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Photo workshop weekend – August 2011 – part 2

This is a guest post by Sebastian Crump, who attended the second photography workshop run at Danyfan in August 2011. This is part 2 covering the second day; the first part is here.

Sunday appropriately brought some sun, possibly too much – more about that later. We started the day talking about landscape photography and the common ‘tricks’ of composing the shot – layers, foreground interest, strong lines that lead the eye round the image but not out of frame. And looking at photographers online and in books.

Up at the hill
The hill - well the first. Trying to capture the scree and high contrast trees on hillside, with gorse as foreground object - click for larger version on flickr

So, with our packed lunches we headed up the hill. Trying to bear in mind the foreground object, the multiple layers are there too, but this first shot probably lacks strong lines to provide much interest.

Looking back down in the other direction however there was a lovely fence for providing foreground and strong lines.

Fence at a various angles
Trying to find a good shot of the fence. First frame the gate is too dominant; second provides a strong line, but lacking clear foreground feature (style is rather merged in); third has log as a foreground, but also stone on the right - too much, so just becomes a distraction with no clear leading line; forth the best, I think, with the fence providing line and gate at nearest point being foreground object then nice layers of countryside. Click image for full size version of the final frame.
Thistle and clouds
Getting down low I noticed the clouds had a pleasing echo of the thistle, click for full size on flickr.

Scouting around for further inspiration at that location I noticed some nice looking thistles…

Richard also encouraged me to use my polarising lens and adjust it to deepen the blue of the sky  (I had only used it for reflection removal before) – it works best at right-angles to the sun, so in this show has quite a pleasing gradient to the sky.

We then started the trek up the hill. Unfortunately by the time we got up there the clouds had rolled in, so we had quite a wait to get good shots of the bowl of Pen-y-Fan when there were breaks in the clouds. It wasn’t ideal timing for this sort of photography – mid-day sun very harsh and bright and the cloud-cover providing extra challenges of low light and high contrast. However, I think the course was about learning the theory, rather than being in the right place at the right time to be able to take a perfect shot.

Sun catching valley
Pool of sunlight highlighting the valley below Pen-y-Fan and Cribyn (the peak seen in this frame)

The pools of sunlight did provide some interest though. The difficulty was getting the exposure right, so this was good practise for using the features on my camera for selecting the areas of the frame to get the exposure and focal points and exposure lock.

Sun catching hillside Richard also encouraged me to try out the RAW mode on my camera. This allows for better adjustment later on, especially recovering detail from under-exposed areas of a photo.

This triptych shows exactly the same shot as saved by the camera. The first frame is the original JPEG, the second frame me doing a few minutes work to salvage something from that JPEG and the final frame the output from the RAW image processor, which provides a much better photo overall (I admit I think I turned up the vibrancy a tad too much).

The individual frames, along with all my decent photos from the weekend, are in a set on the Danyfan’s flickr account.

As we started our descent we found some other vista points with potential foreground objects (all these are from the RAW files and click on them for larger versions and commentary in flickr):
Hills over heather (from RAW)Up the valley heather as foreground (from RAW)Up the valley stones as foreground (from RAW)View over the Usk vale (from RAW)

RAW is definitely something I will use more, but possibly not all the time because of the extra processing (which I still need to get the hang of), and it seems to get the best out of it you would need to think about the camera settings and how you expose the photo slightly differently too.

So, in conclusion – I had a thoroughly enjoyable weekend. Rest assured the stay at the B&B was fantastic too, excellent food and company. I learnt plenty on the course even though I’ve been taking photos for several years. I learnt more about my camera and its capabilities and that it’s worth taking time to make a photo. Richard is an excellent workshop leader and it was fantastic to be able to spend the weekend talking to someone about a lot of different aspects of photography.





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