Category Archives: Edinburgh

Short-listed for Outdoor Photographer of the Year 2017

I’ve been very fortunate to be short-listed in the 2017 Outdoor Photographer of the Year in the At the Water’s Edge section.

Bass Rock

I have a love of the coast and banks of the Forth River and so it is really pleasing that my minimalist photograph of the Bass Rock has been chosen in an impressive field of photographs to be short-listed by the judges.

The photograph is available to buy as a signed limited-edition print in four sizes so it could be a good idea to buy now, just in case it is successful in the final judging. You can also visit the actual scene on my Landscape and Seascape Workshops which are available to book here.

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Also posted in Competitions

Success at Scottish Press Photography Awards

I’m very happy to announce that I have won the Scottish Press Photography Awards, Arts and Entertainment section for a photograph taken on Calton Hill of the circus show, Hogwallops. I was also placed 3rd in the Daily Life section with a photograph taken at the Diwali Festival in Edinburgh last November.

The full selection of photographs from all the award winners will be on display at the Scottish Parliament from mid-October.



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Edinburgh’s Transport Policy – Bad for Business?

Edinburgh's Victoria Street with queueing trafficBack in 1993 Edinburgh Tourist Board and the camera company Fuji collaborated to develop the Phototrail which gave visitors to the city a visual indication of 22 locations that gave iconic vistas of Edinburgh. You can see the original locations on a handy Google Map overlay although it does take a bit of hunting to find some of the plates and some have actually been removed following road-works and never replaced.

The introduction of the Phototrail possibly contributed toward the New Town and Old Town of Edinburgh being awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1995 and contributed toward the historic city becoming a massive tourist draw that brings millions of tourists each year to spend their various currencies in our shops.

I am a small business owner in Edinburgh and I profit from the amazing heritage that the city offers through running photography workshops. Over the four years the workshops have been operating though there has been a worrying trend which is making our city less photogenic through the addition of street furniture; roadworks moving traffic in the direction of roads that can’t cope, and parking changes that impact the aesthetic of the city. I now believe that we are approaching a point where visitors will start to question if they are coming to a city steeped in history or an elaborate car park.

I do recognise that as visitors come into the city that they need to move around and the various shops on the Royal Mile, Victoria Street etc. need to be re-stocked but with some simple traffic management this could be done outside of the hours when people will be walking the streets – how about a loading window from 6am to 8am and then the streets are cleared for tourists to enjoy?

However, there is a more radical action that Edinburgh could take that would increase tourism and give us some photographic pride in our city that would help advertise us at very little cost to the world. Edinburgh is renowned for its Festival month in August when the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival takes place. Fewer people know that there is also the Science Festival in April, Film Festival in June, Jazz Festival in July as well as the Christmas and Hogmanay periods through November to January so we are a festival city. There are gaps though, March or October, for example, has probably the best light quality of the year and is one of the fallow festival months.

This is where photography could fill a gap and increase visitors as well as restore the benefits of the Phototrail from 1993. Edinburgh should have a weekend (or even better a week) where we restore the Phototrail sites to a state where they can become photographic or artistic wonders and attract people who enjoy taking, drawing, sketching, painting to enjoy the city free of traffic and distracting street furniture.

I would love to get support from the photography and artist communities to petition Edinburgh Council and seek to reinvigorate and update a photo-trail of the city. To support this there should also be the introduction of an official period where we can capture Edinburgh’s updated photo-trail at its best, traffic free, free of annoying yellow signs advising that parking won’t be allowed over the period and free to take beautiful photographs of our city that can be shared and enjoyed.

Who would support me?


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Campaign – Photo-documentary launched today

My first book, Campaign, has been launched today and is available to buy as either a soft-cover book on Amazon ( or as an e-book (

Campaign is a photo-documentary following a candidate for the final seven days of the Scottish Election Campaign. Iain McGill is not expected to win his constituency seat, yet the story that is captured in over 70 photographs unveils the Conservative party strategy that led to them gaining the highest number of seats since the Parliament was re-established in 1999.

A Foreword to the book has been provided by Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party.




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Also posted in Book, Uncategorized

Edinburgh Tourists Guide to blocking streets

RDP_20160702_switch to manual__MG_7296My daily Switch to Manual Workshop ( has a short-break during August as it is pretty much impossible to walk the route with the Edinburgh Festivals bringing thousands of tourists to the city. A few years ago I wrote a light-hearted article on a concerted attempt by tourists travelling around Edinburgh to prevent the locals of Edinburgh from getting around by deploying several tactics to block the streets. In my research, I identified the top 11 (top 10’s are so passeé) tactics that I have seen working well.

1. The Walk Apart

This is the simplest of the tactics and involves the tourists walking side by side. There are two key elements to the walk though, the first is velocity which will be at dawdling pace and the second is spacing – it is key that the distance apart is just insufficient to allow the local to cut between the two tourists and also sufficient to ensure that the gap between roads and buildings doesn’t allow a sidewards overtaking manoeuvre.

Fig 1. The Walk Apart

2. The Chicane

This is a variation of The Walk Apart and is again a dawdling paced tactic. Here the tourists not only create a gap that is impossible to cut between, they also create an added dimension of one walking slightly ahead of the other, making the overtake much more difficult.

Fig 2. The Chicane

3. The Diamond

We are now getting into much more complicated patterns and using larger groups of tourists. I have noted that this one is particularly popular with the latin tourists (possibly due to the size of families) and is a combination of The Walk Apart and The Chicane. The tourists create a diamond shape which contains all the blocking difficulties of the first two tactics and brings them together into one of the hardest formations to beat.

Fig. 3 The Diamond

4. The ‘Look, Edinburgh has a Castle’

This tends to be a Princes Street tactic, and is most successfully deployed by the asian tourist. They lure the unwitting local into thinking that the tourist is ‘one of us’ by walking at a good pace – this is the case until they spring the surprise manoeuvre of stopping instantly to stand and stare at the Castle that suddenly appears from nowhere. The effect is almost impossible for the local to avoid.

Fig. 4 The ‘Look, Edinburgh has a Castle’

5. The Crab

A variant of The Walk Apart which requires the tourists to walk in the same slow pace, however, as the local approaches for the attempted overtake, the tourists start to veer toward the road forcing the local to either slow down or move into the road and face the wrath of the Lothian Transport driver.

Fig 5 The Crab

6. The 90 Degree

This isn’t too dissimilar to The ‘Look, it’s Edinburgh Castle’ but can take place on any street that contains the tourist tat shops. As the tourist is drawn to the shiny things (or more likely tartan and ginger things) in the shop window they create a much larger obstacle as they stop and turn. The key element here is that one of the tourists will stand in the middle of the pavement whilst the other one stares.

Fig 6 The 90 Degree

7. The Umbrella

Really only used during the Fringe period when the annual monsoon season arrives. Here the cunning tourist uses the umbrella as a weapon to prevent any local brave enough to attempt to overtake The Walk Apart. There are, of course, many variants of this tactic as it can be used with any of the other manoeuvres.

Fig 7 The Umbrella

8. The Child

Here the weapon of choice is a small child. The tourists look to have created The Walk Apart poorly and have left a gap large enough for the local make the cut-through overtake. However, at the last minute this is blighted by the appearance of the small child who will invariably undertake their own Look, Edinburgh has a castle and stop sufficiently quickly to allow the tourist to plough into the child who is able to deploy the head to the groin.

Fig 8. The Child

9. The Suitcase

This tactic tends to be deployed close to Waverley Station and requires the tourists to find the busiest time of the day and drag an over-sized suitcase through the streets. It is always good for the tourist to deploy this in conjunction with The Crab. This is another manoeuvre which can result in physical injury to the local and is therefore highly popular with the tourists.

Fig 9 The Suitcase

10. The Street Performer

The next two tactics are generally deployed on High Street (or Royal Mile as the tourists prefer to incorrectly call it) and are aided and abetted by performers. The first is the large crowd that will gather around yet another person creating a tight-rope by two of said tourists and then walking across it whilst juggling sharpened knives or fire. The tourists gather in droves to ensure that there is no way for the local who has to walk along High Street to perhaps collect a parking permit from the council offices (no local would choose to walk along High Street in August).

Fig 10 The Street Performer

11. The Drama Student

Again a High Street tactic, this time involving a second year drama student who believes that the most innovative way to hand out flyers is to lie in the middle of the street or stand on a bollard, after all, nobody has ever thought of that before.. The tourist will interact with this display and cause an impossible blockage for the council office attending local to pass.

Fig 11 The Drama Student

I am sure that now the tactics of the tourists have been revealed that there will be some new ones that will appear. I urge any resident of Edinburgh who identifies either a way to combat the above tactics or identifies new ones to be deployed so that I can provide a public service to the locals of Edinburgh.

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Also posted in Humour, Lesson Tagged , , |

Why use filters?

I have been asked by a few people recently why I use filters and what the advantages of them are so I thought I’d write a short article with a few examples to show the benefit of using graduated filters to improve the images you shoot in camera. Before we talk about the filters though we need to understand how fantastic our brains are.

When we look at a scene our vision captures an extraordinary amount of detail from the very darkest shadows to the lightest highlights. In fact we can see around 24 stops of light (a stop is either the halfing or doubling of the amount of light coming onto the sensor). In contrast our expensive cameras have a limitation of somewhere between 11 and 13 stops which means that we will see a scene better than a camera can depict it, especially when there are large differences between light and shade within the scene that is being photographed.

Lee Soft Graduated Filters

Lee Soft Graduated Filters Image source:

I use the Lee Filter system, primarily because the quality of the glass they use is so good that the image isn’t impacted by the extra piece of glass that has been put in front of the lens but the principles I am going to discuss here are the same for any manufacturer. There are a number of different types of filters that you can buy, however, today I am going to concentrate on soft graduated filters. As you can see from the image, a soft graduated filter has a dark area at the top of the glass and then it gradually fades to clear at the mid-point of the filter. You’ll see shortly how we can use this to help take a well exposed image in camera.

I have used a fairly typical landscape scene to demonstrate the use of the filters. When I was looking over Edinburgh I could see lots of detail in the clouds which is the brightest part of the image and I could also see the grass being lit up by the setting sun in the foreground and the detail of the Dugald Stewart Monument that sits on Calton Hill. However, if I took the photograph in the camera without any filters on I would either set the exposure for the sky in which case the foreground became very dark or I could instead expose for the foreground and the sky would be blown out and lose all that interesting detail.

Calton Hill - 1

Image exposed for sky f13, 0.4sec, ISO 100

By looking at the histogram of this first image we can see that the highlights (in this case the sky) are right on the edge, however, the shadows on the left hand side are losing some of the detail.

Histogram exposed for the sky

Histogram exposed for the sky

Alternatively, I took a second shot which was exposing for the shadow detail (in this case the foreground) and you can see that this one brings out the grass and the monument, however, the sky has now become blown out and all that gorgeous detail in the clouds has been lost.

Calton Hill - 2

Image exposed for foreground f13, 2.0 sec, ISO 100

The histogram really shows how much detail we have lost on the right hand side by trying to get all the detail we want in the foreground

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Histogram exposed for the foreground

In order to get the picture that we are seeing with our eyes we need to balance the exposure we had for the sky in the first image with the exposure we had in the foreground for the second image and this is where filters help. You will see that the difference in the length of the exposure is equivalent to 2 and 1/3rd stops of light. As a rule of thumb I always add a filter with an extra stop that the difference between the two exposures, so in this case I have added a 3 stop graduated filter to create the final image which I am sure you will agree is a much better balanced image giving us the best of both worlds, detail in the sky and the foreground.

Calton Hill - 3

Image exposed with filter – f13, 0.4sec, ISO 100 (Lee Soft Grad 0.9ND)

The histogram for this final image shows us that we have a well exposed image with the highlights and shadows both contained within the boundaries.

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 08.07.20

Histogram when adding filter

There are other ways of achieving a similar result where you can bracket images in the camera and then using software to merge the images after. However, I enjoy my photography when I am in the field, experiencing the location and would rather not spend time in my office editing to get the image that I can see before my eyes. I would much rather use a few seconds at the location to add a filter and save time in editing later.

Hopefully you can see the benefit of using graduated filters from this short demonstration. I like to spend time on my workshops exploring how we can use different filters to get dramatic effects and this is a taster of the kind of things we go over.

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Also posted in Filters, Lesson

A mystery solved

Who is the mystery artist?Just outside the centre of Edinburgh is a beautiful place called Dean Village. The Water of Leith flows through this small area which is lined by picturesque buildings that were built in the area toward the end of the nineteenth century. However, in the last week or so the river has had some new and interesting additions made to it that have stirred interest in both locals and visitors to the area. About a week or so ago two structures made of rocks balanced on top of each other appeared by the walkway that crosses the Water of Leith, then by the end of the week many more had appeared with the complexity of the balances becoming more and more impressive. I couldn’t help but take a photo of them which was shared on Facebook with a plea to find who the artist was that was constructing these gravity defying towers and since then nearly 100,000 people have viewed the image and over 3,000 people have clicked the Like button but despite a few snaps of the mystery builder, his identity was unknown.

Walking through Dean Village this evening the mystery man was stood in the river building yet more of these wonderful stacks and watched on in awe by countless passers-by. The man himself is Nick Hortin who lives in Dean Village and started to build the stone stacks after seeing a video on YouTube and thinking that it would be something that he would like to teach himself to do. He’s been building them up and down the Water of Leith over the last few months and loves that the process allows him to take his mind off day to day things and concentrating on finding the natural balance point of the rocks as they are stacked on each other.

If you get a chance to see Nick in action whilst passing the Water of Leith stand and watch the immense skill and patience he displays finding the right shaped rock and then balancing it, almost like magic, onto the rock below.

Thanks Nick for your chat this evening and for making a wonderful talking piece in an already fantastic location!

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Also posted in Artwork, Uncategorized

New Lightroom CC features

Tuesday saw the launch of the much awaited new version of Lightroom from Adobe. There have been two versions launched, Lightroom CC that has a subscription model and Lightroom 6 which is a perpetual licence. There are some differences in what you will get as future updates between the two products but I don’t intend to get into that discussion in this blog. I am using the CC version as I was already a Creative Cloud member and it meant that I received the new version of the software on launch day with no change to the value of my subscription and I also get the latest version of Photoshop too in the Photographers Package.

There are a number of features that have been updated but perhaps two of the biggest changes are the ability to merge images into a panorama without leaving Lightroom and similar functionality to create realistic HDR images again without needing to switch to Photoshop, Photomatix or HDR Efex Pro. I know that some people have an aversion to HDR due to its misuse in the past to create nausea inducing colours but there can be a place for it if used in the right way – however, as it is a Marmite type package I will leave this one to the end so that you can skip it if HDR just isn’t your thing.

I’m sure most people reading this are fairly familiar with how to take images ready for a panorama. Essentially you need to take a series of images panning across the scene ensuring that there is about a third of the scene kept in the then next pan from the previous one. It’s also good practice if you can to take the images in portrait on your camera as there is less barrelling in this format than landscape so you do get a better end image. Finally, use the spirit levels on your tripod to ensure the base of the head of the tripod is level so that as you pan around the scene the horizon stays level.

Once the images are in Lightroom it used to be a case of clicking Edit In and then taking the option to Merge to Panorama in Photoshop. This worked well enough but for me but there was always something I didn’t like with this approach – the benefit of Lightroom is that it is non-destructive to raw files yet by exporting out to another program it disconnected the image from the original and produced a brand new TIFF or PSD file. With the new Photo Merge option in Lightroom you can now process a panorama from within the software and the resultant file is a DNG with all the extra data that you get from the format so you now have a much more powerful image to work with. It’s also really easy to create a great looking pano;

Select all the images that you want to make into your panorama in the library module, remember that to get a realistic image any changes that you may make in the Develop module need to be synced across all the images before making the merge. However, remember that you are going to have a DNG output so you can make those kind of edits post-merge if you like and still have all the available data.

Images ready to be processed in Lightroom

Next, you can either press the Ctrl key and M or go to the Photo dropdown, click on Photo Merge and then click Panorama

Selecting the Merge to Panorama


In just a few seconds a new box will appear with a preview of the panorama image, you can manually chose which method or merging to use or you can let Lightroom decide which works best for the image. You can also ask Lightroom to automatically Crop any areas that are lost in creating the Panorama – that was another bug-bear for me when using Photoshop that you had to manually crop the lost spaces of the merged image – now it’s done at the click of a check-box, so much more efficient.

Preview panorama screen


Simply click on Merge and Lightroom then goes off to create the merged image. The really great thing is that Lightroom is now doing this in the background so you can move on to another image you may want to edit whilst it is joining the images together and creating the new raw file for you. My iMac is pretty old (please feel free to donate a 5k 27″ iMac if you feel bad for me) and chugs along  but it still only took four minutes for 10 full sized raw files to be merged in to one panoramic image and despite looking at 100% I am still struggling to see where the joins of each image are, the conversion quality is superb – much better than previous results I would have received from Photoshop merges and certainly much quicker too. I have add the three different merge options (Spherical, Cylindrical and Perspective) below so that you can see the different effects of each of the merges – I do think that the Lightroom suggested option of Spherical does work the best out of these three.

Spherical Pano

Spherical Merge Option

Cylindrical Mode

Cylindrical Merge Option


Perspective Merge Option


So if you don’t like HDR now is the time to jump to the last wrap up paragraph and skip this bit but I would recommend sticking with it and you may be surprised at what Adobe have done. As a little bit of background to the reasons for using HDR we need to look at the capability of a camera v the capability of our brain and eyes in capturing light. A pretty good DSLR can capture a range of around 13 to 15 stops of light from shadow to highlight whereas our brain can process far more stops of light (somewhere around 22-25) which means that we can see far more detail, particularly in scenes which have a mix of both bright highlights and very dark shadows. During my Switch to Manual workshops I like to use some of the Fuji Photo-trail locations to capture some of the iconic shots of Edinburgh, one of these is the entrance to Advocates Close opposite St Giles Cathedral, which has a great view straight down the close and frames the Scott Monument. This is one of these locations where our brain processes light far more effectively than our camera can so to see the image as our eyes do a solution is to take a set of bracketed images and then merge them in a HDR program such as Photoshop, HDR Efex Pro or Photomatix. This final step is where the hatred of HDR usually comes out as you are presented with a myriad of options, many of which produce an image that is overly saturated, has horrendous fringing around edges and generally looks totally unrealistic. The new functionality in Lightroom has taken away this danger and is only there to try and produce a realistic image that accurately captures the various shades from Shadow to Highlight as our eyes may see it.

For this test, I bracketed seven images, three stops either side of the base shot to give me as much information as possible to create the file. You can imagine it takes a fair bit of patience on a busy street like The Royal Mile to get seven shots that didn’t have people walking past but more later on how you can reduce time with this new functionality.

Bracketed Images

Just like the Panorama function it is is the Photo dropdown, under Photo Merge and HDR or click Ctrl and H and you will again be presented with a new dialog box which allows you to chose to Auto Align the images (why wouldn’t you have this switched on) and also Auto Tone, I actually think it is more realistic to leave this switched off as the end result is much closer to what my eyes could see. You can also get Lightroom to prevent ghosting which I have set on this image because there were a group of tourists at the bottom of the step getting to find out about the history of Edinburgh and they were moving slightly.

Merge HDR Box

Click on the Merge button and again Lightroom goes to work in the background creating the HDR image whilst you can get on working on another edit. I talked earlier about bracketing seven images and the frustration that can cause, however, Adobe have done some amazing maths with the HDR function and they can actually produce a better image using less images to start off with – it sounds unbelievable but I have merged just two of the images from the set, the three stops under exposed and the three stops over-exposed images to compare the results and there is really very little difference (if any) between the two images so you can actually save time by shooting less shots when you need to use HDR and obviously the processing time will be reduced as well when you are in front of your computer – a win win for sure!

To give you a comparison of the images using either seven or two images for the merge and Auto Tone being on or off I have added the four resultant files at the bottom of the post so you can see the difference (and by them being at the bottom the people that don’t like HDR may pop back up a few lines and see it is possible to create realistic HDR images that don’t look like a comic book). I have allowed you to click on the images so you can see them at full size to see the difference for yourself.

This is by no means an in-depth review of Lightroom CC/6 but hopefully it gives you a flavour of a couple of the major changes that have taken place in the update that came out this week. Lightroom is now pretty much at the core of my own processing due to a really great method for cataloging images and finding them quickly when you need them and I also really love being able to take my images with me using the Lightroom Mobile that means I can show my clients images on my iPhone or iPad and, for those that have them, Android devices too. These couple of functions have really brought forward Lightroom as being the tool that I will use to process my images 95%+ of the time and only occasionally  will I need to flick over to Photoshop now for some real detailed editing. You can sign-up to the Creative Cloud option at where the Photographers Plan including Photoshop and Lightroom is just under £9 per month.

Auto Tone switched on - Two Image Merge

Auto Tone switched on – Two Image Merge

Auto Tone switched on - Seven Image Merge

Auto Tone switched on – Seven Image Merge

Auto Tone switched off - Two Image Merge

Auto Tone switched off – Two Image Merge



Auto Tone switched off - Seven Image Merge

Auto Tone switched off – Seven Image Merge







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Also posted in Lightroom, Software

Another Icelandic Saga

The early history of Iceland is documented in the various Saga stories that tell the tales of the early settlers to this wonderful country in the North Atlantic nestled between the two continents of Europe and America. It would seem that each of my trips to Iceland turns into its own saga of adventures that make the trips memorable for many, many reasons.

My last visit to the island in December resulted in a first night spent sleeping in a car due to the high winds and drifting snow and I was sure that nothing so drastic could happen visiting in March, the week before the onset of Spring. Reading the in-flight magazine on the journey out, Iceland is the second windiest country in the world behind the Falkland Islands and only an hour or so later we were treated to evidence that this is the case as the aircraft was diverted from Keflavik Airport near Reykjavik to Egilstaddir on the far East of the country where we sat on the tarmac for three hours waiting for the hurricane force winds and snow to dissipate. Eventually we were given the all-clear to fly back to Keflavik where the conditions had marginally improved, albeit we had to fly through those same hurricane winds that were now sweeping towards us in the east – it’s fair to say that the journey was a little bumpy, to the extent that the stewardess spent 30 seconds or so flung across the lap of a passenger and holding on desperately to prevent falling further. Our landing was treated with some relief, although it was a momentary respite as we were told that the winds were too strong to open the doors of the aircraft and so had a further three hours to wait before we could eventually disembark – as a result the two hour journey to Borgarnes where we were scheduled to stay just wasn’t possible but fortunately, the booking agency we used were able to find alternative accommodation closer to Reykjavik where we could finally rest.

On the first full day the conditions had improved and our journey to Borgarnes was much more comfortable and allowed our first day shooting on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The south of the peninsula is home to one of only four black churches in Iceland at the small hamlet of Búðir. We were treated to small pockets of blue skies that allowed this beautiful church to stand out from the snow covered landscape and was our first treat of this amazing trip.

Buðir Church, Iceland

The Black Church at Búðir


Day two of this trip, which is my final ‘recce’ before launching my own Iceland Photography Tour which will take place this October, took us onto the north of the peninsula to the fishing port of Grundarfjörður which is close to the beautiful mountain of Kirkjufell. This has become a mecca for photographers as a series of waterfalls produce a leading line to the majestic mountain, however as Iceland is experiencing the worst winter in over 30 years the waterfalls were frozen and only a dribble of flowing water was visible however it provides a quite different view to the ‘usual’ shots that are seen from this position – little did we know that there would be an even more unusual view later in the trip.

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Frozen Waterfalls at Kirkjufell


We were due to stay another night on the peninsula, however, the weather reports were coming in that another storm was about to hit from the West and so we took the decision to leave early and head down to the South coast and the town of Vik. On the way to our destination we pass several of the well known waterfalls such as Seljalandafloss and Skagafoss. The conditions were far from perfect but the white snow and dark skies make a very interesting monochrome conversion without the need for any software.

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Seljalandafloss – Not Monochrome


The storm did indeed hit quite heavily overnight and we woke up to much brighter and calmer conditions which allowed us to venture onto the cliffs that overlook the Black Beach. Whilst it was calmer, in perspective the winds were still around 25mph and the resultant swell on the ocean was leading to huge waves crashing onto the shore that had made the unhindered journey from the warm seas of the Caribbean and gathered pace to batter the Icelandic coast. I was able to get enough shelter behind a small hill and perch precariously on the edge of a cliff to shoot some longer exposure images across the bay toward the sea stacks on the opposite side.

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The Black Beach at Vik


One of the hidden gems of this area is a DC3 plane that crashed onto the basalt sands in 1973, the crew survived the crash but the plane was left to rot on the beach rather than being recovered. There are some strict rules about off-road driving in Iceland, although this 6 mile stretch from the main road to the wreck seems to be overlooked and the foolhardy and adventurous attempt the trip to see this eerie sight – it’s really difficult to find in the light of day, could you imagine trying to find it at night…!

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DC3 on the Black Beach


We went to bed with the crash of thunder and flash of lightning accompanied by a text message to advise that the aurora was likely to be quite good early in the morning and the forecasters promising a clearing in the clouds at 3am. Alarm clocks were set and sure enough the storm had ended and there was a large gap in the clouds overhead with the familiar movement of misty aurora! The aurora hunt was on and a location was needed that would be a great foreground for this beautiful display – why not try and drive six miles off the road to go back to the DC3 – in the dark?? We had great fun painting the plane with light both inside and out to produce this mystical image.

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The lights of the DC3


The next day we headed to our most Easterly (planned) destination at The Glacier Lagoon. By now the cold temperatures we had arrived to had become a distant memory and a new danger was on us, flooding caused by the snow melt coming off the mountains. At the beach opposite the Glacier Lagoon the blocks of ice had been falling so profusely off the glacier that the beach was full of growlers and smaller chunks of glacial ice making it really difficult to isolate individual ice-bergs and made even harder by a still quite strong ocean swell that resulted in wet feet getting this image.

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Glacier Lagoon Growlers


The following day we started our journey back towards Reykjavik where our trip would end the next day but on the way we had a few locations planned to capture, however, I always like to keep an eye out as we drive for something a little different and a tiny glimpse over a few hills captured my interest, so we turned around and headed along a small and bumpy track to come across another glacial lagoon but not the famous one a few miles away. What a find it was as the icebergs were still well formed, the blue glacier behind them was majestic and the shore had tons of foreground interest. This is definitely going to be on the agenda for the tour so we can avoid the crowds at the famous lagoon and capture something a little different than most of photography tours.

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The Secret Lagoon


Also on the journey back westwards we wanted to stop again at Vik as there is a really pretty church that sits just above the town and is dwarfed by mountains behind it.  Our timing was perfect as the sun illuminated the white walls of the church which made it ping out against the mountains behind. This really is my favourite church in Iceland.

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Vik Church


So, our trip had come to an end and after a pleasant last meal in Reykjavik we headed to bed ready for the flight home the next day. The flight wasn’t until mid-afternoon so we spent a few hours in The Blue Lagoon, relaxing in the hot waters and enjoying the mud masks. However, in the back of our minds was the prediction of clear skies and an aurora prediction of an amazing display. A conversation with a pleasant American chap in the lagoon led us to the inevitable conclusion – when we are already in the best location in the world for aurora why would we leave it just as the conditions were going to be amazing – flights were changed, car hire extended and hotels booked and we headed northwards again to Snæfellsnes.

Leaving our hotel just before dusk, our first stop was the Kirkjufell mountain. What a difference a week makes as most of the snow had now disappeared and the waterfalls were flowing giving us some great foreground interest. As dusk fell the aurora was already visible to the naked eye and it was even possible to capture it using an iPhone camera. Normally, the best place to shoot the Northern Lights is by pointing the camera to the north which is the perfect position to include the magnificent mountain, however, the electrical impulses were so strong there were displays of green, purple, red and blue flashing all over the sky.

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Kirkjufell Aurora


With such an amazing display, the crowds were flocking to this famous spot so I took the decision to move on and try some different locations. I had spotted a small abandoned boat house on the journey to the peninsula in the first week and I thought it would make a great foil for the aurora above. The lights didn’t fail us and with a little torch illumination on the wood it created a beautiful image of a slightly different location.

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The Old Boat House


By 5AM we were starting to flag and to some extent so were the Northern Lights that had given us an 8 hour display. However, ou accommodation looked toward Kirkjufell and there was still some indication from the various apps that there would be yet more auroral activity above. The water in front of the mountain was devoid of photographers so were given free range to find a good view point. The lights were again favourable to us and gave us one final display before the first light of dawn started to creep over the eastern horizon – what a night!

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Ring around the mountain


Unsurprisingly, the next day was a little subdued after such a long and exciting night but we still managed to get out and explore a little more of the peninsula. The weather predictions were once again spot on but unfortunately this meant that cloud was covering the sky and snow starting to fall again. However, a bit of off-roading again paid dividends as this little beach was discovered after a bit of a clamber over some slippy rocks. Given better conditions that we will hopefully get in October, this will be a cracking sunset location.

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Snaefellsnes Beach


A little further along the track lies the Saxholbjarg Lighthouse which stands on top of some huge cliffs that are home to gannets and if you are brave enough to look below also has a small arch that the ocean was swirling around below.

Óndverðarnes lighthouse

Saxholbjarg Lighthouse


And so, once again, this was our last day in Iceland. The flight was a little later so we had a leisurely trip down to Reykjavik but on the way had a couple of stops for some locations that we hadn’t quite had time for in the preceding eight days. The first was in the fishing port of Akranes which has two lighthouses, again this will be a lovely location to play with in different conditions but it’s nice to give you a flavour of the kind of thing that we will be getting to do on the October trip.

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Akranes Lighthouses

Our last stop of the day was in Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik where we had an explore around the Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral. Outside the cathedral is a statue to Leif Erikson who is now recognised as being the first westerner to set foot on the shores of America. The heavy clouds give a nice moody back-drop to his strident pose and is a perfect end to a wondrous trip.

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Leif Erikson Silhouette


During this trip I was accompanied  by a friend who is also a very talented photographer. You can follow her work through her Facebook page. Throughout the trip I was shooting using my Canon 5D MkIII camera and most of the day time shots were also using my Lee Filters which I can’t recommend enough for helping to expose correctly in the really difficult conditions we faced.

I will be launching the October tour later this week through this page, however, if you would like to get an early-bird notification drop me a mail to with the subject heading “Iceland Tour” and I will send you an e-mail 12 hours before the tour is released to the general public. It will be a fantastic experience!


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Also posted in Iceland, Uncategorized

Sharing knowledge with Edinburgh Photography Workshop

IMG_1692As well as being a professional photographer, I also provide photography tuition through my sister company, Edinburgh Photography Workshop. I love seeing the huge improvement in people who attend my sessions as they get to grips with moving away from the auto-settings and Switching to Manual. Here’s an image from today’s workshop taken by Jacqui Swann and shows just how a short understanding of manual settings and a few composition techniques can deliver really great images. Even better Jacqui walked away from the workshop with the understanding to do this without me being by her side.


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