After 2 years in darkness the Forth Bridge is finally lit up again, by 1000 new spotlights. I remember the old lights. You were never sure they were on at first; the lights came on gradually until the bridge was tastefully lit. These new lights though?
See for yourself from this picture.
As you can see, the lights are very… open? The bridge looks fantastic but do the lights really need to be so blatant? It’s seriously one of the worst examples I think I’ve seen of structure lighting. You couldn’t see the light source from the old lights but these lights are way too open. The light pollution around the bridge itself is huge. A snow shower moved over last night and you could see the lights streaking up way above the bridge for a fair height. It’s simply too bright.
For photography purposes this is an issue. The old favourite panoramic shot of both bridges with a wide angle lens is not really an option at night anymore, the road bridge is a lot darker than the rail bridge and the lens flares from those lights are terrible. You could try a grad filter to ease out some of the rail bridge but I think that would make the flares even worse. See below for an example, I’ve marked the lens flares on the shot.
Not that long ago I was shooting star trails with the bridge, that’ll be impossible now. You simply couldn’t get those lights under control for a 30s exposure and the resulting pollution will mask the stars anyway. I didn’t try from down the Hawes Pier last night but I suspect the problem will be even worse down there.
It’s not a lot better from the North Queensferry side either sadly, although there does seem to be access under the bridge from that side with the works now removed, one to be better checked out in daylight.
I do hope that Scotrail don’t leave the lights like this although I suspect the bridge will now be like this forever. IN a time where we are more away of light pollution it seems very odd to light up an iconic structure in this fashion, especially as we’re all supposed to be getting “greener”. Frankly, I preferred it in the dark.
What a week it’s been for the old sunset shots! It also helps that sunset is at a hospitable time at the moment too. Setting around 8.40 is much preferable to being out and about at the back of 10 or worse still, being sat in work watching the sun give a great visual display on the horizon!
My last post gave you whole tale of how I managed to get my favourite sunset shot of the year so far, but as I can see from my Flickr photostream, April tends to be a particularly good month for sunset shots around Edinburgh for some reason.
This was last night’s effort. The original plan had been to head down to the Cramond Island causeway, but since I’ve done that to death I headed down to West Shore Road instead to a spot further along the coast I spotted the other night which had a perfect view of the causeway, Cramond Island and the Forth Bridges behind.
To say this was a difficult shot to take would be an understatement. The sun was still high in the sky, actually just above the top of the shot. With the distance I switched to the Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EX HSM for a bit of extra reach but actually expected it to give me horrible lens flares, which surprisingly, it didn’t. Once again, I framed up the shot with no filters, locked up the tripod and slipped on the now invaluable Heliopan ND3.0 10 stopper, the result was a pleasing enough shot with a nice gentle orange glow in the sky but it left the water a touch dull.
To combat this I slipped on the adapter ring and filter holder and slipped in the sunset filter. With this in place I could stretch the exposure out to a full 60s, after a couple of goes at setting the grad this was the final result. It took a fair bit of post process if I’m honest as shooting into the sun had brought out every single dust mark on the sunset filter, of which there were many! There was also a bit of flare I’m managed to just about eridacate with a little dodge and burn. If I were to try this again I think I’d try shading the filters to try and get rid of the flare from the shot in the first place.
The night before though also produced a surprise shot for me. With the position of the sun and ideally wanting to get it over water the Western Harbour at the back of Ocean Terminal is a great spot. The obvious shot is the old pier with the Gormley statue at the end of it, but the flats at the other side of the harbour make for a good shot too, especially if the water is still.
However, it was the pier that produced the goods. I’ve shot this before on long exposure and had a lot of issues with light bouncing back into the lens from the filters and I finally figured out why. At this location there is a shiny bare metal fence which I sit the tripod up against to get the shot, the light has been bouncing off the metal and back up into the bottom of the filters and I effectively get a reflection of the inside of the lens on the shot, just putting an arm along the fence was enough to get rid of this totally, amazing what you can figure out.
Again with this shot, I set up the shot without the 10 stopper in place, played with the filters to see which combination worked best and then screwed in the ND3.0 and slipped the other filters back on top. In this case, I’ve used the ND3.0, circular polariser, ND0.9 soft grad and sunset grad filter on a 3 minute exposure to get the colour and effect on the water. The sun was still in the sky off up to the left of this shot.
That’s the more recent shots but like I already said, April is a good month for sunsets so here’s some of the month’s other highlights!
Well, I finally got my hands on a 10 stop filter. Not the B+W I had originally hoped to get, they seem to be rather hard to get hold of just now in the UK, but a Heliopan ND3.0. After a little bit of research it seems that this filter is rated as highly as the B+W so when TeamworkPhoto on Ebay put a stack up for sale at a slightly lower price than the B+W versions a sale was inevitable. At a touch under £100 for a 77mm version it might seem expensive for a little bit of round glass but it’s when you start to use these things you can see the quality and exactly what your paying for.
This particular filter is the slim version so it fits nicely onto my Sigma 10-20mm lens and I can attached the 77mm p series adapter ring to it to allow me to use the CPL and grads easily too. The lens is usable at around 12mm upwards otherwise you do start to photograph the edges of the filter holder, which isn’t too bad as even without the 10 stop in place you get this same effect at around 11.5mm so no great hardship there.
First thing I noticed and it’s fairly obvious really, you simply cannot see a thing through this filter. It’s that dark. Hold it into very bright light, i.e. into the sun and you could just about compose a shot but with grads and a CPL in place as well, not a hope. This means the shot has to be composed on the tripod (obviously); the head locked in place and then carefully fit the 10 stopper and slip the filter holder with the grads on. Bit fiddly but you won’t be taking that many shots with this arrangement in place since you’re likely to be playing around in the 3 minutes exposure mark.
This was the first attempt with the 10 stopper. Taken on Calton Hill in Edinburgh, just the 10 stop and CPL in place. VERY bright light, around 5pm with a clear blue sky and, unusually for Scotland, a nice bright sun. 3 minute exposure and it’s nicely done the trick I wanted and got rid of all the tourists walking about in front of the monument, which was sheer luck not of them stood still long enough to get into the shot.
I did have another attempt later the same day at Newhaven Harbour and got some cracking results but the sea was rough, the wind was terrible and the grads were picking up spray all over and the shots were frankly unusable as a result. Lesson learned there.
Next night out was the Forth Bridges. A very familiar subject so a good place to test the filter out. I started around 7.20pm, approx an hour before sunset with the tide coming in and the sun still quite high above the Road Bridge. It seemed pointless to go shooting into the sun so I took a shot of the rail bridge with the rocks in the foreground getting covered by the incoming tide. This was a 4 minute exposure with the CPL and Hitech 0.6 ND soft grad. Very impressed at the lack of colour cast from the grad with the 10 stopper, at least if your not looking into the sun with it.
As the sun went further down I moved to the other side of the rail bridge to get the sunset with both bridges in the shot. A popular spot for photographers and sadly, the ned element of South Queensferry too it seems.
This was the last of my 10 stop shots for the night as exposure times were getting way too long with the decreasing light. This was a 331s exposure with the 10 stopper, CPL, ND0.6 soft grad and a light tobacco grad, ISO200 f11.
I have to say I’m enjoying the learning process with this new filter although my usual hit and miss method of calculating exposure times is going to get very tiring very fast. To that ends I’ve found an iPhone app called Long Time that does the calculation for you which I’ll give a trial of next time I’m out which will hopefully see the end of hit and miss results guessing exposure times.
I’ve got a new obsession.
Actually, it’s an old one rekindled and it comes in the form of the Hipstamatic app for the iPhone. A better £1.19 you couldn’t hope to spend. Digital photography has never looked so analogue is their strapline and it’s true. The easiest way to try and describe it is to look at it as some sort of lomography affair. You get the light leaks, the vignettes, the odd colourings etc and that’s the appeal. As a Holga owner this is far easier and more convenient that getting all that 120 format film developed. Obviously, it’s not proper lomo but it’s a whole lot of fun to use.
I rediscovered the pleasures of Hipstamatic after my recent interest in long exposure photography. What do you do when you’re waiting for a 3 minute exposure to end? You rattle off some Hipstamatic shots of the same subject, that’s what! It’s perfect. I even started photographing my D90 on the tripod doing the long exposure.
in fact, I’m having so much fun with this app I’ve started to take the Hipstamatic shots and then upload them using the Flickit App to my Flickr account, which also posts to Twitter with a link to the shot. Great fun as I can do it while I’m out and about rather than having to wait till I get home.
I used to use Hipstamatic to photograph everyday situations a new way, i.e. mundane scenes in an unusual style but now I’ve tried applying it to the sort of scene I’m photographing with the D90 it’s opened up a whole new set of uses and it’s nice to see some instant different takes on a scene.
So far I’ve used it at…
The point I’m trying to get to here, is that it’s a great compliment to my usual photography. What Hipstamatic does is what no other iPhone photography app does, it makes taking photos with a mobile phone fun and interesting. Your not looking for that meag quality shot, just something quick and interesting and it ticks both those boxes many times over. Besides… it doesn’t half fill in the gaps between those 3 minute exposures!
So… I’m still kind of obsessed with this long exposure monochrome photography thing. It’s a bit addictive once you’ve sussed it out. For me, going out every night with a camera isn’t out of the ordinary, my parallel addiction to blipfoto.com feeds that habit, but since getting into this long exposure stuff I can’t wait to get out and about. It’s like wiping my photography slate clean and I can go back and photograph everything I’ve photographed before in a new way.
What I have learned though, is that Formatt’s range of Hitech filters are NOT particularly good, something I found particularly evident with some experimentation tonight. Shooting with a very cheap screw in ND8 on the Sigma 10-20mm lens there is no colour casting at all. Add in a Hitech 0.9 and 0.6 ND soft grad, with this £5 screw in, no colour casting. Add in the Hitech 0.9ND and it all goes purple in the sky. Take out the ND8 and it’s all still purple.
Examine this logically. The ND8 gives a 4 stop reduction in light; the 0.9ND gives a 3 stop. The 2 grads give a 3 and 2 stop reductions, combined to 5. Now, with the screw in, that’s overall 4 stops reduction with a further 5 stops grad in the sky, no cast. With the ND0.9, that’s overall 3 stops with a further 5 in the sky, less than with the screw in and the colour cast is horrible. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes style power of deduction to realise it’s that Hitech 0.9 ND that’s spoiling this party for the colour shots! It’s got to go and I NEED a B+W ND110 and quickly. From what I see from other people with this filter, no casts! Poor show Formatt.
Anyway, tonight’s trip took in Newhaven Harbour, the Old Pier at the back of Ocean Terminal shopping centre at the Western Harbour and finally, a quick pit stop in the Dean Village for the Water of Leith. The 2 coastal stops were, shall we say, challenging. It was cold, blowing a gale and there were occasional spots of rain in the air. Despite this though, both Newhaven and the old pier gave some decent shots overall. I’ve photographed that old pier a few times now; finally I’ve got a shot I’m happy with.
Tried some new angles at Newhaven, thankfully the gate was open at the top here and I didn’t have to do any acrobatics over the fence…
The wind was so bad down here tonight you literally had to shield the tripod with your body to get a decent shot. Typical Scottish wind too, came from every angle and was bloody cold!
Quick trip inland to the Dean Village was the best option to escape the wind. It’s a great location this and the last twice I’ve visited here there was a film crew on the bank I wanted and the time before that the Water of Leith was in serious spate at the banks were under water. No so today and a few different angled shots of this great scene were had. I liked this one best, very low angle from the opposite bank from the one I wanted. Worked well and the 2 ducks that were following me about thankfully kept moving so didn’t appear in the shot!
I’ll leave you with a couple of other shots from the last few nights using this same technique.
And finally, a shot of the causeway at Cramond leading to Cramond Island, this was my breakthrough shot. I was down here doing a sunset and gave this a quick try before I left, best shot of the night!
There’s nothing better than a special event to bring out the photographers in Edinburgh, even more so it seems if it’s a once every 20 years lunar event as we had on Saturday 19th March. The event in question, the Perigee Moon saw the moon at it’s closest to earth for 18 years meaning it would look 14% bigger and 30% brighter. Would we even notice? Who care’s it’s a photographable event and plans had to be made!
Last week after being in North Queensferry I had noticed the moon directly above the Rail Bridge so that was a possible location. Blackford Hill was another but it gets slightly cold up there if it’s windy. So, with the help of Twitter and The Photographers Ephemeris, I decided on Calton Hill. From the Photographers Ephemeris you could see the position and time of the moonrise, around 6.30pm and due East.
On arriving at Calton Hill the first thing that struck me was the amount of photographers already setup at 6pm with cameras on tripods facing the wrong direction! I can only assume one set up incorrectly and the rest followed as they had all moved by 6.30pm.
It was cold on the hillside on Saturday and as you would expect, half 6 came and went with no sign of the moon. Typically, the clear skies of earlier in the day had given way to heavy cloud cover, not what you want for moon photography. My efforts were further hampered by missing my Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 lens, which has to go for repair earlier in the day leaving me with just my backup Sigma 28-300mm zoom, nice enough lens but oh so soft on the focus at the 300mm end. With that in mind, moon shots were out but moon above a landmark might still work out.
Just when I was about to give up hope the first glimmers of an appearance were in the Eastern sky, at this point I was up at the side of Observatory house and this was the first shot I got of any sort of moon just to the side of the National monument:
Walking past the monument revealed where at the photographers had went; they were dotted everywhere around the hillside here. The moon however, was not in a mood to show itself and the only other shot I got was this:
Long exposure and moon shots don’t go but there wasn’t even a remote chance of shooting the land and then the moon to combine in Photoshop. Fed up and cold I packed up and headed off being that I wasn’t interested in getting the moon high in the sky. Typically, on the way back to the car with all the gear packed away the moon popped out, just for a minute.
Now, I hate not getting the shot I went for so the next night, the moon was due to rise at 8.15pm again, due east. On checking possible locations this time I went, appropriately, for the car park of the Royal Observatory on Blackford Hill. You don’t want to be parking in the public car park up here at night unless dogging is your thing…
Predictably, 8.15 came and went and it was nearly 20 minutes later till the first glow in the clouds gave away moon position. Higher than I’d have liked I started to get some exposures of the land hoping if the cloud cleared I’d get a change of an exposure for the moon to combine in. After another 20 minutes of hanging about, finally the clouds obliged. 2 shots were got, first of the moon then without moving the camera a longer exposure for the land. This was the final result of the 2 combined with Photoshop CS5.
Not quite the weekend of lunar photography I’d hoped for and 18 years to wait for it to happen again.
Or fake it?
Processing this shot last night I thought an added moon gave it a nice balance!
Not that dissimilar to another faked shot from a couple of months back:
Lesson to be learned? You can’t control the elements so if you really want the shot, learn to fake it! ;o)
When the Forth Road Bridge Twitter stream tells you there’s a speed restriction on the bridge because of fog, what’s the first thing you should do as an Edinburgh photographer? Check the road bridge webcam of course! Which I did and it confirmed what I’ve been looking for now for a while, the fog was heavy enough to obscure the opposite bank, meaning that the elusive bridge disappearing into the fog shot I’ve been after might be possible.
Heading to North Queensferry just after work seemed like the best plan, get in underneath the bridge and get “that” shot. In the event, the good people of Fife had other ideas and in their scramble to get home the bridge was chockers with traffic. Plan B swung into action as the sunset was approaching and a path was blazed down to South Queensferry instead.
If you drive in past the rail bridge there’s a spot with some parking and you can get down to the beach at low tide. Perfect spot and the fog was also perfect, more on the North side of the water it was low and thick. It obviously drew out the photographers as there were loads of them about.
Highlight of the night down here wasn’t the fog, or the bridge or anything even related to why I was there; nope it was watching the Rover 25 slide off the road, down the slope and end up at a 45 degree angle against the sea wall. Any thoughts of offering help went out the window when the driver stormed out the car shouting at the other occupants to move it as “a cannae be here…”, intrigue indeed.
Anyway, back to the photography.
Sun was setting and I went to work with the filters, what was apparent though was that the fog was getting worse. With the last of the decent light I got some shots off but just as we were looking for the sunset the fog went all pea souper on us and blocked out the last of the golden tones.
Still, I did get this shot before it closed in…
By this point light was fading fast and the fog was so thick options were getting limited. Took some shots with the Nikon 18-70mm to let me zoom out past the rocks and also tried out the Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EX HSM to get close in and get some detail.
And the detail shot at 200mm from the beach:
With the light going fast a change of location seemed like a good idea so moved up to the Binks car park and headed down to the beach at the side of the little harbour. Now, this is normally a pretty good location but with the tide right out it wasn’t the best tonight so after a few shots abandoned here and headed over the bridge to the North Queensferry side.
Driving over the bridge the thickness of the fog was apparent, nearer the north bank you could hardly see 20ft in front of you but as soon as you cleared the water the fog thinned right out.
When you come into North Queensferry if you go right at the first junction you come to you’ll head towards the bottom of the road bridge. You can park up near the houses and there is a little gap in the low wall leading to a grassy area that leads to a fantastic spot to get shots of the underside of the road bridge.
I was kind of glad I didn’t get here till the twilight was setting in as the lights were on on the bridge and and casting a sort of eerie glow in the fog. I’d only taken the Sigma 10-20mm with me and to be honest, this lens doesn’t perform well from the side of the bridge; the wide angle distortion is VERY obvious. The Nikon 18-70mm lens would have been a better choice.
Undeterred, the one spot this lens does work well in directly under the bridge, not somewhere your really supposed to be so nipped in and out quick, got the shot and headed out. Glad I did as this was the result…
Finished the night off round at the harbour and by the side of the rail bridge getting some shots of the lights in the fog, which I’ll process later.
All in all, a 3 hour night on the camera with some fairly satisfying results and very glad to finally have got the Bridges fog shots at last, another one ticked off the list. Not that I won’t be back for the next bout of fog as well…
Photographing the Forth Bridges is but like the old adage, of painting the Forth Bridge, i.e. it’s a never ending job. I’ve been photographing them regularly for the last 2 years and still find inspiration and new views every time I get down there.
With the size of the structures they are visible from many location but here I’ll deal with some of the closer spots to investigate both bridges, all with easy access especially if you have a car.
So lets start with the South Queensferry side first, if your coming from Edinburgh, simply head west and follow the signs for the Forth Road Bridge, once on the A90, take the turn off to South Queensferry and follow to road down into the town, you’ll see the bridges after approx 2 miles.
As you approach the bridges you’ll see the lifeboat station, to your right is a small single track road, head down here first and follow the road for about 100m. You’ll come to an open area with plenty parking and the rail bridge should be on your left. From there you can photograph it from the top of the bank or if your feeling fit and the tide is out, head to the left of the wall, there’s a gap here to let you down onto the beach. These are all shots taken from that location:
From here, head back the way to came and park more or less under the rail bridge, again some nice views from here on on the small beach in front of you. You can also walk down the pier.
Typical views from this location:
From here, head past the lifeboat station and you’ll get to the main promenade, loads of parking here but it gets very busy in the summer and at weekend. From here you can photograph either bridge or even both together with the right lens. With the tide out, down on the pebble beach here is a good location.
Now, head into South Queensferry itself, you’ll come to a small parking area, from here you get a better wide angle view of the rail bridge.
Our final location of the south side of the bridges is just along the road. If you can, park up where the road comes to a junction, near the Orocco Pier pub. There’s also a small car park over the junction and to the right but it’s always very busy. Walk though and you’ll find a small harbour, you can either photograph from here or walk to the left and you’ll find the small car park where there are lot of locations to get either bridge.
If your really lucky, there might be a cruise boat in and moored up near the rail bridge:
Head up the hill out of South Queensferry and turn right at the top of the road, go round the roundabout and onto the Road Bridge. Cross the bridge and take the first exit after you cross it and follow the signs to North Queensferry. Follow the small road down into the village. Keep following it and and eventually just past the junction for Deep Sea World you’ll see a small pub, head off to the left towards the rail bridge. You can park here near the entrance to the bridge works.
From here you can get either bridge:
Once your done here, head back the way you came and at the junction turn left towards the pier. You’ll be able to park near the anchor statue. You can get the rail bridge here or walk down the pier (at low tide) and get the road bridge.
From here, head back out the village and on the way up the hill on your left after you pass under the road bridge is a turn off that takes you up the the Bridges Hotel. Drive in and park just as you get into the upper bit of the carpark. Just to the side of the door/conference area there is a path heading up to the right. Follow this and you’ll get to the bridges viewpoint. This is a perfect area to photograph the road bridge, especially at night.
While you’re here, you can take the stairs to the left and go under the road bridge and back up on the other side, access is restricted on this side but you can get a view over North Queensferry to the rail bridge. It’s also possible to walk along the road bridge on the other side from this location.
So there you go, a quick snapshot of EASY locations to photograph the bridges. Of course with a little scouting around there are hundreds more but there are all easy to get to with (usually) plenty parking. You could do the whole lot in a couple of hours if you felt the need!