Category Archives: Uncategorized

Gordon Brown speech at Fabian Society

Former Prime minister, Gordon Brown, addresses the summer conference of the Scottish Fabian Society. During the speech, Brown critiqued the impact of the Growth Commission report. He suggested that as a result of the cuts that would be required to achieve independence, there would need to be huge cuts to public services. He asserted that only the Labour Party was now able to claim that it stood for social justice.

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Something Old Something New

My Switch to Manual Workshop is rated the #1 learning experience in Edinburgh by Trip Advisor. The four-hour workshop starts in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket and finishes in Holyrood, taking in the street that inspired JK Rowling to create Diagon Alley as well as the Royal Mile. These locations are all part of Edinburgh’s historic Old Town.

I’m happy to announce that once a month I am going to be running the same great learning experience, but this time in the New Town area of Edinburgh. Starting in the wonderful surroundings of the Arienas Collective we make our way through the Georgian streets and the Royal Botanic Gardens before returning for a review of the photographs in the comfort of the Arienas Collective with a complimentary glass of beer or wine.

You can book this and many more experiences at

Circus LaneStreet Lamp ShadowStockbridge Street SignPhotography in the Botanics

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Fair’s Fair

Fair Trade Toolkit Launch

Launch of Youth Scotland Fair Trade Toolkit

I’ve recently provided photography for the Scottish Fair Trade Forum at the launch of their new youth pack, Fair’s Fair, produced in collaboration with Youth Scotland

It’s always interesting working with organisations like SFTF. Who would have known that there is a Fair Trade football available to buy and that you can buy an ethically sourced mobile phone!

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Edinburgh Riding of the Marches 2016

Edinburgh Riding of the Marches commemorates the return in 1513 of Randolph Murray clasping the Ancient Blue Blanket Banner with the tragic news of the defeat of the Scottish Army at the Battle of Flodden. 280 Horses traverse the boundaries of Edinburgh before culminating in a procession along the Royal Mile culminating in a ceremony celebrating the return of the flag at the historic Mercat Cross.

Photographs are available to buy for £20 for personal use on websites and social media. E-mail to purchase.


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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, Edinburgh

Can you keep a secret?

One of the hidden attractions just outside Edinburgh is the labour of love run by Liberty and Hamish Martin called The Secret Herb Garden. This idyllic venture lies 6 miles south of the city centre and allows the owners to share their enjoyment of herbs along with home produced food and drink, vintage furniture and candles made from the wax produced by the on-site apiary.

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Entry to the garden is free of charge, however, it is difficult not to spend money with a huge array of herbs for sale – I never realised how many types of mint existed until they were lined up, each with their own particular fragrance or taste. You’ll also find it hard to resist spending some time in the cafe with a selection of cakes and scones as well as a very enjoyable lunch dish of Sweet Corn Quiche and Hand Picked Flower Salad.

When you have finished lunch head beyond the glass-house and take a look at the apiary where you can see inside a working bee-hive; the medicinal garden and some innovative plant pots, including a Volkswagen Beetle that has herbs growing from its boot and bonnet.

If you are looking for something a little different in easy travelling distance from Scotland’s capital city then The Secret Herb Garden is a great choice.


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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, Edinburgh

The best way to learn photography(?)

City PhotograhySince I gave up my old job and became a photographer I am rarely kept up at night worrying about something. This is because I am lucky enough to be doing something I enjoy and doing enough of it that it is paying my bills. However, I responded to a question on a social media group from someone calling out they were new to photography and were looking for ways to learn. In true internet forum style, everyone gave their responses and it soon led to the usual rubbishing of other people’s views and the poor original poster is now even more lost and confused than when they started and I had a shorter sleep than usual concerned for them.

So what is the right answer? Well, to be honest there isn’t one! End of blog post, thanks for reading. Of course, that isn’t the end of the post – there isn’t a right answer because every one of us is different and has different priorities. Instead, I thought it would be good to share a set of options that I am aware of and my view of the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Before we go into the options though I thought it would be good to regurgitate something I learned in my old corporate days but is really pertinent to this topic. When we are starting something new we don’t know what we don’t know – let’s use the analogy of learning to drive and then apply this back to photography later.

Unconscious Incompetence

In this stage of learning you know you want to learn to drive but you have no idea of how to start the car or the fairly complicated procedure of changing gear, when to change gear, why you are changing gear, how to park etc. You are either going to deny that you need to learn to drive or you are going to start taking lessons or have someone show you what to do. This then takes you into the next stage of learning.

Conscious Incompetence

You’ve had a few lessons and are now bombarded with all this information. You can guarantee that you’ll have a few stalls at traffic lights and it all becomes over-whelming. You kind of get the things you need to do but actually doing them is a struggle so you either decide that driving isn’t for you and buses are pretty good or you practice more and reach the next stage of development.

Conscious Competence

It’s driving test day and you’ve had weeks of practice and now someone is going to spend 45 minutes in the car with you after you sit a theory test and you are going to show them that you can drive. You’ll be concentrating so hard to prove that the things you have learned are demonstrable by you. You know what you are doing and you have to think hard every time you do it to make sure it’s right.

Unconscious Competence

Nirvana! Well not quite. You’ve been driving a couple of years and doing 10,000 miles a year, never had an accident. You’re now not needing to think about how you are driving, it is has become instinctive. There are dangers at this level that you become so used to not thinking you don’t concentrate and so it’s always worth taking yourself back to an earlier development stage and refreshing now and again.

OK, so that’s the theory – lots of words and hopefully you aren’t too bored and have kept with me. So how does that relate to the tools for learning? I’m going to look at a few of the responses to the post that got me thinking about this and you can decided yourself where things fit.

Online Articles

The internet is amazing, so much information that it is hard to imagine that you can’t find anything with a Google search or two. There are some terrific resources out there, Lynda, Kelby One, Creative Live and Phlearn are all great examples of sites that have comprehensive and reliable videos to watch.

If you know what you are looking for then you can find free videos that will get you the information you know you need but what if you are so new that you don’t know what to search for? Unconscious Incompetence – it’s going to take you a while to find what you think you need and the downside of the internet is anyone can post anything (look I have done it overnight for this article!) and it may be totally wrong – just as there are many great resources such as the ones mentioned earlier, there are just as many band and frankly wrong videos that you can watch.

The other consideration of online is that it is a one-way process. You can’t ask questions and get an immediate answer unless you are paying for the live courses and your answer is picked from the many going up on the message board.

Finally you are, by necessity, sat in front of your computer learning so if you want to then apply the knowledge you need to be able to retain that knowledge to put it into practice – imagine if you were told to learn how to drive online and then be given the keys to a car and to do everything you have just been shown what to do?

Workshops and Tours

There are quite a number of photographers who supplement their incomes by providing a workshop session to photographers that allow them share their knowledge with people willing to pay. The advantage of this is that there is a two way process involved here – you can ask a question and you’ll get an immediate response. Good workshops will usually use a teaching process similar to the ones that you have probably seen when you have attended a training course in your own job – tell, show, observe, review – where you are told how to do something, give an example, let the learner do it for themselves and review how thy did it.

There are things to be aware of here too. Anyone can set up a website and say they teach photography, you don’t need a licence to be able to do this so how do you know if what they teach is any good? Check the quality of their own photography, try and find reviews of other people that have attended.

This isn’t going to be a magic bullet solution, you won’t attend one of these sessions and instantly become the next Ansel Adams. You will need to put into practice your learning from these sessions so ask the workshop if you get any post-learning support or if they toss you back into the world after they have given you your allotted time.

Online Courses

I have never tried this option so I will limit my views on them. You will often see discounted courses that allow you to become a pro-photographer in just 10 weeks, usual price £499 now only £50 and at the end you will be certified as a pro-photographer.

There’s a reason I have never tried these – would you believe it if you were told that from being unable to drive in 10 weeks time you’ll be racing against Lewis Hamilton – that doesn’t happen.

I am sure that some of these courses are reputable but from the many pro-photographers I have met with, I have never heard one of them coming through this route.

Formal Courses

This is a traditional route for photographers to learn their craft. Some of these such as the Open University may well have an online element to them, others such as HNC, HND or Degree courses will need regular attendance. This is definitely going to give you an excellent grounding in photography, you’ll be learning from people who have had to be assessed for their capability to teach and it will give you lots of what you need to make photography a career.

The considerations for this style of learning are fairly obvious, it is going to be quite a time commitment and probably a reasonably hefty cost commitment too. You also need to think about whether you need to do something like this if you are happy to continue to be a hobbyist photographer – do you really need a qualification?

I have also heard from some people on this route that they became frustrated having to learn things that they didn’t think would be useful in the future. Be prepared for this and go into it with open eyes.

Finally, some of these more formal courses have restricted numbers so you will often need to show a level of competence to get onto them although there are often shorter courses that can be easier to get on.


Photography isn’t a team sport but it can be. If you have a group of friends that are all interested then why not head out with them and pick up what they know and apply it to your own photography.

Certainly nothing wrong with this route and obviously you will be limited by the knowledge of your friends. It’s nice and social and hopefully you’ll have fun which is really what it’s all about! Don’t forget though that some photographers become different when thy are taking photos – they are concentrating so hard on what they are doing that they aren’t the jovial chap that you recognise from ‘normal life’.

Camera Clubs

Throughout the world there are many clubs and societies dedicated to photography. Often they’ll have special interest groups such as Nature or Studio and the people running them will usually be competent.

The criticisms of Camera Clubs can sometimes be that they have a reputation of being ‘stuffy’ and stand-offish. It can be quite intimidating as there are often club competitions where everyone shows their work and a judge will give (hopefully but not always, constructive) criticism of the submitted photographs and it can be quite hurtful to hear your image being destroyed in public.

My own experience of a camera club has been that they are a good place to pick up some knowledge but you will rarely find someone that will help take you through from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence.

So which is best?

The right answer is probably a combination of most of them depending on what you want to do with your photography, how much time you have, and how much do you want to pay?

I’ll share you my own route but don’t think that this is the definitive right answer. I started off by going out with friends taking photos and in parallel spent six months or so searching the internet in frustration trying to find the way to do things. I eventually joined a camera club and gradually progressed to the ‘advanced’ section where I decided to work toward attaining the Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society with some assistance from some members of the camera club. Along the way though I have practiced every day and every so often I attend a workshop or a course on something that interests me. A mix and match will work but you need to think for yourself which mix works for you.


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Great way to Geotag your photos

When I am running my photography workshops I like to be able to share the locations we use with the groups so that if they are ever in the area again they can easily find the place where we shot, however, as I use the Canon 5D MkIII which doesn’t have a built in GPS function there were two options, either manually find the approximate location in Lightroom to geo-tag the images or alternatively pay a pile of money for a GPS receiver to add onto the camera. Speaking with another photographer recently, he suggested a great alternative which is an app that is available for iOS and Android operating systems called Geo Tag Pro which costs a bargain £2.99 and automates the process using the technology that sits in your pocket and a smart feature in Lightroom Maps.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 09.45.26When you download the app, you first need to ensure that the time on your camera and the time on the app are aligned. Once out in the field and you are about to start shooting, switch on recording and it will autolog your GPS position at user-definable intervals (I have it set for every two minutes or when I have moved 50 meters). The app designers have recognised that using GPS usually wears down you battery so they have put in some clever tech to reduce the amount of charge being taken by only switching on GPS tracking when it is actually tracking your movement rather than being always on. Once you have finished the shoot you then have a number of options to retrieve the data – automatically download it to a Dropbox folder; automatically send it to the server at Geo Tag Pro where you can then download it once you get back home; or e-mail it to yourself. All three options create a GPX file which you can then import into Lightroom and with a couple of clicks join together the data with the images you took. In Lightroom, click on Map/Tracklog/Load Track Log and then once that has been done go to Maps/Tracklog/Auto-Tag Photos and then as if by magic everyone of your images will be matched to your GPS position at the time it was taken.

This is going to be a great addition to future workshops so I can produce a personalised map of the route for each event. If you are interested in attending any of my workshops, including the fantastic Iceland Lights and Landscape tour in October then please go to

The Old Pier at North Berwick


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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 Edinburgh, Iceland