Spotlight On: Real Edinburgh Photographer Grant Ritchie
rant Ritchieis the man behind Real Edinburgh, the popular website showcasing Grant’s stunning portfolio of Edinburgh images. Looking through his collection, it’s hard to imagine that Grant is self-taught and has only fairly recently started taking his work behind the lens seriously. We chat to Grant about his favourite images, the extremes he’ll go to for a good shot and his advice for aspiring photographers.
Only seriously for the last 4 years, but I’ve had an interest that came and went for the last 15 years now. The last couple of years in particular have been interesting, as I’ve made the move from a hobbyist photographer through to obsessed amateur to now where I would be best described as semi-professional.
How did you get into photography?
I stared out doing motorsport photography, in particular, rallying. I was running a huge British rallying website at the time and it seemed a natural progression. As the first affordable consumer digital cameras appeared, it was a perfect opportunity to get images from events and put them online that day, which for an amateur operation was pretty good at the time. However, as I lost interest in the sport the camera got hung up for a few years until out of nowhere an interest sprung up again about 5 years ago, this time in landscape and macro photography. I’ve hardly put the camera down since.
Are you self taught?
Totally. I’ve never had a lesson in my life. Everything I’ve learned has been as a result of picking the brains of other photographers, a lot of Google-ing and a try and see what happens attitude. To me it’s half the fun. While I’m all for teaching the mechanics of photography, I don’t think you can really teach the creative aspect, that has to come from the individual themselves.
What lengths do you go to to get a good picture?
There’s not a lot would put me off getting a particular shot as long as it doesn’t involve trespassing or anything! I can remember standing on top of Blackford Hill in early March this year, trying to get a shot of Comet PanSTARRS over the west of the city. I can’t quite remember ever being so cold but I did get the shot! Annoyingly enough I got a far better one 2 days later from Newhaven where it wasn’t nearly as cold.
It’s so hard to choose as a lot of them have special meaning to me. Some images have been the result of planning and dogged determination; getting back to the same spots time after time to get the right image. Others are unique moments in time that were caught more by luck than anything else! All this said, the recent image I caught of the crescent moon low over Edinburgh Castle and beside the Balmoral Clock was pretty special. It was one of the nights where everything just went right and I was even more lucky as I had just bought a 500mm lens which was the key to these shots- without it I couldn’t have got the shots with the wow factor. More luck than design but you have to make the most of these opportunities when they arise.
What is your favourite subject to photograph?
Edinburgh Castle without a doubt. No matter what vantage point you get to in the city you can nearly always see it. To catch the Castle with something like the moon or a great sunset is satisfying. I also really enjoy photographing the moon, whether it’s in close up or over a landmark it’s a great subject and with careful planning it can be used to create really stunning images.
Is there anything you’d like to photograph that you haven’t had a chance to yet?
The Aurora always seems to elude me. I know I could head further North or do one of those tours and get it easily but for me getting it over Edinburgh or at least from Edinburgh would be the shot I want. I’ve caught it a couple of times but never one of the really good displays. I’m also keen to get deeper into Astrophotography. I’ve done a lot with the moon and some planetary imaging but really want to give deep sky a try this winter.
Any advice for aspiring photographers?
Get out at every opportunity with a camera. Doesn’t matter what the weather is, you just need to adapt to the conditions. The more you shoot the more you’ll learn. Don’t waste a fortune on expensive cameras to start with, there’s nothing worse than the guy with all the gear that can’t take a picture. Remember, the camera doesn’t make the picture, the photographer does.
How much equipment have you got?
Not enough. I’ve built up a fair bit over the years, as will any keen photographer, but that doesn’t mean I’ve got everything I want by a long way. The Nikon D4 is still top of the wishlist!
Describe Edinburgh in three words: Historic, photogenic, home.
Favourite view in Edinburgh: Either the view over the city from Calton Hill at sunset or from Blackford Hill.
Favourite place to have a drink in Edinburgh: I like real no-nonsense pubs, places like the Diggers are best for me.