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:
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.