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Dave Sinclair 2!

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Dave Sinclair never set out to be a photographer. He's really a nerd. A very artistic nerd. He's lived virtually his whole life in and around Edinburgh and is part of a large extended family which he affectionately calls 'Clan Sinclair'. He's travelled widely and has an especial love for the wild mountainous areas of the planet. And back home, he's a keen hill walker in his native Scottish hills. Dave began taking photographs with a series of digital cameras, but a few years ago discovered the joy of film. This discovery quickly became an obsession and he now has “around twenty five but most of them are just cheap things. I'd say I regularly use about six.” He still owns a DSLR, but it's sadly neglected. The camera most precious to him is his 35mm Leica M7 “the M7 is the one I would keep if I had to lose them all.” Most of the photographs in this feature were taken with the Leica or a medium-format camera from the 1940s, a Rolleiflex Automat “it's very battered and rusty now with a few bodges to make it still work!” He works in 35mm or medium format depending on his subject and in both black and white and colour. His choice of material is wide. He's as much at home with the less picturesque architecture of inner city Edinburgh as he is with panoramic landscapes. The set of photographs we've chosen to showcase here, however, are perhaps closest to the inner man - they're of his nephews and nieces. Family snapshots these aren't. Using the Leica and Rollei, Dave achieves a grainy timeless effect. These are obviously completely ordinary children but there's no false guying for the camera here. They are absorbed in their own world of play and imagination. The photographer is at best tolerated. Choosing unexpected angles, Dave rarely shoots much higher than child height and this, combined with a keen sense of composition, makes images which allow us a tantalising glimpse into the world of childhood. Dave lives in Edinburgh with his fiancee - oh, and a room full of cameras.

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For photo geeks, here's some technical details:

Head image - Rolleiflex Automat, Neopan 400. Images 1-4 - Leica M7, Neopan 1600. Image 5 - Leica M7, Tri-X pushed to 1600. Image 6 - Rolleiflex Automat, Tri-X. Dave's self-portrait - Rollei Automat, Tri-X.

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More of Dave始s photographs can be found here and here.

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An Alchemical Eye Katie Cooke 12!

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For humble mortals who are used to the work of Cartier-Bresson or even Annie Leibowitz, Katie Cooke's images come as a bit of a shock. What are they? How did she do that? What's it all about? It comes as something of a relief to find that she is, in person, disarmingly pleasant and reassuringly normal. Only a slight boufee d'ether rather than eau de Mitsouko gives you a clue to how her images are made.

Katie came to live in Edinburgh in 2006 and says “now that I'm here, I can't imagine wanting to leave.” She currently works as a web project & production manager, an occupation she blames for killing, as far as she's concerned, the appeal of digital photography. Five years ago, she began making pinhole photographs. This turning point completely changed her approach to making pictures.

We asked her about her favourite cameras. “I'd have to pick three, as I use them in very different ways. The plain wooden box, full of nothing but air, that I use for pinhole photography. My Rolleiflex, inherited from my grandmother, that I use for making 'normal' portraits, because it's solid and reliable and has a completely gorgeous lens. And my 4”x5" view camera, which I use for wet plate collodion work. It's a no-frills modern large format camera.” Her choice of film is always black and white “my heart belongs to Ilford and I use FP4+ and HP5+, but I'm shooting more and more with glass negatives and wet plate collodion rather than film. And I'm still very fond of using paper negatives.”

She takes her inspiration from such modern day photographers as Sally Mann and Hiroshi Sugimoto and, from the past, the portraits of Julia Margaret Cameron and Scotland's own Hill & Adamson.

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The Lintie has chosen to feature some of her wet plate collodion photographs and Katie told us “I'm working on a big series of still life photos around ideas of history, archaeology, and storytelling.” She added “With wet plate, you are making images that are also objects, not just pixel ghosts. With a day job doing purely digital things, the physical, stinky, flammable side of picture making is hugely satisfying. Working slowly, with materials that have a mind of their own, changes your ideas. It allows imperfection and chance to move in and make themselves at home. It's also about as close to alchemy as I can get. I love the way the silver looks and behaves and glows. I love the tones and the way they hold light. Most of all, I think, I love the lack of distance between the intention and the image/ object. As you can tell, I'm still giddy with infatuation!” However, she does add some words of caution “The old photography processes aren’t as straight forward as clicking a button. Working with wetplates means you’re handling a lot of chemicals and suchlike – you need to understand which of the chemicals are dangerous, and which ones are less so.” The ambrotype process is a photographic process that creates a positive photographic image on a sheet of glass using the wet plate collodion process. It was invented by Frederick Scott Archer in the early 1850s. You might want to read a fascinating article written by Katie 20 steps to Ambrotype victory - or how not to make ambrotypes, which can be found here. Some tasters: “Do not leave the bowl of albumen mix where the cats will get at it and eat it. Egg white is Very Bad for moggies. Also, cat hair is not good for albumen.” and “You’re almost ready to pour the collodion. This is the sticky film which will make the silver hold to the plate, and turn a reject from a cheap frame into a photograph. Before you open it, warn your significant other that if he wants a cigarette, he’d better go outside, as you don’t want anything to explode.”

More of Katie's photographs can be found here and here.

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Strangers in Focus

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As you'll have guessed, Gustaf Eriksson isn't Scottish. He grew up in a small village called Seläter on the west coast of Sweden where his father's side of the family were fishermen. Each September when the lobster season begins, he still tries to make it back to fish the family grounds. He came to Edinburgh in 1997, planning to stay only six months, but has been here ever since.

Gustaf works as a freelance translator and has been taking photographs for as long as he can remember. When he was a child, he was initiated into the arcanum of the darkroom by an uncle. Like most photographers, he owns many cameras but favours the Olympus mju II for 35mm work and the medium format Rolleiflex 3.5 (from the 1950s) with which he took the street portraits we've chosen to feature here. Kodak Portra NC is a favourite film, usually 160 or 400.

We asked what inspired him. “People, music, light. And obviously great photography such as the work done by the iconic photographer William Eggleston. I really enjoy the act of making photographs and the way it makes you look at the world more closely. I think it's perhaps more about the act of photographing than the resulting images for me.”

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His subjects are nearly always strangers and we asked about this experience. “Walking up to someone and asking them if you can take a photograph is something that a lot of people find difficult. I remember having to push myself to do it a bit in the beginning. But I've found that people in general are very nice about it and it can be very rewarding. Sure, it happens that someone declines, but it is actually pretty rare. It is usually a very short interaction, but almost always a positive one, at least for me. I usually give them a card with my website and an email address so they can get in touch if they would like a print, but I think it's only happened once.� The encounter is occasionally smoothed by the engaging presence of Gustaf's three year old 'assistant', his son.

Gustaf lives near the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh with his partner and young son. You can see more of his work here, here and here.

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The Allure of Lost Trolleys Duncan Smith 32!

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Duncan Smith would like, first of all, to point out that he's not some crazy guy who only takes photos of shopping trolleys! His real photographic loves are mountain and seascapes, at which he excels. So what's the Lost Trolleys project all about? Duncan explains: “It started, I think, with the Tesco television advertisements, which showed shopping trolleys as chirpy, helpful little characters. So when I see abandoned trolleys, it's easy to see them as slightly sad, lonely creatures that have been used and casually cast aside. As a photographer the challenge is to capture the pathos of these objects in a striking way so they're much more than a bunch of trolley snapshots. There is a more serious view of the abandoned trolleys being symbolic of our consumer society with a casual disregard for the environment, as well as being a comment on the poverty of our urban environment. After a while you get tuned in to seeing trolleys and then you find them everywhere. The experience is a bit Alice in Wonderland! They do turn up in unexpected corners. I'll arrive at a scenic location at dawn looking for a pretty seascape photograph only to find that a shopping trolley has washed up or been thrown there. The game does have some rules. Trolleys are strictly 'as found' - no moving them into more interesting places and they need to be where they shouldn't be, well away from their natural habitat. You do wonder sometimes about their story - how did they end up here?” Duncan, who has an M.Eng. in Electrical & Electronic Engineering from Heriot-Watt University, works as a software engineer in the telecomms business, with a background in computers and electronics. He's taken photographs for as long as he can remember, although he says “it kicked off seriously with the arrival of affordable digital SLR kit four or five years ago”. His father is an artist, and that influence has both led him towards landscape photography and a photographic style more painterly than photo-realistic. Citing Colin Prior, Ian Cameron and Joe Cornish as major influences, he is also inspired by the art of the Impressionists. the Lintie

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We asked him about his favourite camera and were surprised at his reply. “This is a surprisingly irrevelant question. I like to think that my pictures are recognisible whichever camera I shoot with. It's definitely about the images rather than cameras. Having said that, my Canon 5D is my favorite, because of the quality of the images it gives.” Like most photographers, he owns several cameras in a wide range of formats. “As well as the 5D I have a Bronica SQA medium format film kit, and a Canon AE-1 35mm manual focus film camera, a Holga, as well as a Ricoh GX200 digital compact. Not forgetting the iPhone...” Velvia 50 is, he says, the best colour film for landscape and its tones are the inspiration for his digital work and for black and white work, “I use Ilford HP5+, as much for ease of processing as anything.” He's been fairly widely published in books and magazines, although he says “I don't actively seek publication but offers seem to come my way”. He also gives tutorial presentations for the Scottish Photographic Federation. He has a gallery space in South Queensferry and has taken part in various exhibitions through the Edinburgh Photographic Society. Last year, two of his trolley images have been shortlisted in the Scottish Seabird Centre photographic competition.

We’ve chosen six of the most romantic of Duncan’s trolley images for The Lintie. Transformed by water, weather and the sky above them, these most utilitarian of items have become beautiful. Gazing wistfully to the shore, festooned with seaweed and red with rust, half drowned or buried, one even resembles a river dolphin breaking the surface of the River Forth with the majestic spans of the Forth Bridges behind it. More of Duncan’s photographs can be found here and here.

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Photo of Barry Farquharson by Corrine Mills

Our Feathered Scots

Barry Farquharson 42!

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Barry Farquharson has lived in Dundee all his life and works in a local hospital there. His ornithological photography developed through his interest in aviation. He still gets some unexpected bird shots when at airfields – it’s surprising how friendly an environment they can be for wild birds. Nikon D-SLRs are his choice of cameras, his favourite combination being the D90 and Sima 50-500mm Bigma. “It allows me to photograph most things without having to change lenses every few minutes. Before I bought it I would invariably have the wrong lens attached when an opportunity arose, meaning many missed shots over the years.” We asked him about his birdwatching. “I’ve been a birdwatcher since I was around 8 or 9, although I did let the interest slide for some years, getting back into it around five or six years ago when I started to pay attention once more to the wildlife around me in Dundee.” We asked if there was one bird he would still like to photograph “Any bird I haven’t seen yet is the one I’d love to get a photo of, including the more elusive species like Water Rail and Bearded Tit.” His favourite locations for photographing birds are Forfar Loch and the Eden Estuary Centre at Guardbridge. “Forfar Loch has a wide variety of species that are fairly used to people, which allows for reasonably close-up shots, especially in winter. At the Eden Estuary Centre there are good opportunities to be had photographing waders and kingfishers in front of the hide, as well as a variety of garden birds on and around the feeders. At certain times of year, you can see up to 60 species. Unfortunately the hide faces an uncertain future because the lease on the land on which it stands expires in 2010.” He also loves the Isle of May, off the coast at Anstruther. “The breeding seabirds on the cliffs and elsewhere on the island allow close-up views and great photo opportunities at almost every turn.” We asked if he had any tips for photographing birds. “Be patient, and keep your eyes open. There’s a lot goes on around you that can be missed if you spend your time just looking through the viewfinder of your camera. Keep your eyes on the ‘bigger picture’ and you’ll find more opportunities present themselves. Sitting quietly and waiting patiently will also let the birds get used to your presence, and you may find yourself rewarded with better, and closer, views than you would have had. It’s also a good idea to know a bit about the birds you are trying to photograph so that hopefully you can anticipate behaviour to some degree, allowing you to be that little bit quicker off the mark when trying to get the shot.” the Lintie

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Osprey: Pandion haliaetus Not a bird that is particularly common in Scotland still, although there are a number of places where the birds are easier to see at particular times of year, outwith the Loch of the Lowes and Loch Garten. The Eden estuary by Leuchars is a frequent hunting place for these impressive raptors as they hover then dive with talons extended into the water to grab an unsuspecting fish. This particular one was a lucky catch for me, as I was photographing aircraft at Leuchars I saw it flying towards me, being harassed by a few gulls. It circled slowly behind me in an attempt to gain height allowing me to grab a few shots, of which this was by far the best.

Black Tailed Godwit: Limosa limosa These large waders are something of an Eden estuary speciality, feeding in reasonable numbers along the edges of the mud outwith the breeding season. The broadly similar Bar Tailed Godwit often turns up here too, although the shores of the Tay are a more common haunt for the Bar Tails. This one was photographed on an overcast day feeding just in front of the hide at Guardbridge.

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Purple Sandpiper: Calidris maritima Not an overly common bird, but if you know where to look, they can be quite easy to see, although getting close can be tricky. Rocky shorelines at high tide in winter along the Fife and Lothian coast are good places to see them. These birds were part of a group of 15-20 which I heard calling as I walked along the harbour at St Andrews. I managed to get to a point on the wall above them and quickly and quietly grabbed a few shots without disturbing them.

Robin: Erithacus rubecula The robins at Forfar Loch, and in general, are very confiding little birds in winter, sometimes even being willing to land on a hand to take food. This particular one took a bit of persuading but did eventually come close enough to quickly grab some food from my hand. One at Birnie Loch in Fife even landed on a photographer’s camera looking for some food.

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Puffin: Fratercula arctica The Isle of May is the place to see these striking little birds in Scotland. In early summer the air above the island is alive to the whirring sounds of their wings as they transit out to sea to fish for sand eels and back again to the numerous nesting burrows that cover the island. They will perch around on rocks until they decide it’s safe to head back to their burrows to feed their young, safe from the larger gulls. This one was quite approachable and let me get a number of shots before I left it in peace.

Red Legged Partridge: Alectoris rufa The Angus Glens, especially Clova, are particularly good for close-up views of these colourful game birds, as they wander along the sides of roads and the edges of fields. This one was snapped from a car window as it ran across the road in front of us.

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Great Tit: Parus major Another shot from Forfar Loch in winter, the Great Tit is the larger cousin of the familiar Blue Tit, with generally similar colours but with a much more prominent black stripe down the front and more black around the head above and below the white cheek patches. They have a very varied vocabulary and many times I’ve heard an unfamiliar bird call only to find that it was a Great Tit making the racket.

Mistle Thrush: Turdus viscivorus Larger and more greyish-brown than the smaller Song Thrush, the Mistle Thrush can sometimes be seen singing from the very top of tall trees. This one was perched on a fence post in Glen Esk, and we were able to stop the car almost alongside and take a few photos while it ignored us. Birds can, in general, be very tolerant of close approach by cars and they do tend to make excellent ‘hides’ for spotting/ photographing birds.

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Gannet: Morus bassanus This one was taken from The May Princess ferry en route to the Isle of May on a lovely summer day. Gannets are easily spotted gliding over the tops of the waves, sometimes in long strings of birds, their streamlined white bodies and black-tipped long wings easily seen at a distance. The Bass Rock in the Forth off North Berwick supports tens of thousands of these large seabirds in the breeding season. This particular bird glided in front of the boat and I was lucky to catch it as well as I did, giving the movement of the boat on the waves.

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Lintie - The Photography Edition 2010