Alexander Fraser Photography
17th April 2013
I have decided to launch a professional photography business aimed at providing mainly PR, commercial, automotive, product and social photography services. The new website was launched today and can be found by following this link.

I hope that this will provide additional income to support my more personal pictorial and wildlife work which will continue to feature on the TwoPeople Photography website, so please don't go away!

If you have any specific photographic needs, or you know someone who has and you think I can help, lease contact me through the Alexander Fraser site.

Other Commitments - Help for Heroes
13th September 2012

I've hinted before about what a busy year it's been. Well, it should quieten down in three works or so once my next big challenge is out of the way. I am fundraising with a work colleague for Help for Heroes and we are planning a cycle and mountain climbing tour of the UK starting at the end of this month. You can read of our exploits in the planning, training and carrying out of the challenge at the link below, as well as read about our inspiration for undertaking the challenge. There may even be some photography en-route!

Help for Heroes Blog
Help for Heroes
11th September 2012
You may have been wondering why I've not been as active on the website of late. It's not through the lack of trying but other things have reduced the amount of time, for the moment, that I can put into it.

One of these, of course, is my RPS distinction application (see below) but the most time-expensive thing is a series of Help for Heroes fundraising events that I am organising and taking part in. The series of monthly events started in January this year and culminates in a large challenge that begins on 29th September and takes in Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland by bike, taking in the four highest peaks en-route (Slieve Dornan in NI, we only pass through Eire).

Anyway, the organisation, training and participation has taken its toll on the time I have for photography this year, but if you read my Help for Heroes blog at you will find the inspiration behind the efforts and also why I believe it has been worth the sacrifice.

After the completion of the Four Peaks Challenge I will be returning to concentrating on my photography and finally getting round to making some alterations to the site.

In the meantime, wish me luck!
LRPS Application
04th September 2012
Yes, I now, it's a while since I have blogged. There are reasons for this, primarily that I am involved in the organisation of fund-raising events on behalf of Help for Heroes, of which more later.

In the meantime I have also been preparing for an application for a Royal Photographic Society Licentiateship (LRPS). I decided to do this to focus my photography and also to set a goal for the year. So far I have attended a RPS "photo-forum", where guidance is provided on the quality of work required for the application and, just as importantly, the presentation of the 10-photograph "panel", that constitutes the presentation.

The panel must demonstrate your capability as a photographer on a variety of subjects and techniques and, as importantly, must be presented in such a way as to show a cohesive body of work. A difficult balance to achieve. However, the importance and effect of a well presented panel was demonstrated in spades at the photo forum, when a set of 18 average but competent (in my opinion) photographs presented by one attendee were transformed into a beautiful body of 10 photographs by an RPS Panel judge.

Consistent themes brought out in the forum were variety of technique/subject, choosing photographs that look well together, symmetry of the presentation panel (portrait vs landscape format), quality of technique and, as importantly, print quality. Believe me, they pick on burnt out areas, colour cast, noise and "heavy printing" (blocked out areas) with abandon.

Anyway, I put all this to the test by presenting a panel of 10 photographs at an Assessment Day last Saturday. The purpose of the Assessment Day is that you present your panel, in public, to a number of RPS panel judges. They basically pick apart your panel, pointing out its shortcomings (both photographically and presentationally) and tell you if the panel is to LRPS standard and, if not, what you need to do to get it to that standard.

Anyway, I nervously presented my panel 15 minutes before the end of the session and was told, surprisingly, that I should submit my LRPS application as soon as possible with the panel I had presented. Needless to say I felt very pleased and proud at the end of the day and have asked for a full assessment in mid-January next year (the next available date).

I will try and post an image of the panel layout as soon as possible. In the meantime I can say that I have enjoyed the process so far and have found it both challenging and educational.

If I'm fortunate to get the LRPS, the next stop is Associate (ARPS), which is, apparently, quite a step up. But you've got t try, haven't you?
Mull - This Photographer's Paradise
06th June 2012
I have just returned from an all to short week on Mull, when Scotland's weather did us proud and it became clear that the west coast of Scotland is truly one of the World's beautiful places.
Mull itself, is quiet and unspoiled and yet has high class services, a wonderfully straight-talking but friendly indigenous population and a warm-hearted "incomer" population who are very appreciative of their surroundings. It is not hard to see why - the landscapes and wildlife on offer are to die for and it is so easy to find a little bit of space (actually, quite a lot of space) to breathe and take in nature that has only been touched lightly by man. Even the rubbish left by man takes on it's own beauty, as seen in the old boats abandoned near Salen.
The landscape is also so variable, including, as it does, the white sandy beaches at Calgary all the way to the rugged mountain top of Ben More and almost enything else you could wish for in between. We walked around lochs, through lichen-bedecked birch woods, across flower-laden meadows and around the rocky foreshore at Staffa, home of Fingal's Cave; the deep cavern set in columnar basalt and enclosing a long finger of azure blue sea. Around every corner there seems to be a breathtaking view and a quiet space to enjoy it.
As for the wildlife, in a week we saw white-tailed sea eagles, sea-otters, red deer, Canada Geese, Wrens, swallows, sand martins, blue-tits, great-tits, hooded crows, fulmar, cormorant, shag, grey herons, wheatear, bullfinches, oyster-catchers, crested grebes, eider ducks, rock pippets, pied wagtails, Atlantic seals, grey seals and, last but definately not least, puffins by the score. The last of these were seen on a visit to Lunga, one of the Treshnish Isles. As we left the boat to visit Lunga the skipper advised us all to go past the puffins to a distant part of the island and stop and see the birds on our way back, otherwise we would be puffin-ised by their magic and we would see nothing else. He was not wrong, and few people got past the puffin colony (myself included), being happy enough to sit and watch (and photograph) them during our two hour visit to the island.
I have very many photos to come of my week in Mull and I hope you will enjoy seeing them as much as I enjoyed taking them.
One thing is for sure - I will be back. I think I have fallen for this most beautiful Scottish Island.
PS - if you do go yourself be sure to visit the Island of Ulva, a short ferry trip off the west coast of Mull. No cars allowed, amazing geology, landscapes and wildlife, and the best tea, cake and lunch stop that we have found so far.
Exhibition at Cloud 9 Gallery
24th February 2012
My exhibition at Cloud 9 Studio Gallery is on for the month of March starting on Saturday 3rd March. More information can be found on the Cloud 9 Gallery website, including information on the Resident artist's work (Julie Hollis). I'd be delighted if you could come and meet us both over a cup of coffee and a bun at the gallery on 3rd March. If you can't make it that day please drop by another time; the gallery is well worth the visit and provides a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
A Change is coming
17th November 2011
Well, the site hasn't been up for a year yet and I'm itching to change it.

Although I think the overall appearance is OK the structure is a bit lacking and haphazard, particularly in the gallery areas, and some of the images need refreshing. In view of this I'm going to make a start soon on a new layout and structure, with the intent of getting the revised site up and running by mid December at the latest. Any suggestions for changes that you'd like to see would be more than welcome, although I retain the right ignore them ;-)

I'd also like to hear your thought about links to purchase the images. I'm not naturally good at self-promotion and I've resisted obvious sales links in the past, but is this the right thing to do?

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the redesign and I'll let you know when it is launched.

Glasgow Riverside Museum
08th November 2011

I first visited the new Glasgow Riverside Museum, the replacement for the Glasgow Museum of Tansport, a month or so ago. It is a fantastic building, designed by Zaha Hadid, and is bound to become an icon on the Glasgow skyline. It also sits in a fantastic location, with a particularly spectacular view back along the River Clyde towards the city; a view which takes in the Glasgow Science Centre and tower, The Forum Hotel, the "Armadillo" at the exhibition and conference centre, the new BBC building and a few tower cranes.

Having spotted the view when I was leaving the Museum I saw a particular photograph in my head and decided that I must return at dawn on a crisp clear morning. Those conditions arrived at the weekend and I dutifully hauled myself out of bed and headed in to be on location around 7am, about half an hour before dawn. As well as clear with a slight mist off the river and perfect reflections on the river it was also bloomin' cold, but worth it.

After scouting out the best location for the tripod I had a wander to the river-facing elevation of the building. I was struck by the clean geometric lines against the cool blue sky and the large window soaking up the colour from the approaching dawn. From some angles it was also possible to reflect the masts and spars of the tall ship, the Glenlee, which is moored on the river next to the building. So I quickly checked out some angles and made some photographs of the building before dawn, as I thought that the sun would catch the window and make the light too harsh if I waited until it came up (my decision was vindicated when I went back around the building for a look after sunrise).

In the end I have three strong images of the building and at least one of the view up-river to the Glasgow skyline. I also have other skyline images that I think will have merit but they've yet to be processed. I was so pleased with the outcome and consider this one of my most successful photographic forays for some time.

The final bonus was watching and photographing the wildlife on the banks of the river in the gorgeous morning light. The river was teeming with various birds, including swans, ducks, cormorants and other wildfowl.

If you have the time and are in the area make an effort to drop by the Museum BEFORE the crowds arrive. It's well worth the effort. You can then have a coffee in the cafe and a tour around the museum when it opens. It should make a great day out.
Landscape Photography on a Dull Day
17th October 2011
I arranged a day off work last week to spend time away with my camera. After checking the weather forecast I diverted from my original location, Perthshire to a supposedly dry part of the country, Dumfries and Galloway. Imagine my surprise and disappointment to find the weather gradually becoming darker and wetter the closer I got to my destination.

I know that you can obtain moody and dramatic landscapes in bad weather but, trust me, this wasn't going to happen on that particular day. It was a case of changing my plans and looking for details in the landscape, using the soft and diffused light to enhance detail and form. In the end I probably took far fewer photographs than I might have done had the weather been kinder, but I think my hit rate was probably higher than usual; the challenging conditions slowing me down a little and making me look at detail rather than the broader landscape. The constant light also allowed me to think more carefully about position, composition, colour, texture and form than I could in rapidly changing lighting conditions.

What did I photograph? I have a couple of images of funghi from ground level, using a small reflector to bounce light into the darker areas and to light up the gills under the cap. I also have photographs of a moss covered boulder in a river with some autumn leaves on them and taken at a slow shutter speed. This provides a lovely simple image of the glowing leafs and gentle greens on the boulder surrounded by the soft flow of the river. I have one longer shot through woodland taken with a long lens. This compressed the distance between tree trunks and folded the multi-coloured early autumn ferns into a riot of colour below the tree canopy. None of these shots would not have worked in bright directional light as it would lead to dark shadows and blown highlights.

In the end I enjoyed my day out, it just took a little lateral thinking from my original plans. Oh yes, and a tripod!
Canon 10-22 v Sigma 10-20
05th September 2011
I bought a sigma 10-20mm lens around four years ago. It was hardly off my camera and proved to be a high quality addition to my gadget bag. However, in the summer of 2010 I managed to face-plant it into a pebble beach from full tripod height. Although the glass was undamaged the focusing mechanism jammed and I replaced it with a new Sigma through an insurance claim.

The new lens wasn't a patch on the old one. I felt the tonality was flatter but, more obviously, anything near the corner of the frame was rendered as a messy blur. I tried different aperture settings but nothing worked. All that I could do was allow for the distortion when framing and crop the final image to remove it. Wholly unsatisfactory.

In view of the problems, which I reckoned would be rendered even worse when I replaced the 40D with the 7D, I decided to replace with sigma with the Canon 10-22. I have to say the Canon is a superb lens; sharp from corner to corner with minimal distortion and good contrast. Many of the Mull images were taken using this lens, including Source, which shows the ability of this lens. I haven't regretted the expense of changing from the Sigma one bit.

I guess I can't be too hard on the Sigma. The first lens was a little cracker but its replacement was poor. It is potentially a good alternative to the Canon; just make sure you get a good copy.
Canon 1.4 Extender - A Confession
23rd August 2011
After 30-odd years of taking photographs it would appear I still have a lot to learn. I have used my 100-400L lens and new 1.4 III Extender a lot over the past couple of weeks and I have to say that my hit rate, in terms of getting sharp, useable photographs is pretty low.

I guess the whole thing connected to an EOS7D, with an equivalent focal length of nearly 900mm, is pretty unwieldy. When you combine that with an absence of autofocus and poor light (as I had most of the time) I suppose I'm asking for trouble. Shutter speeds of 1/250 with the lens wide open, even at ISO1250, just don't cut the mustard. Push the ISO any higher and the noise becomes intrusive.

Truth be told though it's the lack of autofocus that's the main problem. In poor light I just can't manually focus quickly enough to catch the action and, in having to focus, it means hanging onto the camera. Even tripod mounted camera shake is more of an issue in these circumstances. All of this meant that I have a superb series of soft images (I'm being kind to the quality) of a heron taking a trout. I was so pleased when the camera fired and so disappointed when I reviewed the images.

Hey-ho. Maybe as I get more used to the combination and I get the chance to use it in better light things will improve. However, I live in Scotland and good light can be hard to come by. On the upside when things come together the image is as sharp as a very sharp thing, but these instances are rare. The Jury's out, as they say and, at the moment, I'm not sure that the purchase of the extender was money well spent.
Colour or Monochrome?
28th July 2011
This photo of the Fleet Valley in Dumfries and Galloway is a blend of three images to try and capture the dynamic range of the spectacular conditions. I've been a little frustrated by it because something about the final image didn't quite gel with me. It's probably down to me very limited photoshop skills but I think it appears too green and the greens look a little false.

Anyway, I've just processed a monochrome version of the shot and I think I prefer it. It somehow seems more real (even allowing for the fact that I removed the pond in the middle distance - it was too bright a highlight in the B&W version). I'd be interested to know what others think so if you feel like giving an opinion fire away.
HDR or Manual Blending?
21st July 2011
Getting the full dynamic range in a high contrast image can be tricky and you can either resort to graduated filters, High Dynamic Range (HDR) software or manual blending. I knew I had to adopt one of these procedures for this image of Loudon Hill in Ayrshire as I would either have had a burnt out sky or an underexposed foreground.

Since filters offer a linear transition from light to dark the use of one in this case would have darkened the hillside as well as the sky, not an effect I wanted, so I was left with the other two options. Both HDR and manual blending require exposures for the highlights, mid-tones and shadows, so I took multiple exposures of the image, bracketing up to 3-stops either side of the metered readings. In this case the three-stops of underexposure was sufficient to capture the highlights in the sky. In order to make these exposures the camera needs to be tripod mounted and the frames taken quickly to avoid too much movement between exposures.

Back at home I had the option of photomatix HDR software or using photoshop to blend the images manually. Although manual blending is much more time consuming I feel the results are more attractive and controllable, so that is what I opted for here. I overlaid the 3-stops "underexposed" image over the image best exposed for the foreground and then used the erase tool to delete the underexposed foreground and reveal the underlying correctly exposed layer, whilst leaving the correctly exposed sky over the hillside. This is relatively simple and straightforward but requires patience along the horizon line, particularly where trees and foliage extend into the skyline. I think the image is an accurate reflection of what I saw at the time and I'm pleased with the result.

Note that there are some occasions where manual blending would be almost impossible, mainly where shadow and highlight areas overlap and interleave, such as sunlight through leaves. In these circumstances HDR software is just about the only way a full dynamic range can be achieved. Just be careful with the sliders - overcooked HDR images are a bit of a cliche these days and many are positively ugly in my view.
One-man Hide
06th July 2011
Well, after my encounter with inquisitive passers-by when I was trying to photograph wildfowl the other week (see "Birdwatching - Interrupted" below) I bought myself a one-man hide at the weekend. Quite a neat little affair consisting of a folding chair attached to which is a series of hinged metal loops which hold camo-fabric and netting. All that you do is unfold the chair, sit in it and pull the hoops from the back over your head.

The hide has loops to attach a bit of undergrowth to break the outline up, a waterproof canopy over the chair and netting with a hole for the lens in the front. There's plenty of room for gear and tripod and even a cup-holder in the chair for drinks. The chair's even reasonably comfortable, much more so that squatting on the ground. All for the princely sum of £50.

So far I haven't had the opportunity to try it out. I'll probably do that in the garden first, although I will no doubt have to put up with the twitching curtains from the neighbours. I'll post up some pictures and let you know how I get on when I try it out properly.
Birdwatching - Interrupted
27th June 2011
I'm having a little frustration on the photography front at the moment. Since I got the EOS7D and 1.4 converter we've had nothing but grey skies, dull days and flat light. I was hoping that things would change at the weekend as we spent Saturday and Sunday at the family's haunt just outside Gatehouse of Fleet in Dumfries and Galloway.

Local to the estate is a pond that extends to a few acres in area and has patches of lily pads and a reed-covered island; perfect for water fowl. During a dry spell yesterday afternoon I grabbed the camera bag and tripod and walked the mile down to the pond, settled myself under a low-hanging tree and sat in wait for some action.

After half an hour or so I hadn't got anything other than a few fleeting glimpses of a Moorhen and two chics and was hoping that they would venture out into the water between the shore and the island. This would have provided a perfect opportunity to capture the birds with reflections of them against the patterns created by the reflected reeds. My hope was dashed, however, by the arrival of Mr and Mrs Inquisitive. I heard them stop behind me and I sat silently with my eye to the viewfinder hoping that they would move on. Unfortunately not:

"Getting anything??" came a loud voice. "Not much yet" says I, quietly and pointedly. "What are you hoping to see?". "Er, moorhens and there were little grebe's here last year". "So you didn't see the buzzard a minute ago?", "Yes, I did, but I wasn't going to catch that" (the buzzard had been flocked by crows as it flew across the tree tops above me). They finally plodded off, crashing their way round the pond and leaving me to settle into the interrupted vigil.

I never did get a decent photograph and the moorhens kept a wide berth of where I was sat.

I wouldn't have minded so much if the couple hadn't been festooned with binoculars and so clearly interested in the birds. I wasn't expecting fieldcraft, but I had been hoping for common sense.
Canon 1.4 III Extender Update
21st June 2011
Re the loss of autofocus with the 1.4 extender between my 100-400L and EOS7D body. Canon have got back to me and here's their response:

"Sorry to say, you are indeed wrong in this case. The 1.4x extender creates an f/8 lens, when put unto (sic) the 100-400mm zoom, and the 7D can only autofocus with lenses up to f/5.6. (A 1.4x extender makes a lens loose (sic) one stop of light; this is a mathematical principle, that cannot be avoided.) To retain autofocus with the 100-400mm and 1.4x extender, you would need to use a 1D-series camera. I am sorry for the inconvenience."

Shame the marketing blurb (and the blurb that comes with the extender) doesn't make this clear.

It's still a nice piece of glass though and I'll just have to put up with the inconvenience of manual focus until I upgrade to a 1D!
Canon 100-400 L Series Zoom & Extender 1.4 III
20th June 2011
I finally got round to trying the new extender yesterday, albeit in a fairly benign environment - photographing birds in the back garden.

The extender was bought for use with my 100-400L zoom lens, which has had very mixed reviews in its own right. However, I seem to have a good copy because the photographs from it are sharp and saturated with good tonality more or less over the full zoom range. If I had to criticise any aspect of its performance it would be in connection with the Image Stabilisation (IS) system. Simply put it just can't do the job of a good support; even at moderate shutter speeds I seldom get a sharp photograph when I've had to use the IS. OK for emergencies but I wouldn't want to rely on it.

The extender has also produced the goods in terms of image quality (the recent wood pigeon and goldfinch shots in the bird portfolio were produced using the extender and the 100-400 wide open). I was expecting some softness or tonal degradation but I can't see any, even when the RAW file is viewed at 100% magnification. So, optically, it looks like a winner, although I guess it still has to prove its mettle in more telling conditions.

The one downside is that the use of the extender switches the system to manual focus. I had expected one of the upsides of the Mk III designation would be retention of autofocus, and certainly the marketing blurb alludes to improved communication between lens, extender and camera over the old Mk II version. Of course, the blurb doesn't refer to how this particularly affects specific lenses other than mention the extender's overall compatibility with the 100-400.

I've emailed Canon to ask if I should have autofocus and I'll let you know what they say. In the meantime I hope my mini review is of interest.
It pays to be prepared
13th June 2011
I'm just back from a very enjoyable weekend in the Lake District and my wife and I had a wonderful walk on Saturday morning around Hallin Fell, on the east side of Ullswater. On the return leg from Sandwick we first came across a Great Crested Grebe and 10 new chicks and I managed to snatch a few shots before they disappeared upstream. I don't think they'll be any more than record shots but it was such a wonderful sight to see.
A few hundred yards later and I was aware of some activity behind a dry stone wall and when I peered over it there were around four or five redstarts darting amongst the fern. I slapped the 100-400 zoom onto the new EOS7D and caught some activity, albeit a little bit away from me. As I was taking these shots a smaller bird flew across the ground towards the wall and settled out of sight on the other side of the wall. I wondered at the time if it was a wren. A minute later it landed on top of the wall less than 2 metres away from me and I managed to get some shots off - turns out it was a redstart fledgeling! I believe I have some superb shots of this wee bird as it was too inexperienced to be nervous of my presence. Interestingly the adult feeding it didn't approach it when it was so close to me and I didn't get a shot of the feeding being done.
As far as being prepared is concerned I had spent some time going through the instructions for the 7D the night before, particularly learning the ropes on the focussing system - if I hadn't done that I'm sure I would have missed the shots that I did get.
I'll get the shots processed over the next couple of days and, if they're up to scratch they'll make it into the wildlife gallery. So make sure to check it out later this week.
07th June 2011
Well, the new camera arrived this morning so I've got a bit of learning curve to climb in terms of its handling and features, but I'm looking forward to rummaging though the instuctions and playing with all the buttons and knobs (I'm still a boy at heart after all). I've a photographic weekend planned so I'll be putting it through its paces and will, hopefully, have some new work to post to the website next week.
To photoshop or not to photoshop?
25th May 2011
I'm constantly amazed by the quality of the photographs on and I have submitted a few myself for publication on the website (each photograph is reviewed by a "curator" who decides if it is up to standard). So far, none have been accepted. I'm OK with that because the standard is so high and I have taken a break from submission to see if I can push my own envelope that little bit more.

Having looked at the 1x photographs I'm certain that many are the way they are as much because of photoshop skills than camera skills. Again, I don't object to that; as I say in the front page to this website it's the final image that matters. I believe we all interpret what we see in front of us to a degree and, whether painter or photographer, we use what skills and tools we have to realise that interpretation. A simple example is the use of a wide open lens to narrow the depth of field and isolate a subject; if you just let your camera do the work the subject would probably be lost amid a clutter of unwanted detail.

So the question to myself isn't to photoshop or not to photoshop, it's more about how to and how much. I've barely scratched the surface with photoshop and the results can still provide that edge that a photograph sometimes needs. Trouble is, post-processing takes time and I'm certainly not the master of the workflow. So often I can see in my head what I want to achieve but I can't realise the image on screen or in print. More learning required then, I'm just glad there's so much good advice on line.
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