Tag Archives: urban

Urban Impressionism: Edinburgh Tour Buses

The use of camera movement and/or zooming during a long exposure is a technique I learned from one of my photographic heroes, Bryan Peterson. It takes experimentation to figure out which photographic subjects are likely to produce interesting images.

Edinburgh tour bus, impressionist photography using zooming and camera rotation

I really like this old style tour bus and I was delighted I could capture an impressions picture of this wonderful subject.

So a while back, I decided to try out this technique in an urban setting, namely central Edinburgh. I was quickly intrigued by the many colourful tour buses going by.

Edinburgh tour bus, impressionist photography using zooming and camera rotation

I love the colour red as it is an attention grabber in photographs.

The images in this post were taken with an exposure of 1/8s, turning the camera while holding the zoom ring. It takes quite a bit of practice, and I had to try my luck on a lot of passing cars and buses to get the three images you see here. I really look forward to trying this technique on other urban photography subjects.

Edinburgh tour bus, impressionist photography using zooming and camera rotation

This tour bus seemed to go by at a higher frequency than the others, and I therefore had multiple attempts at a “bus impression”.

Light Painting a Dancer on Calton Hill: Amy

Calton Hill is one of most popular locations in Edinburgh, because it offers a spectacular view of Princes street and the castle. It is where Amy wanted to get photographed and I was delighted to try out Calton Hill for light painting.

Light painting of dancer on Calton Hill with the city of Edinburgh as backdrop

Calton Hill offers a great view of the city of Edinburgh that I used as a backdrop.

One of the things I hadn’t anticipated is that some areas are closed to the public at night. In hindsight it makes perfect sense, for safety reasons. The problem was that I had a number of shots in mind that were now off limits.

Light painting of dancer on Calton Hill with the city of Edinburgh as backdrop

The big rocks provided a great combination of shapes and textures (elements of design), and I immediately knew I could use these as an interesting foreground.

While on some level it was annoying, I like to be thrown a challenge or two when shooting my personal projects. It is good to practice improvising because that is something that can happen on a job. And the more experience I have overcoming the hurdles the real world throws at me, the better prepared I am when it really counts.

Light painting of dancer on Calton Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland

Another location with lines, shapes and texture to use as a background. We tried some different poses, but this is my favourite.

The picture below is one I had I mind before the shoot and was the last set up for the night.

Light painting of dancer on Calton Hill, Edinburgh with the Balmoral Hotel as background.

The Balmoral Hotel is one of the landmark buildings on Princes Street, Edinburgh. Using a telephoto lens, I was able to compress the perspective and effectively use the building as a background.

Light Painting a Musician: Finlay Hetherington

I got to know Finlay though a mutual acquaintance and I was delighted he was interested in taking part in my light painting project.

Light painting of musician and education Finlay Hetherington in front of a graffiti wall with his trumpet

A very simple background can be made interesting by light painting. We both immediately noticed and liked the word ‘love’ on that part of the wall.

Urban settings can work very well for light painting, and I’m always on the lookout for new locations. Typically, I want as many elements of design as possible, i.e lines, shapes, textures and colours in my backgrounds.

Light painting of musician and education Finlay Hetherington in front of a graffiti wall with his trumpet

I like to try a number of variations for each backdrop.

A dancer introduced me to the the graffiti wall and the old building seen in the first three pictures. We never collaborated on a light painting project, but I always kept these locations in mind.

Light painting of musician and educator Finlay Hetherington with his trumpet in an urban location

This location was challenging to light paint because of the street lights nearby that forced me to use a faster shutter speed than I would have liked.

It was pretty chilly on the night of these light paintings, and Finlay’s trumpet was freezing cold and thus really hard to hold while standing still. But after some time warming up in the car, Finlay still had some energy for a final setup. So we headed out looking for a location near the sea. The lighthouse in Newhaven would have provided a great backdrop, but unfortunately, it was too late by then and the sky was just too dark. But I knew of a location nearby with lines, shapes and colours (mostly red) that could work just fine. The photograph below is the last light painting we did on the day, after which Finlay and I were just too cold to carry on.

Light painting of musician and educator Finlay Hetherington with his trumpet sitting on a flight of stairs in an urban location

Lines and shapes abound in this location. I only needed to paint my subject and the stairs because I used the ambient light for the background.

iPhone Photography – Urban Graffiti

If you are a casual DSLR  or point and shoot photographer, you’ve probably never used Photoshop actions and presets to edit your photographs and create a particular look. And you’ve almost certainly never applied a texture to one of your images.

Urban graffiti in Portobello, Edinburgh. Edited with the DistressedFX app.

I was introduced to adding textures to images in an online fine art nature photography class. I was delighted to find out you could do this on your iPhone. Here I used one of the textures from the DistressedFX app.

One of the great things about mobile photography is that you can buy apps that can give your photographs a different look and feel with a few button presses and slider adjustments. These apps pretty much do what many Photoshop presets and actions do. At a fraction of the cost.

Urban graffiti in Portobello, Edinburgh. Applied the Diana analog filter from Camera+

A different version of the photograph. This time I used the Diana analog filter from Camera+.

I personally use Camera+ to take my photos and do some minor edits, such as adjusting brightness and contrast. I also like some of the analog filters that app provides, such as the Diana and XPRO C-41 or their retro Ansel filter for creating contrasty back and white images. I would love to try VSCO and Snapseed, but I can’t use these apps on my good old iPhone 4.

Urban graffiti in Portobello, Edinburgh. Applied the XPRO C-41 filter from Camera+. for a crossed processed look.

In this version, I used the XPRO C-41 filter from Camera+. I’ve always loved the cross processed film look and this is one of my favourite filters.

One app I recently fell is love with is DistressedFX. It allows you to combine your photos with a number of textures to add mood to your images. The app also gives you many options to precisely adjust the blending of the textures and photographs.

Urban graffiti in Portobello, Edinburgh. Edited with Chrome filter from Camera+.

I rarely use this filter (Chrome from Camera+), but I liked the look it gave the image.

Another app for adding textures and other effects to your images is Mextures. It allows you to layer many textures and effects in one go and gives you a lot of control. But beware, these apps can be really addictive!

Urban graffiti in Portobello, Edinburgh. Applied the retro Ansel filter from Camera+.

The retro Ansel filter from Camera+ was applied to the image to create this contrasty black and white version.

Street Photography – Let The Pictures Come To You

A long time ago, when photography was just a hobby for me, I’d spend hours walking around my hometown of Lausanne, Switzerland, looking for pictures. But I was making a basic “rookie” mistake. I was chasing the action, running all over the place, and as a result very often came up empty handed.

The two best things to happen with regard to my photography education were the internet and learning english. There is a wealth of information online, and the key thing I learned about street photography is to pick my spot and let the action come to me.

Older gentleman walking in front of a very colourful wall  in Edinburgh, Scotland

Colour is an important element of design I look for when I’m walking around with a camera. This wall immediately attracted my attention.

So when I saw this colourful wall surrounding a construction site close to where I live, I thought it would make for a great photo background. But at first, the street was pretty much deserted. A while back, I would have moved on looking for another picture opportunity. But having learned some of the secrets of street photography, I decided to stand across the street and wait. And sure enough, after a while, a number of people walked by and I was able to capture a number of frames that I like.

Gentleman with an iPod or other mp3 player walking in front of a colourful wall in Edinburgh, Scotland

On a different day when the sun was out, I was able to capture more people walking in front of that colourful wall.

Now, if I find a great spot for a photo but it is missing people in it to make better, I just stick around for a while. Chances are, I’m going to get a good photo opportunity sooner or later.

Edinburgh Urban Lips

“Always carry a camera, it’s tough to shoot a picture without one.” — Jay Maisel

I’m a big fan of photographer Jay Maisel. Jay always has a camera with him and takes pictures every day.

In a sense, I always have a camera with me, the one that comes with my phone. But the image quality I get from it is a far cry from that of my “proper camera”.

I was reminded of the importance of this a while back when I was wondering about the streets of Edinburgh. You never know when you are going to see something interesting. I cannot count the times when I saw something that would have made a good photograph but had left my “proper camera” at home.

Fortunately I had a good camera with me when these “electric” lips in an Edinburgh shop window caught my attention.

Bunch of red light bulbs in the shape of lips in a shop window, Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is full of great photographic opportunities. Some obvious, some less obvious like these lips in a shop window.

Vision Training: Urban Abstracts

In the previous post, I described the benefits of abstract photography in refining one’s vision as a photographer.

Without a recognisable subject for our eyes to latch on to, do the lines, shapes and colours in the picture combine in some harmonious way? It’s another way to develop one’s mastery of the element of design.

Urban abstract photograph of colour obtained by multiple exposures of a coloured wall on an Edinburgh construction site

This multiple coloured panel wall was around some Edinburgh construction site. By using multiple exposures, moving and rotating the camera after each click of the shutter, I was able to create this urban abstract of colour.

Apart from close-ups, some of the techniques for producing abstract photographs include multiple exposures, moving the camera (panning) or zooming during a long exposure. These techniques not only work on nature subjects, but on urban ones too.

Zooming and rotating the camera during a long exposure, the graffiti on the wall becomes nothing more than an abstract of shapes and colours

Graffiti provides great opportunities for creating abstract photographs, and can be found in every urban area. By zooming while rotating the camera during a long exposure, I obtained the above abstract of urban colour.

Urban Textures

A while back I took some wonderful online photography classes by Kathleen Clemons on Fine Art Nature Photography. Kathleen introduced me to the idea of superimposing textures on my images using Photoshop. In the Fine Art Nature Photography classes we had to chose our subjects from the natural world. So I first added textures to some photographs of flowers and trees, and very much like the results.

As a scientist I learned to develop an inquisitive attitude and a good question to ask is always ‘what if?’.

What if I added textures to images of urban scenes? Urban environments are replete with elements of designs such as lines and shapes, and sometimes colour. This was the reason I was attracted to take the two photographs below.

Newhaven, Edinburgh red warehouse with stairs

I loved the colours, lines and shapes of this building. It is only quite some time after taking this photograph that it occurred to me to try blending some texture with it.

In the above photograph, taken in the area of Edinburgh called Newhaven, the roof and pavement provide some texture to the composition, but by superimposing a texture on top of my original image, I created more of an ‘urban feel’ to the photograph.

Industrial blue building in Musselburgh. Lines, shapes and colour abound in the picture.

I was scouting the area when I saw this industrial building in Musselburgh. I quickly thought of this photographs when I started experimenting blending textures with urban photographs.

I was attracted to the industrial building in Musselburgh by the colour, lines and shapes. The walls also add texture to the composition, which I further enhanced by superimposing a texture of my own. As in the previous image, the final result has more of an ‘urban feel’ in my opinion than the original photograph.


The Colours of Musselburgh, Not Quite

A few weeks ago, I was doing some scouting for a music video project in Musselburgh. The band dropped their lead singer shortly after, so the project is on hold for now, but that is an entirely different story.

Since I was early for the meeting, I decided to walk around and do some sightseeing. An orange coloured wall soon attracted my attention for certain elements of design. Colour obviously, but also lines, texture, shape. I liked the mailbox in the wall, but not its colour. While red mailboxes can provide good colour contrast in quite a number of situations, it simply didn’t work for me with that orange wall. Nowadays if an object in the frame is the wrong colour, Photoshop can come to the rescue and the colour of the object can be changed. Which is what I did. A blue mailbox provides much better colour contrast against an orange wall. Don’t you think?

Musselburgh mailbox on an orange wall. The colour of the mailbox was changed from red to blue

You have likely never seen a blue mailbox before, but colour wise, this works much better than with the original red coloured mailbox

On the other hand, the green door worked just fine, so in this case I just left the colours alone.

Green door against an orange wall in Musselburgh, with some flowers  hanging from the top of the photograph

Green doesn’t provide as much colour contrast as blue against orange, but the two go well together.

The neighbours seemed to have taken notice of the wall and decided to be in harmony with the local colour scheme. The windows of that orange house intrigued me.

Couple of windows on an orange wall in Musselburgh

I’m really curious. What is behind these two windows?

The Colours of Leith Walk, Edinburgh

In my previous post, I showed that reflections were a way yo add interest to a photograph when the light isn’t at its best. And while I strive to only shoot in good light, as a working photographer in Scotland, this is not always possible. So I train myself by going out to shoot in ‘bad’ light.

When the light is harsher than the soft light of the golden hour (near sunrise or sunset), i look for graphical elements such as lines and shapes. The shadows produced by the subjects can also add interest to the composition.

Shiny door handle of red door on Leith Walk, Edinburgh

This door handle and it’s shadow on Leith Walk immediately caught my attention, in no small part because of the bright red colour of the door

Colours can be washed out in the sunlight, but not always, as the example of the door handle above and pedestrian on Leith Walk below demonstrate. In that case colour is a good subject to photograph.

Two brightly coloured cars on Leith Walk, Edinburgh, with a pedestrian

Always on the lookout for bright colours, the two cars on the other side of Leith Walk caught my attention. I waited a little while for a pedestrian to walk by to add some interest to the scene

On a cloudy day, I look for colours, because colours tend to be more saturated on an overcast day. Leith Walk in Edinburgh is full of small shops with colourful fronts. They make good subjects to photograph, particularly on a Sunday when they are closed.

Blue beauty shop front on Leith Walk, Edinburgh

This shop front doesn’t really look glamorous to me, but the lines and colours made me want to photograph it.


Brightly coloured lines on a shop front on Leith Walk, Edinburgh

I was attracted to photograph this shop front by one of my favourite element of design, lines.