2015: A year of achievement

Let’s not bother with the humblebrag and just get straight to it: I’ve had a f**king good year when it comes to photography. And I’m going to relish it!

But let’s not get too carried away here; I’ve undoubtedly had my fair share of good luck this year, combined with some planning. But at some point, lucky shots happen too often to be just flukes. And I have been getting better at taking photos and being critical of my own work. God knows I’m my harshest critic! But this post is my celebration of how well I’ve done this year, and this is my pat on the back to myself.

The year started slowly: it took my over 2 weeks to get out with the camera after New Year. I decided to sign up for a workshop at the start of February with Grant Ritchie at Real Edinburgh to try and get my mojo back. And oof! Did it ever…here’s one of my photos from the night, which made it onto the BBC News website (twice), is currently my most popular photo on Flickr (18,500 views), and was the first photo I sold commercially. You can see Forth Ports using it on their website as one of the carousel of background images.

Forth Rail Bridge Sunset Feb 7th 15

The following day I was inspired to go out and get the sunset again. That resulted in this image, which I liked but didn’t think anything of at the time.

Salisbury Crags sunset

However, I ended up entering the photo into the Ordnance Survey’s OS Photofit competition to have winning images on the covers of all the OS’s refreshed paper maps. Well, turns out I won the competition for the Edinburgh Explorer (1:25,000) map! I couldn’t believe it! So anytime you buy Explorer 350 then you’ll see this photo on the front. Not only that, but the image was chosen to go into the OS’s 2016 calendar, along with 11 other very fine photos. You can buy it here (https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/shop/os-2016-calendar.html) if you wish. I also see today that OS have used it as their daily Instagram photo to wish everyone a Happy New Year!

Then, in July, a rare lightning storm rolled across Edinburgh. Again I have to thank Grant Ritchie for alerting me to this. I was off work, and tracked the lightning strikes all day, until finally at about 1am we had lightning over the southern and eastern parts of the city. I had a great view from the living room window, and captured a whole load of lightning strikes over Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill. I ended up combing around 13 images into a blend to make a truly dramatic photo, and at 3am I posted it to Twitter and went to bed.

The tweet went mental, including a retweet from J.K. Rowling. It’s currently sitting at nearly 60,000 ‘impressions’. Small fry by Twitter standards, but it doesn’t feel like it when you’re phone won’t stop buzzing all day! That photo netted me an interview on Boogie in the Morning (a popular local drive time radio show), a TV interview for STV News (watch here), publications in four Scottish newspapers, and thousands of views on social media. It was pretty intense! I ended up selling some prints through Real Edinburgh too, which was nice.

The remainder of the year was much calmer, mostly due to cracking on with writing my PhD thesis. I ended up selling some more photos, including one to Schlumberger for an ad campaign, and various to friends. The cash raised from these and newspaper sales allowed me to upgrade my camera (twice) and so looking forward to making the most of it in 2016.

Amongst all that, I was a finalist in a competition run by Yelp for Edinburgh Festival photos with this picture:

RoyalMileFireworks-26.08.15 And generally have had lots of love on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr for my photos through the year. Two things capped off the year: firstly, I had asked friends if anyone was interested in buying a calendar I had put together to help me get a bulk discount. The response was, frankly, amazing! I wanted to sell 15 and sold 60! So thank you to my friends for supporting me at the end of the year (keep an eye out for the 2017 calendar). And secondly, just before Christmas I was contacted by a researcher for National Geographic, who want to use an old photo of mine in one of their books! I will believe it when I see it, but nonetheless, it would be a great honour for me to be published by such a venerated institution. Fingers crossed that this happens next year.

All in all, an amazing year for me photography wise. A Happy New Year to you all, and see you next year!

Britannia Fireworks

A nice surprise

Gosh! It’s been a while since I last wrote anything. I’ve been rather consumed by my PhD writing since the summer and have been neglecting other aspects of my life. Not to say nothing exciting has happened!

Back in May I found out that one of my photographs had been selected to be the front cover image of the Ordnance Survey 1:25000 ‘Explorer’ map for  Edinburgh. It has since been published and I now have a copy of the map courtesy of OS. It looks great (of course!) and I’m so proud to see my photo there.

What I wasn’t expecting, however, was to find that OS also chose the photo to be in their 2016 calendar! How cool is that? It was a surprise since OS didn’t tell me that they were selecting it; I found out on Twitter. I was going to ask for a cheeky free copy, but then a few days later one landed n my doormat. Result! Mine is even the November picture (although the photo was taken in February), meaning it ties in nicely with my November blog entry 🙂

WP

Money raised from the calendar sales will go to the OS’s chosen charity, Holding Little Hands. You can read more about the calendar on the OS blog.

I’m a winner!

And not just according to my mum, either!

I didn’t spot the email at first. Gmail kindly sorts some emails automatically into “Social” and “Promotions” groups, for which you don’t get a new email notification. I generally treat these groups as spam, and ignore them.

But Lo! Today I found an email from Ordnance Survey. I had to read it a couple of times:

Dear Kit
Thank you for entering OS Photofit. I am delighted to tell you that your photo has been selected to feature on the first phase of our newly branded OS Explorer maps. Your photo will feature on Explorer 350 Edinburgh.

The new covers are already going into production and we hope to see the new designs rolled out across our retailers and available on our website from early summer.

As soon as they are available, we will send you a complimentary copy of the map featuring your photo and name credit.

Well…that was unexpected! The OS Photofit competition is basically a clever way of the Ordnance Survey (OS) getting free photos (i.e. they don’t have to cough up a licence) to put on the covers of their maps. Photos are uploaded by area of the UK, and voted on, by the public with a final decision made by OS. This was the photo I submitted for Edinburgh:

image

The final map cover will have the edges heavily cropped, since the map images are in portrait, not landscape, but that should show Salisbury Crags (the rocky bit, if you’re not familiar with Edinburgh) with the Tron (black spire) and Edinburgh Castle in the background.

The viewpoint for the photo is a great spot to be. If you fancy popping up there yourself, it’s easy to find. Just take the steps up the city facing side of Arthur’s Seat and when it levels off a little, you can turn off the path. Here’s a map:

I’ve had a lot of luck this year with photography. There are many, many, many wonderful photos of Edinburgh, so I’m pretty chuffed that one of mine will be on the cover of the 1:25,000 OS map! And, of course, a hearty congratulations to all the other winners!

You can read more about the winners on the OS blog: http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/blog/2015/05/latest-osphotofit-winners-announced/

And the full selection of winning photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/osmapping/sets/72157649182501294/

Happy Birthday Forth Bridge!

Today marks the 125th anniversary of the iconic Forth Bridge’s official opening on the 4th of March, 1890. She’s a magnificent structure. According to the BBC Scotland New site this morning, the BBC have received more photos of the bridge than any other Scottish location. And Scotland is stunning, so I think that shows the allure of the structure!

It doesn’t have the longest span of any cantilevered bridge in the world (that record goes to the Quebec Bridge) but it is definitely the prettiest.

I can’t claim that the Bridge has always been part of my life, but some of my earliest memories are of the view from my granny’s house in Dalmeny, where you could see both bridges from her kitchen window. My parents grew up round Dalmeny and South Queensferry, and it’s a place that I suppose will always be part of home in a little way to me.

Forth Rail Bridge 2

I’ve taken a few photos of the Bridge over the years myself, including during a recent incredible sunset, but yesterday I got a fresh and rare perspective. As part of the 125th anniversary celebrations, Network rail offered 250 tickets for members of the public to be taken up to the top of the North tower of the Forth Bridge. All of the money raised – some £30,000 – went to The Prince’s Trust, a charity which helps disadvantaged young people get their lives back on track.

So I bought my ticket last year, although to be honest I felt more like Charlie winning a golden ticket to see inside Wonka’s Chocolate Factory when I showed up yesterday. After a quick safety talk and some history about the Bridge, and a short ride up in the hoist on the outside of the North tower, the reward is a breathtaking view of not only the surrounding landscape (including Edinburgh, North and South Queensferry), but also of the Bridge herself. She really is a work of art, as well as a feat of Victorian engineering.

Forth Rail Bridge 5 min exposure

Many thanks to Network Rail for their organisation, and they clearly love their bridge. It was an incredible experience, and all down to them. And well done to them too for raising so much money for The Prince’s Trust!

So these are the views from the top. It was windy, cold and inbetween flurries of snow, but then it is Scotland so what else was I expecting! More photos are on my Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gingerfox/

Many happy returns of the day to our beloved Forth Bridge; here’s to another 125 years!

Forth Bridge 125-00150

Forth Bridge 125-00135

Forth Bridge 125-00081

Forth Bridge 125-1

Forth Bridge 125-00141

Forth Bridge 125-00116

Right place, right time

Saturday night was pretty special. If you had looked out the window anywhere in Scotland at about 5pm, you would have been treated to the most incredible sunset.

The colours in the sky were simply phenomenal, but even better was being down by the water at the same time. It was such a still night that the brilliant pinks, purples and reds were reflected back up at you giving the most surreal and ethereal experience. I feel lucky to have been down by the Firth of Forth to witness it, since I’ve been holed up in an office for the past month, and even luckier to have a decent camera with me.

I was with a group of folk on a photography workshop run by Grant Ritchie of Real Edinburgh. We were learning to use graduated and neutral density filters to give elements of our images a bit more contrast, and to play about with smoothing the water surface by taking long exposures. About 2hrs in and BAM! Phenomenal sunset! We all shot some amazing images, not least Grant who’s photo of the Forth Rail Bridge (link opens on Facebook) has been viewed over 750,000 times on Facebook so far. It’s a corker, and he absolutely deserves it!

What I didn’t realise, though, was that I was in for my own bit of personal success. I posted this photo to my personal Facebook page, to Flickr, Instagram, and Twitter, and emailed it to the BBC News Scotland team.

Forth Rail Bridge Sunset

From that spree of sharing, I ended up with the most likes on Facebook of any photo I’ve ever posted; within 24hrs on Flickr the photo’s picked up nearly 11,900 views, 480 faves, and a host of new followers ; BBC News Scotland included it in their special gallery of Saturday’s sunset photos but also used it as the leading image on their front page (see below); and the Daily Mail asked to print it in today’s paper (although didn’t in the end).

BBC News 08.02.15
BBC News Scotland front page at 10pm 8th Feb 2015

It’s not even that good! I mean, the colours are fantastic, but compositionally it could be a lot better, and it suffers from some other technical flaws. But that doesn’t matter, I love it, and seems a whole lot of you do to. Right place, right time. And a tiny bit of skill to bag the shot 😉

Yours, with a big-heid for a few days,
Kit

2014 in Photos

I’ve been using a DSLR camera since 2006, but 2014 was definitely the year that I really started to treat photography more seriously as a hobby. My skill progression has been pretty flat since first bought my Sony A100, but now that I’ve embraced RAW files, Lightroom and Photoshop I can create some really nice images. Never perfect, and to a standard below most amateur photographers I follow, but I consider myself very much a beginner still with lots to learn!

Anyhoo…here’s a look back at some of my favourite photos from 2014; my coming-of-age year of photography. You can click the photos to go through to the full-size version on Flick, and my entire photostream is here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gingerfox/

January
Falls of Bruar 9

February
Edinburgh Aurora Feb 27/28th

March
Daffodils

April
Newhaven Harbour sunset

Beltane

May
Salisbury Crags

Granton Harbour

June
North Esk Reservoir

Oosterdok, Amsterdam

July
God rays

Forth Road Bridge sunset

Sunrise over the Forth

August
Crescent moon setting over Princes Street

Red Arrows

Vennel Fireworks

September
Newhaven lighthouse

October
New York October 2014-18.jpg

San Francisco October 2014-17.jpg

San Francisco October 2014-6.jpg

Torridon Waterfalls

November
Storr and Sheep.jpg

Fairy Pools, Skye

December
Arthur's Seat from the Scott Monument

All the fun of the Hogmanay Fair

Feuerzangenbowle!

I have no idea how to pronounce “feuerzangenbowle”, but nonetheless I had a great time last night trying out a new festive drinking experience!

My friends Steph and Alun, neither of whom are German, yet they somehow own the right kit required to send a cone of sugar to a fiery, alcoholic (and delicious!) oblivion. A bit like fondue, but with less bread. And cheese.

If you’ve no idea what I’m on about, then let me enlighten you with my sole experience of feuerzangenbowle:

  1. Make lots of mulled wine, keeping it hot
  2. Add to the bowle
  3. Place your specially bought/prepped sugar cone on the metal shelf (zangen, I guess) over the bowle
  4. Dowse sugar in rum, set alight, and go “oooooooh!” and “aaaaaah!
  5. Drink the resulting mixture of wine, rum and sugar
  6. Repeat until legless, or the fire brigade needs calling.

Here’s some shaky photos of Steph playing with fire:

Feuerzangenbowle-2.jpg

Feuerzangenbowle-1.jpg

Feuerzangenbowle-7.jpg

 

More on my Flickr page. And no, the shaky photos were before having a drink!