March 2018

Planning a Scotland Photography Trip

One of the consequences of the cheap air travel era is that I've been more likely to take a flight abroad for a trip rather than thinking closer to home. Since moving back to the UK after some time living abroad I have realised this oversight and I am actively seeking to correct it. Starting with the Scottish Highlands.

Sometimes its unexpected places or moments that yield your best photos from a trip. Still a good plan is essential and despite there being a wealth of information on the internet, it can often be overwhelming and hard to digest exactly what is worth seeing. The dead tree press still has its day, at least in my eyes. First I wanted some inspiration and where better to find some from the Landscape Photographer of the Year 10 Year Special Edition that contains a very deserved representation from Scotland. Then I got thinking "what is the Lonely Planet for photography?" to make the arduous task of deciding exactly where to go a bit easier. Luckily Dougie Cunningham has done the hard work here in his excellent book Photographing Scotland. This book, first published in December 2017, is phenomenal from a practical point of view with clear and concise directions to some of the best viewpoints in the country. I'd highly recommend it. For those cheapskates who balk at paying good money for someones hard work here is a good free online summary of spots in the Glencoe area.

Apps are also great and for some time I have yearned for one that could make planning a trip via a map much easier. My general use-case is I want somewhere to store all of the locations I'm interested in visiting, ideally with notes and photo linking, and then when I'm traveling I can plan on the fly which location I could visit based on my current location. Google Maps has lists, and I did try that before shelling out £14.99 for an app called Rego Pro, but ultimately G Maps had far too much of a clunky UI. Rego on the other had is worth every penny. It has a really simple UI that allows you to group collections with subfolders of locations. You can find locations from a searching words (using the Foursquare API) or directly via GPS coordinates, which was of most interest to me as I wanted to input some locations from the Photographing Scotland book. This took some time but should help me during the trip to consider locations easily by drive time from my current location.

Spot the Detour

Finally it was time to plan what gear to take. This is always a hard task, probably because I have too much choice (....I blame gear acquisition syndrome), but this time it was a bit more straightforward. I want my primary photography tool to be a medium format camera and so taking my full set of Bronica kit is a no brainer. This was in large part influenced by my recent collection of images captured with this camera called American Landscapes. The rendition of landscapes in square medium format really is a joy. I'm most excited to try out a couple of recent telephoto acquisitions (150mm and 250mm) on this camera for some compressed landscape shots. I think I'll take 3 film holders loaded with TMax 400, Portra 400 and a 35mm roll of something (loaded with a DIY 35mm adapter into a 220 back). However as always the temptation to take a digital camera is there and most likely I'll also take my D7100 as I don't find the Bronica very good for me with long exposures. Then just for fun I will likely take a 6x9 Zeiss Ikon Ikonta because its so (relatively) small and I've been meaning to put another roll through it for a good while now.

"I thought I paid for extra legroom?"

Stay tuned for the trip report coming in a few weeks!

The Alps

The Alps are imposing, majestic and arriving to Chamonix in France late Friday night the surrounding mountains seemed quite magical as they were dimly illuminated by the towns ambient light. The next day saw plenty of fog, so much so that it was impossible to tell you were surrounded by such great mounds of rock and earth. Sunday morning saw the fog clear somewhat and after all I felt relief that I had brought the camera and collection of lenses to get a few shots. This was the second outing for the Fujifilm XE2 that I had acquired recently and I was keen to try it out especially with a couple of Nikon Ai Telephoto lenses. First impressions of this camera are very positive: the ergonomics are excellent with the shutter speed dial and aperture rings. The EVF is surprisingly good (although not a patch on an optical SLR viewfinder) but the addition of digital focus aids for manual lenses is much appreciated. The photos below are a some of my favourites from trying to capture some of the detail in these mountains. Most are with the Nikon 200mm f4 Ai lenses, which I must say is an excellent companion to the XE2; the remainder are with the 100mm f2.8 Series E which again feels like a natural pairing to the Fuji. One disappointment was the realisation that the K&F Concept lens adapter is not accurately measured so that the focus markings on these lenses are meaningful. This means its quite easy to focus past infinity which does not yield positive results. Finally these images were processed in Lightroom with a preset mimicking black and white film which I find a remarkably good rendition.

Looking forward by remembering back

Its been 10 years since photography became a passion of mine and I thought looking back at that journey would be a good first post to begin with on this new blog.

Its fair to say that when I picked up my first camera I didn't really have any real idea or direction of what I wanted to achieve with photography. I started just capturing snapshots of trips and other moments in my life, but soon got hooked and started focusing on particular types of photography. University was a great time to get into photography; the student newspaper gave me an opportunity to try out shooting sports and concerts. It gave me an appreciation of just how technically hard these two genres are, even with some professional gear (borrowed from the student photo society).

By now I think I've now realised that photographing people, whether portraits or street are also not something I particularly enjoy. I do still try the latter when out and about but to say the results are mixed might be a bit too generous at the moment. In some future posts I'll do a recap of my top 5 favourite images of each photography genre I've tried my hands at.

So looking through my images of the last 10 years, what do I enjoy most? Landscapes. Nature to me offers the best subject, and the process of capturing these images in visiting spectacular locations is a large part of this. Looking forward I want to make more of an effort in planning my trips to be landscape orientated, and this will start in a couple of weeks in Scotland. I also want to record more my planning on this blog so I can refer back to it later and maybe help others in their plans.