Monday, 22 May 2017

J Beaman Photography and Stargazing Scotland - an introduction

When I first arrived in Dumfries and Galloway with my partner Helen, we set up a business called Viridian Skies. Under this name we ran astrophotography tours, stargazing tours and events, and we also sold and exhibited my astrophotography.

Customers enjoying the view at a public stargazing event at the Kirroughtree Visitor Centre

Soon we realised that the ‘Viridian Skies’ was far too ambiguous (not to mention a bit of a mouthful!) So this year we relaunched; the stargazing tours and events are now under the name Stargazing Scotland, and my photography identity, tours, and exhibitions fall under J Beaman Photography.

Despite the relaunch, photography still plays an important role in my stargazing tour business. I capture images of my customers during the event as part of the product so that afterwards they have a souvenir.

One of the benefits of separating my photography from my astro tours is that I can now share a diversity of images. Professionally, my focus is still on night photography. However I have a personal interest in day landscapes, people, wildlife and macro photography. I can now display these images online without having to worry about their relevance to my stargazing followers. I haven't pursued wildlife photography or macro photography since my days at university, but it's something I'd like to re visit for personal reasons if nothing else.

The bluebells are in flower at the moment here in Galloway. Now that I’ve relaunched I can confidently share these images via J Beaman Photography without having to worry about their relevance to my astro tour business.

Whilst my business focus and main personal interest remains firmly after dark, I now feel less trapped by a specific photographic approach. Night photography can produce amazing results, but there are ways to work with daylight to produce results that just aren’t possible to achieve under darkness. Astrophotography opens many doors, but it also closes a few important photographic avenues. Through J Beaman Photography I will share a higher diversity of images online, and I hope that through this my photography in general will improve, resulting in my astrophotography also improving over time.

Jesse Beaman

Monday, 15 May 2017

Tom Langlands - Up Close and Personal

One of the things that I love about the onset of warmer days and longer evenings is that it opens up a whole new world of photographic possibilities.

With that in mind I am going to be exploring the world of macro photography in my next workshop on Sunday 4 June at WWT Caerlaverock. Places are limited and booking is highly recommended. If you want to join me then please contact WWT Caerlaverock on 01387 770200. You will get plenty of one to one assistance in a relaxed atmosphere of fun.

This is the time of year when lizards warm themselves in the sun, dragonflies hatch and take flight, damselflies lay their eggs and butterflies flutter by. It is also a time when summer flowers open up and attract bees and also when caterpillars munch their way through garden vegetables.

All of this presents endless opportunities for photography. It is a time to get up close and personal with mother nature and to explore the wonderful world of macro.

One of the great things about this kind of photography is that you don't have to travel for miles to seek out suitable subject matter. Even the most modest of gardens will present endless opportunities. A visit to a meadow, woodland, pond or stream will open up even more possibilities. It will also make you look at the world in a very different way. Appreciating the world at the macro end of the scale makes you appreciate how ecosystems work and how things depend upon each other.

I run wildlife photography workshops at the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust nature reserve at Caerlaverock throughout the year. In the winter months I concentrate on helping people learn to get to grips with their cameras and also to get shots of the wonderful Whooper Swans and Barnacle Geese that migrate to this part of the world from Iceland and the Svalbard archipeligo respectively. During the summer months I concentrate on macro photography and run workshops that concentrate on teaching people the skills that will open up the whole macro world to their lenses.

The reserve at Caerlaverock hosts all sorts of subject material. If you want to learn about this type of photography or just want help getting to grips with your camera then why not join me on Sunday 4 June at WWT Caerlaverock. If you want to join me then please contact WWT Caerlaverock on 01387 770200. You will get plenty of one to one assistance in a relaxed atmosphere of fun.

Summer is coming and it's time to get up close and personal...

Tom Langlands

Monday, 8 May 2017

Allan Wright - People Make Glasgow.

Having just completed 2 landscape books in as many months, I felt in this blog the urge to depart from comfort of nature and topographical subjects to share a little of my new found passion for Street Photography, in particular featuring my city of origin, Glasgow. It was only last year that through economic necessity that I tackled some social photography in the guise of weddings and festivals, I realised I loved the challenge and the dynamics involved almost as much as the people I encountered.

Glasgow is simply bursting with life, it is so inclusive and multicultural, allied with its famous easy banter it presents a banquet for aspiring street photographers. I had originally set out to make strong images of the city architecture, textures, character, style and light but quickly, almost unavoidably it seemed, I started to include people. Finding so much diverse material and willingness from the subjects it spurred me on. I developed a real hunger for the next encounter and learned to move in quickly on the endless opportunities around what seemed like every corner. It’s a mix of receptiveness, anticipation, logistics and a bit of luck thrown in. It is cerebral at times with technical challenges but also emotional, as successes came as often as did the knock-backs and failures.

I did do some candid stuff with a long lens which was fun but some of the most rewarding shots were from people I actually talked to. In this way I generally got full compliance and was able to ensure I met a principle parameter of the project which was that each image had to be discernibly shot in Glasgow. I learned how the body language I projected had critical impact on my subjects, if I could suggest indifference towards them I had more freedom to catch the moment thus deceptiveness became second nature. I got caught out now and again but I also worked to the consistent principle that you must keep going and not let the missed shots curtail the spirit or hunger for the next shot. Definitely the most intense form of photography I have attempted.

Glasgow is the subject of the third book I am publishing in June this year and will feature a selection of street work from this project and features text and commentary by renowned Glasgow writer Des Dillon.

Allan Wright

Monday, 1 May 2017

Holly Burns - Experimenting With Textures and Blending Modes

As artists, from chefs to painters, we all must experiment with new tools and recipes in order to grow creatively. If you are a photographer, I challenge you to spend some time experimenting with textures and blending modes.

We see this technique used most when people are trying to make the photo look old, vintage or scratched, mimicking the style of sepia toned film prints or aged faded colour photos with tattered edging and less than perfect surfaces.

Now I know what you're thinking - 'But Holly, I don't like that vintage effect that just wont die out!' Well, I can tell you that it is not the style in which I work in either but in almost all of my creative fine art work, I use the SAME techniques with textures in conjunction with blending modes in order to jazz up whatever imagery I'm working on. You likely don't photograph in the same style that I do either, but trust me, there is gold in learning these techniques no matter what your style is.

Textures are a lot of fun! Not only are they a great way of enhancing your photos, they are very good at making you see the world around you differently. I have often been seen photographing what a lot of people might consider to be insignificant things, from the beautiful aged marble in Venice to dirty supermarket floors (yes Tesco, that strange person was me and sorry, not sorry!) I really enjoy experimenting with different textures to expand my creative horizons. It doesn't always work, but the failures are learning experiences and help me to grow.

Take for example 'Flowerheads 1' down below. You can see that the initial background was just a plain, uninspiring purple wall. I decided that I wanted a bit of subtle texture back there so I photographed a dirty piece of perspex that I found in an industrial estate, layered it on top, masked it off the body as you can see in the middle picture and changed the opacity to 50% and blending mode 'soft light' and voila - an instantly more interesting background.

And then, there are pictures I simply could not have made without the aid of textures and blending modes. 'Atlantis' below, was taken in my sisters attic. I wanted to create an underwater scene but had no means to do so, so I got creative! I set up my camera on a ten second timer and posed in a way that made me look like I was floating. I then did what I call a 'texture walk' and looked for all surfaces that could look 'watery' when blended correctly. Here are some pictures to show how:

The first image is simply the picture taken in the attic with a skylight and a black backdrop. The second is an image of marble, I think from Rome but I cannot be sure, sorry! The third is the marble layered on top with the blending mode changed to 'soft light'

Going a step further, I photographed the side of a fish tank, carefully removing it from the body and the lower half of the image. This, mixed with the marble, created a lovely underwater feel. The third picture is of the final piece after some colour adjustments.

Different blending modes have different effects so make sure you have a play around with them to get the best one for your image. Here's how:

Place your texture on top of your image by copying the texture by going to Select > All. Then going back to your original images, paste the texture on top using Edit > Paste. The texture is now sitting on top of the original image in the form of an opaque layer like so.

By default, the blending mode is set at 'normal'. Here you can see that I have changed the bleeding mode to 'soft light' and set the opacity to 52% because that is what best suited this particular one. Every photograph will be different so you will have great fun playing around to find what is best for yours. Do this by simply clicking on the drop down menu until you see all of the different options. It should look something similar to this:

And there we have it! This is just one example of how a relatively simple technique can significantly add a level of creativity and enhance your images.

Holly Burns

Monday, 24 April 2017

Laura Hudson Mackay – Save the Date! Spring Fling 2017, Studio 49 on the Orange Route.

Dumfries and Galloway’s Open Studio weekend Spring Fling is just a few weeks away! The event will showcase the work of 90+ artists throughout the region from May 27-29, 10.30am - 5.30pm each day.

This will be my third year taking part in Spring Fling, from my studio in New Abbey, where you can see the latest work from the ‘Visions of Time’ series, along with images from the November 2016 trip to the Sahara Desert with other members of Galloway Photographic Collective.

There will also be the opportunity to see the first photographs and stories from the Upland project Confluence and Celtic Storyteller, Anne Errington will be at the studio telling stories and talking about the project, on Sunday afternoon (stories start at 2pm) and Monday morning (11am). Children of all ages are welcome!

Come and find out more as I open the doors of my working studio, gallery and darkroom for Spring Fling. Cake and refreshments provided, within the peaceful grounds of Abbots Tower, a 16th Century Tower House.

Directions: From Dumfries, follow the A710. Just before the village of New Abbey, turn left and follow signs for Landis Farm. Take the driveway to the right of Landis Farm entrance. Abbots Tower is situated approx 200m along the driveway, behind the farm.

Laura Hudson Mackay

Monday, 17 April 2017

Kim Ayres – Using your camera for video

Most cameras these days have extremely good video capability. But creating bad videos seems to be even easier than creating bad photos. It’s not just poor lighting and out-of-focus images you have to deal with, but movement that can make you feel seasick too!

But don't let this put you off. If you tap into your photographic skills, then you can have quite a bit of fun with video too.

There are 2 different ways to film with video – one is to follow the action with the camera, while the other is to keep the camera still and allow the action to happen in front of it.

It’s this second style that suits photographers particularly well. If you compose the frame as you would with a photo – paying attention to light and composition – then anything that happens within the frame has a good chance of looking OK.

You can also use Photoshop for basic film editing, and it has the advantage that you can apply a lot of the effects, such as manipulating the colours and contrast too. Do it right and it almost becomes moving photography.

But before you decide to create your own epic 3 hour film, it's a good idea to start with something short to try things out.

My friend, the poet David Mark Williams, was bringing out a book, so we decided to do a series of short (around 1½ minutes long) videos of him performing his poems to camera.

With "The Solace of Cupboards" we did a very simple setup with the camera on a tripod, Mark (as he’s known to his friends) against a black backdrop, and a single light, which he clicked on at the start and off at the end to hint at the idea he might be in a cupboard. And in the editing, I converted it to black and white and darkened down the shadows until only the highlights remained

"The Devil’s School of Motoring" required us to leave the confines of the studio into the cramped conditions of the car. However, by using a wide-angle lens, and Mark leaning into the camera, it created a very claustrophobic atmosphere, which was ideal for the sense of discomfort you might have if the devil himself was your driving instructor.

Getting ever more ambitious, for "I Don’t Know The Address" we roped in Mark’s wife, Val, to drive us around the town while we did the shoot. And this time I filmed him performing it from 3 different angles to edit together aftewards. I might have done a 4th, but unfortunately bouncing around in the car while constantly looking through a camera lens made me feel car sick, so we cut our losses rather than make a mess of their car.

The point of this post is to encourage you to get creative with your camera in other ways. If you know how to light and compose an image, then you can use these skills for video too.

And if you need a subject to experiment on then local bands, who are always skint, will be delighted if you can help them create a video for their music.

Or find yourself a poet…

Kim Ayres

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Tom Langlands - Small But Beautiful


The wren is not the smallest British bird. That definition goes to the even more diminutive goldcrest. However the wren along with the goldcrest present interesting challenges for the photographer. Apart from being very small they are also quite flighty and tend not to sit for long in the same place.



This is a great time of year to photograph either of these species as they tend to be quite active hopping about hedgerows and in the case of the wren foraging in the reed-beds at the edges of ponds.


As spring moves into summer their habitats tend to get more overgrown making it harder to find them and even harder to get those nice clean shots with uncluttered backgrounds.


For its size the wren has a remarkably loud call that makes it easier to locate.


With both of these species patience is the name of the game and it takes good fieldcraft and lots time and patience to locate the right environment, find spots where the birds appear reasonably regularly and wait for that combination of the right light and the right pose.


When it all comes together I find it hugely rewarding to get shots of these very small and very active little birds that are such a lovely and important part of our natural world.


Tom Langlands

Monday, 3 April 2017

Roger Lever - An Hour in the Woods

What a difference a good spell of weather can make!
Location. Culrain, Sutherland.

The woodland behind the cottage was made up mostly of Scots Pine, Larch, and Silver birch. In March none of these trees have yet come into leaf. This allows plenty of light into the wood itself through the canopy. At 6.30 in the morning the sun had not risen but the sky was clear and a gentle frost hung on the ground.

Rosie our dog trotted along in front of us sniffing the scents of wild animals and vegetation. We both spotted the red deer hind at the same time.

Rosie made a brief dart in its direction but it was soon lost in the denseness of the woodland and we all continued our stroll up the path towards the small lochan about a quarter of a mile through the trees further up the hillside. Before we got there the sun had risen its rays illuminating small trees

Patches of mossy earth and the old mans beard (Osnea) dangling from the branches of the old birch trees. Osnea is a lichen which often grows on sick or dying trees. It is very sensitive to air pollution especially sulphur dioxide. Where the air is unpolluted they can grow up to 20cm long as I saw in the trees on the lower reaches of Mount Kilimanjaro a few years ago. This lichen also has medicinal properties as an antibiotic and is used as a dye producing various shades of orange, green and blue.

When we reached the lochan the far side was lit by the morning sun and there were geese and ducks in pairs skirting around a little island at the far side.

A frog was swimming breaststroke along the waters edge in front of us and came to rest on a small rock not far away.

It created gentle ripples that extended way out to the island and not seeming to lose any of their original momentum until it got there. This created small gentle undulating wavelets with reflections of the loch side trees creating an upside down abstract impressionistic painting in the water.

After lingering a while on the bank watching the ducks come and go and the odd heron flying by we made our way down the steep path next to the burn. An isolated little primrose had just come into flower

the surface of the rough water glistened as it plummeted down the hillside burn. The waterfall forming masses of bubbles on its tortuous path between the rocks.

Then just a gentle walk home listening to the birds and watching the suns rays illuminating the trunks and branches of the trees before tucking in to a hearty breakfast.

Roger Lever

Monday, 27 March 2017

David Moses - Why aren’t your pictures good enough?

This is a question that we all ask ourselves from time to time (at least we do if we are working hard enough). And it’s a difficult one to answer. But it’s not so difficult to do something about - and that is infinitely more important.

So what can you do? Find something on your doorstep to throw yourself into. Find a subject that doesn’t require you to go far away to shoot. This way you have no excuses. There is always something on your doorstep that is worth photographing. It may not be grand or fashionable, but it will sure as hell be important.

Find a way to photograph it that gives it meaning - don’t look for the obvious shots. This requires you to ‘work the scene’. By all means, shoot the obvious shots, if only to get them out of the way and then keep shooting. Stay with your subject, return to it time after time until you feel something click.

For example, we have entered lambing season. We live in a rural area so there is plenty of potential for imagery. I knew that I didn’t want an image of a lamb gambolling with an out of focus daffodil in the background. That kind of imagery has no meaning. This image is not an easy one to love, it takes time and effort to see it’s beauty (at least it did for me) but it most definitely has meaning and resonance.

I wanted something that represented life, death, seasons, hope, despair, time, youth, sadness, age, meaning, chance, cycles, change, beauty - all the things that Spring is about. I can see all of that and more - when I look at this image I see the earth, literally the earth spinning through space. I see the lakes and rivers and the oceans and the bones of the earth. It took me 3 weeks to shoot this image. It was worth every second.

So if you want your pictures to be good enough - get out and throw yourself into something until you shoot an image that excites you. That makes youclutch at your heart.

David Moses

Monday, 20 March 2017

Stargazing Scotland - Viewing and Photographing Celestial Events of 2017

Each year a large number of different celestial events occur in the night sky. Meteor showers, lunar phases, the aurora: different celestial events happen for different reasons, and each has it’s own unique beauty. In this blog I’m going to briefly explain some of these events before highlighting a few tips about how to view and photograph them.

Lunar Phases
On an Autumn night the full harvest moon rises as a giant, wobbly orange ball. Get up before dawn on the approach to new moon to see a slender crescent ascending from the East. Not only are lunar phases regular, they’re magnificent. With a bit of careful planning around the lunar calendar it’s possible to predict where and when the moon will rise and set. Combine this with a planned composition, get lucky with the weather and it’s possible to capture this beautiful phenomenon in all its cosmic glory. gives an accurate lunar forecast specific to your location. From March 29th, look West after sunset to see the evening crescent moon sinking into the horizon.

The Aurora
A description of the aurora is not necessary for the readers lucky enough to have witnessed this elegant form of space weather. For the readers who haven’t seen it, any description I can offer will fall utterly short of the ethereal dance of the northern lights. The sun ejects charged particles (solar wind) into the solar system, these are attracted to our magnetosphere and directed to the poles. They react with the atmosphere, making it glow in green, white, red, purple, yellow, blue…

Following will give a reliable solar wind forecast. There are other sites too but this is a good starting point. For reasons not fully understood, around the Spring and Autumn equinoxes a large aurora display can be triggered by the most gentle solar wind. Because of this, the best times to ‘chase’ the lights are the equinoxes. Time your trip with a new moon to maximise the detail in an display you see.

Meteor Showers
Comets originate from the outer areas of our solar system. When they enter the inner solar system radiation from the sun heats their core, stripping away parts of their bodies to form a tail of ice and dust. Sometimes these fantastic objects pass through Earth’s orbit, leaving their tails behind. Every year, Earth passes through the tails of past comets. As our planet ploughs through such a tail, ice and dust burns in our atmosphere as meteors.

With a little planning it’s possible to witness and photograph these amazing celestial events. The ‘peak’ of the meteor shower is when Earth passes through the thickest part of a comet’s tail. Because Earth is travelling in a specific direction through space, the shooting stars appear out of (or ‘radiate’) from a specific part of the sky. This is called the ‘radiant.’ Meteor showers are named after the constellation from which they radiate. Download the free planetarium software - Stellarium - by following the link below. You can use this to learn about the constellations for meteor shower viewing.

Below is some information about two of the best annual meteor showers. Also, follow this link to find out about other showers.
Any photographers wanting to capture shooting stars should plan a composition (at an area free from light pollution) to include the radiant. Then, during the peak of the shower, use an external shutter release to capture hundreds of images in succession. This will maximise your chances of a meteor appearing in your frame.

Perseid Meteor Shower
Peak: 12th - 13th August
Radiant: Perseus
Origin: Comet Swift Tuttle

Geminid Meteor Shower
Peak: 13th - 14th December
Origin: Comet 3200 Phaethon

The planets orbit the sun. Because of this they constantly change position in the sky; the name ‘Planet’ originates from the ancient Greek word for ‘Wanderer.’ It’s easy to follow the movement of the Planets, use Stellarium (linked above) to track their movements across the heavens. Below are some good dates to see some of the famous planets in our solar system.

April 7th. Jupiter at opposition. On this date, the largest planet in our system will be at it’s closest approach to Earth and therefore at it’s brightest. A pair of binoculars should also reveal its largest moons.

June 15th. Saturn at opposition. This is a good summer opportunity for stargazers and photographers. Saturn remains in the area of the sky close to the heart of the galaxy; a brilliant opportunity for any photographers wanting to capture two of the most beautiful celestial sights in one image.

I have covered just a few of the many exciting things available to view and photograph in the changing 2017 sky. If you have any questions about these events and how to photograph them please feel free to contact me.

Jesse Beaman
Stargazing Scotland