Doors Open Days is an annual Scottish event where many venues offer free entry to the public. While I have been in Edinburgh for two years, I did not have the chance to visit many of the older buildings and heritage sites. I decided that this event would be the perfect opportunity to visit these places and also practice some architectural photography.
As I knew that I would have more time to compose my shots compared to my street photography sessions, I brought out my trusty Canon A-1. The lack of modern auto-focus and auto-exposure settings required me to slow down and think about my compositions. I chose to bring a 28mm lens for wider-angle shots and a 50mm lens for general shooting situations.
The images were taken over the two day period for the Doors Open Days event in Edinburgh from 28 September to 29 September.
New Register House Dome Interior [Ilford FP4+, 1/30s, f/3.5, FD 28mm f/2.8]
The first stop on Saturday was the New Register House for the General Register Office for Scotland. The building exterior was similar to the other buildings near the central area of Princes Street. However, the interior was a completely different story.
The shelves were lined with binders, books, and other archival materials. There was a television in the center of the room which displayed a video of the frame of the structure and certain points of building. A number of tour guides guided visitors around the room and discussed the building’s history and activities of the National Records of Scotland.
I had originally wanted to photograph the ceiling of the dome directly underneath the center window. Unfortunately, the 28mm lens was not able to adequately capture my vision for the dome’s ceiling. I chose to shoot half of the dome while still capturing the multiple floors of archives and I believe that it provides a better representation of the structure and its contents.
Playfair Library, Old College, University of Edinburgh [Ilford FP4+, 1/60s, f/4, FD 28mm f/2.8]
Next on the trip was the Old College campus for the University of Edinburgh.
The first location I had visited on the campus was the Talbot Rice Gallery. Inside, there was a large art installation of giant-sized musical instruments and lights supported by accompanying music. There were also contemporary art pieces related to music and sounds. I do not have many photos from this section as I am not a fan of photographing art pieces in isolation. However, the art gallery was very enjoyable and I would like to revisit it in the future.
The Talbot Rice Gallery connected to the Playfair Library and this is where I had taken the above photo. Large white pillars lined both sides of the library with busts of famous figures beside each pillar. Shelves and shelves of books filled the opposing walls of the library, only to be separately by large windows overlooking the central area of the campus and the surrounding buildings.
The sun had reached its peak in the midday and it shone brightly through the glass windows of the hallway. This was perfect for capturing harsh contrasts and separate the human subjects from the whites of the pillars.
I had finished off the day with a session of street photography while listening to the buskers in the park.
McEwan Hall Basement [Ilford FP4+, 1/15s, f/3.5, FD 28mm f/2.8]
On the second day, I headed to McEwan Hall, a large auditorium for the University of Edinburgh. I knew that this building was going to be a fun experience as soon as I had entered.
The entrance to the auditorium was a basement-like area with white walls containing the names of whom I believe to be graduates from the University of Edinburgh. There were curved hallways which led to smaller rooms around the circular building and connected to a central miniature atrium area.
The central area of this basement had pillars placed neatly with lights adorning the walls. The tiled flooring was smooth enough to provide reflections of the light from the pillars and the walls. I was captivated by the pattern of the lights from the pillars on the rounded surface of the ceiling of the room.
McEwan Hall Stage [Ilford FP4+, 1s, f/4, FD 28mm f/2.8]
Up the stairs to the main floor was the main auditorium area of McEwan Hall. This section of the building was spectacular in both form and magnitude. Rows and rows of chairs were arranged neatly and the walls were decorated with beautiful paintings and painstakingly-crafted sculptures.
I managed to capture this scene from the second floor of the auditorium. As I did not have a tripod available, I used the seats to steady the camera so that I would be able to expose the shot properly.
While the scene is mostly devoid of people, there is a lone photographer with his camera and tripod on the stage. I have used this person to emphasise the sheer size of the auditorium.
McEwan Hall Ceiling [Ilford FP4+, 1/15 s, f/3.5, FD 28mm f/2.8]
The ceiling of the auditorium was the highlight (pun intended) of the experience. A circular chandelier was suspended from the dome-like ceiling, lighting up the painted figures circling the center. Each figure had a corresponding field of study, ranging from the literary arts to the sciences and mathematics.
While many photographers attempted to photograph the ceiling from directly under the chandelier, I wanted to shoot a mixture of circles and rounded shapes. The curved ceiling above the main stage connects with the circular dome, and this in turn is surround by arched pillars which supported the entire auditorium structure.
I was impressed at the amount of detail that the film was able to capture. I had overexposed slightly in order to preserve the shadow detail, and the overall darkness in the scene meant that I did not clip the highlights (again, pun intended) too much.
[Ilford HP5+, 1/30s, f/2.8, FD 50mm f/1.8
The final set of images photos from the Leith Theatre. The Leith Theatre is a theatre for performing arts and other events. I believe that the theatre itself was to be demolished but the people of Leith were able to convince the council to leave the building alone. The interior of the building was bare, but still had the potential to be filled with life.
There were many small rooms within the theatre. There were change rooms, store rooms, dance rooms, and gin rooms. Each room felt distinct and unique but they all contributed to the larger building of the theatre.
The first photograph is of a disassembled organ that was repurposed as hanging fixtures above a bar area. While the individual pieces of the organ were separated, they were still able to contribute together to a greater, albeit different, whole.
Please take a Seat [Ilford HP5+, 1s, f/2.8, FD 50 f/1.8]
I decided to take an abstract approach when photographing the rows of seats in the balcony area. The seats had a nice alternating pattern of light and dark red hues and formed a sort of checkered pattern that is still pleasing in black and white.
Leith Theatre Stage [Ilford HP5+, 1s, f/3.5, FD 50mm f/1.8]
Finally, I ended with a shot of the main stage of the theatre. While the seats on the balcony are empty, the focus of this scene is the main stage. The borders around the stage, together with the rows of lights hanging from the balconies, provide a frame for the people on the stage. The Leith theatre was the perfect closing act to the day and the event.
Overall, the Doors Open Days was a very enjoyable event and exposed me to many buildings and sites that I was unaware of during my previous two years in Edinburgh. I hope you enjoyed reading through my experience and enjoyed the accompanying photos as well.
The images have been shot on a Canon A-1 film camera using either a Canon FD 50mm f/1.8 lens or a Canon FD 28mm f/2.8 lens. The expired Ilford FP4+ film stock (expired in 1996) was shot and developed at 125 ISO. An expired Ilford HP5+ film stock (expired in 1993) was shot at 200 ISO and developed at 400 ISO. The majority of the photos have been taken using manual settings with TTL metering set to +0.5 EV.
The Ilford FP4+ was developed using Ilford Ilfosol 3 for 6:00 minutes at 20C. The Ilford HP5+ film stock was developed using Ilford Ilfosol 3 for 7:00 minutes at 20C. Ilford Ilfostop was used to halt development for 0:30 minutes at 20C. The film was fixed with Ilford Rapid Fixer for 3:00 minutes at 20C, followed by a water rinse for 3:00 minutes at 25C. The resulting negatives were scanned using the Epson V550 and edited in Photoshop.