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!
In the time I’ve been seriously taking photographs, one thing I’ve discovered is that a little research pays dividends before you travel to a location to photograph it. I used to just turn up where I fancied and snap away, now with a bit more experience under the belt I usually have some idea of what kind of shot I want before I get there and it’s pointless going if the conditions aren’t going to be right!
Here’s a perfect example, this is the Belhaven Bridge just to the east of Dunbar:
At this location, high tide covers the walkway to the bridge so the bridge looks as if it goes nowhere with deep water either side, it in fact, spans the Beil water as it exits into the sea at this point which you can see at low tide. So, using the Tide Times website, I knew when high tide would be so headed down there for that. Sadly, it didn’t co-incide with sunset which you could check out on Suncalc.
Arriving later than hoped the tide was peaking but not covering the walkway. I know from research that night at the high tide height was 4.6m so; it follows logic that the walkway was just on the verge of being covered so waiting for a day with a tide predicted to be higher than 5m will give me the shot I want. The perfect time to take this shot will be a high tide, 5m+ co-inciding approx 20 either side of sunset. High tide and sunset co-incide on 24th May but with a predicted tide of only 4.2m it’s not the perfect night to get the shot, better to wait a couple of weeks and try again.
Tides also play an important part of decisions where harbours are concerned. I love long exposure shots but high tide, long exposures and boats bobbing about don’t go! Nobody wants blurred boats! In this instance, it’s better to forgo the 10 stopper and use a faster shutter and wait for a lower tide, or at least the boats in the front of the shot to be grounded. Of course, you always have the option of cutting the boats out of the shot altogether, but unless there’s something else as a good focal point then this leaves you with limited options.
Clouds are another feature of nature to keep and eye on. Nice blue skies are all very well, and indeed welcome in some cases but a bit of cloud cover always helps. To try and give an example, this is the top of the Falkirk Wheel on a day with little or no cloud cover:
I know which shot I prefer…
Fast moving clouds, by which I mean heavy broken cloud, are great for long exposure photography. Huge dark clouds with little or no definition are not! Clouds can also add a lot to sunsets as the light bounces off them and in HDR photography you can create dramatic scenes with a nice cloud cover:
So, before you head off. Keep an eye on the:
And plan accordingly!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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!
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.
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.
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!