My Love of Photography and Scotland

Updated: Oct 24, 2020

By David Wheater

I was born in Edinburgh in 1973 and have lived in and around the city most of my life. I've been taking photographs for over twenty years now and it's undoubtedly one of the greatest joys of my life.

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I'm an avid collector of vintage cameras and photographs of Scotland, with a photographic collection now running into thousands of images - mainly of Edinburgh. Over time I hope to share a lot of these fascinating images with you.

After finishing school in Edinburgh, I went to Aberdeen University for four years to study law and then completed a post graduate at Edinburgh University. I qualified as a solicitor in Edinburgh in 1998 and then went to work with the Registers of Scotland on complex registrations and taught property law & land registration. I've been self-employed since leaving in 2007 and now run a number of small businesses in Edinburgh with my wife. 

I enjoy taking a wide range of photos, but mainly specialise in Scotland and the wonderful cities of Edinburgh and London. I have a very simple philosophy of capturing the things I find beautiful and interesting and doing my utmost best to capture the spirit of, and the essence behind, the subjects I'm taking.  

I always stay true to myself and never worry about what people think of my photographs, not everyone can like them, although there's no greater pleasure than in others enjoying the pictures you create. It's hard to put into words what photography means for me. I think it brings me closer to the world around me, to the extent that I see things that were previously invisible to me. It definitely makes the world a more magical place - especially through the well-worn eyes of a grown up. I can only liken it to a kind of personal meditation, and sometimes even a therapy.

To capture a moment in time is still an amazing privilege, even today, when everyone has a camera in their pocket. Every time I set off on a project, I always feel the excitement of a great treasure hunt - always hoping that I'll stumble across a magical place, or a moment in time, that I can capture forever and share with others. Photography brings me huge excitement and joy and I simply can't envisage life without it.

This year, 2020, I set up 'Adventures In Scotland' - and have diversified into leading personal tours around Edinburgh, which is great fun. I also love teaching people how to use their cameras and, seeing them come alive to the possibilities and joy that great photography can give them, is hugely rewarding.

Editing photographs is a very big part of digital photography nowadays and it's very hard to compete with the popularity of photoshop images and instagram filters that are ubiquitous to Social media these days. In the quest for likes and huge followings, photos are being digitally manipulated in increasingly pleasing and complicated ways which I feel is moving us away from a sense of truth and reality about the world around us. I have nothing against Photoshop, but prefer not to use it and to err on the side of reality - most of the time - because I take photos first and foremost for myself and my own enjoyment. They are, and always will be, my memories.

I generally use very basic editing adjustments in Lightroom and do not add anything to my photos that wasn't there in front of me at the time. I rarely use filters either, except for a vignette when I feel it adds to the scene. However, that's not to say that I don't occasionally let loose sometimes for artistic effect! - but only when it feels instinctively right to do so and it'll be obvious to the viewer when I've gone down that artistic route. I can't resist indulging in a bit of selective colouring at times!

Photoshop looks like a lot of fun and I do genuinely love all the enormous colourful moons, sunsets and composite images that appear in social media photos these days - but it's really not for me. I like things to be as they were in front of me at the time, so that I can look back and enjoy a lasting emotional connection to my images.

I worry hugely about new software like Luminar which, don't get me wrong, is amazing, but I think powerful software like this is blurring the lines between photography and graphic design. Why bother trekking across the Scottish Highlands to a beautiful landscape and waiting hours for sunset, when you can just take a bog standard photo of the scene and change it beyond all recognition - all from the comfort of home? It's kind of missing the whole point about photography - it's meant to be an exciting, spontaneous adventure. There's nothing wrong with adding a huge moon or completely changing the sky, just acknowledge it and don't pass it off as a true likeness. The fun and satisfaction of photography is in the effort made to capture truth & reality - not in lies and misrepresentation, worse of all to yourself.

Please don't get me wrong. Photographs have always been hugely manipulated, even by the greats and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that - as long as any material changes are acknowledged and the image is not passed off as a true representation of the scene that was in front of you at the time. If you've added significant new elements to a scene, or changed the sky to a spectacular thundery sunset then please acknowledge it. However, the truth is that anything that comes out of a camera, whether edited or not, can never truly be an exact representation or likeness of the exact scene in front of you. Just as everyone sees the world differently, so do cameras. Every camera by design and software interprets a scene differently as programmed by the manufacturer.

Everybody has to draw their own conclusions about what kind of editing and manipulation is acceptable. A lot can depend on the genre. My own rule in landscapes is that I never add any elements to a photograph that wasn't there at the time of capture and the image must match what's in my head and heart at the time of execution. Again, to be clear, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with having fun and completely changing your images, just attach a note for example that the image is a composite and that you've added a material element like a new sky, sunset or moon etc. It's one thing to deceive the viewer, another to deceive yourself. You can only have a long lasting emotional relationship with, and derive true pleasure from, your photographs if they're honest and hard won. Effort and truth is everything.

Over the years I've come to realise that if you don't shoot what you feel, you can't feel what you shoot. Emotional connection to a time and place is everything and is the very essence of why we take photographs - memories. To become YOUR art, photography must mirror your heart. I'm just old-school and want my pictures to simply look like the scene that presented itself to me at the time. I believe you can only really look back and get real pleasure from your images if they truly match what was in your head and heart at the time. 

Times and technology change rapidly and I think the line between graphic-design and straightforward photography is now very blurred. It's important to say, that every kind of photography is equally valid and important - you just have to find your style and what you're happiest doing - there is no right and wrong. Images have been manipulated long before Photoshop arrived and the most important thing is to simply have fun and enjoy yourself - like everything in life, that's all that really matters regardless of what I, or anyone else says. The happiest people in life are those who are brave enough to do their own thing, regrdless of criticism or other peoples' opinions.

Do YOUR thing! With any photograph - a third won't like it, a third will go meh! and the remaining third will love it to bits. You cannot please everybody so please don't try. Enjoy yourself and have the courage to do your own thing.

Photography is a deeply emotional thing for me and I'm very thankful to have it in my life. I hope you find it as wonderful and as fulfilling as I do.

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Author: David Wheater

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