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Monday, 17 December 2012

Looking for a photography workshop for yourself or your family?

Love the Lake District?

Well, look no further.

All our workshops are bespoke, one-to-one and taylor made to meet your needs.

Cost? £135 per person for the day. Gift vouchers are available.


Day-in-the-life-of a Mountainsport Photography Workshop with Dave Willis:

It's always nice to spend a day with students who are learning their cameras, because they are like a blank canvas or in this case perhaps a "clean slate" would be a more appropriate allusion, seeing as we headed for the amazing slate quarries of the Little Langdale valley, here in the Lake District.

We start out by getting a handle on the camera controls and buttons and setting up the camera to give us consistent results. Then we can get going.

On this occasion the plan would be to head out through some woodland to Little Langdale tarn and up to the Black Hole and Hodge Close quarries which have some surprising caves and arches to photograph, useful when the weather forecast is changeable. In the event, the sun stayed out and we found ourselves able to shoot landscapes as well, but the quarries proved a great success for my guys, who were very keen on abstract forms.

We talked about depth of field and aperture priority with some nice examples of short depth of field details in the woods and then some max DoF over at Little Langdale tarn.

Working through the camera modes led to a discussion about how depth of focus and depth of field are related and linked and I think this something that is often overlooked when the subject is discussed. I have a simple experiment that I get students to do called the "finger experiment" that really brings home how depth of field and depth of focus work together - you'll have to join a workshop to find out what it is!

Moving into the quarries, I was aiming to break out the tripods and talk about shutter speed as a creative tool for motion control with some moving water. I spend time drumming into students how important it is to think about camera shake every time you pick up the camera - that's why we carry a tripod after all - so we can use those slow shutter speeds effectively.

While we looked for some interesting abstract patterns and details in the rock walls, which could have kept us entertained all day actually, we had a chance to consider  what really makes a great photograph. Fundamentally, in my view it comes down to three things.

1: Most (but not every) photo needs a strong focal point. Without it the viewer is struggling to identify what they are supposed to be looking at. If your photo doesn't have one, it had better have something else which is strong enough to carry the picture - could be amazing light, strong repeating pattern or abstract form or it could vibrant colour patterns, whatever, it needs something. Here, I'll show you what I mean:

We shot this landscape later in the day. Can you spot the strong focal point? Course you can - that juniper (or whatever it is) just stands right out as the starting point, in other words the focal point for this composition, doesn't it? That's what you need.

2: Backgrounds ruin pictures! Oh yes. Look at it this way. You spend ages choosing, organizing and composing your subject. You think about it carefully and try to do the best job you can with it., The one thing you didn't  maybe even consider was the background. But the background is where all the clutter, mess, distracting details and litter is going to be. Do you really want all those parked cars, telephone wires, bins, people wearing lurid colours in the background, taking the eye away from your carefully chosen subject? Thought not. So...backgrounds ruin pictures - choose them with care.

3: KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid! Do you like this picture? Simple isn't it. The less you put into your composition the clearer, more direct and easier to understand it will become. It will be eye-catching. Many of us just put too much confusing stuff into our photos. Git rid, simplify, pair it down.

Let's apply all three of those principles to this shot:
Does it have a strong focal point? Yes.
Does it have a good background? Yes, just the door.
Is it simple? Too right.
See, easy isn't it.

Fancy a go yourself? you can book a personal one-on-one workshop any day you like, long as I'm free on that day. It costs £135 per person and we do whatever you need to do to get your camera and creative skills up to speed.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Week 18: Recommended camera settings

This the final post in this 15 week free photography course.
Start at Week 1 and work your way through.
To find Week 1, use the navigation panel over there on the right, or search through "Older Posts" at the bottom of the page.

So, for those readers who have done all the work and got this far:
This might seem an odd place to finally get around to spelling out all the camera settings that I recommend...And it is! But in my defence, if I did this right at the beginning, before students had a grasp on the fundamentals of photography and why things work they way they do, it might seem a bit arbitrary and meaningless. Anyway, we've had plenty of other stuff to get our heads around. So, here goes...

Monday, 2 April 2012

Week 17: Assignment 4 A flash of inspiration

Modern film and digital camera’s use three basic ways of measuring and controlling flash exposure so let’s have a look at them.

Week 16: Assignment 3 Differential focusing

One essential skill that we need to master is called differential focusing.

It's not really about using a specific camera control or setting, but rather it's about how we use a combination of depth of field, composition and thinking about how the subject we are photographing will look to the viewer.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Week 15 Assignment 2 Creative use of apertures

Before we set off on assignment 2, let's just take a moment to remind ourselves what apertures are really all about; Depth of Field.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Week 14: Assignment 1 Creative use of Shutter Speeds

If this is the first post you are reading on The Complete Level 2 Photography Course, stop! Read the preceding 13 posts first!

Here it is, the first assignment. It's pretty easy really. Won't take too much time. All you have to do is research, plan, test and shoot two photographs. The first will be "creative use of a fast shutter speed" and the second will be, you guessed it, "creative use of a slow shutter speed". By "creative use" I mean thinking up a shot that really uses the attributes and benefits of shutter speeds to create a picture that looks great.

Week 13: Unlucky; it's time to do some work! How to do the assignments

If you really want to improve your photography it's time to stop reading and start shooting - and writing! Yes, that's right. In order to learn stuff you have to get practical and go out and practice, practice, practice. And then, in order to absorb what you just did you need to review it and the best way to do that is to write about it - like I do.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Week 12: Professional workflow. Get sorted

Industry “best practice” for handling workflow with RAW and Jpeg images.

Having a clear framework for digital image production, editing and output is vital for photographers to be able to organise, archive and locate their images day to day, month to month and year to year. You don’t want to waste time doing basic image editing and admin tasks that could be automated in a simple and effective workflow that starts with downloading your photos from your camera…

Week 11: Post production. A quick guide

A guide to help you handle image post production, develop your images, file handling and output…

This is never going to be an exhaustive tutorial. In fact it will barely scratch the surface. Image post production is a vast and complicated subject but that doesn’t matter because all we need to do here is to get your photos out of your camera and onto your website/blog page/Facebook or whatever with the minimal fuss and bother.

Week 10: See the light. Fill-in flash

Nearly all modern DSLR and Bridge style cameras have a built in flash, until you get to the “Pro” models, which assume you will be using a more powerful and flexible speedlight on the cameras hotshoe.
The little pop-up flash is more useful (and more powerful) than you many people think and we’re going to take a look at how to get the best out of it and in what situations it can be applied.

Week 9: Flash, ah ha...saviour etc.

Modern film and digital camera’s use three basic ways of measuring and controlling flash exposure so let’s have a look at them in turn.

Week 8: The filter factor

Which filters to use, why use them, when to use them, how to use them.

UV filter - Ultra Violet.

Week 7: Lenses are us! All about glass

We all know about lenses right? Wide angles, telephoto, zoom; what about variable maximum apertures, image stabilization, fish-eyes and mirror lenses? Here’s all the info.
How does auto-focus work and what really is the sharpest aperture on a lens? let’s have a look…
We’ll start with wide lenses and work up

Week 6: White is right; all about white balance

Week 6: White Balance
The white balance control on the camera is designed to calibrate the camera’s exposure system to capture images that display natural colours under different lighting conditions.
Think of white balance as a way of making sure that a sheet of white paper actually looks white in your photo.

Week 5: Feeling exposed. Exposure comp and histograms

All about exposure and histograms…
It’s possible that you have used a camera for a long time, exploiting the auto programs and modes without really grasping any of the principles of exposure, metering or interpreting histograms.

Week 4: Let's work together. ISO, shutter and apertures

The final piece in the “exposure” jigsaw is ISO. What is it and what does it do?

ISO is measure of the cameras sensitivity to light. You may remember it from shooting film, where we sometimes called it “film speed’.

Week 3: Look sharp! Apertures for depth of field

Apertures. What are they, what do they do for us and how do we use them?

Week 2: Control that motion. Shutter Speeds

What are Shutter Speeds? What do they do?

The camera has two ways of controlling exposure. It has apertures and it has shutter speeds.

So the shutter speeds can act as a simple variable system for controlling exposure by adjusting the timing of the exposure - more time for dark subjects in low light, less time for bright subjects in bright light. But there’s more to it than that…

Week 1: Drive the camera. Camera Modes

We're going to start by learning how to drive the dslr camera:
Many camera users (as opposed to photographers) leave their camera in one single mode, Auto mode and don’t get any further than that. Sure, the camera will produce good exposures for you most of the time in the Auto mode but it's no thanks to you. You are locked out of the process, you play no real part in the decision making and when the camera doesn't get you a good result you may not know how to fix it.