sgurr nan gillean, Am Basteir and the Bruach na Frithe from Sligachan, Isle of Skye

The North Black Cuillin Ridge from Sligachan on Skye.

I have visited Skye many times when younger, but never been lucky enough to catch this classic “postcard view” from Old Sligachan Bridge with the right conditions. Well the photographic gods smiled upon me on Sunday on my first visit to Skye in about a decade. The picture is very far from original or creative, but I still loved setting up a tripod and taking it. This one was with my Sigma 10-20 f4-5.6 zoom from the riverbed below the Sligachan Bridge and using my Manfrotto 055 tripod and a 2-second shutter delay to allow the camera and shutter to settle. I simply cannot tell you how pleased I am with this landscape as a portrait photographer.
In case anyone cares, I climbed these three mountains as a younger man and can attest that they represent one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

I must also say, that when I drove towards Sligachan and realised that the photograph was “on” if I was quick, I realised that I had two cameras with me, and wanted to hedge my bets a little, so I parked the car, and took my beloved Olympus OMD-10 mk2 and my trusty Canon 7D with me; what transpired is an interesting if brief photographic episode. When I walked from my car to the bridge, there was a woman taking photographs with what looked like a Canon 1D and possibly an L-lens. (This for Canon shooters is like meeting a woman driving a Ferrari when you are in a Ford, which I was as it happens); I was impressed! She told me that she, like me had never been fortunate enough to catch this view in the near perfect state that it was in, but that she had not got her tripod with her. I of course offered her the use of my tripod after I had taken my shots, which in truth would have taken no more than 5 minutes or so, but she politely declined saying that she had the wrong lens anyway. I thought she had gone and then she reappeared, so I again offered her the use of my tripod as I was more-or-less done, but she again declined. Before she left, she kindly offered me the advice that I should really stop down and use a long exposure to stop the motion in the water. It isn’t that I didn’t know that was worth trying, but I wasn’t planning to; as a result of her kind advice I tried two more exposures with f-twenty-something and ISO 100 locked in resulting in 3.5 seconds of exposure, in a bit of a wind. I’m not sure it was better, but I love that she made me try something that this portraitist wouldn’t have tried.

The first picture was using the long exposure to still the water, the second was pre-girl-on-bridge-prompting and was a smidgeon sharper overall, and showed sparkling shimmery water. I have included both.

Interestingly, before I descended to the riverbed with my 7D, I took 2 shots with my beloved Olympus micro-four-thirds camera and its 35mm equivalent f1.8 prime from the bridge itself. This camera, (which I regularly rave about in this journal) has the in-body-image-stabilisation-of-god. I didn’t bother switching to my kit zoom and clip-on wider-lens, as I knew that my Canon 7D and Sigma 10-20 was the likely best-bet. Two handheld Olympus micro-four thirds shots, with my widest, but not wide enough prime lens, are included below. I then used the Canon 7D with the comfort that I had something “in the can” from the most amazing camera I have ever owned. I wonder what others think? THESE PICTURES WERE HANDHELD! SERIOUSLY!

I had such fun on Sunday. Thanks to all who helped me.


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Welcome to my new site

I am really excited to post my new website. My previous website was really more of a “blogsite” with some galleries and pages bolted on. I am delighted to have a place now that allows my images to be featured, with galleries easily accessed and my blog/journal still central to my online photo presence. The problem with a blogsite, is that it may be full of lovely images, but users have to dig a fair bit to find them unless they are in the most recent posts. The new site will bring a lot more images to the forefront.

Additionally, modern websites are viewed more on phone screens than on laptops and fixed computer screens. A result of this is that photo websites have to serve different layouts and different image sizes to whichever screen a user is viewing on. The new Prophoto 6 site that this is built with, gives me the ability to do that.  Google apparently take this into account in giving your website a page ranking. So if you are reading this Larry and Sergey, (Google’s founders), I’m sorted.

I hope you enjoy visiting and looking at my portraits (and other images) as much as I enjoy making them. Please visit again.

old and new sites on a phone screen. Note the tiny menu items across the top; not ideal for finger touches:


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The ultimate test

I know, this is a bit dramatic as a title, however, those of you who enjoy taking pictures will know what a pig of a challenge the incredible low light of a wedding reception is. Even with the properly large sensor of my Canon 5D mk2, the shutter speeds can be shockingly slow even with prime lenses. The problem of course is that a wide open 50mm prime, even at f1.4 or better, might get you a 50:50 chance of a sharp shot providing that nobody moves, but your depth of field is like a wafer and one way or another you are in for a stressful time of it. (Of course a good flashgun/strobe will help a good bit but it throws up its own problems). So to get to the point, I attended a wedding recently as a guest, and was kindly invited to take some pictures if I felt like it after the official photographer had gone. I chose to travel light, and only carried my Olympus micro four thirds and three prime lenses in a tiny messenger bag; I did add a little Nissin i40 compatible flashgun, all comfortably within my bag. Frankly, I rate this as the toughest test of all for a camera. A dark room, disco-lights only, and the knowledge that people are in their glad-rags and hope that some friendly photographer will do justice to them; I really wasn’t certain the Olympus could cope? Well I was wrong, it was easily as good to use in practice as my Canon DSLRs. It has a couple of surprising party piece tricks that can’t be underestimated.

  • The primes are decent, going to f1.8 without breaking the bank. (Better if you want to pay big money, f0.95 is possible)
  • The image stabilisation is stellar. At short focal lengths it is like the hand-of-god is assisting you invisibly.
  • The smaller sensor effectively doubles your depth of field at a given f-stop. helpful to fit both of Aunt Mary’s eyes into the sharp zone at f1.8.

All of these factors make the camera very flexible as you have stabilisation helping the workable speeds, a usable Depth Of Field, and great light-gathering ability.

My final worry was that the sensor would be a noisefest. I kept things down to ISO 3200 and in post-processing, pushing the black-point was sufficient to clean up the images.

Here is the bottom line; this camera is just fine for weddings.

Whether I would rock-up to shoot one with a camera system I can fit in a bag that won’t even hold my 13″ macbook I doubt, a customer expects some heft in the photographer’s kit, but the customer would be wrong to worry. This kit is great.

Here are some examples of really low light challenge. All were taken with my little Nissin i40 on the camera hot shoe, and pointing ceiling-ward with a little push-on flash diffuser to fill details a bit.

Dancing is a particular challenge to stop, but the Olly does decent enough work with no real light and across a larger area:

Congratulations of course to Louise and Ian, and thank you for my invitation. I had a lovely day.


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This amazing man has been a minor inspiration to me for years. I have known John a little professionally for a decade or more, and I have always found him to be charismatic, charming and amazingly well dressed. I recall once meeting him in Glasgow in passing and he was wearing an amazing corduroy suit that should have made him look like an open university lecturer from circa 1975, but on John it looked amazing. This is a view I have heard expressed by everyone who knows him; he has style. On Monday evening, I met John and my friend Jay, and we wandered the West-End of Glasgow grabbing some portraits of John in some local haunts; I couldn’t be happier with the results. This first one is outside the greenhouses of the botanical gardens; I love the Russian Minaret feel about the background, and how it provides a contrasting background in the Glasgow dusk for John.

This one has a lovely vintage film processing. Did I mention that I covet John’s jacket? (Did I type that aloud)!

This close up shows John’s amazing eyes. The green background nicely mirrors the colour.

This one was the only one I took with my Olympus 45mm f1.8 prime wide open. Still in the botanical gardens, I loved the pathway receding behind John and wanted to compress the distance and maximise the shallow depth of field. I love the lens and this picture shows how sharp and lovely it is even in very low light and wide open at f1.8

Back to a street off Byres Road and these (utterly wasteful and so not green) gas flames provided an intriguing background for John. If I’m honest, I was really thinking about a square crop if possible, but it doesn’t really work and it illustrates the reality that grabbing portraits spontaneously is a balance between experience and compositional knowledge and “making the best” while people trust you to control the composition. I do love this, but I can see the compromises in it. What made it difficult is that the “flames” weren’t symmetrically placed in front of the door. John’s head had to be positioned in the doorway because the door frame grew out of his head otherwise and the flames had to flank him, but it leaves dead content to the right of the image; I am being very analytical though!

This is just lovely though. The entrance to the Hillhead Book Club provides some very unusual and diffuse light. Flash off for this one, and it is a lovely illustration of just how good and useable my Olympus OM-D 10 is even in low light. This is at ISO 3200 and it is just fine despite the size of the micro-four thirds sensor. I could use this camera for just about anything with a decent fast prime.

This is Ashton Lane where I recently bumped into John again. This is just a lovely, genuine portrait of John in a favourite place of his.

This last one was actually the first picture (or first few) that I took on Monday. We all met in Nardini’s cafe in Byres Road for a coffee, and before wandering off to do the portraits, I loved the wall art and noticed the resonances with Kohn’s jumper. He kindly agreed to 3 or 4 grab shots with off-board flash and he was very shy about the photographs but he trusted me and got on with it. You would imagine that anyone so stylish and well dressed would love the camera, but truthfully John is Modest and unused to being photographed; he is very shy here, but the picture works well anyway.


This session was an amazing learning experience for me. I have done many portrait sessions, although most of them with my Canon DSLRs and a fair sized bag to carry a few prime lenses, a large off-board flash as well as the camera itself. I rocked up for this session with a tiny messenger bag, with a camera inset in it. I had my Olympus OMD-10 mk2 body, a 17mm f1.8, 25mm f1.8, 45mm f1.8 and a standard zoom and standard telephoto zoom; I still had space for a Nissin flashgun with remote triggering direct from camera! I still feel uneasy and at the last hour considered grabbing my Canon 5D mK2 and large primes, but I am beginning to trust this amazing camera system and decided to trust my growing body of experiences with it. I was thrilled with its size, low light ability, off board flash  and reasonable depth of field and bokeh. I could shoot a wedding with this camera, and that is saying something!


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This handsome gentleman is my new friend Ritchie. While visiting on Saturday, I noticed this wonderful backdrop and asked if Ritchie would allow me to photograph him with the massive window behind him. It illustrated some of the challenges of portrait photography when snatching opportunities.

Firstly, while I loved the soft and textured backdrop of the window, it meant that Ritchie was backlit only and would require fill flash. I was only carrying my OMD-10 with on-board tiny flash and so it is difficult to create interesting fill light. (If it is on the camera it tends to produce flatter, less textured light). This required a bit of flash brightness adjustment which is a bit trial-and-error.

The next problem is that of scale. The window is floor to ceiling, and trying to fit it all in while keeping a reasonable perspective on Ritchie is always a challenge. If Ritchie had been a woman, this perspective would probably not have been ideal.

The final problem was the lovely big dining table to the right of the picture. It forced me a little off-centre to remove the table from the image. This meant that I had to crop to get a reasonable degree of symmetry.

I am delighted by the results and really love the image. I mention the challenges purely to illustrate the kind of things you have to wrestle with when doing an impromptu portrait. Ritchie was a great subject and I really look forward to photographing him again.

Thanks Ritchie.


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