Glencoe trip

I set out at 2.30am on Saturday June 21st (the summer solstice) to capture the sunrise across Rannoch moor as part of the photo-book I’ve been working on for the past 16 months.

Unfortunately by the time I reached the moor, the weather had closed in and it was beginning to rain.
With any chance of seeing the sunrise gone, I decided to try to rescue something from the trip by driving a little further into Glencoe to see if the moody overcast sky would lend itself to some dramatic shots in what is one of my favourite locations in the Scottish highlands…


I knew of a great little waterfall on the River Coe, close to Loch Achtriochtan, so I set off for the car park at the foot of the loch.
Thankfully, the car-park was deserted and I parked up, collected my equipment and set-off.

Near the loch shore, I found a patch of daisies growing in a clearance overlooking the loch and some reeds, so I set up my tripod and camera and attached an ND grad filter to my 24-105mm lens to reduce the contrast between the brightening sky and the dark foreground.
I decided to stop the aperture down to f22 to maximize the depth of field as I wanted the daisies and the distant mountains in focus, and selecting a shutter speed of 2 seconds, took a few shots of the daisies.

Once I was happy with this shot, I set off along the footpath to the waterfalls, only to find that the recent spell of hot weather had reduced the usually dramatic falls to a mere trickle!

Undaunted, I set up the camera and waited for a break in the now increasingly frequent rain showers.
Although not ideal for photography, I prefer dull overcast days for shooting water, and in particular waterfalls, as the low light allows long exposures which give that pleasing, if slightly clichéd, milky look.

During a break in the showers, I managed to snatch the following three images:

BC_River-Coe2BC_River-Coe BC_Glencoe2
(all images taken at 100 ISO, f22, and 2 or 3 second exposure times)

The first image has been posted on my Facebook page (here) and has since been shared 31 times and viewed by over 2220 people.

The second, of the River Coe, was also posted on my Facebook page (here) and been viewed by more than 350 people.

Image 3 (above) plus the daisy photo at the top of this page are “blog exclusives” 🙂

I have received requests to make images 1 and 3 (above) available to buy as prints, so these will be added to the inventory of available prints on my web-store, which is opening VERY soon.

One of the most exciting things to come out of this trip was that while sitting waiting for the rain to stop, I envisaged images 1 and 3, under VERY different weather conditions.
If the resultant photographs are anything like what I have pictured in my mind, then WATCH THIS SPACE for what may turn out to be some of my best photographs yet.   Fingers crossed that the right weather conditions present themselves soon!

Thanks again to everyone who follows my work, your encouragement and support is greatly appreciated!
Please feel free to comment or leave feedback below.
In particular, I’m keen to know if readers would prefer more, or less, technical information regarding how I’ve taken each shot?


Stills Photo competition

Stills Gallery in Edinburgh is one of Scotland’s most innovative centres for contemporary Photography.
I was therefore very excited to find that I had been shortlisted for this month’s photography competition along with four other photographers.
If you’d like to vote in this month’s competition, please follow the link below and click “like” on your favourite image!
The image with the most “likes” by the end of the week will win the photographer the opportunity to showcase some of their best work on the Still’s social media pages.


“Never miss another photo” – explained

Last week I launched a newsletter signup form on my Facebook page.

I’ve been increasingly frustrated that Facebook’s sharing policy severely limits the number of views any new work receives. Unless of course, the page owner is willing to pay Facebook to “boost” each and every post…
I firmly believe that if someone has taken the time to “like” a page, then they should be allowed to see all the posts that page makes and decide for themselves whether they want to continue to support it or not.
Over the past year or so, I’ve seen average viewing rates fall from around 25% to less than 2%.
Other page admins are reporting similar drops.

So, I’ve created a mailing list on the mailing website and invited visitors to my page to subscribe to the list.

Subscribing is free, and will mean that once a month subscribers will receive an email “newsletter” providing links to all new work posted by me online.
This should mean that subscribers never miss another photo, regardless of which site it is posted to.

I currently share work on my own website, Facebook, Twitter, DeviantArt, National Geographic’s “your shot” site, 500px, pinterest and several other photo sharing sites, so it can be difficult for anyone – including me – to keep up with everything shared online.
I’m hoping that a single email summary sent out once a month will help everyone track my work, regardless of where or how it is shared.

To keep it interesting, and to make it worthwhile for subscribers, each month there will be newsletter exclusives, including competitions and discount codes for use in my web store.

So, in summary, here’s a list of what the newsletter IS and ISN’T:

The email newsletter IS:

  • one email, monthly, listing all photos shared online since the last email;
  • links to each image, so that you can view the work with a click on the email;
  • a brief news section, detailing any interesting news or updates;
  • a monthly discount code for use in my web-store;
  • a quarterly competition for subscribers only;

The email newsletter IS NOT:

  • an attempt to sell you anything;
  • spam, or junk mail;
  • a marketing list to be sold on to third parties

You can subscribe by following this

You can unsubscribe from the list at any time with a click of a button (I’ve tried it!)

I hope that everyone who likes my work subscribes to the list so that I can be sure that when I post something online, the people who matter most – those who like and share my work – are seeing everything that I do.

Facebook “likes” : Quality not Quantity

I use my Facebook page to showcase some of my photographs and to get some feedback from people who clearly have an interest in landscape photography.  I find it a very helpful tool to help judge what works and what doesn’t in the eyes of the public… 
(Before anyone goes off on one about how it should all be “art for art’s sake”… I’ll just add that I don’t shoot anything just to appeal to my Facebook audience, and I certainly don’t avoid shooting anything just because I know it wouldn’t work on social media either…)
(I have folders full of unpublished work to prove this last point!)

Landscape photography can be a very solitary pursuit and I find the interaction on Facebook helps put things into perspective a little, and stops me going off on tangents that aren’t really that interesting to others.
I don’t go along to any camera clubs and I’m not a member of any photo society, so Facebook is a very useful sounding board for what’s working and what’s not with my photography.  It also helps that many excellent photographers follow my page and provide constructive feedback – not always positive! –  publicly and through private messages which has greatly helped me grow and develop my own style over the last few years.

Anyway, what’s my point? 
I was interested to see that Facebook has introduced a “pages to watch” feature, which allows page owners to “spy” on the number of page “likes” other pages are getting. 
I’m guessing it’s a clever marketing ploy which feeds on the ego and pushes page owners into signing up for expensive ad campaigns when they see the “competition” overtaking them in the popularity race…

It got me thinking; should I really be stressing about how many page likes I get?  Doesn’t that just lead down a road that encourages clichéd snaps designed to appeal to as many people as possible?  I kinda like the fact that I have people following my page that have diametrically opposite tastes!  There are some who will only “like” dark, moody, stuff, and others that only seem to like a photo if the sky’s blue and the sun’s out!

As I’m a scientist by profession and consequently obsessed with mathematical correlations and statistics, I thought I’d use Facebook’s “pages to watch” tool to see how many of these page “likes” actually interact with the photographers they “like”. 
This is, after all, my reason for using social media, so I was curious to how my 398 page followers compared with those who follow the photographic “big-guns”;  those pages with THOUSANDS, in some cases, TENS of THOUSANDS followers.  I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised!

I looked at the last 5 photographs posted by each page I follow and compared the “likes” each photo got with the total likes the page has.  My theory was simple:  the more people like your page, the more “likes” your work should get, right?  Wrong!

It turns out that these excellent photographers are getting, on average, around 2 – 2.5% feedback from their page followers per image.
No one would argue that it’s impressive that one page I reviewed had almost 7500 page followers, and it’s equally impressive that 220 – 230 people take the time to show their appreciation of the photographers work by pressing “like” but I was more impressed to find that my 398 followers are much more supportive! 
I calculated an average 14% feedback on my past 5 photographs!  Now, that’s got nothing whatsoever to do with me, or my work, it’s a reflection on the people who are kind enough to pay attention to my page and INTERACT with it, showing appreciation where they like something and withholding that all important “like” where they think I could do better. 

I’ve always said that I’m amazed when anyone actually takes the time to like or comment on anything I’ve done, but, to find that the people doing it are SEVEN times more supportive than those following some of my favourite artists was, simply, astonishing.

So, dear Facebook.  Thanks for the offer, but, I don’t need droves of new page followers who don’t actually follow, I’m happy with the people who find my page through friends, or shares, or just chance. 
When it comes to people: it’s QUALITY- not quantity – that counts!

And I’ve been very fortunate indeed to have been discovered by so many quality people!

Bad Light stops play?

Landscape photographers are fortunate in many ways when compared to our colleagues in other photographic disciplines.

For the most part our subjects are static, we do not need to “pose” or cajole them, nor do we need to snap them before they fly off or run away. We do not have the pressure of knowing that we only have one-shot to tell the story we’re after and, despite our ego’s telling us otherwise, we rarely have the stress of knowing that our failure to deliver may well ruin someone’s “special day”.

Yes, there can be hours of walking or climbing with back-packs full of heavy gear just to get the shot we want, and yes, there can be delays and frustrations if the weather isn’t just how we’d like it, but, on the whole, I’m glad I’ve chosen Landscape photography and find it a lot less stressful than the other options.

The downside of all this though, is that many landscape photographers (and I’m including myself here) become lazy, restricting themselves to only shooting during the “Golden Hours” around sunrise and sunset, avoiding mid-day and poor weather conditions at all cost. How often do we simply roll over and go back to sleep if the weather isn’t looking too promising when we glance out of the window a few hours before sunrise on a cold, damp morning?

So, what’s my point?

Well, I recently posted a photograph on Facebook of a well-known loch in Glencoe, Scotland. The shot was taken during a particularly rainy day and to be honest, I really wasn’t convinced it was working, but, I persevered and shot a few frames. I was genuinely surprised at the reaction the image got, with more than 3000 views, shares, comments and “likes” within 12 hours of posting it online.

Now, while I was setting up this shot I counted three other photographers stop, look around at the scene and leave again without taking a single image. One even went so far as to set-up his tripod, and unpack the camera, stand around for a while hoping the light would “improve” then change his mind and pack it all up again without taking a photo!

Now, I’m not criticising this approach. As I’ve said, I’m as guilty as the next person for adopting the “it’ll be better next time I visit” attitude, but, if we adopt the approach of some of our more time restricted colleagues and try to retrieve something from a less than ideal situation, I believe our photography improves as a result.

OL_Loch AchtriochtanOL_Loch Achtriochtan_sunny

These two photographs were taken from approximately the same location, one in reasonably nice (but cold) weather in April 2013. The other taken during very heavy rain in September 2013. Both shots were taken around mid-day.

I’m happier with the “bad light / poor weather” shot and feel that it adds to the drama and rugged feel of the landscape. Now, I know this light will not suit all possible landscapes, but, from now on whenever I get the opportunity to set out with my camera, poor weather may influence my choice of location, but, it will not stop me from heading out!

Don’t let “bad light” stop you either!

Photobook project update

It’s been a few months since I announced my grand and somewhat ambitious plan to create a photobook and (possibly) photographic exhibition based around a series of photos I’ve taken during the course of the last 12 months or so. 
The preparation and planning for the project took quite a while and has involved (to date) 21 road trips to various parts of the country covering several thousand miles in the process.

I’ve travelled by car, foot and steam train during this time and it’s still not quite finished.  One or two of the locations would benefit from different weather conditions so I have a few more road trips and hikes before I can say I have what I need!

ImageThe challenge (I’ve found) is to create something new each time I visit locations that over the past year or so I’ve visited many times and come to know very well indeed.  The fact that the British (and in particular, west-coast of Scotland) weather is so fickle has been a benefit and a hindrance.   No two days are the same (in fact at times, no two hours are the same!) which helps keep the motivation levels up as there is always something new to see and shoot, but, at the same time waiting for an hour for the light to be “just right” only to have a rain cloud bubble up at the wrong time and ruin everything is rather frustrating to say the least!

As the photographic stage comes to an end (I’m hoping the last of the work will be shot around December), my attention now turns inevitably towards writing the narrative around the work, linking the images and explaining the concept behind the whole project.   I’ve already started scouting locations for the exhibition and drawn up a list of relevant media outlets for publicity purposes.
I will also need to find a publisher – or considering self-publishing – and, there remains the small matter of financing the end product, i.e. the book!

It was always my plan to finance the shooting and travel myself, but, to fund the end product through social crowd-funding. 
At the moment, my preferred option is Kickstarter, although as with everything, this is still under consideration.

Details of the crowd-funding drive will be shared on Twitter, Facebook and here on my blog when the time comes.
Subscribers who pledge to the project will receive a variety of special offers and gifts, AND my eternal gratitude!

So, thank you for reading this update, I’ll post another soon!

Please make sure you “follow” my Twitter feed and “like” my Facebook Page as these will be the only places to find out about the crowd-funding launch and to take advantage of advanced notice of prizes and competitions.  
I have some very special gifts to announce for funders and can’t wait to actually announce the theme / title of this, as yet, untitled project.