Monday, 27 March 2017

Shetland exploration

From Aberdeen we took the overnight ferry to Lerwick, Shetland Islands. It's a long way north, 11 hours on the ferry (via Orkney).  As you'd expect, there's a relatively small number of people and lots of open spaces. 

We hired a little lime green Kia and drove around the main island, breath taken away each time we rounded a bend and saw more of the spectacular scenery. 

We didn't cover much ground, and it is a small island, but we managed to get from coast to coast (going east-west), driving along single lane (not single lane in each direction, but single lane in both directions at once!). 

 We chased sheep.

We said hello to Shetland ponies with Bieber-style hair.

We made it to the end of the road. 

We ate delicious fish – we even had to make a booking for lunch to ensure we got a seat.

And delicious lamb.

I can't imagine living in Shetland which has an average summer temperature below 20 degrees (celcius), but it truly was a remarkable place to visit and explore.

Thursday, 23 March 2017


Geoff and I headed off on our ‘grand tour’ of Scotland – Shetland, via Aberdeen.   

We flew into Aberdeen, ate lunch in a castle, did a quick turn around the city and headed off to the ferry to Shetland. 

Perhaps that’s over simplifying Aberdeen – we weren’t really there for long enough to get much sense of the place.  It was a glorious, sunny day and the granite buildings all looked spectacular – especially the council buildings near Marischal Square

Geoff managed to squeeze in his first haggis meal of the trip – assuring me that there would be many more to come.  

Then it was off to the ferry for the overnight trip to Shetland, which wasn’t delightful, but was perfectly comfortable (if a little cold on the ferry itself).  The view from the upper deck as we left Aberdeen was glorious.

Though it was incredibly wind – which really was an indication of the way things would be in Shetland.  

And certainly the wind continued out on Shetland!

Monday, 20 March 2017

Composition rounds 2 and 3

I much prefer the artistic, or creative, challenges – rather than the technical! 

Rule of thirds / Odd numbers / Diagonals 

You need to imagine your frame has been divided into a 3x3 grid – not quite square, as your frame isn’t.  Then the challenge is to try and place the subject on those lines.  A connected concept is the idea that humans prefer odd numbers, so if you are going to have multiple objects forming the subject, then you should aim to have 3 or 5 of the object.  In this photo of the squirrel you can see that he almost on the left vertical ‘third’ line.

The other connected concept is the idea of taking photos that contain diagonal lines, which tend to create a dynamic image.  I really like to use this when taking photos of buildings, to really give the impression of the building soaring into the sky.

Leading lines / frames / ring of light

An easy way to focus attention on a subject is to visually lead the eye to it.  One way is through the use of lines – more commonly you may use the footpath, or a road, but in this image the line of the cannon neatly directs you to Geoff’s lovely face!

Another way to is to create a frame within the image – like this image of me standing in the doorway in a side street in Krakow.  It would be even more effective if the image was of me through the doorway, but I wasn’t just going to let myself in. 

Another version of a frame is to surround the subject with a ring of light – not in the 1980’s way of creating a halo and minimising wrinkles, but ideally to maintain the colour accurately and highlight the subject.  This one is easier in natural light, but I had fun trying to create the effect with a street light and a shrub.

Background separation

I’ll take any excuse to play with depth of field when taking photographs – and my camera actually defaults to that when on the auto setting if the subject is far enough forward of the background (and close enough to the camera). Blurring the background in this shot really draws attention toblossoms.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Composition exploration – the basics

After a few weeks of very technical emails, which I muddled through with varying degrees of success, I was pleased that A Year With My Camera has started a 4 week focus on composition.  I have studied it in the past, but Emma presented the first week in a way that I had never considered – focussing on the background, foreground and subject. 

My previous thoughts on composition have been guided by geometry, and looking at the relative heights of the different elements of the image, so I initially found the descriptions of ‘more foreground’ or ‘more background’ a little confusing.  I found it more helpful to think about the percentage of the frame that the background or foreground should fill (‘more’ meaning a higher percentage). The challenge was to take 5 images, and focus on moving your feet to achieve them rather than moving your feet!

A balanced image

A lovely, though boring, image of Geoff on the path beside the Kelvin river.

Mostly subject

Up close in the Glasgow Botanic Gardens glasshouses on a beautiful flower from a plant native to Indonesia. 

Mostly background

Again beside the river, the mossy stump is the subject and while I usually would have framed the image to crop our the path in front, I deliberately left a little in the corner of the image to clearly have some foreground. 
Mostly foreground

A windswept Geoff on the upper deck on the ferry out to Lerwick, Shetland Islands (and the wind was impacting me as well, hence he is a little blurry!  The sunse over Aberdeen was spectacular. 

No foreground

I guess a flatlay is a good example of no foreground, but I am not sure how technically these are shot – but the opposite of a flatlay is looking straight up, so I flipped about the screen on my camera so I could see the shot and took the image straight up in the Glasgow Botanic Gardens glasshouses