Tag Archives: Project

CoGC GU2: Scottish Wildlife — Shoot 4 Research

Although having visited Edinburgh Zoo numerous times in the past for various shoots including my higher in photography and knowing what to expect of the place, I know that for this graded unit project capturing a variety of techniques is extremely challenging especially when photographing animals in a Zoo. I don’t expect to capture anything like a pan shot using the slow shutter speed and depending what and where it is in Edinburgh Zoo I maybe limited with using wide angle as it would be preferable to capture the animals as if they were in their natural environment. Capturing a variety of the animals at Edinburgh116 Zoo may give me a variety of images that could potentially be used towards my final 20. Even if I use a few images from this shoot it will give me enough opportunity to capture images with other techniques from other shoots. There are some parts of the Zoo with wide open space such as where the Zebra’s are kept where I may have the potential to capture wide angle.

I checked the weather forecast for tomorrow (Saturday) and the weather seems decent first part of the day till afternoon. It will be sunny with clouds which would be ideal for capturing the animals. As my project is targeted at wildlife tourism in Scotland it would be nice to have several images of the different animals to show for what is on offer. For visiting Edinburgh Zoo the cost will be £18.50 for per adult with a £4 parking charge which I’ll be travelling by car.

There are the feeding times throughout the day as well as the times they do talks on the animals so I would be looking to capture portraits, preferably of them doing something that tells a story. For the shoot I will be using my Canon 5D Mark iii full frame body camera, I may use my Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L ii lens for wide angle and hopefully mostly
use the 70-200 f/2.8 L ii lens. I may also carry my Sigma 150-600 sport lens but preferably use the 70-200 for the f/2.8 wide open aperture. I won’t require a tripod and flash is prohibited from use at Edinburgh Zoo. The portraits of the animals I hope to capture I want to be professional which I’m positive I can capture a good mix of.

The Zoo from April through t213ill September opens from 9am and closes at 6pm so will give me sufficient time to capture plenty of images from around the Zoo. It would be difficult to capture any landscape shots for the habitat of these animals as many are not native to Scotland, although as planned there are places I have in mind for a later shoot at the Highland Wildlife Park in the Cairngorms.

Here you will find the source for my research on Edinburgh Zoo:


CoGC GU2: Scottish Wildlife — Shoot 3 Research

Cairngorms Wildlife 1 to 1 Photographic Day with Neil McIntyre — Shoot 3

Neil-McIntyre-bio-pic--1024x1024As I planned to photograph Scottish wildlife in the highland Cairngorms region of Scotland upon doing research on Google search engine I randomly came across an award winning Scottish wildlife photographer, Neil McIntyre. I did research on his website for information to find if there was anything I could book and came across his 1 to 1 day photography sessions, as described: “These trips offer the optimum chance to experience the wildlife and photo opportunities of the Cairngorms and surrounding area.” For me this would be the perfect opportunity to get close and perhaps capture some professional images, the 1 to 1 day will start from 9am in the morning and will last throughout the day which will cost £250.

I contacted Neil to find out further information about the photography 1 to 1 day session and also asked about landscape, as mentioned there are no guarantees with capturing any sunset shots. He did mention about the wildlife that at this time of the year photographing the red deer wouldn’t be ideal as they’re shedding their coats coming into spring time. What he did promise me however was the fantastic opportunity to Rsq-03991photograph the Red Squirrels as he does have a close bond with the Red Squirrels. As of now I’m uncertain whether there will be the opportunity to photograph more of the wildlife on the 1 to 1 session as it solely depends on what he offers.

I hope that on this shoot I could capture a number of quality images although will attempt to mix the shooting techniques up. It would be ideal to capture some pan shots if possible, wide angle with extended depth of field and even shallow depth of field. If I could capture 2 or 3 of my best images it would be ideal to use towards my final 20 photographs for my graded unit project. I do also plan to capture some landscape photographs as well to show their habitat.

Knowing how sporadic tRsq-0302he weather can be in Scotland I will be well prepared wearing my boots and waterproofs to ensure I stay dry. It is also required for me to use a 300-500mm lens so I’ll be using my Sigma 150-600mm Sport lens. I will also pack my 70-200 f/2.8 incase as well as my 24-70mm wide angle lens for landscape shots. I will be travelling up by car which takes roughly 3 to 4 hours. The 1 to 1 day photography session has been booked for Wednesday, 5th of April, the weather on some forecasts mentions that it will be partly cloudy with sun and others cloudy, I am hoping the weather goes in my favour as lighting will make a big difference.

Photographing the landscape will be challenging depending on the weather and will look to use half gradient Neutral Density (ND) filters for keeping detail in the skies when shooting long exposures. I will also be required to carry my tripod so may carry my photography bag on my back with what I require for the day with the tripod strapped to the back.

Ideal shots that I would love to capture are photographs of Red Squirrels being active to create wonderful action shots, this would be perfect for capturing pan shots I would like, even just as stills which tells more of a story. The big advantage will be the fact I’ll be able to capture the nature in the 1 to 1 session of the wildlife in their natural habitat.

You can find the source for my research through Neil McIntyre’s official website which has his contact information and tour offers here: www.neilmcintyre.com

CoGC GU2: Scottish Wildlife — Shoot 2 Outcome

Edinburgh’s Butterly & Insect World: Outcome


After visiting Edinburgh’s Butterfly and Insect World I thought it was a very eventful day as I managed to capture many great macro images which gives me a variety to choose from to put towards my final 20 images. Travelling to the destination by car it cost near £5 in petrol and was fairly straight forward to get to as it was located one of the Dobbie’s garden centres in Edinburgh. Upon arrival I had asked permission at the reception to use flash and thankfully I was given permission. There were plenty of butterflies fluttering around as well as caterpillars and ants which gave me ample opportunity to capture a variety of images. I was also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to photograph some of the creatures th110087621ey get out for people to handle placing them on something that makes them look in their natural environment. As the place was indoors I was hesitant of taking any landscape shots and with the type of insects, butterflies etc they aren’t native to Scotland.

As mentioned previously my target would be to capture nature relative to Scottish tourism to show what Scotland has to offer and feel a macro shot of one of the butterflies is sufficient enough to show for that. I do plan however to capture the habitat of nature in Scotland relative to other nature which is native to Scotland such as deer and Red Squirrels. As I was able to use flash, lighting was not an issue and many of the butterflies kept relatively still allowing me to capture several images to get the best results. As I was using the camera free hand sometimes it was tricky keeping the camera still and using my feet and distance of my camera from the subject to capture the right focus.

img_1881Some images I captured were over exposed, to correct this I used settings on my flashgun to reduce the power of the flash to capture the correct exposure I desired. Despite the heat within the place I found I was fortunate enough there was no condensation on the camera lens which benefited me. I had also discovered a trail of leaf cutter ants working away and decided to get down low to the ground to capture some fantastic macro shots eye level with them which gave the feel of being among them. I’m very much influenced from programmes I have seen by the likes of Sir David Attenborough and feel by showing the world through their eyes gives intimacy with the subject you’re photographing.

Screen Shot 2017-04-01 at 05.05.17Photographing insects and butterflies is challenging if moving and discovered using macro I was incapable of capturing that movement. For the leaf cutter ants I used a technique I learned from a magazine on sports photography such as racing by focusing the camera on one spot and waiting for the subject to enter the frame in focus, this worked fantastically well for capturing the trail of ants; I analysed where most of them were moving to and from, locked the camera in focus in position of spots I knew I could capture them in focus which worked to good effect. The only slight self-critical point I have from that shoot looking back I feel I could potentially have gotten closer macro shots of the leaf cutter ants which I think would have been interesting, although challenging.

The equipment I used for the shoot, I used my Canon 5D Mark iii camera body with my Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro USM lens; also with a 31mm, 21mm and 13mm Vivitar extension tubes attached. On top of the camera my Canon 600 EX-RT flashgun with a Lastolite small softbox.

The following example shows the process I went through for shooting the insects and butterflies. I began by capturing an image first and then adjusting flash power on the flashgun accordingly to get a desired exposure, also for each shot I captured my target was to capture the eyes in focus which required moving the lens distance from the subject as well as focus to capture my favoured macro shots.


For each one of my best images from the second shoot I made slight adjustments to the RAW files such as; highlights, shadows and even increasing sharpness if applicable.


After making the slight adjustments to the RAW files of my best images it was easier for me to pick out the best photograph for my final 20.


How I came to the decision of my favourite and best photograph was not just the composition of the photograph and focus but the action state. Whilst I liked the other photographs I captured of the butterflies, the leaf cutter ants were perfect for capturing action shots of the ants carrying out their team work. Capturing the ants was more difficult as I had to get down low to the ground to capture them and due to their active state moving around I decided to lock focus on specific areas they were passing and capture them as they moved into my focal range. I wanted to capture an image of the ants carrying something as it tells more of a story to the photograph.

Here is a sample of images I captured:006

Although I liked some of the other images of the leaf cutter ants, I felt in terms of composition and focus the best image had the edge, had I captured better focus of some of the others they could have turned out spectacular. It was quite difficult also to get closer as I didn’t want to crush any of the other ants in their path.

Here are sample images of the post processing work and of my final image:

Using Camera Raw to make slight adjustments to sharpness, shadows and highlights.007

Using the sharpening tool to enhance sharpness to the slightly out of focus head of the ant.004

Using curves from the image > adjustments menu, adjusting the white slider to appropriate position and adding second point to adjust contrast to give the image more shadows and highlights.005

To enhance the atmosphere of the image I implemented a 3/4 gradient photo filter from the adjustments layers.008

Here is a sample of the final image:009

The following is a contact sheet showing examples of images of images that were mistakes I made when shooting. Followed is another contact sheet showing my best images from the shoot.

010The top 3 images you can see examples of over exposure from too much flash power; incorrect flash sync speed which shows the shutter cutting off 3 quarters of the image and an underexposed shot due to taking the image too quick in succession and the flash did not fire. The bottom 3 images are examples of 3 great images ruined from capturing wrong part in focus, example being the eyes were out of focus and wasn’t pleased with the composition of the third image from the bottom.

Here is a contact sheet of a number of the best images I captured for my second shoot:011

I was very pleased with the lighting and colour of a number of the images of the butterflies I captured with the green backdrop and was pleased with the focus capturing the eyes as I wanted with a variety of different composition shots. Image _20A5062 is one of my favourite shots for the colourful backdrop, composition capturing a different perspective, however as explained previously I felt my favourite shots were of the leaf cutter ants as it feels as if you’re part of them and it tells a story with the action of the leaf cutter ant. As mentioned before I would liked to have captured closer shots for variety but pleased with what I had captured.

CoGC GU2: Scottish Wildlife — Shoot 1 Outcome

Benmore Botanic Garden: Outcome


Having done research on Benmore Botanic Garden I travelled out to the location with high expectations. The weather was good, the location was beautiful, although I did stumble across a few obstacles; I arrived a bit later and felt time was against me and having seen the size of Benmore Botanic Garden it’s a place you require a full day to navigate around. The second problem was perhaps the main problem and that being the absence of insects, this came of quite a surprise to me given the amount of plants, trees and flowers I saw which were beginning to blossom. There was one tree I came across with a lot of bees
swarming around the upper part of the tree, I had IMG_5031waited for considerable time however none would appear in sight. It makes you appreciate what wildlife photographers have to go through to capture shots that they want, a lot of time and patience is required and that was not in my hands, especially in a location with opening and closing times.

Struggling to find insects to capture macro shots I decided to dedicate the remainder of my time to navigate Benmore Botanic Garden for ideal spots to show the habitat where insects may nest and their surroundings. I am disappointed to say I was limited to what I could find, had I more time to navigate more of the location I may have found more. Upon scouting around I did find a pond with a tree which rea_20A5008lly stood out, it was tricky using the tripod in the uneven surface. I switched to my wide angle Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens to capture more in the shot, my idea was to show some of the surroundings in the background but to use the tree to frame the shot showing the pond where insect life may surround it.

Another spot I came across was close to a Red Squirrel hide with a row of tall trees both sides. As the sun was beginning to set, the light breaking through the trees onto the grass really captured my eye. Again using the tripod with my 5D Mark iii and 24-70mm f/2.8 lens I took several different exposures to capture the ideal shot I wanted. Although I initially set out to find ideal backdrops for the insects habitat,IMG_5022 this one spot stood out for me for the habitat of the Red Squirrel. The backdrop I captured may go towards as being one of my final 20 images unless I find and shoot something I may prefer for the Red Squirrel habitat.

From the research I had done, Benmore Botanic Garden, although beautiful isn’t quite the same as what I imagined it to be as this time of the year the place isn’t out in full blossom. I should have perhaps researched to find out what time of year is best for finding insects as well, although to get around that problem I have planned a visit to the Edinburgh Butterfly & Insect World which has a lot of their natural plant life indoors to make them blend. I plan to capture macro shots of them where the backdrop colours blend as if they’re in their wild habitat. I maybe restricted from using flash however depending whether the indoor place allows flash photography or not.

Here are 3 exposures I shot for the Red Squirrel habitat:

Using the 3 different exposures I was then able to decide in post process which of the 3 was best suited for a possible final landscape image. I then began by opening the camera raw image and made slight adjustments.


After making slight adjustments in Camera Raw I then opened the file in Photoshop, duplicated the background layer and began using the Clone Stamp tool to remove a relatively small and distracting unwanted part of the image on the grass.


Before and Afterbefore-after

The next step I implemented a warm photo filter from the adjustment layers in the layers panel to enhance the overall image.


I wanted to add a subtle hint of light rays to give it a little more atmosphere. First I created a round soft spotted scattered brush.


Using the spotted scattered brush I then painted the spotted scattered brush over the picture on a new layer and finally using Filter > Blur > Radial Blur I chose zoom to create the rays of light and reduced opacity of the light rays layer.

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 05.28.06

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 05.28.26

Finally to finish off the image I added my own warm tone gradient layer, set the filter to Overlay and Opacity to 10% to add subtle warmth.

final   Some of the skills used for the first shoot wide angle with extended depth of field, on that particular shoot I was unfortunate not to capture macro shots I mainly planned for.
I was limited in shots I captured for the first shoot, however thought it was worthwhile as it gave me a fair idea of the location if I wish to revisit and with having a possible photograph I may use toward my final set of images.

Here below you will find my contact sheet for the first shoot at Benmore Botanic Garden.


I would definitely say the fourth image from the first four photographs stands out as my favourite and best shot due to the compsition, lighting with the leading trail of trees the captures the eye. The first image with the fountain I do like however felt I could have captured better composition and wasn’t pleased with the limited space and distracting fencing in the backdrop. The second image I liked for the lighting and composition although feel I could have captured more in the image. The third image from the contact sheet I felt it could have been better with lighting and composition.


Another image I captured of the fountain from different angle, again I felt there could’ve been more to the backdrop surroundings and better lighting. The sixth image is one of my favourites for the composition and thought it would be a nice location shot for other insect life. Another image that stood out for lighting and my favourite for composition was the seventh image from the contact sheet, this was something I captured thinking it might even be relative to the type of habitat for wild hares etc. For the final image of my contacts I felt I could have found better although it reminded me of the habitat you find ants nesting.