Monday, 26 June 2017

Tom Langlands - The Poetry of Photography

When I'm not taking photographs I am writing and when I am not writing I am taking photographs. That's pretty much the way life works for me but the division between words and images is far less easily defined.

I love reading and writing poetry and have come to realise that poetry by its nature generates images in the mind and the fact that the subconscious mind has generated the image helps make the poem stick around in the memory for longer than it otherwise might.

I have started to explore this combination of poetry and imagery and have discovered that one can inspire the other. Sometimes I see a scene or an event or a photograph that generates an idea for a poem while at other times I have a poem in my mind and I seek an image that will compliment or raise the profile of the poem. It is a powerful combination.

At the moment it is very much early days for my ideas but one that I am starting to explore more and more.

The following image of a graveyard was taken at a slow shutter speed and with intentional camera movement. It wasn't until I saw the final image on the computer that it made me think of how we create death - not just as images with a camera but also as products of our mind. I then wrote Death by Words and combined image and poem.

Hebridean Lament started as a photograph that I had taken and it conjured a dark, sombre mood that was both literally the end of the day but also a metaphor for the end of life. It was several months later when I found the words to express how I felt about the image.

Message in the Sand was also a case of finding the image first. I stumbled across this dead gannet on a remote beach on Harris in the Outer Hebrides. I have no idea how it died but the way its body lay on the sand made me think of how we treat this planet and the price that life pays for putting profit first. The poem came several weeks later on the back of the image.

But sometimes it is the other way around. I was contemplating the birth of our first grandchild and was considering how a baby would regard its impending birth and what the lottery of life would throw at it - both before its arrival into the world and immediately afterwards. These thoughts found form in The Big Lottery. I then got my hands on a scan of an unborn baby - not my image - and combined the poem and scan. For me when viewed together they are each greater than the sum of the parts.

Therapy came about when my daughter was making paper origami table decorations and I happened to contemplate this ancient asian art-form. It seemed like good therapy and that was the inspiration behind this piece. The image was snapped on a phone in the fish section of a garden centre.

For me there is always a fine line between different art-forms and just as artists create works in 'various media' I like to work with words and images. After all a picture is not just worth a thousand words it can also be a thousand words.

Tom Langlands

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Allan Wright - The Duskmeister

Early last year I was idly looking at new cameras in my favourite camera shop. I was happy enough with what I had, but, creatively I guess I was a little bit in the doldrums. Good salesmanship was applied to this lost soul as I was gently introduced to a new Nikon D500. The principle selling point that caught my interest was its excellent low-light capability. At the time I was approaching a book project which would involve a fair bit of street work, a handy little idea to help justify the purchase.

I have never really been obsessive about equipment relying more on observation and planning to get results. There was a surprise in store therefore when after some early sessions it started to dawn on me that this little piece of technological hardware could take me to low light places hitherto unthinkable, a dawning of the power of dusk hah ha.

I experienced a liberation in terms of what subjects started became fair game. In effect I realised there were no limits, if you could see it you, could capture it. I found I was using the ISO setting (sensor sensitivity) right across the range occasionally up to the maximum of 52,000, always hand held with handling ease and accuracy that really impressed me. Furthermore when the resultant images were tidied up in the Camera Raw app I was completely sold, the image had a look about it and had rendered the kind of shadow detail I had only dreamed about.

As my affection for it grew (sad I know!!) I subsequently nicknamed it The Duskmeister. Ultimately it has been responsible for 60 % or so of the new images in my forthcoming book “Now Glasgow” co-authored with locally based fellow Glaswegian Des Dillon.

Dusk view up the Clyde from Albert Bridge in moonlight – 6,400 ISO

People Make Glasgow – Girls stepping out – by George Square 52,000 ISO

Mural under the Kingston Bridge 3,200 ISO

See you Jimmy – Argyle St - 10,000 ISO

Moral of my story – technology and creativity can jive.

Allan Wright

Monday, 12 June 2017

Kim Ayres - Fashion Shoot at the Rural Mural

"A fashion shoot in front of bold, colourful, urban graffiti," said Morag MacPherson as we bounced ideas around on how to photograph her textile designs.

"Sounds cool - do we know anywhere around here that has something like that on the walls?"


And so that idea was put on hold and instead we grabbed the opportunity to photograph her silk kimonos in a boudoir-style display at The Yellow Door Gallery (see Colourful Kimonos).

However, last year Morag was involved in the Spring Fling Rural Mural project, which saw her teaming up with Tellas to paint the side of a large barn which mixed both of their artistic styles.

This in turn led to the realisation it would be the perfect backdrop to photograph her outfits.

I had the idea of creating a spotlight effect with the models in a circle of light, casting shadows on the walls behind, but that would require an evening shoot.

Jessica, one of the models from the previous shoot, was available, and I'd recently met Katarina, who was completing a photography course at the college. She was also a model and happy to take part.

I'd also been in conversation with Ralph Yates-Lee, hairdresser extraordinaire and owner of Dumfries hair salon, Basement 20 who was willing to come on board and bring with him Jody, another hairdresser, and Jojo the makeup artist.

With a growing team of professionals involved in the shoot, I figured this would be a good thing to video. But because it would involve night time shooting, it would need someone who knew what they were doing.

Enter fellow GPC members, Helen and Jesse of Stargazing Scotland who specialise in astrophotography and Dark Sky tours and workshops.

And so it came to pass that on a Tuesday evening we all descended on Morag's studio to introduce everyone to everyone else and get the models ready.

Katarina gets her hair done by Ralph

Jody and Jojo work on Jessica

Jesse filming

Action man

It was time to head out to the location for the photo shoot. Even allowing for things running later than expected, I assumed we'd all be home by midnight. As it was, I didn't finish packing up until 1.30am.

Once on site, tea, coffee and home made flapjack from a hamper, courtesy of my wife Maggie, went down extremely well, then the shoot began.

With models, hair, makeup and video going on, there were 9 of us on site in total, making it was one of the largest shoots I'd done up until that point. Although it was all extra pressure, I found part of me thrived in the situation. Of course it helped that everyone was extremely professional and engaged in the project.

Here are a selection of some of the final images.

We might have finished later than hoped, but it all worked out in the end.

As an added bonus, here's the short video (under 2 mins) I put together using the footage shot by Jesse and Helen of Viridian Skies. The music is comes from my band, The Cracked Man, where we took our song, Zero Energy, and added a dance beat. I was surprised at just how well that worked.

Textile Design - Morag Macpherson - -
Models - Jessica Lee -
and Katarina Marie Kositzki - -
Hair and Makeup - Basement 20, Dumfries - Ralph Yates-Lee, Jody Crossan, Jojo Patterson -
Photo shoot took place at - Meiklewood Farm, Ringford, Castle Douglas, DG7 2AL
Rural Mural backdrop - Morag Macpherson and Tellas - - -
Video footage - Jesse Beaman and Helen Cockburn - Stargazing Scotland
Photography and Video editing - me -
Music for video - The Cracked Man - -

Kim Ayres

Monday, 5 June 2017

Roger Lever - This Earth is Precious

This Springtime has been one of the most lingering and exquisite that I can remember since coming to live in Dumfries and Galloway.

On my daily walk with my dog Rosie I am constantly in awe of the quiet inevitability of signs of the newly emerging season.

The dramatic change from the dormant hidden life during the wintertime to the vibrant colours and sounds of Spring is perhaps the most magnificent.

I watch the bluebells develop from the earlier signs of life reemerging way back in February to the sea of blue that carpets the whole wood during early May. Coupled with that the birds start singing and building pair bonds. They become less aware of my human presence and more aware of their mates and possible rivals impinging on there little patch of wood. There are at least half a dozen pairs of black birds, numerous pairs of blue and great tits.

The wren blasts out its shrill penetrating call. Amazing for such a small bird. The wood pigeons cooing constantly and doing there courtship display on some high branches of an old oak tree. The woodpeckers rattle away as they look for insect life in those high branches. I can never tell just where they are sometimes as the hammering sound against the bark seems echo and moves in all directions. They nest each year here and it can sometimes be quite difficult to spot just which tree they have decided to make their nest.

Sadly however the hole they have made in the tree seems to lead to its eventual demise once it becomes deserted and infected with fungus. After a few years it is easy to spot all the trees that have had woodpeckers nests in them because often the trunk snaps off during the autumn and winter gales. Meanwhile 6 Carrion Crows patrol the canopy every day 24/7 expressing their displeasure if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

What often comes to mind at this time of year with this splendour that nature provides is probably the most profound and beautiful statement ever made on the environment. Chief Seattle in 1854 made a reply to the GREAT WHITE CHIEF in Washington who made him an offer for a large area of Indian land.

Roger Lever

Monday, 29 May 2017

David Moses - Working out what to shoot in street photography.

What do you want to shoot in street photography? What is it that you go looking for? Do you know what you are doing when you walk out of the door? Or do you wander aimlessly?

For me, I find strong colours to be a very appealing thing to photograph in the street. That doesn't mean that the scene needs to be dominated by them. In this instance, a little slither of that deep blue is all that is needed to stand out against the ochre reds, earthy tones and shadows. This makes the impact a lot stronger. There was a time when I would have skipped right past this image, because you can't see a face, it's very central etc etc. But now I'm much more in tune with what I want from photography and this kind of thing really appeals to me.

I have been studying a lot of Jacob Aue Sobol's work and have been learning much from it. "When I photograph, I try to use my instincts as much as possible. It is when pictures are unconsidered and irrational that they come to life; that they evolve from showing to being." - Jacob Are Sobol.

This is a very interesting perspective and one that is very refreshing. It is thinking like this that allows you to have much more freedom when pursuing street photography. I know that I have changed a lot in terms of taste and visual sophistication. My interests in street photography have become a lot more personal and about expressing something in myself rather than an effort to represent and document the world around me as it is. This has come from looking at the work of photographers I admire.

In practical terms this means that I look for certain things i.e strong colours or shards of light or strong shapes or places where people stream through. I am not looking for street performers or people walking past advertising signs or any of the other street photography cliches and mundanities that pervade the genre. It also means that more and more I shoot instinctively. I use my knowledge of what I want to get. I put myself in a good position to get the shot. Then I let my instincts take over.

What do you want to photograph?

Having a purpose when being out and about is very helpful. I find that it encourages me to create better work. If you go and look at the work of the best photographers in the field (like Jacob Aue Sobol) you can learn how you want to structure your images. I don't mean go and photograph the same things that they photograph, but try to understand how they approach their work. Use that knowledge to inform your street photography.

You can download FREE street photography Lightroom presets here -

David Moses

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