Spring macro went micro

daffodill with bright orange centre and text above reading 'Spring 2013 If you find it - record it'

Looking for seasonal flowers this year was difficult. This is a Jetfire type of daffodil. ©Paul Carroll

Its my fault. I posted some nice macro shots of snowdrops in February and committed myself to photographing a set of seasonal flowers throughout the year. A small project I thought would be no harder than waiting two or three weeks for daffodils and crocus. They are usually all around. Not this year. A late spring and the farmers around here can’t remember it being so late.

Finally I got a chance to take my daffodil shot last weekend with some spring like evening sunshine. Finding a good specimen was a challenge, which is a critical element in macro shots of flowers. They were all weathered and looked like they just want to go back to their bulbs for next year.

Using a macro lens ( this was a SIGMA 105mm) plus a wide aperture means the depth of field is going to be very small and whilst getting the background blur I wanted the very front petal is just sliding out of focus.

I decided that as I still like the shot it is a chance to point out that it is sometimes useful to create an image with space to write headlines or text. If you have a magazine or newsletter in mind this is an important consideration in composition. As well as bracketing exposure you can also bracket composition and if you know its a strong image take a portrait, landscape and one with headroom for editorial text. Perhaps someone wants to write an article about the late spring or climate change.

Here is a February Gold except it is April and its looking a bit sorry about that.

A daffodil with large central trumpet

Daffodil called a February Gold ©Paul Carroll

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New Fife Gallery added

A row of houses on the shore

The Fife coast has lots of spectacular villages that are both working fishing harbours and artistic communities. This is Pittenweem ©Mhairi Morrison

We have added a Fife Gallery to our website. This was prompted by friends launching a range of bus tours called see you jimmy tours and one of the many tours they do focuses on the coastal area of Fife.

It occurred to us that we had plenty of photos of this area but had not thought to display them. However, it also occurred that we didn’t have ones for all the places other people would be interested in. So here are the places we plan to visit again and make sure we capture the essence of Fife.

Key parts of any trip to Fife ought to include:

  • St Andrews – the home of golf
  • Falkland Palace  the Palace was one of the many homes to Mary Queen of Scots and the picturesque village of Falkland where it is situated  often wins the national village in bloom contests.
  • The East Neuk of Fife coastal villages with their distinctive stepped roofs and small winding streets and especially Pittenweem, a working harbour village full of art galleries and a delightful chocolate cafe.
  • The southern banks of the Tay estuary  from Tentsmuir forest and its expansive beach to Newburgh just over the border in Perthshire.
A group of Puffins look out to sea from on top of a rock

There are thousands of Puffins on the Isle of May. ©Paul Carroll

One of the most popular attractions for photographers of sea birds or wildlife is a trip to the Isle of May from Anstruther.

If you want to take pictures of Puffins then you will find more than you can shake a stick at on the Isle of May ( about 60,000 of them). For a sneak preview of a special puffins gallery we will have soon check out our Fife gallery.

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Snow drops and macro magic

Three white snowdrop flowers closed in a bell shape amidst grass

Snowdrops in February signal the turn towards spring. They are small so get down low and up close to see their elegant shape. ©paul.carroll

photographicview53 2013

A single snowdrop is a great macro subject. ©Paul Carroll

A wee project this year will be to try to capture the best known seasonal flowers in Scotland. They let us know we are moving through the changes in temperature, time and light.

One of the most welcome is the snowdrop. It signals relief from the long winter darkness and that spring is around the corner. They emerge late January/ early February and potentially up to mid March.

When photographing wild flowers a good idea is to get low down with them. Take them from their own world as this lets the viewer see a perspective they often don’t. Most people look at flowers from above. Anything that lets us see them from a different angle is immediately more interesting.

Macro photography is a great way to take advantage of an overcast day. The clouds act like a big light diffuser and take away the problem of managing hard shadows or burnt out highlights.

Opening up the aperture to under F5 and towards F2.8 also creates the blurred background that makes the subject standout. Be careful though as your depth of field will be very narrow so careful attention to focussing is required.

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Here is why we have joined 500px

The most popular way to view great photographs is sitting with your tablet. It gives you the best of a photo mag and in full colour. The most popular way to buy photographs is a canvas wrap print. It can instantly be hung on the wall without framing and with the right image the canvas print renders a subtle oil painting effect.

With apologies for being openly commercial to our blog readers our most popular image looks great on a wrap. Already 288 people count it as a favourite on flikr and it has been viewed almost 3,000 times. So as well as our own site photographicview where you can buy fine art quality prints we have opted to also go with putting some of our most popular on our 500px site. The main reason is it offers a simple way for customers to buy our pictures as a canvas.

misty loch scene with a sall island standing out and its reflection also seen in the water

Misty morning on Rannoch Moor near Glencoe: one of the most atmospheric places in Scotland. ©Paul Carroll

You can buy downloads for non commercial use and here is the thing: 500px is easy to use and you can create an online store on their free membership. The phone and tablet app is also great to use.

500px / Paul & Mhairi Carroll / Photos.

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David Mould is another winning Scottish photographer

Time for another in our series on outstanding Scottish landscape photographers. To see the others select the photographers category on the topic drop down box.

David Mould’s photography came to my attention when I saw his successful picture in this year’s Landscape Photographer of the Year volume 6 book. See below.

Two rainbows arc towards a mountain in the distance , the buachaille etive mor in Glencoe

Rainbow, Rannoch Moor, Argyll, with kind permission by David Mould © David Mould. (Click image to see it on 500px)

He describes what its like to be commended in this prestigious annual competition and in the book of the best entries in his own blog article entitled a pot of gold. In it he says “I am absolutely delighted to be featured in this years Take a View, Landscape photographer of the year, Collection 6…”

It is a fabulous image that captures the colours of the grasses on the moor and the blackness of the mountain – add a rainbow and you have all the best ingredients. We have been to this spot many times as I am sure many Scottish photographers and visitors to the Highlands will have been. I can imagine attempting the exact same as David when I read his description of abandoning his car on seeing the rainbow and rushing to capture this fabulous scene. Emotion and adrenalin would be running high at the chance to get this image at that time. It shows some skill by David to get it right in such a moment.

He says himself  “Some people say photography is luck, well, i believe that you make your own luck……knowing where the sun rises and sets, knowing when the leaves change colour; luck is all the elements coming together at once…..but knowledge puts you in the right place to capture the shot!” You can add to that the knowledge of your camera to put it all in to practice when you only have seconds before a rainbow disappears.

What is great about David’s website is he is out there most weekends capturing great images of Scotland and he is a sharer as you will find great tips on post processing effects he uses and where the best spots on Loch Ard are for photographers.

David Mould Photography.

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Original and good

I always remember a favourite quote by Samuel Johnston, the eighteenth century  critic and early travel writer (Journal of a tour to the Hebrides with James Boswell) . Commenting on a manuscript sent to him by an aspiring author he replied “your work is both original and good. Unfortunately the part that is original is not good and the part that is good is not original.”

Making landscape photographs in Scotland can feel like that. You find a great location only to discover a multitude online of the exact same spot all with better light. When you do find an original location a challenge is to be happy with your final image without the validation that lots of others have been there and taken that shot.

So here is one of ours that I think is both original and good. The subject is the Rhum Cuillin and I have not come across many taken from this remote bay on the Ardnamurchun coast.

Orange sky with sunlit mountains in the distance of the island of rum and before that the unlit silhouette of the island of Egg.

The Cuillin of Rhum lit by sunrise over Eigg in the middle. ©Paul Carroll

It is taken from a rocky outcrop, only accessible if the tide is out, from the lovely little bay of Ardtoe. I used a 200mm lens to bring all the elements together. A longer focal length pancakes the foreground, middle and distance. West coast sunsets are legendary but here we were treated to a spectacular sunrise lighting the easterly face of the mountains on Rhum amidst the small isles of the Inner Hebrides.

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Victorian Scottish landscape art and the classic view today

A reason, among many, we are drawn to landscape photography is to try and capture the beauty of the Scottish highlands, which when depicted in Victorian landscape paintings can feel somewhat over romanticised. The reality is that when you come to these places you are not disappointed and you discover the scenes these artists painted are indeed achievable if light and weather conditions are in your favour.

Foreground of a mountain stream and an old man fishing by in in victorian period outdoor clothes of a poor to middle ranking man. a path leads down into the misty glen below but disappears into mountain mist.

This image captures the feeling of being high up amongst the mountains, especially within areas like Glencoe.
Reproduced with permission: Peter Graham, Wandering Shadows, Scottish National Gallery, Purchased with the aid of the Cowan Smith Bequest Fund 1944


Classic Scottish landscape photography often seeks to recreate this Victorian image of Scotland. It is interesting to compare landscape photography in Scotland today and see how much we enjoy the same images.

The film industry can’t get enough of it either. Witness the Hollywood film Brave and the latest bond movie Spyfall. Everyone wants a piece of Glen Etive style backdrop and back story. The connection with the spirit of the people who lived in the glens hundreds of years ago is sought after. The National Trust for Scotland promotes these locations to film makers.

Visit Scotland, the Scottish Tourism agency, are inviting people to sample ‘natural Scotland’ this year and due to the Bond movie and Brave,  CNN, the american broadcaster, made Scotland their number one vacation destination in 2013.

Here are a couple of our photographs from a recent trip to Glen Etive.

Tree in the foreground leads to a waterfall in a misty Sctottish Geln

A Highland misty day in January in Glen Etive

Looking along a geln past steep mountains either side in Glencoe.

Looking along Glencoe from the path to Glen Etive. Spoiled for choice as to what Glen to take.

We did not get the light that would have raised these shots to gallery quality. That is one advantage that the painter has over the photographer. A painter can create the light they want where they want it.

Read the accounts of leading landscape photographers such as Colin Prior or Joe Cornish and they talk about the repeat trips they make to the same location until the light is right for the picture they seek. We could have done with some light to pick out the tree in the foreground in the top scene. We will return to Glen Etive many times.

Joe Cornish’s book Scottish Mountains highlights that when working to a deadline of producing a book you have to recognise the reality of a place is often it rains or is murky. He says in the introduction “Majestic yet elusive effects of light mocked many of my photographic aspirations.” At the end of the book he describes these aspirations as “the mountainscape, in all its transient,radiant glory; …the sun shining through a strategically positioned gap in a cloud to illuminate a fairytale land ” and then “only to disappear into vapour and rain”

Much of the time in Scotland we have overcast days. Early morning or when the sun breaks through the rain we make a virtue of highland mist. The combination of light and mist is perfect:  in many ways it compliments our ideal of the Scottish highlands – scots mist.

I also love this painting of Peter Graham’s to be found in the McManus Gallery in Dundee, which is a fine depiction of scots mist. Even today you can still come into contact with Highland Cattle in a remote glen ( I have – Glen Tilt springs to mind).

Peter Graham went in search of scenes like these.  We go to the mountains and moors of Scotland today still looking for them. Thankfully  you can still find this ideal in Scotland. And some of us are looking to photograph it the way 19th century artists like Peter Graham would have if he had a camera as well as a paint brush.

Three highland cattle in the foreground, with the rest of the herd receding into the mist in a general scottish mountain moorland scene

Moorland and Mist by Peter Graham is in the McManus Gallery in Dundee and when viewed in its full size you feel you could walk right into it. Reproduced with permission:Dundee Art Galleries and Museum

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Make your own antique print

Whilst visiting an antique shop in Rait , Perthshire, we became enchanted by a small black and white photographic print.  It was of the Skye Cuillin and had the look of an early 20th century photograph.  The Cuillin mountains looked black on the horizon and in a straightforward black frame.

Mhairi got home and with it still in her mind found this image of ours from the Ardnamurchan trip this autumn. We liked it in colour but it had some similarity to the image seen in the shop.

Scen across a loch to a mountain and a lone tree in the foreground

Beinn Resipole from Loch Sunart B&W ©Paul Carroll and Mhairi Morrison

It is amazing how many people never turn their own photographs into framed prints to hang on a wall. Digital can easily become the digital realm for ever; only ever making it on to the computer screen once in a while. A well framed print in a shop can reignite a desire to have more art on display. More prints on display can reignite your passion for making pictures.

You can see the full colour version of the above picture here. We use ‘Aperture’ as our image processing software and it does an excellent job of black and white conversion. There is a bit of burning in and sepia tone added to make it look like an antique print.

By the end of the day we had used our own photograph to create our own antique framed print of somewhere we had been. Here is the finished result hanging on the wall ( a quick snap on my phone). Another small addition to home or perhaps something like this would make a nice gift.


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Flickr milestones pros and cons

Is Flickr still the best? It is the photography sharing site that I still use but I see some photographers I admire making more use of facebook and trying other sharing services such as 500px.

There are three key things I was looking for when thinking about flikr and its alternatives.

  1. Can I easily upload my pictures to an attractive personal page with various customisation tools
  2. Can other people leave constructive comments and other means of rating pictures
  3. Can I see great pictures from other people and not just other people’s snaps

The four that come closest to me are Flickr , 500px, smugmug and facebook.

The one that does all of it well and free or very cheaply is Flikr. Flikr is also very big and genuinely global.

500px has the best images because it specifically asks you only to upload your best and it has a very scientific rating process. The non photography enthusiast will therefore stay away.

Smug mug is expensive and very USA: it also has lots of family snap type photos and  can act as commercial selling site for the pro am photographers.

Facebook is doing a very good job of  improving its photo albums and has its famous ‘like’ system. More photographers are using it to integrate showing their work with the facebook social media approach.

Picture of waterfall at the Fairy Pools Isle of Skye

This image has over 10,000 views now and is our most popular.

2012 was a milestone year for venturing onto the online publishing world. You may have read in a previous post that one image of mine passed the 10,000 views milestone. Just a few days after that the whole photo-stream passed the 100,000 views mark.

So what. Well for an amateur photographer (with the ambition to sell some) getting any kind of views from the public is rewarding. Ten or fifteen years ago not many photographers could get their images viewed by the public in exhibitions or magazines.

I have been a pro member of flickr for four years. Getting feedback from strangers was very rewarding. Having built up some regular contacts it began to feel like I had an audience for pictures, which added to the motivation to get out into the landscape to take them.

A further rewarding aspect is seeing some outstanding photography from around the world and saving a bunch of favourites that continue to inspire.

Perhaps out of loyalty to an old friend I intend to keep using flikr and enjoying a tour around the world from time to time using flikr as my window.

I would be interested to know what your experience of these services are.

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Scotland in the Gloaming

Scottish photographer Colin Cameron hosts a great blog called Scotland in the Gloaming. It is based on a flikr group of the same name. The members of the flikr group nominate the best photographs of Scotland in the gloaming to feature on the blog.

A picture of mountains in the distance against a red sunset sky with sea in the middle and a flow of water through a beach in the foreground

Mellon Udrigle, a photo by jimlaide on Flickr. “Mellon Udrigle Beach. Sunrise. Mellon Udirgle beach is one of the most visited places for landscape photographers in Scotland. It has been voted as one of the top 10 beaches in the world. It has amazing views and fantastic light at dawn and sunset There is a proposal to build a 55 foot wind turbine attached to a holiday chalet only occupied for 6 weeks of the year. ©Jim Henderson

What I love about this blog is it makes great use of a great scots word – GLOAMING. You may have heard the song ‘Roaming in the Gloaming’. Gloaming means twilight; the time after sunset but before dark and just before or around sunrise. As any landscape photographer will tell you this ( both ) is the golden hour.

Light is what transforms a scene and a photograph into a picture you would want to hang on your wall. Snaps or postcards are typically mid day shots to remind people of the place. It is ‘golden hour’ shots we would typically think of as art and see as prints in a gallery.

During the gloaming a definition on Wikipedia would tell you lighting is softer (more diffuse) and warmer in hue.

The blog Scotland in the Gloaming is therefore onto a winner. Scotland has stunning scenery and superb gloaming. If you want to see what we mean go and pay this blog a visit.

A woman and tow dogs can be seen in otline against a sunset at Balmerino Bay

Mhairi and Dougal enjoy the gloaming at Balmerino bay, Fife, Scotland ©Paul Carroll

The golden hour is the first light of the day  – just before the dawn – and the last. Early risers get the best shots as do those that stay out late. In many ways if you want to be a landscape artist you should get up before the dawn, sleep through midday and get back out for the twilight. Of course in mid winter both of these hours are easily part of the normal day and at a sensible o’clock.  So rather than being the time to put the camera away the winter can be a boom time for photographers.

Scotland in the Gloaming.

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