Archive for December, 2016

New Year Fireworks, Location Guide

27We’re just a few hours away from the biggest firework display Edinburgh, the capital city of fireworks puts on every year. Yes, I know it’s short and the end of Festival ones are a good 40 minutes long but the festival ones are largely naff, the midnight display though is a belter. BUT, where to watch or photograph it? I’ve had the pleasure of photographing this a few times over the years so here’s a run down of what to expect at some of the better vantage points.

Princes Street
Are you mad? Crammed in with 80,000 “revellers”? The view will be incredible and in windy conditions you are better closer in but you’d toil to use a tripod of any kind. Will be great to view but unless you want to shoot high ISO and handheld I’d be looking elsewhere.

Calton Hill
No doubt, Calton has a view and a half AND you’ll also see the light and laser show on the castle rock but it’ll be busy, very very busy. There’s also building work going on up Calton that takes away some of the prime spots for photographs and large parts of the hill will be sectioned off, especially if there’s any fireworks going up from Calton as well. Photographing the festival fireworks from up here usually means you will be part of a mass of tripods all clamoring for the best view. If you have the patience to deal with it, you will get some great shots. The thing to watch out for is the fireworks smoke, it’ll drift towards the Calton direction tonight so get shots as soon as they start as you might be in the smoke as the display progresses.

Arthur’s Seat
Hundreds of potential viewpoints but the park will be shut so it’ll be a long walk no matter where you go, you’ll also get the full force of the wind tonight. That said, if you get high enough the pics will be fantastic.

Blackford Hill
You won’t see the light and laser show as it’ll be on the other side but it’s a good location to watch the fireworks. It doesn’t get too busy at New Year either. If you head here, presuming you are in the main car park, head up the path until you get to the first grit bin, take a right here until you get to the view of the Castle, there are 2 benches here, to the left and right. There’s a path in front that curves off to the left towards another bench, follow that path past the bench until you get to a bit with a clear view to the Castle. You get some decent shelter here from west winds so it’s a decent place for photographs, you’ll need at least a 200mm lens, preferably more.

Inverleith Park
Of all the places I’ve taken pics over the years, this was one of the worst. The view is great, you’ll also see some of the light and laser show but hands down, this was the worst place I’ve tried to take pics. Setup well before the fireworks in the 10 minutes leading up to midnight the place will fill up with mostly very posh drunk people, nightmare scenario. If you do, setup on the slope lower down, you might get lucky but don’t even attempt it up by the tree line.

Bruntsfield Links
Great view, great place to take pics but horrible atmosphere. Last time I was there it was heaving, lots of aggressive drunks, random fireworks being let off. Hated it but the pics were good.

Carrington Road
At the end of Carrington Road looking over the rugby pitch of Fettes Police station there’s a decent view to the Castle. It’ll be quiet too, worth considering. You won’t see the laser or light show but a no nonsense location if ever there was one.

The Telly
You’ll see everything, including Ariel shots, the light and laser show, everything. It’s warm and inviting and where I’ll be tonight!

Where ever you end up, enjoy it, stay safe and have a happy new year!


Switching to Mirrorless

Like many photographers, over the last year I’ve been taking taking tentative steps into the world of mirrorless cameras. Well, to be honest, I’ve been dipping a toe in the mirrorless scene for a good while longer having had a Sony A7, Fuji X-E2 and Fuji X-T1 already but this time was different, both socks were off and I was knee deep paddling about in mirrorless cameras.

I’d gone into it half hearted before but that simply doesn’t work. One falter with the kit and you start wishing you had the old trusted DSLR with you instead. There IS a learning curve, no doubt about it, the cameras are similar but also very different from DSLR’s and it will take time to get into using them, as it does with any new bit of kit. With that in mind I strode forward, throwing caution to the wind and bought a shitload of Fuji gear.

I walked from Calumet carrying a Fuji X-T1, 16-55mm f2.8, 10-24mm and 55-200mm. I hadn’t even reached the car before buyer regret set in. £2.5k, just like that? What am I doing? Wonder if they will take it back?

But, I had good reason, in my mind at least. I had been having specific shoulder and neck problems and carrying about a Nikon D4 and a few f2.8 lenses plus a 150-600 puts some strain on that particular area no matter what kind of bag you use. You could use a roller bag I suppose but hardly practical walking over a muddy field not to mention looking like you were off on holiday every time you went out taking pics. No, the aim here was to lighten the kit and the Fuji X series was perfect in that respect but would it stack up in others, ease of use and image quality being the most important?

I’m happy to say it did, on all counts. Having a full kit meant I could leave the Nikon’s at home and really concentrate on using and getting to know the Fuji kit. That was the key, previously I had used the Fuji as a secondary kit to the Nikons, never really got to know it and it never quite clicked, this time it did.

I’ve shot nothing but Fuji X series since March 2016 and don’t intend to switch back to DSLR’s. I’ve since added a Fuji X-Pro2 and Fuji 100-400mm and a 2x tele all of which have been brilliant but the real jewel in the crown is the Fuji X-T2, this camera is quite simply one of the best I have ever used. It’s early days with it yet but by all accounts, from first impressions, it’s an outstanding bit of kit.

So why didn’t I go Sony and get that nice full frame sensor? Well, I wasn’t overly impressed with the Sony kit I tried, there was a horrendous flare issue with the Sony, which could have been either the A7 or the 70-200mm f4 but whatever it was, it killed Sony cameras for me. The E mount lenses are also big, they have to be for that FX sensor so that took away one of the main reasons for switching, weight. Price was another factor, the new Sony f2.8 lenses are eye wateringly expensive, sure the Fuji ones are too but nothing near the Sony prices.

So, do I have any regret in ditching Nikon? Nope.

Do I have any regret ditching full frame? Nope.

Will I switch back to a DSLR anytime soon? Not a hope.

Is there anything I can’t do with the Fuji the Nikon could? Not found anything yet.

Would I recommend it to anyone? Well, that depends on what you are after. It might not be for everyone but for me it meant I could further without kit weighing me down, it also meant I could take the whole bag with me rather than deciding what lenses to leave behind in the car.

The only thing to beware of is the expense. That DSLR kit you have, you probably built up of years of careful purchases. You will want to replicate it with the new kit and you’ll want to do in a matter of months, not years most likely and that will be EXPENSIVE! Selling existing kit will help finance some it but you’ll likely still find some significant outlay.

I now believe that these cameras like the Sony A series and Fuji X series are now the future of photography. DSLR’s won’t go anywhere for a while but in 10 years time or so, if the tech keeps moving the way it is just now, we’ll all be using mirrorless cameras and watching Canon and Nikon playing a serious game of catch up.


From the shiny to the dark side

A year ago, I was stood in the Apple store in Princes Street, mesmerised. It was the most beautiful piece of tech I had ever seen, it was perfect and I was falling for the sales patter. “And you can do precision editing in iMovie with the Apple Pencil” and I’m stood there thinking, “That’ll be awesome, I could edit a movie on the move! And that pencil, I can draw thing, use it to take notes as well, this is a no brainer!”.

Of course, it was the new iPad Pro. It was £900 of shiny and it was oh so shiny. £900 lighter, I skipped off up the road, mind boggling with the possibilitiesa that new device would bring. This was a game changer, especially with that Pencil thing, awesome! Editing and uploading pics will never be the same again!

Fast forward a year and my iPad pro is basically a occasional games machine and a super sized Kindle. It’s been all over the place with me, I carry it every day. The number of times I’ve done real work on it? Well, a one armed man would have enough fingers to do this count. I’ve taken in on holidays, once I think I connected a camera via WiFi but it was a pain in the arse to do so never done it again, not that it mattered as the app store isn’t exactly dripping with really good RAW editors anyway. This is where the device fails, it’s fiddly. It’s fiddly to get stuff from a camera onto it. It’s fiddly to work with the files. The Apple Pencil is just fiddly full stop. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a glorious device for movie playback and for gaming but I bought it off the back of the Apple claims it could replace a laptop.

The last straw came when on holiday in Barcelona. A photographers dream location. Despite being on hols, Real Edinburgh continues to roll along. I still need to speak to customers, I still need to update the page. Stop updating and you soon fall off the radar of the timeline and it’s a bugger to get the reach up, so hols or not, I need to do this stuff. Answering customers with an on screen keyboard is a pain but that wasn’t the biggest problem.

For this trip I had had acquired a Fuji X100s, a fine camera but not the newest model. It had slipped my notice that the x100s didn’t have WiFi which was an issue. I had content for the page but no way at all of getting of from an SD card to the iPad unless I visited the Apple store for an adapter at about £30. That was the point that struck me that the iPad while a glorious device is lacking in some areas, connectivity being a biggie. No SD slot is another, especially for a photographer. Carrying about a range of bits to plug into the lightning port kind of defeats the purpose of using such a device?

So, for the first time in years, I found myself stalking the aisles of PC World today, not drooling over the Mac selections but immersing myself into the world of Windows 10 laptops. It was a strange and bewildering place, where most items appeared to be out of stock but I got the solution to what I need for my photography on the move and abroad. It came in the shape of a Dell Inspirion 13 laptop. It sports 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and 7th Gen i5 processor but what really makes it useful, 2 USB slots and an SD card reader. It’s a little larger than the iPad Pro, a fair bit thicker but crucially, it does what I need it to do and it’s small enough to travel with. It’s running Photoshop and Bridge CC just fine as well.

I have to admit I had a look at the Macs but at nearly double the price for the lovely 12” and small MacBook for the first time I felt I couldn’t justify Apple prices especially as I have a powerhouse MacBook pro that is perfect in every way, it’s just too big and heavy. Windows also gives me some flexibility to run some of the Astro software apps out there and get back into the CCD camera imaging again with a telescope.

So, what now for the shiny? Well, I still want an iPad but maybe back to the usual size one an Air 2 will be more than ample. I’ll still probably take it away as well, loaded with games and the Kindle app but at a more manageable size. I’m looking forward to traveling again and giving the x100s a good workout and being able to see and edit shots while away. I’ve a few trips lined up including a return visit to Barcelona, it’ll be interesting to see how it all works.


Hello? Anybody still here???

Well, it’s been a while since I last blogged on here hasn’t it?

3 years to be exact.

Why did I stop? I have no idea really? I don’t think I ran out of things to say but maybe just ran out of the steam to put them in a coherant order for others to read?

Why have I started again? Again, I don’t really know. I think it’s maybe the overwhelming urge to write some sort of book that’s sitting within me that’s driving it and indeed the fear of even trying to write one. As much as I’d love to give it a go, I’m scared to do it. Scared to plough in huge amounts of time and have the idea fizzle out half way though. So, maybe a return to blogging might help a little, if nothing else get me used to writing again, writing something longer than a single paragraph attempt at wit for Real Edinburgh posts.

I had thought about putting the blog on the Real Edinburgh site, the important one that sells the prints but due to the haphazard way it’s setup, it appears to be not possible without stripping out the theme or creating a whole new intro page, which I may do but impatience has brought me back here to the old blog. If I put an obstacle in the way like sorting out the other site I’ll never do it and the urge will go away so here I am, blowing the stoor of a blog untouched and unloved for the last 3 years. Giving it a shine up with the sleeve of a jumper and hoping it still works.

Only one way to find out…