Monthly Archives: March 2015

Photographing the Kelpies Sculptures

We ran a 2 day private landscape photography course in Northumberland at the weekend, a drive of about 4.5 hours from home in the Peak District. Falkirk was about another hour or so further north so we decided, having driven this far, to drive the extra distance to take photos of the Kelpies sculptures, by Andy Scott, near Falkirk. They have been on my shooting list since being asked for prints of them several times at a show we did in Glasgow at the end of last year. They were only installed in April last year and they are still building the visitor centre to go with them. The 2 horse heads are the worlds largest equine sculptures at 30m high and they are surrounded by water. Walking around them you feel quite small!

The sculptures are made of small metal plates with gaps between each plate. Some areas have large solid metal plates, for example, the mane of each horse head and the plates at the base, which include doors to access the inside of both sculptures (they run tours inside the sculptures).

We arrived about 6.30pm on 22nd March as the light was fading, the sun had just gone down. It was cold! The metal of the sculptures was catching just a few bits of light and the clouds were different shades of grey so I had lots to work with, not great for Jan’s colour shots but good for my black and white ones.

I continued taking shots as it went dark over the following hour. There were some small lights turned on around the footpaths just before we arrived, after sunset as the light faded. Then the floodlights came on at 6.40pm. It was too light to notice them to start with but their effect increased as it went darker. I took lots of photos with the white floodlights. Exposure times were mostly 30 seconds to 1 minute at f5.6.

My Sekonic spot meter gave me the exposure times up to 15 seconds at f5.6. After this I guessed at the exposure to use. (Note, having returned home and processed the films all of my exposures were good.)

We had to wait over an hour for the final piece of lighting to come on at about 7.40pm, this was an hour after the white floodlights came on. Inside each sculpture red lights were turned on as well as red floodlights for the base of both sculptures. These made them look spectacular! Exposure times for my Ilford FP4 were now up to 2 minutes at f5.6 so I just did 4 exposures of 3 different compositions to finish. It will be interesting to see which lighting set works best in black and white, the white floodlights or the red internal lights. My final shot was of both sculptures with some wind-blurred reflections in the pool of water in front of them. In total I ran off 3 rolls of 120 FP4 film, that’s 30 exposures.

It was interesting to see 4 photographers already there when we arrived. 1 quickly disappeared leaving 3. They stayed for about 30 minutes to take the white floodlights then they all left. Jan and I were the only ones left by the time the red lights were turned on and mostly had the place to ourselves for the final 30 minutes, we left at about 8.15pm.

The place is surrounded by a raised motorway on one side and electricity pylons and cables on the other. There’s also a canal system that actually goes between the 2 sculptures with lock gates. Taking shots without cables and pylons was difficult and will need judicious cropping of my final images, which I took into account before pressing the button. The shot from directly in front of the 2 heads with a pool of water in front, that 2 of the photographers staked out, really only works after it goes properly dark as this hides the cables. They left before the red light phase which would have given them the most spectacular colour shots, but they had been there before so hopefully had taken it previously.

Kelpies in Black and White, taken on my phone from the same position as used for the proper photos taken with my Mamiya 7 film camera.

The Kelpies at Dusk

Jan took photos too and I have included 3 here to show the different lighting that we had. I’m also in the foreground of all of them for a bit of scale! Jan took all of her shots handheld and used 3200 ISO for the night shots and 1600 and 3200 ISO for the white floodlights phase. ISO 800 was enough for the dusk shots. This gave exposure times of 1/30 to 1/10 sec. With the built in vibration reduction system of the Nikon D90 the shots are sharp and will make good A3 prints!

Kelpies after Sunset

Kelpies After Sunset

Kelpies at Dusk

Kelpies at Dusk

Kelpies at Night

Red Kelpies at Night

Northumberland Photo Course

We have just returned home from running a 2 day private photography course in Northumberland. The weather was jolly kind to us, we had quite a bit of sunshine and no rain. The waves were spectacular too, with high tide in early afternoon.

We were based in Berwick upon Tweed in Northumberland just 2 miles south of the Scottish border. The course was a Christmas present for Jo from Morpeth, just north of Newcastle. Jo wanted to get back into using film cameras and brought along her Canon EOS 300 with a couple of zoom lenses. We covered everything from choosing the film, loading film into the camera, taking exposure readings with the camera meter, composition and use of tripods. We used a mixture of Ilford HP5 for hand-held shots and Ilford FP4 film for shots taken from a tripod.

We started on Berwick Beach with the basics then moved on to Eyemouth, just over the border in Scotland, as there is lots to photograph around there, harbour with boats, beach, rocky shoreline and lots of waves at high tide! It was cloudy in the morning but the sun came out while we were in the Contented Sole pub at lunchtime, as it often does! Fortunately, it stayed out for the afternoon.

In Berwick that night Jan and I found a great little place for a beer or two and jolly friendly, The Curfew micropub. No food but 4 hand pumps for real ale, lots of bottled beers too. It was on the bottom street near the estuary, opposite the Indian restaurant. I like dark beers and they had 2 Porters on so that was me sorted!

On the Sunday we met in Beadnell and headed back north to Bamburgh for the castle, beach and sand dunes. The sea was a little way out still but we took some castle shots, including reflections on the wet sand, rocks and patterns. Then we drove around to take the castle from the sand dunes on the south side.

We continued south but it was too early to take Beadnell Harbour as it needs the tide to be high so we went for an early lunch at the Craster Arms in Beadnell. Crab sandwiches were on the menu so Jan and Jo were happy! Next it was down to Beadnell Harbour for the high tide shot. Unfortunately, there is lots of scaffolding around buildings at the harbour and earth moving equipment, a dumper truck, van and car so it wasn’t ideal. Jo can always come back when it’s all cleared away being so local. Then we finished by heading south to the beach just north of Dunstanburgh Castle. The rocks on the beach here are round and are shiny black when wet. They make a great foreground with the castle ruins behind. The tide was high and we were in danger of being washed away at times! Fortunately, both Jo and I had high boots so remained dry shod. Waves were crashing over one of the large rocks in front of us and onto the beach so we had lots to go at, including the castle shot of course.

Jo then had a short drive to get home to Morpeth while we headed north to finish our trip by taking some photos of the Kelpies horse head sculptures near Falkirk. That’s the subject of another blog post!

Jan took all of these almost action photos on her Nikon D90 to give you an idea of the places we visited.

Eyemouth Harbour in the sunshine

Eyemouth Harbour, Jo and Dave Butcher

Eyemouth Harbour a few hours before the previous picture

Eyemouth Harbour, Jo and Dave Butcher #2

Pointing out what to watch to anticipate wave photos, Eyemouth

Wave Watching at Eyemouth

Getting in position for big wave photos against the light, Eyemouth

Eyemouth Waves behind Dave and Jo

Checking camera settings, Berwick Upon Tweed

Checking Camera Settings on Berwick Beach

Ignoring the sea around our legs in order to get the shot

Dunstanburgh Castle Beach

Jo wondering if she will get wet feet, her boots kept her feet dry!

Dunstanburgh Castle Beach Waves

Printing Snow Light and Land Light New Books

Today, Wednesday 18th March 2015, we went over to Loop Printers in Sheffield to supervise the start of the print run for my 2 new landscape photography books. This time we are having 2 books printed at the same time as I have so many images not yet published in any of my books.

Snow Light is snowscapes from around the world and includes 121 images as well as 3 articles. Land Light is landscapes around the world that are not snowy and includes 119 images and 1 article giving away all of my secrets!

Jan took some video segments on her Nikon D90 which I edited in iMovie, to be included on YouTube and in this blog post. The movie runs for a bit under 1.5 minutes but is over 100Mb in size before YouTube converts it. Our broadband is too slow to cope so I have to send it to Andy, our graphic designer and web man, to convert and upload; one of the limitations of living in a National Park! The video covers the process from loading the paper for the covers, running the press, checking for quality and changing the printing plates.

The printing should be finished in a day. Covers need to be glossed and sealed and then it all has to be sent to the binders to be finished off.

We are waiting to hear when the finished books will be delivered but expect to have all 3000 copies of the books before Easter. Both are the same format as my previous books with 80 pages in each, mostly images.

Here are some still photos and the edited video of Jan’s

The stack of paper for printing the covers loaded into the printing machine


Covers for both books being printed together. This is the stack building up at the end of the press.


Dave checking the first prints for quality, mainly density and contrast as well as dust


The completed stack of printed covers being removed from the press, still to be printed on the reverse, glazed and sealed


Trevor changing printing plates, taking out the one used for the covers and replacing with the bluey coloured new one (leaning against the machine) for the Snow Light intro pages


The Loop Printers logos on the wall of the building. This makes 4 books that they have printed for us.

So far they have done a very good job!