Posts tagged “princes street gardens

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!


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 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!