I’ve moved!

Hi everyone, I know, it’s been a while, sorry.
You know that I’ve never really been great at keeping things up to date on here.I’d hoped this last year would have been more productive, I’ve at least 5 posts written that I’ve never posted due to needing more images and you guessed it, I never got around to getting them! However, I’m hoping that will change this year. There’s that word, HOPE. To hope or try is to often invite failure but I’m feeling quitely confident this time.
You see, recently, I’ve created a new website where I’m hoping to sell both prints and products. It’s still new and only phase 1 is finished but it’s off the ground and I’ve linked my blog to it. So, from now on, any blog posts will be on there instead of here, sad, I know. I’ve got a small following on here and if you’d like to continue following me, I’d be extremely grateful. The new site is up, my first blog post went on today and I’ve time set aside to get more done over the coming month. With the blog linked to my store, I think it will force me to keep it up todate and professional.
I will take this website down at some point and most likely repurpose it for another idea I’ve got in mind but we’ll see, first thing is first, I need to get selling!

Anyway, I’m still around, I’ve just got a new home at http://www.vtls.co.uk If anyone has any questions you’re always welcome to reach out to me, there’s a chat button on the website or you can email me at info@vtls.co.uk

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read my blethering and took the time to comment, I’m grateful.

Stay safe and take care,
Paul.

Stepping Back in Time at House of Dun

Last week, my family and I headed up to St Cyrus, near Montrose for a well earned holiday. It was our first time in this area and I can say, we weren’t disappointed. It’s a very beautiful part of the Scottish coastline with stunning views and a crazy amount of stately homes and castles as well as a huge amount of history going back thousands of years.

St Cyrus beach from the cliff path.

There’s so much to see and do in this area and it’s ideal for a short break away.
Whilst on holiday, we visited House of Dun, near Montrose. This Georgian house is one of magnificence and grandeur and we’ll worth a visit.

View of the stable block and way in.

It was designed by William Adam and it was completed in 1743 to replace the draughty old tower house of the Erskine’s.

Rear view looking over the Montrose Basin.

The Erskine’s had lived on this land from the 1300’s up to 1980 when the house and it’s belongings were bequeathed to the National Trust for Scotland.

Courtyard view to the west of the house. The white building in the middle was a larder.
Entrance into the courtyard.

 I’ll not pretend to know the history of this house or family so I’ll leave it there, you can find plenty of information online if you’re interested.

The walled garden joined to the east of the house.
Rear view looking down to the Montrose Basin.

If you’ve not been here before, I’d highly recommend a visit. A guided tour of the house takes about 45 minutes or so then you’ve got the fantastic grounds to explore, all the way down to the Montrose Basin. If you take your time and wander down the many paths you’ll be sure to come across some really interesting things to see. As well as the house with all of its magnificent artwork, there’s two walled gardens, an ice house, cemetery and more. It’s a really great day out!

One of the falls on the woodland walk.
The family mausoleum.

Below, is a selection of images taken inside the house whilst on the tour. The tour guides were great, especially Louisa who plays the part of the Lady of the House, Violet Jacob. They’re dressed in period costumes and tell you the story of the house and the family, they helped to make it a really great day out. They were knowledgeable too, my kids asked questions as did I and a few other guests also. My only complaint, I wanted to go round again and take my time to admire the amazing furniture and artworks and photograph things at my leisure. Not much of a complaint though is it?

As always, thank you for taking the time to read this. Feel free to share it far and wide and if you’re in the area, stop by for a visit, you won’t be disappointed, it’s well worth the money!

All the best, Paul.

Skyes the Limit

The island of Skye is a bucket list location for so many people, myself included and this summer I was fortunate enough to visit this magestic place.

Primarily, I’m a landscape photographer so you can imagine my excitement, however, when I’m out exploring with the family I find proper photography quite difficult, by the time I’ve got the tripod set up, chosen my lens, sorted my filters, everyone has walked off without me and I’m left playing catchup! Over the years, I’ve learned that I need to just photograph on the go and I take many of my images off the cuff. Our family trip to Skye was no different.

We travelled all over the island and managed to fit in most of the usual tourist locations. I took far too many photographs but, to be fair, that’s what I expected to happen, what I didn’t expect, was to take 95% of them on my mobile phone.

My phone is the Huawei P30 Pro, it has a great camera and I’ve taken many good images with it but at the end of the day, it can’t compare to a DSLR or a mirrorless camera….or can it??

The answer is ‘no’, of course it can’t, however, I’ve found that by stitching many phone images together, it’s possible to create a much more detailed image with higher resolution and the purpose of this post is to show off a few of those stitched images. Now, normally a panoramic image has a ratio of 2:1 or larger and many people tend to crop the image to a ratio of 16:9, however, my crops are, well, a bit random. I’ve kept them large to fit in what I wanted to fit in so it makes some of them a little abnormal in size but these images are for me, so that makes it okay.

Stitching panoramic images together isn’t anything new, landscape photographers do it all the time but normally with more professional gear and lots of planning. All of these images, except the one labelled “Pentax DSLR”, were taken on my phone, handheld. Some were from our walks on Skye and others were taken on the drive up.

Once I’ve got my images, I use an app called ‘Bimostitch’ to blend them all. As I said, they’re never going to compete with a proper DSLR pano but I will say, I was impressed with how they turned out. To give you some idea of the difference, normally a phone image comes out between 6MB and 10MB in size, with really good lighting I can get closer to 15MB, when stitching the images together, I’m often getting between 30MB and 50MB. Although size isn’t supposed to matter, in this case, it definitely does as there is more detail to be had. The first image below shows a comparison between a 12MB phone image and a 38MB stitched image. As I stated above, they’re not DSLR quality images, but for sharing on social media, they’ll do just fine. I’ve found myself to be using my phone more and more for photos, I’ve even been printing some and the majority look great. Am I ready to give up my camera’s yet? No, definitely not, however, I am loving the convenience of having a powerful phone camera in my pocket wherever I go.

Take a look at the images below, see what you think and maybe give it a go too.

Remember, you can click on each image to see it in full screen, if you’re on a mobile phone though, you may want to rotate it so it’s in landscape.

Take care,

Paul

The image on the left is the stitched 38mb photo, the right is the 12mb. Although the stitched one is still lacking detail in places, it’s significantly better than the singular image. You’ll also notice the difference in the sky, this is a result of Bimostitch trying to balance the exposure of each image.

The Three Sisters, Glencoe.
Part of the Trotternish Ridge.
The Fairy Pools on a rather dull day.
The Quiraing. Taken from just beyond the carpark.
Loch Leven, Glencoe.
Pap of Glencoe.
Old Man of Storr.
Eilean Donan.
Portree from Penifiler. – Pentax DSLR Image
This has a lot more detail in it and it’s almost 90MB in size. You can see people’s houses and gardens when zoomed right in.

Newshot Island, a Window into the Past

On a very wet and extremely grey looking day in September 2020, I chose to explore the old ships graveyard at Newshot Island, near Erskine. With Scotland just coming out of her first lockdown caused by Covid, I was excited to be out exploring once again and I was determined not to let a little rain spoil it for me!

Although situated just 300m from a housing estate, it’s not the easiest place to get to, at least, the main group of wrecks isn’t. Whether walking through the field or along the coast, either way, you need to walk through some rather gloopy and deep mud and it’s not for the faint of heart. To be upfront, I wouldn’t recommend anyone visiting the wrecks. Now I’ve been and seen how dangerous it can be walking through all that mud, my advice would be to visit from afar, use binoculars or a long lens. As well as the danger of the tide, you’ve got the possibility of getting stuck in the mud, stop too long or stand in the wrong area and you will sink.

These day’s, Newshot isn’t really an island, the channel that separated it from the mainland has silted up and it’s now hard to see it as the island it once was. There are no structures on the island, although the old OS maps show one small stone building near the middle. It has a long history but the part I was interested in was the shipwrecks. 

Ship or boat? I’ve never really been sure what the correct terminology is. Some of the vessels I’d probably refer to as boats as they are small, flat bottomed and made of wood, however, there is a larger wreck made of metal and as well as some schooners too, so there’s a mixture of both. Either way, whatever they should be called, they make an interesting site to see and superb subject matter for photography. 

Aerial View from Bing Maps

Some of you may already know the history of this site, others may be asking what the story is, so let me tell you the little I know, for anything more, I’m sure Google can fill in the blanks. 

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the Clyde was widened, deepened, it even had a wall built to speed up the flow, all in the hope of opening up the channel for trade and shipbuilding. Transporting goods from Port Glasgow was proving too slow and expensive and there were limits to how many ships could be docked at any one time. Merchants, especially the tobacco merchants were pushing for Glasgow to deepen the Clyde so they could float larger vessels further down to Glasgow itself and they got their way. It was a task that would take a very long time and a huge amount of money but one that made Glasgow the pre-eminent shipbuilding capital of the UK and helped it to grow to be the mammoth city we see today. 

The remaining wrecks, about 20 or so in number, are what’s left of the fleet of hundreds used to dredge the Clyde. Most of the vessels are known as mud punts, small flat bottomed boats loaded with mud dredged from the floor of the Clyde, however, there is also one, far more interesting vessel, much larger and made of metal with a strange square cut out of the rear.

This beauty is a diving bell barge, one of the oldest still surviving and the first one ever used on the Clyde. Surviving may be a slight stretch, it’s slowly disappearing into the mud and being made of metal it’s rusting away too, however, considering it was built in 1852 and it’s been sitting in the mud for over 100 years, it’s done okay.

It’s a really interesting site to see, as are the schooners further along the shore. The schooners are made of wood and they suffered fire damage in the early 1900s. Still smouldering, they were towed here and abandoned. Only the lower part of the hull is now visible but you can see the metal struts that show the original deck height. 

Although I don’t think I’d chance another visit, it was a fantastic experience and I’m glad I took the time to explore, even though I was soaked through by the time I returned to the car, thank goodness my camera and lens are weather sealed!

Pentax KP

Keep in mind, without venturing onto the mud, you can still visit a couple of the wrecks by following the path South-east from the car park on Kilpatrick Drive. Head along past the old Park Quay and down onto the stony beach. There are paths to walk through the tree’s too but it’s not a very long walk, should you wish to stretch it out, head back up towards the car park and keep going North-west towards the Erskine Bridge Hotel.

If you’ve managed to get this far, thank you for taking the time to read it, I hope you enjoyed the history and the images equally as much.

Stay safe,

Paul.

If you’d like to see a few more images not posted here, head over to my Facebook page, VTLS Photography

As always, the images shared on this post are my own and solely my property. They should not be taken, used or shared without my consent. All images have been taken with either my Pentax KP with the Pentax HD 55-300mm ED WR lens or my Huawei P30 Pro phone. 

Facebook Group

Rules and Guidelines
(Updated September 2021)

 

If you’re reading this then it means you’ve joined our Facebook community, so welcome and thank you for choosing to join us! 😀

We’re a small Facebook group and we really like it that way. VTLS is not a group for showing off or getting a vast amount of likes, although, liking an image is still important to us. It’s a group for like minded people who love Scotland, who photograph it and want to be part of a community. Interaction is key, we want our members to talk, share information, give constructive comments and most importantly feel like they’re making new friends.

To keep everything straight forward and keep us all on the same page there are some group rules that we’d kindly ask you to follow. Please take a few minutes to read over the rules below and if you’ve any questions you’re welcome to get in contact with myself or one of the Moderators, Jim or Angie.

Again, thank you for wanting to join our little community and we really look forward to seeing your images and getting to know you.

Paul

Creating an Interactive & Welcoming Community

  • We’re all unique and at different stages of our photographic journey so please keep this in mind and treat everyone with kindness and respect.
  • Healthy debates are natural but we won’t tolerate any sort of nastiness or negativity from our members, those posts will be removed and potentially, so may you be.
  • The key to a healthy and active community is communication. Don’t be afraid to comment on an image or interact by liking or loving it, but only if you actually do!
  • Please don’t discuss any subject that could cause friction or upset. We appreciate many of you will be passionate about certain subjects and may feel the need to discuss your thoughts and opinions, however, VTLS isn’t the place to do it.
  • You chose to join the group and hopefully you enjoy it enough to recommend us to other people. However, before inviting anyone to the group, please let them know you’re doing so. Anyone you invite to the group will have 5 days to accept or it will be automatically declined.
  • We’re an interactive group. Ideally I want to see members posting their images, however, if you’re not posting then I’d ask you to add to the group in other ways. You can click ‘like’, and you can comment, please, get involved. Members of the group who are seen never to interact or post may be removed. It’s all about adding value.

Privacy & Copyright

  • Being part of this group requires it’s members to have a mutual trust. Authentic, expressive discussions can make a group great, but sometimes conversations can be sensitive and private. What’s shared in the group should stay in the group.
  • Please remember, any images that are added to this group will always remain the property of their owner & no one else may ever take, copy or sell without permission from the owner of the image. I know some of you may want to share the images with other groups, however, please ask before choosing to share elsewhere.

What can I post?

  • The group is all about celebrating Scotland and everything Scottish. Photographs, video & artwork depicting Scotland are allowed, as are scottish related images too, ie, something Scottish but in a foreign country. If you want to share anything that’s not your own work, please, ensure you’ve got permission and remember to credit the creator.
  • If you’re considering adding 10 images or more, please create an album with the name of the place as a title.
  • The group has various themes across the month. The main monthly theme must always be images from Scotland, however, all other themes, unless stated, can be from anywhere. Just please state where it was taken and don’t bombard the group.
  • We’re not monsters, you’re welcome to share an image from your own personal Facebook page or you’re own photography page but, please, no promoting the page. Please ensure any privacy settings have been adjusted so all ‘non-friends’ can see your hard work. We’d also ask you not to share or promote any other photography groups. 
  • Within the announcements section there is a post where you can share your photography website and Instagram account with the rest of the group. Please only post these within the comments, any posted to the main feed will be removed.
  • We don’t allow the promotion of any services, no selling of products or images, no spam and no irrelevant or dead links. These will be removed without notice.
  • I know many of you will wish to watermark your images and that’s completely fine, however, please, consider the size of the watermark. Having it cover the majority of the image or detracting from the image itself spoils it for everyone. Think of the size, shape and transparency of any watermarks.
  • Due to various themes, you may feel the need to repost an image you’ve previously posted and that’s okay. Remember though, you’re camera is designed to be used, not sit in the bag forgotten and lonely 🙂 Reposting is also a good excuse to try a new edit of the image.
  • When posting please consider the image. We would discourage any image where the ‘main subject’ is political or football-related or any other subject that could offend, this includes partial/full nudity. If admin thinks it could cause any issue or feels it’s not suitable it will be removed.
  • If you’ve any camera equipment for sale you’re welcome to post it in the group, however, please note, you should switch off commenting. If it’s not done, Admin will do it for you. Please ensure you state all conversations must be done through private message. Sales posts should not be repeated unless agreed by Admin. The group itself takes nothing to do with private sales and Admin will not get involved in any disputes.
  • When posting, it would be appreciated if you could use the “Check-in” function so other members can easily locate the place should they wish to visit. If you don’t want to check in, please include the name/location in the title of the post. The group is about sharing Scotland’s beauty and by providing the location you’re helping other members.

Meeting up

  • The group have been known to meet up on occasion. Any meet up’s or events will be added to the “Events” tab along with details of the event and times.
  • If any member of the group is heading out for a bit of photography and they’re willing to open it up to other members then we’d ask you to create an ‘event’. Please include details of where you will meet, the time and the aim of the meet. If you can, please, add a link to a map showing the location too. If anybody needs help with this just message me, I’m happy to set the meet up for you and manage it too, it’s no problem.
  • If any members are meeting up, we’d encourage you to think safely. The group can be a source for like-minded individuals but you must always let others know where you’re going and who with.
  • If any event is arranged by the group or on behalf of the group, please be aware that these meets are intended to be meet-ups between friends or like-minded individuals. We will decide on the date, time and location but getting to the location is your responsibility as is any cost incurred. The group have no funds or insurance and will not pay or reimburse any costs that you may have incurred.

 

On a Cold & Frosty Morning.

Blantyre Park Farm Woodlands_9There is nothing quite like photographing on a cold and frosty morning, literally nothing like it, as its bloody freezing!

One morning last week I sat in work looking out of the window and everything was slowly being whitewashed, there was a freezing fog, low cloud cover and a light dusting of snow. As I was working late there was no possibility of photography however I vowed on my day of I was heading out.

Blantyre Park Farm Woodlands_8_2

I chose a little known place nearby, situated at the back of Hamilton and Blantyre, I say little known as unless you live locally or work in the area most people aren’t aware of these paths. Most of this area was once farms and vast fields now we have a Technology Park, a university and many, many houses. Of course there are still fields and farms but far fewer than ever before.

Not far from the hamlet of Auchentibber sat the farm known as Blantyre Park, now mostly gone and covered over by the new houses at West Craigs. However, you may be surprised to know that there are still plenty of the old farm tracks remaining, certainly enough for a great walk. You can enter either from West Craigs or from the Technology Park, there are a few paths and the walks can be done in a circular. You can choose to follow the few miles of paths or like me, head into the trees and follow the route of the Red Burn up to Park Road. The Red Burn runs through a deep cleft in the landscape and makes for some lovely scenery. Unfortunately there is the usual dumping of rubbish and random barrels along the way however it’s still beautiful, especially as the sun rises through it.

Blantyre Park Farm Woodlands_11Blantyre Park Farm Woodlands_8_1Blantyre Park Farm Woodlands_6_2

You can see from my pictures that I had all sorts of light to play with, from bright sunlight, to dull and dingy to almost ethereal, there are so many different looks to my photographs that you would think I visited over multiple days.

Blantyre Park Farm Woodlands_5Blantyre Park Farm Woodlands_6Blantyre Park Farm Woodlands_4Blantyre Park Farm Woodlands_2

You will find a few other walks in this area, so if you fancy making it a longer walk you do have a few choices. You can stop at the recently refurbished Auchentibber War Memorial or you could head along the behind the building known as Browns Land and walk up to Dykehead Woods where you will not only get great views over Hamilton but you can see the old Lime Kiln.

Thanks for reading, below are some more images taken on the day.

Paul

© As always, all images subject to copyright and cannot be used or shared without prior permission.

Exploring Taymouth Castle

In 2017, I had the privilege of receiving an invite to attend a private group tour of the magnificent Taymouth Castle. All doors were open, no restrictions made and photos were allowed anywhere we chose, how could I possibly say no! Well of course I didn’t, I spent nearly the whole day there and what a magnificent day it was!

Taymouth Window_3
View from the front ©

This symbol of luxury and wealth is situated about a mile to the east of Kenmore on Loch Tay. The current building was built in the 19th century however it rests on the cellars of the older Balloch Castle which was built in 1552.

taymouth-window_2-01.jpeg
The tower, built on top of the original castle ©

The lands of Taymouth or Balloch Castle as it was once known was the home of Clan Campbell for many centuries and remained in their ownership up until 1922. As you may know, the Campbells are one of Scotlands most notorious Clans with many a story told and many a battle fought. There have been records of them since at least the 13th century however their origins apparently go back much further, back to the time of the Britons of Strathclyde. They have always been a clan with ambition and one rarely crossed without consequence, they have been involved in more battles than I have time to write about and have helped end many a rival clans ambitions, sometimes even ending the clan itself. There was a time they owned land from the east coast to the west coast, land that formed a belt across Scotland which meant they knew the movements of anyone crossing through and you can be sure you only crossed the Campbells lands if they let you. They were a clan of means and they knew it and with the ability to raise an army numbering in the thousands they had little to fear.

Continue reading “Exploring Taymouth Castle”

Eastend House.

Autumn is definitely my most favourite season, the crisp air and the vibrant colours stir emotions like no other season does. It may be colder and there’s less daylight however in my opinion it’s the best time to be out walking and exploring.

In fairness, I’ve missed most of this Autumn, a lack of time and if I am honest with myself, a lack of enthusiasm too. However last Sunday I was up and out early, determined to catch something of this most vibrant season before it goes again for another year.

The Carmichael Estate is one of my most favourite places to go and wander, it’s large, it’s beautiful and it is bursting at the seams with history. I have been there a few times before over the years however I have only photographed part of it and that was in the day’s when I kept my camera on “AUTO” having no idea how to use it. This time I ventured to an area that I have no photos of at all, the grounds of Eastend house.

I parked at the estates farm shop and walked down to the house, it’s not far, a 10 minute walk, no more than 15 minutes if you dally. It’s an easy walk and flat, starting off on a tarmac road and changing to a muddy track after the lodge house. You walk along what once would have been a lovely driveway into the property, with mature trees and large bright green bushes.

Eastend House 19.11.17_1

Grand Avenue ©

I arrived just after the sun had come up, it was still climbing and casting the most magnificent glow into the woods, bathing everything in a golden light. The colours were fantastic, everything was over saturated and vibrant, the different shades of red and yellow leaves became more of a rusty-red and orange, it was a beautiful morning to be out and it definitely took me more than 15 minutes to make it to the house.

Eastend House 19.11.17_4

Walking up the drive ©

Eastend House 19.11.17_13

©

After photographing the drive and some trees I moved on, heading to the walled garden. The wall itself is still intact however there is nothing to be seen inside, it’s just overgrown grass punctuated here and there with some trees and bushes. I can’t say I spent much time there, I had a quick look and moved on.

At this stage let me point out that there are various holiday cottages for rent throughout the Carmichael Estate and you will come across a couple of them over in this area. I would ask that if you choose to explore this area please be conscientious of anyone who may be staying here and grant them some privacy.

Eastend House 19.11.17_3

©

The house itself is situated right next to the walled garden and can be approached from both the front or rear, you will also find the coach house and stables not far from the house.

Eastend House 19.11.17_7

South view of Eastend House ©

The house although beautiful is in a bad way, windows have gone, walls are cracking, stones are missing and inside the floors have collapsed. It’s in a very bad state of repair and I would not recommend entering the house. It’s dangerous and you would be risking your life, the owner also has CCTV installed and does not take kindly to anyone attempting to enter the property. For the record, I have never ventured inside Eastend however you can see the damage just from looking through windows. There are pictures online and videos on YouTube should you wish to see inside.

Not far from the house is a lovely pond and another cottage. It was so serene that I had to stop and take it in. Some birds, the tricking of water and the occasional rustling of leaves was all that was to be heard, absolute bliss.

Eastend House 19.11.17_10

The pond ©

Eastend House 19.11.17_8

Cottage for hire next to the pond ©

It was an odd little spot, the trees on one side of the pond were all Autumnal yet the side where the cottage sat was nearly all green with frost covering everything, both sides in complete contrast with each other.

Eastend House 19.11.17_9

Alternative view of the pond facing south west ©

It was a bitterly cold morning, minus 3 degrees so after a short break I walked around the coach house area then snapped a couple of pictures of the front of Eastend then headed back to the car. It always amazes me that in every picture of the front door to Eastend House the blue door is punchy and bright, it’s as though it refuses to give in and be like the rest of the house.

Eastend House 19.11.17_11

The front view of Eastend with the bright blue door ©

If you haven’t visited the Carmichael Estate before then I would highly recommend it, there are two ruined houses, lots of cottages and plenty of lovely places to walk, you can easily lose a day here. Let me also add that there is a small farm shop where you park, a wax museum detailing the history of the area and a lovely little tea room you can visit.

I will hopefully head back down here again soon and take some pictures of the rest of the estate to share with you all.

Paul.

© As always, all images subject to copyright and cannot be used or shared without prior permission.

A Little Grain is Good for the Soul

You may, or may not remember I previously wrote a post titled “Death of the Point and Shoot”. I was essentially saying why do we need pocket cameras anymore when we all carry mobile phones that are capable of taking such good photos.

Well it may surprise you to learn that I have recently not only dug out my old point and shoot but I have purchased a few others also. Your probably thinking “Really? Why?” Well let me enlighten you further.

When I say point and shoot, its a 22-year-old, 35mm film point and shoot. If my memory serves me well I received this as a 16th birthday present from a family member and used it little. I took it on a few holidays here and there but I never had much use out of it as I held no real interest in photography back then. However when I recently came across it again I purchased a battery and some cheap film and set about using it.

It’s a whole different world using one of these and my kids can’t grasp it at all. Every shot I fire off I get asked “can I see it?” Even my wife is asking me “why use it, you have a proper camera, whats the point?”, “you do realise there is a cost to shooting film?”. However they don’t get it, it’s the simplicity, the fact I have almost no control over the shot so I need to take my time. I need to think each shot through and take into account the light and composition because if I get it wrong I will have wasted a shot and it will cost me more money. Shooting 35mm slows me down, I find it more relaxing and it’s enjoyable.

Image result for agfa vista plus 200

Now this is all new to me, my previous excursion into 35mm film 20 odd years ago was nothing more than a point and click exercise with little thought put into any photo. As this is a new adventure I did not want to spend any real money on film so after a quick Google search I found that I can buy camera film at …..wait for it…..Poundland! And guess what, it’s only a £1!! Bargain.

Ok, so it’s not Kodak Ektar, it won’t win me any awards but it will (hopefully) allow me to learn without breaking the bank, film isn’t cheap you know.

Current selection

After stocking up on the cheap and extremely over saturated AGFA Vista Plus 200 I started to stock up on 35mm point and shoots. Again I hear the “why” however considering I now own 7 and they have all cost me less than £15 combined I don’t feel that I have wasted my money. I have a couple of lovely Pentax zoom lens cameras in perfect condition, a couple of older fixed focus Olympus, Kodak and Vivitar cameras and my original Canon SureShot 60 Zoom.

It will be a while before I’ve got around to using them all, however as I use each I will share the pictures with you on here. At the moment it’s all over saturated AGFA Vista film that I’ve shot however I have just received a roll of Kodak Professional T-MAX 400 ASA which I have been told is one of the best possible black and white films to have. I can’t wait to use it however I’m waiting for the right day, preferably bright with lots of shadows, I’ll also need to decide what camera to use. I am also currently shooting a roll of Kodak Advantix APS film that expired 11 years ago, I’m curious to see how that turns out.

Once all of the cameras have been played around with and I feel that I have more of an idea of whats required when shooting film I will purchase an SLR or Rangefinder, I haven’t decided which yet.

Now this doesn’t mean the end of digital for me, far from it, (although I did recently sell my DSLR with a selection of lenses) no, I plan to still shoot digital and I’ve recently acquired a Pentax K50.

So for now I’ll leave you with a selection of pictures recently shot using my Canon Sureshot 60 Zoom. They’re not great but for my first foray I’m happy.

Paul

© As always, all images subject to copyright and cannot be used or shared without prior permission.

Detour

The sunsets recently have been beautiful, some of the best that I’ve seen in a long time. Each night as I look out of my front window I think, I need to get out and capture one of these.

I’m always full of good intentions.

So last night, there I was heading to the supermarket for some things​ when I saw the sun setting. It was stunning, the best one that I’ve seen recently, I had to get a picture of it.

So I quickly turned the car round and headed off to slightly higher ground in the hope of a quick pic or two. I didn’t have my DSLR with me and didn’t have time to head home for it so armed with my mobile I parked up on a country lane and took a few quick shots before it disappeared behind Dechmont Hill.

Had I my camera and tripod and had I planned in advance I could definitely have got better pictures However I am more than happy with how these came out, especially the first one.

Time poor 

Clyde walkway, Bothwell Castle.

Click the picture to download the Clyde walkway leaflet for Bothwell.

Aside from my family, there are three things in my life that I feel extremely passionate about, photography, walking and history. Any one of the three can cause me to lose hours from my day.

Kype Water, Sandford.

Clyde walkway, Bothwell Castle.

Regardless of the weather there is nothing I enjoy more than to be out wandering around the countryside. Generally before any adventuring, you’ll find me pouring over old maps and looking for historical information about the area that I plan to visit. I love finding relics from the past, old ruins, abandoned buildings, monuments, graveyards, that sort of thing. These all make for fantastic subject matter in my photographs and that allows me to combine all my favourite pastimes into one trip out.

Graves, Lanercost Priory.

However like most people these days I am time poor. I like to think I’m a family person and always put their needs first (my family may disagree!) but then I find that my hobbies take a back seat. Between work, a wife and 3 children I struggle, struggle to find both motivation and the time to squeeze in much else. However since February this year I’ve been making an effort to get out at least one day a week even if it’s only for a couple of hours. When I’m out it’s mainly been for a walk, anything from a few miles to as much as 8 depending on where I go and how much time I have. Believe it or not I don’t normally take my camera with me, mainly due to time constraints, however I always have my phone.

View of Carnwath Church and St Mary’s Aisle.

Inside St Mary’s Aisle, Carnwath.

On most of my jaunts my focus is walking, generally it’s around some old historic estate trying to find any remains. I may not have my camera but I always try to take some photos on my phone. Not only does this provide me with a record for the future, it allows me to share what I have found with others online.

Taken near Culter Fell.

My photography has definitely taken a back seat over this last 6 months. It’s not that I’ve given up on it or lost interest, it’s just I don’t have time to spend on it along with everything else, and exercise has definitely been more of a priority. I am hoping now the mornings and the nights are lighter that I can fit in some proper photography between now and September but only time will tell.

Inside the summer house at Dumfries House Estate.

As I previously mentioned in another post, it amazes me how good mobile phone cameras have become. Some of the photographs I have taken whilst walking have turned out really good and I find now that I am enjoying using my phone more and more for photography.

Waterfall, Kelburn Castle.

My phone is the Huawei P9, it has a dual lens camera co-engineered with Leica with one dedicated lens for monochrome. The results are fantastic, the quality is way above any previous phone I’ve owned or used, it allows manual control and shoots in DNG RAW format. As I said, I’ve had this with me on my travels and I’ve taken pictures on each trip. What your seeing on this page is some of my favourite pictures over the last few months, all taken on my phone and edited from RAW using Snapseed.

Mausoleum, Lowther Castle.

We nearly all have a phone and it’s generally never far from us, I’d encourage you all to think about what you like and start taking some pictures, you don’t need the biggest or best camera to make a good photo. Remember, a photo is recorded by the camera but it’s taken by the person holding it.

Hermitage Castle, Newcastleton.

The Wider View. 

Well it happened again! Once more I’ve fallen into a lull and I’ve been neglecting my photography. The reason? Well, part of its time, part of it’s the stress of being a parent, a husband and working full time too. How do other people manage and still fit in a social life?

Anyway, I recently had the pleasure of spending a Sunday touring about the Scottish Borders. What a fantastic area to explore and I hardly even scraped the surface! There are so many ruins to explore, there’s iron age and bronze age hill forts, old churches, beautiful old cemetries and the scenery, well its just as beautiful as up north and just as dramatic in places too.

Now I was out with a decent sized group of people and was constantly feeling like I was holding everyone back while I stopped for photos but the views, they were amazing. The snow covered hills and the grand houses, the autumn lanes….. I was in my element. Now I’m not going to bore everyone with all my poorly shot snaps however I did do something I’ve never done before. I took multiple pictures and stitched them together into a panoramic. I hadn’t planned to and it was done quickly and off the cuff, however I was pleasantly surprised with the results.  And now, well I’ve found a new mistress and I can’t wait to do more!  I only took 4 of them however one is just blurry and dull so it’s been consigned to the back of the hard drive never to see the light of day. These 3 I am happy with, especially for 1st attempts.
Thanks

Paul

Death of the Point and Shoot? 

Do I or don’t I?

OK so my title is maybe a little over dramatic but I believe there is becoming less and less need for a pocket point and shoot camera. Most of us carry our mobiles everywhere these days and therefore we always have something at hand to shoot with and the quality on phones is getting better and better. Why carry a camera and a phone and why pay the extra money for a camera?  Now I’m not talking about higher end compact cameras I’m talking more about the occasional, opportunistic shooter that keeps a camera in their bag, pocket or car. As the saying goes “the best camera is the one at hand” and the one most of us have to hand is our mobile phone.

Canon at Culzean Castle

Inside Aberdour Castle

For years now the best mobile to capture anything on has always been an iPhone, the picture quality has been great and you can make excellent prints from them. However these days there are so many good phones with really excellent cameras on them, the iPhone is no longer the only viable option. The Samsung Galaxy S7, the HTC 10,the LG G5 and the Nexus 6P, all of these are top phones and top cameras. They each have their strong points and their gimmicks and each will leave you satisfied with the snaps they take, however if I said Huawei, would any of you think of them being a true competitor to any of the aforementioned?

Inside Culzean Castle

Now this post isn’t a phone review as such, it’s about my choice of phone and how flexible I’ve found it to be. All pictures within this post have been taken on the Huawei P9.

The terraces, Aberdour Castle.

Bluebells at Calderglen

Back in May I changed my phone from my old LG G2 over to the Huawei P9. Now I spent months looking into phones and their camera’s, reading and watching review after review, playing around with the handsets and seeing which one fitted best. In the end I opted for the P9, mainly because of its camera’s. It has dual camera’s, one for RGB and one for black and white only and the quality is just fantastic. You have full manual controls as well as a host of others options to change the way you shoot and to give you certain types of shots.

Culzean Castle

I’ve been blown away by the quality and control that I have and felt it was worth sharing some shots I’ve taken on it. Now maybe my shots are not quite as good as I think, or maybe they are, you be the judge. However I do feel confident that they prove the Huawei P9 has one of the best cameras out there on a phone.

It goes to show though how far mobile cameras have come on in recent years. They’ll never replace a CSC or DSLR however a lot of modern phones shoot in RAW and they are now good enough that they can replace most point and shoot cameras.

I love the depth of field option in the camera, it allows you to be more creative. Its gives the same effect as you would get on a DSLR using a low F-stop and it can create a lovely bokeh effect.

It’s also has good low light performance. It does tend to lighten an image a little too much sometimes however most evening shots work out well.

You’ll also find some interesting options for taking shots with a slow shutter speed. Here’s a few slow shutter shots taken with the P9.

The Drumelzier Burn – 10 second exposure

The new Raith Interchange – 30 second exposure

Moon and stars – 30 second exposure.

If I’ve peaked your interest in this phone then here are some reviews worth checking out.
Pocket Now, they do a full camera review in detail and compare it to the other high end phones. https://youtu.be/9XWu3v0juJI

GSM Arena, a fair an honest review. http://m.gsmarena.com/huawei_p9-review-1428p10.php

Here are some more photos.

A World Without Colour

When looking through my galleries on Instagram, Flickr or Google+ you’ll see a pattern emerge. My pictures are mainly landscape, sometimes with old churches, castles or houses included but landscape all the same. There is another common recurring theme, the vast majority of my pictures are in colour. Colour always seems easier, it is after all how we see the world and in landscape the different colours of the different seasons is quite often what makes the photo. However, for anyone who has seen an old black and white picture or a modern-day black and white or even infrared photo you will notice that they quite often carry more detail, they make certain aspects stand out more and they can create a stronger sense of emotion. In a way there simpler, stripped back and naked and they allow you to focus on whats important in an image without the distraction of colour. So over the last 6 months or so almost all my trips out have resulted in a proportion of my shots being specifically aimed at black and white photography. It’s been about trying to change my perception, to see the world in contrast and tones, looking for light and shadows and aiming to pull as much detail as possible from each shot. Recently I’ve set up 2 new Instagram accounts, “world_without_colour” and “upclznpersonal”, both are aimed at black and white photography although the latter is more street and portraiture, both areas I plan on expanding on in the future. If you’re an Instagrammer please feel to take a look at either account and drop me a message to let me know what you think, I’m always looking for feedback.

Below I’ve added  some of my favourite shots taken in black and white so far, some on my camera, some from my mobile. I hope you like them.

Paul

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Inside the Royal Yacht Britannia

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Braidwood House, Lanarkshire

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West Lodge, Mauldslie Estate

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New Lanark

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Glengavel Reservoir

Dunfermline Abbey
Dunfermline Abbey

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New Lanark

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Old Mill Lade, Boghead, Lanarkshire

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Inside Inchcolm Abbey

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The ceiling inside Hamilton Mausoleum

The “Wild Life” of Photography

This post is a little late, 6 months late to be exact.
Back in October 2015, I spent a long weekend up at Inverness. Whilst there I spent the day at the Highland Wildlife Park near Kingussie.

It’s a really great place to spend a day, one of the most enjoyable zoos I’ve had the pleasure to visit. You’ll find a great selection of animals there and as well as a safari drive through.

Wolverine
The Ever elusive Wolverine. I must have spent the better part of an hour trying for a picture.

I decided in advance it would make sense to take a long lens with me of which I have 2. The one I chose was my Pentax 75-300mm F4.5 lens. I’ve previously used this lens and I’ve found that it’s auto focus is not quite what it should be. It never seems give a sharp picture and for that reason I’ve rarely used it. However I felt being at a wildlife park that I was going to need my longest lens which is this one, so I gave it another chance. I switched off auto focus and used manual only and by taking my time I managed to get some decent snaps. One thing I learned was that by using the long lens and manual focus, I was able to almost get rid of the cages and mesh surrounding the animals. You’ll still see some slightly blurry lines across some of the pictures where I couldn’t quite focus the cages out however in general I’m reasonably happy with how they turned out. Using the lens for the day has given me the confidence to do so again, although I’ll be keeping it on manual.

I’ve picked a small selection of my favourite pictures to show you, I do hope you enjoy them.
Paul

Snowy Owl

P.S. If you ever decide to visit make sure you head up to the picnic spot at the top of the hill near the entrance, the view from there is spectacular.

View from the picnic area

Click on the photos below if you want the full size image.

 

Snow Leopard
I got a little to close to its cage and it took um-bridge and pounced towards me. I ended up going backwards onto my rear!

 

 

 

An Early Rise

On Saturday I managed my first trip out alone with the camera in quite some time. I was aiming to catch the sunrise however I slept in a little and almost missed it.

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I had decided the night before that I would go to Blackhill. It’s one of the highest hills in the area and commands splendid views of Clyde Valley and further. It’s a National Trust site but freely open to anyone who wants to join the cows and sheep and take the short walk to the top.

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Unfortunately I had picked a very hazy morning, it limited my view and it was only as I packed my tripod away the haze began to clear. I could see Ben Lomond in the distance as well as the Ochil and Campsie Hills. On a clear day you can see Goatfell on Arran and the Cobbler too. It’s a beautiful place to stop and admire the world, its clear to see why people have been coming here for over 1000 years. The hill is home to a Bronze Age burial cairn and was once the site of a large Iron Age fort. If you follow the path up the hill you can see the defensive ditch and the opening in the middle just to the left of the stile. Anyway here’s a few photos I managed in the haze. I haven’t done many sunrise or sunset shots before, I like my bed to much and at night can’t be bothered going out once I’m settled in. However I’m reasonably happy with my results, they could be better and I’m sure they will be with practice.

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Photo Opportunities & Walks, in and Around Lanarkshire

Updated on the 10th of May 2021

Anyone who knows me will know that I love the outdoors, I love exploring and finding places to walk and to take photographs. I’m always on the lookout for new places to explore and capture and I am happy to share my knowledge with others in the hope they can benefit from it too. So, that’s what this post is all about, I’ve put together a list of some places that I’ve enjoyed going to for my photography however there are a few places that I have not yet visited. I have researched these sites and they’ve been added to my list of locations to visit as I’m confident they offer great local opportunities. I have listed all of the locations on the Google map below, clicking on the location will give you some information about the site. I have split the map into photo locations and walks so it’s easier to select which one you want, you can filter the options by clicking the square symbol with the arrow on the top left of the map.

If anyone reading this wishes to contribute to the list please feel free to drop a comment. However please leave a description and Google Maps coordinates so it’s easy for others to find.

Lastly I would like to ask anyone who visits any of these sites that you show respect and please do not enter the buildings as some are in a bad way and can be dangerous. Also some are privately owned like Cambusnethan and Eastend and their owners do not want anyone entering the buildings.
If you wish to get in contact regarding anything within this post on please feel free to email me at questions@viewthroughthelens.co.uk

Well I hope after reading this you find somewhere worth exploring and photographing. If you do please feel free to let me know how it went, would you recommend the sites I’ve chosen? If you want to link any pictures you’ve taken into the comments then please do.

Thanks very much for reading, hope you find something of interest.
Paul

Below you will find some websites that I find are a great help when I’m looking for places to visit. I’ve mentioned a few times about looking at old maps before heading to some of these sites so you can get an idea of what once was there and what may still be. I would normally look up pictures on Instagram and Flickr as well as a Google search. It helps you give you an idea of what you may want to capture.

For old maps I use the National Library of Scotland, it’s free and has extensive coverage and the maps can be overlaid. http://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=5&lat=56.0000&lon=-4.0000&layers=1

I also get a lot of ideas from a Facebook groups I am part of. The main ones are “Lost Houses of Clyde Valley”. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1475717922681828/ and “Castles, Mansions and Historic Houses of Scotland”. https://www.facebook.com/groups/642086055910658/permalink/803741759745086/

There is also the excellent “Blantyre Project”. http://www.blantyreproject.com/

RAW Around the Ages. A Day at Loch Leven.

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Before I start, I’ll apologise for the lower resolution images used on this post. In this trip out I used only my mobile phone (LG G2) for photos. I recently unlocked my phone and have since installed a custom camera that allows manual settings and Adobe DNG RAW files. So all photos were taken as RAW then edited using Snapseed on my phone. I was curious to see how far I could push my phone and what image details could be recovered when editing. It’s certainly not going to replace my DSLR however most of the photos came out better than I expected especially the ones with blown out sky. Anyway, there ok viewed on a tablet or phone but not so good on a laptop or PC.

Now moving on to my lovely walk around the loch.

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Last weekend my wife and I had our annual night of freedom from the kids. We booked into the Green Hotel in Kinross for a night and were very much looking forward our day and a half of peace and quiet. After a nice afternoon at the hotel and a lovely meal that night we were well relaxed and rested. We had decided we would go walking the following day but had not decided where and spent some time looking at various places to visit. However, we finally decided that we had Loch Leven at our door so we should use it.

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This is Loch Leven in Perth and Kinross, the fresh water one, not to be confused with the sea loch up on the west coast of Scotland near the village of Glencoe. The loch has a heritage trail that you can walk round, its just over 13 miles (21km) in length and is fairly flat and easy to walk. It is a very pleasant walk although, it is a long walk if you do it all.

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There are plenty of benches to rest upon, I’d say you’ll find one every 10 minutes or so and there is some lovely spots for picnics too. The benches are lovely, they all have a phrase or saying carved into them, I really should have taken a picture of one of them. You don’t have to walk the full 13 miles, there are various points you may stop at and enjoy the view as well as a few places you can stop for a quick refreshment.

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We chose to walk it all and stop at Vane Farm, its an RSPB site with a nice little cafe where we refuelled with cake and coffee. image

If you start at Kinross and walk around clockwise it’s about 9 miles to Vane Farm. There’s a tunnel that goes under the road, you walk down the steps and it’s only 2 minutes on the other side. You can drive here and park up then take a walk around the reserve from here also. image

It’s a busy place, lots of walkers, joggers and cyclists however I was very impressed with how little rubbish there was laying around and there was not much dog mess either. The council are doing a good job of keeping it clean and tidy.
It has some beautiful view points and you have good views of the islands in the loch. There are 7 islands visible these days although this was not always the case, prior to the loch being drained it covered a far wider area and there were only a couple of islands visible.

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Loch Leven Castle sits on one of the islands, this was where Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner in 1567. It can be reached by ferry at certain times of the year and is managed by Historic Scotland. Unfortunately due to it being a good distance away and with me using only my mobile I have no decent pictures of the castle, sorry. There is also St Serfs Inch which is the largest of the islands and was once the home of a monastic sect and had a priory built on it. The history of this area goes back a long way. Loch Leven is an RSPB nature reserve and a site of special scientific interest.

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If your in the area and are looking for a relaxing walk then I would recommend it. The whole walk is estimated to take around 5 to 6 hours depending on fitness however it can be walked quicker, we managed it in just over 4 hours, this was with a coffee stop included. As I said though you can shorten the walk if you wish and there is decent public transport options to help you with that.
If after reading this you feel the need to explore the area and decide to stay a night or 2 my review of the Green Hotel is on TripAdvisor from 27th February. All reviews for this hotel can be found here http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/194060?m=19905

As always, thanks for reading.
Paul

The Festival

For years now I’ve been saying that I will go to the Edinburgh Festival, every year I say it. Do I go? Well no, never or at least I haven’t been in the last 12 years, that was until last year when I finally managed to fit it in. Although it was quite a while back that I was last there I have to say the memory of it has always stuck with me, for anyone who has only experienced it once you will know what I mean. The atmosphere is electrifying and contagious, you feel that you have no choice but to smile and laugh and get involved in everything that’s going on around you. The streets are packed and there is so much going on that it’s nigh impossible to take it all in. Regardless of where you look there are performers placed strategically everywhere, various singers, dancers, jugglers, sword swallowers, there’s people dressed in all manner of costumes and garb from all different periods. It’s downright amazing what you see and at times a little overwhelming as you just don’t know where to look first, afraid if you face the wrong way you will miss something.

I had always planned to go in alone or with a photographer friend of mine however as plans do, they change. It became a family event and my wife and my 3 children accompanied me and we all made a day of it.

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My children loved it, they had seen nothing like it and they couldn’t get over the fact everyone was in a costume of sorts, they also could not understand why someone dresses as a statue and does not move for an hour, to be honest, neither do I :-/

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The whole day flew in and other than our hunt to find somewhere to eat that wasn’t queued right out of the door it was a great day.

It’s amazing that people travel from all over the world to experience the festival, and to take part in it. Below is a gentleman who hardly spoke English and had travelled over from China to be part of the festival. He juggled blocks and balanced them which sounds fairly rubbish however it was worth the 25 minutes we had to wait while he stretched himself and got ready for his performance.

One of the things I enjoyed the most was the music. There was musicians and bands all over the place, some playing acoustically, some not. There was metal and rock, bagpipes and ballads, country and pan pipes too, it was a veritable symphony of a hundred different instruments coming at you from all different angles. It was great!

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There is some really talented people out there and its a pleasure to hear and see something that you would not normally show an interest in. I find that it completely opens up your senses and gives you a sense of joy when you see so many people enjoying themselves and having fun, as I said, it’s contagious.

This guy was one of my favourites, half of the time the bubbles didn’t materialize, but when they did they were amazing. It’s the look on his face that makes it for me, it looks like he has just done it for the first time and amazed himself. I also felt the skeletal gentleman adds to the picture, it’s as though he just waiting for it to pop!Edinburgh Festival 2015-0005

If you’ve never been before or like me it’s just been a long time I would encourage you to go in 2016, you won’t regret it and you will have the memory forever.

Well as always, I thank you for reading through my post, I hope to see you back for the next one. Any comments, drop them below.

Thanks, Paul.

Chloes Baptism

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Its been a long while now since I posted, far too long in fact. So much has happened since my last post, so many days out, places visited and tales to tell. Where to start really.

Well I felt a good place to start would be my nieces christening, as this site was supposed to be about me improving my skills and my photography journey and this was the 1st time I had taken photos for anyone other than me.

Chloe is an adorable little girl, she’s 5 years old, fairly quiet with a really cheeky grin and has a knack for getting messy! My sister made the decision last year she wanted Chloe to be christened and had it all arranged fairly quickly. I offered to take my camera to capture the moment for them.

Now, I am a landscape lover, an admirer of architecture, there’s nothing better than a sky full of cloud and some hills to shoot or a ruined castle begging me to record it’s slow demise. Family, friends, people in general, not really my cup of tea. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to do portrait and events, it’s just, it’s someone’s day, “what if I muck it up”. However, I suppose confidence is all part of the journey.

So what you see here is some of the photos taken on that educational day. I only used my 50mm lens and all pictures were taken either on “manual” or “aperture priority”. I have only included a selection of photos taken on the day as I have not spoken with everyone who was there and have not gained permission to display their photos online.

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