Sunday, 3 August 2014

Time flies - and beating the low inspiration barrier

November 2012. Seriously? I can't believe it's been so long since I last blogged - so much has happened since last I put fingertip to keyboard, which is why my posts are so sparse I suppose... Life has settled down for a little while at least though, so once more into the breach!

At what point do you say, yep, I really have the hang of photography now? Does anyone reading this think they can say that? If so, please post a link, we want to see great images! Personally I think you never stop learning at this, and if you've stopped learning... well, what would be the point in continuing to make images? Hopefully I've learned a lot over the last 18 months, I'll try to share some.

In the rather grey and somewhat boring winter of 2012/2013 skies were bland, my own get up and go had got up and went and inspiration was at an all time low. I had to get out of the slump. I needed to see things in a different way that I could transfer into a photograph. First stop, the easiest and probably the all too common method, was to buy new kit. I went and bought the rather amazing Canon G1X. Expensive but it beats an SLR from the point of view that I can carry it everywhere, it can practically see in the dark at high ISO, it generates bigger images than my DSLR and  the noise reduction blasts my 40D out of the water. Best of all (I didn't know this it the time) the accompanying basic software was hugely advanced on what I had done previously - even my older images that had failed to make the grade were rescuable! If you're thinking of getting one... do it! And lesson #1 - If you have old software, update it!

The second approach to beating the dulls, was to start taking pictures of different subjects - I opted for some urban and industrial landscapes. Still not my first love, but a great way of spending some quality relaxing photography time without needing a trip to the Highlands. I am often in Edinburgh city centre and there is a wealth of great architecture on offer. With the exception of the chimney, all of the images here are taken with that a little G1X . In addition to this blog I also started to run a facebook page where I post an image almost every day - and the image above of the Edinburgh skyline and saltire cross, was one of the first with my little Canon, taken on the way home one evening,  got  over 10,000 hits in a week! Lesson # 2 - always take a camera with you (I know it's old but it's true!).


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Time Flies

It's been a while since I last blogged, so I thought I'd share some images from my travels during the last the last few months. In May I made a sort of photographic pilgrimage. Most landscape photographers in Scotland have a sort of hit list of the key spots - there's The Buchaille Etive Mor at Glencoe (I went there in October 2010 with rather damp esults - must go back!), Skye with Elgol and Storr and the Quiraing (was there in July 2011 - I really ought to post those pics) and there's Loch Ard and that oft snapped boathouse. In may this year I finally visited Loch Ard - I saw the boatshed, but the light was singularly uninteresting - one to go back to in the depth of winter I think... Shot of the day ended up being a close up of a flower! Some landscape photographer I am!

June saw a trip to New Lanark Mill - always a great place for a day of photography - lots of opportunity for some steam punk images. I got a few pleasing shots but nothing to set the world alight. These were the days of good weather, dappled sunlight and wandering about in shorts T-Shirt and with a camera on my back. I got along to Dalkeith Country Park while the main attraction (The Adventure Playground) was cloosed, leaving me in peace to get some snaps of the old buildings. I particularly liked the old Orangerie. I hear people saying they can't wait for it to be restored next year as it could be lovely - but I prefer it in it's ruined state - loads of atmosphere and you can picture the gentry meeting on the lawns next to the Orangerie for Tiffin. splendid.

July was Summer Holiday month and what a photography bonanza I had high in the Austrian Alps. My third visit there but my first with an SLR. What a fantastic place to be  - there is nothing better than hiking the Alpine tops, camera in hand! I'm sure I'll be back again one day.

August was a blur - I never got out with the camera at all - too many pressures at work and of course I was still processing the thousands of pictures I took in the Alps.

By September I had itchy feet -  wanted to get hiking again, so Oscar and I drove out west and went for a bit of a hike along Glen Loin. It was fairly featureless from a landscape photography point of view, but Oscar enjoyed it and got into all sorts of mischief. Here he is, on leash due to the cows around the corner and looking innocent, hoping I'll drop a bit of my sandwich.

Which brings us up to date. October sees the clocks going back and heralds a time of year when dawn and dusk aren't at such insociable hours.  But it also is a time for terribly cold hands and batteries that drain faster than usual. A tip I once got about that is to keep your spare batteries NOT in your bag but under your oxters (Scots for armpits). I think that's a little extreme and a bit nasty - I keep them in my trouser pockets or in an inside pocket of my jacket.

Every Year the MacD's take an annual trip to the Trossachs at this time of year - first stop loch Lubnaig in search of great foliage and glassy reflections. Followed by a quick nod to Rob Roys grave and a family hike around Loch Voil, picking the wild blackberries and having a well wrapped up ((us not the food) picnic.

This year Lubnaig was choppy and unfortunately most of the yellowed autumnal leaves fell off withing a week of turning, so we missed the full effect. Still, the mark of a good photographer is finding something from nothing and making images from what's available.  There are two schools of thought for Landscapers - preparation is everything or adaptability is the key. Personally I think it's a bit of both.  For the shot below, I prepped by knowing my location, the weather conditions I like, the seasonal effects, where to park, where to walk to, I'd talked to people who had been there before who could tell me what the leaves were looking like and off I went. But I got there and despite all my prep - none of the conditions were quite right - so add a splash of adaptability and I ended up with a shot I really like that still gets the colours and the feel for the place. 

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Who Wins these Competitions?

So, following on from my last post (several months ago!!!!), I did not win the Outdoor Photographer of the Year competition. But, I WAS shortlisted so that is a great achievement for me. I was in the midst of feeling rather pleased with myself when lo and behold I got ANOTHER email, this time from The Scottish Nature Awards - I've been shortlisted again. So another nervy wait.

I'm enjoying entering these competitions. I get to put myself up against my peers and I'm doing well, it's a great confidence boost!

But who wins these? A silly question perhaps as most competitions are very open about the winner - or are they? A great example is Georg Karbus - Outdoor Photographer of the Year last Year and a category winner this year - check out his great website.

But I have started asking myself about the motivation organisations have for running competitions and I have to tell you there are some very shady practices going on in the world of photography!

Most reputable competitions are run to promote the organisation and drum up interest in it. Others are altruistic and are done to promote better photography. For instance I recently entered a small local competition run by Halfords - free to enter and the best images got some freebies. I got a pleasing wee 3rd place with an image I trawled off my hard drive and won a free service for my bike (I love getting these wee free things, even if I don't REALLY need them). Halfords got some photographers to come through the doors and a bit of local press and I got a freebie - win win!

Others run competitions you have to pay to enter (read the small print very carefully!!!). I look at these with great suspicion but if the cost is low and there are obvious administrative costs (like prize money and admin), I will pay a small fee that is worth the publicity for me should I do well. Outdoor Photographer, the Scottish Nature Awards are good examples. Others are the National Open Exhibitions where not for profit organisations put in a power of work to promote photography in the UK.

But there are others out there that fall in to two categories I find very distasteful. Ones that charge a lot of money per image entered - really what is the justification for that? It's just a get rich quick scheme by the organisers. And ones that may be free but claim the right to use all images entered for a variety of purposes, not just connected to the competition.

Recently Visit Scotland started a competition up. If I entered, they would be able to use my images free of charge, pass them on to third parties and use them perpetually. I would retain a worthless copyright. and that's just for entering. They have had thousands of entries already and must have a rather large stock photography collection by now. I find this disappointing, I would love to support the promotion of Scotland, but suddenly I felt like I was going to be exploited. I know a number of photographers feel the same way, but at the end of the day, I guess it is down to us as photographers to check the fine print and only enter if we feel that the incentive justifies the cost. I won't be entering... There is a very good article on this at the Scottish Photographers website.

So that's my message today - check the fine print. You can spend thousands of pounds on equipment and travel, put in hours and hours of effort and even take physical risks to get a good shot but there are plenty people out there who want to take your results for little effort, without paying you and to use for their own gain. Always read the Ts and Cs!