About Elisabeth

<para>I was born and bred in Scotland and after living in many other places around the United States, I now live in the Seattle area. I love taking photographs of nature and the landscape around Seattle including, of course, the ocean, mountains and forests.


<para> I got my first digital camera in 2004 and have been digital only since 2005. I love taking my camera with me on my outdoor adventures; I think looking for photographs helps me to see differently and appreciate the beauty of the outdoors even more than I already do.

<para> I enjoy looking at a wide variety of photographs (and art) as inspiration for my own work. One of the best ways I have found to learn how to take better photographs, is to pick a photo or an artist that I like and try to emulate them for a little while. Ever artist needs to develop their own style, but you can learn a lot by copying too!

<para> Photography is just my hobby; my day job is developing online training for O'Reilly Media. I've also written books for O'Reilly. My background is in computer science and I have recently learned how to program apps for the iPhone and iPad, which is a lot of fun.

Favorite Photos

<para> Dal Beg is a tiny community on the west coast of Lewis. At the end of a small road, just past a cottage, a gorgeous beach is hidden. White sand, beautiful rocks, dramatic cliffs; it's a wonderful, hidden away place.


<para> The Morven Art Gallery is in an old stone farmhouse that has been beautifully restored, and features a tea room with wonderful cakes and teas. All the art in the gallery is by local artists and most often depicts local scenes or is related to the local culture. It's one of my favorite places to go for tea. And behind the gallery is a large field with usually one or two pony's grazing amongst the sheep.



Eoropie, Lewis

<para> It is often gray in the Outer Hebrides, so on the few days when there is bright sunshine, I like to go out for long walks. The walk from Port of Ness to Eoropie is lovely, up a small hill through Knockaird, then down through Fivepenny, and finally to Eoropie on the coast.


<para> The Eoropie beach is one of a number of beaches in Lewis and Harris that is absolutely stunning. Gorgeous stretches of yellow white sand and Eoropie in particular also has beautiful sand dunes. Unfortunately, motor vehicles are allowed in the sand dunes, which I'm sure are eroding them.


<para> St. Moluag's Church in Eoropie is a 12th century church that was restored in the 1920's to replace the stones that were stolen in the 19th century to build houses, and to replace the roof. The church was a pilgrimage site for a long time, especially for families with a family member who was "insane". The insane person was subjected to a complex ritual including being bound in front of the alter and left overnight. If they were not better by morning, they were declared incurably insane.



All about Peat

<para> In the long evening light, I helped to restack part of the peat stack which had fallen over because the sheep that are currently on the croft had rubbed up against it.


<para>Many crofters using a herringbone style pattern to stack their peats. The top of the peat stack is covered with the widest of the peats, so that the rain doesn't penetrate and the peats on the inside stay dry.


<para>Crofters in Port of Ness cut peat from the Ness moor, which is located just beyond the small community of Skigersta, down the road from Port of Ness. The road ends and turns into a dirt track which continues on into the moor where the peat bog is. Apparently, determining where you can cut peat is quite a complicated matter. The people of the Ness area know where the peat bog that can be cut by Ness residents is located, and some villagers know where each resident’s allocated peat bank is. To find out where you can cut if your croft or house does not already have a peat bank allocated to it, you must ask around in the community until someone tells you where the right place is. Or, as one person explained, you can just start cutting somewhere, and if it’s in the wrong place, someone will come and tell you.



Walk at the Butt of Lewis

<para> On a gray and misty day, we drove up to the Butt of Lewis to go for a walk around the headland. The lighthouse at the Butt of Lewis was built in 1886, and was manned until 1998 when it became fully automated. There has been much discussion about what to do with the residence building, since it is now empty, but no decisions have been made yet. My vote is for a tea house, as a hot cup of tea would be perfect after a long, windy and cold walk around the headlands.


<para>The cliffs at the Butt of Lewis are dramatic, dropping straight down onto rocky bottoms where the sea churns and the waves crash. There are no fences on the cliff edges, which I am glad about as fences would ruin the view. The only accident I've heard about (and for which there is a plaque on the cliff edge) is a young football (soccer for Americans) player who fell off.


<para> The sea cliffs are filled with birds that somehow find small ledges upon which to nest. We saw fulmars, herring gulls, shags and gannets flying around the cliffs.


<para> There are also beautiful wildflowers at the Butt of Lewis, on the sandy soil near the cliffs, including pink sea thrift and ragged robin, as well as beautiful spotted wild orchid.




Wind farms on Lewis

<para> Wind farms on Lewis are controversial to say the least. There is already one small wind farm, south of Stornoway in the area known as South Lochs. These large turbines are visible from the main road across the Barvas moor and as you drive south towards Harris.

<para> Politicians and some estate holders have proposed more wind farms, and there are some on the island who support them ("pro-windies") and some who are against them ("anti-windies"). The pro-windies hope to bring in money to a struggling economy, while the anti-windies oppose them for many reasons including that they will ruin the expansive views, decimate local bird populations (some of which are rare), and because the amount of carbon released to dig up the peat moor and install the large concrete bases and roads is so large, anti-windies question whether there is actually any net gain in having them.

<para> While I am generally supportive of alternative energy sources, I find myself agreeing with the anti-windies in this particular case. The peat moor on Lewis is not only a huge carbon sink, it is also an amazing natural resources that should be preserved. In addition, much of the power generated by the wind farms is intended for the mainland, primarily south of England where most power usage occurs in the UK. My opinion is that if there are wind farms on Lewis, the benefits should be primarily for the islands, not the mainlanders, and I suggest that the mainlanders find other, better ways to reduce their power consumption to reduce carbon emissions. The rare bird populations and natural resources on Lewis are too precious to destroy with giant wind farms.


How to get in touch

<heading>Studio Location

<para>Seattle, WA

<heading>Contact me



<para> I have an open studio every Monday in Seattle at 1001 First St. Feel free to drop by say hello, and look at my photographs.

<para> I am an artist in residence every Tuesday at the Seattle Art Gallery, open from 10-5. You can find me in the Very Cool Photography Gallery, being inspired by photos and talking to interesting visitors to the gallery.

<para> Wednesdays I'm out in the field, taking photos of nature.

<para> Thursdays I hang out at a different coffee shop somewhere in Seattle. See if you can find me!


Canon EOS 7D

<para>The Canon 7D is a SLR camera, released in 2009. It has an 18MP APS-C CMOS sensor, dual Digic 4 processors and allows up to 8fps continuous shooting.

<para> I shoot both still photos and video using this camera, with the 28-135mm f/3.5 standard zoom lens (purchased with the camera), and a EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5 Canon lens.

<para> I've really enjoyed the auto focusing system and auto exposure intelligence in this camera. Most of the time, I shoot on aperture-priority and default white-balance, and get beautiful results. And I love the auto ISO capability for low-light settings.

<para> For my most recent trip to Scotland, I purchased a circular polarizing filter for my 10-22mm lens. This is particularly good on sunny days, to add contrast and saturation to the skies and reduce the glare created by bright sunshine.


Blackbird Bakery


<para> Selected works by Elisabeth Robson were shown at the Blackbird Bakery on Bainbridge Island, in spring, 2003. Blackbird Bakery features a new artist each month. Elisabeth showed a series of flower photographs all taken on Bainbridge Island.

<para> Blackbird Bakery has seriously good pastries, I highly recommend it if you're on Bainbridge Island. My favorite is the Vegan Applesauce Chocolate cake. Their soups are usually pretty good too.

Lewis HELPS Newsletter

<para> Selected works by Elisabeth Robson were printed in the Hebridean Environment & Landscape Protection Society newsletter in August 2010.

<para> HELPS is dedicated to preserving the environment of the Outer Hebrides through education and collaboration with other environmental organizations such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

<para> There are many endangered birds that make their homes on Lewis, where Elisabeth recently visited and photographed. One such bird is the corncrake, which is a ground nesting bird. It has been endangered since industrial agriculture replaced small farms in the UK, since the machines which clear and harvest the fields destroy the nests. Elisabeth's father has sown one large plot on his croft with oats, barley and wildflowers specifically to attract the corncrake, and there were at least three nesting there in the summer of 2010. Unfortunately, Elisabeth was not able to capture a photo of the shy bird, but did hear them frequently.

My Lighting Choices

<para>I prefer natural lighting for my photographs, and almost never use a flash. I take long exposures in the early mornings and evenings for effects, such as with clouds moving across the sky or ocean waves.


Digital Processing

<para> I use iPhoto to organize my photos currently, although I am in the process of learning Aperture and may switch soon.


<para> I use Photoshop CS5 (recently upgraded from CS4) to process my photos. I typically do minimal processing, primarily cropping and straightening. Sometimes, a photo also needs sharpening, and to add contrast I use the Auto Tone and Auto Contrast (great new tools in CS5) as well as Levels and Curves.

<para>Favorite Photoshop Tips

<div> My Favorite PS Site Designer Freelance Photoshop Disasters

<bullList> The feature of photoshop I use most frequently to edit photos that have exposure problems is the layer mask tool. If a photo is overexposed or underexposed in one area, I can sometimes save an otherwise poor photo by copying the image to a new layer, adjusting the exposure and then using a layer mask to "paint in" the adjusted image only into the areas which needed brightening, thus combining the original image with part of the adjusted image for an overall improvement. Photoshop CS has an excellent file browser built into the application. You can access it from the File menu or by pressing Apple(Cmd)-Shift-O. It can do all a regular functions Finder does and much more. The fastest and most convenient way to cycle through all the options without touching the drop down menu is by pressing Shift-Alt and + or -. To instantly jump back to normal I'd press Shift-Alt-N (Shift-Option-N). This way I can focus on the image and pay no attention to the drop down menu. When you drag a guide and want to change it from horizontal to vertical or vice versa you can press the Option key (Windows= Start/Alt Option) to alternate between them.

<para>Wanna know how to create a high contrast and sharp image using Smart Objectsmake 3-d wallpaper? (curtesy of the Photoshop Roadmap)

<heading>Original Image


<heading>Processed Image


<numList> Double-click on the “Background” layer to make it editable. Convert it to a smart object: Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to smart Object The shadow highlight adjustment isn’t a filter, but it acts like a smart filter and can be applied non-destructive. Image > Adjustments > Shadow/Highlights Click the show more options. Move the amount Slider to 100% percent in the shadows and highlights. This will bring all the detail in the image. Adjust the Tonal with in the shadow to 8% and in the highlights to 33%. The total with adjust how exaggerated the effect will appear. Color correction saturates or desaturates the image. In the adjustment section increase the Midtone to 16%