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Learning to Plan

I’ve never been the type of photographer that plans for a photoshoot, checking the weather forecast, using an app, like PhotoPills, visualising where and when the sun will rise and what the shadows will look like. So I thought I would give it a try.

I love travelling to historic cities and capturing the history that the buildings provide, both old and new. So when I took this picture of the old Aberdeen lighthouse, I knew this was a place I wanted to return to and capture in the early morning light. This was the perfect opportunity to put my new apps and planning ideas to the test, or so I thought!

With the weekend approaching, I was eagerly keeping an eye on the weather. It was looking good, partly cloudy, no rain, just a bit chilly. Nothing a good flask full of coffee won’t fix. We get some stunning colourful sunrises here in Scotland, so in my mind I had the perfect picture. The old lighthouse, sun rising off to the right with long shadows, vibrant and colourful sky with blurry, whispy clouds. It was time for PhotoPills.

PhotoPills has an enormous amount of information, but for the beginner that I am, it took me a while to navigate my way around the app. The planner function was what I needed, showing sunrise and sunset times and the path the sun would take. Being honest, I always feel there is a plan to be made, so although the sunrise wasn’t where I expected it, I still thought I could make it work.


I arrived a little late. Me and my coffee! Took me an extra 15 minutes to top up my flask properly. I also didn’t remember the row of houses and parking on the left hand side of the lighthouse. So setting up was challenging, to the point that the frame didn’t work for me. The composition was all wrong. There were no shadows, no lead in lines and horrendous distractions leading up to the lighthouse. So I moved back to my original point of view that I had shot from before.

Camera of choice, the Fujifilm X100F, with a 10-stop ND filter, mounted on my trusty tripod for the longer exposure time. Not happy with the results, I tried a couple of other compositions with the result below.


Despite everything, It was a beautiful morning. Another opportunity presented itself, rays of sunshine highlighting the harbour entrance below with a tug heading out to sea… Perfect opportunity, but missed it. If only I had been ready a few seconds earlier. This whole planning for a photoshoot was not working for me. Off to “Old Aberdeen” and the University for some pics.

Walking around enjoying the solitude that the early morning provides, I managed a few snaps around the University Campus. Off to do some editing. Inline with our theme this month, Architecture, I wanted to try fixing the verticals on buildings. Tried a few apps (paid apps), requiring you to slant, stretch and skew an image to fix the verticals. This wasn’t for me. Tried and trusted…. It was time to go back Photoshop Lightroom, this time on mobile.

Set up your vertical and horizontal guides, and in just a few easy steps and you’ve got the results you’re looking for.


What did I learn out of this experience.

Planning a shoot is a lot more complicated than what I gave it credit. It’s one thing to walk around and take photos that present themselves, but it’s another thing entirely to visualise the setup you want and bring it to life. PhotoPills is a great app. It’s amazing to know exactly where the sun will rise, the path it will follow and where it will set. But you can’t always force something that is just not there. PhotoPills offers an augmented reality function, that, when you’re at a location you can see exactly where the sun will rise and the path it will follow. Next time I’ll use this when I scout a location beforehand.

I’ve never spent much time “perfecting” the verticals in my photos, but I appreciate the difference it makes. I just don’t have the patience to do it manually. Lightroom, even on mobile, makes it surprisingly simple and does a fantastic job. Well worth the £4.49 a month.


I will definitely try this again!

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