About the Photographer
I have always believed that the essence of top quality landscape photography boils down to just three components: composition, timing and light, and that final ingredient, light, its colour, quality, direction and strength is the single biggest influence on the success or otherwise of the final image. Indeed so vital is that last ingredient that I am quite certain that even the most mundane landscapes can be elevated to the level of a visual masterpiece even in the absence of the others. If all are present then the finest pictures will inevitably float to the top like cream. However, why would anyone settle for the mundane when the world is filled with such inspiring places. Scotland rarely disappoints, but it always put up a fight; more than any other country I have tackled Scotland challenges the photographer's patience and skill; it toys with you, teases you with amazing light, then laughs at you as you struggle in shrieking wind and rain desperate to record that transient and rapidly fading moment of magic. It’s like trying to land a fish on a line too thin to hold it. In photographic terms if the timing, elements, lighting and subject material are not persuaded into coherency, then, as with fishing, the hook is slipped, the line breaks and the moment of triumph passes.
Transient Light perfectly describes that moment. I search both the wide and intimate landscape for those magical seconds when all the elements align. These extraordinary moments pass all too rapidly and subside back to the mundane. I invite you to look inside these galleries and witness for yourself the joy of Transient Light. My Philosophy.
The sole intent of my landscape photography is simple. I want to recreate the scene that you could have witnessed with your own eyes had you been standing next to me at the moment I fired the camera shutter. In order for a picture to qualify as a photograph and not something I regard as digital art, the image must be captured in a single frame. That moment can be nearly instantaneous, or it can last several seconds. As long as the end result produces a single well exposed transparency or digital file. It is very rare for me to physically touch or remove any part of the landscape and especially not permanent features. It is important to me; that you, the viewer, know that you can visit these locations and find these scenes for yourself albeit with the caveat that Government planning, dubious business necessity and natural entropy may in time render that impossible. I should also add that these are simply my own personal opinions, ethics and observations as to what makes a legitimate landscape photograph, ultimately the best landscape photographs and the ones that give me the most lasting pleasure should invigorate all your senses. Atmosphere and mood should be as tangible as the vision and the final image needs to be as transparent as a glass less window - a scene you can step through, touch, taste and smell.
Whether you shoot digital or film there are always a few caveats, no film or camera sensor records light, shade or colour in the same way as the human eye perceives it. You and I can see detail within a ten to 13 stop range. Fuji Velvia film can barely record details over five stops, a serious shortcoming that has to be taken into account and addressed. When it comes to film, which is what most of the images were taken with on this website, the use of neutral density graduated filters is near enough essential to render the final exposed image correctly and bring it into line with what you and I would see. Occasionally I choose to modify existing colour casts with very weak filters to match those seen at the appropriate time of day but I try to use them as honestly as I can. It is never my intention to falsify colours and as previously indicated, It is vitally important to me that anyone viewing these images, knows, that if they had been in that place, at that time and date, they too could have beheld the vision that I was witness too.
There are several brands of filter now available on the market, my current favorite is the Haida M10 glass filter system which gives extremely sharp and crisp images with no perceivable colour cast regardless of the density of filtration or the focal length employed. This is extremely important to me as is the ability to stack two 100mm rectangular filters together with a slot in neutral density polariser without any vignetting on either my Pentax 67 or my Fuji GF lenses even on the 23mm and the 32-64mm zoom. Perhaps the most salient point is the price. Good quality glass filters are not cheap and neither are these, but they do seem to be much more competitively priced than other makes that are less well specified. The basic Haida kit comes with the holder, a slot in polariser, a slot in blanking plate to reduce light incursion between any further stacked filters when the polariser is not in use, and one adapter ring to fit the lens of your choice. Additionally I would recommend you try and get hold of the following to comprise a really decent starter kit.
Haida M10 Red Diamond 0.6ND hard edged grad - 2 stops
Haida M10 Red Diamond 0.6ND soft edged grads - 2 stops
Haida M10 slot in 1.8ND slot in Neutral Density with incorporated Circ Polariser – 6 stops
I have additional M10 filters such as reverse grads and 3 stop 0.9ND grads but they are used less than those above.
My Film Equipment
I shoot all my landscape photography with two cameras. For film I use a Pentax 67II which is a medium format camera, it creates images with an area of 6 x 7cm usually on Fuji Velvia 50 and I use this in conjunction with the following medium format lenses.
Pentax 45mm lens
Pentax 55-100mm zoom lens
Pentax 90-180mm zoom lens.
Pentax 300mm APO f/4 lens.
The camera is tough as old boots, intuitively easy to use and offers outstanding image quality. Alas the cost of film is spiraling ever upwards as is the cost of developing it so it is being used more sparingly these days but when it does get out for an outing I need to use it with this odd looking device, a Pentax Digital spot meter, it is essential in maintaining exact and accurate exposures in respect of the photography I carry out with my Pentax 67II as the meter on the camera is simply not good enough. The Pentax Digital Spot meter could best be described as a rotary slide rule. You set the ISO of your film on the front (green dial), the meter accurately measures a mid-tone from a 1 degree area spot providing an EV reading on an LED screen when viewed through its optics. That value is assigned to the (red dial) and rotated to the marker and the same rotation of that red dial re-assigns all corresponding values of aperture and shutter speed such that they can be viewed at a glance and input to your camera manually, not forgetting any additional filtration in front of the lens.
My Digital Camera
The Fuji GFX50S is the just the second digital camera I have owned and the first where I liked the jpeg images directly out of camera. It is intended to be an eventual replacement for my Pentax 67II. The GFX50S is lighter (even with the lenses), faster, has higher resolution and has incredible dynamic range making a lot of my additional filtration redundant. Above all the lenses, which I have listed below are quite probably the finest quality I have ever come across. I am really enjoying using the new kit something that has never happened with any previous digital camera.
Fuji GF23mm lens
Fuji GF32–64mm zoom lens
Fuji GF100-200mm zoom lens
Which ever camera is used it will be bolted securely to a carbon fibre Gitzo 3532LS tripod complete with the superb Really Right Stuff BH-55 QR ball head with a custom shaped right angle clamp. This is an amazingly strong and rigid setup which makes challenging landscape photography, even in arduous conditions, a pleasurable experience.
In order to get the image onto a screen or into print I have to do some image processing. I scan all my original transparencies using a Nikon Coolscan 9000 ED in conjunction with the frighteningly expensive glass holder (its essential), at 16 bit resolution. The resulting scan is adjusted as accurately as possible to match my original transparency as viewed on a calibrated light box. All digital images are processed in Capture One.
Please note to enjoy the images on this website at their very best you will need to get your monitor calibrated and periodically re-calibrated to ensure that your monitor's colour balance doesn't drift.
My Five Top Tips
1. Take pictures first and foremost for yourself, pictures that give you pleasure, NOT pictures you believe others might prefer to see. Your photographs will never please everyone - so have fun, if you like it that's just fine. I like my coffee with milk and sugar, doubtless others prefer theirs strong and black!
2. Don't forsake the aesthetic for the perceived need to be "original". A beautiful picture is just that; beautiful, it doesn't need the window dressing of contrived originality to be admired.
3. Rules are written for fools to follow and for the wise to be guided by. Group Captain Douglas Bader CBE. Be bold with your compositional choices.
4. Appreciate, photograph and embrace the beauty of the light that is given. It is pointless to harbor regret for anticipated light that refused to materialise and still worse to try and make up for its perceived inadequacy in post processing.
5. A great many photographers are obsessed with developing a style. Relax, take pictures, enjoy.. All that I have learned from my years of landscape photography has taught me that a style will find YOU and when it happens, YOU will be the last person to realise you already have one.