Image of the week

A day earlier this week as I will be busy working at Bruichladdich tomorrow for their contribution to the Islay Whisky Festival 2015.

Yesterday 22/5 the new owners of Islay House which is being renovated into a luxury hotel held a mini open day of profess so far coupled with a whisky tasting by the SMWS.

I met with the owner Paul Brown, who gave me me a tour which included some parts of the house which weren’t on the general tour on the day.

The picture is of the main kitchen of the house pretty much as it was left after it was last used with everything covered in a few centimetres of dust!


Photographing Bluebells Pt’ 2

In May 2014 I wrote about the composition of photographing bluebells.

One year later the bluebells have returned and this time we look at how focal length can affect composition of bluebell pictures. In most peoples eyes long focal lengths and flora photography are a natural mix but maybe this will persuade you otherwise.0547

If we take a look at the picture below taken from the same spot, it shows the difference between using 100 mm & 200 mm as your focal length.


The first thing that strikes me is how much the wall creates a header for the picture and the bluebells in front become more dominant in the frame.

All long focal lengths will compress the perspective and this can help if there aren’t too many flowers for the shot, although that is not a problem here with the flowers at Islay House ( currently being developed into a luxury hotel ) on the island of Islay.


Because the plants only stand 12-18″ off the ground the top of the shot doesn’t want to be much higher than this otherwise the plants become pretty minimal in the frame, so crop the shot tightly to the top.

The shot below is cropped tightly to the top but contains sycamore leaves as well, this wouldn’t normally be possible as the tree leaves would be well above ground. In this instance a fully grown tree was felled two years ago but has started to re grow from the roots.


Breaking that rule slightly is the picture below, again shot at 200mm, the land behind the plants falls away which gives the infinity pool effect and with the sun flowing through the tree canopy and illuminating a single branch makes a pleasing composition.


Backgrounds are just as important for close ups especially, these plain leaves work very well.


And finally a couple of “white” bells add an interesting contrast to the scene.



New Laphroaig Tasting Room


On wednesday evening Laphroaig distillery opened their doors to invited guests to show off the new tasting room at the distillery.


A premium tasting was laid on and included the four drams in the image below.


The first dram was the new 15 year old released as part of the distilleries 200th anniversary celebrations, and interestingly distillery manager John Campbell mentioned that the youngest spirit was 17 years old and the oldest 21 years. This begged the question, why not call it a 17 year old? Apparently it was reduced to a 15 year old name to avoid confusion with the core 18 year old product.


Another interesting touch was the “Opinions Wall” This consists of a wooden panelled wall with cut outs the size of a cask bung where visitors are invited to write any comments on new bungs and then push them into the wall. Once the wall is full (which won’t take long) the bungs are then used on new fill casks as they go into bond. So you could see your bung in a cask on a warehouse tour in the future.



Image of the Week

This week a picture of the maltings at Port Ellen which supplies many of the island distilleries with their malted barley. The plant is owned by global drinks giant Diageo who also own Caol Ila and Lagavulin distilleries on Islay.

The single storey buildings in front house the world’s last stocks of Port Ellen whisky that is still in cask.


Image of the week

One of my favourite areas of portraiture for taking and viewing is the business/lifestyle portrait.

It is one of the hardest genres of portraiture to get right and few do!

I spent last friday in the company of Gordon Muir, a professional stalker from the isle of Jura which is where I captured this image of him.


Image of the week

Today I was conducting a photo workshop for an Easter visitor to Islay.

Of course when you live somewhere you can pick and choose the moments when you go out to take pictures but when you are on holiday you pretty much have to take what you get.

This was the case today, when I woke up I couldn’t see the bottom of my garden, the morning flight onto the island had been cancelled because of lack of visibility. ┬áThese sorts of conditions don’t fill you with enthusiasm or inspiration. On the up side because a client was waiting for me, it forced me to pack the camera and go out, rather than roll over and go back to sleep.

There was a preplanned route along the west coast of the island. Our first stop was to photograph the rock formations near to Smaull farm, I’ve been there many times before and in much better light and also sunsets. However the dull conditions made me decide to go for a long exposure (40 seconds) in this instance. Care was taken at the exposure stage as not to burn out the highlights which is all to prevalent with modern day cameras whilst at the same time retaining detail in the shadow of the rock on the RH side of the image. I have managed to keep both detail in the whites and blacks.

On getting home whilst the picture looked Ok, it did need lifting so I decided on a mono conversion and raising the contrast in the image. I’m not normally an advocate of “well it’s dull, go to mono” as the best mono pics are always shot in good light. In this instance though mono was the way to go.1383

Photographing Daffodils

This time last year I wrote about photographing bluebells, so with the peak of the daffodil season about to happen here on Islay, here is a little guide to these yellow flowers.

The options available are whether to shoot a single flower head or a bloom and whether that should be done inside or outside. Shooting outside will give you a natural background and possibly easier if you are going for a full bloom depending on the inside space and lighting you have available.

Shooting outside.


So the upsides are that a natural or even a blue sky can be the backdrop, as with any garden photography, a simple clean background will always work best. The downside with working outdoors will be weather conditions, a very still day is needed to stop the plants moving in the wind plus you could be working on your hands and knees unless you can find some at a height.If shooting a bloom outside, finding a perfect set of flowers could be a challenge.

Shooting Indoors.

6935When working indoors, without a lot of hard work then natural backgrounds are out of the question, that’s the negative of this method.

On the plus side then controlling lighting and backgrounds along with choosing only perfect or near perfect plants are possible. There are of course no weather issues either!

Exposure and focus are critical for any close up work, for exposure always expose for the highlights rather than the shadows. Depending on the subject to camera distance then a very small aperture will be needed to give even a minimal amount of DOF. Nowadays with high quality available from current DSLR’s at high ISO’s especially full frame cameras then a small aperture and a higher shutter speed are easily possible. The above picture was lit be a single daylight balanced LED panel to the left of the camera (to replicate the sun) against a black background, there was no other lighting used in the shot.

My experience of both Canon and Nikon macro lenses means that only manual focus should be used if possible. AF will never give the sharpest results.

A useful accessory that can be used is a field monitor, this makes manual focussing much easier and also composition if you happen to be on your hands and knees. The picture below shows the set up for the picture above.




Image of the week

Safely landed back on Islay now, but a busy month follows with two more work trips away this month before staging a photo exhibition with a difference at the end of the month.

It maybe March but the weather is still very wintery and a shot here between the winter showers at Kilchoman Bay.