Kelpies – A Magritte homage

Kelpies pop art

Kelpies – Magritte style

This is rather rough and ready but an experiment in Photoshop to make an image in an homage to Rene Magritte, a surrealist artist from Belgium noted for pop and conceptual art. His paintings were often very minimalist and sometimes featured a sense of absence or unnatural juxtaposition in some form or other.

This image featuring The Kelpies is inspired by Magritte’s painting of a man in a hat facing away beside a transparent outline of himself in which the full figure blocks the background and the transparent one reveals it. In Magritte’s painting a curtain provides the backdrop to the cut-out figure which allows it to appear. In this Kelpies image I opted to screen the whole image apart from the figures and the see-through to the Kelpies in the background.

The final image is a composite of two photographs taken on location. My camera was tripod mounted to provide a secure and consistent framing across both images. For the shot of the figure the focus was on the figure but there was never going to be enough depth of field to keep the Kelpies in focus too. The second shot, from the same tripod set-up focused on the Kelpies.  The rest of the work was in Photoshop using layers and a mask.

With more time, I’ll work on this approach a little more and aim for a much more refined end product, but as a trial piece, I’m happy to have proved the principle.

The Kelpies

Today’s shoot was of The Kelpies, the largest equine sculptures in the world. They sit majestically at the Forth and Clyde canal in the Helix Park at Falkirk. I was last there a few years ago and took some scoping out shots on my iPhone. The intention was to return, fully kitted-out, and today was the day. It was challenging lighting to begin with under predominantly grey skies; but things improved…


Given the grey skies and flat light I decided to get up close. The sculptures were modelled on a pair of Clydesdale horses, Duke and Baron. This is Duke, with his head down. I noticed the light inside the sculpture and moved position until it was placed in the eye giving the impression of Duke looking at you and bringing a sense of life to the sculpture.

1/60sec at f14 ISO 200


Just as I was getting ready to pack up, the light changed as a weak sunlight began to break through giving more modelling to The Kelpies. The way the light fell across the curves of the sculpture creating highlights and shadows gave them rather more depth.

1/100sec at f11 ISO 200


And finally, as I was leaving the location the sun got stronger and was low to the horizon so I chanced a look back. I’m so glad I did. The sky behind had darkened creating a more dramatic backdrop to The Kelpies, which were now lit in contrast to their surroundings. So, hang around long enough and something dramatic might emerge from what was previously flat and grey. 

1/125sec at f14 ISO 200

Colour and light

Here are a couple of different shots from today’s efforts.


This avenue of trees really captured my attention in Riverside Park at Glenrothes. The carpet of fallen leaves provided a pleasing colour base for the overhanging palette of the branches. The softness is offset by the sturdy verticals of the trunks. The challenge lies with the bright area where the daylight threatened to burn out any detail. As always I shot this in raw and made a manual exposure compromise in an effort to balance the whole image. As I’m away from base with no access to Lightroom or Photoshop, I adjusted this locally to take the highlights down a little.  I’m fairly happy with the result but will look again back at base.

1/25sec at f5.6 ISO 200

This next shot, in St Andrews, got my attention for different reasons.


The mottled shadows of a tree falling on the side of this church were making a pattern that just appealed to me. Light is so important in photography and this shot illustrates one way of using light to reveal textures that are not actually there. The shadows create a softening effect on the hard wall, creating a contrast in texture. The only processing on this shot is a slight crop to improve the overall composition.

2/200sec at f5.6 ISO 200

Evening glow

Another piece of serendipity today which just goes to show the value of keeping a camera handy and being alert to the opportunities. This shot was not planned at all. I was in Lundin Links for another purpose and was ready to leave but a traffic accident meant I could not get out of the car park. So, I got my camera kit backpack out of the car and set off for a walk to pass the time. 

This view met me from behind the clubhouse at Lundin Golf Club. As the sun was setting the golden glow made for a nice warm looking sky nicely picking out the clouds. The view is across Largo Bay. The wind turbine generators sit on the site of the old coal fired Methil power station and now stand like clean energy sentinels in contrast to the chimney and generator building of old. Across to the left of the shot are the Pentland Hills just south of Edinburgh. The arrangement of water, land, sky and lighting really appealed to me and, once again, was pleased to have my camera handy.

This was shot in RAW and minimally processed for highlights and contrast – I’ll probably do some more fine tuning when I get back to base and can see this in Lightroom, but it’s likely to be with the lightest of touches.

I/800sec at f5.6 on ISO 20o

Highland autumn

Another opportunistic shot, this time when travelling north on the A9 towards Inverness. I was initially more interested in the line of trees on the other side of the road, resplendent in autumn colour but, having got out of the car & gone to find a good position my eye was caught by this old wooden building nestling down below the road. The direction of the light was also more pleasing casting that linear shadow on the gable wall. 

I decided on a minimal crop to retain most of the context and autumn colour. I’ve also only minorly adjusted for highlights and contrast.

Pittenweem 

A slate grey sky made for rather flat light today in Pittenweem. That meant looking for something different to photograph where the light would be less necessary for shaping the subject. I’d hoped to photograph the harbour but the lack of contrast just meant everything was rather uninspiring. Across the road from the quayside, however, my eye was caught by these beer kegs turned into seats with cushions. I felt it was an interesting composition and the creels confirm we are in a harbour location.

This isn’t a typical shot from Pittenweem but it avoids the harbour cliches and it’s a reminder that we need to be open to seeing things differently. In the end I’m pleased that the otherwise disappointing light conditions forced me to spot a different subject.

This was shot on ISO800, 1/40th sec at f9

Michaelmas

Which came first – the daisy or the festival? One has almost certainly given its name to the other but whichever way it is this is a sure sign of autumn; the appearance of the Michaelmas daisy blooming here beside some autumnal berries. As the new literature Laureate said, “The times, they are a’changing”.

With a new season, I am going to try to post a focal point much more regularly. Now that I have the WordPress app I can take and upload photos using my phone. This image is the first I’ve posted having taken it on my phone with minimal in-phone editing for highlights and contrast.  It’s fine but I still prefer using my DSLR but let’s see what’s possible with a phone camera too.