#615. 48h of photography in Edinburgh – where to go ?

By pascaljappy | Travel Photography

Jul 02

I’ll leave the ooh and ahs to tourist guides and go straight to the point : if you’ve never been to Edinburgh and love photography, you’re in for a mighty treat. The city has an energy and grandeur that’s palpable in photography and it offers a wonderful variety of subjects in a very tight space.



Now, we’ve done travel photography articles before, but I thought I’d try something different today : actually write something useful 😉



Don’t leave, it’s not a joke, we are occasionally capable of not ranting about ergonomics and post-processing aberration, we are occasionally capable of not digressing about technological advances, market shares and artificial intelligence. And, yes, we are capable of providing valuable travel photography information on what is, after all, meant to be a travel photography blog. We’re just not very good at it [insert stupid grin].



So, reboot. See if this works.


5 reasons to visit Edinburgh for photographers

Phew, I did my best to cram that title full of juicy SEO goodness. Now that Google-feeding crap is over, let’s focus on writing something interesting and actually useful for togs 🙂 Edinburgh presents the following highlights, in no particular order :

  • Nature : located on the edge of the sea and blessed with a series of city-center hills that would make most regional parks pale with envy, there’s no shortage of nature shots for them what like that sort of thing. The really lovely botanical gardens add a more manicured option for them what prefer it more tidy and less steep.
  • Glorious architecture : if a fortified castle glowing on a barren hill in the final golden rays of sunset while the rest of the city is settling into darkness doesn’t more your soul, you’re ready for politics. Go away. On top of this stirring sight, you’ll find endless streets of consistent architecture that lends itself to superb perspectives and catches the light in a very colourful fashion.

    Churches. Did I mention churches ?
  • Wonderful light. The 4 seasons, isn’t just a resort, it’s a typical summer day in Edinburgh. Which means you’re treated to roughly 20 hours of shifting cloud, glorious contrasts and stunning skies. Those who argue that photography stops 10 minutes after sunrise can go regain their sanity here. Oh, bugger, rant-drifting again … so sorry. Back to useful.
  • Dazzling topology. As mentioned above, Edinburgh is hilly. And across it runs a large crag that used to be a loch and now hosts railway tracks. The huffing and puffing that entails when traveling pedibus is well compensated by the ever-present perspectives you get in places such as the Vennel (below) and many, many others.
  • Cemetaries. Paris has Jim Morrison, plenty of pencil squeezers, dynasties … Edinburgh has a faithful doggy plus Thomas Riddel, McGonagals, Moodies … Who ? Read Harry Potter, that’s who. Besides the engraved names, the places are pretty fab for us photon hunters, too.

What lenses to bring to photograph Edinburgh ?

Very subjective topic, obviously, but here’s what I had with me, what worked, what didn’t.

First of all, my smartphone. Yes, apologies to sensitive readers. Some of the photographs on this page are courtesy of an elderly Samsung phone. Ahem. About 25mm wide in a 16:9 format. Plus panorama mode, as below. Because, believe it or not, there is no easy way to create panoramas in Phase One’s Capture One or any related products. Booooh (end of painful mini-rant !!!)


And because, sometimes, the cute cat is easier to grab with a phone than with a 3 kilo contraption.


Then, a full-frame camera with my regular 25mm, 35mm and 85mm lenses. Except for distant vistas from the hills, where it was actually a little short, I found my 85mm too long for most opportunities. Although it did handle portraits, close-ups and nautical odd-jobs very well.


Still, if I was to do it again, I’d ditch the heavy 85 in favour of a light 50 (my C-Sonnar’s rendering would have been magical here).

Something wide is absolutely essential. My 25mm Distagon is what saw the most use. Not just because of the wide-angle and startling perspectives …

But also because of its very shallow depth of field (for such a wide-angle lens) and great transparency.


The 35/1.4 Distagon ZM is a glorious lens and proved very useful for moody shots and for subject isolation (also, it’s the best lens money can buy, period 😉 )

Next time, though, I’ll stick to the landscape / architecture combo of 25/85 (both Nikon mount) or the 35/50 street combo (both in M-mount).  If I only took one, it would definitely be the Zeiss Distagon 25/2. A stunning performer in the sort of lighting you’re likely to encounter and well suited to the framing opportunities I recognized the most.



Where to stay ?

When we tried to book, hotels seemed quite pricey, so we opted for AirBnB. There’s a lot of choice, but I can personally vouch for this place, located very near Dean village and Stockbridge and about 15 minutes walk from the city center. The guests were very kind and helpful and the flat is lovely (as of summer 2017).


The view isn’t half bad either 😉


If you book there, say hello from Pascal 😉


A map of Edinburgh photographic highlights


This is the map I used to walk around. Not that you need a map to avoir getting lost but because some interesting areas are slightly out of sight. The red dots are photogenic spots. The Home dot is the flat menitioned above. Green spots are for food and drink. Blue is personal, just galleries I wanted to visit.


A few more shots from Edinburgh

We covered all of the above in about two and a half days of solid walking. During this time, we visited tourist hotspots such as the Royal Britannia ship and spent considerable time tasting the local specialities, of which there are sooo many declious types 🙂 🙂 🙂 Add museums and you’ll need more. Be more frugal and you’ll go round in two days.

Below are a few more shots made during this quick trip. Paul was there a couple of days after me, so he might jump in and add more info at some point.



So, wadjathink ?


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  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Sigh – why me? – how come I’m always here first? Oh well – mixed in amongst all my other ancestry, there is a dollop of scots blood in these veins. One of my ancient relatives always used to laugh at the fact I am incapable of saying “Scotland” and can only manage “Sco’land” – she was the first person to make me realise the truth of the Occitan proverb** (now proudly emblazoned on a T-shirt I had specially made, along with la Croix d’Occitan) that “Raca raceja” (sorry – can’t do a cedilla on this page) – after she stopped laughing, she’d tell me how funny she thought it was that I couldn’t pronounce the “t” in the middle, and tell me it must be a genetic disorder because I’d never even met any of the relatives who still spoke with a scottish brogue.
    ** [oops – some of you wouldn’t know what the proverb means – it says (quite simply) that you can’t escape from your ancestry]

    And their view was that the true capital of Sco’land was Aberdeen – Edinburgh was a city down south, and Glasgow was suspected of harbouring geordies. Also, they came from Elgin, which is exposed to the Arctic gales from the North Sea, and after they left the place, they never went back – too cold and miserable! Since most of the rest of me comes from warmer climes, I can’t help but agree. I can admire your fortitude, Pascal, but I’d rather you went there and took the photos for me.

    That said – I love the pipe organ – I’m fond of photographing them, possibly because I spent half my life in the church choir or possibly because of my love of music – or perhaps because they are generally reasonably challenging. And your shots of the organ are stunning. As are a number of the other shots. I was particularly taken by the small group of concert musicians in the church – I love the shot with the piano in it – churches should do this more often, they generally have really interesting acoustics for musical performances and the churches could be put to good use in the days when there are no church services.

    I won’t be drawn on the subject of cellphones – I was raised on the basis that if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. For pets, however, I generally use my Canon PowerShot – it’s much more versatile than one of those contraptions and takes really nice shots of dogs, cats, whatever. AF is sometimes a bit off, but generally spot on – shutter is sometimes a bit too slow to respond, and I sometimes wonder whether something the sports photographers use might not be better – but then it’s a bit silly to squander that sort of money on a cam I’d use for such a limited purpose.

    Panoramas are easy to create – traditionally – stitching a number of shots together. I do it frequently, these days – I used to have a dedicated program for it, but that’s quite unnecessary now – both LR and PS have a panorama function, and it works extremely well, provided the feed stock is up to scratch. You’d be hard pressed to tell they weren’t done on a panoramic camera.

    Am I correct in thinking the cars featured include a Bentley, a Maserati and a Porsche? It amuses me from time to time seeing cars like that in my street. It’s a different form of GAS, but if it was my money I’d rather spend it on more trips to Europe – I’ve outgrown my “car” phase. Sometimes it’s amusing to capture some of the signage they plaster on their toys – the ego thing doesn’t always stop at the point of simply buying the car, and the other manifestations of it are often quite freaky.

  • Sean says:

    Hi Pascal,
    You leave me with the impression that all the bits that have, and continue to, make Edinburgh underwent a concurrent process of distillation, so that the Edinburgh’s remaining essence is a borderline concentrated sensory, but pleasurable, overload …

    • pascaljappy says:

      Nice one, Sean ! 🙂

      Not sure about overload, but it’s certainly very concentrated and pleasurable. There’s a great energy in the city and a lot to cover in a small space.

      All the best, Pascal

  • Tarmo says:

    There’s only one thing that would make this post better: getting rid of the huge DearSusan bar at the top. I love the vertical shots, but I have to zoom out until they are stamp-sized to fit them on the screen. With modern (wide) monitors, menu bars should scroll out of the screen or have a vertical position on either side of the page.

    Other than that, very nice photos and a genuinely useful article. Thanks.

  • Wayne S says:

    Thanks for the great travel and arch. shots from Edinburgh. Brings back nice memories from my trip just after graduating high school. One highlight I remember was taking a day bus trip to beautiful Loch Lomond and a single malt whiskey distillery nearby. Listening to a piper playing the pipes while looking out on the serene Loch landscape was incredible. Kind of like when you are in some beautiful sandstone place in desert southwest and someone is playing a native american flute. My grandmother was Scottish so I felt some connection to the place there and would love to go back with my camera gear and capture some images from there. Especially with my Otus 28 and 55, the two best lenses money can buy! 😉 Would love to see the farther north city of Aberdeen where my grandmother was from along with the countryside of Inverness of which she told me stories about.
    My favorite image of the group is the stream shot with the buildings, well composed. Hope you got to sample some of the good whiskey there too.

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