Steps to Better Photography - Part 3

Study Images

Whether you’re flicking through Instagram or a magazine, spend a few minutes studying any image that captures your attention.

There are several key components to assessing images.

·         Craft and Execution.

This is the technical stuff. Things like focus, proper exposure and adequate contrast.

·         Production Value

Production Value is about the effort you’ve put into taking an image. The level of difficulty for achieving the result.

·         Subject Matter or Content

This is WHAT you photograph and it’s entirely subjective, which is why this is the least important aspect. You won’t be able to please everyone, and you shouldn’t try. If the subject is meaningful to you, that is all that matters.  

·         Composition

We covered what makes for good composition in our last post here. This is a separate point because it is possible to have a well composed shot that has improper exposure/focus.

·         The ‘STORY’ or Wow Factor

This is an oft undervalued factor in assessing images. In fact, it’s one of the most important. The is what grabs you, holds your attention & makes you feel something, ie; it speaks to you.
You don’t have to like the image to appreciate the ‘story’.

Use these components to work out WHY you stopped to look at a particular image. What was it that grabbed your attention?

Was it the Lighting? Colour? Content? Impact? Lines? Contrasts? Is there a story being told? Did it make you feel something?

What you are trying to determine from asking these questions is the HOW.
How would they have taken the image? Then you can try to reverse engineer the photograph.

Photography is a constant learning curve. I would never condone plagiarism and absolutely encourage you to discover your own aesthetic & view point, however, this is a great step to practice, get out shooting, and to get to know your craft.

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Bella @ Photo Tours Edinburgh

Steps to Better Photography - Part 2

Composition. Learn the Rules.

Whilst rules are meant to be broken, you must first know what they are and why we use them.

Technically, the rules are more like guidelines, but the reason we use them is that they work.

Whether you’re shooting in manual or auto, using a DSLR or a phone Camera, knowing what makes for a good image is key.

1)    Composition and Framing.

Aside from focus, this is the most important.

The rule of thirds is effective and should be used as your main guideline. Simply, the rule of thirds encourages you visually divide your image into a grid of nine.
Distributing, for example, 2/3 ground and 1/3 sky
The alternating orientation having 1/3 with tree and 2/3 with scene.

IMG_7839 Comp Sample.jpg

The exception is symmetry. Symmetry: meaning that if you folded your image in half, the two sides would mirror, however be sure to consider the alternating orientation and apply the rule of thirds.

IMG_0771 Mirror Comp Sample.jpg

2)    Leading Lines

Leading lines are used to draw the viewers eye into the photograph.
It is a way to capture their attention and make certain that they see what you want them to.

Leading lines are things such as roads, fences, pathways, rivers, buildings and walls. Using these in your image will force people to follow the line to your subject and/or look at the whole image.

Lines, especially curved or converging lines, will add more dimension to your shot and give a strong sense of perspective.

IMG_7609 Leading Lines Sample.jpg

3)    Know your Light

Knowing what the light will do to your subject is important. This is mostly leaned by experience, so get out & shoot in all different lighting conditions.
Pick a scene, and shoot that so that you have direct comparisons.

However, the photographers ‘Golden Hour’ is the time shortly after sunrise or before sunset. The sunlight is redder and softer during this period.

This is a great time to be out shooting especially as a beginner as it will give you a chance to work on your framing & composition without wondering about your light.

IMG_5397 Light Sample.jpg

Focus, exposure and colour balance are all ‘rules’ because they result in an image that is pleasing to the eye.
Once you have mastered these, go ahead and break the rules. As a photographic artist, you need to find your own aesthetic view point. It’s just important that when you do ‘break the rules’ you know why you have done it.

Remember, one of the greatest street photographers, Henri Cartier-Bresson, said ‘Your first 10’000 photographs are your worst.’

We get to that number a lot faster now with digital, but basically… Practice!

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Bella @ Photo Tours Edinburgh

Steps to Better Photography - Part 1

Know Your Camera.

I have several different camera’s, however my go to is my Canon DSLR.
Obviously, the ease of digital is a reason, but the second is that I know this camera like the back of my hand.

Edinburgh Photography Walking Tours Cameras

Knowing your Camera and knowing what each setting means, allows you to quickly change from one to another. This gives you much more creative control over the images you make.

It’s also the easiest step to start with.

The 5 essential Camera settings to know are; ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture, Depth of Field (DOF) and White Balance. Learn how to change them and spend some time experimenting with the result they have on your image.

It is also worthwhile investing time in scrolling through the menu’s and custom settings. Things like metering modes and focal points and how those affect your shots in different shooting circumstances.

Reading through your new camera manual can be disheartening but it’s extremely important to have a thorough understanding of your camera’s features and functions.
The last thing you want is to be fumbling through settings when you’re out shooting and lose the moment. Knowing your Camera and knowing what each setting means, allows you to quickly change from one to another. This gives you much more creative control over the images you make.

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Bella @ Photo Tours Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle

February 22, 2018

Scotland's leading tourist attraction.

Known as the 'Defender of the Nation', no trip to Edinburgh would be complete without a visit to Edinburgh Castle.

Sitting atop Castle Hill, an extinct volcano, its position has made it one of the best defended fortresses in Scotland.

Edinburgh Walking Photo Tours Vennel Steps

One of the most impressive sieges was in 1314, while the castle was occupied by the English.
A few months prior to the Battle of Bannockburn, Thomas Moray & a small group of 20 men scaled the castle walls & managed to reclaim it from the English.

The Castle remains an active military base, with a highlight being the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in August.
Of course, if you aren't here in August, there is always the One O'Clock Gun. A tradition that dates back to 1861 when it allowed ships in the Firth of Forth to set their maritime clocks.

Edinburgh Walking Photo Tour Castle Gun View

The Castle is home to the Honours (Crown Jewels) of Scotland & the Destiny Stone.

The Crown Jewels were no longer considered of importance when the unification of the Crowns happened & were subsequently packed up & 'lost' within the castle for over 100 years. Rediscovered in 1818, they have been on display since.

The Destiny Stone, plundered from Scone Abbey & sent to London after the Longshanks Castle siege in 1296, was a powerful & ancient symbol of the Scottish Monarchy.

The legend surrounding the stone is that of biblical origins. The legend says that this is the stone that Jacob slept on when we he dreamed of the connection (ladder) from earth to heaven. Most interpretations of this dream, agree that it signified Jacob as chosen by God.

Returned to Scotland in 1996, the Destiny Stone will only leave Scotland again when there is another coronation in Westminster Abbey.

Both the Crown Jewels & the Destiny Stone can be seen in the Crown Room, within the Castle.

The Castle is also home to the National War Museum of Scotland, the 15th Century Mons Meg siege cannon & the oldest building in Edinburgh, St Margaret's Chapel. Built around 1130 by David I, in dedication to his mother Queen Margaret.

Whilst we don’t go into the Castle on our tour, you will get some stunning shots of the exterior & the Portcullis gate.

I would recommend visiting the castle but do allow yourself a couple of hours.
Tickets are £17 for an adult & you would do well to pre book during the busy summer months as the queues can be extensive. Bookings can be made here.

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Bella @ Photo Tours Edinburgh

Sources not linked in Blog
Edinburgh News
All Images are used with permission & remain
© Bella McRae / Bella Eve Art 2018
excepting the Crown Jewels & the Destiny Stone
These images are courtesy of Castle Edinburgh

The Black Mausoleum

January 31, 2018

THE BLACK MAUSOLEUM                          

Located in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town is Greyfriars Kirkyard. (cemetery) 

Edinburgh Walking Photography Tour Greyfriars Kirkyard

Greyfriars has been a burial ground since the early 16th century and has the distinction of being the final resting place of such notable persons as; Sir Walter Scots Father, William McGonnegal, Scotlands Worst Poet, George Heriot, founder of the school that is adjacent to the Kirkyard & James Craig, designer of Edinburghs New Town.

Not forgetting one of the most popular residents, the Skye Terrier, Bobby. You can read more about Greyfriars Bobby in my previous post.

Another who is infamously interred at Greyfriars is the Lord Advocate Sir George Mackenzie.Sir George Mackenzie is credited with writing one of the first Scottish novels & of even the occasional defence of women during the witch trials.But those deeds were not what earned him the name of Bloody (Bluidy) Mackenzie.It was what he did to the Covenanters in 1679.
The Covenanters were Presbyterian Militants who fought the sanctions imposed upon their religious practices by King Charles II, despite the National Covenant that was signed four decades earlier, giving them allowances.
After the Battle of Bothwell Bridge, 1200 surviving Covenanters who refused to swear allegiance to King Charles II were taken prisoner.
Labelled as traitors, these men & women were held at what was then the Inner Greyfriars Yard, about 3 acres, with high walls & one gate.

Sir George Mackenzie, Lord Advocate at that time was responsible for their fates & he castigated them to the full extent of the law.

Those who did not succumb to the malnutrition, the plague & pestilence associated with concentration camps, the physical abuse, were given the choice of swearing an oath of loyalty to the King that some Covenanters called 'The Black Bond'.... or execution on the gallows at Grassmarket.
Months later, those that remained got their judicial fate, Transportation.

It is said that after 5 months of imprisonment, only 250 Covenanters survived to face Lord Advocate Sir George Mackenzie. In a tragic twist of irony, the ship that was to transport the remaining prisoners, sank off the Orkneys. Only 60 or so of the chained men & women survived.

For his persecution of the Covenanters, Sir George Mackenzie was excommunicated a year later. He had been described as having a violent temper, an insolent approach & a wickedly vicious tongue.
His vindictive nature & desire for self aggrandisement was revealed in his torture & theatrical display of torturous devices on prisoners.

He died in 1691 & was himself buried at Greyfriars Kirkyard. In what was to be known as The Black Mausoleum.
Only a few meters from the remaining Covenanters Prison. (lane)

Bloody Mackenzie passed into legend. The one that gets told on windy, dark nights. The kind that inspires brave children to knock on the doors of The Black Mausoleum & shout 'Bluidy Mackenzie, come oot if ye dar!'

Edinburgh Walking Photography Tours Black Mausoleum Greyfriars

And legend he might have stayed if it wasnt for a homeless man on a cold night in the late 1990's.

The story goes; Desperately seeking shelter for the night, the man broke into Mackenzies resting place. Bored, or looking for something of value he smashed open some of the coffins & fell through the floor.
He fell into what was once a mass grave for plague victims. Surrounded by the dead & decaying bodies, he ran screaming into the streets.

Within days, witnesses had reported feeling an intense cold followed by a gust of air that nearly knocked them over & one woman was found unconscious by the Mausoleum with bruising around her neck.
Several visitors to the Kirkyard began to faint & those who visited the crypts now standing on Covenanters Lane, started to experience worse.

Covenanters Lane is now locked & you can only wander down there on an official Tour.
City of the Dead is one such tour.

The founder of this tour company, Jan-Andrew Henderson has studied the Mackenzie Poltergeist for over 10 years & has more than 75 pages of witness accounts of hauntings & paranormal attacks at Greyfriars Kirkyard.

Because Bloody Mackenzie doesn't just huff & puff & scream 'boo!', at you.

He bites & pinches; Scratches, chokes & burns. Spreading his malevolence like a fog across the moor.

And one day, when I gather my courage, I will visit Covenanter Lane in the dark myself.



Most of the resources I used have been provided throughout the blog as links.
One that I have not but is fascinating reading is below.
The Reformation