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Photo workshop weekend – August 2011 – part 1

This is a guest post by Sebastian Crump, who attended the second photography workshop run at Danyfan in August 2011. This is part 1 covering the first day; the second part is here.

I have been taking photos and posting them on my flickr for a few years. I was looking for some general tips and a better understanding of how to best use my camera and specifically advice on how to take better landscape photos.

Richard started with a bit of theory and discussion about how I take photos currently. He has an excellent reference booklet he gives out covering the basics with good examples. Then it was into the garden to start trying to follow his ‘making a photo, not taking a photo’ mantra. I chose an agapanthus flower-head as my subject. Below are a series of photos showing how I improved the shot.

Progress of refining photo of Agapanthus
From left to right... my typical photo... removing the grass distraction, adjusting aperture and zoom to fade out the background... trying to find a less complex background and showing effect of colour (flower-head looks far more faced and dead)... final shot made by raising camera so background was grass and tightening depth-of-field.
Local waterfall spot
Establishing shot

We then went to a local waterfall spot to find some more variety and challenges. The lighting was tricky, as it was a drizzly day, but plenty going on to try and make a few nice photos.

There is no merit in the establishing shot here – I just took it on arrival to record the scene.

There are three shots that worked out well from this location (click on the thumbnails for larger versions on flickr):

Streaming water
detail of the top left of the fall
whole scene concentrating on strong-lines composition
Fern by the fall
detail of fern

Here is another series showing how I refined the fern shot:

First framing is obviously wrong; the second improves that but still too much detail in the background distracting; third narrows depth-of-field and but I zoomed in too much taking out the nice strong line coming up from right and included distracting leaf tip on left; forth is the final shot.
Orange poppy in Danyfan garden
click for large version on flickr
Red poppy in Danyfan garden
click for large version on flickr

After lunch, with the weather still looking dodgy, we returned to the garden to try and get a couple more ‘perfect’ shots. The best shots from this session were an orange poppy (left) and a red poppy (right).

How I refined the red poppy shot:

First shot probably typical of what I would usually take, but far too much background distraction; second shot reframes and tightens depth-of-field, but strong lines of stalks leading out of photo and lacking in real interest overall; third shot zooms in to try and show water droplets, but doesn't really work; the final one is where I found a better angle to show some detail of the flower and the water droplets and a depth-of-field that takes out most of the background (arguably not enough, but had reached my camera limit at that level of zoom).
Glade at the foot of Pen-y-Fan, not a good shot really.

As the weather started to clear we went up the road to another glade. Again the light was challenging and I found it difficult to get good pictures of much detail in the glade. However, Richard did find a spiders web full of droplets. Then on the walk back I found some interest in a fence post and a mushroom and managed to make reasonable photos from them.

Droplets on a spidersweb
click for large version on flickr (worth zooming in on flickr too to see the light refraction in the water droplets)
Twist of fence post
click for large version on flickr
click for large version on flickr

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