School of GeoSciences

School of GeoSciences



Examples of photographs taken for a daytime photography course run by the Adult Education Programme of Edinburgh Council.

The ten-week course (Computers:DigitalCameraSkills) ran at Cameron House in Autumn 2010. The heart of the course revolved around weekly projects, in which four to six photographs were submitted, by each student, each week. Class discussion, constructive criticism and suggestions for Photoshop improvement followed.

Topics included Wood, Water, Architecture, Repeating Patterns, Portraits, Student's Choice, Black & White, Panoramas, Snow and The Colour: Red.

Student's Choice I

Front bonnet and window of Edinburgh's Tram. Capturing reflections in photography can produce some spectacular images. Glass windows and shiny metallic surfaces can often be put to good use. Here is my attempt at such an image.


What's the difference?


Pile of wooden planks (Fruit market gallery) by the Turner prize winner in 2001, Martin Creed. Controversy was caused by Martin Creed's Turner prize work which was an empty room with the lights going on and off. You may remember how artist Jacqueline Crofton threw eggs at the walls of the room as a protest. Here Creed is particularly interested in repetition. One piece of 2 by 2 is stacked on two pieces of 4 by 2, stacked on three pieces of 6 by 2 etc. In the photograph the more centrally placed mass of wood is balanced by the door - closer to the picture edge. The door and the room behind provide perspective. The diagonal setting of Creed's installation leads us into the photo, the door invites us to examine the distant wall-painting. The eye is thus drawn into the photo, encouraged to pass through and then provided with a logical exit point, without having to back out .


Dull day at North Berwick (tripod). But we were told that one often has to make use of whatever light there is. Bass Rock placed on the "thirds" to aid the composition. Seagull generates balance by transition using the "opposition of spots".


Alexander Graham Bell Building, King's Buildings, Edinburgh University. Contrasting natural foliage with the built environment (trees vs. solar panels).

Repeating Patterns

Sinuous steps, Leith street. The elegant S-shaped curve is one of the most reliable ways of adding interest to a composition. "S" shapes help to lead us forward into the body of the picture.


The Royal Scottish Academy, the Mound, November sunset. Eight images seamlessly stitched into one smooth panorama using the software provided at Cameron House - Photoshop (Elements 7). Low clouds scurried across the night sky while the eight images of the panorama were being taken. Furthermore each .jpg image ended up with a different brightness (despite all being shot at f/2.0, 1/100, 100). It was fascinating to watch how Photoshop's stitching software overcame these problems. In its first (fully automated) pass it produced correct image-alignments based on the shapes of the buildings. Then, in it's second blending pass (Auto-Blend) it proceeded to even out the exposure between images, and hence sort out the sky. The end result provides a very impressive example of how modern image stitching algorithms can automatically take care of problems such as blurring, or ghosting caused by parallax and scene movement, as well as varying image exposures.

Black and White

Newhaven. Black and white images are popular because they can create drama and impart a richer appearance. Colours can be distracting and so take the focus away from the main subject. A lack of colour allows the viewer to focus on the main element of the photograph, and permits texture and form to become more significant. Finally removing colour simplifies images so allowing the viewer to see shapes and lines more clearly. Use "mouse-over" to see the difference. Which do you prefer?


Edinburgh skyline. The scarp face of Salisbury Crags, and the church spires serve to break the horizon and the thin layer of 'harr' creeping in from the Firth. They create interest by producing balance, by breaking the monotony and forming opposing lines to the horizon - the landscape photographer's line. Note how the earth/sky horizon has been placed below the lower "third" to help emphasise the dramatically lit clouds and sky. Switch your camera mode to "Vivid" and set your exposure compensation to -1/3, or -2/3, in order to bump up the saturation if you like colourful scenes like this one.

Student's Choice II

Newhaven harbour. The cropped mast is 'balanced/saved' by (i) the three tethering ropes which serve to lead the eye towards the main unit of interest - the yacht, and by (ii) the seagull. The repeating wave patterns, especially their S-shapes, add interest.