AS it turned out, 2012 was a real year of achieving ambitions for me.
I got round to doing a good few things that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, like go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, visit the Moulin Rouge (both for my birthday) and even went to some fascinating sites in Germany, which included Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest and an SS museum in Wewelsburg.
Last, but not least, I went to Hogmanay in the beautiful Scottish city of Edinburgh.
As my previous post explains, I was there as part of Blogmanay which saw a number of top travel bloggers descend on the Scottish capital to sample the best of its new year festivities, and push out their opinions of it via social media and their own blogs, using the #blogmanay hashtag on Twitter in particular.
I heard some captivating SOTM stories while I was there, and managed to get 21 photos and accompanying stories in total. One of the funniest was told by the charming Kay, who works as a tour guide for Haggis Adventures.
I posted a sneak preview of her SOTM on Twitter and Facebook, which you can see here. I’ll be putting her full picture and story up on SOTM quite soon, but in the meantime have a guess as to what the missing word is. Her tale is linked to a wardrobe malfunction…
Aside from Kay’s story, I heard tales of a man being arrested when aged 17, of how asking for chicken in a Spanish supermarket can easily be mistaken for something much ruder, of a mobile phone text that ripped a family apart, and what a stripper in Amsterdam told an Aussie chap as he clambered onstage to be part of her show.
Otherwise, Edinburgh offers some smashing opportunities for memorable photographs, especially if you can get your hand out your glove long enough to bear the cold and take some smartphone shots via Instagram. You can see the sorts of things that I snapped as I walked around on my Instagram feed.
I also set myself a challenge – to actually use my flash for a change. I have a Nikon Speedlight SB-600 and it seems perfectly mid-range, good enough for the sorts of guerrilla shots that I like to take, especially of SOTMs in dark bars and dingy alleyways, which is often the case – not that I’ve ever used it to actually find out what it can do. Seriously, I’ve had the thing years and have never used it.
But during Hogmanay I simply couldn’t employ my usual technique of holding my breath, trying to keep perfectly still by leaning on something solid and listening to the rhythm of my camera’s slow shutter.
Taking lots of shots this way, without a tripod and only using whatever light is available, has usually been good enough for me, believe it or not, particularly when shooting in black and white.
But it is not good enough for a fast-moving torchlight procession through the Edinburgh streets. I finally had to give in and strap on the flash.
I’ve actually never read the manual for my Nikon D90, and paid the same courtesy to the flash that I’ve had in a drawer for the past four years.
So I just whacked it on the hot shoe, figured how to knock down the power so that it was only punching out a bit of light (it already has a diffuser) and hoped for the best. As ever with photography, I just act instinctively. Everything is always set to manual, so I’m completely responsible for my successes and failures.
My first attempts were patchy, but then I worked out that my shutter speed was too slow, and recalled how I’d recently read a photography post about keeping the shutter speed above 1/60 while using a flash.
So I quickened the shutter and bang! – the SB-600 started to seduce me with its ability to grab fast-moving shots that were in focus and not bleached out, as you can see here from this shot of travel bloggers Budget Traveller and Adventurous Kate.
I’m always going to want to take photographs using natural light, but I grew more confident with the flash during my trip, and will definitely be using it more in future, as the results I got were definitely an improvement on what I’d have got just using the torchlight from the procession.
So, Edinburgh. Great for shots of a beautiful city full of history, dramatic skies and charming streets that make lovely backdrops. Also, full of friesndly people
with weird and wonderful stories. And if you’re in town around December 31 on any year, prepare to party!