Having lived in Scotland on and off over a period of three years, I’ve visited Edinburgh countless times. I’ve done the ghost tours, visited Mary King’s Close (a favourite), experienced the castle fireworks of Hogmanay and eaten (cringe) a deep-fried Mars Bar. In a way, I thought I’d done Edinburgh. It wasn’t until I saw the Groupon for Iconic Photo Tours of Edinburgh that I realized how wrong I was!
At the time of booking we didn’t quite anticipate what it meant to do an evening outdoor tour in January, but we wrapped up warm and arrived at the steps of St. Gile’s Cathedral to meet Will Robb, the owner of Iconic Edinburgh Photo Tours. Will is a sound guy, having spent years as a photographer working for a variety of clients, including the infamous Lonely Planet. Within minutes we had our camera out and were straight into the basics.
I was worried that the information would be too much, too quickly, but Will knows how to teach. Each stop we took focused on a new skill, slowly building on what you’d learned before. And it’s not just a photography course. Will throws in factoids that are pretty darn unique, making me wonder how I’d never heard them before in all my years of visiting Edinburgh.
We started off with some basic composition and lighting, taking photos of sections of the Cathedral, rather than trying to overwhelm our shot by squeezing in every detail. Playing with light, we found a huge difference from shot to shot and David and I are now determined to head home and play about with the flashlight on photo shoots.
Long exposures were the shots I was most looking forward to. Handy-dandy tripod in hand, we experimented with settings, waiting for taxis to pass by to give us that soft stream of light I’d seen in professional photos. It’s a weird thrill you get as an amateur photographer when you can finally recreate something you’ve aspired to for so long with no frustration at all.
The cold did begin to creep in, so we popped into the National Library for a pot of tea and Will kindly allowed me to ask him a slew of questions on his experience as a Lonely Planet Photographer (see interview on the blog next week!). Feeling finally returning to my toes, we popped back out and took on the creepiness of Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. A Harry Potter fan to my core, Will toured us around the graves, pointing out the tombstones with familiar character names. Looking out over the graveyard and towards George Heriot’s School for boys, you can see where inspiration for Hogwarts came from.
David was born in Penicuik, just outside of Edinburgh, and would say he knows Edinburgh like a local. That said, we explored quite a few picturesque stairways and streets that he’d never visited, giving him a fresh perspective on his own town.
By the end of the night, we were pretty pleased with not just the photos we’d taken, but of our newfound skills (which we will need to continue to practice) and the unique take on a city we thought we’d known so well.
The cost. This is always the tricky part for travelers, knowing where to put your money. Yes, we did get the tour on a Groupon as it was low season, paying 50% of the price. Had it been the original price of 95 pounds for a private tour plus 30 pounds for the second person, would I say that it was worth it? Absolutely! This tour was different to anything I’d ever done in the city, Will was a fantastic guide and you’re taking away new skills. It’s tourism and talent built into one, providing long-lasting value. I, for one, cannot wait until Will’s team start doing tours of the Highlands. It’ll be top of the list for the next time we visit Scotland. Also, if you’re on a tighter budget, Will and his team do group tours for 35 pounds per person.
Big thanks to Will and Iconic Photo Tours of Edinburgh. We had a (chilly) blast!
If you want to know more about what it’s like behind the lens of a Lonely Planet Photographer, make sure to check back next Travel Tuesday, Feb 10th.