Sunset

Do you GPS Tag? by Neil Alexander

Alongside the Great Glen

 I've long been looking for someway of GPS tagging images I shoot, and the only devices I've  had that do this out of the box are the iPhone and Galaxy SII. You may ask "Why would you want to do this anyway?". Well the answer is simple. I have a memory like a chicken, and if I'm s0mewhere unfamiliar and shooting extensively, then the chances of me remembering where exactly I made a specific image are somewhere between slim and none.

And why should I care? Because more and more, I'm finding that I want to write an article on the area to be accompanied by the images, or I simply need to caption them for stock. GPS Tagging is the simplest most effective solution, and I have a GPS device in my pocket at all times - my phone!

The shore of Loch Garry

So how do I do it, without spending a chunk of cash?

Simple. Go to www.geotagphotos.net, download their mobile app (Android version is $3 I think), synchronise your phone and camera time clocks exactly, and start tagging. When you've finished upload the data from your phone to the website from the road. Then when you're ready to edit, download the gpx file and import into Lightroom. Then it's a simple case of auto-tagging your imported photos. Ta da!

Lightroom Map GPS Tagging

There's a comprehensive tutorial here - "How To: Geotag photos in Lightroom 4 w/ phone GPX track"

The Highlands of Scotland by Neil Alexander

Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie, Kyle of Lochalsh

 This last weekend I decided to make a spur of the moment trip up to the Highlands of Scotland. I've been desperate to get back up there for some time now, and as I had a window, the forecast looked moderately favourable I decided to wing it. With only a vague idea of where to shoot, and no pitch for my tent firmed up, it was a bit of a wing and a prayer type trip. I guess the more I make these kinds of trips though, the better I'm getting at it, and the less firm planning I need to do. It certainly does help having a definite plan for an overnight halt though as it took me valuable scouting and shooting time to find a site with a vacancy in a location that suited.

Royal Marines Commando Memorial with Ben Nevis in the background

The weather on the Friday night was lovely and crisp and made for some great light. A little lacking in the cloud department for any inspiring skies, and better planning would probably have found me at a better location, but as I'd just spent 8 hours driving, pitched my tent as fast as I could, thrown down some beans rustled up on my little gas stove it was a mad dash to catch anything before the light faded.

Royal Marines Commando Memorial near Spean Bridge

The next morning I headed up from Fort William towards the Kyle of Lochalsh. My original intention had been to head over to Skye, but I just didn't have that much time unfortunately - that's for the next trip. What started as a clear morning quickly clouded over though there were pockets of sunlight dappled across the countryside which made for some great skies, and some quite dramatic images. As the day progressed though, the patches of sunlight increasingly disappeared and the sky turned blanket grey. Looking at the weather radar on Saturday afternoon, it was predicted to rain heavily overnight followed by a damp grey Sunday. As I had to be back for Sunday evening, I made the decision to avoid packing up a soaking wet tent and hit the road for the 400 mile return trip on Saturday night. Accompanied by Peter James' DS Roy Grace, a packet of Jaffa Cakes, and twenteen litres of Red Bull I made the journey in record time, though my car does now look like its been driven through a very dense infestation of flies, and other assorted road kill!

She's seen better days - GirlBeth, Dornie, Loch Long

This is just a quick sample of some of the photographs I made. I'll post more over the coming weeks.

One small gripe though to finish off with. Actually a large gripe. Stopping at the Moto Lancaster services on the M6 around 11pm, having long finished my Jaffa Cakes and in dire need of something hot to eat, I was presented with shuttered shop after shuttered shop. Let alone hot food, I couldn't even buy snacks! Finally I trekked over the bridge to the "restaurant" on the Northbound carriageway certain I'd get something there. They had one sausage and a tray of congealed beans. After some persuasion, I finally persuaded them to make me some scampi and chips though it was a long way from a la carte! Do the management of these places think that people only travel and want to eat between 9 and 5? There were over 50 or 60 cars and trucks in the car park when I arrived, and plenty people milling around looking for food. It's not like to M6 is just some token link road between towns. At this time of year it's a major arterial route for all sorts, including many tourists. What does it say to them when we can't even keep a measly Burger King open 24 hours?

Nothing to eat here - Lancaster Services, M6

Rant over.

Neil out.

Anglesey Adventure - Part 2 by Neil Alexander

This post is the second part of a 2 part series. Part One titled "Angelsey Adventure - Part 1 - Planning Landscape Photography" is here.

Two bodies set up waiting for sunset, South Stack Lighthouse (Instagram)

Once I'd scoped out the lighthouse, worked out where the shot was going to be and how to get to a suitable vantage point to get the shot without falling into the sea, the next step was to find somewhere suitable to pitch my tent. I hadn't factored in that the camp sites would be so busy, and after about an hour's driving around I gave up and ended up checking in to the lovely Trearddur Bay Hotel.  There was absolutely no "business case" for me to stay in a hotel, and it meant that this was unlikely to be a profitable trip, but it was that or sleep in the car....

Quite conscious of time by now, I grabbed a lovely portion of fish and chips in the bar and dashed off out to get some shots around the various rocky coves around Trearddur and then headed up to South Stack. I got down to Ellins Tower which was as near as I could get to line the setting sun up with lighthouse without falling down the cliff and into the sea. Not ideal. Probably a shot for a slightly different time of the year - ideally I would have placed sun right behind or just next to lighthouse, and above the little island that it sits on, but this game's about making the best of what you're presented with, right?

South Stack Lighthouse, Angelsey

Stupidly, or rather lazily, I'd left my second tripod (a Slik) in the car, mainly because it's so heavy compared to my carbon fibre Giotto. So I clambered down with main tripod and a gorillapod should I want to set up two shots. And sure enough, I saw two images - one was quite a close crop of the lighthouse and a small part of the skyline behind, and another was a wider shot taking in the adjacent cliffs, the noisy boisterous gulls, and the spectacular cliff faces. I set the 70-200 on the tripod, and the 17-55 on the gorilla pod (see top image). What I hadn't thought about was the wind. It was howling.The tripod was stable enough, but the 17-55 on the gorillapod was bouncing around like nobody's business. This gave me some problems. Doing HDRs, the lowest bracketed shutter speed had to be around 1/125 to avoid getting any camera shake and the light was fading fast. To be quite honest, I would probably have been better off simply hand holding, but I had the composition set so I left it, and waited, and waited.

Cliffs near South Stack Lighthouse, Angelsey

Typically what started out as having potential for a good looking sunset never happened. About 10-15 mins before it dropped below the horizon, the sun disappeared behind a blanket of cloud, never to re-appear. There was a little pink in the cloud which I just managed to get in the frame with the wider shot. I stuck around for about an hour hoping to see a nice dark blue sky, but that didn't happen either. By this time it was around 10:30 / 10:45 pm and I was very very cold. I flipped round 180 degrees where the moon was now out, nearly full, very bright and shining down on the adjacent cliffs. There was a lovely bright light cast on the sea. I made a  few frames and then climbed back up to the car and headed back to the hotel for a beer and warmth.

4 hours later, my alarm went off. I managed to winch my weary limbs out of bed as far as the window. So far the forecast had been 100% accurate. They'd predicted improving weather all through the previous evening up until midnight, rain heavily overnight, and the next day was set to be grim. Sure enough, peering out between the curtains just after 4am, I was met with a miserable damp grey scene. I ummed and ahhed, weighing up my options, looked at the big warm comfortable bed behind me, and fell back into it. Having made the decision not to go chasing a probably non-existent sunrise I surfaced about 8 feeling well rested, had a lip-smackingly good full english breakfast, grabbed a few frames around the coastline again and then headed home.

All in all, a worthwhile trip but definitely in need of a re-visit.