Ah, Autumn, thank god it’s here at last. Whatever it throws at us it can’t be worse than the soggy summer of 2012. In photographic terms at least, the next couple of months are great for getting out with the camera. Sunset and sunrise are at sociable times, nice dark (hoepfully clear skies) and the trees turning those fantastic golden shades.
So here you are in Edinburgh, what’s the hot shots to try out the next couple of months?
Lets kick off with the top sunset location for Autumn in Edinburgh and it’s predictably Calton Hill. At this time of year the sun in heading back towards the Castle at sunset meaning all those fantastic cityscapes can benefit from the full burst of colour from the setting sun.
Don’t forget the twilight too from up here, any direction is good, why not try Leith at twilight for something a little different?
Sticking with Calton Hill, the just after sunrise the National Mounment will be casting some nice shadows. Get up there early though, too late and the sun will be in the way of the shot.
Seafront locations are not at their best at this time of year for sunsets but the Cramond causeway can provide a nice sunrise.
On 5th October, the sunset at high tide at both at exactly 6.31pm, with a 5m tide it’s a perfect night to head out to Belhaven Bay outside Dunbar for the Bridge to Nowhere shot.
It’s getting a little late in the year but 8th October might be a good night to try and catch the advancing tide at the Longniddry wreck found just off the number 1 carpark.
Nearer the end of October with the moon out the way it might be a good chance to try for the Milky Way before it slinks off for the summer, try the carpark at Harlaw Reservoir about 2 hours after sunset, give your eyes time to adjust and you should see the dense star cloud that forms the band of the Milky Way just off to the south west.
There’s obvioulsy quite a few fireworks opportunities around November 5th but keep and eye open for the South Queensferry display for a chance to catch them over water.
There might also be a display at the Castle for St Andrews day, though possible not exactly on 30th November and it’s likely to be short display too.
With the darker nights it’s also a pefect time to try those light trails shots, with Princes Street open again it’s an obvious choice but anywhere with traffic is possible, why not try Holyrood Park about 30 minutes after sunset?
It’s also a good time to get those star trails shots in, Newhaven lighthouse, is a cold but worthy spot as you can get Polaris in the shot.
Hopefully that little lot will give you some ideas for Edinburgh photography over the next few months!
Plan last night was to head down to Marine Drive in Edinburgh which is right on the coastline next to Cramond where there was a chance of photographing the moon rising over the water. Using The Photographers Ephemeris on the Mac it was possible to see where the moon would rise and there was nothing but water in-between last night. Better still, it was a fairly clear night so off I trotted.
Marine Drive is a funny place. Actually pretty dark, has great views over to Fife and is a prime spot to look for aurora, the only downside is that is seems to be a popular dogging spot which means you get random cars drive up, park, check what you’re up to and head off back up to the dark part of the road!
If you can put up with that though it’s a prime photo spot with a few possible shots, doggers not included.
When I got there the eastern horizon was so dark you really couldn’t tell if there was any cloud there or not but with 10 minutes to go before the moon came up I used the view west for a few shots. Over an hour after sunrise there was a fantastic colour in the sky on the western horizon, too good to miss in fact when you also take into account the slowly receding high tide catching the last of the golden light.
These shots were the result, no filters, just a bit of PP work and that’s about it. The 2nd shot looks closer in towards the Cramond Island causeway.
By this point though, it was clear there was cloud on the horizon as the moon hadn’t appeared but there was some hope, a very faint orange glow so worth hanging about for.
In the meantime I took a few shots of the planes on final approach to Edinburgh Airport. This is right under the main flight path and in the dark you can get some pretty dramatic trails.
2 things stood out on the sky at this point, the bright red star Arcturus to the west and the constellation of Cassiopeia, that distinctive W shape. After watching a few landings I got the compositions right and this was the result. 1st shot is past Arcturus and 2nd is past Cassiopeia.
Finally though the moon had started to show, that faint orange glow was now very obvious so on went the bigger lens, after some playing about I got the shots I was after. This might be better with a thinner crescent moon, as the exposures might be closer, as it was I had to really overexpose the moon to get any detail in the foreground.
Just a wee bonus, I was back in the car heading for home to get the telescope out when I spotted a plane heading right for the moon, a chance to get that elusive plane in front of the moon shot. With everything packed away I had about 20s to get the tripod out, extended and the D7000 adjusted and on top. No time for the remote so I had to press the shutter button and hope. This was the result, really not clear but I’ll get it next time now I know roughly where and when I can get it from.
All in, a good night for the 40 minutes or so I was there, much better than the dreadful night had with the telescope later but that’s a story for another day…
Done correctly, traffic light trails can produce striking almost abstract images. However, getting the perfect shot isn’t quite as easy as it sounds.
So, what’s the technique behind it?
Well, the good news is to capture light trails all you need is a camera that will allow you to control the exposure time and a tripod, no expensive filters required, no fancy lens’s although a very wide lens will give a more dramatic result, as we’ll see further down the page.
Obviously, you won’t be capturing light trails in daylight, no lights on the traffic equals no light trails, no matter how much you filter out the light so we’ll be working at dusk, dawn or for best results at night.
Also, think carefully about your location. An obvious place to start is a motorway footbridge. The advantages here are, dark road, lots of traffic and on a bridge you can get central to it safely.
The actual technique is the same in all the shots below. Set your camera to Aperture Priority mode and try to get your shutter speed into the 20s sort of bracket, any more and you risk flooding the scene with too much light, 20s on fast moving traffic will be more than enough. Be careful to not to over or underexpose the surrounding area. Under exposed and you’ll get a dark image with the light trails, over exposed and it’ll likely take on a brownish hue and look false. Get the scene correct and let the light trails take care of themselves!
This shot was taken on a bridge on top of a 2 lane dual carriageway, the trick here is to time the shot when the most traffic is in the scene, try to make sure there are cars on both side of the road to get a balanced shot.
Another option is to get right down to the roadside and take the shot from the pavement. Don’t be tempted to do this with a motorway for obvious reasons. A squashed photographer doesn’t take many good shots! This is best attempted in an urban area where there is something of significant background interest.
This shot was taken at the top of the Mound in Edinburgh, the technique is mainly the same as above. Expose the scene correctly and then wait for the traffic before you open the shutter. Don’t just give it one go, once your setup, take loads, you’ll get all different results. Emergency vehicles with flashing lights give unusual results too.
Once you’re in an urban setting buses are your friend. As the bus is lit inside as well as having headlights you get a stronger trail from a bus. Double deckers are even better as it gives you some nice high trails in the shot.
Be careful though, this is a failed attempt at side of road light trails, the reason it failed? Too much ambient street lighting. The junction was simply too well lit and the trails just don’t stand out enough.
This is an example of putting the roadside and central technique together. Here I’ve placed the tripod directly in the centre of Edinburgh’s famous Princes Street. Luckily, this location has a small thin traffic island running the length of the road providing a safe area to take the shot.
This example was taken with a very wide lens at 10mm. There’s a lot of ambient light here but it’s out to the sides of the shot and doesn’t affect the trails. As there’s a LOT of bus traffic it’s a near perfect location. This is a 20s exposure at f22. The scene is correctly exposed, there’s sufficient background interest and because the traffic goes along in a straight line we get very definite straight light trails. By far the best method but choose your location carefully and above all, be safe.
Princes Street light trails
You can also just about do this sort of shot at dusk or dawn. This was meant to be a sunrise shot with the big wheel and Scott Monument, in the event it was dull and overcast. There was too much light to get a 20s exposure but even the shorter exposure has added to a not very dramatic scene adding a much needed burst of colour.
So there you have it. It’s not that hard and it’s 90% about choosing your location wisely. Do experiment when you find a good location, different densities of traffic provide very different shots. Don’t be afraid to rattle off hundreds of shots if need be. Every one will be different and you never know what might be the best when you download the results.
Feel free to leave a comment below or show us your best light trail examples!