Photography in public – a dying art

Photographers are getting increasingly concerned about attempts to limit or prevent pictures being taken in public. Photography in public is under attack from a diverse range of vested interests from control freak celebrities to police forces who see it as a PR stunt or who abuse terrorist legislation . Parents are told about the threat of paedophilia on every corner .

Photographers are getting increasingly concerned about attempts to limit or prevent pictures being taken in public. Photography in public is under attack from a diverse range of vested interests from control freak celebrities to police forces who see it as a PR stunt or who abuse terrorist legislation . Parents are told about the threat of paedophilia on every corner .
As far as I am concerned anyone in public can be photographed without hindrance . Unfortunately some police forces see it as a good PR stunt to prevent photography in public places. In Scotland police can use breach of the peace as an excuse to arrest or threaten photographers under the flimsiest pretext . Police often invoke anti-terror legislation to prevent photographers from carrying out their work, and photojournalists are constantly filmed at public gatherings and their details kept on an ever-growing database. Tourists are also targeted by police, as was the case with an Austrian father and son who made the mistake of photographing a building of an extremely sensitive nature—Walthamstow bus station.
Celebrities see every public appearance as a carefully choreographed exercise to promote themselves. They don’t like it when pictures of them behaving badly are published .Them’s the breaks .

Martin Parr has stated “I am most concerned that the basic liberty for a photographer to photograph freely and legally in a public place in the UK is being slowly eroded by these new laws and overzealous interpretation by the police” . This situation has led him to believe that within five years, street photography could be totally banned in the UK. His advice is to get our there while you still can.

Photographers can join BJP’s Not A Crime campaign for photographers’ rights at www.not-a-crime.com.

New video screensavers – Falkirk Wheel

Just over 3 years ago I uploaded a video of the Falkirk Wheel and since then it has received nearly 100,000 views online . I have now decided to releaes a unique video screensaver of the Wheel . My video shows the wheel turning and transporting a canal boat from one canal to the other . I have speeded up the video as it takes about 5 minutes for the whole transfer to take place

Just over 5 years ago I uploaded a video of  the Falkirk Wheel and since then it has received nearly 225,000 views online . I have now decided to release a unique video screensaver of the Wheel . My video shows the wheel turning and transporting a canal boat from one canal to the other . I have speeded up the video as it takes about 5 minutes for the whole transfer to take place . The Wheel is one of the Millennium projects funded in Scotland.The Millennium Link was an ambitious £84.5m project with the objective of restoring navigability across Scotland on the historic Forth & Clyde Canal and Union Canal, providing a corridor of regenerative activity through central Scotland. A major challenge faced, was to link the Forth and Clyde Canal, which lay 35m (115ft) below the level of the Union Canal. Historically, the two canals had been joined at Falkirk by a flight of 11 locks that stepped down across a distance of 1.5km, but these has been dismantled in 1933, breaking the link. Completion of The Millennium Link project was officially marked by Her Majesty The Queen on 24 May 2002 at The Falkirk Wheel. I have also published stock videos of Scotland on my stock pictures website

Edinburgh Castle stays top of visitor attractions

Edinburgh Castle remains the most popular visitor attraction in Scotland according to figures released by Historic Scotland .Edinburgh Castle had more than 580,000 visits in the four months to the end of August, a 7% annual rise. Stirling Castle was the second most popular of Historic Scotland’s sites – with over 228,000 people over the same four months. The top 10 attractions also included Skara Brae, Iona Abbey and Fort William. All saw a rise in visitors over the year before.The main reasons for the increase are the Year of Homecoming

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle remains the most popular visitor attraction in Scotland according to figures released by Historic Scotland .Edinburgh Castle had more than 580,000 visits in the four months to the end of August, a 7% annual rise. Stirling Castle was the second most popular of Historic Scotland’s sites – with over 228,000 people over the same four months. The top 10 attractions also included Skara Brae, Iona Abbey and Fort William. All saw a rise in visitors over the year before.The main reasons for the increase are the Year of Homecoming and the fact that the weak pound made Scotland an attractive holiday destination for Europeans.

Kari Coghill of Historic Scotland said: “Our attractions enjoyed a good summer right across the country. The 2009 Year of Homecoming campaign was clearly a major help as it brought the whole of our tourism industry together to focus on the common goal of attracting visitors by promoting all that’s best about Scotland.
At the same time we obviously benefited from the fact that a weak pound made Scotland an attractive destination for Europeans. But we have also been doing a huge amount to market all that Historic Scotland has to offer, and the good value it provides, and that has seen our membership numbers pass 100,000 for the first time.” Historic Scotland is one of 2 main agencies in charge of Scotland’s castles , the other one being the National Trust for Scotland. more Edinburgh Castle pictures

Melrose Abbey is declared a world-class attraction

Melrose Abbey has been declared world class and one of Scotland’s best visitor attractions. Independent quality assurance inspectors from VisitScotland have awarded it the coveted five-star status after examining every aspect of the visitor experience. This means the three staffed Borders Abbeys cared for by Historic Scotland, and Smailholm Tower, are all now five-star attractions.


Melrose Abbey
Melrose Abbey

Melrose Abbey has been declared world class and one of Scotland’s best visitor attractions. Independent quality assurance inspectors from VisitScotland have awarded it the coveted five-star status after examining every aspect of the visitor experience. This means the three staffed Borders Abbeys cared for by Historic Scotland, and Smailholm Tower, are all now five-star attractions. Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution, Michael Russell, said:  “You can’t get better than five star, so this is a brilliant achievement by the staff at Melrose.  It now means that all Historic Scotland paid attractions in the Borders are of five star status.  All the staff at the attractions have worked very hard to get and to keep this level of quality across the region.  This is a great achievement for the staff locally, for the heritage agency overall and something we can be very proud of.”
Melrose Abbey has a lot to celebrate this year as its visitor figures for the year so far have jumped by 15.6% compared to 2008 – an absolutely tremendous performance.”
Between April and the end of August the abbey attracted 33,558 visitors compared to 29,025.  Historic Scotland had a campaign earlier this year which offered a special price for membership especially for the Year of Homecoming 2009.  The campaign proved an enormous success due, the agency believe, to many people having “staycations ” – staying at home for holidays –  and looking for value for money family days out.  Melrose Abbey may be benefiting from this extra emphasis on value from  families suffering from the credit crunch.
The abbey had previously been a four-star attraction, but it has improved its rating thanks to the introduction of new and more modern information boards, material and information for visitors. VisitScotland has operated a quality assurance inspection scheme for visitor attractions since 1995.  The scheme gives an independent quality assurance award and incorporates the inspection of properties for Thistle tourist signposting. There are five quality grades for the standard of facilities and services following the assessment of the appropriate areas.
Historic Scotland is one of the two main organisations which run Scotland’s castles and historic Scotland , the other one being the National Trust for Scotland . HS is a  government agency which has 345 outstanding historic properties and sites in its care. These include some of the top tourist attractions in Scotland, including Edinburgh, Stirling, and Urquhart castles, Fort George, Linlithgow Palace, the Border Abbeys, and Skara Brae. For further details visit: www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/places
Historic Scotland’s mission is to safeguard Scotland’s historic environment and to promote its understanding and enjoyment. Historic Scotland has been a  major supporter of the 2009 Year of Homecoming with a series of initiatives including family trails, spectacular events and the creation of a Homecoming Pass for heritage attractions in association with other heritage organisations.

HDR Landscapes picture gallery

I have just added a new HDR landscapes gallery to the website . HDR means High Dynamic Range . This is an image created from a set of 3 pictures which combines the contrast levels and the range of tones into one image . HDR images are great fun to make and they can turn out in a number of different ways depending on how you process the images . I use Photomatix software to create HDR images , although some photographers prefer to use Photoshop .

Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle

I have just added a new HDR landscapes gallery to the website . HDR means High Dynamic Range . This is an image created from a set of 3 pictures which combines the contrast levels and the range of tones into one image . HDR images are great fun to make and they can  turn out in a number of different ways depending on how you process the images . I use Photomatix software to create HDR images , although some photographers prefer to use Photoshop . The first step is to combine the 3 pictures . You then use tone mapping to process the image into an HDR picture . I have been using Photomatix for a couple of years and it is an excellent program. A couple of months ago I bought the HDRI Handbook by Christian Bloch and it gives a very comprehensive guide to the software you can use and the different approaches of a selection of photographers . It mentions Artizen software which I have downloaded but I haven’t had a chance to use it yet . The pictures I have teken are in the Highlands around Blackmount and Glencoe . HDR landscapes

Stirling Castle pictures – free castle wallpapers

Stirling Castle is one of Scotland’s most impressive castles due to its imposing position and impressive architecture.
From the castle’s ramparts, visitors can take in views of the Forth Valley and Ben Lomond , as well as two of Scotland’s most important battle sites – Stirling Bridge (1297) and Bannockburn

Stirling Castle, Scotland
Stirling Castle, Scotland

Stirling Castle is one of Scotland’s most impressive castles due to its imposing position and impressive architecture. Our new free castle pictures gallery features a number of Scottish castles . Stirling Castle features a Homecoming 2009 event this month – Homecoming events .
From Stirling Castle’s ramparts, visitors can take in views of the Forth Valley and Ben Lomond , as well as two of Scotland’s most important battle sites – Stirling Bridge (1297) and Bannockburn (1314). The castle is at the head of Stirling’s historic old town.Like Edinburgh Castle , Stirling sits on a volcanic rock dominating the city skyline .
The Renaissance pomp and pageantry of the Royal Court of Mary Queen of Scots returns to Stirling Castle next month when the queen and her entourage come home to Scotland for ‘A Royal Summer Holiday’.

Castle visitors can become courtiers at this family event from Saturday 1st to Monday 3rd August and join the 16th-century VIP visitors as they have some fun. Skittles, quoits, and firing a crossbow are on offer .
Costumed players throughout the castle will be leading special children’s tours of the castle and sharing all of the latest gossip about the lords and ladies in attendance. And kids will also have an opportunity to join the royal guard to help protect the royal party as they take a break from governing the country.
Historic Scotland Interpretation Manager Sheena Garden said: “Stirling Castle is not only one of Scotland’s grandest and most imposing castles, it was also a real favourite with Scotland’s kings and queens. And their investment in it demonstrated just how much they loved to use it, as well as their desire to ensure it both impressed all who visited it, and represented a statement of their power and wealth. James IV created the Great Hall, the largest medieval banqueting hall ever built in Scotland, and James V’s Royal Palace, with its lavishly decorated Renaissance façades, was a masterpiece of the period.

Major conservation work has been carried out at Stirling Castle over many years to preserve the attraction as a major national and international monument. The refurbishment of the Great Hall was completed a couple of years ago . A particular feature of the Great Hall is stained glass windows featuring clan crests . A number of banquets and cocerts are held in the Hall throughout the year . An ambitious £12 million scheme, the Stirling Castle Palace Project, is currently underway to restore and refurbish the Royal Palace at Stirling and present the Royal Lodgings as they might have appeared in the heyday of Scotland’s Stewart court in the mid 16th century. An interpretive display on the court of James V will be created in the palace vaults and a Renaissance Gallery on the upper floors of the palace will house the original Stirling Heads, a rare group of intricately carved oak ceiling medallions depicting kings, queens, courtiers and mythological creatures. Costumed interpreters will bring the rich history of the 16th century to life to enrich visitors’ enjoyment.

Stirling Castle is one of over 345 outstanding heritage properties and sites in the care of Historic Scotland. Historic Scotland is a Government agency responsible for running and maintaining many castles in Scotland . Ranging from prehistoric dwellings to medieval castles, and from cathedrals to industrial buildings, these include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country. Among the most popular are Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart Castle , Skara Brae, and Melrose Abbey . For further details visit Historic Scotland

Free pictures gallery – phone wallpapers

I have just added a new gallery of free pictures which can be sent direct to a mobile phone . The pictures are of Eilean Donan Castle , Glencoe , Buachaille Etive Mor and Blackmount in the Scottish Highlands

Glencoe 456
Glencoe 456

I have just added a new gallery of free pictures which can be sent direct to a mobile phone . The pictures are of Eilean Donan Castle , Glencoe , Buachaille Etive Mor and Blackmount in the Scottish Highlands .

free pictures gallery.

Calls for help with new Forth bridge financing rejected by Westminster

A fresh Commons row has broken out over the financing of the new Forth Bridge . Holyrood is proceeding with plans to build the crossing but there have been doubts about how the estimated £2.3bn price tag will be met.
The Scottish Government has made it clear it was prepared to pay from its own budget.
However, a spokesman added that given the scale and unique nature of the project, it had approached the UK Government for the flexibility to spread the payment over a longer period.

Forth Bridge 112
Forth Bridge 112
A fresh Commons row has broken out over the financing of the
new Forth Bridge
. Holyrood is proceeding with plans to build the crossing but there have been doubts about how the estimated £2.3bn price tag will be met.
The Scottish Government has made it clear it was prepared to pay from its own budget.
However, a spokesman added that given the scale and unique nature of the project, it had approached the UK Government for the flexibility to spread the payment over a longer period. Treasury Financial Secretary Stephen Timms said the UK Government had offered “flexibility” but funding for the crossing was a devolved matter. This flexibility does not involve any extra money or help with spreading the cost of the project over a long period .
Liberal Democrat Willie Rennie asked ministers “When will the government come forward with real new money to help pay for this bridge?”
Mr Timms said: “Funding is a devolved decision, it is a matter for the Scottish Executive to determine.
“We have offered flexibility to help within the economic framework applying to the UK as a whole and I hope that flexibility will allow this project to proceed.”
English MP Bob Marris then angrily intervened, asking: “Could you assure me the government will hold firm? Scotland already gets shedloads of money under the Barnett Formula.
“They are entitled to raise their own taxes and this government should stand firm against this bridge where they want even more money.”
Mr Timms told him he had made a “forceful point” .
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The position has been made clear in the Scottish Parliament on many occasions – the Scottish Government will deliver a new Forth crossing on time and on budget using our own resources by 2016 at a cost of between £1.7bn to £2.3bn.
“However, given the scale and unique nature of the project, we have approached the UK Government for the flexibility to spread the payment over a longer period.
“The reality is that the Treasury response involves no additional resources.
“The need for Scotland to have full control over its own resources, and the ability to borrow in the same way as other governments, has never been more evident.”

free pictures of Scotland . A Forth bridge wallpaper is available to paid subscribers

Castle bagging replaces Munro bagging

Scotland is famed for its historic castles and stunning natural beauty but the less energetic have started a new craze , swapping Munros for the new sport of castle bagging.Touring the country and visiting the most castles in a weekend has become a popular pastime for recession hit Brits.

Historic Scotland has noticed an increase in the number of visitors to their properties who say they are on a mission to bag the most castles they can.

Edinburgh Castle 908
Edinburgh Castle 908
historic castles and stunning natural beauty but the less energetic have started a new craze , swapping Munros for the new sport of castle bagging.Touring the country and visiting the most castles in a weekend has become a popular pastime for recession hit Brits.

Historic Scotland has noticed an increase in the number of visitors to their properties who say they are on a mission to bag the most castles they can. Edinburgh Castle is one of the top tourist attractions in the whole of the UK
They have realised around 20 visitors a month are making the most of Scotland’s multiplicity of strongholds and travelling around to visit them as a day out or weekend away. One family even managed to visit 20 properties in just seven days.
In today’s credit crunch Britain one in five people are choosing to holiday at home – staycations as some people say – and experience Scotland’s culture and heritage.
Historic Scotland is taking advantage of the situation and offering six months free on their family membership when you buy 12 months. Families will pay just £6.16 a month to get free access to more than 70 properties across Scotland and can bag as many castles as they like.
To celebrate the Make Your Own History campaign they are challenging families to take up the new craze in a search to find the country’s most cultured family.
Barbara Smith, executive manager of Edinburgh Castle, said: “We have noticed an increase in visitors who say they are trying to visit as many castles as possible. It seems to have become a bit of a sport to see who can “bag” the most.
“Historic Scotland looks after more than 60 castles across the country so there’s plenty to choose from. It’s a great way in the current climate for families to spend quality time together and get out and experience Scotland’s culture and heritage for themselves.
“The hard part is choosing which castles to visit and how much time to spend there as there is so much to see and do. We’d love to find the family who have bagged the most of our castles to date.”
I have drawn up a list of the top ten castles in Scotland . You can debate this list in our castles forum
Elaine and Alistair Greig are possible contenders after notching up 39 castles around Scotland. The enthusiasts enjoy spending time with their children Ewan, seven, and Eilidh, five, touring Scotland’s keeps.

Elaine said: “I’ve loved visiting castles ever since I was a little girl and my children love it now too. Their favourite pastime at the weekend is a visit to Edinburgh Castle. They can run around for hours at a time and let their imagination go wild.
“It’s a great way to spend time together as a family. We often take a picnic with us when we go for the day. We are spoilt for choice in Scotland with the number of beautiful historic properties we have and they are perfect for families to explore.
“All young children love the history behind castles and the people who live there like knights and kings and every property has its own unique story.”
And foreign tourists are getting in on the act with one German family visiting 35 sites in 10 days and a Spanish couple managing 37 in 14 days.
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland said the new trend is slightly less strenuous than Munro bagging but still a great way to spend a day out enjoying Scotland’s natural beauty.

David Gibson, Chief Officer for The Mountaineering Council of Scotland, said: “Scotland’s castles and mountains are inextricably linked though their history and beauty and are both set in wonderful scenic landscapes that are great to explore. Like munro-bagging, castle bagging carries a health warning – it can be seriously addictive.”
Historic Scotland will reward the family who can bag the most castles in a weekend. The winning family will be reimbursed for entry.
For more information on Historic Scotland and the full terms and conditions of the membership offer visit www.6monthsfree.co.uk

Fuji S9600 digital camera review

Fuji has a wide range of digital cameras from compacts to bridge cameras . The S9600 is one of the best bridge cameras ever made . Instead of reinventing the hugely successful Fuji S9500, the S9600 sees the introduction instead of some carefully-chosen improvements. Improving LCD size, image sharpness and low light autofocus, the new camera acts as a definite upgrade to its predecessor. The camera has a very impressive zoom lens; covering the crucial 28-300mm range, and crafted from the highest standard Fujinon optics, this is a built-in lens that has been engineered to work perfectly with the camera’s sensor technology

Fuji S9600
Fuji S9600
Fuji has a wide range of digital cameras from compacts to bridge cameras . The Fuji S9600 is one of the best bridge cameras ever made . Instead of reinventing the hugely successful Fuji S9500, the S9600 sees the introduction instead of some carefully-chosen improvements. Improving LCD size, image sharpness and low light autofocus, the new camera acts as a definite upgrade to its predecessor. The camera has a very impressive zoom lens; covering the crucial 28-300mm range, and crafted from the highest standard Fujinon optics, this is a built-in lens that has been engineered to work perfectly with the camera’s sensor technology. And the sensor technology is just as advanced – a nine million effective pixel Super CCD and Real Photo Processor combination that not only delivers on detail, but also the major image quality milestones: colour, low noise, dynamic range and sensitivity. The wide angle end is ideal for landscapes . Middle of the range focal lengths ( 100 to 150 mm ) can be used for portraits . The telephoto end is perfect for sports .
People that use the S9600 will not miss many shots. There is no annoying wait as a motor extends the lens (it is already in position), and the autofocus locks on to subjects with a speed that will make you think twice as to whether this really is not a DSLR. With its use of manual zoom ring, dials and buttons for important functions, the S9600 is designed for photographers who do not want their camera to get in the way of their photography.
The S9600 design allows you to do many things that you can’t with a digital SLR. For instance, using the 2-inch LCD to compose your image, rather than having to lift the camera to cover your eye.The LCD has a double hinge which allows you to change the angle of it to suit you depending on the angle you want to hold the camera at . You can hold the camera at waist level or ground level if you want a low angle . If you are shooting close-ups you can set the LCD screen at any angle between vertical and horizontal ie a full 90 degrees to play with . Using the zoom to reach virtually any of the major focal lengths, rather than having to change lenses and possibly see harmful dust enter the camera, not to mention missing the shot. Also, the mirror-free design allows you to enjoy the added functionality of a movie mode, which is something that SLRs cannot offer.

The lens is fixed to the camera – not only will the interior of the camera be protected from dust and the elements, but you also have an incredible zoom range at your disposal.It’s easy to zoom from one end of the zoom to the other with one movement . Fujinon optics have an enviable reputation within the photography industry for their clarity and quality, and the lens on the S9600 lives up to the name. The 13 elements include one hybrid aspherical element; one glass moulded aspherical element, as well as ED glass. Furthermore, photography enthusiasts will like the manual twist barrel zoom control, as well as the manual focusing ring, both giving pinpoint control.
One of the more visible improvements on the S9600 is the large 2-inch LCD monitor, mounted on a tiltable axis on the back of the camera. Possessing an extremely detailed display of 235,000 pixels, it enables you to check focus and get an immediate idea of image sharpness. Unlike an SLR, you will find yourself able to shoot above your head and from the floor, unlocking amazing shooting potential.
This camera is about a lot more than just nine million pixels. Super CCD technology has long been associated with class-leading performance in top-end digital cameras. Unlike generic image sensors, this system is developed and manufactured entirely in-house, and is performance only available from Fujifilm. Compared to the S9500, the S9600 sees refinements in the area of image sharpness, delivering a bitingly crisp rendition of reality. Furthermore, the impressive ISO range of 100-1600 means that you will get great, blur-free results in all light, not just daylight. Because of its incredible potential in low light conditions, the S9600’s auto focus has been further improved, enabling it to find focus more quickly in dim conditions. Fuji S9600