About stevenmbeard

Musselburgh Camera Club 56

03 December 2020 (International Dutch Members Evening)

This week we were joined by my good friends Hans van der Boom and Denise Gielen from the Netherlands. Denise began the evening by showing us some of her macro, wildlife and drone photography, including some stunningly beautiful kingfisher images and cleverly framed drone shots of colourful tulip fields.  Some of Denise’s wildlife shots were taken in Oostvaardersplassen, a park in Flevoland made from reclaimed land, and Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen, a national park and nature reserve on the west coast. Hans enjoys travel photography and showed us a selection of photographs he had taken on travels throughout the world.  Hans finished his introduction with some cleverly-constructed indoor studio shots.

The Hans and Denise took us on a photographic tour of the Netherlands, showing us less visited places where we can experience Dutch scenery without being swamped by tourists.  Amsterdam is crowded with visitors each year, but Hans showed us the following less crowded towns which are similar to Amsterdam.  Click the links for more information:

When tourists visit the Netherlands they also want to see windmills, and Hans and Denise showed us some of the more photogenic windmill sites. For example:

But the Netherlands has more impressive structures than just windmills. Hans showed us the impressive architecture within the city of Rotterdam, and Denise showed us beautiful long exposure shots of the Ketelbrug in Flevoland and Hans his dramatic image of the Zeeland Bridge, the longest bridge in the Netherlands. You can also see some of the most iconic structures in the world in miniature in the Madurodam model village.

Of course, a visit to the Netherlands would not be complete without a visit to the impressively colourful tulip fields. The most famous of the tulip displays can be seen between March and May every year at the Keukenhof Gardens near Lisse.  An even bigger and rarer event is the Floriade exhibition, which is coming to Amsterdam in 2022.

After Hans and Denise had finished, Mike Clark showed them some of his impressive underwater shots. Denise’s husband Niels photographs farming machinery for Agrifoto, an agricultural photography site, so Steven Beard finished with a selection of photographs from the Royal Highland Show.

Thank you very much to Hans and Denise for entertaining us, showing that with Zoom we can reach out to other clubs and photographers around the world.


26 November 2020 (Model Photography)

On 26th November 2020 we had our first virtual speaker of the year. Les Duff from Midlothian Camera Club joined our Zoom meeting to talk about his model photography. Les has had 40 years of experience in photography. He explained how he had got started in model photography, helping out a family member with a photoshoot and giving out business cards. Les now finds work with the aid of the following modelling and portfolio sites:

You can join these sites as a photographer or a model and describe the kind of work you are looking for. The site then shows you models or photographers who fit the criteria you are looking for. To join a site you need to submit a portfolio of images which meet the site’s standards. Les also showed us his own personal web sites:

Les likes landscape photography and prefers to take his shots outdoors. He showed us a variety of different shots taken in scenic locations such as Longniddry Bents, Hailes Castle and Colinton Dell. Les’ shots varied from fashion photography to nude, with nude being the most difficult to get right. Les prefers to do only minimal processing on each shot, preferring to get each shot right in camera. He will correct the white balance and levels but prefers not to apply a skin softening filter unless specifically requested. Most of Les’ outdoor shots are lit naturally, but he will use a reflector or fill-in flash to lighten shadows. Les uses prime lenses for the best quality (85mm for portraits and 45mm for whole body shots) and carries two camera bodies so he doesn’t waste time changing lenses. The best shots are usually taken looking horizontally at the model (Les often goes down on one knee to get the best angle). Shots looking up or down tend to be less flattering.

Les also showed us some of his indoor studio work. These have an entirely different feel from the outdoor shots: plain backgrounds and softer lighting. Les normally uses two softbox lights either side of the model to produce the soft lighting, but he also uses vertical strip lights to cast shadows and emphasise body contours. Occasionally he will recreate outdoor conditions indoors by (for example) using a single spotlight to simulate the beam cast by a street light.

Thank you to Les for visiting us, showing us your work and answering our questions.


25 November 2020 (4 Way Competition)

On 25th November 2020, Musselburgh Camera Club Members joined Stirling and District Camera Club, Edinburgh Photographic Society and Kirkcaldy Photographic Society for the annual 4-way interclub competition. This year, the competition was entirely digital and hosted virtually by Stirling using Zoom. The competition was judged by Eddie Telford of Milngavie and Bearsden Camera Club. 78 members attended most of the competition, with two more joining during the second half.

Each club had entered 15 images, making a total of 60 images on the night. Eddie gave us a thorough critique of each one, indicating its strengths and weaknesses. By the half-way stage Edinburgh were ahead of Kirkcaldy by 1 point, followed by Musselburgh 1 point behind them. The competition continued to be close, and the final result was decided by the very last image from each club! The final result was:

  • 1st = place, Edinburgh and Kirkcaldy (267 points).
  • 3rd place, Musselburgh (264 points)
  • 4th place, Stirling (259 points)

Edinburgh and Kirkcaldy were declared joint winners. Some disappointment right at the end for Musselburgh, but we held up well for most of the competition and ended only 3 points behind. The following Musselburgh images did particularly well in the competition:

  • Incoming (Mike Clark) – 20 points
  • Stormlight (Mike Clark) – 19 points
  • Bird on a Stick (Gordon Davidson) – 20 points
  • Fighting for the lead (George Todd) – 20 points

Congratulations to Edinburgh and Kirkcaldy and well done to Mike, Gordon and George. Next year’s competition will be hosted by Edinburgh Photographic Society.


12 November 2020 (Colour Print Competition)

This week we had our virtual replacement for the colour print competition. Members submitted the images they would have used as colour prints digitally. The competition was judged by Fiona Brims of Stirling and District Camera Club. You can see some of Fiona’s work at the link below.


Fiona was unable to join us by Zoom, so George Todd read out her comments. Fiona began with a letter telling us that judging the images had been difficult because there had been so many good entries. She had had to be pernickety in her judging to separate these images, but she explained this was just one person’s judgement. She was born in Musselburgh and was delighted to be judging for her old home town.

54 images had been entered altogether. There were landscapes, portraits, photographs of birds (which Fiona recognised by name from the World of Wings bird of prey centre) and close-ups of flowers and cacti. There were also some imaginative abstract images, some of which Fiona felt were more digital art than digital photography. Fiona commented on the composition and technical execution of each image. There were some images where a longer shutter speed could have given a more dynamic image of a moving target by adding motion blur, and there were other images of moving water where a shorter shutter speed would have prevented burn out. Some of the close-up images could have been improved by a smaller aperture and larger depth of field. Some images were let down by dust marks, noisy backgrounds or editing mistakes. Fiona didn’t like the ivory borders that some members had used and recommended that digital images should have borders no wider than 3 pixels.

The top scorers were (in reverse order):

  • 5th place (46 points)
    • Gordon Davidson
  • 4th place (48 points)
    • Sean Conner
  • 3rd place (50 points)
    • Joe Fowler
    • Malcolm Roberts
    • Steven Beard
    • Steve Williams
  • 2nd place (52 points)
    • George Todd
    • Mike Clark
    • Anne Yeomans
  • 1st place (53 points)
    • Jennifer Davidson

The top images were:

  • Rattray Head at Dusk (Steve Williams) – 20 points
  • Sparrowhawk (Jennifer Davidson) – 19 points
  • Pool Room (Joe Fowler) – 19 points
  • Hover Fly on Flower (Malcolm Roberts) – 19 points
  • Brown Hare Grazing (George Todd) – 19 points
  • Incoming (Mike Clark) – 19 points
  • Northern Gannet (Anne Yeomans) – 18 points

The fact that the top images are spread between so many members shows the consistent quality of the entries. Well done everyone, and an especially well done to Jennifer Davidson, who wins the trophy. My apologies to Anne Yeomans, whose superb image of a gannet catching a fish in mid air would have done better without the ivory border I had provided in my earlier post.

29 October 2020 (Members Show Their Work)

This week Steven Beard, Kevin Johnson and Gavin Marshall showed the photographs they had taken in the past year. Steven showed photographs he had taken on walks around Prestonpans during lockdown, revealing the hidden details you don’t normally see unless you have the opportunity to stay and look closely. Kevin also showed some lockdown images from Musselburgh and some pre-lockdown photographs of Glasgow and Amsterdam. Gavin Marshall shared the night shots he had taken on a rallying trip to the Isle of Mull and shots of Jodrell Bank telescope and Lindisfarne. Here are some links with more information on the subjects featured in the photographs:

It is time to start planning another socially distanced photoshoot. We have our next photoshoot roundup planned for 19th November 2020. It was suggested that Flanders Moss Nature Reserve would make a great location for landscape and wildlife photography. However, with the expected travel restrictions we will have to save that trip for another day and try something closer to home. 😦 We decided to go for Calton Hill and places in the east of Edinburgh. If you have the opportunity to visit Edinburgh in the next 3 weeks, capture some pictures to bring along. If travel restrictions prevent you from travelling to Edinburgh, take some local photographs with an Edinburgh theme, or find some Edinburgh photographs in your collection. I look forward to seeing what you bring along on 19th November.

In the meantime, we have a recorded lecture and colour print competition coming up…


22 October 2020 (International Swedish Members Evening)

We were delighted to welcome members of Mölnlycke Fotoclubb, Gothenburg to our very first international members evening. Connecting virtually by Zoom means we can meet up with other club members anywhere in the world. Our host for the evening was Jan Arell, the chair of Mölnlycke Fotoclubb.

Jan introduced us to a recent trip the club had made to Ramsvik, a small photogenic island on the west coast of Sweden about 150 km north of Gothenburg. The island has quite a stark appearance, with hard granite rocks making interesting shapes.  A blue sea, bright green algae and green lichen scattered amongst the rocks adds to the interest.  Jan showed us the pictures their members had taken during the visit. There were images of the sea, sky and rocks taken from different viewpoints. There was even a great shot of a curious polecat. The weirdly-shaped holes carved into the rocks by the sea gave an opportunity for numerous abstract compositions. The rocky textures also produced impressive black and white images, and some of the rocks were so shiny they looked almost metallic. There were a few houses on the island which featured in many of the photographs and helped to add more shapes and colours. There were also portraits showing common activities on the island, such as hiking, mountain biking and, of course, photography. The show finished with a view of the setting sun next to a wine glass.

Musselburgh camera club members returned the favour by showing Mölnlycke Fotoclubb members some of the pictures they have taken during last year’s visit to Gothenburg. We also showed them images of Seacliff Beach,  the Pentland Hills,  Rosslyn Chapel,  leaping salmon in Loch Achray,  The Kelpiesthe Magdalene Chapel in Edinburgh and Musselburgh to whet their appetite for a visit to Scotland once the travel and social restrictions are lifted. We finished the evening with a lovely chat. It was a pity we couldn’t share some tea and biscuits.

We will have another opportunity to meeting up with Mölnlycke Fotoclubb on 11th March when we have our Swedish Inter-club Competition.



Joint Meeting with Mölnlycke Fotoclubb this Thursday

A reminder that this Thursday, 22nd October 2020, we will be having a joint meeting with members of members of Mölnlycke Fotoclubb, Gothenburg.  We will be meeting half an hour earlier than usual, at 7pm, to compensate for the later time zone in Sweden. The Zoom connection details are otherwise exactly the same.

Mölnlycke Fotoclubb members have prepared some of their images of Sweden to show us. Please bring along any images you would like to show them, either from our recent visit to Gothenburg or of interesting places in Scotland they might like to see when they are eventually able to visit us.

I look forward to our first international shared evening.


08 October 2020 (Digital Projected Images Competition)

This week the club had its first competition of the season, and the first ever competition judged virtually from our own homes. We were pleased to welcome Dougie Allan from Beeslack Penicuik Camera Club. Dougie also took the opportunity to show us some more of his impressive drone photography.

There were 54 images altogether, covering a wide range of different subjects. The pictures included landscapes, sporting events, portraits, wildlife, flowers and some interesting abstracts. Dougie commented on the composition, sharpness, focus and depth of field of each image. There were some lovely compositions which were not sharp and some sharp images that were let down by distracting elements in the composition. A shallow depth of field can be good at reducing distractions from background objects, but it doesn’t help if those distracting objects are brightly coloured (like a red mushroom or a yellow wheel). Some images needed a larger depth of field to keep more of the subject in focus and some images could have been improved with a longer exposure time (to add motion blur or to blur the water). Dougie also mentioned that some images, where the subject was dark against a light background, could have been improved by adding light from a flash or reflector. There were also some fantastic shots where all the elements worked, and these images gained the highest marks. The virtual nature of the presentation, with everyone muted, meant the top scorers didn’t get the loud applause they all deserved. The top scorers were (in reverse order):

  • 5th place (51 points)
    • John West
  • 4th place (53 points)
    • Mike Clark
  • 3rd place (54 points)
    • Joe Fowler
    • Steven Beard
  • 2nd place (57 points)
    • Gordon Davidson
  • 1st place (58 points)
    • GeorgeTodd

The top images were:

  • Making a Splash (Joe Fowler) – 20 points
  • Hare on the Move (George Todd) – 20 points
  • Calton Hill (Gordon Davidson) – 20 points
  • Making an Exhibition of Yourself (Steven Beard) – 19 points
  • Tearing up the Track (George Todd) – 19 points
  • Taking the Last Jump (George Todd) – 19 points
  • Forth Bridge at Sunrise (Gordon Davidson) – 19 points
  • Royal Highland Show (Steven Beard) – 18 points
  • Roe Deer Buck Portrait (Mike Clark) – 18 points
  • Shipwreck Sunset (Mike Clark) – 18 points
  • Wallace Monument at Dawn (Gordon Davidson) – 18 points
  • Stretching Time (John West) – 18 points

Well done to George Todd for winning the competition with only 2 points short of a perfect score.  And well done to everybody else who entered. There was an improvement in image quality across the board this year. A newcomer who is improving today can be a winner of the future.

Next week we will go through the competition images a second time, with more opportunity for feedback and questions.

01 October 2020 (Photo Advice Evening)

On 1st October we had our first virtual photo advice evening. Normally we would sit around tables in the Fisherrow Centre and discuss the prints brought by members, passing the prints from table to table, and finish the evening with a chat over tea and biscuits. This year we discussed digital versions of our images by Zoom teleconference. Each member presented 3 images for comments and advice. Unlike the photoshoot round-up last week, this time we spent much longer on each image discussing its merits and suggesting improvements. Some of the lessons learned were:

  • Macro photography is difficult and focusing is critical. If you are close to your subject even small camera movements can shift the focus away from your subject. Flowers blowing in the wind can drift in and out of focus as they move, and you if you choose a smaller aperture to give a greater DOF the wind can cause motion blur. Macro photography is best done using a tripod in a sheltered spot. Hand-held macro shots let you be more creative, but you should allow for a lot more rejected shots.
  • A focus stack is difficult to get right, but small focus increments work best, and the shots are best made using a tripod. Try taking a test shot at a very small aperture (such as f/22-f/32) to see how your subject looks with a large DOF. The focus stack will have worked if you can create a sharper shot than the one taken at the very small aperture. (Shots at very small apertures are blurred by diffraction.)
  • A landscape image works best when there is something interesting in the foreground, such as a house, a river or a path which leads the eye to the interesting scenery in the background. It is well worth collecting photographs of interesting skies, even if the foreground is boring. You can replace a boring sky in a landscape shot with an interesting one from your collection.
  • Nature and wildlife images work best when there is a narrow DOF and no distracting objects in the background. Ideally, distractions should be avoided by careful composition in camera but we don’t always notice everything at the time. Distractions can be cropped out or darkened or (for nature photography only) removed by cloning. These days, the most successful nature and wildlife shots are ones that capture interesting or unusual behaviour.
  • Shots made at unusual angles can work really well. Try getting down on the ground and photographing your flowers from their level, or capturing a crabs-eye view of the shells on a beach.

Thank you to everybody who brought and shared their images. There were some really cracking flower and nature shots we may well see again in future competitions.

  • Next week we have our first competition of the year. Dougie Allan will judge our Digital Projected Images Competition. Our first virtual competition. I look forward to seeing you then.


24 September 2020 (Outdoor Photoshoot Roundup)

On 24th September club members met to discuss their experiences visiting the The Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh.  Members had visited the gardens on different days and at different times, and had photographed the plants and flowers under different lighting conditions. We took turns to show the images we had captured during our visit. We quickly discovered the following subjects had attracted attention and been independently photographed by members in different ways:

  • The young moorhen in the pond.
  • The plants growing in the rock garden.
  • An inquisitive squirrel.

There were lots of photographs of flowers and wildlife, photographs showing the texture of tree bark and photographs showing the natural patterns made by leaves and foliage.  There were also some photographs of the patterns created by the flotsam in the pond, and a lovely photograph of the Chinese pavilion.

This was our first practice at screen sharing in Zoom and it worked.