to try and explain to her that she was getting a one off print of something she could not get anywhere else and even with the cheapest supplier it would cost me more than that just to get the canvas made. Needless to say, no sale.

So, with that in mind, how do you get to the point where you can sell this for $4.3 million?

I’m not knocking the image at all; each to their own but how under any circumstances is this worth that much money to anyone? In my eyes, it’s compositionally pretty poor, the subject matter is exceedingly dull, which is ok but the resulting image is also very dull. The colour is flat and to top it all, it’s even a very digitally enhanced image. I mean seriously, if I’d taken this I’d have deleted it and moved on, so how is an image like this even saleable?

My own best effort this year I reckon is this shot of Newhaven Harbour in Edinburgh taken in late August this year. This image was a culmination of dozens of visits to the location to test out different angles and techniques, different conditions and different compositions until one night, the light and conditions were perfect and the shot just came together perfectly. A lot of work went into getting this image but I couldn’t command $4.3 million for this. I just cannot see where a lot of work might have gone into the $4.3 million image?

Newhaven Cobbles - Explored

I’ve used stacks of filters to get my image, experimented with different long exposures and 10 stop filters, dodged the incoming tide and tried to post process just enough to get the detail out of the image. The $4.3 million image was taken and dog walkers etc cloned out, but it still looks just like a compact camera snapshot. Where’s the technique and above all, where’s the art in this?

I spent some time at an art fair last year, which was 99% paintings and the price tags surprised me no end, small and by that I mean around 6×4″ originals going for around £1000 and in other cases about £100. The difference here though is that you can see where the work has gone, you can see an effort by the artist and these guys are simply not under valuing their work. It could be argued that the same is true of the $4.3 million shot, but can it really be worth that amount of money?

In short, I suppose everything is only worth what somebody will pay for it, in this case, $4.3 million for a dreary pic of the Rhine and less than £14.99 for mine. I know the photographer has had a long and high profile career but strip everything away and this is a dreary flat image and the price tag of $4.3 million is little more than an expensive piss take because the photographer has taken his career to a point where he can.

Let’s face it; we’d all do the same, wouldn’t we?


Street Photography and Real Edinburgh

I’ve stared doing this little street photography thing lately. You might even like to check it out at Real Edinburgh. I figured it was diverse enough to what I usually do to warrant doing it totally separately on a new blog.

When I started this a few weeks ago, my intention had been to document life in Edinburgh, from the city centre to the rough council estates. What I didn’t expect though, was the see photography in a whole different light. I have to admit, I was getting a little jaded with my usual styles as I always seemed to be at the same places photographing the same things and I was, dare I say it, getting a little bored. When I find I have to motivate myself to get out with the camera it’s time to try something new.

This street stuff though was a totally different discipline, a bit scary to start with and also quite liberating photographically. I used to carry around at least 1 DSLR body, 5-6 lenses, filters, remotes and a myriad of little bits and bobs, not to mention a tripod to indulge in photography. For the street though, all I take is the D7000, 18-200mm VRII lens and that’s it. Now, I know this isn’t probably your usual “street” kit, but since I can’t afford a Lecia M9 I’ll have to make do and the 18-200mm VRII provides flexibility with the added bonus of the VR.

I also decided to forego colour and shoot mainly in monochrome. Camera settings are easy, lens wide open, preview set to mono, ISO 800 or above, aperture priority and off I go. Rather than worrying about the technicalities of the shot, now I concentrate solely on the composition and light and what an eye opener it’s been. Try doing this stuff handheld in the streets after dark and you’ll really come to appreciate the importance of seeking out light.

Getting used to photographing people too was a challenge. What I want to avoid at all costs is any interaction with subjects. I don’t want posed shots, I want them doing what they are doing without concentrating on me. At first, I was overly wary of photographing people but as time goes on you start to relax and find more inventive ways of getting the shot largely undiscovered. Of course, there’s a large element of hit and miss but the hits make the misses worthwhile.

I’ve also noticed a new edge to my more usual landscape photography, since I’m not concentrating on that 100% of the time it’s interesting me more again. It’s actually nice occasionally to get out and about with a ton of equipment and indulge in the technicalities of the deeper camera settings. It’s nice to take some of the principals of the street stuff and transpose these over to other styles.

I couldn’t recommend this as a style enough to anyone looking for a new photographic challenge. Of course, I’ve got a lot to learn but for the time being at least, its fun and breathing new life into the hobby for me. Please check out the other blog at Real Edinburgh, all feedback is very much appreciated.

A few of my favourite shots from the project so far…