Saturday, 28 February 2015

From The Archives: Tobermory




Here is another image from the MacLean Photographic archives, this time a shot of Tobermory harbour from our last trip to the Isle of Mull in May 2013.

We are regular visitors to the Isle of Mull but since we moved to Dunbar in August 2013 we haven't had the opportunity to visit the island, which is something that will need to be remedied in 2015 and was the reason I was searching through my many archive images of Mull.

This image was taken late evening and is just typical of the light that can be found on Mull.  The sky had been grey and lifeless but a change in the weather allowed the sun to peep through and add a bit of colour to the scene, which I assisted by using a grad filter on the camera.

Tobermory Harbour front is one of the most photographed scenes in Scotland with the colourful houses - the Mishnish Hotel had been repainted back to yellow from a dark grey over the previous winter - and boats moored up, though on this particular day the waterfront was pretty empty.

This image was shot on a Nikon D800 with a Nikon 50mm f1.4 lens.

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Friday, 27 February 2015

After the Sun Sets


I love a good sunset as much as the next landscape photographer and given the opportunity I will grab my gear and head out to the beaches here in East Lothian and set the camera on the tripod to get the last golden glow of the setting sun.

What amazes me is how many photographers pack up as soon as the sun has dropped below the horizon thinking that the photographic opportunities are done.  In fact the best light is often just before the dawn or just after the sun has set and a lot of photographers are missing a golden opportunity (pun intended!)



The best way to capture the twilight you need to be set up in good time as the sun is dropping towards the horizon and you'll need to have your camera strapped to a sturdy tripod and to use a cable release as the shutter speeds start to get longer very quickly once the light has gone.

Once the sun drops below the horizon you'll notice the colours shift from bright oranges and reds to purple to blue before turning black.  It all happens quickly, so you need to be ready and shoot plenty of frames.  

Composition is key and this is why it is best to get in position early, decide on your composition and then stick with it.  Having the camera on a tripod helps with this as the camera is then fixed.  It also means you can keep the ISO low as the shutter speeds start to draw out.

Anyway next time you are out shooting a sunset, stay a little longer and you may be surprised by the results.

Oh and one last tip.  Take a torch because it is likely to be very dark by the time you pack the camera away.




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Thursday, 26 February 2015

What's Your Desktop Image?


Computer desktops are very personal things and everyone treats their's differently.  I suppose being a photographer makes it easier to personalise my two desktops but my dilemma is always which image do I choose.  I tend to change my desktop image once every couple of months and it is usually when I  been somewhere interesting and want something to brighten my day when I'm chained to the desk.

The iMac desktop was chosen because I am on a countdown to spring and the beach isn't far away.  In fact the arrow point out of my office window is pointing the right way to Belhaven Bay just 500 metres up the road from when we live in Dunbar.  The sign is at John Muir Country Park at Belhaven Bay and is pointing the way to the beach from the car park.  Last week I had this image printed on an aluminium plate for the wall in our newly decorated guest room and is also pointing the correct way to Belhaven Bay.

The PC desktop is one of the images from the recent trip to Glen Coe, with the sunset behind the snowy mountains while I was stood in the burn up to my ankles in icy water.  This was one of the last shots of the day and is one of my favourites from the shoot, even though I had photographers queueing up behind me to get the same shot.

Both these images will probably stay for another month and then I will change them for something fresher.  

So what image do you have on your desktop?

'To The Beach' was taken on the Fujifilm X100 and 'Snowy Sunset in Glen Coe' was taken on the Fujifilm X-T1 and the Fujinon 10-24mm f4

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Monday, 23 February 2015

Sunny Days Make for Good Mono Images



While out in the hills above Dunbar on Saturday I took some shots that I knew would look good in black and white even though the X-T1 was set to colour.  I actually see the shots in mono tones when I press the shutter release and this is because I used to shoot with black and white film and in those days you couldn't switch the viewfinder to 'mono mode' like you can on modern day digital cameras.

The bright, sunny conditions were perfect for the type of high contrast mono images I love to produce in post production using NIK Silver Efex Pro 2.  However to get a result on the computer you need a good image to start with. 


The farmland on the rolling hills above the village of Spott gave me plenty to point my camera and lens at and I came back with several shots that I was happy with, including this collection of five shots of the farmhouse at Spott West Mains.




The images were all taken on the Fujifilm X-T1 using either the Fujinon XF18mm f2 (images 1, 3 & 4) or the Fujinon XF55-200mm f3.5/4.8 (images 2 and 5).


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Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Brunt



Continuing my exploration of the hills around Dunbar looking for new photographic locations I travelled up from the village of Spott along the road to Woodhall and Elmscleugh.  

The road drops drop to a ford crossing the Woodhall Burn and as you climb the hill on the far side there is a nice shot across the small glen with the old farmhouse at The Brunt perched on the opposite side.

I stopped the car and walked up the hill to get the best position.  Luckily the sun was still high enough to light the burn and not cause too many deep shadows in the image.

The X-T1 was fitted with the 10-24mm f4 lens, with a focal length of 17mm for this shot.  I had a Lee 0.9 ND Soft Grad fitted to help hold the brightly lit sky back three stops.  The final image was converted to mono using Silver Efex Pro2. 


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Friday, 20 February 2015

Fuji Spring Clean


As the days get longer here in Scotland my thoughts are starting to turn to what images I and going to shoot this spring.  I've also been carrying out a 'spring clean' for my business equipment, which includes evaluating each piece of camera gear that I own.

If you are a regular reader of this blog you'll be aware of my recent conversion to Apple for my office computer and a beautiful 27" iMac now sits on my desk.  This has certainly changed my work flow in post production, but the iMac certainly wasn't cheap and this got me thinking about my camera gear needs.  I run a business and I have a lot of capital tied up in cameras and lenses. So I decided to evaluate what I NEED, not what I would like to have in my camera bag.  

My cameras and lenses are the tools of my trade and they are there to make money.  It i very easy as a  photographer to sentimental about camera gear, and I have suffered from 'Gear Aquisition Syndrome' (GAS) in the past. 

However the difference between an amateur and professional is the understanding that this is a business and if a piece of equipment is not making money then the funds tied up in it should be released to be put to better use.   The is a 'head' not a 'heart' decision.

So let's have a quick review of my camera equipment needs -

The three camera bodies - X-T1, X-Pro1 and X100 - are all necessary for the business but I do have a lot of overlap in the nine Fuji lenses that I own.  




The 14mm f2.8 was the first to come under scrutiny.  It is only one stop faster than the superb Fujinon 10-24mm f4 and after looking at several images from each lens I decided that the 14mm wasn't absolutely necessary to be in my camera bag.  

The other lens that is covered by the 10-24mm is the Fujinon 18mm f2.  The 18mm is one lens that is always in my camera bag and is usually fixed to the front of the X-T1 or X-Pro1.  This compact, lightweight lens has more than paid for itself in the past 12 months and therefore has been retained.

The 35mm f1.4 Fujinon is the fast standard prime lens and is unique in my camera bag so its inclusion in my camera bag was never in any doubt.

At the end of last year I wrote a blog on the fact that I owned three telephoto lenses for the Fuji kit.  The 56mm f1.2, 60mm f2.4 macro and the 55-200mm f3.5/4.8.  

The long telephoto zoom is OK because of the reach it affords at the present time. However with the new 50-140mm f2.8 and Fuji recently announcing the release of a 1.4x converter, the 55-200mm may be sold to help fund a move to the faster zoom lens this summer.




This leaves the 56mm f1.2 and 60mm f2.4.  The macro lens does allow closer focusing than any other Fuji lens I own but I have added two extension rings to my kit which allows the 35mm lens to focus as close as the 60mm.  As the focal lengths of the 56mm and 60mm are so close I decided the 60mm was surplus to requirements.

I also own the two converters for the X100, the wide angle WCL-X100 and the telephoto TCL-X100.  The idea was to have a lightweight kit for traveling but the reality was the converters weren't being used and I was sticking to the 23mm f2 standard lens when using the X100.  The problem is the WCL  makes the 23mm a 19mm, which is almost identical to the 18mm f2 on the X-Pro1 / X-T1 and the TCL makes the 23mm a 33mm, which is almost identical to the 35mm f1.4.  It is also a phaff to fit the converters, so I found myself leaving them in the camera bag or at home.  For me the two converters don't make sense so they are both surplus to requirements as well.



The final piece of Fuji gear that fell under the spotlight was the Fuji EF-20 flashgun.  Having bought the new Nissin i40 flash, which offers greater flexibility and power, the small EF-20 was also not being used.  The only advantage for the EF-20 is its size, but the i40 isn't a massive flash either, so the EF-20 was deemed to be surplus to requirements.

I have therefore reduced my camera gear down to the essentials and I have sold the following -
  • Fujinon XF14mm f2.8R
  • Fujinon XF60mm f2.4R macro
  • TCL-X100
  • WCL-X100
  • Fujifilm EF-20 flash
As well as reducing the amount of camera gear I have in my bag, this has also released a significant amount of capital to help pay for the conversion to Apple.  


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Thursday, 19 February 2015

From the Archive: Peak District in Winter


I have been delving into the archives once again and re editing some of the shots from previous photoshoots on the new Apple iMac.

This shot was taken two years ago on 14 February 2013.  The image is of a farm house up in the Peak District with a dusting of snow on the fields. a quick edit in Photoshop CS and then converted to mono in Silvers Efex Pro2 software and this high contrast image is the result.

The image was taken on a Nikon D800 and Sigma 50-500mm f3.5/f6.3 lens, with the zoom set at 230mm.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Swiss Cheese on the Beach


While out walking on the beach at Seacliffe at the weekend we came across this strange rock lying on the sand.  The surface of the rock is covered by lots of round indentations, like something has worn the surface in those areas.  I don't know what caused this to happen but the result, which looks like Swiss cheese or an irregularly shaped golf ball, is very interesting.

The geology on the East Lothian coast is fascinating with so many different types of rocks and evidence of fossilised remains of mud flows, which are a testament to the volcanic activity in this area millions of years ago.

On the rocky parks of the East Lothian coast there are rock formations that have been sculpted by the wind and tides and perfectly smooth holes where pebbles have been moved around by the waves and tides to wear away the rock.

The one thing that is for sure is the East Lothian coast is never boring and we are always discovering new things on every walk.



Images taken on a Fujifilm X-T1 + Fujinon 56mm f1.2R lens

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Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Brock Wood Wildlife Reserve


Spring is definitely on the way as the evenings get lighter and the temperatures start to rise.  Now I have said that I'm pretty sure winter will return with vengeance!  But the days are certainly getting longer and this means the opportunities to get out and photograph East Lothian are increasing.

Instead of going to the same locations like Barns Ness, Belhaven, Seacliffe and Tyningham all the time I have decided to get the OS map out and look for new photographic opportunities around Dunbar.  On Saturday evening I headed up into the hills around the village of Spott and with a very misty and overcast end of the day it turned into a recce run rather than a photographic trip.

However as the light was starting to fade I came across Brock Wood Wildlife Reserve so I decided to stop the car and go for a walk.  A grey and lifeless sky doesn't really matter when photographing in the trees, in fact the diffused light is perfect.



The wooded area is filled with a variety of trees including silver birch, oak and beech.  The paths are well marked and lead down to a small burn.


I didn't see any wildlife but I did see some red deer in a field near to the reserve but too far away to photograph.  I came across a small area of dead trees covered in large fungi.




Brock Wood is somewhere I have now marked on my map for a visit in the near future when spring has finally arrived as there is plenty of evidence of wild flowers amongst the trees.




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Monday, 16 February 2015

High Seas at Tantallon Castle


A beautiful sunny winters day had us heading to Seacliffe for a walk on the beach.  The waves were crashing onto the rocks around the Gegan, a large outcrop of red sandstone at the western end of the sandy beach, which made a dramatic foreground to the ruins of Tantallon Castle perched on the cliffs overlooking the Firth of Forth.

There was a slight sea mist hanging around the East Lothian coastline that produced a slightly diffused light in the middle to long distance playing over the landscape as the sun sank lower in the sky late into the afternoon.

I took several shots from several locations along the beach using the Fujifilm X-T1 fitted with the 56mm f1.2, 35mm f1.4 and 18mm f2 lenses.



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MacLean Photographic run Tours and Workshops in East Lothian and the Borders of Scotland.  CLICK HERE for more details and availability

If you like what you see on this blog please visit our Facebook page and click 'like'

Sunday, 15 February 2015

From the Archives


I love looking through the MacLean Photographic archives to see what little gems I can turn up that were missed the first time around for whatever reason.

Take this shot from our trip to Berwick on Tweed in November 2012.  The shot that got used was the panoramic shot below but the colourful shot of the person in the orange coat standing in front of the red and white lighthouse at the end of the harbour breakwater was passed over for some reason I can't remember why.

I put the image into Photoshop CS and tweaked the levels and vibrance and the shot at the top of the page was the result.  

The images were both taken on the Fujifilm X100 using the standard 23mm f2 Fujinon lens.






Saturday, 14 February 2015

Taking My First Bite of the Apple


Well I have given in!  After many years of fellow photographers telling me I needed a MAC and MACs were the best, I have finally turned to the dark side and ditched my Windows desk top PC for a shiny new 27" iMac.  So why have I decide to this now I hear you ask?

Well it has a lot to do with the direction that Microsoft have gone with the Windows platform.  I like Windows 7, there is nothing wrong with Windows 7 and all of my other work is supported by Windows software (MS Office, Lightroom, Photoshop Elements etc) and I have invested a lot of money into this.  So, like buying into a camera system, changing from PC to MAC is a big step. 

I had to make a decision because my 5 year old desktop PC needed to be renewed.  I had specced it to the hilt when I bought it new but age was starting to creep in and it had started to slow down.

My options were to buy a new PC running Windows 7 like my laptop or go look at Apple for the first time.  The problem I have is Windows 8 - I hate it, it isn't user friendly and now Windows 10 looks to be about the same.  I could get Windows 7 but with version 10 about to be launched the question for me is how much longer will Windows 7 be supported.  A new computer is a significant investment so I can't afford to be left high and dry by Microsoft in a years time.




So I started investigating the iMac.  Well all the horror stories about the OS being difficult to understand and operate are so much BS.  I visited the Apple Store in Edinburgh and thanks to the friendly and helpful staff I was soon finding my way around the different applications and comparing the different options.  There was no pressure selling either, the staff let the products sell themselves - nice!

The other thing I was blown away by was the size of the screen.  The 27" iMac is amazing! The high resolution screen makes editing images a doddle.  I did look at the 27" 5K Retina screen, which is stunning, but at £500 more than the standard screen I couldn't justify the extra money.  

Anyway long story short, I decided that the iMac was the best option, even though it was more expensive than an equivalent spec PC.



I did add a 1TB Fusion (hybrid flash / ATA drive) hard drive and an extra 8GB of memory (16GB in total) to speed things up.  Because I configured the iMac to my specs I ordered it online at the Apple Store.  I also added a Magic Trackpad instead of a mouse.  This did take a bit of getting used to but after a few hours I didn't miss the mouse at all.

I ordered the iMac on Friday and it arrived last Wednesday, one day earlier than the Apple Store had told me, so that was even better.  It was very easy to set up and I was soon sitting in front of my new iMac.  Apart from the size of the screen, the main difference between my old desktop PC and the iMac is the lack of a tower.  Everything on the iMac is contained inside that big screen.  So the footprint on my desk is actually smaller than with the old PC. And talking of footprint, the stand, like the small keyboard and track pad, is machined aluminium - the quality is superb.




Well all of this build quality and beauty is all very well but it also has to perform.  The iMac is lightning fast, it boots up in no time at all.  I did a quick test against my work Dell laptop running Windows 7 and the iMac was up and running before the laptop had powered up and asked for my password.

Setting up the iMac was easy as well.  I set the printer up, downloaded the new versions of Lightroom and Photoshop, and set up my other preferences all in the space of a couple of hours.  Navigating the OS is a bit slower because items are in different places but they tend to be in obvious locations and the 'Help' files are just that - helpful - if you get stuck.

The only issue I have had is accessing my external hard drives, which contain my archive of images.  The iMac will read the files but I can't write to the same disk.  I had to back up the files on the newest 3TB USB3 drive and then format it for MAC OS.  Things ar enow OK but that did have me scratching my head.




I've now had the iMac three days and I am very happy with the transition.  Using Lightroom and Photoshop is a doddle because the MAC versions are identical to the PC versions I have been using. also that giant 27" screen allows me to have several windows open at the same time and flip between them.  Editing images is also a lot easier on that screen.

The only items I might have to look at is buying a MAC version of MS Office.  The iMac has 'Pages', 'Numbers' and 'Keynote' which are 'Word', 'Excel' and 'Powerpoint' and these can save files in Office compatible formats.  The MAC versions are very easy to use (I've used Pages and Keynote so far) but for compatibility with my colleagues Microsoft Office 365 might find its way onto my iMac in the near future.

Moving from PC to MAC is not as painful as some people make out, in fact I found it very painless.  I find the new Yosemite OS system on the MAC a lot more user friendly and easy to navigate than Windows 8 in every department.  So it's bye bye Windows and hello iMac.  

I will report back in a couple of weeks.

CLICK HERE for the Apple Store






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Friday, 13 February 2015

Edinburgh Castle


This week has been a busy one for us with two visits to Edinburgh for meetings and a new computer system installed in the office (more on this tomorrow!).  We are also working on a new website design, which will be unveiled next month.

This has left little time this week to update the blog, but we are back online now.  I did manage to grab this shot of the floodlit Edinburgh Castle while I waited to catch my train at Waverley Station.  Edinburgh Castle still impresses me and is one of the most instantly recognisable sights anywhere in the world.  

The image was taken on the Fujifilm X100 and held steady by putting the camera on the fence surrounding Princes Street Gardens.



Sunday, 8 February 2015

Surfs Up in Belhaven Bay


Today was a beautiful sunny winters day in East Lothian so we wrapped up warm and headed down to Belhaven Bay for a walk on the sand.  The long 3km beach attracts a lot of surfers and with some good waves on offer Belhaven was busy with people bedecked in wetsuits and carrying surf or body boards.


I decided to take the Fujifilm X-T1 fitted with the Fujinon 56mm f1.2 lens on the walk, with the 18mm f2 in my coat pocket if I needed a wide angle lens.  As it happened I decided to keep the 56mm fitted to the camera and set about capturing some of the scenes on the beach as the surfers braved the very cold North Sea.


With the tide on the turn the wet sand shimmered in the bright Scottish sun, so I decided to try and use this reflective surface as the surfers walked towards the water.

The colour of the water, the bright blue sky and the yellow sand provided a very colourful subject, which I duly captured using the camera's RAW and JPEG mode, with the later set to 'Velvia' film simulation to boost the colour saturation.



All images taken on a Fujifilm X-T1 and a Fujinon 56mm f1.2R lens
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