Friday, 27 March 2015

The Prologue is Go


Today is the start of The Prologue, the two day official pre-season test for the World Endurance Championship.  Yesterday was spent preparing several photo sessions including the group shot for the WEC grid.

Official Photographer John Rourke was 8 metres above the track in a highlift platform while I directed the cars into place on the track.  While he was shooting from above, I grabbed a couple of low level shots.

In addition we did a photoshoot with Audi driver Oliver Jarvis and Toyota's Mike Conway for the Silverstone programme.



For the latest information on the World Endurance Championship go to www.fiawec.com

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Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Grid Shot


Yesterday morning was spent setting up a grid shot for some of the cars taking part in the 2015 European Le Mans Series.  While my photographer John Rourke was up in the air taking the overhead shot from 8 meters above the track, I was able to grab some low level images on the X-T1 and 10-24mm f4 lens.





Monday, 23 March 2015

1000 Posts: What a Difference a Day Makes


Another milestone for the MacLean Photographic blog has been notched up today with this being the 1000th post since February 2011.

I am at the Circuit Paul Ricard all week for the Official Preseason Test for the European Le Mans Series (23/24 March) and the World Endurance Championship (27/28 March). However as the Media Delegate for the two championships I have not had much of an opportunity to get out of the media centre to take pictures on the Fujifilm X-T1.

The weather yesterday was very overcast, with rain on and off during the day.   A day later the sun was shining and the light was very different than it was less than 24 hours earlier.





We have been able to take some shots of the kerbs and runoff areas.  With dark skies on Sunday afternoon the pictures were quite dramatic; here are some of the results. 




This morning the sun was shining on the track and the picture at the top of the page and the one below were taken in far better conditions than the ones on Sunday.


Photography is all about making the best of the available light and unless the skies are completely grey and featureless, a picture can be made in almost every other condition.


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Sunday, 22 March 2015

East Beach, Dunbar


East Beach stretches along the front of the East Lothian town from Cromwell Harbour at the west end  along to the Golf Course to the east,  The beach is a mixture of sand and rocks, with rock pools providing great entertainment for children at low tide.  The sea wall is lined by houses, providing a great backdrop to the town's main beach front.


Last week I went down to East Beach to catch the sunrise at 6:15am and on the way back I stopped to take some images of the general beach because it is not an area I tend to visit that often with the camera.

Half way down the beach is an old groin, a wooden barrier that was designed to stop the beach being moved by the strong tides.  Unfortunately this has fallen in a state of disrepair and the beach at the western end has been worn away, exposing some of the sewage pipework.

However the worn wooden structure makes for an interesting photographic subject.






The pebbles, rocks and other seashore items also make for interesting photographs, especially if a low vantage point is adopted with the camera.



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Saturday, 21 March 2015

Timelapse Video of the Lunar Eclipse at Barns Ness


Like millions of other people across the UK and parts of Europe I went out to witness the partial solar eclipse yesterday morning.  Luckily the skies over Eat Lothian were clear and so we got a great view as the moon passed across the face of the sun, covering 96% of the surface.

I set the X-T1 up on the tripod to record a series of images that I then used to produce a short timelapse video.  Because I didn't have a celestial drive for the tripod the camera was static as the sun and moon passed through the sky so I had to reset the position of the camera on several occasions during this sequence, but you can clearly see the moon eclipsing the sun.



It was certainly a great experience and by 10am it was all over for another few years, the last one being in 1999 prior to this one.


Images taken on a Fujifilm X-T1 + 55-200mm f3.5/4.8 lens

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Friday, 20 March 2015

Hailes Castle


Hailes Castle is one of my favourite locations for photographic expeditions.  Situated just a few miles from Dunbar this ruined castle is steeped in history and is located in the perfect location on the banks of the River Tyne.  In the winter Hailes looks forlorn and bleak but when spring comes along the wild flowers provide a carpet of colour.  There are also walks on both sides of the river and plenty of things to photograph in and about the castle grounds.

Last Wednesday I spent an hour photographing the snowdrops and also the castle itself in the beautiful spring sunshine.


History
Hidden away in the pretty valley of the River Tyne stands the remarkable castle of Hailes. It is one of Scotland’s oldest stone castles, dating from the first half of the 1200s.

Hailes Castle served as a fortified noble residence for over 300 years. The puzzle is its location, for the castle is overlooked at close quarters by high ground, making it very difficult to defend. The reason may be that, when it was built, this part of Scotland was peaceful.

Hailes is associated with two noble families – the de Gourlays and the Hepburns.

The Hepburns’ castle occasionally had brushes with war and siege, but its greatest claim to fame is its association with James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. He became Mary Queen of Scots’ third husband in 1567. He may well have been born in the castle. 

Following his flight into exile after Mary’s capture, Hailes Castle quickly declined. A subsequent owner, Sir David Dalrymple, purchased Whitehill House, near Edinburgh, in 1709. He renamed it Newhailes in memory of the ancient castle.







All images taken on a Fujifilm X-Pro1 or X-T1 with XF10-24mm f4, XF35mm f1.4 and XF55-200mm f3.5/4.8

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Thursday, 19 March 2015

Sunrise


The promise of a nice sunrise had me out of bed and heading down to Dunbar harbour at 5:30am to catch the sun up at 6:15am.  I certainly wasn't disappointed as I set up the X-Pro1 and 55-200mm lens facing East across East Beach.

These three shots were taken within 3 minutes of each other and after 10 minutes the sun was high above the horizon and too bright to take anymore images.

Tomorrow morning there will be a partial solar eclipse across the UK as the moon's orbit takes it across the face of the sun, starting around 8:30am.  Here's hoping that we get clear skies over Dunbar tomorrow.



All images taken on a Fujifilm X-Pro1 + Fujinon XF55-200mm f3.5/4.8

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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

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Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Snowdrops at Hailes Castle


A break in the grey weather that has been sat over East Lothian for the past few days had me grabbing my camera bag to try and find some snowdrops for my stock library files before I head to the South of France on Saturday for eight days.  

With it getting late in the season the chances of any snowdrops being left by the time I got back from Marseilles were slim at best, so I took the opportunity to get an early start and head up to Hailes Castle near East Linton.



When I parked up and walked through the gate I was pleased to see that the bank in front of the wall was still covered in snowdrops, so I set to work to capture the dew covered flowers without treading on any in the process.  Just as I completed my first set of images the sun broke through the clouds behind me transforming the red sandstone walls of Hailes Castle, so I continued to shoot from a low point.



Moving down the slope that runs down to the River Tyne, I continued to shoot the little white flowers from a low vantage point using the X-T1s superb articulated LCD screen to compose the image.









After an hour of shooting in the warm spring sunshine I headed back  to the office to continue with the preparations for next weeks European Le Mans Series Official Test (23/24 March) and the World Endurance Prologue (27/28 March) at the Circuit Paul Ricard near to Marseilles.

All images taken on a Fujifilm X-T1 + Fujinon XF35mm f1.4 lens or Fujinon XF10-24mm f4 or Fujinon XF55-200mm f3.5/4.8

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Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Rust


When I am out and about photographing landscapes I always keep one eye out for interesting subjects that I can train my camera lens on.  A good example are these shots from Dunbar Harbour a couple of weeks ago. Any harbour is a riot of colours and interesting items that have been weathered and worn by the weather and the sea and Dunbar Harbour is no different.

The image at the top of the page is a rusty hinge from one of the doors on the storage sheds just below the castle.  The flaky blue paint contrasts with the reds and browns of the rust covered hinge.



The second image above is a close up of a jumble of items including nets, steel cables, old ropes, a wooden pallet and rusty anchors, all contrasting very nicely.



The steel fuel drum was situated on the side of the harbour and the red, white and green colours are mixed with the streaks of rust from where the paint has worn away and has run down the side in the rain and spray of the sea.

All images taken on a Fujifilm X-Pro1 + Fujinon XF35mm f1.4 lens

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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

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Monday, 16 March 2015

Tips for better Landscape Photographs: Part 3 - Composition


When you are presented with a fantastic scene lit with superb light, most photographers grab the camera and start shooting without much thought to the composition of the image.  They then get home and are disappointed by the results because the images don't convey the feelings they had when they were at the location. 

The two biggest compositional challenges are how to balance the elements of the picture and how to represent a 3D scene in a 2D image. However with a bit of thought and consideration the final image can be vastly improved by following a few guidelines to composition.

Take the image at the top of the page taken on Saturday while out at Fast Castle in the Scottish Borders.  The sweep of the cliffs provide a natural 'Leading Line' which pulls the viewer into the image.  The rock formations in the foreground provide interest while the headland finishes at a point, almost pointing the viewer out to sea and making them wonder what is beyond that horizon.


FOCAL POINT

Look for the main element in the image, for instance a river that meanders through the image, rocks on a beach or an old, twisted tree.  A focal point creates a strong image.  Look at the scene in front of you and see what captures your attention; ask yourself why are you taking the picture.  Once you have decided make that your focal point.

RULE OF THIRDS
The first guideline is the Rule of Thirds and this is something that every good landscape photographer uses.  I tend to use in almost every landscape shot I take but, like all good rules on composition, they can be ignored when necessary.  However the Rule of Thirds is a good one to follow.  

Basically you divide your viewfinder into nine equal boxes with two horizontal and two vertical lines. You then organise the elements in your image according to these lines by placing the most important element on one of the four intersections of vertical and horizontal lines.  In many photographs the sky and the land / sea are the most dominant elements and the horizon is either placed one third from the top of the frame or one third from the bottom depending on the subject.

For example the shot below the horizon is placed at the top of the image with the emphasis on the rocky shoreline and the headland.



In this shot the horizon is placed low in the image with the lighthouse being placed at the bottom left of the image.


USE OF FRAMES
Framing your subject is also a good compositional technique.  I am not talking about what you do with a photographic print to hang on your wall but the principle is the same.  You use something you are photographing to frame the main subject.   For example the bridge at Seacliffe forms a man made frame for Bass Rock but you can also use trees and rock formations to provide a frame for your main subject. Look out for opportunities when you are next out with your camera.


LEADING LINES
We have already mentioned leading lines which lead the viewer into the image.  Lots of things can provide leading lines, a path, a road, a river or a beach.  The next three images are prime examples of using a leading line to make the image compositionally better and give your images depth.




FOREGROUND INTEREST
When using wide-angle lenses by placing something in the foreground you immediately improve the composition of the image.  If you see a beautiful landscape and just take a picture without any thought, the image will look flat and 2D because everything is far away in the distance.  By putting something in the foreground (a rock or a tuft of grass or something similar) the viewer is once again led into the image.

Take this shot of Ben More and Loch na Keal on the Isle of Mull.  The yellow gorse bush provides some foreground interest to the dramatic clouds over the mountains in the distance.  Try to imagine this shot without the gorse bush, everything would be in the background and the composition wouldn't work.


PEOPLE IN LANDSCAPES
I sometimes put people in landscapes to add a sense of scale and an aid to the overall composition, not as the main subject.  Here are two landscape shots that I have used people in this way.

The first shot is the trek up to the summit of Ben More on the Isle of Mull in 2013.  My friend Nick Hodgetts from the Isle of Skye, a seasoned 'Munro Bagger', was leading me up towards the ridge high above Loch na Keal on the Inner Hebridean island.


The second is the mass flight of Gannets on Bass Rock.  The shot was taken from behind the Gregan, a rock outcrop and it was in shadow as the sunlight hit The Bass.  There were two people taking in the view and they provided the perfect compositional element for this image without their knowledge.


CONCLUSION
These are just a few of the main compositional 'rules' that I follow but like all photographic rules, they are there to be broken when the need arises.  However if you follow the Rule of Thirds I guarantee that you will see a big improvement in your landscape images.

NEXT WEEK: Part 4 will be about Seeing the Light - Photography is nothing without light and the ability to spot when the light is best for photography is just as important as composing an image.

CLICK HERE for Part 2 of this series on Filters
CLICK HERE for Part 1 on this series on Supporting Your Camera


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ALL IMAGES ARE THE PROPERTY OF MACLEAN PHOTOGRAPHIC AND CANNOT BE USED FOR ANY PURPOSE WITHOUT PRIOR PERMISSION


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'