Monday, 31 December 2007

Work and Play

Work and Play, originally uploaded by North Light.

A photograph from about 18 months ago, Cromarty harbour, Cromarty is a beautiful small town in Ross-shire on the Cromarty Firth.
A place we do not get to very often, but always worth a visit. The use of HDR on this image has worked well allowing me to pull a bit more information out of the shadows in the pier, where masking and using curves in photoshop would have been difficult.
Right, that's the play bit finished, now for work, time for a RANT!
Why is it that British tourists, particularly those at the lower end of the budget can be such a pain in the a***. We have a group of central belt Scots in for the New Year, and there are one or two who are going to make it painful. I was told when I started in this occupation, that other than our colonial cousins, the Americans, for whom a different set of rules apply, that the amount of hassle from the guest is the inverse to the amount they are paying!!! We were cold last night, there's a draft in the room, yup, the window was open! Probably because they had been smoking in a non-smoking room!

Saturday, 29 December 2007


Winter Beach 3, originally uploaded by North Light.

Some reflections on cameras, very likely controversial!

The eagle eyed of you will have noticed that there is a subtle change in the photographs that have been taken since the 2nd of December, see "Taken On" or "Taken In" in "additional Information" on Images individual pages. They have a slightly different "feel" to them. I have decided to change the cameras I am using, so I have sold my beloved Canon 5D, and my back-up camera, a Nikon D80 and in the process of selling the vast majority of my lenses!
At the beginning of December I purchased a Nikon D300 and will slowly concentrate on building a new set of Nikon lenses. Why you might ask? the Nikon is a much more intuitive camera to use, it makes sense for both the main and the back-up camera to be identical, or very similar in operation, the mechanical use of the camera becomes automatic, and hence does not distract from the creative side.
So I have gone from a full frame sensor to a cropped sensor, a backwards step? No, the Nikon seems to be able to record a wider dynamic range, and with care is producing images of the same quality as the 5D. Will I not miss the 5D MkII, maybe, but I prefer the Nikon to use,If Ican produce prints up to A2 size I don't need more detail.
The image above was taken with a Canon D60, a 6 Mexapixel camera, it consistently produced high quality images as long as the exposure was well controlled, and I liked it much better than the Canon 20D, so much so that I kept the D60 as my back-up camera for about 2 years. The 5D as I have said produced stunning pictures, this was not that it produced more detail than other 12 mp cameras, but there was a different feel to its images.
So where is this ramble leading? What I am trying to say is that once a certain amount of image information is recorded, the real differences come down to the quality of information recorded, and the tools we use to produce the resulting image. I have used RAW files virtually from the start of using a DSLR, and now am enjoying the benefit of better image processing programmes to produce images such as the one above, it prints to A4 with no problems, with care and some up-sizing, I will be able to get a A3 print, which when viewed from "Normal" distances is perfectly acceptable.
So I look forward to 2008, learning how to get the best from the Nikon, and concentrating on the Image, not the camera.

Now for the toys!
What I have not found is a compact camera that I enjoy using, or like the results from, Sigma DP1 perhaps?

Thursday, 27 December 2007

A Breaking Wave of Sand

A Breaking Wave of Sand, originally uploaded by North Light.

The day after Boxing Day, I am sat at Reception in the Hotel, its 8:30 am, my reception area is full of cases, yes the Christmas guests are going home! Peace for a few days. Then we are full again at New Year!
During the quieter moments over Christmas the eagle eyed of you will notice that I have been playing with Photomatix Pro 3.0 Beta, I have to say that I am impressed, although the user interface is not as polished as most programmes I normally use, it seems much easier to produce images that are less obviously HDR.
I hope to work with this a lot more over the next few months, and spend more time producing taking photographs to work with HDR.

Thursday, 20 December 2007


Winter Beach 1, originally uploaded by North Light.

Photography is a funny thing! An odd statement?
For the last few weeks I have had no problem seeing photographs, working though my image archive has been equally productive, but I got home last night, cup of tea, and in front of my monitor started going through photographs taken in 2005 with the intention of creating a few new images for my flickr photostream, found four potential images, created bracketed exposures using Camera Raw, processed with Photomatix, and started to do the final work in Photoshop. I rejected all four!
Lack of inspiration, not seeing images, its not a new phenomenon, but why does it happen?
I was motivated, had no problems picking the images to work on, but the results were not in any way inspirational.
Yet 24 hours before I produced the photograph above, to me its the most satisfying image I have produced al month, yet in its original format I probably got very close to deleting it!
Thoughts to ponder on over the Christmas Season.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Night on the Pots?

Night on the Pots?, originally uploaded by North Light.

Another bright and frosty morning, we have now had a few days of good winter weather, I was able to take advantage of this yesterday, and spent some time out with the camera, but the days are very short now, sunrise was at 9.00 am, and sunset at 3.14 pm, just over six hours of full daylight! Still the shortest day is nearly here, and we then have spring to look forward to.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Weather Forecast

Golden Sand, originally uploaded by North Light.

Thinking about taking photographs, the weather this week has been pretty good, but have been in the hotel office during daylight hours, frustrating!
The forecast for Sunday looks good though, so subject to the accuracy of the forecast it's a photography day tomorrow. Something to keep me motivated for the rest of the day?

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Castlehill harbour...2

Castlehill harbour...2, originally uploaded by North Light.

Published. I am pleased that this and one other photograph were published in "amateur Photographer" magazine this week. The email from the publishers asking permission to use the two images came as a total surprise as these were part of a portfolio submitted nearly two years ago, the cynical side of me thinks that they were obviously short of suitable photos, so had to resort to the filing system!
On a more positive note, the portfolio was submitted to three publications, two of which have published, the third, which will of course remain nameless rejected the portfolio, two out of three is not bad!
I guess that this indicates that I really should do more with my photographs, a "New Years Resolution" perhaps?

Monday, 10 December 2007

Sunday Morning Walk

Sunday Morning Walk, originally uploaded by North Light.

Another week begins, the festive season is creeping up! More functions in the Hotel at the end of this week, next week is then busy, less time for photography!
Got out yesterday with Bev, a walk on Dunnet beach, although there was no direct sunlight the sky was superb, lots of clouds in just about every shade of grey which has I hope produced some interesting images.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Winter Weather

Low Tide, originally uploaded by North Light.

Slipped down to Inverness yesterday, a spot of unsuccessful Christmas shopping, no inspiration.
A really strange day for weather, sleet in the rain on the way down, particularly as we were crossing the Causeymire, and at the Ord of Caithness. Outside temperature gauge on the car was reading 3°C, as we were leaving Inverness in the early afternoon the Car was registering 14°C, it was still 12°C when we got back to Thurso late afternoon, Summer's back!
Stooped on the way back at Dornoch for a quick walk on the beach, and a couple of quick photographs, I always find this an inspiring spot.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Thurso Surf

Thurso Surf, originally uploaded by North Light.

This was taken yesterday morning, I was able to get out with the camera just before dawn, not too difficult as sunrise was just after 8:30 am. A cold morning, frost on the ground and the odd patch of ice.
It was obviously a good morning for surf as there must have been about ten people in the water in Thurso Bay, COLD, and when I left about an hour later this had probably increased to twenty or so.
These were my first attempts at taking pictures of surfers, I really needed to use a longer lens, but I am not unhappy with some of the results.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Winter Blues

Red on Grey, originally uploaded by North Light.

I guess that this should really read "Winter Greys", but its been another week with no photography, had to resort to working on images from the back catalogue!
I should not be negative about this, I have a lot of images I like, and in many cases re-working them is very positive, and I hope that they are benefiting from a little bit more experience!
I received a email from the submissions department of a well known weekly UK Photographic magazine yesterday, some of a portfolio I submitted nearly two years ago is being published in the magazine in December, quietly pleased with this. This will mean that of the three magazines I submitted portfolios to, two will have published photographs from the portfolio. Not a bed hit rate!
On a completely different subject, the forecast for tomorrow looks good, so the plan for Sunday involves photography, and not much else. This is of course subject to the vagaries of the weather.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Withdrawal Symptoms.

Autumn Glow, originally uploaded by North Light.

Its that time of year where it's difficult to get out and take photographs, I tend to do the "Day Shift", if there are no residents this starts at about 8.00 am, through to circa 5.00 pm, 5 to 6 days a week. If we have residents this starts at 6.00 am and ends between 4 to 6:00 pm, again 5 to 6 days a week. So my photography in the winter is concentrated into one day a week, with the opportunity to get out on other days if Bev, or a member of Staff cover the office for me.
Well, it feels as if for the last month that the only times I have been out with a camera that its been raining, not even interesting rain, just grey rain!
So I have resorted to working through the back catalogue, and I guess that you will see a few more old images on flickr!
Now the forecast says we are going to get sunshine on ******

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Through the Looking Glass

Through the Looking Glass, originally uploaded by North Light.

This was taken a couple of years ago, using a Canon 20D handheld. I have always liked the photograph, but having re-processed it using Photomatrix, followed by Photoshop, I have to say I am now much happier with the end result.
This really illustrates the benefit of using RAW images, I have been able to re-process the image, using an updated version of Camera Raw with the benefits of more control. The resulting photograph has also benefited from new techniques and programmes that were not available to me when I took the original picture.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Harrow Harbour

Harrow Harbour, originally uploaded by North Light.

Well its Monday again, the sun is trying to shine. Yesterday was another Caithness grey day, rained for most of the day and the light was flat and uninteresting.
So working on old raw files, I continue to be impressed with HDR, the ability to open out images, and increase the apparent dynamic range by processing different exposures from a single raw file is stunning.
I can feel the beginning of a project for the winter evenings!
The photograph of Harrow harbour was taken a couple of years ago on an autumn afternoon, the light had a particularly beautiful quality, the extra processing with HDR software has opened out the shadow detail without introducing too much noise and allowed the production of a very satisfying image.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Clearing Sea Fog

Clearing Sea Fog, originally uploaded by North Light.

A quiet day in the North of Scotland, the sun was shining this morning, but had disappeared by lunch time. Feels as though it is also getting colder, so no photography today. Forecast does not look promising for the weekend either, so my thoughts have roamed to how I started my photographic journey.

I didn't seriously start taking photographs until I was in my late twenties, I only remember two earlier forays into the world of photography, my parents gave me a Kodak Brownie 127 when I was about 8, I think the novelty soon wore off, and it was discarded to the bottom of a draw. In the 1970's my brother bought a Olympus OM-1, this sparked off an interest in cameras, with a mixture of envy and a strong desire to own such a beautiful object.
In the 1980's I purchased my first SLR camera, a Minolta X700, this being the beginning of a passion for photography.

My photography has evolved through the use of lots of film, learning to be self critical and the influence of other photographers. Through the 1980's and 1990's I went to as many photographic exhibitions as I could, the highlights of these exhibitions were Ansel Adams at the Barbican and Sebastiano Salgado at the RPS in Bath. Other photographers that made a lasting impression at this time were Don McCullin, Fay Goodwin, Bill Brandt,, Paul Strand and James Ravilious.

Another important influence was the Guardian Newspaper, during the 1990's when Eamonn McCabe was picture editor of The Guardian. During this period the Guardian consistently raised the quality of photography used in quality British newspapers.
During the 1980's Eamonn produced some of the most iconic sports photography, winning Sports Photographer of the Year four times between1978 and 1984.

As my love for landscape photography has developed I have continued to derive inspiration from the work of photographers, those that immediatly spring to mind are Charlie Waite, David Ward, Colin Prior and Joe Cornish.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Dodging the Waves, Oh and now its Started Raining!

Sunday morning, windy, wet, and the sun shining, oh and I nearly forgot the rainbow.

Harbour Steps.

Harbour Steps., originally uploaded by North Light.

One from Sunday.

The Sun is Out!

Why is it that on days off the sun refuses to come out, and when one is at work out it pops!
One would think that now I am in my fifth decade I would have learnt why, and how to circumnavigate the problem.
Yesterday was a mixture of rain, sun, hail, wind, and i think I even saw some sleet. Oh and I forgot there was a rainbow, Caithness weather I guess. Still a few photographs were achieved.
Used my old 17 - 35 lens for the afternoon shots, I had forgotten that it does not seem to work well on a digital camera, always appears soft. Further experimentation needed, if not happy with the results this will have to go on the replacement list next year!

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Waiting to be eaten!

Waiting to be eaten!, originally uploaded by North Light.

It's Saturday morning again, in the hotel office and the weather is damp and grey. We have had the first of the winter weather this week, windy for most of the week, particularly strong on Thursday, horizontal rain, this changed on Friday to much heavier rain, but at least it was vertical!
So, a photograph to remind me of the warm, hazy and lazy (I wish) days of summer.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

It's Going to be a Rough Night

Winter is here!, dark mornings and nights, and the first winter gale on Monday night. Took a series of photographs at Sandside Harbour, from which I have produced some HDR images. I am pleased with the results, whcih have caught the light and the mood well.
Each image is produced by taking a RAW file, using Adobe Camera Raw 5 different exposures have been produced, -2 EV to +2 EV, and then a HDR image is produced with Photomatix Pro, tone mapped in Photomatix, and finally adjustments and sharpening in Adobe Photoshop.
A rather long winded production process, but I am pleased with the results.
These images do show that, in relatively low contrast situations modern digital slr's are capable of recording a wide dynamic range.
This of course also highlights the benefits of using the RAW image format.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Old Sea Wall,

Old Sea Wall,, originally uploaded by North Light.

Sunday morning, weather is grey with the odd hint of blue sky, but the The light is very flat this morning. Have been on the beach with the camera, but no images that I am satisfied with.
So, here is a photograph from last night, I managed to get out just for the last few minutes of daylight, no direct sunlight unfortunatly, but a good opportunity to continu the exploration of HDR. This image was taken using 5 exposures, 1 EV steps, -2 EV to + 2 EV. Because the Nikon D80 will ony auto-bracket 3 exposures this has to be done manually, and with the low light levels this means that the 5 exposures are taken over something in the region of 30 seconds to a minute. This inevitably means that there is movement in the water and clouds. But this image has worked well, and I think is one of my most succesful HDR images yet.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Transom, Crane and Rope.

Transom, Crane and Rope., originally uploaded by North Light.

A grey day in Thurso, been like this most of the week, not inspiring!
So, I thought I would put up some old B & W images, all taken with a Canon D60, my first digital SLR.
Black and White is something I have been neglecting, and looking back on these is something I should be exploring, oh for more time in the day, and a little less rain!

Tuesday, 30 October 2007


Sunrise, originally uploaded by North Light.

As promised, a "normal" exposure from Sunday morning. A 0.9 ND neutral graduate filter was used to control the exposure of the sky.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Waiting for the Sun.

Waiting for the Sun., originally uploaded by North Light.

Out early this morning, Castlehill Harbour is one of my favourite locations, particularly good in autumn. Succesful morning, spent more time exploring HDR, the results were worthwhile and this is a technique I will spend more time learning. 

I feel that it is important not to use HDR  as the only solution to taking photographs in high contrast situations, the use of neutral graduate filters is also very effective, and give a more "natural" image I will post some of these later in the week.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Digging for Bait.

Digging for Bait., originally uploaded by North Light.

Its a grey and wet Saturday morning, I think our rather late summer is now over! Covering reception in the hotel this morning, no one about, no urgent jobs, so time to look back through images taken over the last two years. I thought I would put some of my personal favourites of Caithness on flickr,.
Forecast for tomorrow looks better, sunshine and showers, so I will try and get out with the camera, beats the washing and the ironing!

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Sunset over Thurso

Sunset over Thurso, originally uploaded by North Light.

A frustrating week photographically. I have been out with the camera a few times, and usually seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time!
Tuesday evening was an exception, it did not look very promising, in fact I took very few photographs, but one image has made the week worthwhile, and has stopped the onset of the "Victor Meldrew" syndrome!
I am very impressed with HDR, I regard my self as very much a novice in its use and need to spend more time working with it. The goal is to use it to extend the dynamic range, but for the image not to look as though HDR has been used. Not sure if this is realistic, time will tell.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Morning Light

Morning Light, originally uploaded by North Light.

Taken during a week of touring, stayed for three nights in Port Appin at The Pierhouse.
This photograph was taken from the Pier, I like the monotone colours, with the gentle warmth of the sunlight on Kingairloch.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

High Tide

High Tide, originally uploaded by North Light.

I thought that this would be a good image to start my blog with.
Taken last weekend, 30th September, on one of the best days we have had this year.

My partner and I are away for the next few days, some quality time together, during which I hope to get some good images on the west coast of Scotland.

I plan to use the blog for a commentary on the photographic highlights of my life, and if at all possible to illustrate the best of Caithness and Sutherland.