31 March 2022 (Joint Evening With Musselburgh Art Club)

This week it was a delight to revive our relationship with Musselburgh Art Club and restart our joint meetings after a 3 year hiatus. Our last joint meeting had been on 28th March 2019. We met in the larger room (G6) at the Fisherrow Centre, with some Musselburgh members joining by Zoom.

The evening began with a presentation from Joe Fowler, who showed a selection of our recent prints. Most of the prints were landscapes, showing how photographers use lighting and composition to set the mood. Joe invited art club members to guess where the photographs had been taken. Joe also showed how photographers could use post-processing to change a scene. A mountain landscape image had been created by combining a wide angle image of the mountains with a telephoto image of some buildings. This gave the buildings a more comparable size and helped balance the scene. The art club were surprised by this technique, since they usually painted scenes from life, but were interested in trying it themselves. Joe also showed harbour scenes, some still life images, and John West’s self-portrait of an artist at work.

The art club showed us a selection of their paintings. There was a discussion of the relative merits of different paint media. Most of the paintings had been made using acrylic paint, which could be built up in layers and modified as needed, but there were also some beautiful watercolours. We learned that watercolour is an unforgiving medium which is difficult to modify once painted, so it was a bold choice. There were some very impressive works by beginners. There was an interesting discussion about how cropping is judged differently for photographic works and paintings. Photographic judges tend to be more critical of parts of objects being cropped out (especially if the cropping looks accidental).

It was great to be able to meet and chat with art club members again after such a long wait. We finished the evening with some tea and biscuits and a closer view of the works presented. We were limited by the early closing time at Fisherrow, but a big “thank you” to our janitor for his help and understanding at the end.

17 March 2022 (Charles Everitt: Water of Leith: Nature’s Course)

This week we were delighted to welcome Charles Everitt to the Fisherrow Centre to give us a face-to-face talk on one of his passions: exploring and photographing nature along the Water of Leith in Edinburgh. Charles is a retired police officer who has been a photographer for 30 years and now sits as a trustee on the Water of Leith Conservation Trust. The talk is based on Charles’ book “Water of Leith: Nature’s Course”, published in 2011. Charles was named Scottish Nature Photographer of the Year in 2020 and has contributed to the Wild Nature Diary & Calendar. You can find more of Charles’ work on his web site:

https://www.charleseveritt.com/

Charles began by introducing us to the Water of Leith, from its source in the Pentland Hills, through Colinton Dell, Longstone, Saughton Park, Murrayfield, Dean Village, Stockbridge, and finally Leith docks. He showed us images of the landmarks, wildlife and wildflowers he photographed along the way. Then he introduced us to some more abstract works: special effects created by the light reflected from the water, patterns created by frost and frozen leaves, jumbles of shapes created by the leaf litter. Street lighting, flowers or foliage reflected in the water can create some strong colours. Next he showed us tranquil photographs of the river, with the movement in the water emphasised by a long exposure. Charles finds a 1/8th second exposure shot is usually the best compromise, but he also uses 0.6s and 1.6s for a more blurry effect. He looks like places where the white water can form a line which helps create a lead-in for the viewer. A popular combination is “leaf, stone and water”, where a coloured leaf is placed on a stone in the middle of a stream of running water.

Charles explained how modern equipment has changed the nature of photography. In the past it took a lot of skill to capture a sharp and focussed image of, say, a bird in flight. But now a good camera will tend to do this for you, and everyone can take sharp photographs of birds in flight. To stand out, your photographs need to provide something extra. The emphasis is now on what the picture shows and what story it tells. When he is in a new situation, or is running out of ideas, Charles challenges himself to tell the story of his situation in 6 pictures. One example is “Winter’s Toll”, his series of 6 pictures showing dying vegetation. Another example is the 6 images he took while sheltering under the bridge at Murrayfield, showing the texture of the brickwork, the reflections in the water and the soot revealing evidence of a past railway.

Charles ended his presentation with his photographs of the Gormley statues. He showed how the statues could be made to look very different using different photographic techniques. Tranquil shots of the statues gazing up the water (with the background foliage cleverly blurred using a long exposure shot on a windy day). Close-up portraits of the statues. Night shots of the statues lit by a coloured torch. Finally, there were some low-key black and white photographs which looked like scenes from a horror or science fiction movie.

Thank you, Charles, for visiting and entertaining us with a fascinating talk.

03 March 2022 (David Clapp: Landscape and Travel Photography)

On 3rd March 2022 we joined Beeslack Penicuik Camera Club for a joint session by Zoom, which once again let us to connect with a photographer from further afield. This time we were joined by David Clapp, a successful travel and landscape photographer from Newton Abbot, England. David said he started photography in 2002/2003, at first capturing images on film before moving on to digital photography. He started as a guitar teacher but his interest in photography lead to a career as a full-time professional in 2009. He has contributed travel photographs to guide books and stock photos to Getty Images. David explained that he doesn’t like the “instant gratification” aspect of social media. He prefers people to take more time and enjoy photography as an artform. You can see and enjoy David’s images one his website or his teaching page:

/https://www.davidclapp.co.uk/

https://www.westdean.org.uk/study/tutors/david-clapp

David began by showing us a trick he uses to select the best compositions from a vista. If he finds himself looking at a panoramic landscape he takes a series of, say 7, overlapping shots in portrait mode and then blends them into a large panorama. He can then crop out smaller compositions from this large image. Shooting in portrait mode means you don’t lose resolution when extracting portrait-format subsets. David suggested that the best way to progress in photography is to take risks. Take photographs that mean something to you, rather than photographs designed to please your peers. David took a risk when he converted one of his cameras to infrared photography, but it paid off. He showed us some stunning images of gnarled trees photographed around Dartmoor. The shots looked like snow scenes, but were in fact taken on a misty summer day with the infrared-converted camera.

David explained the composition of his landscape images and illustrated each composition by drawing “force lines” which represented the leading lines which your eye tends to follow. The strongest compositions have “force lines” which come in from a corner and lead you to a focal point. He tries to place focal points either on a 1/3rd or in the middle. Lines which criss-cross the image give it more complexity. David also showed how a balanced image would look more pleasing to the eye. He arranges to have the same-sized gap on the left and right sides and at the top and bottom of each image. He finds the most pleasing compositions are made at moderate focal lengths, and finds a 35-70mm lens ideal for landscape photography. A few years ago everyone tried to capture the “rock in the foreground” shot, where a wide angle lens captures a huge vista stretching from a rock in the foreground, to some trees in the middle ground and then mountains in the distance. Such a shot can capture the attention at first, but your brain tends to lose interest because too much is included and the foreground objects dominate the shot. David prefers to take landscape shots of specific objects within their surroundings, such as the trees in Dartmoor, rock formations on the top of a hill, or farm buildings within a farm. He recommends avoiding focal lengths wider than 35mm.

David described the method he uses to capture the best landscape shots. He avoids using a tripod (unless deliberately making long exposures at night) and instead takes hand-held shots at a high ISO setting. A tripod tends to anchor you to one spot, and David likes to look through the viewfinder, identify the key components in a scene, then move the camera until he finds a spot where the key components are spaced in a pleasing way. Try to have evenly-spaced objects in the scene and try not to have overlaps between objects. Zoom in and out and rotate the camera to find a shot where lines are anchored at the corners. If there is a building in the scene, try to include the door, and don’t turn take the shot more than 45 degrees away from that door.

David warns of falling into the trap of using excessive processing in Photoshop. Adding a colour or contrast boost to your images might make them look punchier, but it can also make them look unnatural. This is another example of spoiling images to make them attention-grabbing. David showed us the histograms of some of his images. They rarely contain completely white or completely black areas because most natural scenes don’t look completely black or completely white to your eye. This gives the images a more pleasing, natural and artistic look. Revisiting the same scenes many times in different lighting conditions will help you capture the best images.

In the second half of his talk, David gave an introduction to architectural photography, using images of the high rise buildings in Bishops Gate in London as an example. He explained how he applies the same techniques for these images. Shots of small groups of buildings work better than large cityscapes. You can even capture abstract images by focusing on just one part of a building. Upward-facing shots can be used to capture a strong perspective, with the vanishing point placed on a 1/3rd or in the middle. Try to rotate the shot so the edges of the buildings pass through the corners. Photographs of window reflections work better when there are no clouds in the sky.

Unfortunately, Musselburgh members at the Fisherrow Centre missed the end of David’s talk because of the early closing time 😦 but I understand he went on to show more abstract images captured in London and show more infrared shots.

Thank you very much Beeslack for hosting this extremely fascinating and captivating talk, and thank you David for taking the time to engage with us.

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.

 

Socially Distanced Photoshoot – Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh

This is to let you know I have booked a time slot to visit the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh at 15:00-17:00 on Saturday, 19th September 2020. I am planning to enter by the West gate at Arboretum Place, as there is more parking there.

The current rules will not let us all meet up at the gardens, but I suggest members make their own arrangements to visit the gardens and take photos. You don’t have to choose the same time slot as me (especially if the weather forecast changes between now and when you book!). If you arrange to visit the gardens between now and 24th September we can meet by Zoom, share our experience and offer each other advice. After that there’s nothing to stop anyone going back to the gardens a second time to take that advice into account. I hope everyone will eventually get the same out of it as a normal photoshoot, even if it takes longer.

As a reminder, the “nature and wildlife” images are due on 3rd December 2020 and the “flowers and horticulture” images on 4th March 2021, so there’s still plenty of time.

See you at the virtual trophy presentation this Thursday.

Steven

 

Some news stories you might have missed

Here are some recent BBC news stories, with some great images, you might like to catch up on while at home. Click on the links to read each story.

Wildlife photos: Squabbling mice top ‘people’s poll’ award

Doctor wins landscape photography top award

Antarctic seal photo wins top prize

In other news, the closing date of the 2020 Landscape Photographer of the Year has been extended to 10th May 2020. Now could be a good time to look through your back catalogue of images from the last 5 years. Click on the link below for information.

Landscape Photographer of the Year 2020

I hope you are all staying safe and well.

 

Astrophotography: How do you find out what’s up there?

I was asked if there are resources that will tell you what is coming up in the sky, so you can make plans for astrophotography. The answer is sufficiently useful that I thought I would post it to everyone. I think the very best web site for planning astrophotography is this one:

https://www.heavens-above.com/

Click on the link and you have a large number of options. I have programmed the above link to select “Musselburgh” as the default location. Click on “location” in the top right corner to see what the sky is doing where you live. The site is used by amateur astronomers, satellite and space enthusiasts, but the pages I think would be most useful for astrophotography are:

  • Interactive Sky Chart: This tells you what the sky looks like on any date. The zenith (looking straight up) is in the middle of the graph and the horizon is around the edge. Change the date to see how the sky will change in the future. You can, for example, see where the Milky Way crosses the horizon on each date. You can follow the planets and see if there are dates when they clump together and make a show at sunset or sunrise.
  • The Moon: This page lets you follow what happens to the Moon on future dates. You can check its phase and check when it might pass close to a planet and make a good show. For example, dial up 28th January 2020 and press “update” and you’ll see the crescent Moon passes close to Venus. If the sky is clear this would  be a good time to photograph the Moon as it sets.

Another very useful site is this one:

https://www.timeanddate.com/

The first thing you’ll need to do is click the “set home location” link under “Set time” and set your home location to Edinburgh, Scotland (it doesn’t know about Musselburgh). This site doesn’t have as many features as heavens-above, but it is is best site for predicting eclipses. Click here to bring up the eclipse planning page. The site is not as good at remembering your location, so make sure you type “Edinburgh, Scotland” in the “Place or country” box to get the correct information. You’ll find the next eclipse visible from here is a rather boring penumbral lunar eclipse on 5th June 2020. Keep tracking forwards and you’ll see there is a good solar eclipse on 10th June 2021. Put that date in your diary.

Finally, another site I find useful is this one:

https://spaceweather.com/

The site is dedicated to monitoring solar activity, so it is a good place to get sunspot and aurora predictions. The site doesn’t plan ahead but tells you what’s in the sky right now. It’s a good place to see alerts about aurorae or unusual clouds that could make interesting landscape images. Best of luck!

I hope all this will be useful to some members.

 

Laurie Campbell Nature Workshops

The following has been received from Laurie Campbell regarding workshops he will be running if members are interested they are advised to make their own arrangements….

NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP DAYS WITH LAURIE CAMPBELL IN
ASSOCIATION WITH THE SCOTTISH ORNITHOLOGISTS’ CLUB
WEEKENDS OF 1st / 2nd APRIL and the 6th / 7th May 2017.

Overview:

This one day nature photography workshop is designed to show participants how to get the most from whatever photographic equipment they happen to own. Throughout the day, emphasis will be given on the basics of exposure and composition together with help in seeing potential for creative photography in the wide range of natural history and landscapes subjects we may encounter. With a maximum of six places available, Laurie will be able to spend time on a one to one basis with each group member, identifying specific areas where help is needed in order to offer a bespoke service.

The Tutor:

With over thirty years experience, Laurie was Scotland’s first freelance professional nature photographer. He first taught photography in 1978 while undertaking a four-year degree course in the subject at Napier University in Edinburgh. As the winner of many awards, author of several books, his imagery is published worldwide so we are confident of offering quality tuition, whatever your level of expertise. Being local to, and familiar with the area, Laurie is also well placed to find and identify a range of natural history subjects that we will have access to photograph on the day.

Directions:

The workshop days will be run at beautiful Waterston House which is the headquarters of the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club in the East Lothian village of Aberlady. For Sat Nav users, the post code is EH32 OPY otherwise if you are travelling east from Edinburgh on the A198 coast road, the building is clearly signposted and set back a little way from the road on the first turning to the left just as you enter the village.

Timing:

The workshop will commence at 10.00 am where tea and coffee will be served whilst Laurie gives a brief introduction to the day and shows examples of the type of subject we may expect to photograph. This will also be the perfect opportunity to learn how to set up camera menus and discuss any other technical points.

Although the workshop will end at 5.00pm, if the weather is fine and the sunset is good there will be the option to stay a little longer!

Location and Content:

The layout of the programme will be decided two days in advance and according to weather conditions. After the indoor briefing, the day will start with a visit to the wildlife garden at Waterston House where there will be the opportunity to practice photographing close-up subjects and birds and to run through camera settings before heading further afield.

After lunch indoors, and weather permitting, we will drive the short distance to Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve to look for birds, mammals, close-ups of plants and landscape subjects. If the weather is unsettled then we shall walk the short distance to Gosford Park woods to look for birds, mammals and close-up details in nature. There is also a large ornamental lake in the park containing waterfowl, a heronry and occasionally kingfishers and good evidence of otters and badgers.

Throughout the day, guidance will be given on recognising the field signs of birds and particularly mammals, together with the fieldcraft skills required to approach them without causing any disturbance. Where appropriate, a demonstration will be given to show how to site and introduce an improvised hide using any available natural materials and camouflage. For those who want to learn more, then a full demonstration on a wider variety of propriety hides and materials that Laurie uses will be given back at the car park and towards the close of the workshop day.

What to bring:

There is no need for masses of equipment and we suggest that you only bring what you feel comfortable carrying for the whole day. We won’t be covering great distances and the pace throughout the day will be deliberately slow to ensure that we have time to pause, observe and assess the photographic potential of each interesting subject we encounter.

Apart from a Mirror-less, Bridge or Digital SLR (or film SLR) the following items would be useful (although not essential) are as follows:

Camera Instruction Manual.

Tripod and any means of triggering your camera remotely, such as a cable release.

Any close-up equipment, such as a macro lens, extension tubes or close-up filters.

A single long lens in the 300mm range or longer for photographing birds and any mammals.

Wide angle lens.

A polarising filter and any graduated neutral density graduated filters for landscapes.

Laurie will have a spare tripod, filters, close-up lenses, reflectors available should the need arise.

Do please dress according to the weather forecast and come prepared with waterproof footwear as we may occasionally encounter muddy conditions.

Please also bring a packed lunch. Hot drinks will be provided at the Centre.

Cost & Payment Details:

The price of the workshop is £60.00 and £20.00 deposit is required two weeks in advance to secure a booking. A discount of £5.00 will be given for SOC members.

Cheques made payable to ‘Laurie Campbell Photography’ and sent to the following address please:

Hestia
Paxton
Near Berwick-upon-Tweed
TD15 1TE

Tel:01289 386 736

Mobile: 07825 655 202

Alternatively, we accept PayPal and our email address for this is: laurie@lauriecampbell.com

The balance of the fee will be collected on the day of the workshop. Do please feel free to use any of the above contact details should you have any queries about the workshop and before making a decision to book.

 

Laurie Campbell Workshop now £40

Dear camera club member,

I am writing with news of a photography workshop at the Scottish Deer Centre with Laurie Campbell on the 2nd & 3rd of July from 9am – 4.30pm.

Tickets cost £50 now £40. (There is a coffee shop on site to purchase refreshments in your lunch time).

Ten places are available per day workshop. This is to guarantee one -to-one tuition with Laurie Campbell. Also you will get special close encounters with the animals during this workshop. This includes going in to the animal enclosures to get great close up shots of the wildlife.

There are 14 species of deer, wolves, wild cat, fox and birds of prey housed at the Scottish Deer Centre.

I enclose a poster advertising the event. I would be most obliged if you could circulate it to your members.

If you would like more details or to purchase a ticket please call myself on 01337 810391.

Yours sincerely,

Yvonne Dallas
Senior Ranger