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!


6 Top Locations to Photograph an Edinburgh Sunset

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 Sunset 11 October 2010 - Explored

Classic Edinburgh - Explored & FP

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

Edinburgh Castle at Sunset HDR

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

Forth Bridge Sunset June 4 2010

Forth Road Bridge sunset - Explored

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.

4. Cramond

Cramond sunset

Cramond Sunset 4

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

Newhaven Lighhouse at Sunset

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

Sunset over Edinburgh from Blackford Hill

Edinburgh Sunset from Blackford Hill - Explored

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?


Top 10 Edinburgh Railings You Must Photograph

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.

Extreme fence bokehery - Explored

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.

The Depth of the National Gallery Fence

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!

Calton bokeh fence

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!

Bokeh all the way down

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.

Round the Mound

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.

Hub Railings Part 3

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.

Botanics fence-keh or is it fenceh?

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.

More railings than you can shake a stick at

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.

Calton Railings

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.

Leading to Arthurs Seat

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.


Yet another 11 must do Edinburgh photographs!

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

Blackford Hill view 2

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

Ariel Holyrood

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

North Edinburgh 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

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

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

Scott Monument Pano

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

Duddingston Loch

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

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

Dean Village in summer - Explored

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

Edinburgh Festival Fireworks

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

Ratho Basin 2

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.


Edinburgh Photo Walk with a Lensbaby

So, first things first. What exactly is a Lensbaby? In simple terms, it’s approximately a 55m lens on a bendy bellows what allows selective focus. It comes in 3 flavours, the basic Muse, which is, to be honest, not the easiest things to use. The more advanced Composer which allows you to lock focus which means you can use it on a tripod and spend time to get your focus bang on. Finally there is the Control Freak, or 3G as it used to be called. A strange looking lens that allows you to lock the focus, fine-tune it and then fine-tune your blur with the 3 adjustable screws around the lens. Owning both a Muse and 3G I can say without doubt, if you buy one, get the Composer or 3G, so much easier to use. Also, go for the glass optics, the plastic optic versions are cheaper but give a much less sharp image. Prices range from around £89.99 for the plastic optic Muse up to £229 for the Control Freak.

With the Lensbaby lesson out the way we can get onto the photo walk route. When I set out today I had no intention of this turning into a Lensbaby day, the Nikon D90 had the Sigma 10-20mm lens on to start with but when I finally used the 3G Lensbaby the idea for this blog post hatched. With that in mind, lets do a quick overview of the route, and you can always refer to the map at the bottom of this post which shows the position I took each of the following 10 shots from. I focused mainly on landmarks and steered away from arty farty type low DoF shots for this and the main focus of today was to capture the familiar in an unfamiliar way.

Parking at Kings Stable Road, which is always easy to get parked at, I went into West Princes Street Gardens, passed through to East Princes Street Gardens, back out at the same side I went in at the National Gallery, up The Mound, Mound Place, Ramsay Lane to Edinburgh Castle Esplanade. From here, out to Johnston Terrace, Castle Terrace and down the steps back to Kings Stable road. Not that hard going and took about an hour and a bit to complete. Easy enough for most people.

Equipment used was a Nikon D90, Lensbaby 3G with the f4 aperture ring fitted, Giottos Tripod and remote switch. All shots were in manual mode, as the Lensbaby will not work in any other mode setting on the D90.

1. The Ross Fountain and Edinburgh Castle

Ross Fountain and the Castle

First off, the classic shot from West Princes Street Gardens. Sadly, at this time of year the flowers are dug up and the water tuned off not that it really affected this shot though. Focus was on the top of the fountain.

2. Balmoral Clock and Walter Scott Monument

Balmoral and Scott Monument

Focal point here is on the clock with the blur bleeding in from the left hand edge over the Scott Monument. Taken from the side of the National Gallery looking east.

3. Buskers at the National Gallery

Outside the National Gallery

A popular place for street performances during the Festival there’s usually something going on here all year. Today, we were treated to a performance by these buskers. Start contrast to the 2 alcoholics begging a few yards further down! Welcome to Scotland indeed…

4. Ramsay Gardens

Ramsay Gardens

From the National Gallery we head up the Mound, from the first corner here you get a great view of Ramsay Gardens, the most exclusive address in Edinburgh. You’ll see why when you pass though here on the way to the Castle.

5. The Balmoral Clock

Balmoral Clock

First of 3 from the high vantage point of Mound Place. Here, the focus point is the Balmoral Hotel clock face. I find if there’s anything that is expected to be sharp, writing, clock face etc, it makes an excellent focal point to Lensbaby shots.

6. National Gallery

National Gallery

Looking down a bit more is an ariel view of the National Gallery of Scotland. Focal point here is on the pillars on the right.

7. Princes Street

Princes Street

From this elevation it’s almost a tilt-shift shot with the Lensbaby. Focal point here is on the junction in Princes Street itself letting the blur come in from both edges and up from Princes Street Gardens.

8. View from the Esplanade

View from the Esplanade

When the Tattoo grandstands finally get dismantled there’s a great view towards the south of Edinburgh from here. Only part of the wall was accessible today so this is the best view I could get. Focal point here is the back of the old building of the Edinburgh College of Art with the Pentland Hills as a dramatic backdrop.

9. Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Tuning right down the steps as you leave the Esplanade takes you down into Johnston Terrace where you can get this fairly classic view of Edinburgh Castle.

10. Grassmarket

Grassmarket TiltShift

For our final shot we walk down Johnston Terrace to the top of the amusingly named Granny Green Steps. From this point you can get a view of where Kings Stable Road joins the Grassmarket, again from this elevation it looks almost like a tiltshift.

Below is a map showing the location I took each shot from, thanks to Google Maps for the map.

Lensbaby Photo Walk map

Location map of the photo points

Feel free to leave your comments below, if this post goes down well I’ll try and suggest some more photo walks around the city in future.


11 Other shots you must take in Edinburgh

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

Castle and the Grassmarket

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

Forth Road Bridge sunset - Explored

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

Calton Skyline

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

St Giles at night

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

Juggling fire!

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

Anthony 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

Newhaven slipway

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 sunset

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

Nelson Monument with the Moon and Stars

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

Rainy Edinburgh Night

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

Cammo tower and trees

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!


11 Must do Edinburgh Photographs

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.

Calton Hill Sunset 31 August 2010 - Explored

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

Unfinished Monument, Calton Hill

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

Princes Street Reopens

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

Princes Street Gardens Classic view

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

Forth Bridge Misty Sunset - Explored

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

Submarine Defence Sunset

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

Edinburgh City

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

Arthurs Seat Sunset Pano

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

Scott Monument & The Gardens

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 at Christmas - Explored

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

Union Canal boathouse - Explored

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!


Sunset & Sunrise Times and Positions

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.

Suncalc.net, sunset position from Calton Hill

Sunset position from Calton Hill on September 19th 2010

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.

Sunclac.net Sunset Position November 4th 2010

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!