This year has been an extremely fruitful one for my outdoor photography but unique as I didn’t have a car for the whole of 2014. This meant getting to the countryside has been somewhat more difficult despite the kind support of friends and family and to all you, I am very grateful. I know I have missed countless opportunities due to my lack of mobility because to be in the right place at the right time, often requires the ability to drive yourself at short notice often at anti social hours of day. However, I’ve managed to massively increase my architectural and urban portfolio both close to home and further away as we have a decent train network in the UK, and I also took the chance to fly to Athens and Rome – both places I wouldn’t be inclined to drive to once I get a car again. This year has also seen me refresh my equipment with a Nikon D610, Nikon D800, Nikkor 24-70 F2.8, Zeiss 21mm, Nikkor 85mm F1.8G and Nikkor 70-210 F4 all being added to my kitbag from the proceeds of the sale of my car. Outdoor photography in Scotland doesn’t always have to be about capturing the splendor and beauty of the wild open space of Rannoch Moor, or the magnificence of Glencoe, but also the wonders of what we have created in our urban environment. Given the blue hours (the hour before sunrise, the hour after sunset) often flatter the urban environment more, the cameras dynamic range and low light handing is really important when shooting in that sort of lighting. I’ve always maintained the photographer and the conditions/subject matter are the key to a great image; and they are, but the equipment upgrade to a full 35mm sensor from an APSC one makes itself really felt when shooting in low light conditions.
The theme of low light brings me to start off the countdown of my top ten images. Normally, I am not a big fan of posting settings, or the equipment used as to me its superfluous unless you were there at the time. It is the image that matters to me, how it looks, how it makes you feel, and the memories it brings back. However, I get asked a lot what settings did I use, and photography is as much a science as it is an art and with a decent exposure, you can ensure that moment in time is preserved for the rest of time. Get it wrong, and you’ll not have that luxury. I always, when giving a 1 2 1 in photography to beginners, is work on the basics of focus and exposure, because if you cannot work a camera properly, what hope do you have of taking a photograph?
Number 10: Eilean Donan in the evening blue hour.
Equipment used: Nikon D610| Nikkor 24-70 F2.8| Lee 0.9 soft edge graduated natural density filter.
Exposure: ISO 100|10secs|F11 @ 26mm.
The Eilean Donan image forms the first part of a series of images of a trip to Skye I took with fellow photographer Tomas Racys. To cut a long story short, we planned to capture a sunrise from the top of the Old Man of Storr but the weather let us down spectacularly, and this was taken merely as we were en route to Skye and had some time to kill. We left my house around 7pm on an early June evening to travel to Skye. The plan was to arrive late at night, and climb the Old Man of Storr and be in position (the the top of the Old Man of Storr) to capture the first light which would appear around 3:30am and sunrise itself around an hour afterwards. It was raining very heavily when we left my house but the forecast was for the weather to clear up before sunrise. The weather forecast was wrong; it didn’t clear so the sunrise was a non event. However, Eilean Donan is en route to Skye, the rain had stopped briefly, and we had some time to spare so thankfully we stopped – little did we know at the time that the Eilean Donan stop would yield the old decent images from the trip. Luckily there was little wind, the tide was in so we got this wonderful reflection of Eilean Donan in the evening blue hour. I used a Lee 0.9 ND grad to darken the top half of the image so that I could lengthen the exposure to render more detail in the reflection and seaweed in the foreground without clipping the highlights that were coming from the strong lighting of the castle. I expose to the right of the histogram for three reasons. One, I prefer a brighter image anyway; secondly to reduce shadow recovery in post production which minimizes noise and three; to improve the signal to noise ratio of the exposure. Using the ND grad just allowed me to lengthen the exposure to render more detail in the foreground and reflection without blowing out any section of the sky or illuminations. I presently have the image mounted as a 24×16 and it is already sold to the first person who saw it.
Number 9: Glen Orchy reflection in the mid morning.
Equipment used: Nikon D610| Nikkor 24-70 F2.8| Lee 0.9 and Lee 0.6 soft edge graduated natural density filter.
Exposure: ISO 100| 1/60th sec| F11 @ 24mm.
Like the Eilean Donan image, this is a photograph taken by chance. My friend James and I were camping up in Glen Etive and after spending the morning shooting in Glencoe and Rannoch Moor, which can be seen in this series here, we were driving back to a hotel James knew of in Glen Orchy for a drink. Looking out of the car window, as James was driving, I saw a perfectly still Loch Tulla and the light from the mid morning sun catching the mountains and tree’s. I knew the best images of the trip would be taken here if the light held. Therefore I begged James to stop the car at the earliest opportunity and to be fair he did. We both ran down to the shores of Loch Tulla and set up our cameras. The sun was breaking through clouds behind us, casting this strong light, but as the sun moves and clouds move, light like this can be taken away and then the vibrant scene which you see above would become a dull flat grey one if the sunlight was blocked by the clouds behind us. I was anxious for this not to happen and all is well that ended well as I managed to capture this lovely tranquil scene. I recall vividly the feeling of joy looking at it in the LCD screen in the back of the Nikon D610 and standing at the shoreline reveling in the beauty, calm and tranquility of the area. I nearly included the 1st image of that series instead of this one, but when it came to capturing the feeling of Scotland in late summer I felt this was less bleak and severe. I loved the way the clouds were casting strong shadows on the hills in the distance, but the strong light the sun was casting on the trees and foreground grass. It was wonderful to see, and so restful and calming just being here. You may well ask, given the relatively even lighting and dynamic range why I used two natural density filters across the scene. Very simply, that sky. Skies like that are a nightmare as they have very bright sections which can easily blow out if you wish to have an exposure that renders detail in the shadowed areas of the image. This exposure does both and is also exposed a little over to the right to minimize any shadow recovery I needed to do. I wanted the image to be clear and reflect the calm and tranquility of the area; noise from pulled back shadows from an under exposed image rather ruins that particularly when you start to print the large print sizes I favor. I also wanted the image to be bright and colorful, as that is not only how I saw it, but wished to portray it. Many landscape photographers will, in the name of creativity, under expose an image to impart a sense of moodiness, contrast and menace. Whilst an exposure strategy like that works for them, it doesn’t work for me. A scene like this needs to feel relaxing, uplifting and inviting, simply because all I felt here was pure bliss and joy. In my view, to capture the scene in any other way would be a betrayal to the location as it wouldn’t reflect my happiness of being there and that wonderful, clear, vibrant and uplifting moment in time would be lost for evermore. I don’t really like dark landscape images with a false sense of contrast which are over saturated, they look false and contrived and often uneasy on the eye. Hence my particular exposure strategy.
Number 8: City of Glasgow in B&W
Equipment used: Nikon D610| Nikkor 24-70 F2.8.
Exposure: ISO 400| 15secs sec| F16 @ 32mm.
I imagine my reader base is fairly interested in photography and will have a knowledge of exposure. I expect people will be having a “what were you thinking” moment looking at those settings I used. I know if I was reading a blog from a professional outdoor photographer I would be thinking its an odd choice of exposure settings to use. Let me explain. I was stood on the Bells Bridge in the city of Glasgow around 7pm when I took this. It’s a popular walkway and has the habit of moving/swaying whenever a cyclist or jogger goes across; which at 7pm is pretty often in this location. That of course means as the bridge moves or vibrates during the time your shutter is open ergo your tripod and camera will shake meaning your image will be blurry. There were intervals were it was quiet, but sadly not 30 second long ones, so I couldn’t use a lower ISO and lengthen the shutter speed accordingly. The smarter ones will say, but you were stopped down at F16 and you could open it up to F8 and still have everything on focus. It wasn’t like there was a foreground object really close to the front of the image, and by F16 the sharpness of your image is limited by diffraction. To all these points I would agree. However the narrow aperture was a creative choice, it was chosen simply to give these really crisp light bursts you see on the left hand side. Shooting at F8 for 30 seocs at IS100 would technically be the correct exposure, but 30secs would be too long given the number of people crossing the bridge and F8 wouldn’t have given such large or well defined light bursts. You might well ask why I didn’t use a shorter shutter speed and higher ISO. I could have, and nearly did, but still wanted a noise free image. At the time, I hadn’t had the Nikon D610 long and wasn’t confident in really pushing the ISO too high in case I left with a noisy image. Plus, I wanted the shutter speed as long as I could get away with to ghost out any people on the left hand walkway and any static cars on the Clyde arc in the distance. It took a few attempts to get a clear period from when the bridge was clear of other people but I managed to get this shake free image and capture that gorgeous reflection. I wanted a strong contrast and the light bursts in the image and was delighted with stopping down the Nikkor 24-70 F2.8 A I got these lovely defined bursts giving a lovely contrast to the dark reflection and sky. With outdoor photography, it’s always important to consider the correct exposure settings, but you sometimes to create the image you want, need to deviate from those settings to create your vision of the scene before your eyes. I also knew when I was taking it, I would be converting it to black and white to create a timeless feeling for the image. Processing was done in Nik Silver Efex Pro and contrast increased to give that wonderful contrast of the dark sky and lights you see in cities at night.
Number 7: Castel’Sant Angelo, Rome, morning blue hour.
Equipment used: Nikon D800| Nikkor 24-70 F2.8.
Exposure: ISO 200| 3 secs sec| F11 @ 26mm.
This image is easily my favorite image from my trip to Rome. The exposure choice may strike you as some what odd and looking back, it is a little different to what most would choose. Normally, I’d have shot this at ISO100, F11 and for 6 seconds. F8-F11 would be fine apertures of this to ensure enough depth, and both are in the optically sharp zone for this lens( before diffraction really makes it’s presence felt as you stop further down). The question I would ask the photographer if I saw these settings, for that camera and scene, given the base setting for the Nikon D800 is ISO100, not ISO200 was why were you not shooting at ISO100. I’d make the point its not like an exposure time of six seconds will allow any noise from long exposure to creep in so why double the ISO to half the shutter speed. Despite the actual fact that on a flagship body like a Nikon D800, using ISO200 would make not one visible difference to the final image quality, even with 20-30% shadow recovery in post production it would still look great printed in a large size. It also stands up perfectly at 100% view. In fact I was metering this scene at ISO100 to take this image. However I could see ducks in the distance swimming up the River Tiber and worked out if I exposed at six seconds, they’d be quite likely to enter the frame edge and disrupt the reflection. I quickly changed the ISO, halved the shutter speed and took this before the ducks swam into the frame and caused ripples ruining the the scene. The Nikon D800 with its dedicated ISO button on the top of the camera made this a quick and easy job. It also ensured my goal that the exposure was sufficiently short enough for the ducks to stay out the frame and the reflection survived intact. Rome is about 2000 miles from home, and it was my only chance to capture this image as my stay there was all too short and going back for a return visit isn’t easy or cheap. A key thing with outdoor photography is always be aware of your surroundings. Whilst what is within your camera frame is absolutely paramount to your image, what goes on outside it can drastically effect your image. A key skill is being able to judge what could adversely effect your image and adapt quickly so that these external factors don’t spoil your exposure. I loved the architecture of Rome and this was a real highlight, but it was a terribly busy place during the day and evenings. However, before sunrise, I had the banks of the River Tiber to myself and the illuminations of Castel Sant’Angelo, crisp clear skies and the bridge being reflected in the river was simply wonderful and worth making the whole trip alone.
Number 6: Kilchurn Castle in a moody moring
Equipment used: Nikon D610| Nikkor 24-70 F2.8| Lee 0.9 and Lee 0.6 soft edge graduated natural density filters.
Exposure: ISO 100| 1/15th sec| F10 @ 26mm.
I try to be modest, but I simply love this picture. I have it printed 24×16 and it takes center piece in display in my home just now and although I had it printed that size specifically for gallery display and resale I will genuinely struggle to part with it. I was taken mid summer with a trip out with Tomas from Long Lens Photography. The full series can be seen here. To be honest, this was an unplanned image taken after a pretty fruitless evening up shooting at Glencoe Lochan with dull conditions hampering a decent evening golden hour and midges getting the better of us trying our hand at night exposures on the banks of Loch Leven. Compounded with damp weather, a short cold sleep in Tomas’s car we were tired, cold, but hopeful at the prospect at shooting Kilchurn castle and Loch Awe for the sunrise. Walking down to the banks of Loch Awe is always a wet experience due to the long grass and boggy ground plus the midges in the summer are fearsome. In short, it wasn’t that pleasant given the lack of sleep, despondency from the poor light the night before, and the conditions here weren’t shaping up brilliantly. It was pretty overcast so a clear sunrise was tricky. However, perseverance is the order of the day, and the sun did break through; albeit briefly. You can just see a little bit of blue sky and light in the reflection of this frame but the green grass, low cloud impart that typical Scottish feeling. More often or not, this is what West Scotland looks and feels like in summer; luscious green grass, low heavy cloud with maybe just a hint of promise of better weather breaking through the cloud. The ruined castle is a popular location for outdoor photography and you can see why; it’s a lovely setting with Loch Awe reflecting perfectly the Castle, hillside and clouds. The more technically minded of you will see I’ve used a two stop and three stop soft edged natural density filter. In scenes like this, hard edged graduated ND filters are hopeless as you will clearly see a line from where the dark section of the filter starts. Soft edges gradually get darker so the filter line is not obvious. It means you can also rotate them and have them at an angle, which is what I did here. Given the sun was rising and direction of light was coming in from the right hand side breaking through the clouds it would be easy to end up with clipped highlights in the corner if you wished to expose the rest of the scene properly. I also wanted to render detail in the rock, castle and whole reflection so stacked the filters and had them diagonally across the scene to hold the top right back and allow exposure that would render detail in the rock and castle. The more technically minded will ask why I didn’t clone out the Pylons in Photoshop. Two reasons, one I spent far too long cloning out sensor dust from this image, and two, they were there longer than I’ve been alive and thus I felt it would be wrong to remove them. Plus I feel most people knows the are there and you are kidding no one by removing them.
Number 5: Newcastle Quayside
Equipment used: Nikon D610| Nikkor 24-70 F2.8.
Exposure: ISO 100| 25 secs| F11 @ 31mm.
This image, not only in terms of subject mater but also in terms of execution, could not be more different from the Kilchurn castle image. The execution is completely different as I planned my whole trip around capturing this image which you can read about at length here. To cut a long story short I traveled to Newcastle to specifically photograph the Quayside in the evening blue hour. In actual fact I went six weeks before to try capture this scene but the dull light and high winds meant for a dull overcast image with no reflections. I decided to take another chance on it as I saw the potential of the area, and pre-booked trains and hotels for a free weekend in March. If at first you don’t succeed, try again. I’d recently taken delivery of the Nikon D610 and was keen to use it and where better to put it to work than the UK’s prettiest urban waterfront, Newcastle Quayside. I knew, from my previous visit, exactly where to stand to compose and frame the image and the time of day which would show the scene in its best light – about 30min after sunset. All I needed was a reasonably clear day to give a lovely rich blue back drop to the lit up buildings and bridges on the Quayside, and low winds and high tide to enure the Tyne would remain still giving a clear reflection. It all came together that Saturday evening and the light cloud cover imparted a texture and depth to the sky which would be otherwise lacking had it been completely clear. In short, the planning paid off and I got an image I feel would be hard to better. Equipment wise, I didn’t use an ND grad filter to allow a longer exposure to render more detail in the water reflection due to the issue of flare. I had to fit the lens hood to prevent flaring, due to the strong street lights on the banks of the Quayside, meaning I couldn’t fit the filter holder to the lens. The other problem with using an ND grad is unless it is completely blemish free, is you could get little flares appearing within the image as you’re shooting straight into multiple light sources (all the different street lights and buildings) so I decided to expose to the right, and pull back shadows in post as I needed. Given the quality of the RAW files that come from these new Nikon 35mm sensors, I recovered shadows without noise being a destructive factor. I’d love to go back to Newcastle to capture another image like this, but I feel I’ve set my own bar very high with this image, so its not a massive priority for me just now.
Number 4: Lyle Hill
Equipment used: Nikon D610| Nikkor 24-70 F2.8| Lee 0.9 and Lee 0.6 soft edge graduated natural density filters.
Exposure: ISO 100| 30 secs| F11 @ 26mm.
Lyle Hill is typically a location many local photographers will shoot sunsets from. They are mistaken and should hang around for the hour after sunset. Normally I am not a fan of sodium street lighting but it contrasts strongly with the blue hues in the sky that come from the dusky conditions. I also feel the contrast from the urban to rural can be more closely seen in conditions like this where the urban lighting contrasts with the natural beauty of the landscape in the distance. This was an easy image for me to capture as I’ve been here countless times for sunset and watched my father as a young child take photographs of the sunset here. However, waiting for the sunset to disappear and capture the area about ten minutes before the night sets in gives a far better result. Exposure wise, a relative novice might struggle a little as the dynamic range of the scene comfortably exceeds what the sensor is able to resolve in a single exposure. Many will prefer to capture a series of exposures and resolve this issue through HDR processing or even blending an exposure for the sky, and one for the land in Photoshop. My personal view on this is whilst such a workflow is very effective; it’s also very time consuming and storage space heavy when with skillful use of graduated natural density filters you can achieve the desired effect in a single exposure. I used the ND 0.9 soft edged filter to darken the houses and above, and the ND 0.6 soft edged filter to cover the sky over and above the the 0.9soft edge filter. This meant I could expose for the blue water and meant the sky wouldn’t be clipping, and the foreground tree’s wouldn’t be blocked. I knew I’d lose just a few highlights to light trails in the urban area, but that’s in my view not worth bothering about in a scene like this. The key was the land wasn’t blocking, and the sky wasn’t clipped so the exposure all fitted within the histogram. The long exposure also helped capture some movement in the sky and instil a sense of dynamism to the scene although it wasn’t my intention to capture movement. I’m not a huge fan of long exposure and to be brutally honest I often think its an over used technique to try and dramatize what would otherwise be a pretty mediocre image or worse still that the photographer takes long exposures to demonstrate they are somehow superior. Good light, good subject matter usually means you won’t need to get cloud movement to wow your audience, but here it came about trying to balance the exposures out. A welcome byproduct if you must say but not my actual intention.
Number 3; Elan Valley in the morning
Equipment used: Nikon D610| Nikkor 24-70 F2.8| Lee 0.9 soft edge graduated natural density filter.
Exposure: ISO 100| 1/13th sec| F13 @ 27mm.
This could have easily be image number one for this series. It is to me as good as outdoor photography will ever be. Wonderful light quality, interesting atmospheric conditions, clear still water and a beautiful subject matter. You couldn’t want for more when it comes to a scene like this. Alas this image very nearly didn’t come to be. A friend who felt my pain over my lack of a car for 2014 took me to Wales for a mini break. We were staying in the Elan Valley Hotel which is close to this reservoir and I decided to walk up here before breakfast for the early morning golden hour (the hour after sunrise). Brian drove us in the day before and I knew looking out the car window this was a very special place which was unbelievably pretty and photogenic. The lake is actually a reservoir, the bridge is an aqueduct which sits atop a submerged dam and outwith the frame there sits a lovely straining tower. The full series can be read about here in my Elan Valley series and I rank it probably as my best series I’ve ever taken. I could have picked any number of images I have from it for this top ten countdown. However I picked this image not just because its very pretty but because it evokes a very particularly happy memory. The walk up here was about two miles from the hotel, maybe a little more. It was, despite the forecast being favorable, pretty dull and overcast and the light very flat. Brian and I had arranged to meet for breakfast around 9am, and it was about 8:15 and was due to walk back. I was a little disheartened as I knew with some sunlight, and bit less cloud cover I could get a truly special image here. Luckily for me, as I was beginning to walk back, the sun broke through the clouds above and very quickly a lot of the heavy clouds which loomed over the woodland were rapidly clearing. I knew I needed to re-shoot the entire location again and that Brian wouldn’t mind if I was just a little late. I quickly unpacked the Nikon, composed, focused and placed the filter in the scene a little over half way up to allow for an exposure which would render all the detail in that reflection within the water. This was the first I shot I took in the good light, and I will always be fond of this image as it perfectly demonstrates why you need to seize great conditions whenever they come. The weather in Britain can be quite prohibitive for outdoor photography with many more dull overcast days and even more rainy days than there are sunny days with interesting cloud cover; this means taking advantage of moments like this very important.
Number two: Stobb Dearg, Glen Coe
Equipment used: Nikon D800| Zeiss Distagon 21mm F2.8 ZF2| Lee 0.9 and Lee 0.6 soft edge graduated natural density filters.
Exposure: ISO 50| 2.5 secs| F13 @ 21mm
Words cannot describe my love for Glencoe and Rannoch Moor. I have countless images from this beguiling part of Scotland and I will always shoot here, it’s my home patch. I could have picked many pretty images from this location, so why on earth have I picked the one there the mountain is mostly covered by clouds and cannot be seen. To make things worse this particularly location is very cliched, it’s been shot countless times by seasoned professionals, keen hobbyists, tourists and beginners just starting out in their photography journey. It has been shot in every possible time of the year and the short route to this view point is so downtrodden due to the sheer number of people coming here to photograph this view of Stobb Dearg and the falls on the River Etive. However, its cliched for a reason as it is, simply the best view of the mountain you can photograph. It’s an iconic view and with good reason, just look through my blogs and galleries. Sadly you could argue this is a highly unoriginal and uncreative piece of photography on display here. Despite all that, this is one of my favorite images I’ve taken this year. Why, simply because you cannot see the mountain, it feels because of that mysterious, beguiling and different. I like the image, as for once when other photographers invariably appeared, they didn’t bother setting up their gear, they dismissed the view they saw and said it was a real shame the mountain was under cloud. It means I might be one of only a few with an image like this one.
Anyone can make a place look pretty on a bright sunny day with a low sun behind them, I can and I have demonstrated it perfectly with the Elan Valley image and series. However the Elan Valley has an inviting warm feeling, it looks pretty and delicate. Stobb Dearg looks rugged and foreboding. The landscape is bleak and harsh. Whilst all us pretty much know what is under that cloud, it nevertheless holds your attention. It alas (or thankfully), depending on your feelings towards the weather here in Scotland, is also the more indicative take on what Glencoe looks like the vast majority of the time. I am a great fan of sunny days and fair weather. However your average person traveling through this area is far more likely to see a scene like the one above, rather than the bright sunny ones in my Rannoch Moor and Glencoe spring series here. The story behind the image can be read here and it is a happy one. My friend James and I spent a rather uncomfortable night in a tent down Glen Etive to prepare to shoot the first light onto this mountain. The forecast was favorable and it should have been a home run for a successful morning golden hour image with the sun casting soft light at the base of the mountain. Alas the unpredictable weather in Scotland meant it was dull and grey at first light, but the conditions had created a golden little ring of cloud at the base of the mountain.. I’ve never quite seen such a strange optical effect as that, and knew it was rather special, but in a different way to what I had hoped. Exposure wise, even the mighty Nikon D800 couldn’t render this without the help of some Lee graduated natural density filters due to the strong dynamic range of the scene. I placed both the grad filters to darken down from the base of the mountain upwards as that is where it was a lot brighter than the base of the image. F13 was chosen to allow for the foreground heather to be in focus as well as the distant mountain and I focused about a 1/3rd into the scene.
The Nikon D800 has a couple of very useful features fitted both of which I utilized here. One is the histogram preview function in live view – it allows you to see the histogram of your chosen exposure and the effects of changing ISO, Aperture and shutter speed on the histogram as you vary each setting. It works well up to shutter speeds of 6 seconds, beyond that I am not so trusting of it. In this image I could see it was exposed a little to the right to retain detail, but not so much it would clip the whites from the water rapids. I selected ISO50 as I wanted to capture a little movement in the water and some blurring of the water. I probably on retrospect could have shot at 1sec and ISO100, but this worked well enough. The other feature which I love on the Nikon D800 (and also on the Nikon D610) is your ability to zoom to 100% view in live view. This makes fine tuning focus easy, and with the Zeiss 21mm not being auto focus compatible a real godsend. In particular the 36mp sensor of the D800 is wonderful for showing lots of lovely detail but it doesn’t flatter poor focusing, no camera does, but the Nikon D800 really shows any deficiencies in technique up. The other plus of using live view, is that it locks the mirror up, so there is no shake from within the camera during exposure.
Number one: City of Glasgow in Blue hour
Equipment used: Nikon D800| Nikkor 24-70 F2.8.
Exposure: ISO 100| 25 secs| F8 @ 26mm
A picture speaks a thousand words. I took this picture late in November this year and upon reviewing a very similar image, from a series I took in November last year, the improvement astounded me. Mainly that was down to the superior optics of the Nikkor 24-70F2.8 over the Sigma 10-20mm F4-F5.6 lens rendering a sharper image, which with architecture with crisp edges is really important. Huge improvements in the clarity of the image were also easy to see with virtually no noise in this image which starkly compared to the image I took November last year despite similar exposure settings. Namely this is down to the larger “full frame” sensor fitted to the Nikon D800 out performing the older APSC “crop” sensor of the Nikon D5000. However, there were other improvements namely down to me. I’d chosen a cleaner composition with everything in the frame and nothing more, I’d waited for a lull in traffic and timed the exposure so that there were no static cars during the time the shutter was open. This would mean, unlike my previous first attempt there would be no cars or buses showing on the bridge. I had worked with the surroundings and adapted to work with what was going on around me to ensure I achieved an image which would meet my own standards. I hadn’t relied on the cameras auto focus, but rather checked it at 100% view in the live view preview to ensure it was properly focused (it was, the Nikon D800’s AF system is pretty reliable in low light). I’d also ensured I kept the camera level in both horizontal axis and vertical axis. This ensured, unlike the image from November 2013 where I had angled the camera downwards slightly to fit in more of the reflection, it was distortion free and the buildings proportions/verticals survived intact. My understanding of composition, optics and photography had improved, and when you consider that people take pictures, not cameras, this was hugely rewarding to see.
The conditions when I took this image were also perfect: high tide and little wind (meaning the River Clyde was still giving a reflection) plus relatively clear skies with some cloud cover to impart interest and texture to the sky. To get the the right tidal conditions on a still day, with good clear weather is really difficult in Glasgow as its not a city renowned for decent weather. Normally it is too windy, too overcast or wet. Moreover the tidal conditions you want for still water reflections rarely correspond to the evening blue hour which is the best time of day to flatter the Riverside. Not to mention my schedule would quite often prohibit me from getting down to this location despite it being nearby. This also meant it was a highly frustrating image to capture as I could visualize in my minds eye exactly what I wished to achieve, but my circumstances and Glasgow’s delightful weather let me down, time after time. It took me the best part of four months to capture this image. Luckily, on that evening, the conditions, were perfect and my schedule allowed me to get down to the Glasgow Riverside and capture this very special moment.
It’s this story of my tangible improvements in my skill as a photographer, my perseverance to capture the image I wanted and the spectacular scene itself which combine to make it my post prized image I’ve taken in 2014. Many will not agree, as it is only Glasgow and given when I’ve been to Rome, Athens, the West Highlands of Scotland and Skye, Newcastle, Wales, Brittany all in this brilliant year. However it captures my personal achievements and sets the tone for what I want to be working on for 2015.