A Riot of Wings

A Riot of Wings

This photo was kind of an accident but I absolutely adore how it turned out! It looks so vicious and a bit scary (anyone else having an Alfred Hitchcock moment?) but was nothing of the sort. I was tracking one bird, the guy in the middle, with my lens and was about to take what was totally going to be a lovely, sharp photo of him in flight when a kid standing at the edge of the water threw a bit of food and suddenly all the gulls went crazy at the same time.  I felt a little disappointed for as long as it took me to check the photo on the back of the camera and see what I’d actually captured. Then any disappointment melted away and was replaced with a big happy smile.

Prints are available at http://rockstarvanity.deviantart.com/art/A-Riot-of-Wings-611002011?purchase=print

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Bird Portraits

The start of summer always makes me want to get outside and shoot some nature photography. I find photographing wildlife to be quite a challenge because I’m accustomed to taking pictures of things that don’t move very much, at at least that I can instruct about how, when and where to move. Holyrood Park in Edinburgh is a great place to take pictures of birds that are not only accessible without having to climb mountains or use massive long lenses, but are also pretty accustomed to people so don’t tend to be too shy to get reasonably close to.

Pigeon Portrait

Swan Portrait

White Pigeon Portrait

Before I took the photos here, I got comfy on a flat rock at the edge of St Margaret’s Loch and just hung out for a while until the birds got used to me being there. There were quite a few other people around, including a family with kids who were charging around and excitedly throwing food into the loch. I also got to have lovely random chats with some tourists who were looking for good places to take photos. Sometimes I forget I live in a tourist trap!

Because it was so sunny, I was able to use a fast shutter speed and smallish aperture at a low ISO which meant I could capture lots of beautiful sharp detail. I’ll be honest, I’ve never looked at a pigeon that closely before. They’re surprisingly beautiful. I felt a little bit guilty because the photogenic birds who wandered (or swam) close enough to take pictures of were probably expecting some food in return for posing. I’ll need to remember to bring something tasty with me next time to thank them for modelling.

Prints of the top image are available at http://rockstarvanity.deviantart.com/art/Pigeon-Portrait-610118551

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Margaret and Anthony

Margaret and Anthony

On Sunday I experienced the happy photographer triumvirate – great weather, free time and new toys. OK, so the toys aren’t new-new. I’ve had them for about a year but I hadn’t played with them properly before. Me, my camera and a woefully neglected set of gloriously inexpensive neutral density filters (the newish toys, about £12 from Amazon, if I remember correctly) headed to Holyrood Park in Edinburgh to enjoy the sun and make pictures.

Sunday was my first just-doing-photography outing for a while and it was one I really needed. I’ve spent years mostly photographing humans and while I’ll always love portrait photography, I’m really enjoying creating nature and landscape photos at the moment. Over the last year or so I’ve started to feel more and more inspired by the world around me and the non-human things living in it. This feels like a bit of a new adventure and it’s a challenge having less control over the things in front of my camera and the light shining on them than I do when I’m working with studio gear and taking photos of people. I haven’t left portraiture behind but I’m allowing myself to freely follow my muse and she’s definitely leading me in the direction of nature and landscape photography these days.

The slightly weird title of this post comes from the subjects of the photo – the ruin of Saint Anthony’s Chapel overlooking Saint Margaret’s Loch. I’ve lived within 10 minutes drive of this stunning place for 12 years now and I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever taken a photo of it. There’s a lot going on in this picture in terms of technical bits and pieces, so I’m going to break it down and address each thing in turn.

WHOOSHY CLOUDS
The clouds were moving pretty quickly, so the neutral density filters and a 30 second exposure created a rather stormy looking sky on a day that was anything but stormy. I love this effect so much and am so excited to have the tools to create it! I layered two filters together to allow for a long exposure on such a sunny day and couldn’t see a thing through them. I could have focused before placing the filters, which is what I would do if I was aiming for something super sharp and precise, but I got a kick out of the nostalgic joy of feeling like I was using a pinhole camera so I just set the camera and filters up on my tripod, pointed it all in the right direction and let the photo happen.

FLUFFY WATER
This is also down to the neutral density filters and long exposure. Since they didn’t come labelled, I have no idea which filter is which and made my choice by sight and experimentation. If RockstarVanity Photographic Art was a Game of Thrones house, our motto would be By Sight And Experimentation. Check out the blurry swimming birds too!

BIZARRE LIGHT EFFECTS
The bracket for my filters can hold three at a time. This is probably really useful for lots of sensible reasons but the thing I love most about it is that it allows the use of two filters with a gap between them, creating a reflection of the lens (the circular ghosting). Where I was sitting was dusty and dry and there was a bit of a breeze, so some dust also made its way between the filters, which is where the randomly placed bokeh sparkles came from. I’m pretty sure I could do this again and get similar results but I’m never going to be able to recreate it precisely. This makes me happy. I do like a one-off.

BLACK AND WHITENESS
I always shoot in RAW and process with Photoshop CC’s wonderful RAW processor (don’t even get me started on how much I adore it – I will never shut up and then you’ll be sorry). I recently downloaded Google’s Nik Collection and their Silver Efex plug-in for Photoshop is amazing! It creates really stunning black and white conversions and I’m definitely still in “Ooh, what does this button do?” mode when I’m playing with it. To be honest, it doesn’t do anything that I couldn’t do myself during RAW processing and I’m too much of a control freak to leave everything up to a plug-in all the time, but I’m really enjoying the experience of messing with a new gadget right now and it was free, which makes it at least 100 times more appealing.

Prints of this photo are available at http://www.deviantart.com/print/39694157/

seasons2widgetblueyelsunset_4269-copy

See more May magic in Jesh St Germain’s Seasons linky.

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Photos from Beltane Fire Festival 2016 Live Coverage

Beltane 2016 01

Beltane 2016 02

Beltane 2016 03

Beltane 2016 04

Beltane 2016 05

Beltane 2016 06

Beltane 2016 07

Beltane 2016 08

Part of my work with Beltane Fire Society involves live coverage of our festivals. At 2016’s Beltane Fire Festival in Edinburgh, I photographed and filmed from within the procession on Calton Hill and uploaded the pictures and video live on Facebook and Twitter. The photos above are a selection from those I took on the night, shot with my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and processed with Snapseed.

Now that Beltane 2016 is over (phew!) I’ll have a little bit of spare time again and will be able to do other things, like photography. I guarantee the next thing I post here will not be Beltane-related!

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Full Spectrum Sunset

Full Spectrum Sunset

It’s all about the white balance. I don’t know why all the sunset pictures lately. I promise I do take photos of other things. Sunsets just seem to be my vibe right now. This one was actually shot last year at a Beltane rehearsal (another theme running through all my everything at the moment). I thought I’d lost it forever when my phone ate a bunch of my photos a while back but I found it when I had my phone hooked up to my laptop and was digging through a bunch of hidden folders. So finally, after a year or so, I can share it.

It was shot with a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and processed with Photoshop CC 2015.

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