Shots in the Dark

We’re now a healthy way into the start of January and work at the Distillery is ramping up. We started production again on Monday, but with our long fermentation times in the washbacks, it’ll probably Thursday evening before the stills are fired up for the first time. I made a wee video for social media to celebrate, however:

Some of it was stock footage- such as the mashtun & mill room shots, but the footage of the stills was taken on the day since I thought it was important to reflect the real weather outside. Funnily enough, when I put the video on Twitter, the Raasay House account (which is run by my friend Carol) picked up on something I didn’t think anyone would notice:

What I had actually done was use a basic music track underneath the initial edit so that were was a subtle kind of ‘beat’ that I could work and time the video to. once I was finished, I then just muted the music track, hoping that it would leave the sound effects with a musical kind of quality. I didn’t think it had worked well but apparently it was obvious enough to some people!

The big prep at the moment however is for Celtic Connections later this month, which has hosted the National Whisky Festival for about three years now. Raasay Distillery has not just a stall, but we’ll also be holding two ‘masterclasses’ for the event- one with Iain Robertson, who will be going in-depth into the process of distilling and blending, and then doing tastings of new-make spirit and cask samples from our variety of casks. Later in the day, our sales ambassador Chris will then be hosting a similar masterclass on the blending and production of the Tweeddale whiskies. It’s set to be a pretty big event and I’ll be there to try and gather as much footage and photography as possible. We’ll also be debuting two pretty big product launches- pre-orders for the first Raasay Single Malt in 2020 and beyond, and also launching the sale of small 30 litre casks that you can buy and fill for £1000. So in preparation, my task was to gather photography for use in the new pre-order leaflets and marketing material. Essentially, I had to get a photo of a bottle of whisky which doesn’t exist yet, in a bottle… which doesn’t exist yet! The solution I came up with was to head up to the warehouse and try and create a ‘silhouette’ using one of our current bottles. Although this might not be the final design we go for in terms of bottle shape (ours will potentially be bespoke), I figured it’s a pretty distinctive, standard ‘whisky bottle shape’ nonetheless. I then clambered into the little passages between the towers of palletised barrels and jammed a tweeddale bottle deep inside, along with a very dim warm light behind it and a gold reflector on the other side. Setting up the camera, I used my 200mm lens fully zoomed in to try and frame the shot.

Three different focus & aspect setups- all three worked, but I think the ‘out of focus’ shot was probably the most effectively to highlight both the bottle and the casks.The only issue was a slight blue-ish tinge in the background from the wall of the warehouse, that I toned down in 
Lightroom. Otherwise, relatively unedited.

Another angle, taken from the opposite side highlighting the tube and glass. I prefer this, but in the end we went for the more simple bottle design.
Setup of the shot through our stack of Wine casks. We have a lot filled!

I was very pleased with the final shot, and photos amongst the towers of casks is something I’m going to have to try and do more of, it’s incredibly atmospheric in there. It was also an interesting challenge, because normally I’d have just brought out the trusty 50mm lens with it’s nice 1.8 aperture and just worked with that- low light, close up on the product, perfect! However, I left the lens at home by accident and I was forced to try and do something a bit different. All I had with me were two zoom lenses, my stock 28-70, and my second hand 55-210. I went for the 210 but I was worried that it just wouldn’t handle the low light, and I only had about an 5 minutes to take ti before my portable lamp died and I was left without any backlight. However the final images blew me away, and it really opened my eyes to the possibilities of other lenses in low light. To be honest, I’ve been relying on the ‘nifty fifty’ bit too much in low light, so I’m really glad I got this unusual shot by being forced out of my comfort zone.

Final proof- worked very well I think! I like that cobweb.

I also put the drone in the air and got this in the morning, stitching about 5 photos together. It worked well but I didn’t have much edit room to play with, as it was creating some bad pixelation and compression issues in the sunrise. Still though, a very nice image that people on twitter enjoyed very much!

Also managed to catch a nice comparison between Tugboat and the Distillery landrover!

But yeah busy day, by the time I left work it was pitch black and we went home to binge some episodes of Top Gear and You (which is amazing, incidentally). Tomorrow: more photos, and it’s the big(ish) day on Friday- Campervan day!

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