Subject – more important than the gear and technique?

Photographers can tend to focus too much on gear and technique that they fail to appreciate the emotive quality of an image, myself being guilty of such failings.

Last year, my neice was born, she was named Iona after the tranquil Scottish island that my father and I had visited prior to her birth and spoke fondly of.  So when it was suggested that we go back and gather momentos for our new member of the family, we were happy to oblige.  For me, a key momento was to photograph the island.

As we waited for the ferry from Fionnphort (on the Isle of Mull) for the short journey to Iona, it began to pour.  However, when we arrived on Iona, the weather began to clear and a spectacular rainbow graced us with its presence.  Up to this point, I was documenting our trip with my Canon 5D Mark II, tripod and assortment of filters to document our travels.  From the Iona ferry terminal, I began photographing the island, hoping to capture the right composition to include the rainbow.  At this point, I realised that in order to get the full arch of the rainbow, multiple photos would have to be stitched together in post product if I used my DSLR, however out of laziness, I took my iPhone 4S out of my pocked and used the panorama feature.  After a few seconds, I captured the image and returned to using my DSLR.


20131123-IMG_2973iona, islands, Scotland

iPhone 4S ISO 50 4.28mm F2.4 1/1600th

20131123-_MG_2198iona, islands, Scotland

Canon 5D Mark II 24-105mm ISO 200 25mm f8 1/640th

After spending the rest of the morning on the island, we returned to Mull where later in the day I reviewed the images taken.  Of all of the images, the one which appeared to have captured the island best and have emotion was the iPhone panorama.   In retrospect, I could have setup the tripod and taken multiple shots to composite into a panorama at a later stage, however this photo I had quickly chosen to taken has soul.  The fact that it took seconds to take did not neglect the skill and knowledge to correctly compose the image.  When critiquing the photo as a photographer, I do noticed that the whites of certain buildings appear blown out and there is a lack of sharpness, however, when posted on Facebook, of all my images, that is the one most people remembered.

After seeing the positive feedback of friends and family, I decided to post it on the Our Scotland Facebook page and within days amassed over 5,000 likes (the most for any of my photos).

iPhone screenshot Facebook post on Our Scotland demonstrating over 5000 likes for my photo of a rainbow over Iona


BBC News featured it as one of ‘Yours pictures of Scotland: 22-29 November’ ( and furthermore, the herald printed the photo as Picture of the Day.

Screenshot from BBC News Scotland, featuring my Rainbow over Iona photo on Your Pictures section

I had attempted numerous times have a photo published in The Herald, simply as a goal to achieve.  Ironically, I previously thought that the photo I would have in print would be the result of a ‘big camera’ rather than my phone.  I am aware that these publications are not evidence of technique, composition or quality of the photo, it simply demonstrates that people liked the photo, after all surely thats what matters, that photos have emotive response.  I remember reading the responses on the Our Scotland Facebook posting of the image, people discussing the fondness of the island, discussing when the visited it and others who hoped to do so.  And so my fondness of this image comes from eliciting an  emotive responses from others and that this image will become an element of the shared family experience in relation to our Iona.

This photo confirms the converse of one of Ansel Adams famous quotes “There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept”, to me, this photo demonstrates when subject matter conveys an emotion, the sharpness of the image or the gear used is irrelevant.