2014 was a year of expanding my business and trying new things, I wanted to work solely as a landscape photographer and time-lapse cinematographer as this is where my passion lies. It was a year where I felt I'd gone to the next level as goals had been reached that I didn't expect like my time-lapse photography being used for an ITV episode of Ray Mears Wilderness Walks and having double-page spread images in both BBC Wildlife and Countryfile magazines. These were both great achievements for me which I'm very proud of so I'm definitely excited to see what 2015 holds! Below are my top 10 images of 2014 that I feel all have a story to tell and showcase my passion for the outdoors. Make sure to click on the images for a larger view and these images are in order of which I took them, starting in January...
This waterfall is a lovely location to get away from the towns and disappear for a bit. It's located not too far from Dalmellington in Ayrshire and I've been visiting this place for the last few years. This shot was taken in January on a cold and wet day where most people would be enjoying the comforts of home and a hot cup of tea but not me. I prefer photographing waterfalls on cloudy days as the contrast is a lot lower and dynamic range of the scene seems to be more evened out. What I love about this shot is the bright greens of the moss and lichen on the trees which really help bring them out and give a bit of colour to a autumnal scene.
Northern Lights In Ayr
The Aurora Borealis is a natural wonder that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime, the beauty of the night sky lighting up in all its glory is a true testament to the natural world and how beautiful it really is, especially at night. Getting these images was by sheer luck and determination. I had no idea that the Aurora Borealis was going show that night and even if it did I would have never thought I would be photographing it in Ayr. So how did it all happen I hear you say? Well, I was at home just watching tv and I started reading reports on Twitter of people saying they could see the Aurora Borealis, most of these people were from the North of Scotland so I still believed my chances were a little slim. I had a look outside my window and I couldn’t see any stars at all as there was cloud cover, still my hopes of seeing it were quite slim.
I left it for about 20 minutes and more and more reports were flooding in on Twitter and now people from Northern England were seeing the Northern Lights. I went upstairs to my office, switched all the lights off and looked north. The sky had cleared and there it was! A green glow snaked across the sky above me. I grabbed my camera bag and tripod and drove down to Ayr harbour as I believed this would be best place for me that wouldn’t have that much light pollution due to me looking North into the sea and Arran. Photographing the Aurora Borealis was a huge achievement me, definitely one I can check off my bucket-list! I always thought the first place I would see them would be Iceland, Norway or Sweden but no it was 10 minutes from my home. Unbelievable. I feel truly honoured to have witnessed its beauty and I cannot wait to travel the world on the hunt for the beautiful Aurora Borealis!
Incoming Waves At Prestwick
Prestwick beach has always been the first place I drive to if the weather starts to change near to when the sun is setting. Having the Isle of Arran as a backdrop is always great as it gives the images more detail instead of just finishing with a straight horizon with nothing else. I took this image during a day where there was nothing but bad weather all day and just as the sun was beginning its dip behind the hills of Arran the sun made an appearance adding a large amount of character to the sky and filling it full of detail and colour. I remember getting my feet completely soaked taking this shot as I was in such a rush that I just left my trainers on as I didn't want to waste any precious time putting my boots on. Using an ND filter I was able to slow down the exposure to around 1 second to add a bit of motion to the incoming waves and I think in this shot it worked really well.
Loch An Eilein, Cairngorms
During the summer I visited the Cairngorms for a family holiday, we stayed there for a week and the weather was on our side for the entire trip. One place I really wanted to visit was Loch an Eilein, I heard of it in the past and I also did some research on it before I left. It was more beautiful than I could have imagined. Due to it being a bit out of the way of the lochs it doesn't get too busy with tourists so when we went there we had a part of the loch to ourselves where we could just relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. We stayed there quite late to watch the sun set and while it was dipping behind us a collection of clouds began to turn orange and they just looked beautiful. To make the image looked a lot more smoother I applied a 10 stop filter to give me a shutter speed of around 30 seconds and I think using this filter really helped in bringing the image together.
The Milky Way
In the UK, the summer months are the best time of year to photograph the Milky Way, it's when it will be more visible in the night sky making it a lot easier to photograph. On this clear evening I decided to go down to Dunure castle to see what shots I could get and whether I could include the castle in the shots. It turned out to be a great evening and I got a lot more shots of the milky way than I was hoping for which was really nice. Due to the village being so close to where I was shooting, light pollution from the street lights started to flood the foreground with an orange glow but I felt in this shot it brought more detail out of the grass blowing in the wind. The lights on the far right on the Isle of Arran and you can also just make out the small of Ailsa Craig and its lighthouse just by the cliffs.
Autumn Is Here
During the Autumn moves I made the drastic move away from Canon DSLR's and I got myself the amazing Sony A7R. It was a decision I've mulling over ever since the A7R came out and I eventually made the plunge and I must say it was the best decision I've ever made. Great bit of kit! So during the Autumn months I wanted to make my work a bit more subtle, look for the finer details in the landscape instead of shooting super-wide and trying to get everything in the frame. I love photographing trees with character and this birch tree was ideal for what I was after, the colours just jump out at you!
Again, looking for the finer details in a scene I wanted to do the same along the Ayrshire coast at some of my favourite spots like the beach at Dunure. This shot was taken on a very windy and wet day which added a lot of dark and moody feelings to my images something I like to incorporate in most of my shots. The waves were crashing hard against the rocks as the tide was making its way up the shore and I wanted to try to document the motion of water as it elegantly moves around. So I attached an ND to the front of my lens and started to play with different shutter speeds to see what worked and what didn't. Out of the 20 shots of the water I took, this was my favourite.
Sunset At Prestwick Beach
Like i said earlier, the beach at Prestwick is always the first place I go for dramatic weather, 9 out of 10 tens I'll get a shot from here that I'll just love and there's nothing better than working locally. I went down to the beach that day to test out my new Samyang 14mm lens for the A7r, I had wanted this lens for long time and was looking forward to testing it properly. The sun was setting in the distance and I wanted to incorporate foreground details in my shot and while walking around the beach I found this small rock sitting there on its on and it stood out really well. So I spent a little while trying out different compositions to see which worked best and in the end this was my favourite.
Another Place, Crosby
While down near Merseyside visiting family, I made sure one day we went and visited Antony Gormley's "Another Place" statues that are located all across the beach in Crosby. I've been there several times before when I used live there but I never got any shots I liked as I was still a bit new to photography. I went there with the shot I wanted in my head and new exactly what I needed to do to make it happen which involved my A7R, 50mm lens and a 10 Stop filter to create some long exposures. The tide was on my side as I wanted the statues to be partially submerged in the water making it look they're standing still in time watching the days go by. The collection of images turned out exactly the way I wanted and I was very pleased with the final result.
The Concrete Blocks At Troon
So back to Scotland and I started to look into new locations as I was beginning to feel like I was exhausting my current spots and wanted to see what else was out there. Troon is a small town on the Ayrshire coast i decided to scout the location one day and see what I could find. Towards the harbour area I found these concrete blocks that must have held in pipes that went out to sea many years ago and now there were just the blocks remaining which I thought looked really interesting. I spent a good few days trying different ways of photographing them. Seeing how they looked when the tide was in or when the tide was out. I find going at different times of the day can really show a difference in the landscape that you may easily miss.
2014 was a really good year for me not just for my photography but also personally as I asked my beautiful partner Rachael if she would marry me and she said yes! It was a great way to finish the year and I cannot wait for her to be my wife. I wouldn't be the photographer and person I am today if it weren't for her! 2015 feels like it's going to be my year, I've got big plans already and I cannot wait to get my teeth into them. First off my list will be going to the Canary Islands to work for a tourism company in January and then as soon as I get back I'll be putting the finishing touches to my latest time-lapse film. Thanks for everything and make sure to see what I'm up to in 2015! :)
Firstly, I'd like to apologise for the lack of blogs over the last year. 2017 was a year that in all honesty I was glad to see the end of due to the loss of my father and with that I lost a lot of my passion for photography. I was still working as a photographer but personal projects didn't exist throughout the year which is new for me as I always have something on the go. My passion for photography is still here but I'm having to rebuild it brick by brick and it's not something that happens over night. I'm finding new inspiration in places I wouldn't generally look for it, Instagram & Facebook is a sea of the same styles regurgitated over and over so these places are not helping. My passion isn't coming back by looking at other peoples images but by people themselves, I'm very inspired by seeing people who are passionate about what they do and that doesn't always have to be a photographer. It could be a chef, painter or a woodworker that may have inspired me. I still feel being a photographer is a craft and should be treated as such, so that's why I find a lot of admiration for those who work hard with their hands to create something beautiful which after all is what I'm trying to do.
Of the images I did get during 2017 below are my 10 favourite images that I feel captured my year, they are in no particular order. I'm very excited for 2018 and seeing it with fresh eyes and a new approach that will hopefully push me more to get out with the camera to work on my personal projects.
I get asked a lot what's the easiest way to create timelapse videos especially for beginners and the answer has never been straight forward. But if you are subscriber to Adobe's Photography Plan this is the best way that I've found to get started with timelapse photography and editing.
How To Create A Timelapse Video Using Lightroom & Photoshop CC - YouTube
Using ND filters are a key part to the avid landscape photographer; they enable us to control our exposure, increase the time the shutter is open and help us achieve a desired creative look. Most commonly used on scenes with water like a waterfall or a river to get a smooth and silky look that we photographer’s love oh so much. Over the years the demand for darker ND filters to create longer exposures has become a lot higher as people are trying more ways to be creative with their photography. The 10-Stop ND filter has always been the first filter to turn to when creating very long exposures and when I say long exposures I’m talking over 30 seconds where Bulb Mode is required. I use my 10-Stop filter on a daily basis but I do find it struggles to create those long exposures on bright sunny days; that’s where the 15-Stop “Super Stopper” comes into play!
What It Can Do?
The all-new Super Stopper can reduce the amount of light hitting the sensor by 15 stops, which is great for that mid-day brightness which most photographers try to avoid. To give you an idea of the effect this filter has on your images; if your base shutter speed is 1/60th of a second the exposure with the filter will be 8 minutes! That is a huge difference when compared to the 10-stop filter, which with the same base exposure would only equate to 15 seconds. If you look at the chart below you can see the effect this filter has with your exposure and how it differs from their other filters:
Review: Lee Filters 15 Stop Super Stopper ND - YouTube
How To Use It
The Super Stopper is very easy to use and if you follow my process below then you shouldn’t have any issues with it. Getting familiar with this filter is like many things in life and that’s with a lot of time and practice.
· Compose your shot without the filter attached and place the camera on a sturdy tripod.
· Manually focus the lens, set the base exposure, aperture and a low ISO.
· I always take a test exposure without the filter and make sure the exposure is even and the image is sharp.
· I then check the provided chart or mobile app to see what my exposure equates to with the filter.
· Set your camera to Bulb Mode.
· To trigger your camera I would use an intervalometer as it tracks how long the shutter has been open.
· Slide the filter into the closest slot to the lens.
· Cover the viewfinder as stray light coming through can leak onto your images and it’s not pretty.
· And take the shot. Try not to stand near the tripod incase you knock it, I tend to go for a walk nearby.
Below you can see some before & after images I’ve taken with this filter over the last 2 weeks. Luckily the review was done during while I was working in the Outer Hebrides, a wonderful place to test a filter like this.
Without Super Stopper. 1/20sec at f/11, ISO 100
With Super Stopper. 906sec (about 15 minutes) at f/11, ISO 100
Without Super Stopper. 1/80sec at f/11, ISO 100
With Super Stopper. 241sec (about 4 minutes) at f/11, ISO 100
What’s It Great For?
Like I said at the start of the review this filter is great for shooting in the middle of the day which I love as it means I can be more creative with my photography during a time of day that I typically wouldn’t shoot at. As you don’t need really long exposures for photographing waterfalls this filter is amazing for adding a smooth cotton ball look to clouds at any point of the day.
Ever at an area full of tourists and you’d just wish they’d all disappear? Well then the Super Stopper can achieve that easily. By using a long exposure over 5 minutes long the people will begin to disappear the more they move around as the sensor isn’t capturing them enough. I used this technique for the image below which was taken at the Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye. There were too many people taking selfies and I didn’t want to Photoshop the image to remove them so a 5-minute exposure did wonders at making it look like I had the place all to myself!
Having a colour cast on your final image can be a common thing when using very dark ND filters like the 10 and 15 stop filters. With the Super Stopper there is a slight blue colour cast but it’s so slight that I don’t even notice it to be honest. It’s very easy to remove in Lightroom and Photoshop by slightly adjusting the white balance.
With Super Stopper. 301 seconds (about 5 minutes) at f/8, ISO 200
With Super Stopper. 310 seconds (about 5 minutes) at f/9, ISO 320
With Super Stopper. 307 seconds (about 5 minutes) at f/9, ISO 320
Image Noise And Dark Frame Subtraction
The one thing that can be an issue during long exposures is that the temperature of the sensor does increase over the period of the shutter being open which can introduce thermal noise into the shot. Thermal noise is different to the regular noise you find when using higher ISO’s; it’s brighter, more saturated and difficult to remove. I found Lightroom does a decent job of removing it but it’s nowhere near perfect and it varies depending on the camera you’re using.
The best way to go is to do a dark frame subtraction, which is where you take the exact same exposure again but with the lens cap on. You then bring this file plus the long exposure image into Photoshop as layers, put the dark frame on top and change the Blend Mode to Subtract. Again it’s not perfect but I find it works great for the brighter and more saturated pixels in the image. I also don’t take the dark frame out in the field to save on time so I’ll take back home while editing. With some difficult pixels sometimes it’s just best to clone it out with the spot removal tool in Lightroom.
From using a 10-Stop filter for the last few years at first I was unsure there would be a big difference with the 15-Stop but how wrong was I! The difference in exposure time is massive which is fantastic for shooting throughout the day but I could see myself not using it too much around dusk and dawn as the exposures could be too long which I feel would be overkill. The noise in the images is a little frustrating but not a massive issue as it can be removed with a little bit of patience. It’s very well made, the foam gasket on the back is great for reducing light leaks and I love the images that it helps me create. Overall I absolutely love the Super Stopper by Lee Filters and can definitely see myself adding one of these to my camera bag.
The Isle of Harris is a place of great wonder for me. When you’re there you feel cut off from the world and very far away from the bustle of day-to-day life. The Isle of Harris can be found in the far northwest of Scotland in an area known as the Outer Hebrides. It’s not an island itself, as it is connected to the Isle of Lewis, which can be found further in the north. I first fell in love with Harris back in March 2016 after being hired to go over there for work. It’s definitely not a quick journey to get to! From where I live, in Ayr, it takes more than six hours just to get to the ferry terminal on the Isle of Skye, and then there’s still the 90-minute boat ride to Tarbert before I’m on Harris.
One of the first things you notice about Harris is that it’s very rocky and there aren’t many trees. As you drive through the winding roads you start to realise what a rugged landscape Harris really is, and as you get away from the villages you quickly start to get a sense of the extent of its isolation. But don’t let this deter you! The more of the Isle you explore, the more you’ll appreciate its beauty, and hopefully grow to understand why I feel there’s not much that compares to this incredible landscape. I love photographing along coastlines. There’s just something about the water crashing onto rocks, the ebb and flow of the tide and the setting sun in the distance. I thought I’d seen some great coastlines on my travels but didn’t realise what Harris had to offer. See the Isle on a sunny day and you might think you had a made a wrong turn at some point and ended up on a Caribbean island – the beaches around Harris have a beautiful pale yellow sand and the water is a lovely turquoise blue. After seeing this for the first time I knew I was somewhere special. You could make a photo stop every few minutes while travelling along the west coast of Harris. There are so many beaches and all of them have their own characters, each offering something different.
The beaches of Luskentyre, Seilebost, Huisinis and Borve are the first that come to mind. I could spend days just photographing these beaches and I’d always walk away with an image to be proud of. The sand on Harris is pristine, to the point where you feel bad for walking on it! For the most part it will only be you at any given beach, so when you see these incredibly detailed patterns in the sand you’ll find yourself wanting to leave them the way you found them, even though just a few hours later the tide will wipe the slate clean and create new patterns. At locations like this I tend to go for a walk first along the beach or coastline to see what possibilities there are. It’s amazing how much you can miss if you stay in the one location for too long, so remember that the beaches of Harris all offer something different. For instance, Luskentyre offers great views towards the north of Harris and its incredible mountain range, while the beach at Huisinis looks south towards the island of Taransay, with some amazing patterns in its sand that I’ve never anywhere else. The Outer Hebrides are known for their standing stones that can be found all over Lewis and Harris, the most famous of them being the Callanish standing stones found on Lewis. Harris still has its own amazing standing stone found near the Traigh Iar beach, standing proudly on top of the hill. Looking out to sea you will find the Macleods standing stone, which also goes by the name Clach Mhic Leoid. This is probably my favourite standing stone on Lewis and Harris – it stands alone, 2.5 metres high, and looks out towards the island of Taransay in the distance. This is a location you could photograph at all times and in all weathers, but when it really shines is during the evening, just as the sun is setting.
Heading south, you will see more stunning beaches and quaint little villages, and near the village of Northton you will find a small area of marshland. Now at first it doesn’t look like much but once you get down there, you will quickly see all these great leading lines created by the small estuaries. With Toe Head hill in the background, it ticks all the boxes for me for creating a very nice image. When I first visited Harris this was the first location I went to – I had already planned my shots and had a good idea what the weather was going to be like during the sunrise.
The island of Taransay is another incredible place that I’ve been lucky enough to visit. Getting there isn’t easy, as you need to know someone that will take you on the boat ride across. The island was made famous back in 2000 when the BBC filmed their Castaway series, for which they followed 36 men, women and children who were tasked with surviving and building a community on this remote island. I’ve gotten quite a few images from Taransay that I’m proud of, especially those taken in the late summer sun along the beach at Paible looking towards the mountains in the North. You instantly get that feeling of remoteness there; you’re cut off from the world and all you can hear are the sounds of birds and the occasional seal splashing around in the water. One thing that I will never forget is hearing the local farmer as he was herding his sheep shouting across the hills in Gaelic. Even though I’ve been to Harris a couple of times now I still feel that I’ve hardly scratched the surface of what this place has to offer. I still need to explore the mountains found in the north and the winding roads of the east coast. The Isle of Harris is a place of wonder and full of mystery, and it’ll draw you in to the point where you won’t want to leave!
Last year I worked with The Glenlivet & PHIX to create a time-lapse film of the beautiful surrounding countryside of the distillery. The full film is yet to be released so I can't show too much but what I can show is the new Glenlivet website where they've turned 2 of the time-lapse clips into GIF's and added them to the Homepage & Enjoy section. How amazing is that! To show clients my work, I made a couple screen captures of the pages and then turned them into GIF's so you can see how the time-lapse interacts with the page.
I'm delighted to announce that my image of the Cuillin mountain range has won 2nd place in the Sea & Coast category of the Scottish Nature Photography Awards!
This is the first time I've ever won an award for my work and it's a very proud moment for me. The image was taken along the coastline down at Elgol and I wanted a shot looking towards the Cuillin hills in the background. My time there was short as the rain was coming in from the north so I spent more time looking for a composition where I could utilise my 10 Stop filter and then I found this interesting zig-zagging line formed by the rocks which I felt made for an interesting leading line.
I would just like to congratulate all the other winners but especially to David Queenan for his beautiful image of Bass Rock.
Waterfalls are a very popular subject to capture for the avid landscape photographer, there’s something about their beauty that always attracts photographers from all over the year whether that’s a small waterfall or one of the biggest natural wonders in the world. They are personally my favourite subject to photograph and spend hours maybe days searching for them on my travels.
Getting started with waterfalls you don’t every bit of equipment from the camera shop but what you do need is a camera that can shoot in manual mode and also a tripod. That’s it! Everything else will help in aiding your photography but isn’t absolutely necessary. Having a camera with manual mode will enable you to control the exposure specifically the shutter speed that helps in controlling the look of the waterfall. A tripod is also a key bit of equipment needed to eliminate camera-shake as it would be very difficult to handhold the camera while shooting long exposures. There are also filters you can use to help achieve the image you are after which I will talk about more later on.
Importance of shutter speed
When you see most photographs of waterfalls they will mostly have smooth and silky water flowing over the falls. This is achieved by controlling your shutter speed to get the desired look you’re after and also the shutter speed needed to capture this differs depending on how fast the water is flowing. I generally try and get a shutter speed around 1 second as I find this is always a good starting point and then from there I can adjust my settings. For large/powerful waterfalls I tend to not go over 2 seconds as I still like to retain some detail in the water and for small waterfalls I tend to shoot anywhere between 1 and 20 seconds.
Use a Polarising filter
Out of all the filters you can use for shooting waterfalls I couldn’t recommend more how beneficial a circular polarising filter is. This filter is amazing for removing reflective surfaces; cutting down glare and it also helps to see through the water itself. But one other aspect of this filter that makes it one of the best is that it also cuts your shutter speed down by 1-2 stops, this means you will be able to get longer shutter speeds without putting an ND filter on your lens.
Use an ND filter
A neutral density filter can be used to reduce the amount of light that reaches the sensor, just like the polarising filter it enables you to use longer shutter speeds but there are many different strengths of ND filter out there. All ND filters work great for creating longer exposures and I will find myself using all types from a 2-stop filter all the way to a 10-stop “Big Stopper”. Choosing which filter to use depends on how much light there is, if you are shooting in the middle of the day and it’s very sunny then you’ll need to use a stronger ND filter to get the desired look that you are after. Be careful when shooting exposures longer than a couple of seconds for blurred leaves and trees, over those couple of seconds or more a slight breeze can be enough to turn those sharp leaves into complete mush. So it’s always best to test your shots for sharpness and find a good middle ground.
Now that you have an understanding of the equipment available to you it’s time to talk about settings. I personally shoot in manual mode due to its control but aperture priority works great as well. To get a good depth of field I shoot anywhere between f/11 and f/18, this will give me a good overall sharpness and also a longer shutter speed then when shooting at f/4. I set my ISO to its lowest native value, which in most cases will be 100; this will give you a nice clean image and help with achieving a longer shutter speed.
I find that waterfalls that be shot at many different angles and you use most lenses found in your camera bag. I personally like to shoot nice and wide, get quite close to waterfall and also try to incorporate the stream or river as a leading line to draw the viewer’s attention towards the waterfall itself. When composing your shot using the method known as the Rule of Thirds is a great starting point for getting a more pleasing image, I find that aligning the waterfall on one of the intersections works best as it gives some space to the image.
Shoot in all conditions
One thing that I love about shooting waterfalls is that you can pretty much photograph them in all weather types from bright sunny days to when they are frozen over in the middle of winter. Each type of weather has its pros and cons though for example; during the middle of a sunny day I find that contrast and glare is greatly increased where harsh shadows can be introduced into the image. I also find photographing waterfalls on dark, cloudy and miserable days to produce the best shots as you won’t need to use ND filters as much, you’ll get a more broader dynamic range of the scene and the image will seem a lot calmer than what you would find on a bright-sunny day.
Things To Remember
Use a shutter remote or time to trigger the camera; this will help in keeping your shots nice and sharp.
Pick the right time of day for the area, I find overcast days to yield the best shots.
Don’t always aim for those long exposed shots of the water, try freezing the action with a fast shutter speed.
Bring a cloth with you. Chances are you will get splashes of water on your lens and camera so it’s best to wipe it off.
I found going out the day after a heavy rainfall will increase the chances of a stronger waterfall.
Check your histogram. When exposing for the waterfall it’s quite easy to blow the highlights due to it being naturally white so keep an eye on your histogram.
Keep it straight. Either using an in-built spirit level or one of the top of your camera a spirit level is a great tool for keeping your waterfall falling in the right direction.
As well as using ND filters for controlling exposure you can also use graduated ND filters to help balance the brightness of the sky.
Be Safe! When photographing waterfalls the areas that surround them can be slippery, uneven and dangerous so make sure to wear a good pair of walking shoes/boots and watch what you’re doing as the last thing you want is your precious gear going for a swim.
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