Abstract architecture in Santorini

If you have seen any of my recent posts I am sure it is clear that Santorini has some wonderful architecture to photograph.  This image is part of a church exterior in Oia.

    1/500, f8, ISO 500 @50mm

    1/500, f8, ISO 500 @50mm

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    Equipment used

    Bell tower

    There are hundreds of small churches scattered all around Santorini.  Most of them are adorned with beautiful bell towers such as this one below.

    1/60, f8, ISO 100 @ 26mm

    1/60, f8, ISO 100 @ 26mm

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    Equipment used: 

    Stripe

    Prior to my family holiday to Santorini I set myself a side project of creating a collection of abstract / minimalist images using the architecture on the island.  This is the first of these shots. Hooray!  I had initially thought of releasing the images as a free e-book but instead I will post them here over the coming days and weeks.

    If you enjoy my work, feel free to share or leave a comment, I'd appreciate it.

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    1/500, f8, ISO 100, @ 35mm

    1/500, f8, ISO 100, @ 35mm

    Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM Art lens for Nikon: first impression review

    After what seems endless hours researching different lenses for my Nikon APS-C system I finally taken the plunge and purchased the Sigma 18-35mm Art lens.

    I have been using only Nikkor 35mm and 50mm prime lenses for the last year but my increasing interest in architectural photography found me wanting to go a wee bit wider, but with some flexibility too.  Really, I wanted a lens that would work wide and at 35mm and the Sigma seemed to fit the bill for me.  Also almost every review I have read about the lens raved about the quality and sharpness (see DPReview or SLRLounge) so I felt this was a good bet for me.

    I will provide a more in-depth review of the lens when I have had some time to use it extensively and come to an informed conclusion.  For now though I discuss some first impressions in using the lens briefly during my visit to The Lighthouse in Glasgow.

    Build quality

    The lens looks professional and the build quality is excellent.  The zoom ring is slow but smooth, however it does turn in the opposite direction to my Nikkor lenses which is a little annoying.. One nice touch is the the focal length numbers are marked clearly on the zoom part of the lens making it easy to choose desired focal length. 

    Weight

    This a hefty lens.  I would say it seems too heavy for me to use as a walk around lens - I'll reserve judgement for now though.  It was my intention to sell my Nikkor 35mm 1.8 after buying the Sigma so I will see how I feel about this in the future. 

    Image quality

    Raw files look fantastic.  Clear and amazingly sharp (see below).  A real move up in quality compared to the Nikkor primes I have been using.

    f5.6, 1/80, ISO 400 at 18mm

    f5.6, 1/80, ISO 400 at 18mm

    f5.6, 1/125, ISO 400 at

    f5.6, 1/125, ISO 400 at

    Last bit

    One minor grievance I have had using the lens is that the lens does not seem to clip on properly a lot of the time.  Admittedly, this is a minor quip but for a lens that costs around the £600 mark it does seem a bit of an oversight.

    Conclusion

    With only limited use the Sigma 18-35mm is already proving to be a great lens.  The image quality is fantastic and I am pretty sure I can overcome the minor inconvenience of the zoom ring turning opposite to the Nikon lenses and the ill-fitting lens cap.  I will write a a full review after more prolonged use with the lens but of you have any questions please ask via the comment section below.

    Buy Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM Lens for Nikon
    Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM Lens for Canon

    Hunting out architecture photo locations in Glasgow

    I have written previously about the importance of scouting locations using a minimum of kit so I decided to take some of my own advice and get out and find some buildings to photograph.

    Glasgow has an abundance of Edwardian, Victorian (and earlier) architecture but when I am looking for locations I am always drawn to modern buildings.  I like the shapes and different materials used.

    Inovo building on George Street

    Inovo building on George Street

    The Inovo building (above) is another frequent visit of mine.  With fantastic angles and mixture of glass and steel on the exterior it is well worth visiting to photograph.  I really like this shot and will return fully kitted for a finished shot soon.  Aready made for a long exposure I reckon.

    Strathclyde University on Cathedral Street

    Strathclyde University on Cathedral Street

    Strathclyde University have lots of buildings scattered all around Glasgow.  The buildings on Cathedral Street are a good mix of old and modern styles - plus, there are lots of other new buildings popping up on Cathedral Street too.

    The shot above was taken looking down Cathedral Street toward Glasgow Cathedral.  The building in the foreground has an almost building block look about it - only squares and rectangles used in this part of the building. Again, I think this is worth revisiting to photograph properly.

    Equipment used:

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    How to make better cityscape photos: look for layers

    First things first, I know this isn't a 'killer' shot.  Its nice enough but hardly likely to win any awards.  What I do like about though it is that it doesn't look like Glasgow.  It has a bit of a Parisian feel I think.  The mix of different architectures gives shot a timeless look. 

    View from Macintosh Tower, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

    View from Macintosh Tower, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

    What interested me the most about this shot before I took it is the different layers which can be seen within it.  Each of which adds depth to the image.  Fore example:

    • Layer 1:  Victorian architecture in the foreground
    • Layer 2:  The black tin building on the roof tops
    • Layer 3:  A glimpse of 'old Glasgow' - similar to layer 1 but more aged
    • Layer 4:  Modern blocks in background and sky

    What do you think, would looking for layers in your cityscape images help you?  Do you have any other techniques for cityscapes to share?

    Equipment used:

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    Where to photograph in Edinburgh: Four hours in Leith

    Being a 'Leither' it is always great to get back to 'Sunny Leith'.  However, with my time limited to just four hours I'll have to chance my luck with the weather and have planned to focus my energies in the 'Shore' area of the town.

    Leith has undergone a mass of regeneration over the last twenty or so years with many new buildings having been built along the 'Shore' area and beyond.  As such, Leith is a heady mix of the old and modern meaning it is a must visit for any photographer in and around Edinburgh.  Get down there!

    The sharp angles on this office block at the Ocean Terminal were perfect for my photography style.

    The sharp angles on this office block at the Ocean Terminal were perfect for my photography style.

    Originally a port town, Leith built up around the docks.  Parts of the docks are still in use so there is always activity in the area.  What is also great to see is that despite the regeneration, many original original pieces of Leith's architecture are easily found.

    The Victoria Swing Bridge crosses the Water of Leith in the dock area.  Completed in 1874 it was originally used to transfer goods from shipos to storgae areas in docks

    The Victoria Swing Bridge crosses the Water of Leith in the dock area.  Completed in 1874 it was originally used to transfer goods from shipos to storgae areas in docks

    With only four hours in Leith I felt a bit short changed as there were so many more photography opportunities if I had just a little bit more time.  That being said, I have an excuse to return again soon.

    Anywhere else I should visit in Leith or Edinburgh?

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    Four steps to successful architecture location scouting

    Glasgow is famed for its Victorian architecture, however, in the last twenty years or so the city has seen a notable increase of modern architecture being introduced all across the city.  I thought I would set myself the challenge of finding and photographing some of the more modern architecture.  This is how I go about scouting for locations in Glasgow.

    Contact sheet of the buildings I plan to return to in the near future

    Contact sheet of the buildings I plan to return to in the near future

    1.  Use Google Images and Google Maps

    I started my search using a simple “Glasgow Architecture” search and identified the buildings I was interested in photographing, before searching specific for specific images of these buildings and mapping my route around town using Google Maps.

    2.  Carry a light load!

    One of the biggest benefits of location scouting is that you don’t have to carry all your gear with you.  I take my DSLR and a 35mm prime only.  That’s it – no extra lenses, no bag, and no tripod.  There is nothing worse than carrying a load of gear around only to discover what you thought was a great location is not everything you hoped it would be so scouting your locations saves all this hassle.

    3.  Don’t worry about the light yet 

    This may sound odd but at this stage I am only looking for compositions I like.  I don’t worry about the light – or the quality of image I am taking just now.  My scouting trip is solely for recording ideas for later, interesting shapes or textures on buildings.  It is not until I plan to return to photograph that I concern myself with quality and direction of light.  I usually find that when I am recording these ideas I know what I want the final shot to look like.  For example, I know whether I would like to use a long exposure or prefer a shadow on a specific side of building.

    4.  Import images to Lightroom

    When I return home I import all of my images into Lightroom and create a ‘database’ of locations I want to photograph later.  I also find it useful to print a contact sheet which I keep in my studio as inspiration for later.

    This is my scouting routine, it is fairly simple but by just planning a little I find my shoots go much more smoothly and I can capture the image I hand in my mind when I first clicked the shutter button.

    All that I need to do when I return to my location is check the weather on the day and use an app such as Sunrise Sunset to check direction of light and time of sunset.

    Conclusion and checklist

    • Search Google Images, Flickr, 500px etc
    • Map your route
    • Take minimal gear – a DSLR and one lens is enough!
    • Record images for future ideas – don’t worry about the light just yet
    • Print your images for later

    What is your scouting routine?  Do you plan even more thoroughly, do you know of any tools which may be useful?  Leave your comments below.