How I made this light trails photograph in 12 simple steps

I dont often do this type of photography, It's not really the sort of thing I go for but it is winter and so the early evenings make it a good time to do some night or blue hour photography.  I spotted this location a few months back and thought it was a great location for a light trails shot.  Here are my 12 tips for a successful light trails shoot...

Glasgow Photography Traffic Light Trails
  1. Scout a great location - light trails can look great by themselves by combine it with the right location and you are on to a winner.   I visited this spot a few months back and what grabbed my attention was the curve leading from the bottom left and through the image to the office blocks.  I keep a folder in Lightroom for future ideas and stored the image here as I knew I would return here when the nights were shorter and I could do some shots in the ‘blue hour’.
  2. Arrive early – I arrived about an hour before sunset.  This gave me time set up the shot, find the composition I wanted.
  3. Use a tripod - obvious really.  The camera needs to be as steady as possible for an extended period of time so a tripod is a must.
  4. And a shutter release – helps to minimise camera movement meaning no unwanted shake.  I have tried using my cameras self-timer in the past but to be honest it is far too fiddly, and shutter release cables are available pretty cheap.
  5. Stay warm - bring along a hat, gloves and warm clothes - I was shooting in late November in Scotland so I knew it would be cold but no matter where you are  when the sun goes down it gets cooler so plan for it.
  6. Take test shots - another reason for my early arrival is that it was easy for me to set focus point and check test shots.  Once I knew my focus was sorted I then switch to Manual focus to lock the focus in.  Many cameras struggle to focus in low light (my own included) so it is worth spending a few minutes setting this up beforehand.
  7. Set your shutter speed - this varies for each and every image but if you are shooting in blue hour around 10 seconds is a good starting point.  That said nothing is set in stone so feel free to experiment
  8. Aperture - again this can vary.  The shot I took is set at f16 but again depending on what you want your shot to look like will affect all of your settings
  9. ISO - as low as possible.  Creating images in low light can mean unwanted noise in an image and one way minimise that is to set your ISO to the minimum. 
  10. Take more images than you think you need - I took around eighty images and used maybe twelve or so.  It is jut the nature of the beast and there is a bit of luck involved.  You will probably spend a fair bit of time working your way through images, deciding which ones you like and are useable in your final composition.
  11. Edit in Lightroom and Photoshop (or whatever you use) - I use Lightroom and Photoshop, despite the fact that Lightroom drives me insane due to its sluggish performance and crashing.  If you are not using Photoshop you will definitely need an image editor that allows you to use layers and masking.  The chances are you will be combining a lot of images into one composite.
  12. Here is a fantastic step-by-step Lightroom and Photoshop editing guide.

So what do you think?  Are light trails something that you may consider shooting?  Or do you have any other tips you like to share?  Please comment below.

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Meeting Glasgow's Creatives: Chantal Allan (Warped Textiles)

Having never been to The Briggait until a couple of weeks ago, I have now visited no less than three times in the space of fourteen days and my latest trip there was to photograph Chantal Allan (Warped Textiles).  Chantal creates fabrics for soft furnishings and accessories and is inspired by nature and maths, especially geometry.

Chantal Allan Warped Textiles.jpg

It is always a wee bit strange turning up at someone’s studio to photograph them, after all, with the exception of a few emails, everyone I have photographed for this project have been perfect strangers.  What has been heartening though is that everyone has been friendly and welcoming and most importantly in Chantal’s case, provided tea and biscuits upon arrival.  Cheers.

Weaving Loom and Wool Glasgow.jpg

Chantal and I blethered away about work, family, weaving, photography, visiting Harris… and whatever else came to mind.  It is always great to meet someone for the first time and just be able to make small talk. It really makes a big difference when it comes to photographing them.  Just knowing that the person is comfortable and relaxed makes the process so much easier for both parties involved.

A large part of the shoot was with Chantal working at her loom.  I am still trying to keep these photographs as natural as possible and this can often mean a lot of images that are unusable for one reason or another.  In Chantal’s case, this was due to the speed she worked at the loom.  It was often difficult to keep up and focus correctly, I really had to try and predict what Chantal was going to do and time each shot.  Not easy at all.

Wool Bobbins Glasgow

Chantal and I knew that some of these images may be used on her Instagram feed as part a #MeetYourMaker promotion so I tried where possible to make sure the images could be easily cropped to a square format if required.

This was a great little shoot.  When I started this project I wanted to try and show the enthusiasm that creative people have for their chosen output and this was abundantly clear with Chantal.   

You can see Chantal's gallery photograph in the main Meeting Glasgow's Creatives page, and if you would like to participate or maybe suggest an artist who may like to meet up send me a quick message here.

Remember to check out Warped Textiles website at Cressa's work at www.warped-textiles.com.

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Meeting Glasgow's Creatives: Cressa McLaren

Another week passes and my Meeting Glasgow’s Creatives project continues to grow.  It has been difficult for me to keep up with the number of people getting in contact – so if you have contacted me previously I haven’t got back, please contact me again and I will definitely be in touch.

This week I met Cressa McLaren at her studio at the Briggait where she creates all manner of glass pieces including tableware, lighting, her 'Glass Meadow' collection, as well as one-off commission work.

Cressa McLaren at work Glasgow Glass Artist

From the outset I knew this shoot was going to be enjoyable one.  Cressa and I blethered away as if we had known each other for ages.  We spoke about her times as a glass artist in Kirkcudbright and now Glasgow.  We both moaned and enthused about our respective children in equal measure (as parents tend to do).  I was also lucky to see a commission Cressa was working on and we spoke about how such a piece is created.

Cressa Mclaren at work

Meeting and photographing so many different creative people has really been great fun.  Everyone who has participated has been genuinely passionate about their work and all have welcomed me generously.

CRessa Mclaren Glass Meadow Collection

That being said, walking in to so many different situations with minimal photography gear (i dont even bring a flash!) can be very uncomfortable.  I am trying to avoid posed images as much as possible, preferring people to work as they normally would, with me working circling around them.  This has positives and negatives.

Firstly, the lack of a flash means my subjects have been relaxed and natural when I am in there studio - I do not know why, but a lot of people seem to tense up when a flash is used.  Also, I feel flash makes it difficult for visual artists to concentrate on work, thus making my presence more obvious.  Also, working with no flash has really allowed me to ease up when it comes to working at higher ISO in order to compensate for lack of light.  Many of my shots are taken at 800 or 1250 ISO, something I would previously went to great leaps to avoid.  Don’t get me wrong, I would prefer to be using flash but sometimes working within these restrictions really gets your brain in gear.

You can see Cressa's gallery photograph in the main Meeting Glasgow's Creatives page, and if you would like to participate or maybe suggest an artist who may like to meet up send me a quick message here.

Remember to check out Cressa's work at www.cressamclaren.com.

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Meeting Glasgow's Creatives: Jane Gardiner

What has been great about my Meeting Glasgow’s Creatives project is that I have been able to visit studios across this city that I would never see otherwise. This week I met Jane Gardiner at Wasps Studios just off Alexandra Parade.  Jane paints from her studio in Wasps while working as a GP three days a week.

Jane_Gardiner_Artist_Glasgow

During our shoot, Jane and I chatted about her love of museums and how she often gains inspiration from them.  I noticed a lot of Jane’s work included elements such as skeletons, animals, and butterflies, and I wondered if Jane’s medical knowledge informed her art as well as her love of museums.

Costumes_in_the_studio

Anyway, Jane and I agreed to try some portrait style / head shots for use on her website.  Luckily, we were able to take advantage of the lovely natural light coming in from the window in her studio.

As seems to be the norm for me I was struck by a bout of minor clumsiness again and managed lean in oil paint when I was taking a shot.  This was followed only seconds later by me knocking a hat to the ground from Jane’s collection of costumes.

Sketches_Butterflies

You can see Jane's gallery photograph in the main Meeting Glasgow's Creatives page, and if you would like to participate or maybe suggest an artist who may like to meet up send me a quick message here.

Remember to check out Jane's artwork at www.janegardiner.co.uk.

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Meeting Glasgow's Creatives: Dilyana Hristova

Week four already and I met up with writer Dilyana at her home in Glasgow.

To be honest this shoot should really have been a disaster.  After walking up umpteen flights of stairs to meet Dilyana, I was so out of breath I could barely say hello.  Things were even worse as I was about to leave when I attempted to exit via a cupboard door in the hall.  Not embarrassing at all!

Despite my lacking the ability to talk and clearly looking the worse for wear, due to having to walk up so many stairs, Dilyana made me feel very welcome asking if I would like a ‘tea, coffee or cider’.  At 1pm.  In theafternoon.  The life of a twenty-something is clearly more leisurely than I am used to these days.  Sadly, I had to decline.

Prior to our meeting, I researched read some of Dilyana’s poetry and short stories on her website (to try and get an insight in to her style of writing and possibly her personality).  Dilyana and I also exchanged ideas in the days leading up to meeting each other and it was great to arrive knowing the type of images Dilyana wanted.  This made our shoot fly by and we were able to get what we wanted relatively quickly all using natural light from the enormous windows in the house.

Check out Dilyana's gallery photograph at my Meeting Glasgow's Creatives page.

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Tea, coffee and oil paints: Victoria Rose at The Hidden Lane Studios

I have to admit I had never ventured to The Hidden Lane Studios before.  I had always intended to visit but for some odd reason had never got round to it.  The ‘lane’ is home to a myriad of artists, artisans and small business owners so it is well worth going along and having a look around.

Victoria and I meet at the lovely Hidden Lane Tea Room prior to our shoot together.  The tearoom is a great little venue that is adorned with artworks from residents within the ‘lane’ - well worth a visit. 

Victoria_Charlotte_Rose_Hidden_Lane_1

As Victoria and I chatted she let me know that she was currently working mostly with oil paints and I was able to see her working on some cloudscapes when we got to the studio.

I have always been interested in the different environments in which creative people work.  I think it is an important element of the creative process.  Whether a studio is the size of a matchbox or a mansion, spotless (rare, I know) or chaotic, boisterous or silent, it is fascinating to see how the environment shapes the way the creative people thrive.

Victoria_Rose_Hidden_Lane_3

As Victoria worked away I tried to capture her in action.  It was obvious to me than when she painted she was completely at ease and oblivious to my being there – I am pretty sure that if I was not for my incessant questioning, Victoria would not have known I was taking any photographs at all.

Victoria_Charlotte_Rose_Hidden_Lane_2

Check out my other photograph of Victoria at the Meeting Glasgow's Creatives project page.

If you would like to more of Victoria's work check out her website or at her facebook.

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Photographing Glasgow's Creatives

Following on from my last post about my project photographing artists and creatives based in Glasgow, I carried out my second shoot at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS).

1/100, f2.8, ISO 800 @ 50mm

1/100, f2.8, ISO 800 @ 50mm

I was photographing John, a Greek student who is studying composition at RCS.  The main purpose of the shoot was to try and capture John in his 'working' environment.  We took a lot of environmental portraits of John tuning piano and at work in his studio, however, the shots we snatched in a poorly light hallway - only lighting was tungsten roof lights - were my favourites from the shoot.  They may look a bit raw but I think the capture John perfectly.

I only used my DSLR, two lenses, and a 5 in 1 reflector for all images with ISO boosted to around the 800 mark to get enough light in the camera.  I felt flash would have been too distracting to John and other students.   so I was basically working with the light (or lack of it) available.

I have a load of new shoots lined up for the near future so there should be a good amount of progress made in the next few months.  If you think you might be interested in taking part just message me here.

You can see John's other portrait here

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Eight things I learned shooting environmental portraits

It has taken me a very long time but I have finally got a project off the ground.  Okay, its been in the back of mind for a long time but I finally made a start.

1/500, f5, ISO 800 @ 23mm

1/500, f5, ISO 800 @ 23mm

Over the course of the next few months I will be photographing artists from in and around Glasgow.  I want to try and show the vast variety of creative people living and working in Glasgow.  Whether they are a painter, a potter, a photographer, a sculptor or a … you get the idea,  I want to try and get a glimpse in to how these people work, what are their methods, similarities, differences, and what it is that pushes them to create their art.

I put the call out on Facebook for artists who would like to be photographed in their working studio and I have already got a lot of interest and carried out my first shoot last week, and immediately I realised this is going to be a steep learning curve.  I did my first shoot with Scottish Landscape Artist Scott Naismith.  It was fantastic see Scott working on his vivid landscapes in his studio - I really appreciate you making the time Scott.

What I learned in my first shoot

  1. PLAN BETTER - I thought I would be able to turn up, get to know my collaborator, and capture at least a few images of them at work.

  2. YOU NEED TO WORK FAST – I am used to working at more leisurely pace, planning a shot, taking my time with composition – time does not exist when working with an artist in their moment, you need to be stealthy, fast and know when to pick your moment

  3. BE CAREFUL OF BACKGROUND CLUTTER – I found it nigh on impossible to get a clutter free shot in the studio.  I managed to get some nice shots of the artist at work only for the background to be too cluttered or a brightly lit screen background ruining the shot.

  4. SHOOT LOTS OF CLOSE-UPS – artists use all sorts of interesting stuff – photograph them – you can make some nice abstract shots from these things

  5. BE CAREFUL OF REFLECTIONS – with so many different tools in use some are bound to be metal and give off some harsh reflections

  6. MY NIFTY FIFTY IS FANTASTIC - the Nikkor 50mm 1.8G is a dream lens, so flexible, lets in so much light, and pretty cheap too - buy one!

  7. KNOW WHEN TO TALK – and when to be quiet, when my collaborator was in the groove I let him be.

  8. YOU NEED TO ENJOY IT – working with other people really opened my eyes to new areas of photography I never considered before.

I have already got three more shoots arranged with different artists, with a loy more planned for November and Ican't wait to continue.  If you think you might be interested in taking part just message me here.

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Equipment used


A Mackintosh shrine: Scotland Street School Museum

Just opposite Sheilds Road subway station, Scotland Street School is a school building designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh between 1903 and 1906.  Sadly, the school fell into decline in the 1970s and was closed.  Luckily though, the school is now a museum and is open for free to to the public.

Even from the outside of the building it is pretty clear the two enormous windows are the focal attractions of the building.  These windows run the full height of the school and curve out in to the school yard.  The glass includes many of Macintosh's floral motifs.

Gorgeous windows:  1/125, f5.6, ISO 250 @ 18mm

Gorgeous windows:  1/125, f5.6, ISO 250 @ 18mm

Charles Rennie Mackintosh flower motif: 1/500, f2.8, ISO 100 @ 50mm.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh flower motif: 1/500, f2.8, ISO 100 @ 50mm.

Although the windows are the obvious stars of this building there are many other lovely Mackintosh touches on show.  Mackintosh's use of nature and natural colours are used throughout; green white, brown and blue are used throughout the whole building.

Door in the museum: 1/60, f4.5, ISO 400 @ 18mm.

Door in the museum: 1/60, f4.5, ISO 400 @ 18mm.

Visiting the museum made a refreshing change.  The interiors are fantastically photographable - had it not been for the lack of light - even those enormous windows don’t provide enough to photograph the interior without boosting ISO settings.  Nonetheless, Mackintosh’s design elements use colour, contrast and symmetry, there compositions aplenty throughout.  Give it a visit.

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A quick trip to Wemyss Bay Railway Station

Only a short train ride from Glasgow's Central station, Wemyss Bay is the end of the line for anyone heading to Rothesay on the ferry.  For any photographer who enjoys shooting architecture the gorgeous station at Wemyss Bay is a great little location - rail enthusiasts may just enjoy it too.

Looking up at roof : 1/100, f5.6, ISO 100 @ 50mm

Looking up at roof : 1/100, f5.6, ISO 100 @ 50mm

The station is noted for its architectural qualities and is regarded as one of Scotland's finest railway buildings.  It is a now a Category A listed bulding.  The mix of steel and glass give the building an industrial feel you would expect.  However, the combination of light flooding in through glass panels, the bright paint work and long sloping curves also provide the the building with a modern edge.  It is quite a trick.

Pillars in train station: HDR image at f11, ISO 100 @ 22mm.

Pillars in train station: HDR image at f11, ISO 100 @ 22mm.

Wemyss Bay is only a forty-five minute train journey from Glasgow and weather permitting can be photographed in a couple of hours.  The station is very quiet and staff seem to allow photographers to go about their business - I was not interrupted at all during my visit.

Photography here was a fantastic, relaxing experience.  The only issue to be aware of is amount of reflections - the light reflecting off the gloss painted surfaces was problematic but the use of a polariser minimised these.

So what do you think, is Wemyss Bay worth a visit for you?  Can you suggest any other locations to photograph?  Leave a comment below.

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