Posts tagged “edinburgh castle

Photographing fireworks in Edinburgh

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.

Tattoo Fireworks 14 August 2013

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.

Tattoo Fireworks 2 - 14 August 2013

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!

The 2nd image above is for sale as matt prints or canvas up to A0 size, which can be ordered from here: http://goo.gl/ZMTkar or by visiting my website at http://www.realedinburgh.co.uk

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.


High’s and Low’s with Fireworks Photography

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.

Festival Fireworks 18
Nikon D90 with 18-70mm lens set for a wider shot of the city with the fireworks at the castle.

Festival Fireworks 1
Closer shot with a Nikon D7000 and Sigma 70-200 f2.8 lens.

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.

St Andrews Day Fireworks 2011 - Explored
Shot with a Nikon D7000 and Sigma 70-200mm f2.8

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.

Son et lumiere 9

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.

New Year Fireworks 2012

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!


A year in pictures, month by month

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!

January

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.

Edinburgh Hogmanay Fireworks 2011 - FP, Explore #2

February

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.

Western Harbour Reflections

March

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.

There used to be a castle there

April

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.

On Top of the Falkirk Wheel

May

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.

Belhaven Bridge Revisted 2

June

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.

Timing of the tide - Explored

July

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…

A Brace of Coneflower

August

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.

Newhaven Cobbles - Explored

September

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.

Red Arrows Leuchars 2011

October

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!

Scottish Executive Streaks

November

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.

November Sunset from Calton Hill

December

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.

Forth Bridge Star Trail - Explored


Where to Photograph Edinburgh Castle Fireworks?

OK, to the Festival is in full swing but on September 4th at 9.00pm nearly every camera in Edinburgh will be pointing towards the Castle for the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert. 30 minutes of MASSIVE fireworks over Scotland’s most iconic landmark. It’s a photographic opportunity not to be missed, but where can you photograph this from?

You can see the Castle from multiple locations around Edinburgh but some will be much better then other for photographic purposes so I’m going to give you a little rundown of some of the spots that might work for you and those you should avoid.

Princes Street
Bad move. A prime location sure, it’s really where the whole thing is designed to be watched from but it’s oh so busy and there is no way you’d ever get a tripod setup in that crowd. Possibly iif you were up Castle Street or Frederick Street but personally, I’d stay well away from here.

Inverleith Park
Plenty viewing down this way but arrive early and get yourself a prime spot above the duck pond on the edge of the slope so nobody can get in front of you. Arrive late and you’ll be kicking yourself as it will be heaving here. Also sadly has a bit of a reputation for drunks on fireworks night but it looks directly onto the front of the castle so you’ll get the bursts exactly as they were meant to be seen. Long lens needed.

Blackford Hill
Normally my favourite spot. Again, you need to arrive early as there is limited parking and it fills up quickly. It’s a prime viewing spot looking straight onto the back of the castle so you get the bursts perfectly. It’s a large area so no problems with getting a bit of personal space to get your shots. Again though, it’s started to get a bit of the drunken teenager element up there which was especially bad last year, normally higher up the hillside so stay down near the observatory.

Edinburgh Festival Fireworks

Arthurs Seat/Salisbury Crags
Again, another very popular location and the roadside parking will fill up very quickly. Get onto the high road at St Margaret’s Loch and drive around till you can see the Castle, if you can get parked you’re in a prime spot. If not, go round again and it’s all one way. If you can get parked you have the option of going up to the top edge of the crags, be careful though as it’s not that easy going, very rocky underfoot in places. The Radical Road, the high path around the base of the crag cliffs is shut for a rock fall so expect there to be someone in place that stopping you getting up that way on the night.

If you feel fit you could get higher up on Arthur’s Seat and get great views but be careful in the dark, the very top is likely to be busy as well. You look along the line of the castle from this angle so you tend to shoot through the bursts which can be difficult.

Calton Hill
So close to the city centre this is a prime spot and as such it will fill up quickly and early. Again, you’re shooting through the fireworks and if the smoke drifts towards you it’s going to be game over after the first few minutes, you take your chance! Plenty spots you can get a good view bit likely to be no parking anywhere in the same postcode.

Homecoming Scotland Fireworks Edinburgh - Explored

Regents Road
There’s a reasonable view of the Castle from here if Calton Hill is too busy. Again though, you’ll be shooting through the bursts which can lead to messy images.

The Meadows
From the east side there are some ok views but the buildings and trees are an issue, worth considering if you get caught out and can’t get anywhere better.

Bruntsfield Links
A prime city centre location. Loads of space, goood view to the back of the castle and you don’t need a monster lens either, a mid range zoom will be more than adequate here. This location will get busy but it’s just far enough away from the Princes Street area to make access in and out easy enough. Not much parking around the Links at the best of times but you should get something in the area.

Edinburgh Hogmanay Fireworks 2011 - FP, Explore #2

North Bridge
Prime spot but likely to be jam packed so not worth considering.

Johnstone Terrace
Right under the back end of the castle, likely to be busy and you’ll need a wide lens. So tight underneath you’ll be out of view of some of the smaller bursts.

Corstorphine Hill
Huge lens needed from up here but at the view point round by the back of the zoo you get a clear view of the Castle with Arthur’s Seat behind. About miles walk in from Cairmuir Road but very limited space.

Craiglockart Hill
Good viewing point, pretty long lens needed. Probably not as busy as some other places.

The Braids
Braid Hills Road is a popular spot and unless you’re there early you have no hope of parking, get there early though and from the Comiston side you get a good view, once that’s full though the further you go towards the Liberton side Blackford Hill gets in the way but there are views from the Liberton side. Up on Braids Hill itself is too far away to be practical, better headed for Blackford Hill instead.

Ferry Road
There are quite a few spots along Ferry road that have a clear view towards the front of the Castle, you’ll need a big lens though.

Some LONG range alternatives
For something a bit different you might try the beaches of Fife which mostly have a clear view towards the city and the Castle will be easy to pick out. You’ll need a decent big lens and will be more photographing the city with the bigger bursts above rather than the castle.

Longniddry Bents no.3 car park also has a clear view to the castle; you can get the skyline nicely with a 200mm lens.

I’m sure there will be more spots, how about telling us some more in the comments?


Photographing Edinburgh’s April Sunsets

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.

Silverknowes Sunset

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.

Gormley Sunset 26 April 2011

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!

Newhaven Lighthouse, April 26th
Easter Monday Sunset

Edinburgh Skyline from Longniddry, April 19th
Edinburgh Sunset

Portobello Sunset, also April 19th
Portobello Sunset

Another Newhaven sunset, also April 19th
Newhaven Sunset

Forth Bridges, April 12th
Forth Bridge at Sunset April 12 2011

Newhaven… again! April 10th
Newhaven Sunset April 10th 2011

Forth Road Bridge, April 9th
Forth Road Bridge sunset - Explored 10 April 2011 #321

Cramond, April 8th
Cramond Boat Sunset

Ashley Boathouse, April 7th
Ashley Sunset 7 April 2011 - Explored 7 April 2011 #44

Edinburgh City Centre, April 6th
Edinburgh Sunset 6 April 2011

Calton Hill, April 3rd
Calton Hill Sunset 3 April 2011


Hipstamatic! The ultimate iPhone photography app?

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.

D90 at the pier

That shot on Calton... Hipstamatic

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…

Newhaven Harbour
Newhaven Lighthouse Hipstamatic

Ashley Boathouse
Ashley Boathouse Hipstamatic

Dean Village
Dean Village Hipstamatic

Dean Village Railings

Portobello Beach
Porty Beach Hipstamatic

Porty Beach Breakwater Hipstamatic

Calton Hill
Calton Hipstamatic

Calton Hill Hipstamatic

Cramond
Cramond Beach Hipstamatic

My favourite Hipsta shot ever…
Cramond Causeway

and the Forth Bridges
Forth Road Bridge Hipstamatic

Forth Bridge Hipstamatic

Forth Bridge Hipstamatic

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!


Snow and Mist over Edinburgh

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.

There used to be a castle there

And a closer view:

Edinburgh Fog

Within 15 minutes the entire city centre was hidden below the fog and it was starting to thicken up on the hillside too.

Fog on Calton

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!


A windy night on Calton Hill

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.

Storm over Edinburgh

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!

Edinburgh Sunset March 2011

Calton Hill sunset and storm clouds March 2011

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!

Edit!
I’ve finally got around to processing more of the images from that night so without further ado…

Storm Clouds over Edinburgh

Old Town Twilight and storm

Leith Walk Twilight

Leith Twilight


Favourite Edinburgh Photographs of 2010

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.

January
Spylaw Park

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.

February
Entrance to the Pentlands

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
10 to 3

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.

April
Union Canal boathouse - Explored

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.

May
Dean Village in summer - Explored

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.

June
Bridges Sunset 4 June 2010

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…

July
Looking down Princes Street sepia

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
Reflected Fringe - Explored

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
Princes Street Gardens

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
Victoria Terrace

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.

November
Unfinished Shadows

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
Sundown at Cammo

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!


Never be afraid to take the same photograph again…

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.

Classic Edinburgh under blue sky

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.

Classic Edinburgh - Explored & FP

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.

Calton Hill Sunset 31 August 2010 - Explored

Finally another sunset, this time in October and not given any HDR treatment, this is down to the use of ND soft grads.

Calton Hill Sunset 11 October 2010 - Explored

So, 3 shots, all from exactly the same spot but a very different result from each.

How about at night?

Classic Edinburgh 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.

Calton in the Snow

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.

From Calton with a Lensbaby

Or how about even a very different camera, this was taken with a cheap Holga on 120 format B&W film.

Calton Hill Holga

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.

The way in... - Explored
However, with the snow on the ground again before Christmas 2010 I got a chance to redo the shot, which now I’m very happy with.

The Way In - revisited

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!