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Edinburgh's Christmas 2015

Just before Christmas I made a trip through to Edinburgh to see the traditional Christmas market and festivities in Princess Street Gardens.

#WexMondays Competition 2015

For the last 12 months I've been taking part in a competition run by online photographic retailer Wex called #WexMondays. The challenge was to tweet an image every Monday that you had captured the previous week and post it with the hashtag #WexMondays. Points and Wex vouchers were awarded for first, second and third placed images every week with £1500 of Wex vouchers being awarded to the photographer with the most points at the end of the year. 

I'm pleased to say that I managed to stay the course and enter an image every week - this was actually quite a challenge as you could only submit images taken between midnight on a Sunday night and midnight the following Sunday. Some weeks were more productive than others and thankfully there were only a handful of weeks where I was in danger of not getting an image in time to enter. Overall I was pleased with most of my entries with the only disappointment being that I didn't do enough to impress the judges. It was apparent from a very early stage - probably as early as the end of February - that I wasn't going to score enough points to be in contention for the race to the title. In fact, as the weeks wore on, I feared that I wouldn't score any points at all, but I eventually achieved third place in weeks 31, 32 and 44 which meant I finished in joint 39th place overall with 30 points.  

Click here to see the final leaderboard and winning images from each week.

Congratulations to Matt for winning the title and for consistently producing images to such a high standard throughout the year, and to Mark and Lee who came 2nd and 3rd respectively.

I enjoyed taking part and I have met and made friends with a great group of photographers that also took part each week. However, I don't think I'll be entering in 2016 - at least not every week, as it really does require a strong commitment and a lot of time to enter an image of a high enough standard on a weekly basis to compete. Now that the competition has concluded for the year I've compiled a list of all my images and results for 2015:

Amateur Photographer of the Year 2015 Competition

This year I decided to enter the Amateur Photographer of the Year 2015 competition (APOY). The competition was staged over eight rounds between March and October with each round having a different set theme. The top 50 photographers in each round were awarded points with the overall winner for the year being the photographer accumulating the most points. I managed to enter all the rounds and finished in fifth place overall with a grand total of 153 points. Here are my entries and results from each round.

The Final Result

The Final Result

Concours of Elegance 2015

The 'Concours of Elegance' was held over the weekend of Sept 4-6 at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh and brought together 60 of the rarest cars from collections all over the world. The Concours of Elegance began at Windsor Castle in 2012, before moving to St James’s Palace in 2013, with the 2014 event taking place at Hampton Court Palace. 

I took along my Fuji X-E2 camera and couple of prime lenses that I had on test from Calumet for the weekend using the Fuji Test Drive offer they are currently running. Getting shots of complete cars at these sort of events is always difficult as they tend to be parked fairly close together and with lots of people looking around them it's hard to get a 'clean' shot of the car. In these situations I prefer to get in close and concentrate on all the interesting car details the older cars seem to have. With this in mind I choose the 35mm and 56mm prime lenses as they both offer wide aperture settings that enable you to throw the background out of focus and eliminate distracting background elements. In the end I ended up taking the majority of the images with the 35mm as I just felt it was letting me get that little bit closer to the subject.

Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year 2014 Awards Book

My commended images in the 2014 Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year competition have been published in the awards book and are also currently on display at the Smith Gallery in Stirling until 21st August. Details of other dates and venues can be found here: SLPOTY Exhibition Dates

You can also read an interview with me about my entries on the SLPOTY website here: Interview with David Queenan

SLPOTY 2014 Awards Book: Bo'ness Harbour

SLPOTY 2014 Awards Book: Bo'ness Harbour

SLPOTY 2014 Awards Book: The Kelpies

SLPOTY 2014 Awards Book: The Kelpies



Amateur Photographer Of The Year 2015: Round 3 - The Wider Perspective

Round 3 of the Amateur Photographer of the Year competition 2015 resulted in 4th place for my architectural image of the Ocean Point building in Leith. The theme for Round 3 was 'The Wider Perspective - Creative Wide Angle' and the top 50 images were published in the Amateur Photographer magazine in June. 

Judge's comment: "Here we see a fantastic use of a wideangle lens for architecture. Angling up has given the structure a domineering quality, further emphasised by the removal of colour".

2014 Scottish Nature Photography Awards

Urban Greenspace Category Winner

More good news on the competition front. I'm pleased to announce that my image of Royal Circus gardens in Edinburgh has been awarded first place in the Urban Greenspace category. I was fortunate enough to gain access to the private gardens last year which allowed me the opportunity to capture a view of the tranquil surroundings in the city centre that normally only the residents enjoy.

http://www.scottishnaturephotographyawards.com/2014/2014landscape_urban.htm

I also had one image shortlisted in each of the Sea & Coast and Natural Abstract categories and two images shortlisted in the Environmental category.

Royal Circus, Edinburgh: Winning image in the Urban Greenspace category.

Hawkcraig Point, Aberdour: Shortlisted in the Sea & Coast category.

Hawkcraig Point, Aberdour: Shortlisted in the Sea & Coast category.

The River Almond, Cramond: Shortlisted in the Natural Abstract category.

The River Almond, Cramond: Shortlisted in the Natural Abstract category.

Grangemouth Refinery: Shortlisted in the Environmental category.

Grangemouth Refinery: Shortlisted in the Environmental category.

Longannet Sunset: Shortlisted in the Environmental category.

Longannet Sunset: Shortlisted in the Environmental category.

Leith Cranes Entry for #WexMondays

Since the start of the year I've been taking part in a competition run by online photographic retailer Wex called #WexMondays. The challenge is to tweet an image every Monday that you have captured during the previous week with the hashtag #WexMondays. There are points and Wex vouchers to be won every week for first, second and third placed images with £1500 of Wex vouchers being awarded to the photographer with the most points at the end of the year. 

I recently entered a long exposure image of a disused crane near Leith Docks and the judges have asked me to write a piece about the techniques used to create the final image below. 

The final black and white converted image.

The final black and white converted image.

These disused cranes sit by Leith Docks and are about a 10-15 minute walk from where I work as a digital artworker for graphic design agency in Edinburgh. The docks themselves are not open to the general public but these cranes are actually situated right on the periphery of the dock area and next to a casino car park. Although this makes for access easy it’s not the most photogenic of locations so I chose to get in close and shoot looking upwards to crop out the surroundings.

The cranes are located next to a casino car park.

The cranes are located next to a casino car park.

I have photographed them before, several years ago, but as the rules dictate that images have to be taken in the preceding week, I thought’d I’d have a go at re-shooting them. I’ve also recently started a project called Lunchtime@Leith where I try to post images online that I’ve managed to capture while on my lunch hour at work.

From the outset I knew that I wanted this shot to be a moody, long exposure mono shot with a dark sky and some cloud movement behind the cranes, I think it’s important to have an idea of how you want the final image to look when shooting. The forecast for the week looked good – dry and windy with plenty of cloud – ideal for some long exposure work. However, I ended up making three visits to the cranes before I got something I was happy with. On the first two occasions the white cloud which had been happily blowing over all morning suddenly disappeared, leaving me with clear blue skies – which although very nice, was a bit boring and not what I had in mind.

As I said, the cranes are only a 10-15 min walk from the office (even less if you drive), so that only leaves approx. 30 minutes of shooting time and, although that may sound like plenty of time for one shot, when doing long exposure work that time passes very quickly. The good thing was that by my third visit I knew where to stand, what my composition was going to be and had a pretty good idea of the camera settings I was going to use.

As it was the middle of the day, to achieve the desired long exposure I was going to be using a Lee Big Stopper (+10 stop) filter – which is basically a very dark piece of glass that fits over the front of the lens and allows you to take very long exposures, even in bright daylight. My process for taking long exposures images with this filter is to start by taking the shot as ‘normal’ with no filter attached to work out the basic exposure settings. In this case that turned out to be ISO100 / 1/60th / f16.

The original image taken without the filter,

The original image taken without the filter,

The Big Stopper comes with a handy exposure conversion chart that told me that a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second with the filter fitted translates to 15secs. Without the filter an exposure of this length in daylight would be horribly overexposed. I also have an app for the iphone that gives me the converted exposure time and acts as a stopwatch when timing exposures beyond 30 secs, which is the maximum time I can set my camera to before I have to go in to bulb mode. This is where the extra set-up time comes into play as you have to be very methodical and careful to set the camera up for the long exposure. Due to the length of the exposure a good tripod is of course essential as any movement during the exposure will ruin the final shot, so a remote release or self timer is also required for triggering the shutter. Because the filter is so dark, the camera cannot meter or focus when the filter is attached, so it is effectively blind, it’s important at this time to lock the focus on the lens and put the camera into manual mode. If using a DSLR, it’s also essential to cover the viewfinder as light can also creep in there during the exposure. The new desired settings can then be dialed in which, is this case, were: ISO100 / 15 secs / f16. In other words, the only thing that has changed is the shutter speed, from 1/60th of a second to 15 seconds.

It’s really a case of taking several exposures at this point as the cloud movement effect can be a real hit or miss depending on the wind speed, so experiment with different exposure times until you achieve the desired effect.

The extended 15 second exposure taken with the filter in place.

The extended 15 second exposure taken with the filter in place.

As you can see, the image at this point is still a long way from the final mono image I created. The slight blue colour cast to the image is caused by the filter so it’s important to always shoot in RAW format so you can adjust this in post-processing. However, as I was going to change this to mono the white balance isn’t critical but I would still recommend always shooting in RAW format to give the best image quality and flexibility when it comes to editing. 

I began my importing the RAW images into Lightroom so I could choose the best image from the set in terms of cloud movement. I would normally then go ahead and develop the image in Lightroom but, in this case, I opened the RAW image into Silver Efex Pro – which is a Lightroom plug-in specifically designed for black and white conversions. There are many presets in Silver Efex Pro for basic conversions but as I had a specific low key, moody image in mind I made all the adjustments manually. The options in Silver Efex Pro are endless and would take too long to go into here. Once I was happy with the black and white conversion the saved image was automatically transferred back to Lightroom where I could make final adjustments like adding a bit of film grain.  You can add grain in Silver Efex Pro but you can’t go back and change it later, so I prefer to add it in Lightroom where it can be adjusted or even removed again if required. I didn’t time how long the editing process took me but I’d say the total time spent between Lightroom and Silver Efex was about 30-45 mins

Before and after mono conversion.

Before and after mono conversion.

Overall, between the shooting and processing, I would place the difficulty of this technique around 8 out of 10. It does require a bit of patience to get right and also a certain amount of expensive kit and a good working knowledge of camera settings, so I wouldn’t say it’s for suitable for outright beginners, but hopefully it’s given some help to those looking to advance their skills.

You can find out more about the competition here: http://www.wexphotographic.com/blog/have-you-got-what-it-takes-to-be-the-wex-photographer-of-the-year-2015