Since today is International Photography Day, we’ve asked friend and supporter of Dundonald Castle, Equine Photographer of the Year 2020 by the Training Barn, Jamie Agnew, of Jamie Agnew Photography, to share a few of his secrets to help go about getting the best shot! Dundonald is famous for its great skies and outstanding views from Castle Hill which reach across the Firth of Clyde over to Arran, and even to Jura on a clear day. Nearby Dundonald woods provides an innumerable number of colour, light and shade options to bring diversity to your subject matter, and nearby Auchans House is a popular haunt to capture atmosphere!
If you have been getting out with your camera, or are thinking of doing so, then Jamie suggests that the quality now achievable, even with today’s smartphone cameras (and the rise of ‘iphoneography’), means that a fancy DSLR is no longer needed to take stunning imagery – the best camera is always the one you have to hand. Whatever you choose to use, to help you get the best from your equipment, here are a few tips Jamie suggests well worth considering:
Tripods: Tripods help reduce camera shake and result in sharper images, especially when playing with settings and using longer shutter speeds. While the traditional solid tripod is still a popular favourite, there are now additional options such as gorilla tripods (which boast bendable legs making them perfect for uneven ground or even to wrap around objects such as lampposts) and beanbags (far less bulky to carry, and ideal for low-down shots). If all else fails a trusty wall or bag can always be used to support your camera.
Filters: Neutral Density filters (commonly referred to as ND filters) basically work as sunglasses for your lens, allowing less light in and in turn forcing the camera to choose a longer shutter speed- These longer shutter speeds can smooth over choppy water, or blur moving clouds to create a beautiful serene effect. The traditional filters for cameras screw onto the front of the lens, however clip-on ND filters are available for smartphones from online retailers such as Amazon.
- Weather, time and seasons
It’s important, especially in Scotland, to plan the time and weather ahead of your photoshoot.
Think about the type of shot you want to capture, and work around that idea – Remember while sunshine is lovely to work in, more diverse weather such as heavy clouds, rain, or even snow can really help your shot to stand out by giving it a certain aesthetic. Just remember if you’re planning for this more diverse weather to bring a jacket and something to cover your camera with!
The time of day is just as important as the weather, as the position of the sun can have a big impact on how your subject appears. The most popular time for landscape photography is just after sunrise or before sunset. This is known as the Golden Hour and it can be fantastic for capturing some truly spectacular skies.
Don’t feel restricted by this though, strong shadows cast by the midday sun can create beautiful stark black and white abstract art, and you’ll be surprised by what your camera can pick up in the dusk when placed on a tripod with a long shutter speed.
- Walk-around and Plan
One of the most important steps is actually the one that most people tend to forget… Look at your subject! Don’t be afraid to leave your camera in your bag or your phone in your pocket for the first 15 minutes or so – take some time to walk around your subject and actually look at it.
Take it in as a whole, let your eyes find the little details that others may miss, walk up and down and find a different angle that may not be obvious at first but actually serves you far better. You’ll be amazed at how much you notice by taking your time and purely looking.
Once you’ve completed your walk-around, pick what caught your interest and plan your route. This doesn’t need to be an exhaustive plan but more a guideline to keep you on track and help you to avoid forgetting anything.
There’s nothing worse than getting home to review your photographs and then remembering that you forgot to get a shot you were keen on.
A great part of the walk-around is it lets you find your perspective. Nobody sees the world the same way you do, so utilise that uniqueness to create something different. Think about what you can see from what angles, is there anywhere outside of this immediate location that gives you a good vantage point on your subject?
This is where tripods can really come into their own to allow you to get low to the ground, or higher up than your eye level. Don’t be afraid to be bold and try new things, there’s no harm If it doesn’t work out- and if it does then you could end up with something truly spectacular.
- Capture the Details
Part of your walk-around should be spent looking not just at the entire scene, but at the elements that make it. Sections of crumbling wall, ironwork, unique stonework, and other smaller details can create a whole story on their own but are often overlooked.
“It’s nice for others to enjoy our photographic work, photography is a subjective, creative medium, and what appeals to one person will not always appeal to another. However that’s exactly what makes it so special. Very few other art forms allow creativity and technicality to come together the way that photography does, meaning it has the ability to suit almost everyone in some way or another. It can be as fluid or as robust an art form as you like, and the most important rule is that there are no rules. Photography is exactly what you want it to be, go have fun! “ Jamie Agnew
Images by Jamie Agnew