North Coast 500 Landscape Course 23rd April

April 03, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

We are running a workshop in Inverness on 23rd April. 

Landscape photography for beginners, will be an intensive one day course which will help you learn how to use your camera, with expert tuition from John. We will go on location to create images which you can use.

If you want to learn how to shoot great landscapes, understand your camera, and compose the best shots, this course will be ideal.

23rd courseNorth Coast 500 Workshop

SWPP Photography Convention 2016 - London

January 31, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

At the end of January I traveled down to London to be part of Europe's largest photographic convention. The Societies annual get together, which attracts tens of thousands of people from all over the globe, was taking place at the Hilton Hotel, and I was there as a guest speaker for the weekend.

As well as being a speaker, I found out a few weeks beforehand that one of my images had been selected as a finalist in the photographer of the year awards, under the wedding photojournalism category. Unfortunately by this time I had secured tickets to see one of my favourite people in the world, Billy Connolly, so had the difficult decision to make of which event to attend.

I had a wedding on the Thursday, which was at Lodge on Loch Goil, so this meant I had to fly to London from Glasgow. A dash from Lochgoilhead to Glasgow airport in rush hour traffic followed, and I eventually arrived at my hotel at 11pm. Not too late by my standards but I was speaking at 9am on Friday morning, so I was a bit stressed by this stage.

My Friday class was called Basic Equipment - Awesome Results. It was showing people that you don't need to spend silly money to take great photos, and using some cheap and simple accessories, I was able to put together some good images. One camera and one 50mm lens was used for much of it, and this class seemed to go very well.

The Saturday class was Weddings In The Digital Era, and was basically an updated version of a class I did several years ago, showing how the industry has changed in that short time, and how we need to move as photographers to keep up with the ever changing market place. This was my favourite class, and I spoke for a bit more than the allocated two hours, but could have gone on for three or four hours no problem. I even forgot to use the model who had showed up!

Saturday night I went to see Billy, and it was well worth the decision. A fantastic show by an amazing man. While I was there I got a text to say I had come third overall in the photographer of the year thing, so all in all, a nice way to end the evening.

Once again a fantastic few days and a great event, which I was proud to be part of.


MCAI Charity Trip To Gambia

October 29, 2015  •  Leave a Comment



In August I embarked on a pretty epic adventure to West Africa. I would like to thank Douglas and Caron Park, from Parks Motor Group, Hamilton for their very generous sponsorship of this adventure. I really couldn't have done it without their help, and I am sure like myself, the charity is very grateful to them also.

This is just a short account of my time there. Very difficult to put it all down in words, but I want to share some of my experiences. There will be much more to come at a later date.


Firstly, a montage of the staff at Brikama Health Centre, what an amazing group of people, who made me very welcome during my time there.


The North West of Scotland is maybe not the obvious place you’d find the headquarters of a charity which spends it’s time saving lives in Africa and other parts of the world, however that is exactly what you will find in the village of Poolewe in Wester Ross.

Maternal and Childhealth Advocacy international, or MCAI for short is run by Prof David Southall and Rhona MacDonald, ably assisted by their small team in the office. Their website shouts out their mission statement of "To save and improve the lives of babies, children and pregnant women in areas of extreme poverty. By empowering and enabling our in-country partners to strengthen emergency health care". Looking beneath the surface there is a much bigger and more impressive story though, and I travelled to Gambia to document their work and find out more about what they do.

The MCAI charity has been around for twenty years, and was started by Dr Southall following the war in Bosnia Herzegovina, during which time he had worked over there with UNICEF. Currently they have people in Gambia, Liberia, Afghanistan and Cameroon. As well as this they have textbooks currently sent out to 32 different countries which will help with medical practices and training there. Generally the work being carried out includes training local midwives and staff on dealing with emergencies and providing a better service, supply of medical equipment, expert obstetric support, as well as helping with the facilities. There are staff working as volunteers in these countries, doing what they can to save lives on a daily basis, backed up by a great team in the Poolewe office.

I had talked to someone from the charity a while back, and took some interest, but never followed it up, until eventually a couple of years later, I put forward the proposal that I should go out there and do some work for them. What followed was a very interesting, inspirational, and exhausting trip to The Gambia, which left me going through every emotion possible, from sadness to huge frustration. It took a long time to get this trip to come to fruition. Lots of hoops to jump through, both at this end and in Gambia, before I could be allowed access to hospitals and patients. Once all the paperwork was in place, security training and briefings completed, I was good to go. I had no idea what I was actually going to get once I got there, which added to the excitement.

After a day of airport delays, no phone chargers and various other first world problems, I arrived in a very hot and humid Banjul. The heat and humid air hit me as soon as I stepped off the plane. It was totally dark, and all I could hear when I arrived at my accommodation was the sound of bats. Lots and lots of bats. I would have to await morning to see the place. My biggest fear, being a midge magnet here, was being savaged by mosquitoes and getting malaria, so my first task was to get a net in place for sleeping, as well as turning the air conditioning to the dial marked "Scotland", which would also help kill off the insects.

I awoke early, uncomfortable from lying on my back under a pop up mosquito net. It was warm. Very warm. The first morning was not just me awakening to the start of this adventure, I was awakening to the fact that I no longer had my home comforts. Although I am sure the house is relatively high standard locally, it took me out of my comfort zone. I had expected this though, so it wasn't a big deal. I certainly didn't travel over to this situation expecting a four star hotel. It was, however, going to take some getting used to having a cold shower in the morning, and sharing a kitchen with some mice and cockroaches. Welcome to Africa.

My first visit to Brikama Health Centre was another eye opener. I had seen photos, and heard about it, but seeing something in person is a different thing altogether. It most certainly wasn't like any hospital or health facility I had seen before. Curtains, designed to give privacy to patients, hung from the walls and ceilings like rags, flapping in the breeze from the open doors and the small amount of air being circulated by the overhead fans. There were flies everywhere. Buzzing around my face and legs. People randomly wandering in and out of the area, some awaiting attention, others just visiting. A random cat wandered in the door and took a left turn into the ward. Nobody batted an eyelid, apart from me. Outside, bins with a mixture of medical waste and general rubbish, overflowed onto the pavement, causing a focal point for the local cats and the masses of flies. The lack of hygiene hit me in the face, and became my most powerful memory of that first day. Cats rummaging through food and human waste, whilst two metres away people queued to see a doctor. Women wandered in and out, with bowls, pans and other household items, containing home cooked meals, teas and coffees and various other nutritional items, as this hospital had no canteen or vending machine.

I spent my first day sitting in on some exams. A doctor from a teaching college in Banjul was putting two of the locals through their paces. Dr Kanteh and midwife Arfange have been undergoing training with MCAI and were being tested on their skills. No fancy devices here for demonstrating techniques. A pillow took on the role of a female abdomen, whilst some pieces of foam, possibly from a sofa, were shaped into other parts of the female anatomy. It was hard to take in, but it actually worked. Both guys showed just how well they had been trained and how enthusiastic they were about their work, and passed with flying colours. It was a quiet, uneventful start to my time in Brikama, but it was about to become much busier.

The next nine days saw me having to deal with babies being resuscitated, a mother dying on the table in front of me, several cases of eclampsia, caesarean section operations, and much more. I'm not the best at dealing with surgery and such like, so I did have some tough moments whilst in theatres, trying my utmost not to faint and cause another emergency in the room. It was, however, interesting watching the newly trained staff, performing these operations, under the watchful eye of Dr Johan Creemers. I was totally impressed by the dedication of him, as well as the other MCAI people, who are working in these tough conditions, as volunteers, with the added frustration of seeing the lack of support from the government. He seemed to be on call pretty much 24/7 during the time I was there. I would hear his phone ring at 3 or 4 in the morning, and him talking through patients with the night staff, then at 8.30 he'd be back in the hospital for the shift handover, as fresh as a daisy and ready for another day. Selfless dedication to saving lives.

The staff in the hospital were friendly, and made me feel so welcome. They possibly had a slightly relaxed approach to timekeeping and turning up at work at times, but they seemed to be very focused and career minded. One of the midwives has combined his knowledge of the job he works in, with a brilliant engineering mind, and has created two devices which have been incorporated into the hospital equipment used on a daily basis. One of them, a vacuum delivery device, has been invented using various other pieces of generic medical equipment, to create a very low cost equivalent of the vacuum machines normally used. And more importantly it works. He has been invited to speak about it at medical conferences, and his enthusiasm is infectious.


The local children never stopped smiling. Local men, hanging around in the shade near the house, never failed to shout over with greetings every time I passed. The locals just seemed to accept what they had, and I suppose if it is all you have known, you would just get on with it. The local market was like no market I have seen. There was nothing there I’d want to buy, but it was buzzing every time you walked through it. Women selling bananas, bags of water, corn on the cobs, and mango on every corner, alongside stalls selling bit of old bikes. Half worn mountain bike tyres hung from the roofs and rows of second hand trainers and flip-flops were laid out underneath. Second hand bikes in various conditions were on sale at one stall, some of them covered in rust. One day I went past and saw a Cannondale road bike for sale. I have no idea what price was on it, or if they even realised the value of it, but it caught my eye. It was gone by the time I went back past.  I had four different requests from people to have my converse trainers. It was just a totally different world. People making do, just surviving and making the best of what they had. Very humbling.


The most frustrating part of this trip was seeing the way the country is run. To see people go through hell due to lack of the most basic equipment, whilst a few miles along the road the government buildings are modern, with stunning and certainly expensive architecture. It seems like a country which has its priorities very wrong. We hear a lot of people complaining in the UK about injustice but in Africa it seems to be on a whole different level. Here there seems to be a small number of people with wealth, and everybody else is in poverty. It is quite sad that the locals rely on outsiders such as this charity, to come over and save their lives, when their own government could do so much more to help.


Overall this was an incredible experience. Despite the 28 hour journey to get home whilst suffering from severe food poisoning, and the difficult conditions, it was worthwhile. I feel another week would have been good as I struggled to get everything I wanted, but I did get a good selection of images to document the work there. The enduring feeling from the trip was one of respect for the people working there, both the locals, with their constant smiles and great attitudes, and the volunteers, working so hard under such difficult circumstances, just because they want to help.


Ultimately, like all charities, their existence depends upon donations and fundraising, and the continuing fight to save mothers and babies depends on a constant revenue. If you can help in any way, or know anyone who is interested in helping, please get in touch and try to make a small difference. More information is available on their website


Here's a tiny selection of the images I have from the trip, with much more to follow.



Beginners Photography Workshop

October 29, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Back by popular demand, a beginners course aimed at people wanting to get started in photography. This will help you understand your camera, light, and how to get the best from your equipment in most situations. You will learn composition skills, and various camera techniques, with the end goal being to send you away inspired and with a greater knowledge of how it all works. You will understand how to correct mistakes and hopefully have confidence to shoot manually, or at the very least, not on fully automatic modes!

We will go through the boring but vital stuff first before going to shoot some landscapes and also have a go at portraits, so you pick up the different skills for each discipline.

To find out more drop me an email [email protected] or go to the link on the training page to book.

Beginners dec15Beginners dec15

Printed Products or Disc?

March 11, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Reproduced via John Baikie Photography Blog

This is a very important topic. It is all too easy to think a disc is the answer, but getting high quality printed products is more important now than ever. Longevity is another issue often missed by clients printing their own images. Read on for more...


So in this day of digital domination, what are people buying? Is the shoot and burn style here to stay, or is there still life in the album or printed products? Obviously like any other market there are different priorities but lets look at the case for the good old fashioned printed product, or as I prefer to see them - family heirlooms.

Recently I had an urge to have a look through some old photographs. It was Christmas time and being the time for sentimentality, the coversation went on to family photographs, followed by the inevitable "let's get the old albums out". Now I must admit much of what I saw, certainly of myself, was embarrassing, and many of the school photos made me consider that if I did that to my children nowadays, social services would more than likely be involved. The hairstyles, if it is even appropriate to use the word 'style' in this case,and which seemed to be similar to those worn by lego figures, were not good, the clothing even worse, and yet everyone laughed and had a great time looking through them. In the same box were old black and white wedding photos from when my grandparents tied the knot, in the 1940's. Even more impressive was a wedding photo of my great grandfathers sister, which we worked out was over 100 years old, and yet still in very good condition. Lit and set up better than much of what I see being produced and posted on social media these days. The prints were still in pristine condition, and sharp as a tack. There was such a huge and varied array of memories in that one cardboard box, it got me thinking about the current generation. The memories seemed to stop around the early 2000's and the reason is, I started using digital, and none of it had been printed. I immediately vowed to get some prints done of some of the older stuff, but from a professional point of view I think it was a wake up call.


Lego Hair ^^^


The photo above is over 100 years old!


People want their wedding or portrait images digitally, but how often do they get them printed, and again, how often do they get a lot of images done? And at a good quality? In the good old days, you shot a roll of film, got it developed and rarely threw anything out if it was anything like half decent. Now we do a shoot and confine it to a folder on our PC. Some of us will back it up to a separate drive, and some will back it up to the cloud. What happens if we can't access that computer or drive in twenty years time, which is very possible? What happens if for some reason we delete our cloud back up? What do we have for memories? I got a new phone in August. It developed a fault recently and I had to send it away. I did a backup to some cyberspace location, restored it to factory settings, and then did a restore from my back up file. All my messages and photos magically reappeared on the phone. This was a test. I then restored the phone to factory settings and sent it away. A week later a new shiny replacement handset arrived. I was very pleased they had sent me a brand new phone and went to reload everything. When I logged in, there was no back up file. I still have no idea why, or where it went, but I have lost every photo I took between August and January. There wasn't much of importance on it, but there were some images from Christams, some landscapes I had shot when out on my bike, and a few other things that I am sad I have lost. How many people have suffered a similar fate, and how many more will in the future. How many people have a CD or DVD stored somewhere, which will not play on their computer in ten years time? How many people will have a hard drive failure and lose everything? I'd suggest a great many.


The next factor is the experience we shared of leafing through that box of images together. Do you think this will happen with a hard drive full of folders from every event? I'd suggest not. It is a totally different experience, and one which is unlikely to provoke the emotions and memories which so many previous generations have experienced. You may have a folder for every event in your computer, or just one folder with absolutely everything in it. How will you share this with the family, the children, the grandchildren? Get them all round and sit around the laptop or tv while you put a slideshow together? It just isn't the same is it? The experience of looking at the old prints and albums is what makes it special. Not just the image on the print, but the feel of it. The way you can pick it up and look for as long as you like, discuss it and share memories. Not clicking a mouse and having a quick glance as they scroll through endless boring images to find one gem.

Parents wedding album

I don't know how many times in recent years I have met a client after the first series of communications have taken place via email and website links, for them to be blown away when they actually get the album samples in front of them. Unless they have been to a wedding fair, they probably have no idea what a digital album looks and feels like. Also when a client has only ever seen their images on a screen, then view the album layout as a PDF, then they open that box and take their own album out for the first never fails to produce another 'wow' moment as everything looks so different printed.

People need to be aware of this. It is important to see and 'feel' albums and framed prints, or whatever other products we do. They need to know the importance of having physical copies to show their children, and their children, and so on. Otherwise we will look back on this entire generation as the one we can't see. In a generation where just about everybody is walking about taking photos every day, either on a phone, a tablet or a camera, is it not ironic that this generation will be the one we have the least physical memories of? The other thing worth pointing out is, that now more than at any other time, having prints and other products made, has never been easier. The days of having to hand write an order form, write out a cheque, package a set of negatives up and send the whole thing to the lab, are long gone. But back when I started, that was how it was done, and everybody had prints back then.

There is something a bit special about the album. The new style of albums can be customised in so many ways now, that you can create a real masterpiece. I imagine people looking at my albums in ten, twenty, thirty and more years time with their grandchildren or other family members. I imagine them sharing the same feelings and wanting to keep that album safe for the next generation, and the next, and so on. Having my grandparents photos from 70 years ago is a special thing, and I will make sure they are still in the same pristine condition in the next thirty years and beyond. I for one, despite offering digital files, really push the sales on the albums and will continue to do so. I hope everyone can see the value of it, and look at getting some products printed, before we become the lost generation in a few decades. I sell my albums as a family heirloom, and recent events have only reinforced that notion for me. I will also now be usng a folder on my desktop to pop files in for printing my own personal pictures every week or two.

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