Picture a City: the Real Edinburgh guide to Scotland’s enchanting capital

In Picture a City, Travel Inspiration, UK by Kai

Edinburgh is a seductive city, an enchantress who shimmers under the glow of a million flashbulbs. Few photographers know her better than Grant Ritchie however. The man behind the lens behind the phenomenally successful Real Edinburgh has seen the capital at her very best – and he’s got the pics to prove it.

HomeAway caught up with Grant to kick off Picture a City, a new series documenting great cities and the great photographers who curate them for our enjoyment. If you’re pondering a visit to Edinburgh, here’s some local knowledge that can turn a memorable trip into an unforgettable one.

I like taking pics in twilight conditions; I love the inky blue skies.

“In 2011, I was getting a bit fed up with landscape photography and found myself looking for a new challenge. That’s when the idea of a street photography project was born. The whole thing lasted for about five months, whereupon the blog came to a natural end. I still had the Real Edinburgh Facebook page, however, which had a few hundred followers. Out of curiosity, I started to add the occasional post until it gradually formed into the page you see today. [Real Edinburgh currently has 65,000 likes and an army of avid followers.]

I still can’t quite believe how things have turned out. Despite the frustrations of Facebook, it’s opened up a lot of avenues. Winning the Forth Bridges Heritage photo competition was great as it got me to the top of the Forth Bridge, which was a massive highlight. I’ve had the opportunity to meet loads of people who like what I do and I even get recognised now and again which is surreal. 

real edinburgh

The best of Edinburgh

My favourite spot for photography is Calton Hill – the view from there is just so iconic. In saying that, standing on top of the Forth Bridge was pretty special!

For visitors looking to experience Edinburgh at her best, my favourite part would be Calton Hill at sunset from October to March. I’d also recommend the Forth Bridges at sunset from April to September and twilight and darkness at any time of the year. The city and the castle from the Crags in the late twilight is also a personal favourite. I like taking pics in twilight conditions; I love the inky blue skies.

Calton Hill, Edinburgh
The clouds thinned and there it was, a crescent moon hanging over Edinburgh Castle.

For first-time visitors to the city, Blackford Hill is a must do. That little bit further out, the views are incredible – it’s one of my favourite places in the whole city. I’m quite content up there just sitting with the dog taking it all in. 

Edinburgh by night

“In addition to street photography, I also have an interest in astro photography. When I first got a decent zoom lens I began photographing the moon a lot and it went from there. Now I find the goings on in the night sky a source of total fascination. There’s so much to see, and posting about events such as the International Space Station passes has really engaged people with the Real Edinburgh page.

What I really like is that to get good moon shots and even some planetary imaging you don’t have to venture any further than the garden. If you do get out and about though, places like Harlaw and Harperrigg are great spots in the Pentlands to see what a dark sky looks like. 

The moon over Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh in a new light

“As a city photographer, part of the challenge when you’re capturing major attractions is trying to come up with something unique – an angle or light setting that hasn’t been seen before. Taking a 500mm lens up Calton Hill opened up a whole host of new perspectives.

The moon setting behind the Castle is probably the most iconic image I have. I knew the moon would be about that night but wasn’t quite sure how close it would be to the Castle. Leading up to sunset it wasn’t visible at all, but about 20 minutes later the clouds thinned and there it was, a crescent moon hanging just over Edinburgh Castle.

Great shots rarely come about by accident.

Another favourite is the Fog on the Forth shot. It was a pretty still night and I caught the shot with fog patches drifting past the Forth Bridge and had it online by 9pm the same night. It went on to be the single most popular image ever posted to the page with over 17,000 likes. 

Sky over Leith

Edinburgh inspiration

“For amateur photographers looking to capture Edinburgh or their local city I’d say get out there and practice – there’s no substitute for it. Don’t get caught up in spending thousands to get started; get a basic camera and learn how to use it well. It’s not the camera that captures the image – it’s the person behind it. Also, do your homework. There’s a stack of resources online to help you plan locations so you get the best time of year for sunset or the right tides etc. Great shots rarely come about by accident.

On a personal level, I’m constantly looking at new ways to keep page content fresh, the latest being a foray into video work and, more excitingly, using drones to capture footage around the city. I’m also developing a range of photography workshops which gives me a chance to connect with the people who like the page. Teaching photography gives me a real sense of satisfaction. 

To book workshop spaces and order Real Edinburgh prints, visit Grant’s website. Check out his latest cityscapes via the social buttons below (Instagram: Real Edinburgh).


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KaiPicture a City: the Real Edinburgh guide to Scotland’s enchanting capital