As a Glaswegian I'm meant to hold some historic inter-city rivalry towards Edinburgh which apparently all started over a loaf of bread several hundred years ago, however I'm quite comfortable to admit that this Weegie is a big fan of Scotland's capital and it's baked goods!
Separated by less than an hour on the train, I have made the journey to 'Auld Reekie' countless times over the years and still get over excited every time the train pulls into Waverley Station and I catch the first glimpse of the Castle towering overhead.
When London City Airport invited me to post some of my unfiltered images of Edinburgh for their #NoFilter project, I was keen to take part and share some of the things that make Edinburgh special for me and some tips on how best to capture the authentic natural beauty of the city. I should point out that I'm not a photographer and I took all these images on my Panasonic Lumix, which proves you don't need training or an expensive camera to take a good shot.
You can find out more about the innovative #NoFilter campaign to showcase unedited images of European cities here.
What I love about Edinburgh
The Royal Mile and the Old Town
When I visit Edinburgh I am technically a tourist and like most tourists I am inevitably drawn to the bustling Royal Mile and the historic Old Town. The Royal Mile runs from the magnificent Edinburgh Castle to the splendid Palace of Holyroodhouse and is lined with an eclectic mix of shops, pubs, restaurants and attractions.
Venture in to the many darkened closes and mysterious wynds that lie concealed between the 21st Century businesses and you quite literally feel like you have stepped back in time. Look out for the close names above the maze like passages which are associated with their former use or a notable resident.
When I visit Edinburgh I love nothing more than spending a day exploring the hidden history of the Old Town and of course enjoying a dram or two at the characterful pubs along the way!
#NoFilter Tip - Take time to think about the composition of an image. Move your camera around, zoom in and out and only press the button when you're happy that your subject is nicely framed.
The Street Performers
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival takes places every August and is the largest arts festival in the world. The Royal Mile is taken over by a sea of tourists and global street performers demonstrating their craft. From living statues and fire acts to break-dancers and magicians, you could easily spend a whole day mesmerised by the mind boggling and often strange talents that some people make a living from.
If you can't make the Festival then you can still enjoy the many street performers that have taken to entertaining the people of Edinburgh on a year round basis. However, this is Scotland, and as impressive as their skills may be, I've yet to see an act that is as popular as a kilted bagpiper!
#NoFilter Tip - Street performers can make great subjects and for a small donation they will happily pose for that perfect photo.
The Story Behind the Details
When exploring the Old Town it is easy to be swept along in the tourist buzz and miss the smaller details hiding in plain view. Every now and then I like to just pause and fully take in my surroundings, it's amazing what historic features start to pop out between the people and the modern street furniture. In these details you can find the stories of the ordinary people and their everyday life in Old Town Edinburgh which in my opinion is even more fascinating than the stories of the grander attractions that punctuate each end of the Royal Mile.
The image below is of the Netherbow Wellhead and until 1820 stone wellheads like this were the only way that thousands of local residents could access water and were a great place to meet and exchange gossip.
By the 1780s the population of the city had grown so much that the system was unable to cope and the water was only turned on from midnight for three hours, this caused queues and fights and those with money would pay water caddies to save them getting up during the night.
This is just one of many stories that can be uncovered by paying that extra little bit of attention to the details.
#NoFilter Tip - Don't just take the obvious shot, look for the smaller, interesting details
Underground vaults, ghostly graveyards and terrifying tours make up some of Edinburgh's creepier attractions. As with all cities, Edinburgh has a dark past with grave-robbers, plague victims, macabre murders and more ghosts than you could shake an EMF meter at and there is no doubt that the capital has capitalised on it's spooky reputation.
Rather than shy away from it's horrible history, it has turned scary fun into big business and no visit to Edinburgh would be complete without experiencing some ghoulish goings on for yourself.
I took this image at the Edinburgh Dungeon, one of the most popular attractions in the city where you are guaranteed to scream and laugh in equal measure! As sinister as this figure looks, it is actually based on the outfit worn by plague doctors who filled the beaks of their masks with sweet smelling herbs which they believed would repel the evil spirits which carried the disease. In 1645 there was a great plague epidemic in the city and it is estimated up to half the population died.
Another eerie attraction is the partially preserved 17th Century Mary King's Close where more than 300 infected and uninfected residents were bricked up and left to die in a bid to stop the disease spreading. It is reputedly haunted with many reported sightings and tales of strange phenomenon.
#NoFilter Tip - The flash is your friend, in low indoor light turning on your flash can make all the difference
When Everything Comes Together
My final image sums up the #NoFilter campaign for me. It isn't my brightest or best image of Edinburgh, the sky isn't cobalt blue, the flowerbeds don't appear luminous and the colours are to put it bluntly, quite dull. So why did I choose this image? Well strangely enough the sky isn't always blue in Scotland, sometimes it's grey which can result in everything looking a bit subdued and that is how everything looked to me that day. It's an honest photo, it captures a moment as I saw it. To me that moment wasn't about the grey sky, I took that image because it says so much about Edinburgh. The old and new tourist attractions, the familiar red sightseeing bus alongside the public bus, the cars, the people, the historic architecture with the cranes signalling new development in the background.
I see all the faces of Edinburgh past, present and future in this image. Does the fact that I haven't added any filters take away from the story? Personally, Edinburgh always looks beautiful to me just the way it is, even in the dreariest Scottish weather!
#NoFilter Tip - Don't just look for an eye-pleasing picture, look for the picture that tells a story
Although I highly recommend visiting the Old Town. I would also encourage you take the time to explore Edinburgh's many forms of natural beauty that lie beyond the Royal Mile including the wonderful Georgian architecture of the New Town, the unique residential neighbourhoods and the expansive sands of Portobello Beach (yes Edinburgh has a beach and it's a pretty good one!).
A picture speaks a thousand words
This saying is never more true than in the world of travel photography where an image can immediately transport you to another place without stepping out your front door and at best can make such a powerful impact that it inspires you to explore beyond your doorstep and visit a destination for yourself.
With advances in technology most of us have become travel photographers, capturing digital images and sharing them in a blink of an eye and frequently using filters to add colour and effects that transform average images into little works of art.
For me this is a worrying trend, creativity is replacing honesty. If our travel decisions are based on perfectly enhanced pictures then we will likely be disappointed when the reality is not so blue and golden. That's why I'm delighted that London City Airport are encouraging people to get back to the roots of photography.
Watch out for the other bloggers that will be posting their #NoFilter Edinburgh photos, all of which will be getting judged by Keith Savage from The Traveling Savage, with a prize for the winner! Keith is a North American who has fallen in love with Scotland and blogs about his regular visits here, so be sure to check out his own website for more Edinburgh and Scotland travel tips.
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