Edinburgh: The Two Towns | Street Photography and Landscape
The Two Towns is an Edinburgh iPhone photography project shot in late 2015. The start of the project started, rather spookily, in a similar fashion to a visit described by an author over 85 years ago in a Scottish travel guidebook from the 1930s. The book had been purchased a couple of years before from a roadside bric-a-brac shop on Skye.
In his book ‘The Glory of Scotland’, first published in 1932, the author J.J Bell eloquently describes arriving in Edinburgh via the railway :
‘Emerging from either of the stations, you find yourself standing with To-day and Yesterday on the broad pavement of the present, looking up at a panorama of the past’J.J Bell – The Glory of Scotland
Over eighty years later, that description still rings true as you emerge into the modern commercial hustle and bustle of Princes Street from Waverley railway station. This is the new town.
In November of 2015, I was arriving in Edinburgh for the first time in nearly twenty-five years, the purpose of the visit being the wonderful Christmas market. The Christmas market (complete with a big wheel and the whirling ‘Star Flyer’ ride) which takes place from late November through to New Year, also brings in the crowds to what is an already impressive high street. The sound of people, classic Christmas pop hits booming out, the smells of food and the sheer numbers of people walking along the street almost overwhelmed the senses.
The One Oclock Gun
Above the new town sits the old town, Royal Mile and Edinburgh castle – a reminder of Edinburgh’s history and turbulent past. In 1745, the Jacobites under the leadership of Bonnie Prince Charlie captured Edinburgh but failed to take the castle. The castle’s garrison continued to take pot-shots at any passing Jacobite rebel during the entire time Edinburgh was under the Jacobite rule.
These days the only ‘shots’ come from tourist cameras and the one o’clock gun, an L118 field gun fired by the district gunner and used to signal the time to the city. Originally it was started to help the ships anchored offshore keep correct time. The ship’s clock was essential for accurate navigation back in the 19th century. The ships may have long gone but the tradition for sounding the time remains.
The Ghost Bus
Given Edinburgh’s rich history, it should come as no surprise that there is a rich ghost trail culture in the city. I counted four trails that could be signed up to during my visit and I’m sure there are more.
One I didn’t miss was the Edinburgh Ghost Bus tour that combined the theatre, ghost stories and a bus journey. It is one of the best journeys I’ve ever taken. Comedy is the key ingredient with just a wee measure of horror to create a scary journey. I got ‘attacked’ by a haunted curtain! On the bus was a creepy conductor called Jasper who acted as a spooky guide.
I did manage to get a portrait of Jasper, who thankfully actively encouraged photography during the trip around Edinburgh. The portrait though was not easy to get. The bus was moving, it was dark and the lighting on the 1960’s era double-decker bus was not particularly great. Of the three images, only one turned out without motion blur. I believe that was down to timing and Jasper standing still. You may have noticed in the photo that he seems to have noticed me taking the photo and posed!
All of the images were taken using an iPhone – probably one of the best devices for taking street photos. The images are largely displayed in the order they were taken in. As for the monochrome style, the images were taken using the Hipstamatic app using a filter set first used for Sea, Sky, Sand and Street. I do like the gritty visual style but it does contain that element of danger of being overused. Like so many filters in photography.
Whilst taking the monochrome files off the iPhone I found the original colour files had also been saved on the camera. Several have been posted on my Instagram feed.
The Two Towns photography is an offshoot of the Scotland: Lowlands, Highlands and Islands project.
Also take a look at the gallery for the Edinburgh: Seven Hills project HERE