The Kelpies – Scotland’s Most Beautiful Sculptures? By Jonathan McAdam

The Kelpies – Scotland’s Most Beautiful Sculptures?

By Jonathan McAdam

Dear Steve & Brandon,

I have been taking photographs for only about 9 months now, and |’m grateful for the inspiration and encouragement provided your wonderful site. These are the first images I have ever shared as I’m still learning the art of photography, but I wanted to introduce your readers to an interesting new photographic location which I certainly found it very inspiring.

Recently I visited ’The Kelpies’ in Falkirk – Scotland’s newest work of public art and tourist attraction. The twin sculptures of the Kelpies – mythical Sea-Horses in Scottish Folk-lore – rise approximately 100 feet above a new entrance lock to the Firth & Clyde canal, and are intended as an homage to the Equine heritage associated with Scottish Industry. The sculptures were designed by the Scottish Sculptor Andy Scott, and are very dramatic and quite beautifully realised in Stainless Steel. Although I live in England now, I grew up less than a mile from these sculptures, and it makes me quite proud to see such amazing works of art being commissioned in my home country. I believe the 1:10th scale models were widely admired when recently on display in New York, and I understand they have since toured elsewhere in the USA.

These photographs were taken on my Leica M with 21mm f/3.4 lens, which allowed me to get in really close to the sculptures. It was late afternoon in early May and the sky was very moody, giving the opportunity for some tricky (for me..), but dramatic photography – although I suspect the sculptures are so beautiful in the flesh that it would be hard for anyone to take a really bad photograph of them. Although the surrounding parkland will need some time to mature, I suspect this site will become quite iconic in the future.

Anyway, I hope you and your readers like these images.

With Best Regards,

Jonathan McAdam
St Helens




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  1. Wow, some harsh and tough critics on here! Many sound a bit jaded and maybe have lost the love of photography and don’t remember how it made you feel when you first picked up a camera for the first time? Yes, art and beauty is really in the eye of the beholder. I think these are really well done and I think you’ve captured the scale of these sculptures beautifully. Bravo!

    • Hi Rhonda:- I think you have hit the nail on the head. Some very bitter and jaded people. Photography should be about fun and passion and the beauty of capturing precious moments. I think the photos are really well done as well. Somehow I think some people are more about collecting cameras and counting pixels etc, rather than just going out there and capturing life 🙂

  2. The kelpies are a highly controversial statue in Scotland. Pretty polarised opinions but opinions are like a**holes everyone has them so back off and appreciate the author took the time to give us pictures background and everything else… All too often it appears the readers of this site jump in to attack rather than to add and discuss.

    Yes I too have pictures of the kelpies. Artistically I am on the fence, but in Scotland I fear they will become that next must have tick box picture, as the quiran in Skye is ort
    Or the castle in Edinburgh is.

    In short.. Thanks for visiting Scotland, thanks for sharing your photos and ignore the critics as as long as you look at the shots and go “wow that is cool” you have won the game… If other do too it’s a bonus!


  3. I really like the images and the sculptures. Image 2 in particular. I like their modern piecemeal assemblage & porousness that lets the light shine through..Hmm..something Mr Cohen said…

  4. Difficult subject to capture in an imaginative way and yes, the light plays an important role. But then, you usually only get the light there is while you’re there, not while you’re somewhere else.

    We all know early morning light is best, but I, for one, hate getting up early.

    I thought these are pretty good. The 21mm is a good choice. Once you’ve decided to try and get the entire sculpture(s) in your frame you’re stuck with the sort of image presented. You can walk around them a few times but, apart from the direction of the light, the background and the occasional passer-by, this is what you get.

    Another approach could have been to include only part of the/a sculpture in the frame, while suggesting the rest. Mmm…

    Well, tat’s tat. 😉

  5. Well said Steve…I actually think that these are really good photos, especially the black and whites, and I love the IQ and mood. We all have different genres that we like to shoot. I find it funny how some people only want to criticise while never contributing anything…the whole debate about mirrorless etc get’s tiresome…I am happy shooting with my Fuji X100 and Fuji XT1, but if I had money I would try the Leica for sure…I am not sure what your talking about James, I think the B&W have a lot of character…Jonathan you have done a great job mate and keep shooting 🙂


  6. Nice shots, but wow $8,000 for a Leica M to produce shots tech wise that are just average, I will stick to my M8 and M6 and just hope Leica release a massively improved next version of the M.

    • Leica M is $7k, but can be had for $6500 🙂 The M is not about the image quality so much (though it is up there with the best) as the experience of using a rangefinder and an M camera. Totally different experience than using a DSLR or other camera and many feel the price is worth it just for that, as well as the build and construction quality and materials. Just like when some pay $10k for a watch when a $60 timex does the same thing. Or $100k for a Range Rover vs a $15k Kia Soul when both get you from point A to point B in the same manner. Or a $40k Stereo vs a an iPhone with Bluetooth Speaker when both produce music.

      It’s the experience and pride of owning something beautiful that also happens to do the job very well more than flat out IQ, though as I said, the Leica M is my #1 camera when I want all out IQ as well though most cameras today meet it and a few can exceed it but even so, ANY camera today will deliver results good enough for anyone.

      • Interesting the Leica M in Adelaide Australia is selling for $8,750 the Aust dollar is trading at .93 to 1 US dollar so why are we paying the extra I guess it’s so much further to Australia from Germany than the US, yeah right. Also you did not read my comment correctly I own a M8 and M6 so I have the rangefinder experience the M6 being a gem, that being said to pay, and please read what I said $8,750 for a M believe me it’s all about the IQ as I can pick up my M6 anytime.

      • I would add that while the digital Leica M bodies themselves may not the absolute cutting edge technically, they are the ones best suited for using with the current line of 6-bit encoded Leica lenses. And that combination of body and lens is unbeatable in the 35mm format. Nothing else produces images that look quite like it.

  7. Very well done photographs. I like #2 especially. Those sculptures are certainly impressive for their sheer scale. But as for them being the most beautiful sculptures in Scotland, that’s debatable.

    • Thanks for your encouragement Doug… I did include the ‘question mark’ because I knew there may be some controversy over them being beautiful. I should probably have said ‘Most Dramatic’?



  8. Sorry mate, horrid modern soulless tat, there are far nicer, magnificent and iconic sculptures in Scotland than these paper mâché chess-pieces.

    • I think you’re being a bit tough, Ibraar, as I saw them recently and thought they represented the spirit of kelpies in a wild and evocative manner. These shots are a little mundane; light plays an important part (as always) in showing some of that spirit.

      You’re right about the many (for many there are) and magnificent sculptures elsewhere; Edinburgh alone can give witness to that. Even in remoter places, for example at Keltneyburn and Maj. Gen. Sir David Stewart’s memorial, or the Black Watch Memorial at Aberfeldy, or the Spean Bridge Commando Memorial, it is not unusual to come across such sculptures.

      • I suppose it’s in the eye of the beholder. Some people consider the Angel of The North to be a masterpiece, I think it’s hideous, others love the Eiffel Tower – I think that is horrid and Scotland has some magnificent statues, monuments and sculptures.

        But your photographs aren’t Mundane at all! Very good actually!

    • Are you a world famous art critic? I guess based on your opinion I can safely plan to miss these next time I am in Scotland.

      • So if a works famous art critic tells you a pile of turd is to be revered you going to bury your face in it? Just because an art critic said so?

        This is just MY opinion which I’m entitled to. I’m not asking you to be disappointed with a work, some modernist art is likeable and some isn’t.

        The Images themselves are very good mind, shows off the class if the photographer and camera . I just don’t like the sculptures.

      • This habit of wanting to censor any criticism or opinion about works unless you can produce something comparable is sheer bog ignorance.

        It’s becoming tedious to read these type of comments, as if nothing but schmalz is acceptable.

        Art thrives on criticism. The kelpies are somewhat controversial, and it’s good to read Mr Hussain’s thoughts just as it’s good to read someone else who likes them more.

        To mock with, “are you a world famous art critic”, belongs in the garbage bin of ignorance.

        What sheer arrogance to try to silence someone who offers in good faith an alternative point of view. Particularly in this instance where there is a great diversity of opinions.

        • Its not a habit of censoring criticism, so much as tired of hearing the typical internet armchair aficionado dismissing things out of hand, while making the typical lack of effort to elaborate on the criticism being levied. Hussain doesn’t make his criticism with intelligence or illustrate the issues he has with the sculptures, he just calls them crap, waves his hands about other ‘better’ sculptures ‘elsewhere’ and then falls behind the typical defense of it being his ‘opinion’. Well I, for one am tired of seeing all these pointless opinions. Opinions are like @#$ holes, everyone has them and in this case Hussain decided to show everyone his.

        • Thanks James, you’ve summed things up perfectly.
          I’m entitled to an opinion, and some “Art Critics” are usually f.o.s and what they say isn’t for me to take as Gospel, the good Lord gave me free will, and I wield that accordingly! 🙂

  9. Greetings
    Beautiful subject and, well composed.
    Interesting photography, thanks for posting:)

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