We’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Well, it’s been quite a while since I last blogged hasn’t it? Not quite sure how that happened, I’m guessing the whole Facebook page has just got in the way, and if you’ve never seen it, my day to day stuff can be seen on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/realedinburgh
Anyway, a subject I’ve blogged on before was about never being afraid to take the same photograph twice, three times or how many times you want to take it. You can re-create a composition but you will never recreate an image. What might be a mediocre image one night might be that killer shot the next. Never let anyone tell you “oh you photograph the same stuff all the time”. As a photographer you capture light and that light is never the same.
Another advantage of revisiting was clear to me this week when I made a 2nd trip to catch the fireworks at Edinburgh Castle which mark the end of the nightly Military Tattoo performance. My first attempt at the early show on Saturday wasn’t great as it was still simply too light so another mid week visit was in order when the show finished around 90 minutes later.
Wednesday night was that night. Warm with reasonably still conditions which were perfect. Heavy rain forecast but fingers crossed it would stay away till the fireworks had finished at least. If I’m honest, when I left the house at 9.30pm I had little enthusiasm for driving into town and hiking up Calton Hill in the dark with a bag full of camera gear after a long day at work but the sight of Edinburgh Castle from the outskirts of town all lit up and standing out like a sore thumb had me inspired enough to get going!
Calton Hill has a somewhat unsavoury reputation at night but at this time of year it’s filled with tourists in the dark and the front end of the hill isn’t particularly dark either. If you’re hesitant about going up there, don’t be, you’ll be only one of a few photographers up there more than likely but stick to the front of hill where it’s well lit and you’ll be fine and the views of the city are unbeatable.
Having shot this exact same sequence on Saturday night this gave me 3 valuable insights.
1. What time the fireworks will start (in this case, 10.30pm)
2. Where the fireworks launch from (to the right of the castle away from the Tattoo lights)
3. Roughly what will be coming, ie huge bursts or low level bursts.
Number 3 was particularly important and I was pushing the limits of what I could get in the frame using a combination of the Nikon D7100 and Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EX HSM rather than the wider 18-200mm VRII. Using the Sigma was important as it’s oh so sharp compared to the 18-200mm lens and that makes a massive difference with these shots.
With that little prior knowledge I knew the first burst was a huge red firework so I could get setup with the camera in portrait mode. I also adjusted position to put the lit front of the castle and the Balmoral clock in the centre of the firing zone so I could get both focal points in the shot.
Sure enough, 10.30pm and there goes the first shots, it was all very calm and all I had to do was wait and hit the remote at the right time, almost too easy but then again, with the forward planning most of the guesswork was out the way. This was the first shot of the night.
The next few minutes were more or less a scramble of bigger fireworks with some lower level stuff but I knew what I was after was still to come. Not that I didn’t rattle off shots in the meantime. Using a fairly short exposure, around 1.3s at ISO400 and f8 was suiting me perfectly and allowing a good range of shots.
Now, this prior knowledge paid off again. I knew there was a gap in the fireworks and after that long-ish gap was the bursts I was looking for. A series of low level bursts in an arc above the castle. Knowing this was coming I had plenty time to flip the camera to landscape mode, zoom in a bit more and make sure the focus was spot on.
Sure enough the expected bursts came and the shot I had planned was in the bag.
A previous visit along with a little planning had paid off and it’s another classic example of why you should do your homework and never be afraid of doing a shot again. Armed with this knowledge now I might have another go at these fireworks from a different location and see what the outcome is. The best of this is I’ve got fireworks shots now from a premium location, a location that will be packed to capacity for the main event on Sunday 1st September at 9pm. Where will I be that night> Not on Calton Hill that’s for sure, I’ve already got my shots from there!
If you want to try these fireworks yourself the Tattoo is on till the 24th August (except Sunday). Monday to Friday the fireworks will start about 10.30pm and last approx 10 minutes off an on. On Saturday they start at 9.00pm and again around midnight where it’s a longer display.
The main Edinburgh fireworks event takes place at Edinburgh Castle on Sunday 1st September at 9pm and lasts for around 45 minutes.
Ah, Autumn, thank god it’s here at last. Whatever it throws at us it can’t be worse than the soggy summer of 2012. In photographic terms at least, the next couple of months are great for getting out with the camera. Sunset and sunrise are at sociable times, nice dark (hoepfully clear skies) and the trees turning those fantastic golden shades.
So here you are in Edinburgh, what’s the hot shots to try out the next couple of months?
Lets kick off with the top sunset location for Autumn in Edinburgh and it’s predictably Calton Hill. At this time of year the sun in heading back towards the Castle at sunset meaning all those fantastic cityscapes can benefit from the full burst of colour from the setting sun.
Don’t forget the twilight too from up here, any direction is good, why not try Leith at twilight for something a little different?
Sticking with Calton Hill, the just after sunrise the National Mounment will be casting some nice shadows. Get up there early though, too late and the sun will be in the way of the shot.
Seafront locations are not at their best at this time of year for sunsets but the Cramond causeway can provide a nice sunrise.
On 5th October, the sunset at high tide at both at exactly 6.31pm, with a 5m tide it’s a perfect night to head out to Belhaven Bay outside Dunbar for the Bridge to Nowhere shot.
It’s getting a little late in the year but 8th October might be a good night to try and catch the advancing tide at the Longniddry wreck found just off the number 1 carpark.
Nearer the end of October with the moon out the way it might be a good chance to try for the Milky Way before it slinks off for the summer, try the carpark at Harlaw Reservoir about 2 hours after sunset, give your eyes time to adjust and you should see the dense star cloud that forms the band of the Milky Way just off to the south west.
There’s obvioulsy quite a few fireworks opportunities around November 5th but keep and eye open for the South Queensferry display for a chance to catch them over water.
There might also be a display at the Castle for St Andrews day, though possible not exactly on 30th November and it’s likely to be short display too.
With the darker nights it’s also a pefect time to try those light trails shots, with Princes Street open again it’s an obvious choice but anywhere with traffic is possible, why not try Holyrood Park about 30 minutes after sunset?
It’s also a good time to get those star trails shots in, Newhaven lighthouse, is a cold but worthy spot as you can get Polaris in the shot.
Hopefully that little lot will give you some ideas for Edinburgh photography over the next few months!
The big problem with photographing fireworks displays in Edinburgh is trying to get something that’s not been done 100 times before. This year along we’ve had the half hour display from Edinburgh Castle for the Festival, a shorter display from the castle for St Andrews Day, a display from Calton Hill as part of the Hogmanay celebrations and just over 24 hours later, another huge display from the castle again at midnight for New Year. That’s quite a lot of opportunities with iconic landmarks.
For the Festival display I trudged high up on Salisbury Crags with what felt like 10 tones of camera gear but nailed the shots I wanted so it was all worth it.
The St Andrews Day display though was another matter. With no firm time for the display and a strong biting wind I had gave up on my Calton Hill location thinking they had been cancelled, thankfully when I realised that hadn’t I was only down by Regent Road so did get some shots, nothing I’d describe as killer though.
Ok, so it’s not bad and the Bank building in the shot rather than the castle is different but it’s not the shot I wanted, not the best of nights.
Next big chance was the Son et Lumiere on Calton Hill, the end of the Hogmanay torchlight procession. In previous years I’ve shot this from the hillside itself from the back of the 10,000 strong crowd but have never been that pleased with the results.
This year I decided to try something different. Earlier in the year I took some shots from the Holyrood side of the Radical Road around Salisbury Crags trying to get traffic light trails with a backdrop of the Parliament and Calton Hill. The idea struck me, why not try and combine the two? So that’s what I did. 2 cameras set up, D7000 with the Sigma 70-200mm shooting Calton close in in portrait format, the D90 with the Nikon 18-200mm lens shooting the wide scene on 15s exposures to get the light trails and the fireworks. And guess what? It worked. Exactly the shot I wanted and something I’ve not seen done before.
The good times didn’t last though. For the big New Year celebration fireworks I had scouted out an easy access location with a clear view to the front side of the castle. Trouble was, this was a daylight scouting mission and on arriving at the location with no time to get anywhere else, the error I had made was obvious. There’s a rugby club here and they had strong security lights on their clubhouse, right in front of the castle which caused a load of issues with light flares on both cameras.
To say this was a nightmare was an understatement, I had to spend the whole display fiddling with settings and compositions and came away with nothing I was happy with at all. Eventually I had to resort to blending two fireworks bursts together and then blending in another shot of the castle before the display to get anything approaching a usable shot. I’m not that happy with the results, it looks too perfect. No smoke obscuring the castle is the big give away. To the man in the street it’s a good shot but to a semi knowledgeable photographer, it’s a dirty big fake and that doesn’t sit that easily with me.
So, lessons learned?
Scout out new locations at night.
Use your existing shots for inspiration for locations and techniques.
Get all the info you can on the display.
Use 2 cameras on different settings if at all possible.
I’ve got a few months now before there will be anymore, I just hope I remember the lessons learned by then!
As we near the end of the year I’m going to take a look back over the last year and pick my favourite shots each month. I’d love to see what other photographers rated as their best shots by month too!
The year started well as I’d make the decision to shun the traditional Scottish Hogmany in favour of staying sober so I could get some shots of the fireworks from Edinburgh Castle at midnight. Standing on Bruntsfield Links stone cold sober while all around you could hardly stand was “interesting” to say the least, at least I got this shot as way of compensation.
February was a pretty difficult month for me personally, as I spent most of it ill, a culmination of 5 months of feeling like crap. The intense low temperatures in February didn’t help although with the Western Harbour frozen solid it did let me get some killer reflections in the ice.
March was the month of the “Supermoon”, although cloud cover did all it could to scupper any chances of a decent shot. Funnily enough it was a freak weather condition that sorted out my favourite for March. This shot from Calton Hill after some late winter snow was sheer chance. 10 minutes before it was clear and 5 minutes after it was clear again, for 5 minutes the Castle disappeared into the fog.
April was the start of my long exposure period. A Helipoan 10 stopper was bought and the long exposures commenced. To be fair I really enjoyed it at the time but couldn’t see past it. Everything had to be at least 60s exposures or it wasn’t good enough. I did get some nice shots out of it though, of which this of the Falkirk Wheel was one.
Still in long exposure mode I found the bridge to nowhere in Behlaven Bay near Dunbar. It took a few trips to get high enough tides but finally I got a shot of the water all round the bridge.
In June, I finally figured out how to time the tides at the Cramond causeway so I could catch the tide coming in from down at the water’s edge. After several goes and wet feet to be going on with, I had this shot in the bag.
July was a good month. A lot happened including the mother of all thunderstorms over Edinburgh. The shot of the anvil cloud retreating over the Pentlands was a tempting pick for this month but July was really about macro for me, and this may well be one of my favourite ever macro shots, taken in the Botanic Gardens lying flat on my back in the dirt getting funny looks from all around…
August was a hard month to choose but this had to be the shot for the month. Probably one of the best I’ve ever taken and the first trip out with my new Nikon D7000.
September was all about the Festival Fireworks or Leuchars Airshow. The Red Arrows pip the fireworks to the post for me, quite an awesome sight.
This was an easy winner for October. I’d been playing about with twisting the zoom during long exposure shots and this was the result down on a still night at the Victoria Quay with the Scottish Executive building, a single exposure!
We got the best sunset I’ve ever seen one night in November and was lucky enough to be up on Calton Hill waiting for it. This was the pick of the bunch from that night.
No contest here, December was the first time I had really tried to do a star trails shot and this was the result. 100 30s exposures over 50 minutes blended to get the final result.
What a week it’s been for the old sunset shots! It also helps that sunset is at a hospitable time at the moment too. Setting around 8.40 is much preferable to being out and about at the back of 10 or worse still, being sat in work watching the sun give a great visual display on the horizon!
My last post gave you whole tale of how I managed to get my favourite sunset shot of the year so far, but as I can see from my Flickr photostream, April tends to be a particularly good month for sunset shots around Edinburgh for some reason.
This was last night’s effort. The original plan had been to head down to the Cramond Island causeway, but since I’ve done that to death I headed down to West Shore Road instead to a spot further along the coast I spotted the other night which had a perfect view of the causeway, Cramond Island and the Forth Bridges behind.
To say this was a difficult shot to take would be an understatement. The sun was still high in the sky, actually just above the top of the shot. With the distance I switched to the Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EX HSM for a bit of extra reach but actually expected it to give me horrible lens flares, which surprisingly, it didn’t. Once again, I framed up the shot with no filters, locked up the tripod and slipped on the now invaluable Heliopan ND3.0 10 stopper, the result was a pleasing enough shot with a nice gentle orange glow in the sky but it left the water a touch dull.
To combat this I slipped on the adapter ring and filter holder and slipped in the sunset filter. With this in place I could stretch the exposure out to a full 60s, after a couple of goes at setting the grad this was the final result. It took a fair bit of post process if I’m honest as shooting into the sun had brought out every single dust mark on the sunset filter, of which there were many! There was also a bit of flare I’m managed to just about eridacate with a little dodge and burn. If I were to try this again I think I’d try shading the filters to try and get rid of the flare from the shot in the first place.
The night before though also produced a surprise shot for me. With the position of the sun and ideally wanting to get it over water the Western Harbour at the back of Ocean Terminal is a great spot. The obvious shot is the old pier with the Gormley statue at the end of it, but the flats at the other side of the harbour make for a good shot too, especially if the water is still.
However, it was the pier that produced the goods. I’ve shot this before on long exposure and had a lot of issues with light bouncing back into the lens from the filters and I finally figured out why. At this location there is a shiny bare metal fence which I sit the tripod up against to get the shot, the light has been bouncing off the metal and back up into the bottom of the filters and I effectively get a reflection of the inside of the lens on the shot, just putting an arm along the fence was enough to get rid of this totally, amazing what you can figure out.
Again with this shot, I set up the shot without the 10 stopper in place, played with the filters to see which combination worked best and then screwed in the ND3.0 and slipped the other filters back on top. In this case, I’ve used the ND3.0, circular polariser, ND0.9 soft grad and sunset grad filter on a 3 minute exposure to get the colour and effect on the water. The sun was still in the sky off up to the left of this shot.
That’s the more recent shots but like I already said, April is a good month for sunsets so here’s some of the month’s other highlights!
Well, I finally got my hands on a 10 stop filter. Not the B+W I had originally hoped to get, they seem to be rather hard to get hold of just now in the UK, but a Heliopan ND3.0. After a little bit of research it seems that this filter is rated as highly as the B+W so when TeamworkPhoto on Ebay put a stack up for sale at a slightly lower price than the B+W versions a sale was inevitable. At a touch under £100 for a 77mm version it might seem expensive for a little bit of round glass but it’s when you start to use these things you can see the quality and exactly what your paying for.
This particular filter is the slim version so it fits nicely onto my Sigma 10-20mm lens and I can attached the 77mm p series adapter ring to it to allow me to use the CPL and grads easily too. The lens is usable at around 12mm upwards otherwise you do start to photograph the edges of the filter holder, which isn’t too bad as even without the 10 stop in place you get this same effect at around 11.5mm so no great hardship there.
First thing I noticed and it’s fairly obvious really, you simply cannot see a thing through this filter. It’s that dark. Hold it into very bright light, i.e. into the sun and you could just about compose a shot but with grads and a CPL in place as well, not a hope. This means the shot has to be composed on the tripod (obviously); the head locked in place and then carefully fit the 10 stopper and slip the filter holder with the grads on. Bit fiddly but you won’t be taking that many shots with this arrangement in place since you’re likely to be playing around in the 3 minutes exposure mark.
This was the first attempt with the 10 stopper. Taken on Calton Hill in Edinburgh, just the 10 stop and CPL in place. VERY bright light, around 5pm with a clear blue sky and, unusually for Scotland, a nice bright sun. 3 minute exposure and it’s nicely done the trick I wanted and got rid of all the tourists walking about in front of the monument, which was sheer luck not of them stood still long enough to get into the shot.
I did have another attempt later the same day at Newhaven Harbour and got some cracking results but the sea was rough, the wind was terrible and the grads were picking up spray all over and the shots were frankly unusable as a result. Lesson learned there.
Next night out was the Forth Bridges. A very familiar subject so a good place to test the filter out. I started around 7.20pm, approx an hour before sunset with the tide coming in and the sun still quite high above the Road Bridge. It seemed pointless to go shooting into the sun so I took a shot of the rail bridge with the rocks in the foreground getting covered by the incoming tide. This was a 4 minute exposure with the CPL and Hitech 0.6 ND soft grad. Very impressed at the lack of colour cast from the grad with the 10 stopper, at least if your not looking into the sun with it.
As the sun went further down I moved to the other side of the rail bridge to get the sunset with both bridges in the shot. A popular spot for photographers and sadly, the ned element of South Queensferry too it seems.
This was the last of my 10 stop shots for the night as exposure times were getting way too long with the decreasing light. This was a 331s exposure with the 10 stopper, CPL, ND0.6 soft grad and a light tobacco grad, ISO200 f11.
I have to say I’m enjoying the learning process with this new filter although my usual hit and miss method of calculating exposure times is going to get very tiring very fast. To that ends I’ve found an iPhone app called Long Time that does the calculation for you which I’ll give a trial of next time I’m out which will hopefully see the end of hit and miss results guessing exposure times.
I’ve got a new obsession.
Actually, it’s an old one rekindled and it comes in the form of the Hipstamatic app for the iPhone. A better £1.19 you couldn’t hope to spend. Digital photography has never looked so analogue is their strapline and it’s true. The easiest way to try and describe it is to look at it as some sort of lomography affair. You get the light leaks, the vignettes, the odd colourings etc and that’s the appeal. As a Holga owner this is far easier and more convenient that getting all that 120 format film developed. Obviously, it’s not proper lomo but it’s a whole lot of fun to use.
I rediscovered the pleasures of Hipstamatic after my recent interest in long exposure photography. What do you do when you’re waiting for a 3 minute exposure to end? You rattle off some Hipstamatic shots of the same subject, that’s what! It’s perfect. I even started photographing my D90 on the tripod doing the long exposure.
in fact, I’m having so much fun with this app I’ve started to take the Hipstamatic shots and then upload them using the Flickit App to my Flickr account, which also posts to Twitter with a link to the shot. Great fun as I can do it while I’m out and about rather than having to wait till I get home.
I used to use Hipstamatic to photograph everyday situations a new way, i.e. mundane scenes in an unusual style but now I’ve tried applying it to the sort of scene I’m photographing with the D90 it’s opened up a whole new set of uses and it’s nice to see some instant different takes on a scene.
So far I’ve used it at…
The point I’m trying to get to here, is that it’s a great compliment to my usual photography. What Hipstamatic does is what no other iPhone photography app does, it makes taking photos with a mobile phone fun and interesting. Your not looking for that meag quality shot, just something quick and interesting and it ticks both those boxes many times over. Besides… it doesn’t half fill in the gaps between those 3 minute exposures!
If you follow this blog you’ll know I’ve recent found myself caught in the grip of long exposure photography. Something I’ve done in the past with mixed results, but with methodical use of my range of filters I’ve discovered a lot this past couple of weeks. I still feel I’m being constrained slightly by the equipment but learning a lot and getting some images I’m very happy with as a result.
Keep the filters clean!
This was a lesson learned the hard way. I’d never cleaned any of my slot-in filters since I got them back in September. Screw in’s for some reason Iim happy to wipe down with whatever’s at hand, but I’ve been overly precious about the slot in filters. Which became very evident after a trip out and then finding I had to clone out dozens of marks on the shots. All very well but sometimes it’s not that easy to get a smooth clone on streaky clouds etc, so best avoided.
To clean then I’ve been washing them gently under a warm tap, dabbing dry with kitchen roll and then finally cleaning carefully with a lint free cloth. Seems to work fine. You can see marks on all the filters but these don’t show up at all on the images, huge difference.
Be aware of the where sun is!
This is another one I’ve finally figured out. Some shots looked dreadful. Such a disappointment when you see the camera preview, get home and find all sorts of strange flares and marks all over the shot.
What I’ve found is that with the sun directly behind you it seems to hit the filters and bounce light back into the lens and highlights any marks on the filters. With the sun to the side and rear in some cases it causes the camera to actually record the front element of the lens on the shot as a reflection. Funnily enough, shooting near on into the sun, if you can avoid the flares seems to work fine? To this ends though I’ve taken to trying to shield the filters in some way from stray sunlight, fortunately, living in Scotland, it’s not that big an issue!
Wind is both your friend and enemy
After a night out with the camera on Friday it brought home just how good and how big a pain in the rear end wind can be. On the plus side, high winds ripple water nicely making those smooth milky sea shots a lot easier and it sends the clouds racing across your shot, also desirable. However… it also blows your tripod about all over the place, even a sturdy one. It’s worse still with a stack of rectangle filters in front of the lens giving it more to catch onto. I’ve seem me this week almost standing over the tripod trying to shield the camera from the wind. Nothing worse than a 3 minute exposure and you see the camera move just as you get near the end.
All these shots were taken in near gale force winds:
In bright conditions, lose a grad and use the polariser!
My P series filter kit gives me the option of using 3 filters in front of the lens and my screw in ND8, typically for these long exposure shots that means a Hitech ND0.9 soft grad and 0.6 soft grad. However, as I’ve discussed in previous posts, the ND0.9 causes a horrific purple colour cast.
What I found on Saturday though, was that in bright conditions with blue sky around, to replace the ND0.9 with the circular polariser and keep the 2 grads, still lets me push around 20-30s exposure in very bright conditions and keep some colour in the shot too as there is little or no cast. The polariser has the added benefit of darkening the sky and highlighting the clouds, even losing the 0.6ND and using the 0.9ND for B&W work with the polariser in place was very beneficial. So, use the polariser and experiment with your other filters in bright conditions.
All these shots were taken with the polariser in place:
Despite the best efforts of some strange foreign bloke to get in every shot, these were taken in Portobello beach with the polariser slotted in place instead of the ND0.6 soft grad.
I cannot recommend this enough; try different things you never know what you’ll get. This shot on Calton Hill was taken with the ND0.6 soft grad, ND0.9 soft grad and a sunset filter in place, not a particularly long exposure at 40s but I liked the resulting colours.
Finally, I’ll leave you with a couple of other long exposure mono shots from last nights trip to Cramond just as the tide was on its way out.
Above all though, I’m enjoying this learning curve a lot. I’ve already priced up how much a move to the Lee pro filter systems will be. At approx £550 for what I want, the saving starts now!
There’s nothing better than a special event to bring out the photographers in Edinburgh, even more so it seems if it’s a once every 20 years lunar event as we had on Saturday 19th March. The event in question, the Perigee Moon saw the moon at it’s closest to earth for 18 years meaning it would look 14% bigger and 30% brighter. Would we even notice? Who care’s it’s a photographable event and plans had to be made!
Last week after being in North Queensferry I had noticed the moon directly above the Rail Bridge so that was a possible location. Blackford Hill was another but it gets slightly cold up there if it’s windy. So, with the help of Twitter and The Photographers Ephemeris, I decided on Calton Hill. From the Photographers Ephemeris you could see the position and time of the moonrise, around 6.30pm and due East.
On arriving at Calton Hill the first thing that struck me was the amount of photographers already setup at 6pm with cameras on tripods facing the wrong direction! I can only assume one set up incorrectly and the rest followed as they had all moved by 6.30pm.
It was cold on the hillside on Saturday and as you would expect, half 6 came and went with no sign of the moon. Typically, the clear skies of earlier in the day had given way to heavy cloud cover, not what you want for moon photography. My efforts were further hampered by missing my Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 lens, which has to go for repair earlier in the day leaving me with just my backup Sigma 28-300mm zoom, nice enough lens but oh so soft on the focus at the 300mm end. With that in mind, moon shots were out but moon above a landmark might still work out.
Just when I was about to give up hope the first glimmers of an appearance were in the Eastern sky, at this point I was up at the side of Observatory house and this was the first shot I got of any sort of moon just to the side of the National monument:
Walking past the monument revealed where at the photographers had went; they were dotted everywhere around the hillside here. The moon however, was not in a mood to show itself and the only other shot I got was this:
Long exposure and moon shots don’t go but there wasn’t even a remote chance of shooting the land and then the moon to combine in Photoshop. Fed up and cold I packed up and headed off being that I wasn’t interested in getting the moon high in the sky. Typically, on the way back to the car with all the gear packed away the moon popped out, just for a minute.
Now, I hate not getting the shot I went for so the next night, the moon was due to rise at 8.15pm again, due east. On checking possible locations this time I went, appropriately, for the car park of the Royal Observatory on Blackford Hill. You don’t want to be parking in the public car park up here at night unless dogging is your thing…
Predictably, 8.15 came and went and it was nearly 20 minutes later till the first glow in the clouds gave away moon position. Higher than I’d have liked I started to get some exposures of the land hoping if the cloud cleared I’d get a change of an exposure for the moon to combine in. After another 20 minutes of hanging about, finally the clouds obliged. 2 shots were got, first of the moon then without moving the camera a longer exposure for the land. This was the final result of the 2 combined with Photoshop CS5.
Not quite the weekend of lunar photography I’d hoped for and 18 years to wait for it to happen again.
Or fake it?
Processing this shot last night I thought an added moon gave it a nice balance!
Not that dissimilar to another faked shot from a couple of months back:
Lesson to be learned? You can’t control the elements so if you really want the shot, learn to fake it! ;o)
Lets be honest, this is Edinburgh, a wee bit of snow in mid-March isn’t that unusual, what was through was the amount the weather forecast said we were going to get, anything up to foot of the white stuff. Now, having had well over a foot of snow back in November/December I had kind of mixed feelings about this. On one hand it’s a major pain in the back end especially now I don’t have the luxury of a 4WD car now, but on the other hand, it’s a rare photographic opportunity. I wish I had made more of it when I had the chance back in November but when every day was a struggle to even get the car out the drive the focus was somewhat elsewhere!
In the end, this major snow event was kind of disappointing. Edinburgh got an inch or so of slushy stuff. Not quite what I’d hoped for. Undeterred, I made my way down to Calton Hill, yet again. I know I photograph this place far too much but what the hell, it’s an amazing view and it’s a good spot to walk the dog at the same time. With different weather conditions it was also another chance to go the “classic” Edinburgh shot from the hill slightly different again.
I probably should have got there earlier as when I did about 1pm the snow was melting fast, so much in face that there were torrents of water running down the steps up the hill. On the hill itself, there was still some slushy stuff on the ground but the city rooftops were largely clearing fast. There was also a little fog on the top of the Crags so if nothing else, that might have made a decent shot.
Light was very flat and with a drizzle in the air using the filters was always going to be a hiding to nothing so again opted to shoot for HDR. The fog on Arthur’s Seat thickened up and it made for a little atmosphere over the city but nothing to get excited about.
Half an hour later, getting bored, wet and cold and facing dealing with a soaking wet dog I was about to call it a day when the fog started to roll in. And what a fog it was. Within minutes the Castle was totally obliterated and even the Balmoral Clock was starting to disappear. As I was at the front of the hill I headed back up to the side of the Observatory house to get “that shot” again, in a way I’ve not managed to get before.
And a closer view:
Within 15 minutes the entire city centre was hidden below the fog and it was starting to thicken up on the hillside too.
By this point there was not a lot of reason to hang around, the lens was getting wet and basically you couldn’t see anything!
Pleased with the shots though, something a bit different in an often photographed place which is always a good thing. Sadly, my next stop at the Forth Bridges was a washout, no fog to speak off down there. One day, I’ll get that shot of the Bridges disappearing into the fog! It’s eluded me so far but I’ll be back for it one day!
Ok, so first of a new blog posting type for me that should get me blogging more regularly. I’m going to start and document some of my photographic trips out around the city, which as I’m out most night should be hopefully fairly regular and with any luck give a more in depth insight into photographing Edinburgh.
I’m going to start off with a trip I made up to Calton Hill on Thursday 10th March. So if you’re all sitting comfortably?
Thursday had been a belter of a day weather wise. Sat at work during the day we’d gone from sunshine and blue sky to torrential rain, hail and sleet on and off all day, thanks mainly to the gale force winds. With all this in mind, plans were hatched for a trip to Calton Hill for long exposure streaky cloud shots after work.
As usual with the best laid plans I got held up and didn’t even leave the house to head down to the hill until nearly 5.25, not the best with at least a 20 minute drive through the city centre at rush hour and sunset due at 6.05. This time of year is one of the last chances to get a sunset over the Castle as the sun starts to set to far to the right and sunset over the St James Centre isn’t as quite as attractive a proposition.
Arriving at Calton at nearly 5.50 thanks to a dittering woman driving in front of me for most of the way I was thankful I’d sorted out what gear I’d use on the night before I left the house so rather than take everything I left only what I needed in the Lowepro mini trekker to save on weight which I was thankful for after heading up the hill at high speed.
Sadly, once I got the top, the fantastic sunset that was happening as I left the house was now hidden behind a massive black cloud and the rain was starting. Undeterred, I got myself up at the side of the Observatory House and slotted in the CPL, Hitech 0.9ND and Hitech 0.6ND soft grad and tried some longer exposure stuff. I was getting about 40s as the light was fading fast but it soon became very obvious that there was no hope of keeping the tripod still enough for very long exposures in the wind, which by this time was picking up big time.
So, in this situation what to do? Wasted trip or make the most of it? In an effort to make the most of it I took at the filters off which were picking up rain spots anyway, fitted the lenshood and set to aperture to around f10 which with no filtration was giving me a fairly quick shutter on ISO200. 3 shot HDR was going to be the order of the night. Not that bad an option too looking at the epic skies over the city.
This was one of the earlier shots from the night, a 3 shot HDR conversion, camera set at f10, ISO200 on aperture priority. No filters and auto bracketing set at 3 shots -2,0 and +2ev. Thankfully the rain was staying off and it was much easier to clean the odd drop off the Nikon 18-70mm lens rather than the filters. By this point I had abandoned the Sigma 10-20mm and the wide distortion was starting to annoy me.
From here I wandered around the Observatory, took a few shots of the National Monument and thought about packing up for the night. I was after 6.30 and it was shall we say, “brass monkey” weather up on the hillside.
However… as I rounded the corner looking back towards the city the clouds had started to move over and there was the tail end of a sunset peeking through. An unexpected bonus indeed. The only problem was that the wind was getting worse and the light was dropping fast so the longest exposure of the HDR 3 was going to be around the 30s mark. Thankfully though, I got a little sheltered spot just to the side of the Observatory house that kept me out of the worst of the wind and this was the results!
These were about the last 2 shots of the night and I’m well chuffed with the results, it paid to tough out the conditions for a bit. Doesn’t always pay off but as long as the rain stayed off you can always warm up again later can’t you?
I’d say for this particular location it’s always well worth waiting till after sunset a bit, once the lights come on over the city it makes for a fantastic image, especially at twilight more than the proper dark of night.
Only thing I will say is that don’t do it on a weekend night, Calton is safe enough to be on after dark but with the added threat of drunken wee arseholes a lot higher at the weekend I’d say keep yourself and your expensive camera gear clear of the hill after dark then. Otherwise I’ve been up there a few times over the last year after dark and never had a problem, it’s mainly joggers and other photographers you’re likely to bump into!
I’ve finally got around to processing more of the images from that night so without further ado…
Inspired by a blog post I read tonight by Scott Liddell I thought I’d trawl through the archives and pick my favourite Edinburgh photographs of the year month by month.
This was a strange shot to take. I was taken at the back door of the building of my then employer who 2 weeks earlier had gone bust. I was still working at the time for the Administrators and to be frank the days were long and lonely knocking about in a big building that once had over 100 people working in it and at this point had a dozen at most. A multiple shot pano and hdr conversion of Spylaw Park in the Colinton area of Edinburgh.
I didn’t do a lot of photography in February. Job uncertainness mixed with a really crap working day didn’t inspire me much, this was a standout though taken on a lunch break just up at the entrance to the Pentland Hills at Bonaly. I had gone up for a misty landscape but in the end the sun hit this scene so in went f2.8 on the Sigma 70-200mm and the shot of the month was had.
March was a really lean month. I seemed to spend most of it playing with the Hipstamatic app on the iPhone. Life picked up though, got made redundant but had a new job already. Bonus! This was taken on the Radical Road on Arthurs Seat and was done by twisting the zoom on the Sigma 70-200mm as I took the shot. Weird effect and I’ve never tried it again since.
I started taking lots of photos again in April, the mixture of better weather and finally job security had me out and about again. This is one of my favourite subjects, Ashley Boathouse on the banks of the Union Canal. Great spot to walk the dog and its only a mile or so from the house. Taken lots of pics of this this year.
A hard month to pick this one as I had loads in May. However, this shot of the Dean Village in central Edinburgh has served me well this year. I thought I had overdone the colour in the HDR but it’s been rather popular and it’s going to be on greetings cards next year after I had a request to licence it.
I don’t seem to have done a lot in June for some reason but this is the standout shot. Once of many attempts at sunset at this location this one probably the best. This shot is special as it’s going to be the cover of a magazine in January, of which I’ll blog more about at the time…
I liked this one for July, Edinburgh city centre at full flow. Taken from near the foot of Calton Hill, which if you have read this blog you’ll know if one of my favourite places in Edinburgh.
August in Edinburgh is all about the Festival. Now, I had to admit I was never a festivally person before I got the photography bug but now I firmly am. I was never away from the Royal Mile in August and got some great shots of the acts. I liked this one though, a living statue held this ball and I think everyone took pics of the reflection; I got this one printed in the Metro newspaper though.
September was a funny month, I turned 40, developed an inner ear condition called Labyrinthitis which is still causing me issues and I started to play about with proper filters and move away from HDR shots. This is one of the better examples of my early playing about. I had done it as an HDR the day earlier but hated it and went back next day with the sun in a better place and nailed it. Or at least I think I did!
October I took a series of shots for Maxies Wine Bar and Bistro and done their website. This was one I went to get especially at night which came out near perfect.
I had to pick this for November, it was the shot I went to get that day. I had seen something similar in snow but the sun was so strong this Saturday morning I dragged myself out of bed and headed down to Calton just in time to give it a go.
December has been a good month for photographs in Edinburgh, mainly thanks to the snow. But rather than pick an obvious classic Edinburgh in the snow shot I’m going for this one taken on the Cammo Estate on the western edge of the city. I liked this as I shot into the sun and tamed the flares!
So there you go, my favourites of the year, hope you enjoyed them too!
As a photographer I’m constantly seeking out new views and subject matters. However, with Edinburgh being my main focus over time it can be difficult to find something new. What this led me to discover is that doing the same shot over and over again isn’t a bad thing. Familiarity with the subject and trying something a little different can often produce a vastly improved or very different shot.
This is the scene I’ll use to demonstrate, the classic Edinburgh Calton Hill shot, taken from the side of the Observatory building with the Dugald Stewart Monument on the left and Edinburgh Castle and the Balmoral Clock behind. THE iconic Edinburgh view.
This is a fairly typical shot, sunny day, nice blue sky. Just the Nikon D90 fitted with the Nikon 18-70mm lens, CPL and ND Soft Grads used.
However, try the scene again at sunset…
This first example is the same shot done at sunset in February (the sun only sets in this scene from later October to March). This one has had quite a lot of PP work done and is a 3 shot HDR image.
Another sunset, this time at the end of August, the sun is setting out the frame but the HDR processing has brought out the sunset colours in the sky.
Finally another sunset, this time in October and not given any HDR treatment, this is down to the use of ND soft grads.
So, 3 shots, all from exactly the same spot but a very different result from each.
How about at night?
Weather can also play a big part. As soon as the snow hit Edinburgh in 2010 it was time to try the shot yet again, but with added snow!
Again, same scene but a very different shot yet again.
So we’ve seen how the processing of the shot, times and weather can all produce different results, how about using a different lens?
Obviously for this particular scene using a big zoom would be pointless as you’d lose the foreground interest of the monument but this shot was taken with a Lensbaby 3G, a selective focus lens at around 55mm, too much to get the whole monument in but we can still get enough of it so you know it’s the same shot.
Or how about even a very different camera, this was taken with a cheap Holga on 120 format B&W film.
So there you go, same scene, 8 times but 8 very different shots and I wont hesitate to take this one again if I think I can get something different again.
I’ll leave you with one other example, this was a shot I took just after Christmas 2009 on the Cammo Estate in Edinburgh with a fair bit of snow on the ground, initially I loved the shot, the HDR just worked perfectly but the fencepost on the right fouled the tree behind it and it bugged me every since I spotted it.
Never be afraid to revisit places you’ve been and take the same shot, at the end of the day if you get enjoyment out of it take the same shot every day. There’s always something different even if the same scene if you look for it!
I wish I could have made this a top sunset and sunrise blog post but not being an early morning person, sunset locations will have to do!
Of course, there are millions of places to photograph the sunset from, but not all of them will have anything to interesting in the shot. I’ve tried to avoid city centre locations s there are literally millions of places, what I’ll concentrate on there are the more full on landscape sunsets.
Some of these are pretty seasonal depending on the position of the sun and I’ll attempt to tell you when best to go and take your sunset pictures from there, as always, Suncalc is an invaluable resource in planning your location and timings.
1. Calton Hill
Calton Hill is undoubtedly one of the best locations for a sunset but it’s seasonal. From roughly October to March the sun will come down in view of the front end of the hill, i.e. the bit that looks onto Edinburgh Castle. The rest of the year your Calton Hill sunsets will have either St James Centre or the roof of the Omni Centre in the foreground, not the most attractive buildings it has to be said. The first shot below was late October and the 2nd one was early February. If you want the sun behind the Castle, early to mid November is the time to aim for.
2. Salisbury Crags
This one is pretty much an all year round location but autumn and spring will see the sun down nearest the castle. Due to the height it’s a challenging place to photograph the sunset and I don’t feel I’ve got a shot I’m happy with from here yet. Don’t go up with a really wide angle lens though; otherwise you’ll get the undesirable flats of Dumbiedykes in the foreground of your shots.
3. Forth Bridges
South Queensferry is such a good location if I could only take one picture again it would be this one and the Bridges. Get down the little road to the right of the rail bridge and you can get both bridges in one shot, it’s a summer shot though as the sun comes down too far to the left once you get to late October.
The road bridge is easier to get in the sunset shot but again, it’s best in summer unless you go over to the North Queensferry side.
Cramond again is best in summer, later in the year the sun will come down over the land and not the water, far less spectacular. In the height of summer on a calm night, try getting the boats moored at the mouth of the Almond or get out onto the causeway at low tide and get the sun reflecting in the wet sand. You might even want to risk some wet feet and get the sun through the submarine defences, do take care to check the tide times though.
5. Newhaven Harbour
Sunset is possible at Newhaven Harbour most of the year but later in the year the sun will set over Granton and you’ll lose the reflections on the water. Earlier in the year you’ll be able to get the lighthouse and long reflections of the sun in the Firth of Forth or from further back, even directly through the mouth of the harbour itself.
6. Blackford Hill
Blackford Hill is a bit of a funny location for the sunset. Ideally you’d want the sunset with Edinburgh Castle as your main focus from here but the sun comes down nowhere near the Castle from Blackford, you’ll only get that orange glow bleeding that far over the sky on the most perfect sunset nights. Otherwise, you’ll need to get right to the top at the trig point to make the best of it. The sun will come down roughly behind Corstorphine Hill in summer moving round to behind Braid Hill in winter. Best foreground interest will be the houses of Morningside or Craiglockhart Hill.
So, that’s my 6 favourite locations, how about adding some more in the comments below?
Railings? Railings, I hear you cry? Why on earth would you want to take pictures of railings? Well, put quite simply, done correctly with a shallow depth of field, you can get some amazing abstract images and it’s really not that hard to do. I’ve also found it a great way to save a photo outing when the light is terrible for “normal” shots. Regardless of the light you’ll be able to do something with a humble railing.
So, what do you need? Well, a DSLR helps, obviously, or a compact that will allow you to control the aperture. All the shots that follow were taken with either a Nikon 50mm f1.8 or Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EX HSM lens. Both end of the spectrum here, the 50mm is ultra cheap, around £110, the Sigma nearer £700 but both will let you do great railings. In fact, even a kit lens at its widest setting, usually about f3.5 will allow you to get some kind of decent bokeh effect.
It might seem obvious but metal railings are what we’re looking for, not wooden fences, mainly as the light will “glint” on metal railings allowing us to get that bokeh effect we’re looking for. What’s bokeh? See those little fuzzy circles of light, that’s bokeh and using it correctly can produce some very striking results.
The main technique involves setting the lens to its widest setting, in the 50mm case, f1.8, in the 70-200mm, f2.8. Now, pick your railing and pick a spike to focus on, you want to be as near as possible to the minimum focal distance from it you can. In the case of the 50mm its about 45cm. Focusing on a spike at 45cm distance at f1.8 will produce an extreme bokeh effect, moving a few feet away and focusing on the same spike will lessen the effect, play about and see what works.
Try to pick railings that curve round corners or have light falling on them in some way, anything to give a little more to the shot than a straight look down a fence. Check out the example below, I’ll even tell you where to find them…
1. National Gallery of Scotland
Walking towards the Playfair Steps there’s a set of railings here with fairly sharp spikes. This shot was taken on a fairly sunny day at a big zoom at f2.8 with the Sigma giving a WILD bokeh effect.
2. Still at the National Gallery
Running right around the National Gallery are another pointy set of railings, immediately across from the first shot, again, an extreme bokeh effect with a little sunlight hitting the tops of the peaks.
3. Calton Hill
These railings are found on the driveway up to Calton Hill; they are right at the entrance gates and sweep round into Regents Road. At the right angle with a little sunlight, this is roughly what you’ll get!
4. The Playfair Steps
Found at the top of the Mound leading down to the National Gallery of Scotland is the Playfair Steps, looking down these gives a nice effect, even better if there’s a few pedestrians about waiting to be turned into lovely bokeh!
5. Mound Place/The Mound
The Mound is a great area to play around with these shots, there’s so many railings! This is on the corner of Mound Place and The Mound, a nice sweepings set round the corner. Focus on the apex of the curve, job done.
6. The Hub
The Hub’s not hard to find. It’s that huge spire just next to Edinburgh Castle. At its entrance is a nice set of sweeping railings. This is the one to the right, heading up towards the Castle.
7. The Botanic Gardens
A bit out the City Centre but the Botanics is a photographers dream at the best of times. If you get fed up with the flowers, try the railings! This set is just to the left of the North Gate.
8. Waverly Bridge
These attractive green railings are at the bottom of Waverly Bridge, just at the bottom entrance to East Princes Street Gardens. This was a shot with the 50mm lens after an outing to take shots of the Xmas big wheel during the day, in the end I preferred this to any of the wheel shots.
9. The Dugald Stewart Monument
The Dugald Stewart Monument is usually the subject of many of Edinburgh’s classic views from Calton Hill but take a closer look at the structure and you’ll see these great ornate railings around the base. Shot with the 50mm lens.
10. Regents Road
Just below Calton Hill is Regents Road, there’s a huge set of railings down one side of the road here, get in the right position and you can get Arthur’s Seat as a backdrop! Shot with a Nikon 18-70mm DX at f3.5.
So that’s my top 10, I’d love to hear any other suggestions. Feel free to post them or your own shots of Edinburgh railings in the comments below.
So here we are at part 3 of this occasional series! You’ve all gone out and taken the other 22 shots already and you’re ready for more right? Without any further ado, let’s get started on the next 11 must have Edinburgh photographs…
1. Edinburgh Castle from Blackford Hill
We’ve already featured Blackford Hill as the perfect vantage point to photograph Arthur’s Seat but while you’re up there you’ll want to turn your attention to Edinburgh Castle. You’re about 1 mile from the Castle here so you’ll need at least a 200mm lens to have any chance of a close-up. The most likely approach to the hill is parking in the car park at the back of the Observatory. If you feel fit, head up the hill towards the telephone mast and turn right as soon as you can. This will bring you out on the lower slopes and you’ll get your fist view of Edinburgh. It’s steep to the top from here but if you keep on the path up to the mast then turn right up the steep bit of hill it’s much easier as it’s a steeper but much shorter climb to the trig point. Once you there, pick your spot, you can’t go wrong!
2. Scottish Parliament from the Radical Road
If you’re down Holyrood way you can’t have missed the Scottish Parliament building. An odder looking structure you’ll be hard pushed to find and from ground level at least, it’s one ugly building as well. The best way to view this is from above. It changes the whole view somehow and you’ll get the bonus of Dynamic Earth next to it as well. From outside the Parliament building, shield your eyes from the ugliness and walk over the road towards Salisbury Crags. Turn left and look for the small red cinder path leading up the face of the crags. It’s a seriously steep climb here; thankfully you won’t need to go all the way round, just high enough to get a decent elevation on the buildings.
3. North Edinburgh Cityscape at night
This one is a personal favourite of mine. I stumbled across this shot by accident one night while up on Calton Hill taking some more classic shots of the city at night. Up at the side of the Observatory dome is the best place to be, walking round and there is a small railing that leads around to the Dugald Stewart Monument, the start of this railing is the spot. Look for the brightest spot along the shoreline, this will be Leith Docks and this is roughly where you’ll aim, a wide lens is a must here. In the proper dark, you’ll be looking at around a 2 minute exposure at f16 here but its well worth the effort. Also a nice shot to try at dusk as the lights start to come on.
4. Newhaven Harbour
Down on the coastline just 5 minutes from Ocean Terminal is the small historic harbour at Newhaven. As you get here, the first thing you’ll see is the large while lighthouse out on the edge of the harbour wall. In itself, it’s an interesting shot to take but for the best of Newhaven, use it as a backdrop instead. From the side nearest the road, take you pick of the boats and off you go. There’s also a nice shot to be had on the walk out to the lighthouse between the railings. A great spot for sunsets all year too.
5. Greyfriars Bobby
No visit to Edinburgh would be complete without a visit to Greyfriars Bobby. The statue of Edinburgh’s most famous dog sits on the corner of Candlemaker Row and George IV Bridge just across from the junction at Chambers Street. During the festival you’ll almost need to queue up to take the shot. Little tip here, don’t be tempted by the pub of the same name right opposite the statue, worst beer in Edinburgh, you have been warned!
6. Scott Monument from East Princes Street Gardens
Built as a tribute to Sir Walter Scott the large black imposing structure of the Scott Monument dominates east Princes Street Gardens. This is the location of the Christmas big wheel in Edinburgh too. You could photograph this from anywhere in the gardens but with a serious wide angle lens, try it from immediately below, or even as a ventorama for something just a little different. Try going up it too, amazing views from the top.
7. Duddingston Loch from above
Probably only worth attempting if you have a car at your disposal and it’s a bit of a walk if you don’t. At the edge of St Margaret’s Loch in Holyrood Park is a little one way road that leads around Arthur’s Seat. Note that the road is not always open so you might be disappointed, especially at night or on a Sunday afternoon. If it’s open, drive up till you pass Dunsapie Loch on your left hand side. Just past Dunsapie park up at the edge of the road. Looking down, you’ll see the large Duddingston Loch and the church beside, this is your shot right here! Another little tip here, don’t try this one at night, shall we say this is a popular area for “dirtier” activities in cars at night!
8. The Shore at night
A really easy one here. From Commercial Street in now fashionable Leith on the shore there’s a road bridge over the Water of Leith. This is your spot, especially good on a nice calm night.
9. Dean Village
Visiting Edinburgh, you must visit the Dean Village. It’s hard to believe this oasis of quiet is just minutes from the centre of Edinburgh. At the west end of Edinburgh head out towards Queensferry Road, before you cross the Dean Bridge there’s a steep downhill cobbled street. Follow this down into the Dean Village and you end up at a small bridge. Don’t cross the Bridge but follow the street further down keeping the river on your right, now you’ll be at a small footbridge. Just below this footbridge is your spot. Easy to get down to if the water is low. Look upstream and there’s your shot right there!
10. Fireworks at the Castle
Obviously this isn’t an all the time shot but it does happen with some regularity. The best of the lot is the Bank of Scotland Fireworks to mark the end of the Festival but there’s also a 10 minute display on every Saturday night after the Tattoo during the Festival around midnight, more at midnight on Hogmanay (December 31st) and sometimes on November 30th (St Andrews Day). With stacks of vantage points around the city Blackford Hill is again one of the best. However, Inverleith Park, Arthur’s Seat, Calton Hill and numerous city centre spots will also give you pics to be proud of.
Undiscovered: Union Canal at Ratho
Take the A71 out of Edinburgh on the West side of the city. After a few miles you’ll see a turn off for Ratho on the right. Take this past the Ratho Park pub and keep going for about 1 mile into the village of Ratho, turn right at the junction and follow the road around till you see the Bridge Inn pub. Park up here and cross the humpback bridge and head down onto the canal towpath on the right. Just up here is your spot, even better on a calm day.
So there we go, another 11 to keep you busy. Feel free to leave your comments below.
So, in part 1 of this blog, 11 Must Do Edinburgh Photographs I took you though all of my personal favourites. Now you’ve ran off and taken that 11 what next? Easy, in a city like Edinburgh there are most certainly another 11 worth doing in there so here’s part 2…
1. Bottom of Candlemaker Row looking up over the Grassmarket to Edinburgh Castle
Best done at night this one I think. And for that reason, best not done on a Friday/Saturday night as your right in the middle of the student drinking area here! Right at the bottom of Candlemaker Row, is a traffic island. Standing on that island you get the best view of this shot. Looking over the old building of the Grassmarket is the Castle, looking pretty imposing from this viewpoint.
2. The Forth Road Bridge
You couldn’t make the trip out to photograph the Forth Bridge without turning the camera onto the Forth Road Bridge. Often seen as an ugly sister to the striking Rail Bridge the Road Bridge is still a striking subject. There are 2 choices I’d recommend here. In South Queensferry itself is a small Harbour near the Orroco Pier pub. Head down there and to the left there’s a little bit of beach, You can get a nice low down shot from here taking in the rocks on the left.
If that’s not your thing, head over the bridge to the North side. Take the first exit once you’re over the bridge and head towards North Queensferry. As you come down the twisty road there’s a road off to the left. This takes you to a hotel car park. Next to the front of the hotel is a little path off up to the right, follow this up and you get to a viewpoint for the bridge. Great for long exposure night trail shots. You can also get out on to the bridge walkway from here.
3. City viewpoint on Corstorphine Hill
This one will take a bit of walking to find by well worth the hike over the hill. At the top of Cairnmuir Road in the Corstorphine area on the west side of Edinburgh is a little parking area. Park up here and head straight on onto the path up the hill. Continue heading along this path, keeping the iron fence to your right. You might hear some roaring going on here as the fence is the outer perimeter of Edinburgh Zoo. Keep going and about 1/2 a mile over the hill you’ll be able to see directly into the Zebra enclosure at the zoo.
Right here is bench with a fantastic view over the city. Take a BIG lens, at least 200mm, bigger if you have it. The Castle looks great from here with Arthur’s Seat directly behind but my favourite is taking the shot of Calton Hill and you’ll get East Lothian right the way to North Berwick as a backdrop.
4. St Giles Cathedral
No visit to Edinburgh could be complete without at least one visit to the Royal Mile. You could spend days here and not photograph everything. However, if you only do one shot, it has to be St Giles. Hard to miss near the top of the Royal Mile it’s a photogenic building at any time of day but my favourite again, is nighttime when it’s all lit up.
5. Fringe on the Royal Mile
Ok, so admittedly this one is pretty seasonal. 3 weeks in August to be exact. If you’re in Edinburgh in August then you’re in for a rare photographic treat. With huge crowds and street acts performing from 10 to 10 nearly every day you could spend hours here. My personal recommendation is a decent zoom lens; a 70-200 is perfect as you wont always get that close to the acts. Expect to take hundreds of pics in an afternoon here!
6. The Gormley at Ocean Terminal
It might not be the Angel of the North but Edinburgh does have six of it’s own Anthony Gormley statues. With number 1 found in the pavement outside the Gallery of Modern Art the other 5 are dotted down the Water of Leith until you get to the final one, which is situated in Leith Docks Western Harbour. Head down to Ocean Terminal shopping centre, that’s the one with ex Royal Yacht Brittania on display and head past all the parking areas till you get to multi story car park at the Debenhams side. To the left of the car park is a little walk along the dockside. Keep going here and there’s a derelict old wooden pier at the end of it. The Gormley stands right at the end of the pier.
7. Newhaven Harbour
Just 5 minutes along the shore from the Gormley lies the small but picturesque Newhaven Harbour. The main focus here is its lighthouse at the harbour entrance. Sunset works well down here but any time of day will give you a decent shot from somewhere.
8. Boats on the River Almond
Cramond is one place probably overlooked by visitors from Edinburgh, tucked away on the coastline just past Silverknowes. Cramond is mainly thought of for its island and sticking causeway, featured in part 1 of this blog. However, with the boating club mooring many boats along the mouth of the river Almond there’s a great chance of a nice nautical shot here. Look for the roundabout with the mast structure on the promenade near the causeway to the island, head upriver from here and there are some steps down to the water, a perfect spot looking down the river, especially earlier in the summer where sunset will light the shot perfectly.
9. Nelson Monument
One of the many monuments on Calton Hill the Nelson Monument is famous for it’s time ball on top, which is raised and lowered on the fire of the One o’clock Gun on Edinburgh Castle. The monument itself is the highest structure on the hill and gives great views of the city from the top. It’s a striking structure in its own right whether viewed from Princes Street of from right underneath.
10. Cityscape from Regents Road
If you’re up on Calton Hill you’re only minutes from this shot. Head down the hill and head off to your left to Regents Road. On the right hand pavement there is a small set of steps called Jacobs Ladder, from here you get a view over Waverley Station, the North Bridge all the way up to Edinburgh Castle. Great shot at night.
11. Undiscovered Gem: Cammo Tower
Probably never seen by visitors to Edinburgh is the Cammo Estate on the western edge of the city. Tucked away between the Barton area and Edinburgh Airport is a large area of public meadows and woodland. It’s a great place for a walk and the photographic potential is huge at any time of year. However one structure really stands out, the historic water tower on the eastern edge of the estate. Slightly creepy, it’s an interesting shot to take at any time of year.
So there you go, another 11 must haves. Feel free to add your own shots in the comments!
So your about to visit Edinburgh, camera in hand and ready to go. What are the must have shots to take home? Depends on your viewpoint really but for any tourist, there are a few must haves to take home to impress your friend and relatives. What follows is a personal top 10 of the classic Edinburgh shots, there are millions more to be had but these for me are my personal favourite “postcard” shots.
1. Calton Hill, the Dugald Stewart Monument and the city.
A no brainer this one. Surely one of the most iconic views Edinburgh has to offer. Stand up on the hillside by the old Observatory, from the corner the right spot will be obvious. Some people take it from further back with the Dugald Stewart Monument on the right of the shot; this is my preferred take on it. Get your position right and you can get the monument, Balmoral Clock and Castle positioned perfectly. Works well on a nice day with blue sky, sunset or even in the dark with a nice long exposure.
2. The National Monument
While you’re up on Calton Hill you might as well get the National Monument while you’re there. Hard to miss, the best shot is straight on to the structure. Of course you can shoot if from all angles but straight on is the best for me. If the weather’s not the best you might luck out and get nobody posing for pictures on it, otherwise you’ll have to live with the tourists in the shot. Not always bad as it gives a nice sense of the size of the monument. The monument is lit up at night so opportunities for a night shot here as well. Just be careful up on the hill at night, not always the best place to be alone with expensive camera gear in the dark.
3. Looking down Princes Street
3rd shot on Calton Hill. From the foot of the Nelson Monument, over the railings there is a classic view straight down Princes Street. With a reasonable zoom lens you can keep in the Balmoral Clock and look right down the length of the famous street. This shot works especially well at night with light trails along the road.
4. The Ross Fountain and the Castle in Princes Street Gardens
Found on the western edge of West Princes Street Gardens is the magnificent gold Ross Fountain. In summer, it’ll be surrounded by busts of colour with the flowers around it and the water will hopefully be turned on too. Position yourself right and with a reasonably wide lens you can get the fountain, flowers and Edinburgh Castle rising up behind it. Another iconic view of the city, especially good on a nice clear day. The Gardens do shut overnight so opportunities for sunset and sunrise are limited here; check the sun position to with SunCalc, the sun positioned to your right gives the best light on both the Castle and fountain.
5. The Forth Bridge
Found at South Queensferry, roughly 12 miles from the city centre is surely the world’s most recognisable bridge? The Forth Rail Bridge is a 3 span cantilever rail bridge and probably Edinburgh’s most recognisable structure. There’s no bad time or weather condition to shoot this bridge. Day, night, sunrise, sunset, rain, shine or snow, you’ll always get something different. Head down the little lane to the right of the bridge and you’ll come to a perfect spot to get it at sunset.
6. Cramond Causeway
Out to the west of the city before you come to the Forth Bridges is the village of Cramond. Sitting on the mouth of the River Almond is most famous for its Island and causeway which can be walked at low tide. Lining the Causeway are huge concrete spikes which are actually WW2 submarine defences. Chances of a good shot here are endless but looking down the causeway to the Island is always a winner. Just be sure to check tide times if you attempt a crossing, it’s further than it looks.
7. View from Arthur’s Seat/Salisbury Crags
There are 3 options here depending on how fit you are. If your feeling up to it, go right to the top, be warned, it’s not that easy going though. Other options are to the top of Salisbury Crags or even better, from the Crags base up on the Radical Road. The Radical Road runs from Holyrood climbing steeply up around the base of the Crags cliff face. Coming in from the other side of the road near the Commonwealth Pool is a much less steep climb. From up here you can get one of the most breathtaking cityscapes you’ll get from anywhere in the world. Sunset is good here in late autumn, winter or spring as the sun comes down behind the Castle but on a sunny day the view is equally as awe inspiring.
8. Arthur’s Seat from Blackford Hill
OK, so we’ve been up Arthur’s Seat but where’s the best place to photograph Arthur’s Seat from? Calton Hill is one choice; personally I’d go a little further out and do it from the slopes of Blackford Hill out to the South of the city centre. From up here you can get the whole classic profile of both Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags. Add to that the bonus of the views over the city and it’s a winner of a location.
9. Scott Monument, Balmoral Clock and the North Bridge
3 classic Edinburgh Landmarks in one easy shot. Walk up the side of the National Gallery from Princes Street and you’ll see the shot. Looking over East Princes Street Gardens you’ll get a decent view of all 3 from this slightly elevated position.
10. The Christmas Special
Princes Street is dominated every December by the arrival of the Big Wheel. Part of the city’s Christmas hoo-ha, the wheel sits next to the Scott Monument and with the arrival of the dark nights it’s a perfect place for a colourful Edinburgh at Christmas shot. In Princes Street look east towards Calton Hill, position yourself just before the wheel, with a camera on a tripod on the island in the middle of Princes Street. Wait for buses and general traffic to start moving and fire the shutter for around 20s. A perfect shot, and there can hardly be a photographer in Edinburgh who hasn’t done it.
11. The Undiscovered Gem
So 10 fairly well known shots down, now it’s time for something a little more out the way. Found at the top end of Harrison Park in the Harrison/Ashley area of Edinburgh is Ashley Boathouse. Sitting on the Union Canal around 1 mile from its start point at the Lochrin Basin the boathouse is one of the most photogenic locations in the city. Get here with a nice late evening golden light and you’re onto a winner especially if there’s a nice calm water surface.
So there you have my personal top 10. I’m sure many won’t agree and yes, I have left out a few of the obvious shots. Looking down Advocates Close from the Royal Mile to the Scott Monument has been omitted as the close behind is covered in scaffolding at the moment ruining the shot. I’ve left out anything from the Castle, top of Scott Monument or top of the Nelson Monument as these are all paying locations.
Feel free to add your own classics in the comments below!
Ok, so here goes for my first tip and this is one I use pretty often myself.
We all know as photographers or even would be photographers that sunrise and the more sociable sunset are some of the best times to go out with your camera. What’s not so easy is locating the times and position of the sun.
It seems obvious now but until I became obsessed with photography I never actually noticed that the surise/sunset positions actually moved. We all know the time changes through the year and you can usually, with a little thought, get a fair idea of when it’ll be but over the course of a year the position of the sun changes to a fair degree.
If I’m only looking for sunset or sunrise times then I tend to use the Met Office iPhone app which will tell you the times for your location, but only the next one. ie, at 5pm it will tell you sunset may be at 7.30pm and after that it’ll tell you when sunrise is but it’s useful to get an idea of cloud cover as well, no point making the trip out if the sun is going to be totally obscured by thick cloud is there?
A more exact science is the website Suncalc.net.
What this website lets you do is to pinpoint a particular position, in the example below I’ve chosen the corner of the observatory on Calton Hill looking over the Dugald Stewart monument over the Balmoral and the Castle, that classic Edinburgh shot! From the position from today you can see on the right when sunrise was, when sunset will be and more importantly, the positions of the sun for each. The yellow line for sunrise, orange for the position of the sun now and the red for sunset. From this example we can see that the sun would be just to the right of the shot.
This might actually be ok on a clear night but ideally for the perfect sunset you’ll want it coming down roughly behind Edinburgh Castle, so by playing with the date, we can see that on November 4th onwards, the sun will set just behind the Castle, which, with a bit of clear sky will be a near perfect position.
The great thing about Suncalc is that as it’s based on the Google Maps api it’s a familiar interface and you can easily work out where you’ll be a sunset or not just by moving the marker around. You never know, it might save you a wasted trip. Most of the summer the only sunset you’ll get from Calton Hill is over St James Centre, not quite as attractive a building at the Castle!