These are magnificant stainless steel clad sculptures standing around 30 metres tall located by the Forth & Clyde canal at Falkirk. Since they were opened to the public in 2013 they have become a favourite subject for photographers. As you can tell, I am no exception. Mostly they are photographed in a couple of ways: relatively close up and showing their context beside the canal, and also at dusk or night when they are illuminated.
I’ve been a couple of times to take some photographs and have done the “usual” thing with them, so nothing too different really apart from a couple of very tight close-ups which show only parts of the sculptures. On one occasion, I had taken all the shots I wanted and was heading back to the car when I turned round and was met by this view. I immediately liked it. I was drawn to the way the fading light from the setting sun was lighting the Kelpies and how they were contrasted against the sky. I also really liked the dusting of snow on the Ochil Hills in the distance. There is something appealing in the contrast between the softness of the snow and the hardness of the steel Kelpies. I also liked that this view set them in a context not usually represented in photographs. It also felt like the one with its head down was grazing on the trees rising from just below the ridge. That seemed to me such a natural thing that it almost brought the Kelpies to life.
I’d been shooting on a tripod but this was such an opportunity in the fading light that I just went hand-held and aimed to get a shot before the light was gone. I was also cold and keen to be back in the car. For those interested in such things, this was shot at 1/1000sec at f8 on an ISO of 400 and at a focal length of 55mm (there must have been more light than I remember). The image was shot in RAW (as per usual) and initially processed (for all the usual things) in Lightroom. I then used Photoshop to remove some distractions which included power lines and some random birds which were really doing nothing to add to the image.
The Kelpies are well worth a visit. They were designed by sculptor Andy Scott and the name Kelpies was chosen by Scottish Canals. Kelpies come from Scottish myth and legend and are said to be shape-changing spirits of waterways. There’s some thought that the name may come from the Scottish Gaelic words ‘cailpeach’ or ‘colpach’, meaning heifer or colt. Kelpies are said to haunt rivers and streams typically appearing in the shape of horses. Of course, horses were also a feature of canals when they were used to pull barges. This makes these magnificent sculptures so appropriate to sit by the canal.
This image is available as a Fine Art print on my website along with another couple of more “usual” shots of the Kelpies.
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.
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.